Plot summary: Bruce Wayne finds himself battling to save a piece of Old Gotham, as well as his own grip on sanity as he begins to hear a voice in his head.
After completing the original run of Batman The Animated Series, Matt Waters looks to the future each Saturday and Sunday with recaps of every episode of Batman Beyond, building an overall ranking along the way. Plus best performances, the ever-popular Villain Watch and more!
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Episode Title: ‘Shriek’
Original Air Date: March 13th, 1999
Directed: Curt Geda (4)
Written: Stan Berkowitz (3)
Shriek appears to be modelled on/adapted from some Kryptonian soldiers from the Superman the Animated Series episode, ‘Blasts from the Past: Part 1’.
While censorship had been relaxed since the days of BTAS, they were forbidden from having Shriek explicitly tell Bruce to jump out of a window.
Derek Powers’ plans to demolish Crime Alley to build an industrial complex is the exact one Roland Daggett had but Bruce managed to halt.
Derek Powers is treated to a tech demo by Walter Shreeve involving advanced sound manipulation. Despite nearly suffering a panic attack from hallucinating a train coming at him, Powers claims to be nonplussed, having more lethal ambitions for Shreeve’s suit.
Talk of the devil; Bruce Wayne implores the board of Wayne-Powers to act against a proposal to bulldoze a sector of Old Gotham to build more industry. The board agree to take it to a shareholder vote.
Bruce shows Terry the exact part of the city marked for demolition: Crime Alley. He explores a derelict police station (complete with a wanted poster for Joker), when Shreeve unleashes the power of his sonic suit, tearing the building down.
Terry gets Bruce to a hospital, where the old billionaire is furious that he’s being held overnight for observation. Terry promises to do some detective work, having recovered a piece of the suit, and returns to the Batcave to analyse it.
Powers believes Bruce is untouchable due to the hospital security, but Shreeve uses his tech to make himself seem like a voice in Wayne’s head and nearly succeeds in compelling him to leap out of a window.
Security pacify the raving lunatic claiming to hear voices, but Bruce does take the first orderly down before getting double-teamed… not in a sex way.
Meanwhile Terry goes undercover as a pizza boy to investigate Shreeve Sound Laboratories where Walter proudly shows off some of his tech before getting wise and attacking him.
Terry manages to escape but when he returns to the hospital he learns his mentor has been committed to the psyche ward. Powers gloats, so Terry tries to assault a billionaire in front of witnesses in an episode where he’s trying to prove he is smart.
Shreeve threatens Powers as he is now a wanted man who can never go back to his business. Powers laughs it off and gives him the new name Shriek and encourages him to go forth and murder.
Batman infiltrates Bruce’s padded cell and finds a tiny hidden radio receiver under his bandage, identical to one Shreeve showed him in his workshop.
Tracing the receiver’s signal to a car factory, Terry battles Shriek again, who kills all the sound in the building, leading to a silent battle that spills out onto the streets. Terry disables the dampener with a Batarang, unleashing a cacophony of sound that leaves Shriek deaf due to having his audio cranked up to the max.
At the shareholder vote, barely anybody supports Powers over Bruce, who celebrates by telling Terry that he knew he wasn’t insane because the voice in his head kept calling him Bruce… when he calls himself Batman. Wowwww.
This is genuinely one of the toughest calls I’ve had to make in this segment.
Chris Mulkey (aka Hank from Twin Peaks) deploys his hypnotic voice to maximum effect, putting Powers through a harmless demo about the power of sound, before being put to work trying to talk Bruce Wayne into killing himself. As castings for voices in a person’s head go, he’s pretty perfect.
But Kevin Conroy puts in his best shift in the series so far as he passionately pleads with the board to not bulldoze Crime Alley, which he leads Terry on a sentimental trip around, only to shift over to the pure rage of a younger man as he’s driven mad by Shriek, before finally coming back down to earth for his playful little back and forth with Terry. It’s a rounded performance that ranks just below some of his very best work from BTAS, rather than the cameos he’s mostly been relegated to so far.
This is a decent to good episode for about fifteen minutes and then unleashes about as good of a final five minutes as you could hope to see from a Batman cartoon. The mute battle is utterly sublime, making good on Shreeve’s point about sound being our first sign of danger at the very start of the episode, as Terry struggles to avoid machinery, cars and Shriek himself. I’m honestly a little surprised a network allowed a children’s show to feature 2-3 minutes of almost silence, because it truly is jarring as a viewer to have the sound suddenly cut out.
As if the sonic dissonance of the villain silently causing rampant destruction with his mini-earthquakes weren’t enough, the decision to leave the twisting of Shriek’s visor and the sound of footsteps gives the whole thing an eerie vibe, with a subtle score starting to creep in near the end for good measure. Boy oh, boy, what a fantastic fight scene to deploy after over 100 at-bats! They even found a way to make Ace the Bat Hound a hero, saving Terry from being run over thanks to his superior hearing.
As for the other part of the ending, well, it’s just textbook Batman, isn’t it? Bruce is the mask, Batman is the real him etc. There was a comic book moment a few years ago where Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman had to identify themselves truthfully, and their respective answers were Diana, Clark/Kal-El and Batman. Both that and this should be filed in the character bible.
Speaking of which, it’s surprising it took so long to do an emotional Bruce episode, but perhaps they felt Terry and the world needed time to breath and establish themselves. The tour of Crime Alley was touching, with Bruce relating the loss of his parents to Terry losing his father to explain why he wants to preserve it.
- Shriek (NEW ENTRY)
- Rebirth Part I
- Black Out
- Rebirth Part II
- Dead Man’s Hand
- The Winning Edge
Shriek (Chris Mulkey) (first appearance)
There’s a quartet of original creation villains that immediately spring to most fans’ minds when thinking of the Batman Beyond Rogues Gallery, with Shriek joining Inque and Spellbinder in that hallowed company.
He makes the group for good reason, as his power-set doesn’t feel at all old hat. The destructive aspect alone is cool, as he can level a building with his mini-quakes (with supersonic jet sound effects, which is nice), but when you combine that with the eerie ability to rob a room of sound and his tormenting of Bruce with tiny hidden microphones, you have yourself a fun combo villain, equal parts physically and psychologically menacing.
He gets some minor bonus points for just being a smart dude trying to do some good who gets manipulated by Powers down the path of a villain. There is genuine pride in his work, but also some repressed rage.
Derek Powers/Blight (Sherman Howard) (fifth appearance)
This episode is notable for being the only time since undergoing his accident that Powers appears without any hint of his Blight persona. And that’s weird, given his skin started peeling off when he got emotional in past episodes, yet has a panic attack and is completely unaffected. Maybe it’s explicitly rage vs heightened emotion. Whatever.
We don’t really have an organised crime element in Beyond, so Powers gets to split the difference as both that and the brightly costumed main nemesis. But this episode was entirely about the former, with him trying to attack Bruce in a truly spiteful way by going after the most important acreage in Gotham. He’s also a real tool to Shriek, pretending to not care about his tech, leading him down the path to mercenary work and leaving him with nothing to show for it.
- Mr. Freeze
- Shriek (NEW ENTRY)
- Derek Powers/Blight
- The Terrific Trio
- J-Man (and the Jokerz)
- The Royal Flush Gang
- Willie Watt
- Dr. Stephanie Lake
- Howard Hodges & General Norman
- Jackson Chappell
- Mr. Fixx
Eager for more long-form coverage of Batman? Why not check out my podcast with Mike Thomas, The Tape Crusaders, which reviewed every Batman movie including Return of the Joker.
My other recap column, Marvel Mondays, continues its coverage with the final episode of What If…?
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