The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 14: Joyride

Plot summary: The Jokerz get their hands on an experimental military aircraft and use it to wreak havoc on Gotham.

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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Notes

Episode Title: ‘Joyride’

Original Air Date: October 12th, 1999

Directed: Butch Lukic (4)

Written: Stan Berkowitz (5)

This is one of the more obvious instances of the difference between the production and airdate order, with the opening shot of Terry and the Batmobile intending to evoke a season premiere feel, hence why I follow the former.

The skeleton at the bottom of the mineshaft is heavily implied to be that of The Joker.

“So stop them” is the smallest amount of dialogue Kevin Conroy has ever recorded for an episode of any DC cartoon.

Recap

A group of Jokerz ride out to the edge of Gotham to initiate a new member, but are interrupted by an experimental aircraft performing an emergency landing due to equipment failure.

Punks as they are, the Jokerz knock out the pilots and steal the craft, ignoring radio pleas to return it. They instead pick up more gang members and use it to cause chaos all over the city.

Terry attempts to take them down in the Batmobile, but the jet proves too fast, too manoeuvrable and too heavily armed, and Bats is shot out of the sky.

They briefly move their fight to the ground, where Terry kicks their asses, so they return to the safety of the vehicle and instead try to murder him with its heavily artillery.

Dr. Price, the craft’s creator chases them off in a slightly less fancy jet, and reluctantly agrees to let Terry help catch them. She reveals the stolen craft is powered by a nuclear reactor, which may be defective, hence her desire to stop them.

The Jokerz unleash their new ride on their rival gang, the T’s, and then engage in another dogfight with Dr. Price, with both ultimately crashing after some reckless piloting.

Batman pulls Dr. Price from the flaming wreckage and then learns the Jokerz are heading for the T’s headquarters. Terry gets there first somehow and forces them to evacuate.

The Jokerz arrive, but Batman is able to ground them and disable the malfunctioning reactor with a little help from the conscience of the new Jokerz recruit. Scab despondently hammers on the control console in disbelief.

Best Performance

While Bruce Timm tries his best as J-Man, Marc Worden is able to make Scab a far more three-dimensional character than the other gang members. You hear about people having a punchable face; Scab has a punchable voice, both incredibly obnoxious and a little bit dangerous.

It’s a shame Wendie Malick didn’t get more lines, because she’s such a pro that even with limited material she makes Dr. Price engaging.

Will Friedle is fine, and barely anybody else says anything, including the infamously short appearance from Bruce Wayne.

Ranking

This reminded me a little of ‘Blind as a Bat’, with an experimental military aircraft getting stolen by a villain and Batman struggling to take it down. I think this episode is better though, as it takes the aerial mayhem even further and helps elevate The Jokerz from minor menace to legitimate threat.

But it’s still a flawed episode. For one thing, the ending pays off a new initiate in The Jokerz quietly objecting to the actions of the rest of the group throughout, finally taking a physical stand and allowing Batman to save the city. Unfortunately the moment falls a little flat because of how much more emphasis is given to Scab and the jet.

Likewise, it felt like we needed to loop back around on Dr. Price and the military’s perspective on it all at the end, if only for Terry to condemn them for creating such a dangerous vehicle, or for Dr. Price to admit they were wrong to do so and to thank him for saving Gotham.

There isn’t enough time for either of those things or much else at all besides the titular joyriding, which is fun in spots, but outstays its welcome. They even introduced a secondary street gang who we will likely never see again!

  1. Meltdown
  2. Disappearing Inque
  3. Spellbound
  4. A Touch of Curaré
  5. Shriek
  6. Rebirth Part I
  7. Black Out
  8. Rebirth Part II
  9. Dead Man’s Hand
  10. Heroes
  11. The Winning Edge
  12. Ascension
  13. Joyride (NEW ENTRY)
  14. Golem

Villain Watch

The Jokerz (Bruce Timm/Marc Worden/Scott Valentine) (fourth appearance)

The Jokerz as a general entity appear a lot, but unlike The League of Assassins and other groups from BTAS, their individual members are not generally worth discussing separately.

I do think it was wise to feature Scab more prominently, not just because he is physically larger and much better voiced than J-Man, but because he is a slightly more rounded character. Terry easily dispatched the entire group, but Scab is believably able to give him a little more trouble, and we get the only real emotional beat of the episode at the end, with him admitting he only joined the gang to feel powerful, and is despondent when his new toy is rendered inoperative.

That story kernel and the so-so one with the new initiate is the true strength of this group, as they play on the all too real idea of disassociated youth so desperate to belong that they are willing to dress like a Murder Clown and endanger innocent civilians in the name of feeling powerful.

Up one spot they go.

  1. Inque
  2. Mr. Freeze
  3. Shriek
  4. Spellbinder
  5. Curaré
  6. Derek Powers/Blight
  7. The Jokerz
  8. The Terrific Trio
  9. The Royal Flush Gang
  10. Willie Watt
  11. Dr. Stephanie Lake
  12. Howard Hodges & General Norman
  13. Paxton Powers
  14. Jackson Chappell
  15. Mr. Fixx

Plugs

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, is on a brief hiatus as we await the start of Hawkeye, but may pop up here and there with some listicles or whatever.

There Will Be Movies continues Ben & Matt’s look back at the 90s each Wednesday. This week it’s not The Matrix because of rules Ben set for himself, so he has to settle for Bound.

Published by

Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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