The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 20: Once Burned

Plot summary: Terry’s old flame, Melanie returns to Gotham, attempting to steal ransom money to free the rest of the Royal Flush Gang.

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: ‘Once Burned’

Original Air Date: November 6th, 1999

Directed: Butch Lukic (6)

Written: Stan Berkowitz (8)

Queen was recast here with Sarah Douglas stepping into the role. Famously, she played Ursa in the first two Superman movies. She also played a character called Mala in Superman: The Animated Series, who seems to be loosely based on Ursa.

Lula’s gun changes size and shape at random during the second break-in scene.

Recap

A high stakes poker game for Gotham criminals is raided by Ten of the Royal Flush Gang, who steals the contents of the pot and then makes a run for it.

The commotion (read comical amount of gunfire) attracts Batman, fresh of busting some randos. Terry condemns Ten and tosses her swag bag back to the shooters… who keep shooting anyway, so Bats takes them all out.

Bruce tells Terry the poker game is called ‘The Derby’ and pre-dates even him. They bicker about Ten, with Bruce calling him gullible.

Returning home, Terry finds his family out but Melanie (Ten) waiting in his room. They argue at first, but she insists her recent actions are because The Jokerz have her family. Obviously, there is no bigger turn-on, and the two make out seconds after Terry hangs up on Dana.

Terry asks Bruce for the night off to study with Dana, but instead gets Max to help him track down The Derby. She lectures him a little about lying to his girlfriend, but successfully locates the latest venue.

Bats arrives just in time to stop Ten, restraining her after a wacky aerial chase. She pleads to be allowed to steal the ransom money, but Batman instead accompanies her to a Jokerz hideout.

Chaos ensues, with Terry mowing through Jokerz, but Ten abandons him almost immediately, and one of the goons pleads ignorance about the whereabouts of The Royal Flush Gang.

Locked in a meat locker with dozens of Jokerz, Terry is nearly beaten to death, but Bruce remote controls the Batmobile to blow the door open and fly him to safety.

Ten successfully steals from The Derby on her second attempt, and Terry manages to track her to a warehouse where her family’s kidnappers turn out to … not exist!

That’s right, the whole thing was a test devised by King & Queen to test Ten’s loyalty after the events of ‘Dead Man’s Hand’. This angers Melanie, who flees when the fighting starts.

Batman loses a 4-on-1 against the rest of The Royal Flush Gang, but he tipped off both The Derby participants and the GCPD on his way over, resulting on a shootout and four arrests.

Later, Terry and Dana go to a club, and while searching his pockets for money, Terry finds a note Ten asked Batman to give to Terry… but throws it away without reading. Damn.

Best Performance

Not to be That Guy, but Oliva d’Abo is insanely sultry as Melanie/Ten. She really makes the melodrama of Terry/Melanie work to a shockingly compelling degree, and is afforded opportunities to be a sad bunny too, disapproving of her parents’ games.

But I actually thought Will Friedle was really on point here, wrestling with his feelings for Melanie, lying to Bruce and Dana, making fun of his little brother, and confiding in Max. I wouldn’t say I ever forget that Terry is a teenager, but episodes like this make him feel like a more authentic one, bouncing around all over the place emotionally.

I expressed concern about Kevin Conroy and Cree Summer battling for episode time last episode, but they both got some nice moments here, giving Terry some tough love but still helping him.

I remain bummed out George Lazenby hasn’t gotten more lines in his two appearances.

Ranking

One of the more interesting aspects of Batman Beyond to me is that without the established legacy characters, every return is very telling. Inque got two appearances in the first season, and the rest of the Big Four will be back soon, trying to fill the void of a main nemesis by committee. Terry & Melanie’s whirlwind romance in ‘Dead Man’s Hand’ was one of the more memorable moments of the first season, so it makes sense to continue it.

While they clearly want Beyond to be its own thing, I do think it’s wise to give Terry his own version of the Batman and Catwoman/Talia dynamic, not just because enemies-to-lovers-to-enemies is perpetually fun, but because it unlocks some options with the Bruce & Terry relationship. Bruce is right when he lectures his protégé for being too trusting of a nefarious woman… but he was in the exact situation himself many times and made a number of questionable decisions. This version even replicates the imbalance of Batman knowing his love interest’s secret identity, but Ten being oblivious. Hence the note, which is a delicious tease that I hope we can return to in the future.

As for the episode in general, it’s fun enough, with Ten’s two raids on the poker game resulting in fun shootouts, and Terry taking on a BUNCH of Jokerz. Speaking of numbers disadvantages, I liked that he turned the odds back in his favour against The Royal Flush Gang by summoning the angry poker players. Good honest Batman stuff.

  1. Meltdown
  2. Disappearing Inque
  3. Spellbound
  4. A Touch of Curaré
  5. Shriek
  6. Rebirth Part I
  7. Bloodsport
  8. Splicers
  9. Hidden Agenda
  10. Lost Soul
  11. Earth Mover
  12. Black Out
  13. Dead Man’s Hand
  14. Rebirth Part II
  15. Once Burned (NEW ENTRY)
  16. Heroes
  17. The Winning Edge
  18. Ascension
  19. Joyride
  20. Golem

Villain Watch

The Royal Flush Gang (Olivia d’Abo/George Lazenby/Sarah Douglass) (second appearance)

Ten gets most of the focus, which is absolutely fine because she rules. Her antics breaking into The Derby were great, and I particularly liked the moment with her wearing the red sunglasses. The flying card gimmick never gets old either.

King and Queen faking their own kidnapping was a little predictable, but in keeping with their deplorable nature, with even Ten deciding enough is enough. They squeezed in a brief battle, with King’s swordplay, Ace’s superhuman strength and Queen’s electro-sceptre getting some play, but Jack mostly just flew around a bit.

There is something here with this group, and I really think they need a two-parter or movie to truly shine. Let George Lazenby monologue, you cowards!

The Jokerz (various actors) (sixth appearance)

Almost none of them speak, but they remain a fun background presence that I cannot imagine the show without. Their compound was interesting, keeping a Splicing victim hostage to taunt and leading women up to the roof to ‘look at the constellations’.

Terry fighting SO many of them was a whole lot of fun, and we got to see him tear through them before getting overwhelmed and nearly murdered in a meat locker. Gnarly.

  1. Inque
  2. Mr. Freeze
  3. Shriek
  4. Spellbinder
  5. Curaré
  6. Derek Powers/Blight
  7. Stalker
  8. The Jokerz
  9. Earthmover
  10. Robert Vance
  11. The Royal Flush Gang
  12. Dr. Cuvier (and pals!)
  13. The Terrific Trio
  14. Willie Watt
  15. Dr. Stephanie Lake
  16. Howard Hodges & General Norman
  17. Paxton Powers
  18. Jackson Chappell
  19. 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 hiatus until Hawkeye.

There Will Be Movies continues Ben & Matt’s look back at the 90s each Wednesday. As luck would have it our 69th Episode is… Boogie Nights.

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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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