The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 21: Hooked Up

Plot summary: Spellbinder returns to try and make a quick buck by getting kids hooked on VR fantasies that fry their brains.

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: ‘Hooked Up’

Original Air Date: November 13th, 1999

Directed: Dan Riba (6)

Written: Robert Goodman (4)

Following in the footsteps of season one’s ‘The Winning Edge’, this is another Very Special Episode about addiction. Looking forward to the season 3 edition!

The virtual reality booths of this episode will make a return in ‘Eyewitness’. Its effects and more importantly its side effects, would also be used for the ‘Black Mercy’ in Justice League Unlimited.

When Spellbinder tries to overload Terry’s mind we see clips from the episodes ‘Earth Mover’, ‘Joyride’, ‘Splicers’, as well as our old pal Blight.

Recap

A rockstar named Donny finishes seeing a million faces and rocking them all and is about to engage in a good old fashioned groupie foursome… when he is unceremoniously awoken from the simulation.

Donny complains about the painful sensation of being yanked out of his idyllic fantasy, so his mysterious benefactor tells him what he needs to do to get plugged back in.

Max tries to talk Terry into letting her help him in the field, but he turns her down. He later confides in Bruce about the situation, but spots Donny mugging randoms and chases him down.

Donny exhibits a complete disregard for his own and everyone else’s safety during the chase, nearly falling to his death several times, with Terry barely able to prevent a huge car accident. Donny brings his bounty back to the man running the show… Spellbinder.

Spellbinder pulls his latest batch of customers out of their fantasies in order to dump the body of one of them who has OD’d on “serotonin”.

Bruce suggests Donny’s involvement in the operation as many of the victims are runaways, so Terry reluctantly agrees to let Max accompany him as she knows Donny’s parents. Turns out Donny’s father is a real asshole, but Terry managed to swipe some of Donny’s credits.

Tracing what they were spent on, Max leads them to an arcade featuring ‘total immersion virtual reality’ machines. Donny and his cohorts talk them into trying out an even better version, but only Max agrees to it.

Unfortunately, one taste is all it takes for her to get hooked on a faux version of her family being proud of her, and she’s immediately stealing from cars and knocking out Terry to get another fix.

Terry aggressively tails a strung-out Donny to Spellbinder’s facility, pulling Max out of one of the machines. She’s naturally furious, and Spellbinder cuts Terry’s lecture short with an electric shock.

Spellbinder begins to fry Terry’s brain with his ‘Magic Eye’, but Max chooses to rescue him instead of going back in, knocking the villain out. She apologises to Terry, who agrees to let her help more in future.

Best Performance

I really wish Spellbinder got more lines, because Jon Cypher is outstanding as the sicko abusing his expertise in psychiatry for personal gain. It’s a gentle, uncomfortable voice.

However, this is another edition of the Cree Summer show. Max’s energy has been great for the overall feel of the show, even if I’m not a huge fan of this particular episode. Her desperation to prove herself to Terry is endearing, and Summer made the barely conscious mumbling work, supplementing it with the understated revelation about her home life. Even the rushed beat with her immediately getting addicted and arguing against Terry’s lecturing isn’t that bad thanks to her performance.

Ranking

As has been the case with a number of episodes, it felt like they ran out of road. I won’t go as far as to say I wish this had been a two-parter, but I definitely found myself wishing they had two or three extra minutes for a more satisfying conclusion.

It also didn’t do a huge amount with its interesting – if heavy handed – drug allegory. They’ve been taking advantage of their futuristic setting more lately, and a VR machine that feeds users hyper-realistic fantasies is a decent trope to lean into, but Donny’s experience in the first few minutes is identical to Max’s at the end. Sure, it’s a nice character beat to see Max’s wildest fantasy being a generic family dinner and to learn that she lives alone with her sister, but I think it all needed some fine-tuning.

I will say I really enjoyed the aesthetic of Donny’s rockstar fantasy, with his neck-mounted microphone and weird guitar that explodes when he finishes, again leaning into their setting. The VR machines looked cool too, but yeah, only marginally better than the ‘The Winning Edge’ by the nature of the addition of Max.

  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. Once Burned
  12. Earth Mover
  13. Black Out
  14. Rebirth Part II
  15. Dead Man’s Hand
  16. Heroes
  17. Hooked Up (NEW ENTRY)
  18. The Winning Edge
  19. Ascension
  20. Joyride
  21. Golem

Villain Watch

Spellbinder (Jon Cypher) (second appearance)

A weaker showing this time around that knocks him down a notch. The look and the voice remain insanely creepy, and his new scheme is admittedly twisted, getting vagrants hooked on VR fantasies and then dumping them when they OD or can’t pay anymore. There’s even a cool new twist on his Magic Eye as it bombards Terry with flashes of his own memory.

It’s just that his scheme completely dominates the screen time, leaving him with maybe 60 total seconds of appearance in which he beats on Terry and then easily gets taken out by Max. A slightly longer episode might have let him maintain his ranking.

  1. Inque
  2. Mr. Freeze
  3. Shriek
  4. Curaré
  5. Spellbinder
  6. The Jokerz
  7. Derek Powers/Blight
  8. Stalker
  9. The Royal Flush Gang
  10. Earthmover
  11. Dr. Cuvier (and pals!)
  12. Robert Vance
  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. Time to enrol for military service to guarantee citizenship as we look back at the critically misunderstood Starship Troopers.

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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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