The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 23: Mind Games

Plot summary: We go FULL anime as Terry tries to rescue a little girl with psychic powers from the mysterious Brain Trust.

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: ‘Mind Games’

Original Air Date: December 4th, 1999

Directed: Butch Lukic (7)

Written: Alan Burnett (5)

‘The Albino’ would later be revealed as the son of Steven Mandragora in the Justice League Unlimited episode ‘Double Date’, while The Brain Trust returned in The Zeta Project episode ‘Ro’s Gift’

Terry’s bond with Tamara would be echoed by Bruce and Ace (a psychic member of his era’s Royal Flush Gang) in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. Put a pin in that, because it will be very important in a few months!

When reciting US Presidents, Terry slams into the wall of Bill Clinton. The writers are cowards for not making up some alternate world history if you ask me.

Recap

When lightning strikes the car of a nice family, Batman rescues them from crashing. They behave strangely afterwards, with their young daughter looking at Terry with great concern…

The next day, Terry (and only Terry) continually sees the little girl levitating and pleading for his help. When his dog seems to sense her too, Bruce encourages him to engage with her, and she says her name is Tamara.

Tamara is able to make Terry see into a luxury apartment, where her parents scold her for “calling” to someone again. Deducing the location is Gotham Park Towers, Terry takes Max there for dinner to scope the place out.

Once he learns their room number, Terry changes into the Batsuit and infiltrates their suite, where Tamara’s father beats the piss out of him with superhuman strength and surviving a fall of hundreds of feet completely unscathed.

Bruce finds Tamara in a database of missing children, so Terry heads to check out her last known address. Her real parents share how difficult it was raising Tamara and how a school called ‘The Brain Trust’ took her recently.

Heading to the alleged school, Terry confirms the whole thing is a front. Confronting ‘The Albino’, Terry gets utterly wrecked by his psychic powers until he learns to focus and fights back.

Tamara ‘calls’ Terry again, revealing she’s to be taken away via boat that evening. Batman sneaks aboard and fights her kidnappers, with Tamara using her powers to help defeat them.

Terry tells Max that Tamara and her family were placed in witness protection with access to specialists to help deal with her powers. He smiles as Tamara creepily astral projects to wave at him.

Best Performance

I’m inclined to go with Will Friedle here due to how determined he was to rescue the little girl in trouble. It’s about as motivated as Terry has ever been, short of trying to avenge his father, but in a less melodramatic/petulant way. On top of that, Friedle has made Terry a more lighthearted, emotionally open character than Bruce, which makes for a nice contrast. That’s seen here as he flirts/teases Max and empathises with Tamara’s parents.

Mara Wilson’s dialogue is repetitive and limited, but she does her job well, giving Tamara the haunting waif vibe to match her design.

Ranking

Do you have a soft spot for slightly creepy telepathic children? If yes, this is the episode for you. Tamara imprinting on Terry and him exhausting all possible means to rescue her from her kidnappers is both emotionally engaging and forces him to sharpen his detective skills. Admittedly, Bruce does some of the work to continue the narrative that no matter how good Terry becomes, Bruce’s mind was singularly brilliant. But this episode makes Terry look smart in my opinion. I also enjoyed seeing the extremes of Neo Gotham, with Batman visiting both a swanky hotel and the poorer area where Tamara’s parents live.

The true highlight was the incredibly weird (in a good way) fight scene with ‘The Albino’, who Terry finds meditating alone in a fake school and exhibits levitation and intensely powerful psychic abilities, seemingly well beyond anyone else’s in The Brain Trust. The animation here was incredible, with Terry getting knocked out the Batsuit, screaming as his senses are entirely overwhelmed. Honestly, slightly disturbing. Just like the detective thing, Terry demonstrates some of Bruce’s trademark indomitable will, tuning out the psychic noise to locate his foe and take him down. One of the best fights in the show so far.

However, despite all of the above, there’s an intangible that drags it down and makes it less than the sum of its parts. Perhaps it’s the way Terry pinballs from the hotel to Tamara’s house to the school to the docks. Perhaps it’s the villain plot not coming together in a satisfying manner. Perhaps it’s something else entirely. All I know is this one took me a weirdly long time to write and my overwhelming instinct is it belongs nearer the bottom than the top, even if it’s mostly decent.

  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
  16. Heroes
  17. Mind Games (NEW ENTRY)
  18. Hooked Up
  19. The Winning Edge
  20. Ascension
  21. Joyride
  22. Golem
  23. Rats

Villain Watch

The Brain Trust (Kate Jackson/Victor Rivers/Brian Tochi) (first appearance)

An eclectic group to say the least. ‘The Albino’ was by far the most interesting, bombarding Terry with anime nonsense that he only barely overcame. ‘Invulnerable Man’ was as boring as he sounds, doing lots of punching and shrugging off all damage until Tamara mopped the floor with him. ‘Bombshell’ was the ostensible leader, able to generate explosive energy bolts… or something. She was sufficiently mean and her powers land in the middle of the other two.

Altogether, it’s your standard shadowy organisation kidnapping gifted children under the guise of being The X-Men. It’s just a shame we didn’t get to learn more about them. So we’re left with a good, a medium and a bad… making them average. Easy!

  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. Mad Stan
  13. Robert Vance
  14. The Terrific Trio
  15. The Brain Trust (NEW ENTRY)
  16. Willie Watt
  17. Dr. Stephanie Lake
  18. Howard Hodges & General Norman
  19. Paxton Powers
  20. Jackson Chappell
  21. Mr. Fixx
  22. Ratboy

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, begins coverage of Hawkeye this week.

There Will Be Movies continues Ben & Matt’s look back at the 90s each Wednesday. No matter what happens this week just remember it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not… Look, it’s Good Will Hunting, okay?

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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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