The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 27: Eyewitness

Plot summary: When Barbara Gordon witnesses Batman murder a criminal, Bruce races to clear Terry’s name.

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: ‘Eyewitness’

Original Air Date: January 22nd, 2000

Directed: Butch Lukic (8)

Written: Rich Fogel (5) (story) & Hilary J. Bader (6)

The first episode to be colourised digitally.

This episode contains yet another reference to Terry spending time in juvie but we won’t find out why until ‘Big Time’.

Mad Stan is trapped in one of the virtual reality pods from Spellbinder’s last appearance, ‘Hooked Up’.

Recap

Batman interrupts a shady weapons deal… which turns out to be a police sting operation, with dozens of cops in place of the merchandise, but no criminals to arrest after they got away in the chaos.

An angry Barbara Gordon visits Bruce to caution him that Terry cannot make any more mistakes, making comments about his troubled past.

Mad Stan attacks during a fundraiser for Barbara’s husband, Sam, who is hoping to be re-elected as District Attorney. Terry comes to the rescue, disarming and deflecting a number of Stan’s explosives.

Their fight continues to the parking garage, where Terry shockingly beats Stan to death! Barbara opens fire but he escapes. She vows to put an end to Batman.

Sure enough, the GCPD are waiting outside Terry’s apartment so he heads over to Max’s to call Bruce, who is sceptical of his story. He reviews the security footage, which goes blank during the incident, enough to convince him.

At Bruce’s suggestion, Terry infiltrates the morgue, but Mad Stan’s corpse is nowhere to be found. An alarm sounds under suspicious circumstances, so Bats makes a run for it but the GCPD ambush him.

Bruce finally unscrambles the security footage to reveal Spellbinder was behind the whole thing. He calls Barbara who refuses to call off the police pursuit, so he instead helps Terry locate the villain hiding in plain sight.

Terry takes Spellbinder down and the GCPD arrest him. Barbara apologises, but Terry immediately forgives her. Mad Stan is found in one of Spellbinder’s VR pods living out his anarchist fantasies.

Best Performance

We are absolutely spoiled for choice here. I’m still frustrated with how little Jon Cryer has gotten to talk in his return appearances as Spellbinder, because it’s such a creepy voice. I would love to give it to Henry Rollins for his zany portrayal of Mad Stan, which remains delightful, if not for the three major candidates.

Kevin Conroy and Stockard Channing pounce on their increased amount of dialogue, taking the script’s inherent tension and really making it sing. Even their false pleasantries are scintillating, but it’s them taking turns to make threats that really turns up the heat. Much to revisit down the line if desired.

However I have to give it up for Will Friedle, who manages to make Terry’s protests of innocence understated rather than over the top. You can sense his frustration and futility, which is a nice contrast from season one where he was more of a stereotypical melodramatic teen. He also sounds commanding in the opening when he’s stalking the sting before shifting over to banter during the action scenes with the arms dealers and Mad Stan, as well as genuinely creeped out by the morgue. It’s all great stuff, and he really sticks the landing with his forgiving nature towards Barbara and finally how elated he is to receive a civic honour that makes his mother proud of him. Honestly, this is probably his best performance to date.

Ranking

This is a great little story about trust that explores the relationships between Barbara and Bruce and the past and present Batmen. Babs dropping in on her former mentor is delightful, both due to winks and nods about Alfred, and their tense power dynamic. Bruce rightfully points out if she arrests Terry she’ll expose him and by extension herself, but she can’t just let him get away with ostensible murder. Her ability to counteract Terry’s evasion tactics due to her own experience is excellent, creating one of the more thrilling chase sequences in all of animated Batman. It’s interesting to me that Barbara is unwilling to believe Bruce in the climax and I hope to see that explored further, but if nothing else, her admitting to a mistake to Terry pairs nicely with his own from the start of the episode. Isn’t it amazing how effective it is to pay off something you set up?

Meanwhile, Bruce’s only minor scepticism before choosing to believe Terry (including defending him to Barbara) exhibits how far they’ve come. You could very easily see this story playing out early in season one and Terry has to convince Bruce, leading to a reluctant apology. Instead, we were rewarded for our ongoing investment in their development. Terry’s thanks are nevertheless touching. Likewise, his swift forgiveness of Barbara demonstrates what a good kid he is regardless of his supposedly nefarious past. Plus the tension of him tossing a Batarang seemingly right at her, only to smash Spellbinder’s ‘magic eye’ is irrefutably badass, and also another exercise in trust… though Babs has no say in the matter.

Random note, but the morgue made for a staggeringly elaborate location, both in its size and the fancy futuristic computer-operated tubes in place of lockers. I guess when you have a Murder Clown and other colourful villains terrorising the city for decades, you need ample storage for corpses.

All in all, I loved this, as it reminded me a little of both ‘Perchance to Dream’ and ‘Over the Edge’, exploring the psyche of the heroes and pitting Batman against the police in a thrilling pursuit that culminates in the reveal of an illusion-based villain behind everything. Even the botched opening sting is stylish and exciting, so you really do get a great deal of bang for your buck.

  1. Meltdown
  2. Eyewitness (NEW ENTRY)
  3. Babel
  4. Disappearing Inque
  5. Spellbound
  6. A Touch of Curaré
  7. Shriek
  8. Rebirth Part I
  9. Bloodsport
  10. Splicers
  11. Hidden Agenda
  12. Lost Soul
  13. Earth Mover
  14. Black Out
  15. Dead Man’s Hand
  16. Rebirth Part II
  17. Once Burned
  18. Revenant
  19. Heroes
  20. Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot
  21. Mind Games
  22. Hooked Up
  23. The Winning Edge
  24. Ascension
  25. Joyride
  26. Golem
  27. Rats

Villain Watch

Spellbinder (Jon Cypher) (third appearance)

As mentioned above, this episode reminded me a little of ‘Perchance to Dream’ and ‘Over the Edge’, excellent episodes that only reveal their villains in the final two minutes. Much like Mad Hatter and Scarecrow before him, the lateness of his appearance prevents Spellbinder from moving up the list, but doesn’t hurt him either, because the entire hook of the story depends on his abilities.

It’s unclear to me why he would continue to hang around Barbara during the chase scene (other than getting his jollies from watching), but it’s undeniably badass when Terry shatters his magic eye. His accusation that Barbara found it so easy to believe the worst of Batman is a subtle piece of writing because he’s absolutely right.

Mad Stan (Henry Rollins) (second appearance)

This guy’s never not going to be a delight, is he? Henry Rollins’ larger than life persona must make him easy to write for, and Stan manically ranting about capitalism, bureaucracy and corruption while wildly firing guns and setting off bombs is perfect for a recurring minor villain. Up the list you go, Stan!

  1. Inque
  2. Shriek
  3. Mr. Freeze
  4. Curaré
  5. Spellbinder
  6. The Jokerz
  7. Derek Powers/Blight
  8. Stalker
  9. The Royal Flush Gang
  10. Earthmover
  11. Willie Watt
  12. Dr. Cuvier (and pals!)
  13. Mad Stan
  14. Robert Vance
  15. The Terrific Trio
  16. The Brain Trust
  17. Dr. Stephanie Lake
  18. Howard Hodges & General Norman
  19. Paxton Powers
  20. Jackson Chappell
  21. Cynthia
  22. Mr. Fixx
  23. 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, continues coverage of Hawkeye.

There Will Be Movies continues Ben & Matt’s look back at the 90s each Wednesday. Daydream about quitting your job? Boy do we have the episode for you as we discuss Office Space.

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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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