The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 29: The Last Resort

Plot summary: Batman investigates a psychiatric clinic when half of his classmates are admitted, and of course something sinister is afoot.

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: ‘The Last Resort’

Original Air Date: March 4th, 2000

Directed: Curt Geda (10)

Written: Stan Berkowitz (10)

Terry makes comments about renegade synthoids and living heads, referring to the episodes ‘Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot’ and ‘Meltdown’.

Unbelievably this ends a 28-episode streak of episodes in which Terry throws a Batarang.

Bruce points out that recordings from the Batsuit would be inadmissible in court, but one such recording will later be turned over to the police in Return of the Joker. Bruce did get unlucky in this regard in both ‘Heart of Ice’ and ‘Trial’.

Recap

While out on patrol, Terry brings down a reckless driver who turns out to be a student from his school, Sean Miller, who laughs as the GCPD handcuff him.

His arrest is used in an advertisement for Dr. David Wheeler’s clinic for troubled teens, claiming to offer the finest therapy.

The ad works, as Terry notices most of his class are missing, with Chelsea telling him they’ve all been sent to the clinic. Chelsea sends their principal a protest email… and of course is sent to the clinic that very night.

She makes awkward conversation with Sean, and then tries talking to her friend, Adam, who is unresponsive, painting a blank canvas with a clean brush. Vague mentions of “iso” and “class” are made.

Terry investigates the facility, overhearing the aforementioned class, which is just the kids being forced to stand to attention for hours without bathroom breaks while he berates them long into the night.

One of the teens complains and is dragged off to iso, but before Terry can find out what that means (a difficult guess), he trips an alarm and is forced to flee from the clinic’s shockingly heavy security.

Bruce points out that their audio surveillance would be inadmissible in court, so Terry returns in his own clothes armed with a concealed camera. He’s forced to stow his bag (containing the Batsuit) at the front desk as a condition of entry.

Security claim Chelsea cancelled their appointment, but Terry isn’t buying it and sneaks inside while the guard is distracted. He finds Chelsea and records her account of Dr. Wheeler’s brainwashing and Iso aka sensory deprivation.

While trying to make his way back out, Terry bumps into Sean who picks a fight for him that attracts security. Dr. Wheeler schedules Sean for Iso, and then after discovering Terry’s camera, has him locked up.

Terry and Sean are taken for Iso in the morning but execute their top secret plan to… attack their guards. Brilliant. Adam helps and they obtain a security key, which they use to release all the other kids.

The chaos allows Terry to get to the Batsuit and help take down security, who have broken out their heavy weaponry. He’s then forced to save Dr. Wheeler, who Sean tries to throw off the roof!

Teens are reunited with parents (with Chelsea giving her dad the cold shoulder), Dr. Wheeler is taken to prison, and Bruce and Terry lament that Sean is also escorted into custody.

Best Performance

Rachel Leigh Cook replaces Yvette Lowenthal as the voice of long-time minor character Chelsea, likely because they needed the character to actually do some more meaningful acting, and while the latter was never bad, the former is much better. Not only does Cook make us sympathise with Chelsea’s plight, but she actually manages to make it believable that Terry and Chelsea are close despite very little evidence of that in the show so far.

Will Friedle meets her halfway on that front, doing an excellent job of comforting her and assuring her he will get her out soon. Honestly, I wish these two had more scenes together, but there’s minimal time for side characters.

John Ritter is perfectly fine as the nefarious Dr. Wheeler, but it’s a tricky character to make overly compelling, because part of his deal is that he masquerades as just a boring psychiatrist. David Faustino makes Sean suitably punchable.

Ranking

Fun fact: I wrote this review months ago but then when I came to upload it, found it didn’t save properly so had to do it over. Do me a favour and assume I made lots of funny jokes and poignant insights in the original.

I like this episode in theory a lot more than in practice. The idea of a sleazy psychiatrist stirring up hysteria in parents in order to convince them to have their kids committed to his secret P.O.W. camp is a good one, wading into that ‘this could actually happen!’ territory. They even found a good justification for Terry to end up in the clinic himself due to recordings made by Batman being inadmissible in court. And I’m always a fan of taking a lesser-used side character and giving them a chance to shine, with Chelsea acting as our viewpoint character inside the clinic, and getting a really nice conversation with Terry.

However it feels like an episode in need of a second pass. Why on earth would Wheeler not immediately destroy the incriminating evidence? Obviously, the testimonies of the dozens of escaped teens would work even better than the recording, but that camera was potentially still in one piece when the cops arrived.

I’m nit-picking there, but the episode also feels a little too heavy-handed, with the vibe of an after school special. Bruce and Terry solemnly agree that clinics like Dr. Wheeler’s are a necessity (minus all the torture obviously), because some kids are just bad news, man. I understand what they’re going for, but it lacked the necessary nuance.

Speaking of Bruce, I feel they missed an opportunity with him being the one to come and get Terry (because he knew where he was and Mary McGinnis didn’t). Sure, they have a little joke about him potentially bringing a suit, but I feel there was something more emotional available between the two of them that went unused. Especially given what comes at the end of the show…

Finally, it was nice to see Max put in a short shift as the ‘guy in the chair’ for Terry in this one, and she of course has a far more relaxed demeanour than Bruce. Instead of dry wit about how our hero is slacking off, we instead get some high school gossip, which while I wouldn’t want every episode, it does feel true to life and reminds us Terry is a teenager, not just a superhero.

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

Villain Watch

Dr. Wheeler (John Ritter) (first appearance)

This is a tricky character, because on the one hand his clinic is abhorrent, with illegal torture methods used on teenagers, but on the other he’s just Some Guy. I’d certainly listen to an argument that the latter actually makes him scarier, because while you’re never going to meet a mutant crocodile or radioactive skeleton man, you could meet an abusive psychiatrist.

Aside from the war crimes, his darkest moment comes when he catches Terry and plans to murder him if nobody comes to claim him. Like jeez, at least forcibly commit the kid to your clinic, my guy.

But it can’t be avoided that this is just A Dude, and while you don’t HAVE to be a radioactive skeleton man to rank high… it certainly helps. An apt point of comparison would be Dr. Stephanie Lake from ‘Meltdown’, who is simply more interesting.

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

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. Unfortunately we haven’t dipped our toes into the world of foreign film yet, so are going to make up for it in the closing stretch, first with Pedro Almodovar’s All About My Mother.

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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