The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 33: Plague

Plot summary: When the terrorist organisation, Kobra threaten to unleash a deadly virus in Gotham, Batman is forced to team up with Stalker.

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: ‘Plague’

Original Air Date: April 15th, 2000

Directed: Butch Lukic (10)

Written: Rich Fogel (6)

Gotham’s population is said to be around 12 million people.

Reason 56 to follow production order: Terry recognises Agent Bennett from the episode ‘Zeta’, despite that one not having happened yet in the air-date order.

Speaking of Agent Bennett, he explains who Kobra are, but in the later episode ‘Unmasked’ it will be revealed he faced them early on in his career.

Recap

Terry, Dana and Chelsea pick up Nelson from Gotham Airport, who has a little trouble with security due to mysterious green chemicals in his bag.

The security agent confiscates the vial and slips off to hand it to a masked, hooded figure. The agent reconfigures his face in creepy fashion and they leave together.

The teens leave the airport but Stalker immediately pounces, abducting Nelson and interrogating him about the tube. Nelson tells him what happened and gets dropped easily two stories into a car, which somehow does not seriously injure him.

Terry slips off to “get help”, confronting Stalker as Batman. They brawl for a moment, but Stalker insists he wants no quarrel.

Agent Bennet and some cronies arrive and confirm Stalker works for the NSA now, hunting ‘Falseface’, an agent of the terrorist organisation, Kobra. The group have demanded ransom money or they’ll release a deadly virus in Gotham.

Thus, Batman forms an unlikely alliance with Stalker and Bennett to try and find Falseface. Following a tip from Bruce, Terry leads them to a secret Kobra facility where agents are readying the virus.

Stalker dislikes taking orders, so blows their cover to start a huge fight, which earns him a scolding from Terry. They follow a clue to a plastics factory where Kobra are planning to coat credits in the virus.

The duo take the Kobra unit down, but their leader seems too cocky, so Stalker interrogates him for more information. Turns out Falseface was infected with the virus without his knowledge as a failsafe.

Luckily, Stalker marked Falseface with the same pheromones he used to hunt Terry previously, so is quickly able to track their target down. Unluckily, Falseface immediately uses a taser to subdue Stalker, changes his face and escapes.

Terry sees through his Nelson disguise and attacks him. After some fighting, Stalker rescues Terry from a flaming building and they get their man, with Stalker warning Batman he will die by his hand one day.

Best Performance

Wall to wall ‘fine’ in this one. Will Friedle, Townsend Coleman, Kerrigan Mahan and Joe Spano are all perfectly average. Kevin Conroy is barely in it. Ditto Seth Green and Rachel Leigh Cook.

So in perhaps the softest pick I’ve ever made, I’ll go with Carl Lumbly for at least being distinctive, even if Stalker is worse in every way than in his first appearance. Reluctantly taking Terry’s advice on board, and later saving his life only to promise to be the one to kill him down the road were the closest things to good voice work.

Ranking

This episode never stood a chance because it went too far past ambitious with simply too many moving parts. I can see what they were going for, but it felt like two good ideas mashed together. Kobra and their theoretically clever virus plot, and the unlikely alliance with Stalker to track down someone who can change their appearance. I can even see why you’d tie those things together, with Falseface acting as Kobra’s agent, but yeah, one too many spinning plates for anything to work properly.

Much of the problem can be summed up by the opening few minutes, with Kobra smuggling the virus into the country via Nelson and Falseface posing as a TSA agent and confiscating it… only to later reveal he was the one who planted it on him in the first place? So… he slipped it into Nelson’s bag, snuck aboard the plane, got such a head-start on Nelson getting off the plane that he could sneak backstage of Gotham airport, take the identity of a TSA agent (who has a different hair colour to him!) and then make it to the exact desk Nelson was going to use, just so that he could confiscate the virus and take it backstage again?! If you’re capable of slipping to the back of the airport completely undetected, and also capable of walking out of it, then security isn’t an issue whatsoever!!!

Then they bring in Agent Bennet for sixty seconds to explain the plot aloud and go away again. Was there no way to involve Stalker without him? It sort of hurt them both, but especially Stalker. More on that below.

On top of the messy plot, there isn’t much in the way of action or atmosphere to save it. In theory, Stalker and Batman stealthing their way around and bickering is fun, but ehh. A real stinker.

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

Villain Watch

Stalker (Carl Lumbly (second appearance)

I’m struggling to think of a farther fall from grace between debut and second appearance for any villain in the franchise. From a genetically enhanced super-hunter who treated Gotham as his playground… to a government lapdog who gets owned by a dude with a taser.

There’s still something here, with his unorthodox appearance standing out even more than last time, but he’s robbed of all sense of mystique. The only thing stopping him from falling further is the stinger at the end that he’s determined to be the one to kill Batman.

Falseface (Townsend Coleman) (first appearance)

Essentially just a lamer Clayface who can only mould his face, Falseface is given very little in the way of a personality, which makes it even funnier that he’s given the position of the episode’s main villain. He does kick both Stalker and Batman’s asses with little more than a taser, which is wacky, but beyond that there’s nothing to him. Real bottom of the pack stuff.

He would reappear in a comic nearly 20 years later and turn everybody’s lives upside down because of dramatically boosted powers.

Kobra (Kerrigan Mahan) (first appearance)

There’s no two ways about it, this was an underwhelming debut for an organisation that play a relatively prominent role in the DCAU going forward. Vaguely snake-themed terrorist men who seem to be little more than cannon fodder. They’re Hydra. They’re A.I.M. You get it.

Kobra One’s plan is theoretically cool, coating money in a virus, and injecting Falseface with it as a fallback, but nothing really comes of either idea and it all ends up feeling very inconsequential.

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

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 the next MCU show starts. In theory I may drop some one-off articles or something, but life is hectic right now so… don’t bet on it.

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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