The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 38: Big Time

Plot summary: An old friend from Terry’s criminal past gets out of prison and immediately weaves a tangled web of corporate espionage and horrific mutation.

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: ‘Big Time’

Original Air Date: October 7th, 2000

Directed: James Tucker (2)

Written: Robert Goodman (7) & Tom Reugger (1) (story)

This is where things get particularly screwy in terms of the production order vs airdate order. Most places list this as a season 3 episode, airing in October. However, it was produced before a number of season 3 episodes, and even two of the season 2 ones. Soooo. Call it whatever season you want, but we’re reviewing it here because it impacts the ongoing narrative.

Terry’s criminal past has been hinted at in several episodes (‘A Touch of Curaré’, ‘Revenant’, ‘Rats’, ‘Eyewitness’) but we finally get the full story at last.

Recap

A group of thieves rob an armoured truck full of unknown chemicals, which brings Batman into the fray. During the fracas one of the containers springs a leak, causing the gang to retreat in fear.

Bruce explains that the liquid is called Cerestone, an experimental hormone intended for plant growth that a rival company, Agrichem, have been trying to steal from him with the assistance of Karros and his men.

Terry has to cut the conversation short when Dana is harassed by… his old friend, Charlie ‘Big Time’ Bigelow. The two catch up, but Terry is turned off by Charlie’s continuing commitment to crime.

Sympathising with Charlie’s struggles to get a job, Terry successfully begs Bruce for one on his behalf… only it turns out it was a set-up, and Charlie shared a cell with Agrichem higher-up Richard Armacost, and was asked to infilitrate Wayne-Powers.

He wastes no time, using a fancy gadget to swipe a security guard’s fingerprints on his first day, which is turned into a glove that will fool the scanners.

Terry confronts Charlie about his link to Agrichem after Bruce did some digging, planting a tracker on him during a heated argument.

Charlie unlocks the Cerestone lab for Karros and his men, but before they can steal any, Batman attacks. Yet another drum of the chemical is damaged in the battle, and Charlie gets the volatile chemical all over him.

The criminals get away again, and Karros blames Charlie for messing up the job for him, demanding he come up with the money they’ve lost out on. Worse still, Charlie is suffering weird side effects from the Cerestone.

Charlie asks Terry to help him, but is rebuffed and runs away, fearing for his life. Terry later confides in Max that when he was 14 he accompanied the older Charlie on a heist to impress a gang. Terry got 3 months in juvenile detention, while Charlie went to prison.

Terry obtains a recording of Karros and Armacost implicating themselves in the Cerestone robberies. Before he can call the police, a mutated Charlie bursts in to attack everybody.

Thus we get a three-way battle between Batman, Karros and ‘Big Time’, as the brute attempts to throw Armacost to his death. Karros ends up being the one to take a big fall, which doesn’t phase Terry at all for some reason.

Bats reluctantly fights his friend who has trouble breathing and ends up being easy to take down. A news report informs us Charlie is to be held without bail, and Karros is in hospital. Terry remains a sad panda despite Dana and Max trying to comfort him.

Best Performance

Three big guest stars this time around! Robert Patrick is fine as the generic corporate criminal, Richard Armacost. The character doesn’t end up mattering much to the story despite being the key link between the various elements. Stephen Baldwin was very Stephen Baldwin as Charlie, theoretically sounding vaguely threatening at all times, and trying to imbue some turmoil into what ends up being a disappointingly one-dimensional character.

It’s William H. Macy who really shows out though, returning for his second stint on the show after he leant his talents to the guy who fell in love with Inque. That kind of sad sap is his bread and butter, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much menace he was able to channel as Karros. The character design for the villain was middle of the road, so Macy has to do a lot of heavy lifting, and he’s more than up to the task.

Will Friedle was great here as well, but is clearly not as good of an actor as Macy, which is no great insult. Other regulars Kevin Conroy, Cree Summer and Lauren Tom were all perfectly decent, but it was a story about Terry and his old friend, so their roles were limited.

Ranking

I know it’s sort of his whole deal, but I haaaate when Bruce is incredibly cynical and untrusting of people, only for his hunch to play out. He’s suspicious of Terry’s old friend because of his criminal past so investigates him behind his protégé’s back… and then Charlie ends up being ‘bad news’. This is made worse by the fact that’s where his participation in the story ends, so you get the Bruce is smart and Terry is dumb trope, which I also dislike.

Terry’s angle on the whole thing is more compelling, genuinely pitying his friend and feeling some kind of misplaced survivor’s guilt that he got a lighter sentence for being younger than Charlie. Yet another reason Terry is a Good Boy Golden Retriever. His reluctance to fight ‘Big Time’ at the end is done really well, but you almost wish Charlie learned Terry’s secret to make the moment land even harder. What we got was still emotionally charged, with Batman easily dodging the fading ‘Big Time’s blows before finally bringing himself to put him down.

I’m mildly shocked they got away with Terry as a fourteen year old thief given how touchy censors can be, and it finally paid off the various teases we’ve had about his troubled past and why Dana’s father doesn’t like him. Speaking of which, Dana’s response to Charlie and attempt to comfort Terry at the end is depressingly one of her more prominent episodes, but even then it’s Max who gets the heart to heart.

The action is pretty decent, and I’ll never be mad about them for trying to expand on the protagonist’s past, but it’s nothing too special.

  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. Big Time (NEW ENTRY)
  23. Revenant
  24. Sentries to the Last Comos
  25. April Moon
  26. Heroes
  27. The Eggbaby
  28. Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot
  29. Mind Games
  30. Hooked Up
  31. The Winning Edge
  32. Ascension
  33. Joyride
  34. Golem
  35. The Last Resort
  36. Plague
  37. Payback
  38. Rats

Villain Watch

Karros (William H. Macy) (first appearance)

While a little generic, he does gave a fun arsenal of gadets and sort of gets the better of Batman twice. William H. Macy adds a little extra something to make him more intimidating when not fighting, but there’s only so far you can go with a character without any powers, gimmicks or backstory.

Charlie ‘Big Time’ Bigelow (Stephen Baldwin) (first appearance)

I lament even having to rank him as a villain, but the show sure wants him to be one so here we are. Teenager acts out after his parents’ divorce, does time, sees crime as his only viable option in life, falls victim to a chemical accident, turns into a monster. Yay.

The creature design is perfectly fine, and I do like that the hand he was wearing a glove on when he got covered in Cerestone is unaffected. Plus his temporary hulk style rampage seems to give way to health issues that make him easy for Terry to take out… or maybe I’m reading too much into that.

  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. Karros (NEW ENTRY)
  19. Bullwhip’s Gang
  20. Charlie ‘Big Time’ Bigelow (NEW ENTRY)
  21. Simon Harper (and the Sentries!)
  22. The Mayhem Family
  23. Payback
  24. Agent Bennet
  25. The Brain Trust
  26. Kobra
  27. Dr. Stephanie Lake
  28. Howard Hodges & General Norman
  29. Paxton Powers
  30. Jackson Chappell
  31. Cynthia
  32. Falseface
  33. Mr. Fixx
  34. Ratboy
  35. 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 Moon Knight begins. I miiiight drop a column or two before then, but given I did an accidental racism last time, I probably won’t.

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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