The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 42: King’s Ransom

Plot summary: Facing hard times, the remaining members of the Royal Flush Gang kidnap Paxton Powers, but Bruce Wayne isn’t as cooperative with their ransom demands as they’d hoped.

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: ‘King’s Ransom’

Original Air Date: September 16th, 2000

Directed: Butch Lukic (12)

Written: Rich Fogel (8)

In ‘Dead Man’s Hand’, Bruce stated that he broke up the gang for a time and King has always wanted a rematch, unaware Bruce was Batman. So he gets his desire without even knowing it here.

Blade Runner is among the largest influences on Batman Beyond, with Deckard’s Kitchen presumably named for the protagonist.

A number of voice actors got replaced here, most notably Angie Harmon taking over for Stockard Channing as Barbara Gordon, but also Parker Stevenson replacing Cary Elwes as Paxton Powers and Nicholas Guest replacing Scott Cleverdon as Jack. Also apparently I didn’t notice that Sarah Douglas replaced Amanda Donohoe as Queen in ‘Once Burned’.

Recap

The Royal Flush Gang (minus Ten) break into a museum, but Jack isn’t as good at disarming security systems, and Batman arrives to interrupt them.

A jaguar statue they intended to steal gets damaged in the melee, so King orders a full retreat. Terry gives chase, taking down Jack. The police arrive and surround him, so King leaves him behind.

Jack holds up under interrogation by Barbara Gordon (with Terry eavesdropping), denying they were working for anyone. Bruce doesn’t buy it and suspects somebody.

Before he has a chance to share his theory with Terry, we see King selling the statue to Paxton Powers, who short changes him due to the damage. His assistant, Miss Thorpe, gives King a beating for good measure.

Queen scolds her husband for accepting a lower price and for doing business with Powers in the first place, pointing out that Jack and Ten are gone and they’re struggling to keep Ace in good condition.

Determined to restore the gang to glory, King decides to kidnap Powers, this time with Ace’s muscle neutralising Miss Thorpe. Unfortunately Powers goes full Elon Musk and claims he doesn’t actually have any money, as it’s all tied up in stocks…

Meanwhile, Batman visits Melanie, who is holding down a job at a restaurant. She insists she’s had zero contact with her family and asks about the note she tried to give Terry in ‘Once Burned’. Bats lies and she storms off, heartbroken.

King calls Bruce with ransom demands, but Wayne calmly refuses to pay, citing a policy Paxton himself wrote about negotiating with terrorists and kidnappers.

As a compromise, they ask him to retrieve one of Powers’ artefacts from his penthouse, which Bruce & Terry gladly fetch as it proves Paxton has a number of stolen treasures in his possession.

Realising this, Powers asks them to kill Bruce so that he can gain full control of the company and then pay them even more.

At the handover, an all out brawl erupts, with even Ace (the dog) getting involved. Terry takes down Ace (the robot) and handcuffs Queen, who King leaves behind in order to flee.

It turns out King has been sleeping with Miss Thorpe and the two conspired against both sides. Unfortunately for him, Queen escapes her handcuffs and unleashes the fury on her husband.

Terry arrives, having followed Queen, and takes advantage of the chaos to capture everybody, including Miss Thorne.

Jack is released from prison after Melanie pays his bail with her savings. They hug and he happily accepts her offer to work alongside her as Terry looks on approvingly from the shadows.

Best Performance

I’ve been disappointed by George Lazenby as King in his previous appearances, so was thrilled to hear his work improve so much in this third and final showing. He’s always been solid at the sneering authoritative stuff, but what we got here was a hint that perhaps the character has been faking his stiff upper lip all along. We know that the Royal Flush Gang have fallen on harder times, and as King and Queen bicker, some more informal language starts to creep in, which Lazenby delivers deftly. He’s also deliciously hateable in the big reveal at the end. Bravo.

This is by far the most Queen and Jack have gotten to speak across three appearances, and their actors rose to that challenge. Olivia d’Abo was on par with her previous work, but she’s barely in the episode.

Parker Stevenson injected Paxton Powers with far more weasely personality compared to his intensely generic debut.

Angie Harmon’s take on Barbara Gordon sounded a little younger and feistier, but it was jarring to hear after two seasons of Stockard Channing, so I instinctively liked it less. Perhaps if she gets more lines in future I’ll be able to make a fairer assessment.

Ranking

On some level, I miss the melodrama between Terry and Melanie, even if it does make things ethically murky for our hero. But I can’t deny the results when removing it from the equation, with the rest of the Royal Flush Gang flourishing (see below).

This ended up being a fun, twisty, turny crime caper that provided a nice send-off to a handful of characters. Melanie and Jack get to move on with their lives. Terry shuts the door on Melanie for good. Paxton Powers doesn’t get to just vanish after trying to murder his father in season one. King and Bruce get their second battle, however brief. Queen gets to drop King like the trash he is. All of this feels like it would be right at home as one of the final episodes of the whole show.

Perhaps the most satisfying aspect was the constantly changing power dynamics between King, Paxton Powers and Bruce, whose stone-walling of King’s ransom demands was delightful. Powers going from claiming he has no money to trying to buy his way back into a favourable position was perfectly shitty, and truly makes you want to see both villains get their comeuppance. The final reveal King and Miss Thorpe were playing bother sides was delicious, and provided even more villain in-fighting as Queen tried to teach her philandering husband a lesson. Honestly, it’s almost a shame Batman had to take them out instead of just arriving after the dust settled and slapping on some cuffs. He does ALMOST do that, but instead has to beat King and deliver the fun line about knowing what it’s like to live in someone’s shadow.

All of that and some fun fights to boot? I can’t really ask for too much more out of the show, even if it means Dana and Max have to be AWOL and less Ten/Melanie than I’d like.

  1. Meltdown
  2. Eyewitness
  3. Babel
  4. Final Cut
  5. Disappearing Inque
  6. Spellbound
  7. King’s Ransom (NEW ENTRY)
  8. A Touch of Curaré
  9. Shriek
  10. Rebirth Part I
  11. Bloodsport
  12. Splicers
  13. Zeta
  14. Armory
  15. Hidden Agenda
  16. Lost Soul
  17. Earth Mover
  18. Black Out
  19. Dead Man’s Hand
  20. Where’s Terry?
  21. Sneak Peek
  22. Rebirth Part II
  23. Once Burned
  24. Big Time
  25. Revenant
  26. Untouchable
  27. Sentries of the Last Cosmos
  28. April Moon
  29. Heroes
  30. The Eggbaby
  31. Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot
  32. Mind Games
  33. Hooked Up
  34. The Winning Edge
  35. Ascension
  36. Joyride
  37. Golem
  38. Ace in the Hole
  39. The Last Resort
  40. Plague
  41. Payback
  42. Rats

Villain Watch

The Royal Flush Gang (George Lazenby/Sarah Douglas/Oliva d’Abo/Nicholas Guest) (third appearance)

It turns out dropping the Terry/Melanie romance and giving the rest of the Royal Flush Gang more screen time helps raise their overall standing. Admittedly, Ace is still mute, and Jack gets arrested pretty quickly to take him off the board. But Ace being a total powerhouse remains fun even in small doses, with Terry able to embed him into a brick wall… only for him to turn around and beat our hero half to death.

Queen comes across far more physically capable than before, as she engages Batman in direct combat, and while he wins the battle, she shows off more martial arts prowess than expected, and her energy sceptre remains perhaps the group’s most dangerous weapon.

But it’s King that rises to truly legendary heights by being a premiere scoundrel, stepping out on his wife with Paxton Powers’ assistant/masseuse/bodyguard, and playing everybody against each other. Even without that, he abandons Jack and Queen at different points in the episode AND fights Bruce for a bit, blissfully ignorant to the fact he’s making good on his desire to get revenge on Batman after all these years. There’s even the subplot about King never measuring up to his predecessor (Queen’s father) to emphasise the generational gimmick of the group.

Paxton Powers (Parker Stevenson) (second appearance)

While he’s still an inferior version of his father, Paxton is a little more interesting in his second appearance, mostly thanks to his new voice actor. Hiring a sexy badass assistant and collecting stolen treasures are fun too, and I guess Miss Thorpe should be grouped with him? Even though she betrays him? I don’t know. She’s not getting her own ranking.

I’ll move him up a few slots over the other regular human characters, with bonus points for pre-empting the Elon Musk defenders who try to argue rich people don’t actually have any money.

  1. Inque
  2. Curaré
  3. Shriek
  4. Mr. Freeze
  5. Spellbinder
  6. The Jokerz
  7. Derek Powers/Blight
  8. The Royal Flush Gang
  9. Stalker
  10. Armory
  11. Ian Peek
  12. Repeller
  13. Earthmover
  14. Willie Watt
  15. Dr. Cuvier (and pals!)
  16. Mad Stan
  17. Robert Vance
  18. The Terrific Trio
  19. Karros
  20. Bullwhip’s Gang
  21. Charlie ‘Big Time’ Bigelow
  22. Simon Harper (and the Sentries!)
  23. The Mayhem Family
  24. Payback
  25. Agent Bennet
  26. The Brain Trust
  27. Paxton Powers
  28. Kobra
  29. Dr. Stephanie Lake
  30. Howard Hodges & General Norman
  31. Jackson Chappell
  32. Cynthia
  33. Falseface
  34. Mr. Fixx
  35. The T’s
  36. Ronny Boxer
  37. Ratboy
  38. 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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