Plot summary: Feeling his age, Bruce Wayne contemplates an offer from Talia al Ghul to use the Lazarus Pits to restore his youth.
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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Episode Title: ‘Out of the Past’
Original Air Date: October 21st, 2000
Directed: James Tucker (4)
Written: Paul Dini (3)
Paul Dini has been conspicuous by his absence, co-writing the pilot and then getting a story credit on ‘Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot’. While Superman the Animated Series may have been taking up some of his time, it’s far more likely he was busy with the upcoming movie, The Return of the Joker, which was produced at the same time as seasons 2 and 3.
With Dini come the awards, as this episode was nominated for an Annie Award for outstanding writing. Kevin Conroy and Olivia Hussey also got nominated for acting.
Speaking of which, the al Ghuls were last seen in the Superman episode ‘The Demon Reborn’. Terry makes reference to an unseen encounter happening after that, which will come back up later.
Bruce only reminisces over some of his confirmed ex-loves: Zatanna, Lois Lane, Selina Kyle and Barbara Gordon. Some fans actually thought one of the redheads was Andrea ‘Phantasm’ Beaumont, but Dini clarified it’s a second picture of Barbara, and that Bruce holds Andrea’s murderous ways against her.
On the subject of Selina Kyle, her voice actor Adrienne Barbeau sneaks in for a cameo as a chorus singer.
Terry drags Bruce to see the musical ‘The Legend of Batman’ for his birthday, but the show infuriates the old grump, who instead heads home to his cave to look at pictures of his ex-lovers.
Apparently this is a summoning spell, as Talia freakin’ al Ghul strolls right into the cave, barely any older than we last saw her thanks to the Lazarus Pits.
She offers Bruce the same luxury to reverse his ageing. When Terry returns, he and Talia take turns showing off their knowledge of each other until she departs, again asking Bruce to consider her offer.
Terry discusses the offer with Max, believing Bruce often wishes he were still the man in the suit, and that this could make that happen, despite Bruce’s warnings about the pits.
While changing a blown tire, Bruce is attacked by would-be muggers but manages to fend them off. However they grab a bystander and toss her into the road and while he does his best to save her, Terry has to swoop in and rescue them both.
The incident convinces Bruce to visit Talia, and while he’s hesitant, she sweet talks him with mention of how much he gave to Gotham and how much good they could do for the world together.
Bruce and Terry board Talia’s private plane to New Cuba. Terry remains sceptical of the whole thing, engaging Talia in an awkward conversation about Ra’s.
Sure enough, a dip into a Lazarus Pit causes Bruce to emerge only a few years older than he was in BTAS. He tries to attack Terry, but Talia pacifies him, assuring Terry the side effects used to be worse.
The next morning, the restored Bruce puts himself through an intense workout in Talia’s gym, but wonders if he did the right thing and decides to leave. Talia’s men have other ideas, so the Batmen fight their way out side by side!
But upon reaching Talia’s office, they hear the voice of Ra’s al Ghul. Bruce demands to know what’s going on, and Talia stuns him by speaking in her deceased father’s voice! In fact our heroes are so shocked they get hit from behind by a stun gun.
Ra’s tells Bruce that his body was broken beyond repair in their final encounter, so Talia sacrificed her own to keep him alive… and now he plans to take Bruce’s and pretend to be his son to claim his fortune.
Terry breaks free of his captors before they can throw him to crocodiles, suits up, and then fights his way back inside to put a halt to the transfer process.
Thus a Batman and an al Ghul battle one more time, with Terry tricking Ra’s into stabbing his computer, setting off a series of explosions. Our heroes try to help Ra’s escape, but he breaks free and ends up going down with the proverbial ship in a failed attempt to save it.
Back home, Bruce tells Terry that he should return to normal in a week and then looks at a picture of himself and Talia and says goodbye to her.
Will Friedle has stated that this episode was a real treat for him as he got to hear Kevin Conroy do his classic Batman voice in person, rather than the aged up version he uses in Beyond. He also voiced the stage actor playing Batman so got to show off his lovely singing voice, as well as nailing the difficult task of good bad acting. But all of that is just a cherry on the top of an outstanding individual performance, rightfully nominated for an Annie, proving that when given more dialogue, he can absolutely still bring it. His world-weariness, his philosophical musings and self-flagellation, his quips to Talia/Ra’s, it’s all here.
Friedle was fun too, especially singing along to ‘A Superstitious, Cowardly Lot’ to annoy Bruce, but also his back and forth with Talia. He manages to inject a little of the early Terry cockiness, but in a far more restrained way.
No disrespect to Olivia Hussey, but I’m actually surprised she got an Annie nomination for this, as I didn’t think a huge amount of her. Perhaps if I didn’t know about the award aspect I’d think more highly of her, but I much preferred David Warner’s work.
Finally, it was only fitting in an episode celebrating Bruce’s past that Mark Hamill snuck in as Carter, Talia’s British henchman. He’s borderline unrecognisable, which I mean as a compliment.
We’ve seen Old Man Bruce dip his toe back into the realm of action a dozen or so times, but never written more effectively than in the pilot and his scuffle here with some random muggers. Oh, weird! Both were written by Paul Dini, and both featured him excelling at first, but then showing the effects of his age.
The central conceit of Bruce wrestling with the dilemma of accepting his age or doing the very Batman thing of trying to fight off the impossible is gripping television, from Talia pointing out how much he sacrificed for Gotham, to his pondering if he has a right to defy nature. It even continues after he’s gone through with it, initially elated that he is fit and healthy once more, but then condemning himself for ‘cheating’, and he ultimately decides to let it wear off.
But that decision to go through with it in the first place gives us a one-time only team-up episode between the Batman of the past and the present… or future… whatever! Bruce & Terry mowing through disposable henchmen side by side together while a restyled version of the classic BTAS music plays is amazing. It’s just a shame we didn’t get them both suited up, but I respect Timm & Dini’s commitment to leaving Bruce’s Batman in the past and only rarely bringing back some of the classic Rogue’s gallery. Ra’s, like Mr. Freeze and Bane, made thematic sense to come back and unlocked a powerful narrative for our retired hero.
While the broad strokes of this are entirely a Bruce story, this was actually subtly one of Terry’s best showings, from his early playfulness with the musical, to demonstrating he’d been studying up on Batman history, and then his suspicions towards Talia that ended up being warranted. I particularly enjoyed him trolling her about her father (all the funnier given it was Ra’s in her body all along), and it was cool that he got to fight Ra’s one on one at the end, when it seemed like Bruce would save the day one last time. They even teased this with Max early on about his anxiety that Bruce would take the suit back from him and a comment about refusing to wear the Robin suit.
The Batman musical was a fantastic idea, both leaning into the campy history of the franchise (with many of the character designs deliberately just a little bit off) and re-enforcing that this series is set in a very much lived-in world. We’ve seen Joker cosplays since the first episode, but very little of the original Batman, so it was a real treat to honour him and the cast of BTAS while simultaneously advancing this episode’s story.
- Out of the Past (NEW ENTRY)
- Final Cut
- Disappearing Inque
- King’s Ransom
- A Touch of Curaré
- Rebirth Part I
- Hidden Agenda
- Lost Soul
- Earth Mover
- Black Out
- Dead Man’s Hand
- Where’s Terry?
- Sneak Peek
- Rebirth Part II
- Once Burned
- Big Time
- Sentries of the Last Cosmos
- April Moon
- The Eggbaby
- Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot
- Mind Games
- Hooked Up
- The Winning Edge
- Ace in the Hole
- The Last Resort
Talia al Ghul/Ra’s al Ghul (Olivia Hussey/David Warner) (first appearance)
Really the character is Ra’s, but given he’s using Talia’s body and he behaves like her for the first half, I figured they should be co-credited.
Only Ra’s could serve as the villain in a story about Bruce contemplating his mortality and torturing himself about whether to try and cheat death. The horror of Ra’s stealing his daughter’s body has some of the edge taken off it when you realise the master villain was smooching his nemesis, calling him “beloved” and making sure to flip his hair and do a sultry walk even after the reveal. Still, their arguments about whether Ra’s has mastered death or is supremely terrified of it are juicy.
I am a little bummed we didn’t get a full sword fight to honour ‘The Demon’s Quest’, but the ending was close enough, and Terry catching a sword between his hands was dope.
I’m only willing to rank the al Ghuls tenth, because while this is a cool episode and it’s nice to see them return, nostalgia alone cannot dictate rank. When you consider that Mr. Freeze got a major upgrade and kicked all kinds of ass, along with having a tragic emotional plotline, Ra’s & Talia are clearly a step below that.
- Mr. Freeze
- The Jokerz
- Derek Powers/Blight
- The Royal Flush Gang
- Talia/Ra’s al Ghul (NEW ENTRY)
- Ian Peek
- Willie Watt
- Dr. Cuvier (and pals!)
- Mad Stan
- Robert Vance
- The Terrific Trio
- Bullwhip’s Gang
- Simon Harper (and the Sentries!)
- The Mayhem Family
- Agent Bennet
- The Brain Trust
- Paxton Powers
- Charlie ‘Big Time’ Bigelow
- Dr. Stephanie Lake
- Howard Hodges & General Norman
- Jackson Chappell
- Mr. Fixx
- The T’s
- Ronny Boxer
- Dr. Wheeler
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.