The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 48: Curse of the Kobra Part I

Plot summary: After an encounter with Kobra, Terry is enrolled in the dojo of one of Bruce’s old friends, where he unknowingly encounters the organisation’s leader.

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: ‘Curse of the Kobra Part I’

Original Air Date: February 3rd, 2001

Directed: James Tucker (5)

Written: Rich Fogel (9)

Kairi Tanaga appeared in the BTAS episode ‘Day of the Samurai’ as the star student of Bruce’s old sensei.

Max and Zander play Sentries Of The Last Cosmos from the episode of the same name.

Zander sorta/kinda fills the role of a villain named Kobra, for who the comic book version of the cult are named. He appeared in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Beware the Batman and Young Justice in very different incarnations.

Recap

Kobra infiltrate the Nova Research Center to try and steal a thermal bomb. Batman makes quick work of the rank and file, but gets his ass handed to him by a much larger member wielding electric sanjiegun.

Terry expects a lecture from Bruce for allowing them to steal the bomb, but is instead handed the business card of an old associate: Kairi Tanaga.

He finds her selling fish at a Gotham market, but after name-dropping Bruce, he’s led out back to a hidden dojo run by Kairi.

She puts him to work as her newest student, where he becomes suspicious of her prized pupil, Zander, who is escorted to a limo by large bodyguards after class.

On his way home, Terry witnesses a pair of Kobra agents attack a random man babbling about time running out. Bruce identifies him as Dr. Padu Banjahri, a palaeontologist.

Terry and Max head to the Gotham Natural History Museum, where Max flirts with a scientist to let Terry break into Banjahri’s office. His computer reveals he was working on recovering dinosaur DNA. Bruce cannot see the connection to the stolen thermal bomb.

Terry continues to lag behind Kairi’s other students, but strikes up conversation with Zander, who apologises for his guards. He reveals he’s never eaten pizza due to a restrictive lifestyle, so Terry takes him to an arcade.

Max beats him at a video game, an entirely new experience for him. Some Jokerz start trouble and catch a huge beat-down, which Zander nearly takes too far, but his bodyguards arrive and escort him away.

In the next class, Kairi reveals that Zander will no longer be attending her classes due to her negligent supervision. She makes comments about his fate being chosen for him.

Elsewhere, Kobra experiment on a trio of test subjects, dosing them with a gas that hideously mutates them. Zander is revealed as Kobra’s chosen one, and insists one thing is missing from their plan.

That thing turns out to be kidnapping Max, as he was quite taken by her at the arcade. She tries to fend him off, but only barely manages to call Terry for help before she’s taken.

Arriving too late, Terry gives chase, but the same Kobra henchman who defeated him at the start of the episode attacks and leaves him badly injured.

To be continued…

Best Performance

Cree Summer is literally always on point as Max, but her hitting on a palaeontologist has to rank near the top of her memorable dialogue. Likewise her video game banter with Zander, both warning him about what he’s about to experience and then gloating in delightful fashion. She rules.

Takayo Fischer putting on the thick, stereotypical, vaguely east-Asian accent when posing as a fishmonger, only to drop into a more natural Asian American one when revealing herself as a sensei is an excellent touch.

The episode squeezes in a number of fun voice actors for bit parts, with Brian George, Dan Castellaneta and Xander Berkeley.

Ranking

We haven’t had a two-parter since the beginning of the show, so as usual I’ll acknowledge that most of them would probably rank higher if treated as a single episode, but that’s not the way I’ve gone with it. So if you’re offended ‘Rebirth’ (and ‘Two-Face’ before it) are so low, then I don’t know what to tell you. The first parts tend to feel like half a story… because they are, and the second parts sometimes struggle to pay off what came before.

They certainly spend most of the runtime here setting things up, throwing out ideas and concepts left and right, most of which are good. From expanding on Kobra’s membership, designs and motivations, particularly with their leader, Zander, to bringing back a character from a fan-favourite BTAS episode, we end up with a lot of moving pieces. And that’s deliberate, as Bruce, Terry and Max are meant to eb stumped by Kobra’s plan, which ends up being completely buck wild. That means we get an opening scene with them stealing a bomb, then some dojo business, then a random mugging/theft, then some museum espionage, then Zander at the arcade, then the reveal of his identity as he oversees some kind of horrific experiment, and then a kidnapping that leaves Terry half dead. That’s a lot!

All of that makes it hard to feel too short-changed, and I think leaving things with Terry so badly beaten serves as one of the more dramatic cliffhangers that they’ve done. But it is still fundamentally a little chaotic in its to-and-fro structure, and Terry seemingly learning absolutely nothing from Kairi’s classes so far makes that entire subplot verge on redundancy… except for the fact that’s where he meets Zander, making them essential. I don’t know.

The Natural History Museum utilising holograms to portray the dinosaurs, that then fade to show their skeletons was dope as hell. I’m sure the animators enjoyed getting to draw some dinos, too.

Overall I’d say good, not great.

  1. Meltdown
  2. Inqueling
  3. Out of the Past
  4. Eyewitness
  5. Babel
  6. Final Cut
  7. Disappearing Inque
  8. Spellbound
  9. King’s Ransom
  10. A Touch of Curaré
  11. Shriek
  12. Rebirth Part I
  13. Bloodsport
  14. Splicers
  15. Unmasked
  16. Zeta
  17. Armory
  18. Hidden Agenda
  19. Lost Soul
  20. Earth Mover
  21. Black Out
  22. Dead Man’s Hand
  23. Where’s Terry?
  24. Sneak Peek
  25. Rebirth Part II
  26. Once Burned
  27. Curse of the Kobra Part I (NEW ENTRY)
  28. Big Time
  29. Revenant
  30. Untouchable
  31. Sentries of the Last Cosmos
  32. April Moon
  33. Heroes
  34. The Eggbaby
  35. Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot
  36. Mind Games
  37. Hooked Up
  38. The Winning Edge
  39. Ascension
  40. Joyride
  41. Golem
  42. Ace in the Hole
  43. The Last Resort
  44. Plague
  45. Payback
  46. Rats
  47. Speak No Evil
  48. Betrayal

Villain Watch

Kobra (Alexis Denisof/Xander Berkeley/Gary Sturgis/Dan Castellaneta (third appearance)

It’s almost like the writing staff reached forward in time to my comments from last episode about what Kobra were lacking and got to work trying to implement my advice. Quirky leader? Check. Badass main henchman? Check. Much more interesting grand plan? Check.

Zander being raised from birth as Kobra’s chosen one is an interesting idea, as his night of frivolity with Terry and Max seems to push his boundaries in a positive way, only to be literally dragged back to reality by his guards. They were also dragging him away from beating a man to death for embarrassing him, which is intense. Plus he has a pet snake, which seems like a layup given those are the entire motif of the organisation.

The huge henchman who owns Terry twice is simply credited as ‘Driver’ as he was posing as a delivery driver at the start. Just like Zander, he gets a completely different costume to the regular Kobra members, as well as special weapons, so he stands out. Plus he beats up Batman. Twice!

Up they go again!

The Jokerz (Bruce Timm/Marc Worden) (seventh appearance)

It’s been a weirdly long time since we’ve heard from the Jokerz in a meaningful way. They appeared very briefly in ‘Ace in the Hole’, but before that it was all the way back in episode 20, ‘Once Burned’. I don’t know if the staff got bored of them or didn’t want to have to keep leaning on them or something else entirely, but given they’re such a huge part of the show’s iconography, it is strange they’ve been AWOL for so long.

Anyway, they’re causing pretty low-level mayhem here and get beaten up by our heroes and Zander. It’s nothing special, but the kind of thing that always works because you need no good punks to get punched in superhero cartoons, and all of their designs are great.

I should probably bump them down a few slots though as they haven’t really progressed from their fun beginnings.

  1. Inque
  2. Curaré
  3. Shriek
  4. Mr. Freeze
  5. Spellbinder
  6. Derek Powers/Blight
  7. The Royal Flush Gang
  8. The Jokerz
  9. Stalker
  10. Talia/Ra’s al Ghul
  11. Armory
  12. Ian Peek
  13. Repeller
  14. Earthmover
  15. Willie Watt
  16. Dr. Cuvier (and pals!)
  17. Mad Stan
  18. Robert Vance
  19. Kobra
  20. The Terrific Trio
  21. Deanna Clay
  22. Karros
  23. Bullwhip’s Gang
  24. Simon Harper (and the Sentries!)
  25. The Mayhem Family
  26. Payback
  27. Agent Bennet
  28. The Brain Trust
  29. Paxton Powers
  30. Charlie ‘Big Time’ Bigelow
  31. Dr. Stephanie Lake
  32. Howard Hodges & General Norman
  33. Jackson Chappell
  34. Cynthia
  35. Falseface
  36. James Van Dyle
  37. Mr. Fixx
  38. Winchell
  39. The T’s
  40. Ronny Boxer
  41. Ratboy
  42. Major
  43. 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.

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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