The Matt Signal Beyond: Epilogue (Justice League Unlimited)

Plot summary: 15 years after the events of the series, Terry McGinnis makes the staggering discovery that he is the biological son of Bruce Wayne.

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!

Follow The Matt Signal on Twitter!

Notes

Episode Title: ‘Epilogue’

Original Air Date: July 23rd, 2005

Directed: Dan Riba (14)

Written: Dwayne McDuffie (1) & Bruce Timm (2) (story)

After the lacklustre finale of Batman Beyond (either ‘Unmasked’ or ‘Countdown’ depending on your perspective), Bruce Timm wanted to give the show a proper send-off, and used this episode of Justice League Unlimited to do it, as sales of Return of the Joker were too low to get the green light on a second movie.

It recycles some ideas conceived for the original pitch for what would become Return of the Joker, in which Selina Kyle would have created a clone of Bruce Wayne she raised as a son and set on Terry.

The title doesn’t just refer to closing the book on Beyond, but was originally meant to be the final part of the entire DCAU, as Justice League Unlimited was not expected to get a third season, and these are chronologically the last events depicted.

To that end, Terry’s silhouette moving across buildings and spooking the pilots of a police aircraft is a direct mirroring of the first shot of the first episode of BTAS, ‘On Leather Wings’, with Kevin Conroy even providing identical dialogue for both as one of the cops.

All of the scenes in black and white were later confirmed by the creators to have been imagined by Terry.

I have alluded to The Big Thing several times throughout the show. Well, this was it. Terry is Bruce’s son, something hinted at (intentionally or not) in episodes ‘The Call Part II’, ‘Inqueling’, ‘Disappearing Inque’ and many more.

Recap

15 years after the end of Batman Beyond, Terry McGinnis (sans Batsuit) breaks into the compound of an elderly Amanda Waller. She offers him tea and even hits on him, but he’s not in the mood.

In a series of flashbacks, he smashes his way into the Batcave to confront a decrepit Bruce Wayne, breaks up with Dana for good, and quits the JLU after helping battle a cadre of villains, claiming “Batman is dead.”

Terry tells Waller he “figured it all out” after proving to be a perfect histocompatibility match with Bruce when he needed a new kidney despite 111/1 odds.

In another flashback, he bickers more with Bruce, saying that while his father wasn’t a superhero, he loved him all the same, but all of that has been taken from him as he has just discovered… Bruce is his father!!!!!

Flashback Bruce responds coldly, claiming it’s a good thing Terry is essentially his clone, and that the world always needs a Batman. Terry leaves him on the floor grasping for his pills.

Amanda Waller challenges Terry’s harsh words about Bruce, offering to tell him a story from 65 years ago to try and change his mind.

Batman and the Justice League battled an incarnation of The Royal Flush Gang formed by the uber-powerful telepath, Ace. Amanda Waller warns them that her powers have evolved to the point she can manipulate reality… and that she’s days away from a fatal aneurism that could kill thousands.

Bruce volunteers to resolve the problem, accepting that it means killing Ace. He confronts her alone but refuses to kill her, instead sitting with her and holding her hand until she dies peacefully.

Waller claims this encounter convinced her to move to the side of the heroes and after years of working alongside Bruce and seeing him begin to age, she enacted ‘Project Batman Beyond’.

Using Bruce’s DNA and some freaky nanotech, she found a couple whose psychological profiles matched Thomas and Martha Wayne and during a ‘flu shot’, overwrote Warren McGinnis’ “reproductive material” with Bruce’s.

Not stopping there, Waller ordered Andrea Beaumont aka The Phantasm to murder Terry’s parents to replicate Bruce’s own circumstances. Andrea couldn’t go through with it and told Waller that Batman would never resort to murder to achieve his goals, convincing her to abandon the project.

She makes arguments for free will and that he is Bruce’s son, not his clone, and that while he isn’t as smart as his father, his heart is as big or bigger. She leaves, telling him if he wants a better life than Bruce’s, he has to choose it.

Returning to Wayne Manor, Terry calls Dana to confirm their upcoming dinner plans, holding an engagement ring in his hand and smiling.

Bruce arrives to tell him off for going AWOL. Terry helps him with his pills and assures him he will always be here for Gotham. He chuckles about being as stubborn as his father, and then departs to offer consultation on a case with Superman.

Best Performance

CCH Pounder was consistently pitch perfect as Amanda Waller in JL/JLU, and casually waltzes in here to run rings around Will Friedle (who is legitimately great slipping back into his role after four years). He broke into her house in the middle of the night, filled with rage, and she just finds him amusing. And sexy. Gently teasing Terry while he’s going through the biggest existential crisis of his life, offering him tea and telling him stories is great stuff, but the main event is how matter-of-factly she reveals the gruesome details of her grand plan. Top notch stuff, and she follows it up with some wanky words about determinism before going back to bed. All while doing a commendable job of playing a woman in her 90s. Bravo.

Kevin Conroy also rises to the challenge of tacking an additional 15 years onto his Old Man Bruce voice, especially given he has to have an emotional argument while doing it. Terry’s imagined version of him is venomous, and Conroy absolutely nails the brief, making you hate DC’s most beloved hero for a few minutes. He and Friedle’s back and forth gets time to breath and they deliver a fantastic scene. Softening back up for the ending and becoming a bit of a nag was an unexpectedly fun twist too.

Every time I mention Dana, it’s to say how underutilised she is, and that’s still true here, but I’m glad Lauren Tom got to come back. She slightly aged up her voice too because she’s a pro.

(Move the slider to compare the first and intended final shots of BTAS)

Ranking

This is one of the most bizarre episodes of television you’re likely to encounter, given it serves as a series finale for Batman Beyond despite airing as the final episode of the second season of Justice League Unlimited, a season that was intended to be the last.

Anyways, FUCK this idea. Spending three seasons and a movie proving that Terry was his own man and every bit as worthy of The Cowl only to turn around and make him a Fated Golden Chosen One, genetically predisposed to become Batman, is such a slap in the face, firmly taking the side of nature over nurture.

To some people, Terry could never be Bruce’s equal, benefitting from the advanced Batsuit and having his predecessor coaching him in his ear and solving some of the puzzles for him. Those people must have loved this, as it protects the idea of Bruce as an absolute singular entity. To me that’s incredibly dull. My favourite thing about this show is the idea that Terry could succeed as Batman and do it with a smile on his face, with a social circle of healthy relationships (albeit ones tested by his absences). He always refused to accept Bruce’s childish idea that the only way to be Batman was to withdraw from humanity and be a pouty little grump. They had this idea long before the episode got made, so it’s possible the good writers from the show were aware of it or even helped conceive it, which is just such a huge bummer.

Sigh.

While I won’t completely discount the big reveal from how I assess this as an episode of television, we should look beyond it before delivering a final ranking. It’s pretty difficult to overlook how messy the black and white scenes make things, even if the visual indication and context clues do clarify that none of them are real. The clock was never broken, Dana and Terry are still together, and Bruce is way harsher than even his most dickish DCAU moments. That last one is pretty psychologically telling for Terry, actually, as it’s where the debate about the title of Batman being a gift or a curse originates: entirely in his own head. Still, on my first watch (and a cursory glance of the internet shows many felt the same), it was somewhat jarring. All of the little vignettes are well written and performed, and I don’t really have a better suggestion for how to clean everything up, but they are what they are. I did enjoy the episode more on a second viewing though.

In terms of how it acts as the closing chapter of the DCAU, it’s pretty fun. Bringing back a trio of Beyond villains, The JLU, The Phantasm, The Royal Flush Gang and even evoking Return of the Joker when talking about the possibility of overwriting someone’s DNA, were all nice nods. But my favourite details were Dana’s tiny subplot (aware of Terry’s secret and willing to accept the risks), Terry going to see a Grey Ghost movie (presumably after Bruce helped with his comeback) with his parents and of course making the final shot a perfect mirror of the first one from BTAS, the genesis of the entire DCAU. Them getting a third season of JLU after that perfect symbolic ending is maddening. I’m unsure how I feel about them saying “Batman Beyond” out loud in the show.

So yeah, there’s an awful lot to process, some of it philosophically objectionable, some of it cute and respectful to legacy. The dialogue is of a very high quality, which I would attribute to McDuffie, versus the Big Decisions that almost certainly came from Bruce Timm. It’s also unavoidable that it looks SO much better than any iteration of BTAS from an animation standpoint (if not an art design one). Seeing Terry kick ass without his costume at the beginning hints at the 15 unseen years of experience making him an even greater hero, and I like that it ends with him finally finding some sense of internal peace but continuing to be Batman, with his detective skills respected by Superman.

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

Villain Watch

Amanda Waller (CCH Pounder) (first appearance)

One of the biggest thorns in the side of the Justice League, there’s some irony in some of Waller’s most monstrous actions occurring after she made peace with them. Even if it comes from a place of admiration for Batman, and even if she didn’t fully go through with her plan and ends up being nice to Terry… Project Batman Beyond is still incredibly messed up.

Taking Bruce’s DNA and altering Warren McGinnis’, both without consent, and then planning to freakin’ assassinate Terry’s parents to see if it would make him become Batman is demonic. That it took killer-for-hire Andrea Beaumont to make her drop the idea speaks volumes.

Waller is a great antagonist in JL/JLU, because there are few forces more evil than the US Government, and her callous indifference to her misdeeds exemplifies the whole concept. What really makes her any different to Lex Luthor and any of the other villains who think they’re doing what’s best for humanity? Nothing. She may be a funny old lady sassing Terry, but she’s still one of the worst people in the whole show, so unlike the other villains below, she’s getting ranked.

Inque/Shriek/Stalker/Parasite (fifth/fourth/third/first appearance)

‘The Iniquity Collective’ should clearly have included Spellbinder and Curare if it was going to be the Batman Beyond All-Stars. Or just Inque and some new designs for classic Justice League foes if it was meant to be a Legion of Doom/Secret Society type deal.

Either way, it was nice to give the returning trio a little final nod, but they all get their asses kicked relatively quickly. Given the circumstances, I won’t adjust any of their rankings.

The Royal Flush Gang (Hynden Walch) (‘fourth’ appearance)

This is obviously not the same version we saw throughout the series so just like the above group, it won’t count towards their ranking, but given the impact their appearance has on the continuity, I still wanted to give them a shout out.

Bruce named his damn dog after Ace! That is adorable! Every single time he’s appeared I’ve had that in the back of my head and looked forward to reaching this episode. To fully appreciate this touching moment between them, you need to see the Justice League episodes ‘Wild Cards’, in which the two bonded.

Anyway, she’s basically Professor X in Logan, and empowered the rest of the gang, who are are mute, with wildly different powers and tongue in cheek appearances, but are still pretty fun.

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

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s