Batman Beyond Retro Review – Episode 1×13 – Radioactive

The Batman Beyond Season 1 finale marks what is apparently the last appearance of the villain Blight. It’s a weird way to say goodbye to a character who is meant to be this Batman’s archnemesis.

Batman Beyond: Ascension

Thus far, Batman Beyond has been pretty light on lore episodes, with Blight–aka Derek Powers–appearing as a villain in only a few episodes and, even then, acting more or less as he would if he didn’t have radiation pouring out of his body, using other criminals do his dirty work.

This episode, though, is about how unsustainable that is. Batman interrupts Blight attempting to move around the material that is used in making his false skin, and the material goes up in flames. With the material in short supply, Powers is realizing that he can’t continue to live in public and pretend that everything is normal.

The Price of Powers

I would love to see a version of this episode that goes more into this side of things, showing life from Derek’s perspective. All of the things he has to live without, that he can’t do, and how that increasingly affects him over time. One of the problems his doctors present as worsening his condition is his increasingly short temper, and it would’ve been cool to see that portrayed as something other than a side effect of his condition.

Blight acts less like a villain here, though, and more like an out-of-control monster in need of containment. The real villain is newcomer Paxton Powers, Derek’s son. Paxton’s character design looks exactly like Derek’s, which seems like an obvious thing but I like how it implies that Paxton is every bit the bastard that his father is.

Paxton summons Batman via the Bat Signal, and this is kind of weird. According to the Batman wiki, this marks the last appearance of the Bat Signal in this show. Why did Paxton think to use it? Why did no one ever use it again? These could’ve been really interesting elements to include in a story like this.

Hiding in plain sight

The episode’s big showdown happens aboard a nuclear submarine, which I thought was a smart and fun story idea that both makes sense for the character (hiding inside a radioactive tube) and introduces lots of complications in that final conflict (everything is under water and walkways are narrow). The story ends with Blight supposedly going down with the ship, and we never see him again, as mentioned above.

This season presents Blight as Terry’s archnemesis, so that feels weird. The last we hear of him is that he might be dead? You could posit that the writers thought they wouldn’t get another season, but his death was so ambiguous that it would’ve been easy to keep him in the show without even having to “revive” him. Nothing about his exit in this episode feels permanent, and it also feels like a lot of previous and potential character development left on the table.

Terry vs Bruce

We also get a handle on one of the main ways that Terry is different from Bruce. In addition to being much younger and having significantly advanced technology, Powers explicitly and intentionally took Terry’s father from him. When Terry tells Powers that he killed his father, Powers laughs because that does very little to narrow things down. This is Terry and Derek’s “but for me, it was Tuesday” moment. A casual move on Derek’s part completely upended Terry’s life. The dialogue implies that they’ve had some off-screen encounters since last we saw Blight, but this is the first time they’ve been face-to-face since then, and Terry makes no bones about wanting revenge. It’s a distinctly un-Batman thing to say.

But then as soon as Paxton takes the obvious turn we were all expecting, Terry shows why he’s exactly the right person to wear the cowl in future Gotham. As soon as Terry sees that Paxton is trying not to contain his father, but to kill him by draining all the radioactivity from him, he puts a stop to the machine.

Ascension is one of the best episodes of Batman Beyond yet, enhancing what we know about Terry, Batman, and the world they live in.

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