Batman Beyond Retro Review – Episode 2×09 – Rat boy

Terry can’t seem to be on time. No matter where he’s going, Bruce is almost always calling him to look into some crime. I don’t think the show ever explains whether public transit user Terry McGinnis is going all the way out to Wayne Manor to change into his cool suit or if he just carries it with him. Or maybe Bruce sends the Bat Hovercraft Thing to drop off the outfit. They just always cut to Terry in uniform. Anyway, this episode has rats in it.

Batman Beyond: Rats

This is a pretty mediocre episode overall, thanks to some significant flaws and focus issues that shift weight away from the parts that work.

Terry and Dana are having relationship issues; he’s not nearly as present as she would like, constantly standing her up for dates. Of course, we know about his important mission, but Dana still doesn’t. Terry is trying to make good by taking Dana to Rhino’s Chili, to which she wears a disconcertingly short white dress (she’s literally a teenager, Bruce Timm). When a terrorist forces Terry to be late again, she ends up kidnapped by a deformed boy named Patrick who looks like a rat, which has led him to befriend many of them himself. After she goes missing, Terry has to track her down and save her.

The villain Patrick is the least interesting part of the episode. We’ve seen this kind of antagonist a million times. He’s clearly a creepy stalker rather than a legit villain. He needs help as much as Dana. He seems himself a collector of unwanted things and has decided that since Terry stands Dana up, she’s unwanted. There’s just nothing remarkable about this character or his story.

In fact, there’s a far more interesting villain right in the middle of the episode: Mad Stan. Voiced by Black Flag singer and activist Henry Rollins. When Terry finds him, Stan is ranting about the information overload of the digital age. Blowing up a whole building is probably not the right way to go about his issue, but he’s not wrong. In 2023, in fact, he seems more right than ever. He has something to say and a point to prove. Rat Boy Patrick is just deluded and lonely.

I’ve repeatedly referenced the way Batman Beyond handles cyberpunk themes, and in this case they ignore the obvious cyberpunk hook to focus on what amounts to a crappy NTSF:SD:SUV episode plotline. They could tangle with the truth behind Stan’s statements, and how his “tear it all down” answer seems like the only one–even if it’s the wrong one. Instead, Batman beats up a boy who needs help.

And let’s not be too sympathetic to Patrick. For all of the explosions, violence, and body horror in this series, Patrick is one of the few villains with a still unconfirmed but strongly implied body count. That’s another thing that they kind of just left sitting there and did nothing with. Of course, this is supposed to be a children’s show, so the writers most likely were not allowed to confirm the body count at all, but this episode gets much closer to confirming it than most Batman stories.

This episode also would’ve been a perfect time to seed some hints to Dana that her cool boyfriend with his cyber jacket and history of delinquency is actually Batman.

A quick side note: Early in the episode, Terry is sitting in his room with his laptop while his brother Matt plays a handheld gaming device. At the exact same time, the two both look up and to the side and put their hands on their chins. I love little “brother” moments like that.

I feel like this episode could’ve said interesting things but instead ignored them in favor of a more uncomfortable storyline. Only it wasn’t uncomfortable in the way that matters and didn’t go far enough because of the intended audience. With all of these things in mind, this episode feels like one that’s safe to skip.

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