Batman stories generally tend to lean toward science fiction, but the vast world of DC is full of magic, and it sneaks into Batman stories from time to time. It’s hard to tell where this week’s story lands; it comes across a bit like Evil X-Men, but it definitely doesn’t press as deep into the science-fiction side of the material as it could.
Batman Beyond: Mind Games
While out on patrol, Terry stops a car crash. The girl looks back and Terry worriedly as her ‘parents’ walk her away. The next day, while taking a test, the girl appears in Terry’s class, calling out to him. After talking to Bruce and Maxine, Terry investigates and discovers that her parents aren’t parents at all–she’s a missing child.
From the perspectives of character and story development, you could skip this episode. It doesn’t really add anything to Terry’s backstory, the Batman mythos, or the world of Batman Beyond. Even so, there’s fun to be had here.
The villains of this episode are known as the Brain Trust. We don’t get much information about them, and they feel kind of like the Society of Assassins–remember Curare, the blue lady with the scimitar?–in that this feels like it was meant to debut a much bigger villain that didn’t get any future screentime worth mentioning. They appear to be a society of powerful psychics.
Tamara herself is a psychic child who seems pretty obviously inspired by Wednesday from the Addams Family. We meet three members of the Brain Trust–with hints that there may be many more in Europe (just like that girlfriend you have in Canada!). One is a big guy credited as being the Indestructible Man. There’s a woman named Bombshell, who doesn’t fit the traditional description associated with that descriptor, but she can fire vaguely explosive energy blasts from her hands. Finally, though, there’s a man credited as Albino (would that name pass muster these days?). That character lends credence to the idea that this is some kind of psychic-oriented society that Terry is dealing with. Terry’s battle with Albino makes up the centerpiece of this episode.
First I want to talk about what could’ve been. With a bit more detail, the Brain Trust could’ve been a formidable opponent for Batman if they’d just gone a bit further, but the outlines for these characters are so sketchy that we can hardly even imagine what they might be about.
Where did they get their powers? Why do they want Tamara? What is their goal? We don’t get any of this, and that kind of makes them just a bunch of child traffickers but with a dash of spooky. If you squint you can see what I hinted at earlier–a group that trains powerful psychics and uses them as weapons for their own ends. You could build a whole team of them. Maybe there’s some unified cause behind their powers. But there’s none of that.
This episode does double down on the spooky stuff though. Terry finds the Albino man inside the abandoned school that the kidnappers showed Tamara’s parents and the two clash. The Albino man is a powerful telekinetic who uses his powers to throw everything but the kitchen sink at Terry while also burying him in a swirling illusion. Terry gets his butt kicked as he always does, but he powers through the illusion and is able to fight back.
The thing is, the show doesn’t even mention it. It just happens. This teenage kid battles a man wizard and it’s just like, no biggie. Overcoming mental obstacles has been a big part of Batman stories for a long time, Batman is constantly having to use his willpower to overcome mind control, hypnosis, drugging, and even safety protocols he put in place on his own mind. And the show just does nothing with it. The whole battle is essentially free of dialogue, and I wish they’d gone either further into no dialogue or had enough to tell a clear story.
The animation during this battle and when Terry and Tamara fight Bombshell at the end are some of the better animation we’ve seen in this show, and that definitely is a legit reason to stick it out for this one despite it not having as much to offer. Both battles are fun, but the Albino battle is especially fun.
There are also lots of good little character moments throughout. When Terry goes to Bruce about what’s happening–a little gothic ghost girl is haunting him–Bruce doesn’t gaslight him or anything like that. He just gives him some hints on how to approach it. Have you tried talking to her yet? Similarly, Maxine is just down to help, even if that means she has to jump on the grenade of going out for a fancy dinner with Terry (another thing they just do nothing with). There’s also a really sweet moment where Terry, having not yet found Tamara, sees his brother sleeping in bed and stops to pull his blanket up. We don’t get many moments where Terry just gets to be a big brother, so these are valuable reminders that Terry is not Bruce–he has a family that he loves alongside his vigilante quest.
Again, you could skip this episode and not miss anything important. But it’s fun to stay for the rad animation and the setpiece battle that anchors the whole thing.
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