This is a strictly-okay episode of Batman Beyond that also has one of the most heartbreaking lines I’ve ever heard a child character utter in a television show.
Batman Beyond: Revenant
One solid story idea that Batman writers can go back to over and over is to take a boilerplate story situation and then just sprinkle a little Batman into it. We’ve seen high school students do seances in dozens of movies and shows over the years, so often going wrong and summoning a terrible demonic spirit. But we haven’t seen them do that with Batman.
A ghost is haunting Hamilton Hill High. At least, that’s what the kids think when weird stuff starts happening around campus. Terry, of course, is a bit more suspicious. That’s especially after the school’s top jock, Nelson Nash. A hint of interest in his girlfriend, Blade, is the last clue both we and Terry need. We know even before he gets to Juvenile Detention that the perp is none other than Willie Watt.
The episode and the battle between Batman and Willie are both just fine, but they could’ve been a lot more interesting. There’s interesting stuff happening around it that I wish they’d given more time to.
Concerning Willie himself, Batman Beyond stands out as a late-90s show that depicts a bullied nerd but doesn’t forgive him for his objectively abhorrent actions. Since his first appearance, Willie has doubled down on his hatred, his obsession with strength, and his willingness to jump right to the worst way to handle a given situation. No one in the show is trying to act like Willie is the victim or like he deserves gentle treatment. His treatment by his father and by Nelson was terrible, to be sure, but crushing a kid under a car isn’t the play here, my dude.
With that said, I would’ve appreciated some kind of emotional arc for Willie. He just responds to every situation with “yeah, well, I can be even more terrible.” There’s no sense that he’s learning from his behavior–even if he were to learn the wrong lessons entirely. It’s just a cycle of bad behavior, Batman fighting back, Willie getting angrier, and repeating.
The other story beat that I loved involved Terry’s little brother, Matt. Matt is kind of a little goblin throughout most of the show, the stereotypical sitcom little brother. As word of a ghost at the school–and a seance to communicate with the ghost reaches Matt’s ears, he makes the sort of connection a little kid would make: if we can contact the dead, what about his own dad, who was murdered by Derek Powers in the show’s premiere? He says it with such excitement and enthusiasm, making Terry and their mother grimace. His mother tells him that Ouija boards are fake.
“I need to see him again. I need to,” Matt says. “I’m forgetting what he was like.”
I certainly wasn’t expecting Batman Beyond of all things to reach out of my screen and punch me in the gut, but here we are.
Unfortunately, the show doesn’t really make good on that the way I hoped it would. There’s a moment at the end with Terry and Matt remembering their dad in a healthier, more sustainable way together, looking at pictures together. But the show doesn’t really dig into Terry’s response to Matt’s wish very much.