Batman Beyond: S01E04/E05 “Golem” and “Meltdown”


Season 1
Episodes 4
Directed by Butch Lukic
Written by Hilary J. Bader

After three episodes of trying to be as dark and edgy as they can get away with, Batman Beyond has decided to lighten up a bit in favor of just being Spider-Man in the future complete with quipping teenage hero. Now I grew up generally liking Spider-Man but tonally he is nothing like Batman when both are handled properly. I may be a bitter they changed it and now it sucks person but this ain’t my Batman. The levity is appreciated though as the show tries to play to the strengths of having a lead still in school.

Dorky, alliterative Willie Watt tries to ask out a popular schoolmate (in the form of tutoring) but his attempts are interrupted by Batman Beyond’s resident Flash Thompson rip-off and bully, Nelson Nash. While we have Derek Powers set up as Terry’s villain in the adult, crimefighting world, Nash here is clearly being set up further as a rival to Terry. Terry gets the chance to stand up for Willie although he seems to already have grown enough as a person to not have to do so physically. I get that the show isn’t meant to be too heavily serialized, but it would have been nice to see him growing into that instead of doing so offscreen and almost immediately upon being gifted the cowl.

Willie has a domineering father who demands that Willie seek revenge for being attacked by Nash, a sentiment that is taken to heart when he steals one of his dad’s giant construction robots. Considering the source material (Jewish mysticism), I had hopes of Golem being an updated Clayface or at least you know maintaining the clay theme but instead it is just a generic giant robot GoLeM. It does maintain the basic concept of serving as a protector, this time to the bullied Willie who uses it to wreck Flash’s car (which looks exactly like the kind of ugly car assholes I knew in high school drove except actually new and not 15 years old and outfitted with oversized exhausts).

His revenge carried out and the woman from before, Blade (if she doesn’t fight vampires soon I’m going to be extremely disappointed), asking him out to a dance, things seems to be turning around quick for Willie. It’s short lived when she abandons him maybe 20 seconds into the dance in favor of Nash who takes the time to fucking throw Willie off a multiple story drop into water of unknown depth. Somehow this doesn’t make him a villain though considering Batman does this to him later, apparently, it’s not especially dangerous in this universe. With the controls having earlier malfunctioned and mentally fuse to Willie, it’s time for GoLeM to be unleashed on Nash and later his father as Willie has transformed into Carrie White. He’s finally defeated but proves to have powers over electronics in his juvenile facility (though the other inmates sure sounded adult) in a clear sequel hook.

I like that the episode gives him a nice arc as is able to stand up for himself but it would have been nice to just see him be able to stand up for himself without powers. Maybe that would be a bit too very special episode, but it just lacks a bit in payoff. Instead we are just left with another episode I’d call “fine”. It’s classic Batman tragic villain stuff and they do a good job of making him sympathetic if generically nerdy but unlike say Mr. Freeze (see below), I just didn’t find him all that compelling. I guess this is what happens when you take the best parts of Batman (his fantastic rogues gallery and the city itself) away. The show needs to do a better job of making these new rogues actually a dark counterpart to certain aspects of Terry and aside from both hating Nash and being in school together, they have nothing in common.

Grade: C+

Stray Observations
– The guest appearances are real weird this week with a pre-NCIS Pauley Perrette as a cop and one of the Jokerz and Mark Davis (better and later known as Richard Cheese) as the VidNews Anchor (a role he’d later reprise).
– The high school is named after the mayor from the first two series, Hamilton Hill
– It’s good to see that basketball has remained largely intact except now the court is circular and everything lights up. It’s the nicest inner city court I’ve ever seen.
– The Jokerz show up again mostly to get beat up by Willie and his robot friend. It’s a nice connective element in this universe but they aren’t entertaining to watch and that name is just so unfortunate.
– Terry is this close to getting a kiss. Is this going to be a running joke or are S&P to blame?
– Between the glowing energy that surrounds Willie, the art, animation, and the giant robot, why did anyone think it was a good idea to turn Batman into an anime?



Season 1
Episode 5
Directed by Curt Geda
Written by Hilary J. Bader and Alan Burnett

Well after railing against the new group of rogues a bit, it’s time to go back to one of the best from TAS, Mr. Freeze. That show reinvented Dr. Victor Fries as a tortured tragic figure whose only desire was saving his dying wife. An accident leaves him a broken shell of a man, only able to survive in freezing temperature and vowing revenge on the man who shut down his project to save his wife and left him in this state. “Heart of Ice” is a masterpiece which earned its Emmy win and completely heartbreaking. Michael Ansara (Kang on Star Trek) is fantastic as a man truly left without everything; his wife, his emotions, is reason to be. “Deep Freeze” didn’t reach quite those heights but was still great while Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZerodidn’t capitalize on its potential and “Cold Comfort” stripped away all his complexity. Still I couldn’t be happier to see him back especially considering the reputation of this episode.

Once again Derek Powers returns and we get a bit more of a focus on him and the after effects of his fight with Batman which nearly took his life last week. The radiation in his body is getting stronger and the skin suit he wears to hide it is unable to handle it. Dr. Stephanie Lake offers to build him a new body but wants to test it on someone first which sets the stage for the reentry of Mr. Freeze, or what’s left of him. After the events of Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero left his body deteriorated and having to operate a mechanical body (in both human and spider-legged form). He’s been trapped as a head for 50 years and apparently in possession of Dr. Lake for who knows how many of them.

She offers him the chance at a new body and while he’s lost any hope of reuniting with his wife, he can finally reclaim something of what he’s lost, his emotions having died the moment he lost his wife the first time. The procedure works and we see the rebirth of Victor Fries who gets to enjoy life amongst the living and actually seems happy and smiling. He starts doing good work as restitution starting a foundation in his wife Nora’s name but he’s far too tragic of a figure for everything to work out.

An attempt is made on his life by someone who’s family he killed and it quickly becomes clear that the surgery was not quite the success it seemed at first. He starts sweating and stripping with only the start of snow able to ease his pain making it clear that he’s not long for the outside world without his suit and that he’s reverting. It takes Dr. Lake intending to biopsy his organs to complete the reversion as he escapes violently and reembraces his old self, taking revenge on his doctors.

He’s not the only one who embraces his true self as Powers uses his powers (sigh…) against Mr. Freeze and finally naming himself Blight with all his ability to glow green and throw hadoukens. I appreciate the slow build the show pulled with him, stretching the transformation out over multiple episode instead of cramming it into one or two as we get to know him. It makes the moment he finally becomes Blight more satisfying. Granted it would be better if he didn’t look like something out of Scooby Doo as I wait for someone to rip off his head and reveal it to be Old Man Jenkins but we’ll take what we can get.

Mr. Freeze gets his moment of redemption in death after all though as he takes out Blight and saves everyone including Batman. If you were wondering where Batman and Bruce were this entire time, they mostly sit thinks out. Bruce is a real dick this episode, just waiting for the “real” Victor Fries to return instead of doing anything to help. It’s a long cry from his efforts to help those who had been released from Arkham and trying to start over (such as the Ventriloquist) but certainly in line with his treatment of Clayface when he denied him the cure. I know some people like dickish Bruce but I can’t stand him, he’s not funny, and he never gets any kind of comeuppance for his actions (or inaction). The most we get out of him is a small admission that Fries was also a good man at the end (as well as a bad one because let’s not go too far here and Freeze did try to kill a bunch of villains making him an anti-hero at best).

Sadly the reputation does a bit of a disservice to the episode as it isn’t able to live up to those lofty heights. The episode was a disappointment, brought down by Blight (ha) and not offering much in the way of anything new for Fries, and a continued look at cantankerous old jerk Bruce. It’s not “bad”, just I was looking for something to rise above fine and even if this was the best episode yet, it was only just barely. There’s so much potential here but it mostly goes unrealized.

Grade: B-

Stray Observations
– The big get this episode is Linda Hamilton (The Terminator) as Dr. Lake with an appearance by another pre-NCIS actor in Joe Spano (Hill Street Blues) as the sniper.
– Victor Fries has only wanted to do good from the start and yet people keep taking advantage of him and no one wants to give him the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t excuse his action as Mr. Freeze, but it’s hard not to feel sympathy for him at the expense of everyone else.
– We get the debut of the invisible batsuit. For something that looks so tiny and weak, this batsuit is really overpowered. Thankfully it’s in the hands of a bloody teenager and nobody intelligent.
– Terry beats up a bunch of people on the docks and when he calls the speed dial number, Powers answers and identifies himself. It’s a shame about no caller ID but I’m not sure phone etiquette is the one thing to uphold when you are up to corrupt dealings.
– “He like the walking meltdown” I’m sorry, I’m out Terry. Call this the moment I truly turned on him.

Next Up: Since it is looking likely Doctor Who will return next Monday with “The Tomb of the Cybermen” (which sadly wasn’t on Amazon). One day (unless someone wants to take over and I would have no objections whatsoever about stepping aside and reading along), we will come back to the series for a Fantastic Four knock off in “Heroes” and boombox sporting “Shriek”. Star Trek: TOS should return on Friday but I said that last time and well, life had other plans.