March 31, 2024

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Batman Beyond Retro Review – Episode 2×25 – Terry Goes Missing

Mary McGinnis is a bad mom. Terry, her eldest son, goes missing for well over 24 hours, and she barely notices. She notices that he’s been absent, but he’s able to shrug it off by just agreeing with something she made up. Do you really talk to your son that little? I guess if he’s been able to go on this long as Batman, then that’s kind of assumed. But Mary, dang. Focus up.

Batman Beyond: Where’s Terry?

Being a vigilante as a young person has its advantages; teenagers are going to recover from their injuries faster and learn from their mistakes more quickly. But as a teenage vigilante, Terry has a lot of people to answer to that Bruce doesn’t–his mother, Maxine, Dana, and of course Bruce. We figure out who’s paying attention pretty quickly when Terry goes missing after following a shady figure into the subway tunnels beneath Gotham City.

The episode is split into two primary storylines here. After waking up following a cave-in, Terry ends up trapped in another cave-in with a kid named Dak, who had been living in the subway tunnels. Once Bruce realizes Terry is missing, he tracks down Max in an attempt to find him.

Trapped at the end of a tunnel, Terry and Dak are forced to talk. It’s clear from the outset that Dak doesn’t like Batman, and he namedrops some of Terry’s worst adversaries as people he’d rather be like. It’s a pretty classic depiction of a runaway who only sees adults as sources of enforced authority, but it forces Terry to see himself how others might see him. He’s working hard to stop crime in the city, but not everyone likes him. At the same time, that can’t stop him from trying to protect them. After the previous episode showed us how inconsiderate Terry can be, this episode reminds us that despite his inexperience, Terry is as determined as ever to be the Batman that Gotham needs in 2040.

While Terry and Dak are stuck in that tunnel, Bruce shows up at Maxine’s looking for his protege. This is, believe it or not, the first time Max and Bruce have come face to face. They’re distantly aware of each other, but Terry (and the show’s writers) have kept a wall between them. This interaction is long overdue, and feels both authentic and a bit outdated at the same time.

Bruce and Max are very different, but have two crucial things in common. They’re both stubborn as hell, and they both care deeply about Terry. Without one or the other, they would never meet. Almost everything about this interaction feels right with these characters. Maxine won’t let Bruce go looking for Terry without her. Bruce will do anything to shrug off Maxine. Bruce proves quickly that he needs Maxine, and then ignores the lesson he learned just minutes earlier.

Things get a little weird after the two have found Terry’s backpack and tracked its origin to a disused part of the Gotham subway network. When they spot some workers, Bruce asks Maxine to sneak in while he distracts them–and then points to her as a distraction so that he can sneak in. It’s hard to remember how this would’ve played in 2000, but in 2024, the image of the police dragging off an innocent, teenage Black woman plays very differently.

This is hardly a condemnation of Bruce or Batman Beyond, but dumping an innocent person on the police seems out of character for him. Even at his grumpiest, Bruce would typically work with that person or find a way to evade them before he’d do what he does in this episode. It just feels out of character.

Even so, most of their interactions are a blast to watch. Bruce being briefly impressed with Maxine is satisfying to see. But what really hits is Bruce, standing over an incapacitated gang member, telling Maxine to get out of the room–with the implication that she would be scarred by what she would see, if she were to remain. Bruce will always be Batman, to his last breath, and Maxine gets a scary reminder of that.

While we generally like to see some good Batman action in a show like this, these character interactions–Terry and Dak, Bruce and Max–are the standout. The villain in this episode is Shriek again, but the show does very little with that. It explains the cave-in, but we don’t know why he’s there or what he’s doing. He’s incidental, little more than a reason to trap Terry. For a villain who has been otherwise so well-formed compared to other Batman Beyond villains, it’s a little disappointing to see him used as a tool rather than given character. But the rest of the stuff works so well that we’re kind of willing to forgive it. This is a great episode of Batman Beyond, and definitely one that belongs in the must-watch list.