April 27, 2024

Article at Batman News

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Batman Beyond Retro Review – Episode 3×03 – Photocopy

One of the most consistent themes in Batman Beyond is parenthood. The show began with Terry’s father being murdered, and Bruce stepping in as a reluctant father figure. Since then we’ve met tons of characters whose identities are wrapped up in their children or their parents. Paxton Powers, the entire Royal Flush Gang, Armory, Earth Mover, Ma Mayhem, Payback, Willie Watt–all of these characters have some parent-child bonding aspect crucial to their stories. Now, Inque joins the ranks.

Batman Beyond: Inqueling

After a job goes sideways, Inque finds herself quite literally dissolving. Meanwhile, a young woman is overdrawn on a dozen credit cards. Inque approaches her, and reveals that the young woman is her daughter. She could, of course, be lying–but the two look quite similar in character design, and we have no reason to doubt that she’s being honest with the young woman, whose name is Deanna.

Inque asks Deanna, who has so far been leading a pretty mundane life aside from her huge amount of debt, to steal the mutagen necessary for her to re-form (but not reform). Deanna initially seems to have done the job for Inque, but when Terry shows up for a second bout with her, she once again begins to fall apart–at which point Deanna reveals that she mixed solvent into the material. Inque dissolves into nothing, and Deanna–who has access to her mother’s bank accounts–watches it happen.

Early in the episode, Terry stands up Dana, and Dana tells Maxine that she’s okay with it because she understands the special nature of Terry’s job. This exchange is interesting, because we’re meant to think that Dana has figured out that Terry is Batman despite the show never having shown us that she’s starting to clue in. Terry doesn’t know about any of this until Max tells him, and she reveals then that Dana just believes that Terry sees Bruce as a father figure–which Terry agrees isn’t necessarily inaccurate. But why go to the trouble of setting up this dramatic reveal only to undercut it before Terry even finds out?

But this does set up the mirror-image comparison the episode wants us to look at. Bruce and Terry on one side, and Inque and Deanna on the other. Bruce is a father-figure who is not biologically linked to Terry in any way (until a comic reveals that Terry is his son much later), but who has been a strong, daily presence in his life. Inque, meanwhile, is Deanna’s biological mother but has been present only as a mysterious source of money for the perpetually overdrawn young woman.

There’s an idea here that you reap what you sow–as an absentee mother who thought she could fill the gap with money, Inque learns that all her daughter cares about regarding her is money.

But the whole thing kind of undercuts itself, too. This conclusion suggests that Deanna had absolutely no bond with her adoptive parents and learned nothing from them, and so she’s just like her greedy mother despite them having never met. And Bruce happens to be absent for this episode. That brings in this element that Terry has something to prove to Bruce, who has had to save him from Inque twice now, while Deanna has absolutely nothing to prove to her mother and is willing to keep treating her as a piggy bank. There’s a kind of nature vs. nurture story here, but it doesn’t quite work as well as the writers are hoping it does.

Even with the episode undercutting some of its own ideas, it’s still one of the better episodes of Batman Beyond. Inque is easily one of the show’s very best adversaries, and the show has deployed her smartly to tell some of the show’s creepier episodes. This one gives her some depth that she hasn’t had previously, and generally works well. Terry also has had so few recurring villains that it’s fun to have one who is not only recurring, but who seems unkillable in the same way that villains like Carnage, Clayface, and Reverse Flash seem to be impossible to completely dispose of. Also, Inqueling is a great title. Kudos to the writers for that one.