June 01, 2024

Article at Batman News

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Batman Beyond Retro Review – Episode 3×06 – Talking Gorilla

DC has lots of super-smart primates. It’s kind of weird when you think about it. Grodd, Solovar, the Ultra-Humanite, Monsieur Mallah, and Detective Chimp have all had their moments in DC history, and have even appeared in recent stories and shows like Stargirl, The Flash, Doom Patrol, and the Dark Knights Metal comics. And yet, with all of those, Batman Beyond felt the need to make a new one: Fingers the Gorilla.

Batman Beyond: Speak No Evil

When a gorilla escapes from captivity, Batman tracks it down, only to find that the beast speaks–and has a surprisingly reasonable vendetta against humans. The story that ensues is a pretty straightforward environmental story; the guy that captured Fingers is a terrible man but an excellent hunter, and Batman and Fingers have to work together to defeat him.

When the two part ways, Fingers essentially tells Batman that he’ll play the role in the jungle that Batman does in the city, protecting the creatures of the jungle from poachers that would take them away from their families and environment.

I actually love this idea, but the whole episode feels like a missed opportunity, and I’m left without much to say about it. It’s not a bad episode by any means, but aside from that last moment, the whole thing is kind of forgettable. The whole thing moves at a breakneck pace, and we don’t have time to develop any one element.

Dunston Hails a Cab
Dunston Hails a Cab

That includes the show’s villain, Van Dyle. He’s an evil poacher, and that’s it. We never get any more than that. He’s so underdeveloped that even if he hadn’t had a name, I probably wouldn’t have noticed. There’s no complication to him, he doesn’t pick up a vendetta against Batman, he doesn’t suffer some nightmarish fate where the gorillas put him a human zoo or something. He’s just a cardboard cut out of a bad guy. He does Bad Guy Stuff for Bad Guys Reasons.

Episode writer Stan Berkowitz wrote or helped to write 44 episodes of Batman Beyond, and dozens of Batman and other DC TV episodes before and after. But you wouldn’t know it from this episode, because it misses the thing that makes Batman interesting: the villains. Of course, Batman himself is cool, but the villains are what complicates him. Without his villains it would just be one episode after another of him easily taking down random hoodlums, and we’d forget about him.

Van Dyle belongs among animated Batman’s worst villains like the Sewer King, a forgettable character in a forgettable storyline. Even his cool Bad Guy Eye is unrelated to Fingers; it would’ve been so easy to say that Fingers or his mother was responsible for that, and it would’ve only added to the episode.

They could’ve made Van Dyle a moot point if they’d done something interesting with Fingers. He could’ve easily been an origin story for many of DC’s hyper-intelligent primates; it’s not like Batman Beyond links up with DC characters from outside of Gotham very often at all, so why couldn’t Grodd or Monsieur Mallah be born in the 2040s? Or they could’ve spent more time reflecting on the similarities between Fingers and Terry–they have this whole plane ride from Gotham to the jungles of Africa, and we never get a scene of Terry saying, “hey, man, you know, my parents were murdered, too, it sucks, let’s hug” or discussing what it means to be a protector.

This is just a forgettable episode with a boring villain. You can safely skip it if you’re doing a re-watch of Batman Beyond and want to save time.