2024 is the 25th anniversary of Batman Beyond, a spinoff of Batman: The Animated Series that no one expected to take on a life of its own. After all, this was a show born out of a network demand for a much younger Batman with more kid-friendly adventures. Series creators Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and Alan Burnett delivered on the “younger” part, but this show was not the watered-down Batman that fans feared it would be.
Will Friedle was cast as the new Batman, Terry McGinnis, while the creative team wisely invited Batman: The Animated Series star Kevin Conroy to remain in his role as an elderly Bruce Wayne. This series took place five decades after Batman’s heyday, which forced Bruce to relinquish the role. Instead, he served as Terry’s occasionally harsh mentor rather than being his Alfred.
At times, Batman Beyond resembled Spider-Man more than the Dark Knight. But the creative team behind Batman: The Animated Series made sure that this was a series to be proud of, and that’s why it remains popular almost a quarter century after its debut. To celebrate that accomplishment, we’re looking back at the seven best episodes of Batman Beyond.
Every Batman needs a Catwoman-like femme fatale in their lives. And in Dead Man’s Hand, Terry meets his in the form of Melanie Walker. After a temporary breakup with his girlfriend, Dana, Terry forms an instant connection with Melanie, a teenage girl who feels boxed in by her family obligations. That’s something that Terry can relate to all too well.
What Terry doesn’t initially realize is that Melanie is also Ten, a member of the Royal Flush Gang. Her supervillain family has a vendetta against Batman, which forces Melanie to choose between her loved ones and the boy she just met.
Introducing a new Batman was always going to be an uphill battle because fans don’t want another Dark Knight. They want Bruce Wayne forever and always. Rebirth dealt with that head-on by showing fans something they hadn’t seen before: A Batman so old and desperate that he needed a gun to survive his final night in costume.
Two decades later, a troubled teenager named Terry McGuinness stumbles upon Bruce’s greatest secret shortly before Terry’s father dies to protect a secret of his own. When Terry links his father’s murder to corruption at Bruce’s company, the former Batman refuses to take action directly. So Terry takes matters into his own hands before he and Bruce eventually form a partnership.
For most of the series, Terry doesn’t have a very good relationship with the former Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, who had taken over her father’s role as the police commissioner. Barbara had her own falling out with Bruce decades before, and she doesn’t want a new Batman running around on her streets. Barbara’s suspicions about Terry’s unsuitability for the role manifest themselves in Eyewitness when she sees him murder a criminal in front of him.
Naturally, Terry is innocent and wouldn’t kill anyone. But since Barbara already knows who he is under the mask, she puts the squeeze on Terry’s personal life like few others can. And if Terry can’t prove that he’s not a killer, he’s facing more than just the end of his time as Batman.
Fans had been clamoring for a Justice League animated series for years when Batman Beyond finally introduced the team. However, it wasn’t the League that many were expecting. Aside from a visibly older Superman, Big Barda was the only recognizable hero alongside legacy characters Warhawk, Aquagirl, and a new Green Lantern.
After watching Terry in action for years, Superman reunites with Bruce and formally offers Terry a place in the Justice League. What Superman neglected to mention to Terry is that he didn’t consult the team about his appointment, leading them to resent the new Batman. More pressingly, there’s a traitor in the Justice League who has a terrifying agenda for the entire world.
The series was still finding its way when it introduced Inque, a shape-shifting thief and killer who gave the new Batman all he could handle in one of his early cases. Most notably, Inque smuggled herself into the Batcave and ended up battling both Terry and Bruce while the relics of Batman’s past surrounded them. There are a lot of terrific callbacks to Batman: The Animated Series here, including Bruce’s decision to disguise his face with the mask of his personal hero, The Gray Ghost.
Many of the best episodes of this series feature characters from the first Batman’s past returning in unexpected ways. Mr. Freeze was the first bad guy to do so, and this episode offers him hope for a second chance to live as a normal man. While Bruce never fully trusts that Freeze’s new leaf is genuine, Terry actually gives him the benefit of the doubt.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, Freeze’s new beginning is too good to be true, and his clone body is rapidly breaking down. When his benefactor, Dereck Powers, orders him to be killed, Mr. Freeze reemerges with an even more powerful suit to get his revenge.
This episode would have made the list for the opening minute alone, which has the most pitch-perfect parody of a Batman Broadway musical that anyone has ever done. But what elevates Out of the Past is how it deals with Bruce’s and Terry’s insecurities while introducing yet another piece of unfinished business from Batman’s past: Talia al Ghul.
Since Bruce is feeling particularly vulnerable over his advanced age, Talia’s offer to rejuvenate himself using the Lazarus Pit of her father, Ra’s al Ghul, is too good to pass up. As Terry wonders what Bruce’s new lease on life means for his career as Batman, they discover that Talia is more than she appears and an old enemy’s revenge is at hand.
Watch Batman Beyond on Max.
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