Batman Beyond Retro Review – Episode 2×05

Usually when we run into the Jokerz in Batman Beyond, they’re a bunch of clownish goons who seem at times to be barely capable of reading. This time, though, they have a real leader in Terminal, the smooth-talking gang member with a look that stands out from all the other dorks he hangs out with.

Batman Beyond: Hidden Agenda

The second you meet Terminal, you know he’s different from the others. His makeup looks more like a skull than a clown, and he wears a repurposed straightjacket that gives him that extra edgy look. When we first encounter him, he and some other Jokerz have followed a businessman onto a cable car high above the streets of Gotham. They leave him scared, without his glasses, and surrounded by hopping wind-up teeth that can chew right through solid material.

This episode is about Terminal, but it’s also about Terry–both of them are students at Hamilton Hill High, leading double lives. We know Terry, but this week we meet Carter, a top-performing student and athlete. He’s in close competition for the top test scores with one of Terry’s friends, Maxine, and his mother has made it clear that second place is just the first loser. Terminal dons his gangster disguise and sets his goons’ sights on the high school as a cover for sabotaging Maxine’s chances.

After the first round of vandalism, Maxine looks to put her technical wizardry to work discovering who at the high school is leading double lives. This storyline feels downright prescient, with Maxine utilizing the analysis of a huge batch of student data to narrow down her lists. For example, Google and Apple might not know when we fall asleep and when we wake up, but they know when we pick up our phone and when we put it down for the night. They know about every location we visit in a given day, and who we communicate with. Target has accidentally outed pregnancies without any conscious effort because the data in the peoples’ other purchases strongly correlated with those of pregnant people.

The episode’s mistake here is treating this use of data as benevolent to everyone except Terry. It feels like cyberpunk, but with a lot of cushioning to make it feel gentle.

But it does work as an examination of the way both Terry and Carter handle their dual personalities. For Terry, it’s a responsibility–it’s something he does because no one else can do it. For Carter, it’s an escape. He still gets to excel as he does in school, but without the pressure that comes from his parents. Both of these characters have valid struggles, but have chosen very different outlets that affect their lives in drastically different ways.

This is also the proper introduction of Maxine Gibson. She appeared in a brief scene earlier in the show, but here she becomes an actual character. After trying to pin down Terry as a Joker, she quickly figures out who he really is. But Terry recognizes the value of her technical skills and friendship quickly, and it’s clear from the get-go that while she won’t be donning a domino mask, she’s going to be a sidekick of sorts. Right away she’s competent, curious, and willing to get in trouble to find the truth.

So while this episode is a simple weekly villain, it introduces a major new character to the show in Maxine, while also developing Terry both in the Batsuit and out.


 

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