Episode title: Black Out
Original air date: January 31, 1999
The origin episodes out of the way the series now starts to find its pace with Terry now established as the new Batman he now starts his training under Bruce’s tuition. However it’s not long until he faces his first challenge in this new role while investigating a number of accidents happening at the industrial company Foxteca, which is owned by Lucius Fox’s son whose father through this episode we also learn was fired by Powers when he took over Wayne Enterprises. Terry’s investigation however soon sees him facing off against the polymorph “Inque”.
If anything that can be gained from this episode it’s that Bruce’s training methods are anything if not unorthodox as he seemingly prefers for those he trains to learn on the job with Terry now being put on patrol over Gotham while Bruce observes from the bat cave taking on a role none to dis-similar from that previously played by “The Oracle” in the original series. This new role for Bruce changes things up from the situation with his previous prodigy’s such as “Robin” and “Batgirl” who followed him on patrol and generally gave assistance as required while he handled most of the heavy lifting. At the same time we also see a much stricter and unforgiving side to Bruce as he barks commands to Terry, while remaking that he should “learn to think on his feet” after Terry’s first encounter with Inque in which he finds himself on the wrong end of a serious beatdown. While this darker attitude perfectly suits his current recuse status he does frequently manage to pull out a few great on liners such as when asked how he’s “holding up these days” by Derek Powers, he responds with an air of effortless cool “With a cane”.
While Terry might already seem at an overwhelming advantage than his predecessors with his futuristic suit (not that it seems to make much difference) we do get to see him showcase a couple of new additions to armoury as we get to see the first appearances of the new Batmobile which is more like a reworking of the Batwing, but still another cool design for the iconic vehicle and arguably of the more realistic designs (in terms of matching its setting) this vehicle has been given. His suit also gets another upgrade with the ability to now use optical camouflage to turn invisible, a skill which thankfully was never over used in the course of the series while at the same time on these brightly lit streets of Neo-Gotham, darkness always seems to at something of a premium.
Inque is a great creation and a worthy first addition to the new rouge’s gallery which the show builds with her ability to turn into a blob state to sneak into places undetected and even control vehicles. Her polymorph abilities also give her the ability to turn any part of her body into a weapon as seen by the use of some T1000 style blades, let alone she could be the first villain since “Clayface” with the ability to drown Batman with their own body. Some naysayers might want to claim that Inque is just a reworking of Clayface due to her morphing abilities but for myself she more than stands on her own merits and while she can turn herself into a humanoid form, she spend most of the episode out of it to further to distance herself from Clayface who frequently as the result of his former life (prior to mutation) as an actor took on the appearance of others. The downside to Inque though is that she really is an animators nightmare with so many flailing parts and rapid form changes effort seemingly recognised by the episode winning an Annie Award for “Outstanding Individual Achievement for Storyboarding in an Animated Television Production”….Love to see how they managed to fit that on the plaque.
Elsewhere Derek Powers following his double of nerve gas and radiation in “Rebirth” is now looking slightly less luminous thanks to his scientists creating a synthetic skin for him which has the tendency to fall apart when he’s angered, though it does mean he settles nicely into his crime kingpin role that he plays, hiring Inque on this occasion to carry out his dirty work while he continues rather unconvincingly to play the head of Wayne / Powers Industries.
For the old school fans this episode also gives a lot of nods not only to Bruce’s time with the final showdown between Terry and Inque taking place in the batcave, meaning that we get a much better look at the relics of the previous Batman era which in the time between the previous episode and this episode has seemingly seen Bruce work on his Batman museum with most of the displays being upgraded to mannequin displays. As such we get a much better look at old school villain cosumes belonging to The Riddler, Harley Quinn, Firefly and most interestingly Bruce’s childhood hero “The Grey Ghost” who let’s not forget was voiced by the original Batman Adam West when he made a sole appearance in “Batman: The Animated Series”.
This finale really makes the most of the Bat cave setting especially with the weapons of Bruce’s former foes, with Two Face’s giant coin and one former villain (I won’t spoil who) providing big payoff’s though considering how many security aspects Bruce worked into the cave from electrified doors and a steel ceiling it begs the question as to what Bruce was preparing for exactly when he put in all these defences. A well-paced episode “Black Out” not only shows that Terry has a lot to learn if he is to truly honor the batman legacy, as it gives plenty of nods to the legacy of his predecessor while at the same time subtly filling in the gaps between what happened in the years since Bruce hung up his cape with a great pay off coming at the finale to see the former Batgirl / Oracle Barbara Gordon following in the footsteps of her father and now holding the position of Commissioner.
Next Episode: Golem