Batman Beyond S:01 Ep:04

Episode title: Golem

Original air date: January 31, 1999

Taking a break from the usual business of foiling the evil plots of Derek Powers, this episode instead chooses to focus its attention on Hamilton Hill High School. Sadly its not to explain why Terry goes to school here instead of Gotham Tech. Instead we get to see Batman facing off against one of his non-super powered foes as the nerdy and downtrodden Willie Watt decides to take revenge on bully Nelson Nash (voiced here by Seth Green) with the use of a giant construction robot known as the GoLeM.

Essentially a response to the epidemic of bulled teens bringing guns to school with the Columbine High School Massacre happening only a few months after the episode aired only making it more poignant. However the censors were hardly going to let the show get away with an episode addressing the issue in a head on way, but seemingly the censors don’t have such restrictions concerning giant robots!

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Willie Watt is your archetypical high school nerd who not only has to deal with being frequently humiliated and threatened by Nelson as seen in the opening after he stumbles his way through his attempts to talk one of the school’s popular girls. Elsewhere his home life is none the better with his dominating father who works as a construction boss only further belittling him while giving him the perhaps slightly questionable advice to fight back by hitting them were it hurt. Somehow this translates to Willie as here take my giant 13 ton construction robot and go on a rampage

While the idea of a rampaging construction robot is interesting enough, the episode ups things with a fantastical edge as Willie’s first rampage being foiled soon leads to him being telepathically connected to the robot as it take on almost a guardian role for Willie and living up to its namesake as we see the GoLem save him from a group of Jokerz and at the high school finale were it enables him strike back at those he feels wronged him.

It’s strange when the show chooses to go for one of its more school focused episodes, I can’t help I’m watching “Spider-man” in a different wrapper. Terry essentially becomes out Peter Parker and his unsuspecting girlfriend Dana substituting for Mary Jane. Were this comparison really hits home though is with the bully Nelson Nash who is almost a copy of Flash Thompson right down to his dislike of Terry but love of his Batman alter-ego.  Still this could be just coincidental though we get an even more baffling Marvel nod when Willie’s father is dumped into a tub of dolls which look strangely similar to Marvel villain M.O.D.O.K.

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Willie might not be the most powerful of villains even with his giant robot which is more of a lumbering powerhouse and more a danger to anyone in the nearby area than Terry who tends to only get caught by it while attempting to save someone put in peril by the GoLeM destroying something. The aspect which makes Willie interesting is that we have someone who is corrupted by power, while his ability to control GoLeM telepathically only helping him standout and making the uneasy comparisons between his actions and a bulled teen shooting up his school a little easier to take thanks to the dash of fantasy. At the same time while in many ways you feel like you have to sympathise with Willie especially when the destruction of the GoLeM is strangely heart breaking to watch, no doubt as an indirect result of the bond Willie has with the machine and while his actions clearly are coming as the result of him being bullied it is clear the path he has chosen for himself by the episode end which hints at a new set of powers that the experience has left him with.

The episode features some good action and essentially gives you everything you’d want from a giant robot on the rampage, while making me wish that the idea hadn’t had to be so restrained by the runtime, with the rampage sections taking the biggest hit to make the run time.  At the same time it is an important episode for Terry’s evolution as the Batman even though it might not seem overly obvious but here Terry is able to handle the case without the assistance of Bruce and instead has him relying solely on the tools he’s been equipped with, while reminding us he still has quite a way to go to live up to the legacy of his predecessor.

Next Episode: Meltdown

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