Episode title: Shriek
Original air date: March 14, 1999
After the hiccup which was the previous episode “Heroes” it’s good to see with this episode the writers get the show back on track while at the same introducing another villain to the “Batman Beyond” rogue’s gallery, which at this point has honestly been kind of lacking what with Blight barely getting a chance to strut his stuff as Powers instead chooses to play puppet master in the various schemes he runs, with Inque being the only real noteworthy edition until this point as this episode gives us the first appearance of Shriek.
No the annoying green ogre hasn’t jump franchises, but rather Shriek is the criminal alter-ego of Water Shreeve a sound obsessed inventor who approaches Derek Powers to find funding for his suit which allows him to manipulate sounds and even destroy solid objects through the use of focused infrasonic frequencies. Powers is of course quick to dismiss the idea as not being cost effective while at the same time finding a new use for Shreeve’s cyclopean sonic-suit as he tasks him with killing Bruce Wayne who currently is opposing Powers plans to demolish Crime Alley.
When it comes to superpowers sound always seems to be one of the more underused ones so it was great to see Terry facing off against a villain whose powers are based around sound. Certainly we get to see the full potential for Shriek with the episode as he proves himself as a worthy addition to the rogue’s gallery on serval fronts. First off he gives us a taste of his powers by attacking Bruce and Terry in a frontal attack which leaves a large portion of Crime Alley destroyed while landing Bruce in the hospital. Shriek also manages to torment Bruce on a more covert level aswell as he makes the hospitalised Bruce believe that he is losing his mind while more controversially commanding that he jump out of the hospital window. Finally he pulls out a real showcase moment in the finale by using his suit to eliminate sound completely leaving nothing but the creepy echo of Terry’s footsteps.
The real genius of Shriek’s character though is that he plays to his strengths, knowing that he doesn’t stand a chance taking on Terry is a straightforward confrontation instead working his knowledge of sound manipulation to his advantage as he constantly finds a way to use these powers to constantly ensure that he has the advantage. His suit perfectly fitting the futuristic setting let alone the animation style of the series, while more interestingly is that Shreeve only ever embraces his darker side which Shriek embodies when he puts on the suit, making him almost the villain version of a superhero like Terry who has to put on a suit in order to become a here, only reversed as Shreeve has to put on a suit to channel his villainous side.
The episode has quite a few fun throwbacks to Bruce’s time as the Batman as Bruce takes Terry to Crime Alley which is an especially key part of the Batman lore seeing how it was not only the location of Bruce’s parents murder, but also were he would first meet the second “Robin” Jason Todd when he attempted to steal the tyres of the Batmobile, let alone the site of the battle between Batman and Superman in Frank Miller’s acclaimed “The Dark Knight Returns”. On this trip to the iconic location we get to see the old Gotham police station, complete with a mugshot of “The Joker”, while the episode also gives us a cheeky nod to the “Batman: The Animated Series” by having Bruce’s town car bar more than a slight similarity to the Batmobile featured in that series.
What I really liked about this episode though is that here Terry is forced to truly step up and become Batman without the assistance of Bruce, who due to being hospitalised is left unable to provide his usual assistance / guidance to Terry. He does however still have Bruce’s dog Ace who it has to be noted makes the first his many saves that he will perform throughout the series, making him the perfect sidekick and saving Terry from being stuck with a Robin lite sidekick. Terry also gets to do some undercover work as he infiltrates Shrieks’ lab disguised as a pizza delivery guy though why he feels the need to also use a hideous faux New Jersey accent is beyond me, much like why every pizza delivery guy seems to have the same accent?
With this episode the show really gets back on form and while perhaps not a five star episode, it certainly gives us a great introduction to Shriek, who is a worthy addition to the Batman Beyond rouges gallery, even if he would be limited solely to the show bar a sole appearance in the comic series. Despite this he frequently proves to be one of the more inventive villains which Terry faces while constantly finding new uses for his powers as we will see in later episodes rather than just wheeling out the same bag of tricks. It’s should also be note that due to Shriek we do get a rare insight into Bruce’s psyche which only highlights that while Bruce might be retired physically, mentally he’s far from given up the mantle of the bat.
Next episode: Dead Man’s Hand