Episode title: Dead Man’s Hand
Original air date: March 21, 1999
Another old school villain makes their debut appearance this week let alone their first appearance in the DC Animated universe as the episode sees the return of “The Royal Flush Gang” who return to Gotham to embark on another crime spree, while their leader King is equally keen to have his revenge against Batman.
Despite the time which has passed since Bruce fought the gang last, it is handily covered for by Bruce’s explanation that the gang constantly change their roster as members retire or get arrested. This brief background on the gang also means that they are quickly slotted into the universe so that even if you’re not up to speed on your D.C. history you’re not left wondering who they are or their motivations. Unlike so many super villain teams this gang are also surprisingly balanced with a good mixture of combat and tech skills to carry out their heists, while the hulking mute Ace easily provides the muscle for the group.
While “The Royal Flush Gang” might not be as instantly recognisable as the likes of “The Joker” or the previously featured “Mr. Freeze”, they have actually been part of the D.C Universe since making their debut in the “Justice League of America” #43 in March 1966 and have continued to make regular appearances since then. While they might not be specifically associated with the Batman universe, they certainly find a home in the “Batman Beyond” universe, while getting a slight update so that each member of the gang now has their own flying playing card to ride on.
I love the fact that like so many villains in the Batman universe the gang only steal things which tie in with their theme. This of course means that they steal things which link in some way to playing cards though it seems that they are just as happy to rob the rich when at a loss as seen by the opening Yacht heist. True they do steal diamonds but this seems like more of a coincidence than anything they were actually aiming to steal, however it does tie in nicely with their image as upper class criminals.
This episode in many ways also serves to close the generation gap between the two Batman, as it not only sees Terry taking on one of Bruce’s old foes, but also finding his own version of Selina Kyle / Catwoman when he finds himself unwittingly getting involved with Melanie. A mysterious girl who soon turns out to be Royal Flush member Ten. In one way this was the perfect time to introduce a complex love interest for Terry as Dana finally dumps him believing that he only cares about his job, not realising that he’s single handily responsible for saving Neo-Gotham each week, but at the same time it does save us from listening to her complain about the same thing each week and for many it was it a long time coming anyway. As such you don’t really quibble the fact that Terry walks out of the nightclub post break up with Dana and is almost instantly making out with someone else, even if Melanie is by her own confession the kind of girl not to wait around.
While comparisons can be drawn between Melanie and Selina, Melanie is a much more conflicted character, torn between the loyalty to her family and at the same time wanting a more normal life which she sees herself having with Terry, while the revelation they suffer regarding each other’s alter-ego’s only adds to the conflict especially when like Bruce and Selina they are both on opposites sides of the law. Still thanks to the gang making several appearances in the show it’s a relationship which is thankfully explored further in future episodes.
The episode has some great action scenes, especially with the gang frequently find ways to challenge Terry’s moral compass as seen during his first confrontation with the gang which sees him having to choose between capturing them or saving a boatful of people. At the same time the gang all prove themselves just as capable in a fight, with each members having their own fight style from King favouring the use of his sword, queen an electrified septet and Ace using his brute strength let alone being seemingly invincible looking at some of the hits he takes throughout the episode.
A great introduction for “The Royal Flush Gang” and the relationship between Terry and Melanie, let alone the fact it features Bond royality George Lazenby providing the voice of King continuing the trend of great vocal talent on the show especially with Robert Davi’s earlier appearance as “Magma” in the episode “Heroes”. This episode shows how great the series can be when firing on all cylinders, while introducing another regular villain to a worrying sparse rouge’s gallery which the gang are a more than worthy addition to.
Next episode: The Winning Edge