Episode title: Spellbound
Original air date: May 1, 1999
The thing I really love about this show is that it certainly knows how to recover from a stumble like last week’s drug abuse special. This week sees another major addition to the rouge’s gallery as this week sees the debut of “Spellbinder”, a villain who uses the power of illusion and mind control to convince ordinary the ordinary citizens of Neo-Gotham to carry about his crimes for him.
This episode also comes with a bit of a mystery surrounding who Spellbinder is, which while it might be one of the worst kept secrets in the Batman Beyond universe, I’ll still give those not in the loop a heads, so SPOLILERS AHOY.
Still here? Well consider yourself pre-warned as while his true identity is pretty well known let alone the source of much aggravation to “Batman Beyond” fans based on how unlikely it seems, but this is a superhero cartoon we are talking about….how much realism to do you really need to have before it starts taking away from the fun of the fantasy.
Okay before we do the big reveal let look at the meat of this week’s episode, which opens with Chelsea, one of Terry’s classmates being approached by Spellbinder who with the use of his magic eye hypnotises her into believing that she is on an Indiana Jones style adventure to retrieve an idol and toss it into a volcano, when in real life she is actually stealing a statue from her father’s study and handing it over to Spellbinder, who makes a clean getaway on his flying eye. ..Seriously what is it with this guy and eyeball themed objects?
Spellbinder like the other major villains of the series constantly proves himself to be a great antagonist throughout the episode as he manages to frequently convince his targets that they are living the delusions he hits them with be it that they are a soldier in the Vietnam war or being pursued by giant mutant bugs, they really become living nightmares especially with anyone who attempts to help them only adding to the illusion. It is of course the constant switches between reality and fantasy which make these sequences, especially when we see how what different objects can suddenly become to those under Spellbinder’s influence, as seen during the Vietnam delusion which sees a dress becoming a fallen solider that has to be taken to a rescue helicopter which of course is Spellbinder on his flying eye.
He also joins the “Almost got him club” alongside Inque when he convinces Terry to take a swan dive from a high rise, after using his magic eye to delude Terry into believing he is diving into a tropical pool rather than the concrete of the street below. This of course would no doubt have happened had it not been down to Bruce saving him yet again, which actually happens a couple of times throughout the episode and only ramps up Bruce’s legacy as the Batman seeing how he managed to survive all those occasions he was sprayed with fear gas by “Scarecrow” (who let’s face it is who Spellbinder is in many ways a reimaging of) though I can’t remember a time when Scarecrow tried to convince Bruce to jump off a building while under the effects of fear gas.
Ok so this of course brings us to the identity of Spellbinder, who in the big reveal at the finale turns out to be the school guidance councillor. On one hand it works because as we find out he has access to all his victims due to therapy sessions he held with them. The downside of course being that it makes no sense how he can afford all his equipment on the salary of a guidance councillor, I mean is this guy the most well paid guidance councillor in the world?!? At the same time the fact that we here have the guidance councillor being a criminal mastermind only brings back memories of the guidance councillor in “Clerks” making me only wonder what exactly happened to break him and turning him into Spellbinder, for as Joker reminded us in “The Killing Joke” all it takes is for someone to just have one bad day to set them on this path.
Despite the minor flaws in characterisation this is still a great episode with some fun set pieces including Terry ransacking Wayne manor while he believes that he on “Supermarket sweep” and even includes a couple of subtle nods to the Batman legacy with Terry wearing a jacket which formally belonged to “D.G.” Hmmm I wonder who that could have been. Ultimately if you remember that this is a comic book cartoon and hence not bound by the rules of logic or plausibility, this is a great episode and the perfect introduction to Spellbinder.
Next Episode: Disappearing Inque