Episode title: Disappearing Inque
Original air date: May 8, 1999
While the last few weeks have seen the show forming a colourful rogues gallery, this week sees the return of arguably Terry’s toughest foe “Inque” who last time we saw her was turned into an ice cube and being shipped off to Gotham Cryogenics. Surprisingly the episode opens to find her still there especially when most shows will open to find the villain of the week already free and working on their latest scheme, so it makes for an interesting change for a villain to still be incarcerated when we meet them again.
While imprisoned at Gotham Cryogenics, Inque has also gained an admirer of sorts in Aaron Herbst, a disgruntled worker at the facility, who has taken to talking to Inque about his day to day problems aswell as his various gripes with his boss who it soon turns out has been secretly recording Aaron’s visits to Inque and fire him. Needless to say Aaron takes this rather badly and cuts off the power to Inque’s cell allowing her to escape. This weeks episode continues the run of great casting on the show which has already seen the likes of Robert Davi and George Lasenby already lending their voices to the show and now with this episode Indie cinema favourite William H. Macy joins the talent rollcall, playing essentially playing the same kind of misguided yet likable loser that he’s played memorably throughout his career and does once more here as he lends his voice to the character of Aaron, who soon becomes the unwitting patsy for Inque’s latest scheme, who it seems has still been able to see and hear everything despite being frozen since her last failed scheme.
While certainly a challenging villain on her first appearance way back on the third episode “Blackout” here she really ramps up the ante, coming back with a whole new bag of body morphing tricks. At the same time as the result of being frozen it has left her DNA damaged meaning that she is now unable to turn into her human form and leading her on a quest to find a formula to restore her powers to their full power once more. It’s of course at this point that following her escape that she tracks down Aaron to help her achieve this goal. An usual plot choice certainly, especially when the more logical choice would have seen her return to her former employer Derek Powers and have him help her, or so it would have been assumed looking at their relationship in “Blackout” but here she reveals that it was nothing but an assignment, making her more of a hired gun than first suspected but unfortunately leaving her light on allies which makes Aaron a logical choice.
The relationship between Aaron and Inque is certainly an interesting one and one which could be compared to women who correspond with convicted killers and criminals and whom feel a romantic attachment to these criminals even if its ultimately and frequently all in their head. Aaron unquestionably has feelings for Inque though it’s never clear why exactly seeing how he knows nothing about her other than it can be assumed has been reported by local press regarding her crimes. Inque meanwhile wastes little time in showing her feelings toward him as she frequently belittles him and generally acts repulsed by him, their abusive relationship unsurprisingly bringing to mind memories of the relationship between “The Joker” and “Harley Quinn” who in comparison to this pair seem fairly timid with the issues which defined their own relationship. However while Joker generally was abusive toward Harley he did frequently show moments of tenderness towards her, while Inque prefers instead to tease Aaron’s feeling to get her own way, including a great moment were she appears to be initiating something only to instead reach behind him for the TV remote before returning to ignoring him. Aaron like Harley only willingly follows Inque despite her abuse while aiding her unquestioningly in her plans, acting like a love sick puppy while more bizarrely harbouring his own desire to be given the same polymorph form as Inque. Aaron ultimately does get his wife fulfilled, only to once again find himself deceived by Inque who only gives him half of the serum turning him into a hunchback gelatinous mass, which is actually quite disturbing for what’s let not forget is a kids show (not that we like to admit it) and far from the fluid and sleek form which Inque processes and reminder that you should really be careful what you wish for.
Meanwhile the show’s other main relationship between Terry and Bruce gets further developed with the differences between Terry and Bruce approach to being Batman only being highlighted further here, with Terry treating Inque’s escape with the desire to increase security at the Batcave especially with Inque having previously broken in at the finale of “Blackout” while Bruce favours the idea of researching your foe. We also finally get the confirmation that it was heart attacks which lead to his retirement which we saw at the start of the pilot episode. This episode also showcases the exo-suit which Bruce created when old age began to take its hold and enabled him to remain at the same crime fighting level, only at the cost of the high strain it put on his heart, which it is assumed lead to his career ending heart attack. This sets up the great finale were Bruce is forced to done the exo-suit once more to save Terry after he is captured by Inque, while knowing in doing so that it could equally kill him. The episode equally serves to showcase how Terry’s skills have developed since their original encounter making for a more exciting encounter even if he ultimately comes off worse for the most part, it makes for a fun comparison and nice see progression with Terry’s character.
The episode features some great action sequences and despite Inque still being an animators nightmare, they still manage to pull out all the stops to showcase a whole new set of tricks, including a fight were she turns her body into a scythe limbed spider let alone pulling off some brutal looking moves which unquestionably highlight her standing as one of the toughest villains on the show. At the same time it is also great to see Bruce dusting off one of his old suits to battle her, in a scene which is only added to by the funky reworking of the theme tune from the original animated series (Thankfully not the Adam West version).
A great episode with some fantastic set pieces, let alone a chance to see Bruce done a batsuit again, which while it might be pure fan service, its certainly a welcome moment handled well, though it has to be noted that the episode also features higher level of violence than normal with Terry being shown bleeding on several occastions making it curious that the censors never choose to adjust these shots, especially when they choose to take the shears to much less for “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker”. This however is a minor issue in what could be one of the best episodes of the season so far.