Here with go. This is what we’ve been waiting for. This episode is awesome–one of my favorites so far. It has just about everything you want from a Batman story. Weird technology, some horror, killer action. It’s all here.
Batman Beyond: Lost Soul
What is a man? According to Dracula, a man is a miserable little pile of secrets. Batman Beyond has more thoughts on the topic, though. Flash backward 30 years to the CEO of a computing company who has figured out how to dump his own mind into a computer. Back in the future, his grandson brings him back online, hoping for guidance. The program immediately goes rogue, messing with the city’s power grid while pulling in as much information as it can. Batman tries to stop it, only to find the program downloaded into–and taking control of–his high-tech suit. Batman is forced to get back to analog basics to stop the artificial intelligence.
And so Batman is asking about the relationship between consciousness, humanity, and technology from two perspectives. Is a mind inside of a machine still a man, or is it a program? And is Terry truly the new Batman, or is he just a kid in the Batman suit?
Man or Program?
The program in question is Robert Vance–or an echo or memory of him, maybe. He was powerful in life, and in death his ghost wants to keep accumulating that power. As a network-connected AI, he quickly starts accumulating access and knowledge. But ultimately, he still sees himself as a man rather than a networked intelligence. He wants a body to live in.
At the same time, most of the action in Batman Beyond occurs with Terry in the suit, and it has led some viewers to wonder if he’s actually Batman, or if he’s just piloting the suit. Terry, as it turns out, has the same question. Both characters are primarily concerned with reclaiming or investigating the nature of their own humanity.
Vance breaks into Terry’s suit and takes it over, and that’s after he’s been in the Gotham City grid, messing with power and data and forcing Bruce to disconnect the computer from the network. In other words, they’re both on their back foot when Vance starts walking the suit, with Terry inside, out into the ocean.
Bruce rescues Terry in short order, but Vance takes control of the suit itself and escapes. The discussion Bruce and Terry have is one of the most important for both of them since maybe the pilot episode. The suit is totally out of commission, but the danger is still out there. Terry is ready to go out and get back to work, but Bruce is hesitant. Terry comments that he’s been wondering for a while now if Batman is just the suit, or the person inside of it.
Despite Bruce’s warning that the suit outclasses him in sheer strength ten to one, Terry is determined. Bruce gives Terry a utility belt, and Terry then takes Nightwing’s domino mask off of the mannequin. Bruce mentions that he’d loan him a suit, but the Batsuits on display are all riddled with bullet holes, burns, and so on. Terry knows Bruce is trying to stop him, but he goes anyway.
Man or Suit?
This leads to some of the most satisfying action on the show to date, as Terry has to battle using his wits and agility more than strength. He has to use his environment and outthink his opponent. There’s a shot of Terry leaping into the air with a piece of rebar acting as a spear, wrapped in electrical wire, and it’s one of the coolest shots in the show so far.
So this ends up being a story about a man who turned himself into a computer to avoid death, trying to find a human body–fighting against a guy who works with the help of a mechanical suit, setting it aside to confirm for himself that he’s just as formidable without it–it’s a tool, not a crutch, unlike the nuclear aircraft in the previous episode.
Afterward, Bruce tells Terry that there’s more work to be done, and Terry notes that the suit is still out of commission. Bruce says that while the suit might be, Batman isn’t. While Bruce considers himself Batman to the point where he doesn’t call himself Bruce, here he’s acknowledging that there can be more than one Batman–that Terry is a partner in their crime-fighting venture, rather than an errand boy or just a warm body to put in the suit.
While this is a one-off episode and not a major plot moment for either character, it feels like a graduation of sorts for both of them.
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