Return of the Joker
Batman gets to work and interrupts a heist by the Jokerz; a new group we haven’t seen in the show. There’s a spot of gentlemanly behavior, when he hesitates to hit the pair of girls. There’s no such hesitation after they taser and kick him. Of course, Batman stands out from other heroes and saves one of the girls when they start to plummet to their death. Her twin sister rescues her. Destruction is caused, but one of the Jokerz gets away with a computer component. When they meet up with their mysterious boss later, it’s not enough. When one of the gang members speaks out on his frustration with their current jobs for the mysterious boss, the boss shoots him. Okay, this is something new…and made a bit worse by the revelation that the original Joker is back and he is ready to give Gotham a wedgie.
Back in the Batcave, Bruce can still throw a batarang with precision. And his company has dropped “Powers” from their name, returning to Wayne Enterprises. Bruce is taking more control of his company again. He keeps an eye on his protégé and questions Terry’s decision to go out that evening; he’s sore and tired, but Terry quips back, “the night is young and so am I.” That lasts all of a couple minutes once he hits the club with Dana; he falls asleep on her. Later, at a Wayne Enterprises party, the Joker’s laugh interrupts the festivities. Terry, as Bruce’s assistant, tries to head off some of the Jokerz gang. Once Bruce is fine for the moment (he takes out one member with a cane), he tells his assistant to “go to work.” A minute later, Batman swoops in to save the patrons. The Joker rises out of the floor and causes mayhem, but ultimately escapes. Terry grouses to Bruce later in the cave that he should have gone after the Joker, but Bruce reassures him he did the right thing by saving the people. However, he won’t talk about the Joker.
Terry switches tactics and goes to Barbara Gordon; “what do you know about clowns?” “In this town, they’re never funny.” And she refuses to talk. Terry comes back to the cave to see Bruce going over the Joker’s file. He is listed as deceased, yet when Bruce runs an analysis on the voices from the archive and from the previous night, they are a match. When Terry asks again, Bruce calls the man a psychopath and a monster; and he wants Terry to give back the suit. He has no right to force this life on the young man, or anyone. Terry disagrees; Bruce didn’t force the life on him, Terry stole the suit. And they come from two different worlds. For Terry, Batman is a way for him to make up for past sins (running with a gang, etc), this appeases his soul and is a chance for him to be a worthwhile human.
“Stupid kid. You don’t know want you want, none of you did,” Bruce retorts as he walks away. Terry throws the suit as his feet and runs out.
With his new free time, Terry meets up with Dana at the club again. Bright side, more time for her. Bad side, less pocket money. Their evening is interrupted when the Jokerz gang shows up and goes after Dana. The two girls attempt to distract Terry while Dana is grabbed, but he fights them off. Dana is hurt and Terry puts Chelsea in charge while he finishes off the gang. He heads to Bruce, who has been working on Joker anti-toxin. The clown himself shows up in the cave and greets Bruce “hello Batman.” A gas fills the room. By the time Terry arrives in the cave, the clown is gone, but he left graffiti and a mess. Bruce is frozen on the floor, wheezing out a few words between a weird laugh. Terry administers the anti-toxin in time and calls Barbara for help. She finally opens up about what last transpired between Bruce and the Joker, still adamant that it’s not the real Joker, but Terry deserves answers.
Dick Grayson had already left; Tim Drake was Robin. He was abducted and she and Bruce spent three weeks searching for him before a clue was delivered. The Joker and Harley Quinn had taken Robin to Arkham Asylum. They decided they wanted a family of their own and decided to “borrow” one of the kids that Batman had lying around. The Joker molded Robin into “Joker Jr” and not pleasantly. He tortured the kid (and shows Batman a video) and now know who’s under the cowl. Barbara goes after Harley, who falls several stories, though they never found the body. Bruce goes after the Joker. The Joker gets a lucky cut on Bruce and holds Batman up for Robin to kill. Robin ends up shooting the Joker amidst laughing, then crying. Barbara tells Terry they buried the Joker and Tim was able to put the events behind him after extensive therapy, but Bruce forbade him from ever donning the Robin costume again. Tim eventually left as well.
Terry decides to pay Tim a visit while in the Bat suit. Tim is adamant that he knows nothing about the Joker’s reappearance and he as much as anyone wishes the clown gone. Besides, he was so sick of the crime-fighting that he never wanted to see his suit again. Terry goes searching for other clues, Barbara sitting in the chair in the cave this time. She does suggest that Terry look up Nightwing for more stories if he wants. Batman checks on a disgruntled Wayne Enterprises employee, thinking he’s behind it, but finds the Jokerz gang there, ready to waste him. Yes, the employee had been in on the one attack, but the man behind the scenes decided to tie up loose ends, sending a laser weapon after the man and Batman. Batman saves him, but is more than happy to turn him over to the commissioner.
Bruce is up and around a bit more now and apologizes to Terry; he never wanted the young man to go against the Joker. Terry notes that he is a completely different Batman, he never was a Robin. And it’s then that they notice the only costume the Joker completely shredded was Tim Drake’s old costume. And Terry puts together the parts he knows the Jokerz have stolen and they align with Tim’s expertise. Bruce tells him to suit up, and take Ace with him. The Joker is not pleased that Terry has figured it out shoots down the Batmobile.
Between Ace and Terry, they take out the Jokerz gang. Terry finds Tim face down, but then the man starts acting funny and feels unwell. Soon his body transforms and Tim Drake is not just in league with the Joker, he is the Joker. Or rather, as the Joker explains, the old Joker implanted young Tim with a chip coded with the Joker’s genetics. Tim doesn’t realize he is the Joker. His first order of business is to threaten to either go after Dana, Mary and Matt, or Bruce. Ace attacks and the fight begins. The Joker knows all of the tricks from Bruce’s peek and Terry is out of his league. Bruce suggests that Terry tries to drown out and power through the Joker’s talking. Terry has a different idea. He likes to talk too. He mocks the Joker; it was sad that he fixated on Batman in the past; the man wouldn’t know a joke if it bit him in the cape. Oh, and Terry fights dirty. Proof the Joker doesn’t know him. Terry laughs, the Joker is pathetic. “Not funny,” the Joker growls. “I thought you wanted to make Batman laugh!” Terry calls down from the rafters. “You’re not Batman!” The Joker gets a good hit and Terry’s on the ground, the Joker trying to choke him. Terry picked up a joy buzzer and burns out the chip on Tim’s neck with it. Terry manages to get himself, Tim, and Ace out of the hideout before the laser (that has been running through Gotham) hits.
Terry visits Tim in the hospital alongside Barbara. Tim thanks him and compliments that “Bruce couldn’t have chosen anyone better to put on the mask.” Bruce actually shows up to visit Tim. Before Terry leaves, Bruce corrects his earlier statement; “it’s not Batman who make you worthwhile, it’s the other way round.” (On a funny note, Dee Dee, the twin girls from the Jokerz gang, have their bail paid by their grandmother, Nana Harley [Quinn]). At the end, Terry stands over Gotham, in the suit, ready for work. He slips on the mask and swoops into action.
As already stated, Terry McGinnis as Batman makes a few more appearances in the DC Animated Universe. He shows up in an episode of Static Shock, where a young Static time-travels to the future, meeting old Bruce Wayne and the new Batman (and having to help break his future-self free from the Kobra gang). He also appears as part of the two-part episode Once and Future Thing in Justice League Unlimited. In the first half, Batman (Bruce Wayne), the Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman chase a thief named Chronos to the past, specifically, the Wild West. They then end up following him to the future in the second half and there meet the older Static, Warhawk (who happens to be the Green Lantern’s son), and younger Batman. Also featured are the new Jokerz gang that were introduced in Return of the Joker…with some upgrades. The heroes manage to escape, after taking a beating and Batman leads them to the new Justice League headquarters, the old Hamilton Hill High School. The Watchtower had been attacked and most of the members killed. Old Bruce enters at that moment to keep everyone from dwelling on the bad; they’ve got a mission to attend to. Bruce faces his younger counterpart and comments “surprised to see me?” “A little,” original Batman remarks, though he’s more surprised to see he lived that long. Terry quips “Batman, Bruce Wayne, Bruce Wayne, Batman…or, have you met?” They deliver “not now!” at the same time, so he gripes “what did they use to call it, stereo?”
The main issue is that the time line is becoming polluted, as original Batman notes, and Bruce responds that history is becoming fluid. This needs to be stopped. Batman writes a program to put an end to Chronos’s time travel belt; now they just have to find him. Terry tries to warn Batman he doesn’t know the new town. “Are criminals superstitious and cowardly [and we laugh because of the musical!]?” “Yup,” Bruce responds. They catch one of the gang and original Batman’s method of interrogation is to hang him over a building and tell him to talk before his arm gets tired. Bruce hauls the criminal away and growls he can’t believe he was ever that green…his cane is a bit menacing in his hand, but he succeeds. They can get to Chronos through his wife.
There is a final showdown between the League and the Jokerz while time itself unravels. Dee Dee pins Terry and electrocutes him. We hear his cries of pain, then Bruce at the school shouts “Terry!” Then silence. But Green Lantern and Batman follow Chronos who wants to see the beginning of time and put a stop to the madness. They end up back at the Watchtower from when everything started; the only ones to remember the events (and putting everything back in order).
Justice League Unlimited also brought us Epilogue. We’re even farther in the future; Terry has bulked up and sneaks into Amanda Waller’s residence for some answers. Apparently, Bruce needed a new kidney and Terry was found to be a perfect match. The odds of that are suspicious, so he does a DNA test and discovers his DNA matches that of Bruce, not Warren McGinnis. There is a scene where Terry confronts Bruce about it and also where he breaks things off with Dana, but these turn out to be just a dream. Terry is mad at Bruce, thinking he meddled, but Amanda admits it was her doing; Project Batman Beyond. She used project Cadmus (which, the Joker used on young Tim Drake in the flashback of Return of the Joker; Terry admits it was as low blow when he accused Bruce of it) and Batman’s DNA from crime scenes; then she overwrote Warren McGinnis’s reproductive DNA to that of Bruce and so when he and Mary had a son, Terry, he was in fact, Bruce’s son. (This was a way to explain how both Matt and Terry have dark hair while their parents have ginger hair; Warren and Mary were selected since they had similar psychological profiles to Bruce’s parents.) Amanda originally had planned that Warren and Mary would be killed while Terry was a child to mimic the tragedy Bruce underwent to become Batman, but the assassin backed out, arguing it was not what Batman would want. So life continued unassuming until Paxton Powers had Warren McGinnis murdered and Terry met Bruce as a sixteen-year-old. She urges Terry not to make the same mistakes as Bruce and points out that he is Bruce’s son, not his clone. He doesn’t have quite the brilliant mind that Bruce does, but his heart is just as big, if not bigger.
The episode ends up Terry contemplating an engagement ring for Dana, then helping Bruce out with his meds and vowing to continue to be Batman. Bruce urges the younger man to eat something before attending to League duties. Terry quips he’s stubborn, like his old man.
First, my thoughts on Return of the Joker; I think it’s a great continuation of the Batman Beyond story and a reasonable way to bring back Batman’s greatest enemy. Because who would have ever expected that the Joker was hiding in Robin? And the showdown between Terry as Batman and the Joker is great. Terry is a different Batman and he doesn’t have a history with the Joker. I wouldn’t say he’s not emotionally involved in the fight, because this man did harm his mentor (I’m sure running down to find Bruce gave Terry flashbacks to finding his father). Terry also shows that he’s not a brash teenager any longer; when Bruce doesn’t want to talk about something, he does back off, same with Barbara. But he is correct that he deserves answers. Also, Bruce doesn’t waste time telling Terry off for suspecting Tim; Bruce trusts Terry’s skills. And he tries to help during the showdown with the Joker, giving Terry advice. And I think it’s a bit sweet that Barbara fills in for Bruce after the Joker’s laughing gas attack.
And the irony of Mark Hamill aka Luke Skywalker voicing the Joker will never not be funny (and it will always be funnier that he voiced Fire Lord Ozai in Avatar: The Last Airbender)
As for the Justice League episodes; Epilogue at least gives us a proper ending to the series (as does Return of the Joker; Unmasked was pathetic and lame). And I agree that it gives us a reasonable explanation to the family non-resemblance Terry has with his parents. On the one hand, it’s sweet that Bruce has a biological son, though in the lore, he adopted Tim Drake (apparently Dick Grayson was a ward, which had some standing; I reiterate, Batman lore is not my strong suit, I just like this show). Terry will continue his legacy not just as Batman, but potentially as a Wayne (he’d have to find some way to explain that to the public pending circumstances). And as Amanda points out, Terry is Bruce’s son, not a clone. He is not Bruce Wayne, he’s still just Terry. His decisions were his own. On the other hand, there is a more compelling story of Terry being Batman with no blood connection to Bruce. I’m glad the episode ended well nevertheless.
As for Once and Future Thing, Terry is hilarious at times. I’m a bit sad to realize he was essentially killed at one point, though relieved that it was erased. It’s a satisfactory story, though I mainly watch it for the “Batman meet Bruce Wayne” bit.
This was one series I explored fanfiction early on. I have several recommendations that I repeatedly re-read:
Katfairy has “Beyond Knightfall” where Terry lands is a spot of trouble and his friends have to help him out (though I wish it would be completed), and “Divine Secrets of the YoYo Sisterhood.” It has a good mix of drama and humor.
“Virus” by ChampagneWishes could be another episode in the show.
Bumpkin has some good little scenes in “Welcome to My World,” “An ‘Inside Peek’ into Mary’s Mind,” and “Nelson’s Wake Up Call.”
Tomy’s “Reparation” is excellent and “Reclamation” is good as well.
Jadeling has a whole series of stories, most especially “Lover, Friends, and Family.”
And if you want a hilarious crossover joke, try “Ron Beyond” by speedster.
Next Time: Batman Forever and Batman and Robin with Chris O’Donnell.