Monday, August 26, 2013

Recap/Review: Batman TBATB, "Inside the Outsiders!"

I’ve been feeling a bit bad about having to cancel last week’s Ranting and Rambling due to a number of factors, so I’ve decided to make it up to all of you! Now, I’ve made it no secret that I’ve been feeling a bit, shall we say, irked with Beware the Batman’s lollygagging up to this point in terms of turning Bruce’s bodyguard Tatsu Yamashiro into Katana after the promos, Wikipedia, interviews, and have all stated that she’s “Katana, Swordsmistress and Owner of the Soultaker Sword.”

So I’m going to take a look at a Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode featuring Katana, and we’ll see if her origin story’s handled in a less annoying way here. (Spoiler Alert! It is.)
And so, let’s take a look at Batman:TBATB, Season 1, Episode 24, "Inside the Outsiders!"

Not to be confused with "Outside the Insiders," where Batman stays away from Agoraphobic people.
The episode’s teaser is… not that great. In fact, it’s so one-note that I’m just going to gloss over it. Batman and Green Arrow are in Catwoman’s deathtrap about to be mauled and eaten by jungle cats. Batman starts flirting with her, and she reciprocates. Eventually, Batman works free, and he and Green Arrow take out all of her henchmen and arrest her. She escapes, and Batman tells Green Arrow that they won’t need to work hard to track her down as the camera pans down to show her phone number in his hand.

Look at him; Green Arrow's not a fan of this teaser, either.
The teaser has a couple of cute moments, but the whole "Dating Catwoman" dynamic has been done to death in every adaptation from Bruce Timm to Christopher Nolan and quite frankly… I’m a Julie Newmar guy all the way.

Still, I’m pretty sure that this was the first appearance of Catwoman on the show, if I’m not mistaken, so they had to establish the dynamic between the two before they could give us episodes like "The Knights of Tomorrow!", or "The Mask of Matches Malone!"

After the opening credits and title card, we open in medias res, as they say, with Batman running down a corridor with the Laughing/Crying theatre masks on the wall, with some of them shooting at him.  Expertly dodging all the danger, Batman arrives at a control center where Psycho-Pirate sits in the middle of the room hooked up to machinery. Katana, Metamorpho, and Black Lightning are all in tubes with monitors above their heads showing them all in agony.

Told you.
Let’s pause the episode here as I explain some important details.

First of all, the Psycho-Pirate (voiced by Armin Shimmerman, the guy who played Quark on Deep Space 9, one of the few “likeable” Ferengi) is a bad guy. (Big shock, right?) He apparently kidnapped the three heroes.

Second of all, Metamorpho, Katana, and Black Lightning are known as the Outsiders. They first appeared in the sixth episode of the series where they were an anarchic gang of angry teenagers, but Batman and Wildcat showed them the error of their ways. They’re heroes now.

Thirdly, here's some summaries of the Outsiders, mainly because they differ from depictions in other media (including Beware the Batman).

Metamorpho: Happy-go-lucky; loves to eat; deformed shapeshifter
Katana: Wields the Soultaker Sword; unlike her Beware the Batman counterpart, she rarely speaks
Black Lightning: Controls electricity; angry

Got all that? Okay, let’s continue.

Psycho-Pirate greets Batman, who tells him that he suspected Psycho-Pirate was behind the disappearance of the Outsiders. Psycho-Pirate insists that he’s just giving the team a nice nap, and that it’s not his fault that their nightmares taste so good. He also manages to say that in the creepiest manner inhumanly possible. Batman calls Psycho-Pirate a “psychic vampire who feeds on the emotions of others.” It’s not a very good insult, just an apt description of what he is. It’s like watching a rat wreck your basement and then calling it.... a dirty rat.

Anyway, Batman runs over to the tubes, but Psycho-Pirate explains that if he pulls them out while the machinery is turned on, their brains will fry and that if he’s pulled out, no one wakes up. The only way out of this is for Batman to plug himself into the machine and rescue the teens from their own nightmares, and he does so.

After hooking himself in, Batman finds himself in what appears to be a Japanese dojo. Behind him, and old man sits on a rock and a little girl is bowing to him and crying and apologizing for accidentally revealing the location of “the sword” to “Takeo.” The old man hushes her and tells her to hide; he will deal with Takeo himself. She does indeed hide, and an orange samurai (presumably Takeo) appears and demands the Katana from the old man (whom he calls “Takahiro”). The young girl starts to freak out in her hiding spot that Master Takahiro will be killed, and it’s her fault for saying something that she shouldn’t have.

Batman walks up behind her and tells her that it’s only a dream and that Psycho-Pirate is manipulating her. She insists that it’s all real, though, as Takahiro and Takeo face off. Takahiro tells Takeo that only a warrior of pure mind and gentle heart can wield it. Takeo decides to attack him then and there, and Takahiro’s young apprentice can only watch from the shadows as her master is killed due to her own mistake.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Stationary Old Guy
Batman takes her and tells her that all of this is just a memory that she’s being forced to relive. She says she knows that it’s just a dream, but that won’t stop her from getting revenge. She breaks away from Batman and runs over to the sword as Batman yells after her. Takeo tries to take the sword in vain, before being kicked in the face by Katana, who grabs the sword.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Psycho-Pirate feeds off of her growing anger as she dream-fights Takeo with the blade. Takeo taunts her ever-open mouth right before she knocks him on his rear. Takeo eggs her on to kill him, but Batman stops her, saying that it’s not Takahiro’s way. She swordfights Batman instead, before Takeo gets up and continues to taunt her.

"Takahiro never told you about your father."
She attacks him again, and Batman stops her from killing him again and refuting Takeo’s comments about Katana’s silence. He tells her that Takahiro sacrificed himself for her so that she could reach her full potential. And with that, Katana remembers the most important lesson: self-control.

She sticks the blade into the ground, and the surroundings disappear, apart from Takeo. Takeo remarks on the tastiness of Katana’s dreams, and turns into the Psycho-Pirate before disappearing. Batman realizes that Psycho-Pirate’s feeding off of anger specifically, and he and Katana turn to face the oncoming storm of Black Lightning’s nightmares.

In Black Lightning’s dreams, they appear in a city. Batman remarks that, with Black Lightning’s anger, he must be reliving some strong personal tragedies. In the comics, Jefferson Pierce, aka Black Lightning, is a complex character with a tragic, compelling backstory. Instead of using that, the showrunners have elected to make Black Lightning a screaming crazy man. Why, here’s a couple of the reasons he’s flinging lightning at random people in his dream!

“Sprinkles? On coffee?! What are you, a six-year-old!?” 
“No white after Labor Day!!”
Hugs do not solve everybody’s problems!!!”


Batman: “Not exactly the deep core of emotional trauma I expected.”

Black Lightning lashes out at everybody for a bit, and Batman eventually gets through to him, despite Psycho-Pirate continually providing annoyances for him. Yeah, I’m glossing over this part because the joke (Black Lightning hates everything) gets kind of stale, and the joke kind of repeats itself. Black Lightning forces himself to be tolerant, and Psycho-Pirate congratulates him on freeing another Outsider.

Black Lightning says that as soon as they spring “happy-go-lucky” Metamorpho, they can leave. Suddenly, a Godzilla-size Metamorpho appears out of the sky, transforming into water and destroying the city, before reforming and screaming in agony.

Black Lightning: “This cannot be the same Metamorpho who sleeps with a fuzzy furry doll!”

Turns out that, being a horrible, inhuman freak of nature, Metamorpho has the deepest pain of all. Better call Spock’s half-brother, then, he can take care of that instantly. Unfortunately, with no Vulcans present, Metamorpho takes out his rage on the city as Psycho-Pirate eggs him on by whispering in his ear that his friends hate him and make fun of him, so he runs over and tries to crush them.

As the heroes are unable to subdue him without killing him in Psycho-Pirate’s world, they resort to talking him down. Black Lightning tells Metamorpho that he has the coolest powers in the world, and calls Katana a “glorified paring-knife.” It works momentarily, before Psycho-Pirate Wormtongue’s into Metamorpho’s ear that they’re all lying to him and they’re all jealous. In response, Metamorpho tries to drown them all. After they jetpack away, Batman splits up the team. Katana and Black Lightning are tasked with talking down Metamorpho while Batman attacks Psycho-Pirate, getting angrier and angrier, feeding Psycho-Pirate.

Meanwhile, BL and Katana get cornered by Metamorpho, and finally get through to him as Batman punches Psycho-Pirate repeatedly. Metamorpho finally comes to his senses and shrinks back down to normal height, and hugs them both. The dream world disappears, and Batman exits his tube, only to find the Psycho-Pirate electrocuting the Outsiders, killing them. Batman begins to lose his temper as Psycho-Pirate begins mocking Batman for their deaths. Batman loses control and begins to assault Psycho-Pirate, but stops when he realizes that now they’re all in Batman’s nightmare…. With no escape, according to Psycho-Pirate.

Hey, Psycho-Pirate. Olidammara called, he wants his holy symbol back. ...Wow, that was a nerdy reference even for me.
So Batman closes his eyes, and starts beating up Psycho-Pirate while choking his mind with happy thoughts until the machine in the real world overloads. And with that, Batman leaves the Outsiders to look after Psycho-Pirate while he calls the authorities. Metamorpho remarks that those must’ve been some really happy thoughts to defeat the Psycho-Pirate like that. As the episode ends, Black Lightning asks the big question: “What are Batman’s happiest thoughts?” My guess? Probably has to do with what he did after getting Catwoman’s phone number.

There are some things man was simply not meant to know.
This episode was okay. It wasn’t actively bad by any means, but nothing really stands out as exceptional. The problem is that Batman: TBATB is filled with amazing episodes, so this “okay” one ranks near the bottom of the list alongside "Darkseid Descending!", "Night of the Huntress!", and "Return of the Fearsome Fangs!" (Note: those are just MY OPINIONS; if you like any of them, that’s fine.) The whole episode's just one big "meh," for me.  I can't even really snark at it very well, it's just varying shades of "It's fine, but not great."

You may note that the origin of Katana was done using less than a third of the episode, and it managed to be more compelling than what we got in six episodes of Beware the Batman. It also showed how awesome Katana can be when she actually does things. I hope we reach that point in Beware the Batman as soon as it comes back. But probably not.
Oh, well. See you next time!

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