DCAU #316: Rats

IN THIS ONE... A rat boy falls in love with Dana.

CREDITS: Written by Rich Fogel; directed by Curt Geda.

REVIEW: The focus is on Terry's failing relationship with Dana, and she's put in danger so he can at least spend some quality time with her as Batman. Obviously, that's the issue. Being a superhero is causing him to neglect his girlfriend and stand up her. The other girls in the gang delightfully get ringside seats to their fights, and when Terry tries to make an effort, he loses control of his schedule again and the cycle starts all over again. So one wonders if the ending, where she's just so happy to be safe and alive, she forgives and hugs Terry, is really a reset button or a more of a delay until the inevitable happens.

We're introduced to two villains in this episode. The first is the recurring threat of Mad Stan, a crazy activist whose anarchic pathology is to believe in some conspiracy theory and protest the hell out of it, but his only idea is to blow stuff up. His "power" is an unstoppable rant. That's amusing enough that I'd have liked to see a proper episode centered on him. Here, he's used the way perceived morts show up at the beginning of Brave and the Bold episodes. The actual villain of the week is Patrick, a mutant born with rat-like features (odd in and of itself, especially in a universe where splicing exists and could have been a better justification) who hides in the sewers and commands an army of rats, both regular-sized and giant. As underground stalkers go, he appears to be fairly sweet, until it's revealed he's possibly killed other girls who refused to love him. Yeech. His death in a blazing fireball adds another menace to Batman Beyond's cemetery; I'm wondering if a scorched earth policy is really the best strategy for building a world.

I'm ambivalent when it comes to Dana. This was her chance to shine as a self-possessed female character, but she's not always able to throw off the shackles of her role as romantic interest. At her best, she manipulates Patrick to get some time alone in his lair, escapes through a river of piss, and makes a torch to wave away the rats. But there are other moments where she's very passive and unexpressive, and does wind up in Terry's arms as if he hadn't let her down. She's resourceful, but also a damsel in distress, so it's a back and forth. In the end, her principal show of chutzpah is to defy her father who doesn't like Terry. Not quite a feminist icon.

In the late 80s, Batman had a villain called Ratcatcher who controlled rats much like Patrick does. No other similarities between the characters exist. Mad Stan, who will appear again, is original to this series.

SOUNDS LIKE: Taran Noah Smith plays ratboy Patrick; he was the youngest son (Mark) on Home Improvement. As Mad Stan, we get Henry Rollins, formerly of the punk band Black Flag; he played a similar role in Johnny Mnemonic (on which Mad Stan is apparently based).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Two good villains, but the spotlight on Dana doesn't really make her character shine.


Invid said...

Pretty sure the writers liked Mad Stan a fair bit too-he makes at least one more Batman Beyond appearance and also showed up in a different show.


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