CREDITS: Written by Robert Goodman; directed by Kyung-Won Lim.
REVIEW: Plots where the hero (and audience) must divine the identity of the villain are difficult to pull off in a 20-minute cartoon; you just can't easily introduce or develop enough suspects to make it work. They certainly try hard in this one, giving the vigilante Payback the same voice actor as one of the (wrong) suspects. But Bruce Wayne doth protest too much, methinks. The very fact that Bruce is hard on Terry for jumping to that conclusion (and then another) should alert the viewer that something's up. So alerted, the solution becomes easy - at least *I* guessed it - and would have provided more surprises if it HADN'T called attention to the need to solve the mystery.
Payback's real identity makes it improbably he can show up again, which is too bad because he's got a nice look and a slightly askew motivation, the video whip is a cool effect, and best of all, they respect the physics he brings to bear. When your weapon cuts things monofilament-style, that has consequences, and the episode's animators seem to have calculated just what would happen in each of the action sequences. It's a thing of beauty! The highway chase, the attack on the elevator, even Payback's eventual defeat, all very well done.
Thematically, it's the story of two father figures who don't realize what consequences their rearing style has on their kids. Though Terry is theoretically undercover in those group therapy sessions, he lets fly on the difficulties he's experiencing with his "employer", which has the dual purpose of yes, luring Payback to Bruce Wayne, but also allows Terry to vent his frustrations in a very real way. Payback is ALSO the result of a fatherly misstep, this one too easy on his son to the point of neglect. Left to his own devices, the kid becomes a danger to others and himself, and acts out fantasies that represent the type of affirmative action his father never seems to undertake on his behalf. Two fathers, two ends of the spectrum, neither very good. Perhaps because the writer gave some thought to the characters, "Payback" also has some of the best lines on the show to date.
IN THE COMICS: None of the characters called Payback in the DC Universe (a Milestone hero and a Darkstars villain) are connected to the DCAU Payback.
SOUNDS LIKE: Dr. Stanton is played by Mitch Pileggi, Walter Skinner on The X-Files, while his son Kenny is Adam Wylie, who would go on to voice Brainiac 5 on the Legion of Super-Heroes animated series. As for the voice of both Howard Lewis and Payback, it's provided by Bill Fagerbakke who some will remember as Dauber on Coach.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Great action and legit themes/character moments; too bad about the way the mystery is handled.