DCAU #376: Out of the Past

IN THIS ONE... A still-young Talia approaches Bruce Wayne about giving him his youth back.

CREDITS: Written by Paul Dini; directed by James Tucker.

REVIEW: There's a lot going on in this one, maybe too much, but the opener makes me wish the makers had had the balls to do a whole Batman musical. What we see of it is a lot of fun, which is why I've chosen to use it for the featured image even though the episode is really about the al Ghul family. Not to say the musical doesn't have ANYTHING to do with the story, since it's one of several elements that makes Bruce Wayne feel like an old has-been, his legend co-opted for musical theater - and maybe going to the theater is part of an old trauma he hasn't yet licked. He certainly doesn't get the joke.

Then he's in the Batcave looking at pictures of old girlfriends, including Zatanna, Selina and Lois (remember that affair?), as well as a somewhat mysterious redhead, confirmed to be Barbara - first brick in the wall, animated Killing Joke haters! - but no Talia. Funny she should sidle up at that exact moment, still young thanks to the Lazarus Pit. And she's come with an offer. Bruce could regain his youth too. Though he finds it unnatural, circumstances keep reminding him that he's aged, that he isn't in his prime, that he isn't as relevant as he once was. And Talia is the love he could still have. And they do de-age him (to his 50s, I would say) and for a minute there, you think it might be a permanent change, that he just wouldn't take Terry's place. But apparently, it takes a number of dips in the Pit to make it "stick", so you know it's going to be undone by the end. Still, it's fun to have the two Batmen fighting side by side for half an episode.

And fight they must because that's not Talia, that's Ra's in Talia's body, a grotesque turn of events I don't especially agree with, but that nevertheless makes a good third act shocker. It's just hard to believe the man who wanted to marry his daughter to Batman so she could run his empire within the bounds of tradition would sacrifice her to keep on living instead. I know he can afford to play a long game, but turning his organization to philanthropy until Bruce is old enough to be lure to the Pit where HIS body might be stolen... why don't you just steal one of your cronies' bodies, Ra's? Like that hulking Cockney guy, for example? Never mind the male voice coming out of Talia, or the fact Ra's was smooching Bruce earlier as part of his scheme. It strains credulity.

IN THE COMICS: The musical has a number called "Superstitious Cowardly Lot", a phrase associated with Batman since way back in Detective Comics #33. Terry pronounces Ra's al Ghul "Raz" like many comics fans (and say, Batman Begins) does, but gets corrected. It's "Raysh" according to his creator Denny O'Neil.

SOUNDS LIKE: Carter, the big frou-frou Cockney goon is played by Mark "The Joker" Hammil, but he didn't sing the Joker's part in the Batman musical. Only Adrienne Barbeau reprises her contemporary-era role in that, as Catwoman. B.J. Ward (Wonder Twin Jayna) sings one of the parts though. That's Michael Rosenbaum (Justice League's Flash and Smallville's Lex Luthor) as the ruthless bespectacled gator guy Carl.

- Worth it for the musical, the themes and Bruce thinking about lost loves. Not sure about Talia's ultimate fate.


Gene Hendricks said...

I could have sworn that R'as states in the episode that the mind transfer, at the time, need to be into someone he was related to. It was only in the years since that he's improved it to work on anyone. That's why it had to be Talia.

Siskoid said...

I don't agree that he would put Talia on the block at all!

But even if that ship has sailed, the transfer I question isn't Ra's to Talia, but Talia-Ra's to Bruce Wayne. At THIS point, genetics don't matter, so why the crazy scheme to get an over the hill Bruce Wayne etc. when any old - and willing - cultist will do.

Anonymous said...

Being Bruce Wayne's "son" (as a simple DNA test can confirm) means he inherits the Wayne fortune.

Also, it's revenge on that most hated detective.

Also, nobody's ever demonstrated greater physical prowess to Ra's than Bruce did. Why not trade up for the best?

I don't have a problem with Ra's killing his daughter; the point is that he fears death so much, he'll kill the only thing he loves if it means pushing death away another day.

LiamKav said...

Just watched this and have some thoughts.

First, I agree with Anon. I think Ra's absolutely would use his daughter like this. He'd talk about it being the ultimate sacrifice and the most painful thing he's ever had to do. He's probably even cry about it. But he'd still do it because at the end of the day, nothing is more important to Ra's than Ra's. His sacrifice of his daughter would, to him, be far more painful that the sacrifice Talia herself was making. (And I also don't believe that she did it willingly. I can see him saying that the plan would extend his life without him mentioning what it would do to hers.)

As to why he didn't just stay in Talia's body, or jump in to anyone else once he'd perfected the transfer device, I can see two reasons.

1. His ultimate plan is to get Bruce's body. The original Batman was the only person who beat him time and time again. His respect/hatred of that, combined with the vast wealth of Wayne Enterprises would make it the ultimate act of revenge. Accomplishing that task would be much easier if he was in Talia's body, as he could emotionally manipulate Bruce in a way that a stranger couldn't.

2. After he gets slapped by Ra's, Bruce retorts "you hit like a girl". This could be read as Bruce making a (slightly beneath him) sexist dig, but that's not the point. Bruce isn't sexist, but Ra's 100% is. Morrison touched on that in Batman, Inc. Ra's spends all him time trying to recuit Bruce as an heir, while ignoring the one he already has simply because of her gender. By saying "you hit like a girl", Bruce is needling the sexist nature of Ra's, trying to get him to make a mistake. And that nature also highlights why Ra's could never stay in Talia's body.

In other thoughts, I've jumped from season one to season three so it's really noticeable that Terry now does a "Batman voice" when in the costume, something he really didn't do at first. It's a nice way of showing how much he's grown. Likewise the way he effortlessly takes down the two goons without the suit. I love bits like that.

Also, that double roundhouse kick by the two Batmen was awesome. As was the original Batman theme being played by the Batman Beyond instruments.

LiamKav said...

Oh, and while it does make for a nice visual circle (the last outfit we see Talia in is also the first outfit we saw her in), it's still weird that with the charade dropped, Ra's chooses to put on a skin tight cat suit. With heals. Of course, this was a man who went shirtless whenever possible, so maybe he just enjoys showing off his body, whatever form it's in.


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