DCAU #276: The Winning Edge

IN THIS ONE... Athletes are using Venom as steroids.

CREDITS: Written by Rich Fogel; directed by Yukio Suzuki (had previously worked as animation director on several BTAS episodes and films).

REVIEW: Performance and the desire to win at all costs is at the heart of this story. For high school jock Mason Forrest, his buddies and possibly his tough coach, it means using Venom "slappers", drug patches that give them super-strength and 'roid rage. Good for winning anti-grave lacrosse matches, but extremely addictive. Mason is strung out through most of the story and is given to committing crimes to pay for his drug habit.

On the side of the angels, Terry is also being pushed to his limits by being Batman all night, then having to go to school during the day. He's been sleeping in class and on dates with Dana (are they still dates? or are these guys just friends now?), been earning demerits, and he even gets sloppy on the job. How else to explain his getting caught by his mom with slappers in his school bag? It'll all be cleared up in the end with a drug test, but his behavior isn't so far off Mason's that his mother's conclusion isn't perfectly reasonable. It's subtle, but Bruce does get the message. Winning at any cost may not be worth it if that cost is Terry's health (physical or mental). Batman Beyond has been as much about Terry finding his way in the Batman role as it has been about Bruce mellowing and letting him do so on his own terms.

A link-back to the contemporary continuity, the resurgence of Bane's Venom as an illegal drug sold to teens is as good an idea as any in the well-worn-but-necessary-for-children's-television "anti-drug PSA" subgenre, and certainly works within Beyond's approach to crime, which is more corporate and classist than the previous shows were. Bane's final fate is ghastly, but unsurprising, while the real villain is, well, just about the only suspect if you were indeed looking for one. (Hey, could have been Powers, though I doubt he'd be getting his hands dirty so directly.) The fight between nuBane and Batman is okay without being stellar though, the old Gotham Herald printing press only almost used to good effect (no one reads newspapers in the future, they guessed right) and the Venom patch overdose solution pretty much what happened in the DCAU Bane's first appearance. Truth be told, the fight between Batman and Mason's crew where he's on all channels at once was visually more interesting. No question who this episode is really about, and it's not nuBane.

IN THE COMICS: The Legends of the Dark Knight story arc called "Venom", running from LotDK #16 to #20, introduced that compound as a potential street drug/performance enhancer. Bane did not premiere until two years later (our time), as a byproduct of that story.

SOUNDS LIKE: Jackson Chappell, arguably the "new Bane", is played by Larry Drake (Darkman, L.A. Law). Ian Ziering, 90201's Steve Sanders, is Mason. And Peter Jason (Mike Hammer P.I., Deadwood) is Coach Creagar.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - At some point in a television viewer's life, anti-drug stories become redundant, but tying the message to the way Bruce drives Terry to extremes saves the episode.


Green Luthor said...

Terry and Dana are dating again. Their reconciliation wasn't shown, but they kinda lampshaded it in the previous episode when Bruce makes a comment to the effect of "you're in high school; you'll be back together like nothing happened before you know it" or something like that.


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