The 12 Best Batman Beyond Episodes, Ranked

"Batman: The Animated Series" is, for many fans, the definitive version of the Dark Knight, as it perfectly captured the essence of what made the character and his world in the comics work so well, while also adding fresh new elements to Batman's mythology. It was followed by "The New Batman Adventures" which, while not quite as strong as its predecessor, did a terrific job of expanding the Batman animated universe. Of course, when that series ended, fans were left wondering if the next iteration of the series would be able to live up to the high standards set by its forerunners. Luckily, the subsequent series was a worthwhile follow-up to the two previous "Batman" animated shows.

That show was "Batman Beyond." The premise, on its surface, is quite a departure from its comic book source material. While taking place in the same continuity as "Batman: The Animated Series" and "The New Batman Adventures," its key differentiator is that it's set in a high-tech future when Bruce Wayne is much older and has largely lost his edge, prompting him to give up the mantle of Batman. However, after a night of taking down some criminals with teenager Terry McGinnis, he decides to train the young man to continue his battle against crime. This series took the concept of Batman in a bold direction while retaining the elements that have made the character so beloved by so many fans for so many years. Here are its 12 best episodes:

12. Unmasked (Season 3, Episode 13)

Terry shows up to a school function late and upsets his girlfriend Dana again, who's getting tired of constantly waiting for him. Max, Terry's friend, tells him that he should just reveal his true identity to Dana to salvage their relationship, as this might encourage her to be more understanding of his constant disappearances. However, Terry refuses to do this, and relates to her a story from his early days as Batman: While taking down a criminal gang, Batman tries to rescue a small boy named Miguel, but frightens him with his costume. To ease Miguel's fears, Batman takes off his mask to reveal that he's just a normal guy. However, this turns Miguel into a target for Batman's enemies.

"Unmasked" is frustrating: On one hand, it's a terrific "Batman Beyond" episode, but on the other hand is an unsatisfying conclusion to a great series. The story that Terry relates to Max perfectly encapsulates the difficulties of having a dual life as both a superhero and a teenager who, like all teenagers, has to deal with the usual aspects of teenage life like dating and making the grade. In many ways, this episode is the perfect encapsulation of what makes "Batman Beyond" such a great successor to the adventures of Bruce Wayne's tenure as Batman while also demonstrating what makes it work so well on its own. It's just that the series needed a better conclusion, is all.

11. Dead Man's Hand (Season 1, Episode 8)

Batman takes on the Royal Flush Gang — a crew of playing card-themed villains — and, while he's able to break up their robbery, is forced to let them go to save the lives of their hostages. Bruce Wayne orders Terry to return to the Batcave to bone up on his new nemeses, but Terry ignores Bruce's instructions so he can catch a date with Dana. However, Terry's tardiness is the final straw for Dana, and she breaks up with him. Luckily for Terry, he soon meets another girl, Melanie Walker, and the two instantly strike up a relationship. As usual, Terry can't seem to get a break in life: Melanie is a member of the Royal Flush Gang.

"Batman Beyond" is at its best when it marries teen problems with superhero problems. This episode gives us both in spades (no pun intended) as Terry's personal life is given plenty of attention in his romantic problems as well as his testy relationship with the older Bruce Wayne, while also giving us some spectacular chase scenes and no shortage of action. It's a wonderful character exploration, as Terry is forced to mature and learn how to make the best of the hand he's been dealt (pun totally intended). The unique friendship between Bruce and Terry is fleshed out nicely here; it's not like Bruce was ever attracted to any cat burglars or anything.

10. Eyewitness (Season 2, Episode 14)

Batman is on his usual nightly patrol of Gotham City when he stumbles upon some suspicious characters exchanging money in what he thinks is a crime. Bruce, surveilling Terry's actions, tells him to gather more information before pouncing, but Terry ignores him and attacks, only to ruin a sting operation that Gotham police have been carrying out for a year. Commissioner Barbara Gordon warns Bruce that she'll arrest Terry if the younger Batman screws up again. The opportunity to do that arrives sooner than later as Batman becomes a fugitive when Gordon sees him killing a criminal after disarming him. Bruce warns Gordon about the consequences of exposing Batman's secret identity, but she's undeterred. However, after doing some digging, Bruce determines that Terry may have been framed. But who's responsible?

As great as "Batman Beyond" is as a series, it can sometimes spend a little too much time on Terry's high school drama. "Eyewitness," however, is a brilliant throwback to the more noirish detective aspects of the Batman of yore. Bruce Wayne has experienced his fair share of frame-ups throughout his career as the Caped Crusader, but the situation is exacerbated when it's happening to a teenager. There are twists and turns aplenty here, all of which culminate in a satisfying conclusion as well as a nice development in the relationship between Barbara Gordon, Wayne, and Terry.

9. Ascension (Season 1, Episode 13)

Blight is in the middle of stealing some canisters containing a special kind of polymer from the dockyard, but is interrupted by Batman. Their fight ends in a fire that forces Batman to let Blight go in order to save the lives of the dock workers. However, Batman finds some evidence that links Derek Powers and his corporation to Blight's crime, still not knowing that Derek is Blight. As Derek's illness is getting worse, he calls in his son Paxton to take his spot on the board of directors with the promise of making him more powerful later on. However, Paxton is every bit as ruthless as his father and has his own plans in mind.

The personal stakes are incredibly high in this episode because of Terry's connection to the villains; not only is Terry partially responsible for causing the condition that Derek is stricken with (from a previous confrontation), but Derek is the one who killed Terry's father. This fight proves to be a fascinating learning moment for Terry, as he's torn between acting on his animus towards a criminal and remaining detached enough to abstain from becoming as bad as those he fights. "Ascension" is a surprisingly thoughtful exploration of the thin line between justice and revenge, and how good can easily become corrupted in its pursuit to end evil, making it a cut above most other superhero stories.

8. Disappearing Inque (Season 1, Episode 11)

The shapeshifting Inque has been held in ice at Gotham Cryogenics until she's let loose by a dissatisfied employee in a departing act of revenge against his employer. Terry and Bruce are at the Batcave when they learn that Inque is causing trouble at Gotham Cryogenics, prompting Terry to suit up as Batman and head there with the cold gun that once belonged to Mr. Freeze. Batman manages to free the lab's workers held hostage by Inque, but she gives him the slip, returning to the ex-employee who set her free, Aaron Herbst, for help. Inque proves to be a more formidable foe than Batman realizes, which means that Bruce may have to step in to lend a hand. But at what cost?

"Batman Beyond" arguably exceeded "Batman: The Animated Series" and "The New Batman Adventures" in terms of body horror, pushing the boundaries of a show that's ostensibly intended for younger audiences. Take, for example, "Disappearing Inque," which doesn't shy away from showing human bodies melting and contorting in various unnatural ways. Still, it never gets too gross, and the body horror is partially undercut by the tragedy of the character Aaron Herbst; he's definitely an accomplice to Inque and gets his just desserts at the end, but the episode still manages to evoke some pathos with him, portraying him as someone who's desperate for a friend.

7. Mind Games (Season 2, Episode 13)

During a particularly stormy night in Gotham City, a car containing a family is struck by lightning. Luckily, Batman is on hand and manages to rescue them, only to leave after an ominous exchange with the family's daughter, Tamara. At school the following day, Terry encounters a vision that only he can see of Tamara asking for help. Terry meets with Bruce to figure out this mystery when she suddenly appears to Terry in another vision. After some investigating, Terry and Bruce determine that Tamara is a missing child and track down her real parents, who reveal that they sent their daughter to a school for gifted children. However, it turns out that the school doesn't exist, and that a secretive society, the Brain Trust, has nefarious plans for Tamara.

"Mind Games" is one of the more touching episodes of the series. While the idea of putting a child in danger has the risk of becoming sappy, it's done incredibly well here. Bruce Wayne was orphaned at a young age and Terry's father was murdered — both events that motivated these men into adopting the crime-fighting life to prevent what happened to them from happening to others. Here, Terry develops a deep connection with a telepathic little girl who just wants to be back with her family, reminding us why Batman exists in the first place.

6. Rebirth Parts 1 & 2 (Season 1, Episodes 1 and 2)

This episode opens with Bruce Wayne's final fight as Batman. His decades of crime fighting have taken their toll on his health, and he decides to retire. Years later, we're introduced to the teenage Terry McGinnis, a talented — yet brash — young man who lives a pretty average life. One night, however, Terry gets into a brawl with the Joker-themed gang, the Jokerz, that results in him stumbling upon a reclusive Bruce Wayne, who he learns was the Batman. Terry's life is further upended when he finds out his father was killed by his employer, the ruthless head of Wayne-Powers, Derek Powers. The young man convinces the former Caped Crusader that Batman needs to return, even if it's not Bruce, and so Terry becomes the new Dark Knight.

Batman fans could not have gotten a better introduction to the strange new world of "Batman Beyond" than this. The two-part pilot starts off strong with a powerful prologue revealing what finally prompted Bruce Wayne to finally hang up the cowl; while it's hard to imagine anything bringing Batman down, what we're shown makes complete sense for the character and the world he operates in. Making this episode even better is how it establishes how similar Terry is to Bruce without going down the obvious route of simply giving the latter's backstory to the former.

5. King's Ransom (Season 3, Episode 1)

The Royal Flush Gang blew their most recent job, which entailed stealing a valuable object from a museum for Paxton Powers; because the object in question was damaged, Powers only gives them a small fraction of what he offered them for their services. Desperate, the Royal Flush Gang decides to kidnap Powers himself and hold him for ransom, thinking that they can get Bruce Wayne to give them a massive amount of money because of his connection to Wayne-Powers. Wayne says that he's not in a position to do that, leaving the Royal Flush Gang, again, without a plan. However, Powers hatches a new scheme: If they kill Wayne, he'll be in possession of Wayne's assets, which he'll share with the Gang.

Terry's Batman takes more of a backseat in this episode to make room for the supporting cast to get some attention. The Royal Flush Gang are some of the best recurring villains in the show; they make for powerful antagonists, but their might is wonderfully undercut by their familial bickering. Bruce and Paxton's vicious business relationship is also highlighted here, giving us a deeper look into the corporate side of future Gotham. One of the few downsides of this episode, however, is the relationship between Terry and Melanie, as we're given a bit of a tease about their status, only for it to never really be addressed in future episodes.

4. The Call Parts 1 & 2 (Season 3, Episodes 7 and 8)

Micron of the Justice League is seriously injured when he saves the lives of a group of people trapped in a runaway monorail. While he recovers, Superman meets with Batman about joining the Justice League, much to his excitement. Despite Bruce's reluctance, Batman accepts the offer and arrives at the Watchtower to meet the other members, who are less welcoming of his inclusion on the team. Superman then confides in Batman that he believes the team harbors a traitor and that he wants him to find out who it is. After several accidents, Batman is accused of being the traitor. However, the real traitor ends up being someone much purer of heart, forcing Batman to take a difficult action involving a Kryptonite nail ...

The already-expansive world of "Batman Beyond" gets even bigger in this two-part episode, featuring a futuristic take on the Big Blue Boy Scout and the rest of his Super Friends. Terry getting instantly starstruck when he not only meets Superman but gets invited to join the team is an absolute delight and is a charming reminder that, even though he might be the Dark Knight of Gotham City, he's still a kid who has to study for tomorrow's quiz. On top of all that, the plot of "The Call" is extremely clever, wringing quite a few surprises out of a story that's been done many times before in the comics.

3. Splicers (Season 2, Episode 1)

"Splicing" — undergoing a procedure in which one's DNA is fused with animal DNA, resulting in a new appearance and abilities — has become the trend of the future, which means that all the kids are doing it. Terry, however, is skeptical despite the assurances of Dr. Abel Cuvier, the one who developed the procedure, who claims that it's safe and reversible. Gotham District Attorney Sam Young is also dubious of the fad of splicing and is leading the effort to shut the operation down, believing it to cause aggression in its patients. Terry suits up as Batman to join in the fight against the latest fashion but is severely compromised when he's overpowered by Tigress, who's helping Cuvier, and is injected with a serum containing bat DNA.

"Splicers" is a wonderfully clever take on the fad of teens engaging in body modification and their parents' reactions. However, this being an episode of "Batman Beyond" and taking place in the future, body modification is more extreme in this world than the sort of stuff that parents were up in arms about in the early-2000s, like piercing and tattoos. The episode's writers inject a delightful little Easter egg in the form of Batman's "spliced" state, which sees him turn into this series' take on Man-Bat. As a bonus, rapper and actor Ice-T hams it up as Ramrod, a teenager who's had his DNA spliced with that of a ram.

2. Meltdown (Season 1, Episode 5)

Derek Powers' condition is worsening and his doctors can't seem to find a cure for him, so he turns to Dr. Stephanie Lake, who has a unique solution: transfer his consciousness into a newer, healthier cloned body. Powers accepts, but Lake decides to first try out the operation on Victor Fries (aka Mr. Freeze), whose disembodied head has been cryogenically preserved for decades and is still viable. The procedure is carried out successfully and Fries, realizing the pain he's caused in his villainous past, sets up an organization to help those who suffered because of him. Batman thinks he's finally changed, but the more pessimistic Bruce thinks that the old Mr. Freeze will return. Little does Bruce realize how right he is ...

"Batman: The Animated Series" did a lot to turn the stereotypically evil Mr. Freeze into a sympathetic villain, a man driven to do terrible things for the love of his wife. "Meltdown" does a spectacular job bringing back the character in a way that is true to what made him so tragic and complex without being gimmicky. Terry and Bruce's relationship is strained from their differing views on the character, giving the episode more emotional heft. As expected, Mr. Freeze is given a dramatic death, but not before showing us a bit of the heart that beats beneath the ice. Though "Batman Beyond" made a point to not reuse classic villains often, sometimes bringing familiar faces back to the fold paid off.

1. Out Of The Past (Season 3, Episode 5)

It's Bruce's birthday, and to celebrate, Terry takes him to a lighthearted musical about the exploits of Batman; while Terry gets a kick out of it, Bruce is less impressed with it and heads back to the Batcave to ruminate on his past. His brooding is interrupted by the sudden appearance of Talia al Ghul, who hasn't aged a day since they last saw each other. Talia reveals that she's been using her father's Lazarus Pit to preserve her youth, and offers Bruce the chance to use it to return to his younger self. Bruce initially declines, but gives it considerable thought and agrees to her offer. Terry, however, is worried that Bruce wants to become Batman again, which means that Terry would have to give up his days as a hero.

While it's always been implied throughout the series that Bruce still wishes to join Terry's crusade against crime, "Out of the Past" deals with the topic head-on, serving as a sort of meditation on the brevity of youth, the fragility of maturity, and the inevitably of death. David Warner makes a terrific addition to the show as a rejuvenated Ra's al Ghul, but the real highlight here is the closure of Bruce and Talia's long and complicated romance.