Beware the Batman: “Toxic” Review (spoilers)


Written by Erin Maher and Kathryn Reindl

Directed by Curt Geda

Security guard Rex Mason accidentally inhales a dangerous gas that turns him into the rampaging Metamorpho, a monster that can manipulate the elements at will. Batman must stop his wrath while at the same time investigating foul play in Mason’s transformation.

After some nods to the greater DC universe, the first non-Batman hero finally appears in Metamorpho. However, the story uses him as a tragic antagonist that goes on rampage. His brain is adjusting to his sudden transformation, so as a result, he lashes out. But when Metamorpho starts regaining control, he finds out Simon Stagg, his lover Sapphire’s father, was the one responsible for his fate and deliberately hunts him down. Metamorpho is an interesting enough character who is not really a villain, but definitely someone Batman needs to stop. Even Humpty delighted a bit too much in his revenge, so Metamorpho was refreshing for an antagonist. His voice acting is heart-rending and having his speech become completely coherent in his final scene makes it poignant.

As mentioned, the real villain is Simon, who sets Rex up to be doused by the Metamorpho chemicals to either use him as a human subject test or to kill him. Either way, he’d be separated from his precious daughter. His greed and ruthlessness was already characterized from his appearance in “Hunted”, so the reveal is not a surprise. The most amusing part comes from Batman not even bothering to hide his disgust and contempt of Simon. Those feelings are perhaps even stronger than with the last episode’s unsympathetic victim, Whale.

Batman, or rather Bruce Wayne, has a small subplot this time as he begins to date Bethany Ravencroft, the therapist from “Secrets” he suspected to be Magpie. It’s not anything amazing, but it does show more of him as Bruce Wayne. It was also quite interesting that he’s not portrayed as the playboy he usually is. He’s not incompetent with women, but he can also get flustered. The audience is also reminded of his recklessness in a brief scene where he and Alfred buy bovine glands to reduce his ability to sleep. It’s a small manifestation of his recklessness that hides behind his image of control and perfection established in “Secrets” and “Safe”.

This is the only episode in which Tatsu is completely absent. She’s apparently settling Jason Burr into his new lab after nearly being nabbed by ninjas. It would’ve been great to see Tatsu’s relationship with Jason organically develop, but there’s only so much time allotted to each plot, so it’s understandable.

While one of this show’s usual criticisms centers around its use of CGI and art style, they are actually one of the strongest points in this episode. Metamorpho’s powers are well-displayed and are very effective when it came to variety. The mix-matched textures on Metamorpho are also a great touch that makes him feel more authentic. His “messy” design is also an improvement, since his skin patterns usually come off as too symmetric and tidy for someone who is supposed to be a freak.

The highlight of the episode was Metamorpho’s final scene with Sapphire. Again, him being able to speak coherently worked well in building up to this scene. He asks if she still loves him as he is today, and she flat out says no. Usually these type of stories have a “love conquers all” ending with the love interest accepting the beastly or disfigured tragic figure. However, her love isn’t strong enough to accept that. It felt more realistic to see, as Sapphire doesn’t seem happy about the decision and it’s understandable due to being placed on the spot. But it also showed that she wasn’t the perfect angel Metamorpho was seeking either.

The one sticking point is the dialogue between Rex and Sapphire in the beginning of the episode. The exposition is laid on a bit thick and it sounds unnatural compared to the conversations throughout the rest of the episode.

“Toxic” tells the tragic tale of Metamorpho and is essentially the first DC “team-up” the show has, even though it consists mostly of Batman stopping Metamorpho’s actions. This type of story has been told before, but the strong execution of the voice acting and special effects, as well as the conclusion of the doomed romance and a Bruce Wayne sub-plot, make this episode worth a watch.

Additional Thoughts

  • Yes, this story is very similar to the one told in a two-parter from Justice League. To be honest, I always preferred this one since it didn’t drag the story in two parts and it didn’t have the creepy incest subtext from Simon.
  • “I’ll keep you bovine glands on ice”. Gee, thanks Alfred!
  • You’d think Simon would’ve permanently trashed that incriminating video footage from his computer instead of just putting in on the Recycle Bin.
  • Katana and Metamorpho on the same show? Hmmm…

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