We see a thinner version of a mechanized Batsuit, all black, with a red bat symbol, flying through the air with boot jets. He tears through a group of paramilitary hostage-takers, making short work of them. He gets to the hostages, and is about to free them when he stops, clutching his chest, and falls. The bad guys rally, gather around him and stomping him. We hear a click, as he raises one of the sidearms they dropped in his initial attack. He aims it, and the attackers decide it isn’t worth it- that no one said anything about going up against the Batman, let alone a Batman holding a gun. Bruce waits until they’ve gone to stand, flings batarangs freeing the hostages without looking. He leaves the building as sirens approach, and collapses against the side of the building, tearing clear his mask to reveal a much older Bruce beneath the mask (for my money I’d use Kevin Conroy, because he’s mostly a voice on the radio, though that might be entirely why they brought back Michael Keaton). He realizes he’s still holding the gun. His hand starts to shake, and he drops it, and as it falls we see flashbacks of his parents falling, his mother’s pearls falling, blood hitting the street. He flies off.
We do a several years later, and meet Terry at school. He’s bullied by a jock, but isn’t impacted, because he’s focused on Dana. She wants to spend time with him but his dad calls; he needs one of his offline files from his personal drive at home. The jock hits on Dana, makes it clear he’ll be where she’s going, whether or not Terry shows. Terry promises he’ll catch up with Dana. Terry runs the file in to his dad at Wayne-Powers, bumping into an older Wayne (literally) who uses a cane; we get from the rushed nature of the conversation that Powers is getting into all sorts of things he shouldn’t (like literally there are archived items that were never to be opened without the express permission of Wayne; Bruce is fighting in the courts to try and get him to stop, both because it’s a Pandora’s box, and because it may reveal his identity).
Terry has a fight with his dad over responsibility, Terry wanting to spend time with Dana instead of watching his little sister; his dad grounds him, and he leaves in a huff.
Terry goes to spend time with Dana, and stands up to some Jokerz who bust into the place, leading them on a chase that ends at the gates to Wayne Manor. The Dee Dees are involved, because they’re fun, and I’d prefer to have them established by the time of the sequel.
Wayne and Terry fight the Jokerz back to back, turning them back; the head Joker says they can’t treat them this way, they’re the Jokerz, and Wayne pops off, “Sure you are.” As the Jokerz flee, Wayne clutches his chest and says he needs his medicine.
Terry helps Wayne back to his Manor, and gets him his nitro pills. Wayne collapses in exhaustion, and Terry ends up corralled inside by Ace (the Bat Hound). He finds a bat stuck in the old clock, and accidentally discovers the steps down into the Batcave trying to free it. Terry descends the stairs, and we get a big dramatic sting as Terry finds the cybernetic suit and the flying Batmobile. Wayne discovers him and kicks him out.
Terry returns home, to find Commissioner (Barbara) Gordon presiding over a crime scene. His dad was working from home, instead of in the office, while watching his sister. It looks like the Jokerz figured out who Terry was and broke in to get to him. Barbara is almost aggressive in asserting the need to be there for him, telling him she knows how hard one bad day can hit. But Terry feels like he’s to blame, as his mom arrives. He confesses that he yelled at his dad, and she hugs him, trying to sooth him, but he’s looking past her, to her car. We see that same car abandoned outside the gate to Wayne Manor.
We see a bat-symbol shaped slab of beef land at Ace’s feet. He sniffs it warily, before taking it. A sleeping Ace doesn’t stir as someone sneaks past him. We see the front door ajar, a hair pins still sticking out of it. We start to hear snoring, even as we see the clock down to the cave is ajar. Then the empty mannequin where the suit sat earlier, and the missing car. The snoring is louder, and we see that it’s Bruce Wayne, having an old man nap in his lounger, but he stops snoring for a moment, and our ears prick up as we imagine the Batmanly wrath headed Terry’s way… before the snoring resumes.
Terry doesn’t smile as he flies the Batmobile, which is likely a challenge, because it is a hell of a ride. He ends up flying some pretty daredevily paths, before ending up under the bridge where the Jokerz play. Terry chews through them. The suit enhances his strength, true, but it’s mostly the legacy behind the symbol; the Jokerz are straight-up scared. He’s also having an easier time because half the Jokerz were arrested, found with valuables stolen from his house. The Dee Dees profess their innocence, even as Terry hangs them up for the police (or just to be a jerk).
But their protestations stick with him. On his way back to return the gear to Wayne, Terry decides to stop at his own home, instead. He uses the detective tech in the suit, finding things the police missed (like the deliberate, not incidental damage to his father’s computer; he’s able to reconstruct missing data to know what his dad was working on, and enough to make that seem shady, leading him to break into Wayne-Powers).
Terry finds out that Powers is trying to bury a bioweapon that is basically weaponized necrotizing fasciitis; the researcher working on it died from exposure to it after reporting his concerns to Terry’s dad. His plan is to sell off the entirety of the program to the Corto Maltese- and the reason there’s security everywhere is it’s happening tonight- right now. Terry is discovered and gets attacked by Powers security. Wayne shuts down the suit as he’s being attacked. Eventually, hearing the pain in Terry’s voice as he talks about his dad, and how he’s responsible, makes Bruce relent when he says: “If that evidence leaves Gotham, his murderer walks.”
I think it also sets up a conversation between Bruce and Terry, later, after he stops Powers. But for now, Terry intervenes, catching Powers making the hand-off personally. When his guard, who we recognize as one of the hostages Bruce saved in the first scene, refuses to fire on Batman, Powers takes his gun and tries to shoot him, inadvertently hitting the weapon, spilling it on himself. Bruce has him spray Powers in an adhesive designed for Clayface to seal the bacteria in, then carries him back into the research wing where the virus was created for quarantine. Then he blasts both of them with radiation, the batsuit absorbing some of it.
Powers’ team arrives, and take control over Powers’ recovery themselves. A scan of the batsuit says he’s no longer contaminated, so Terry leaves.
Terry brings back the suit, expecting to get his head handed to him. He might have, but Bruce can see Terry’s being harder on himself than he would be. Bruce tells him that he spent years blaming himself for what happened with his parents, and Terry should learn from him what it took years of punching people and getting punched- it wasn’t your fault. “I read about what happened to you. You were a kid.”
“So are you,” Bruce says. “What happened with your father… I think I had more to do with it than you.”
We do a scene similar to the Joker finding out he’s disfigured in Batman ’89, but high-tech. Powers is subtly glowing as a Geiger counter’s chirping continues to increase in speed. The head of his team, Dr. Lake, tells him that while the team has made use of the available technology, the amount of radiation he’s producing seems to be escalating, and seems to correlate to distress, which is a problem, since it’s a distressing condition he has. She suggests cloning as a possible way to undo the cellular degeneration, that she has a test subject in mind.
Back in the cave, Bruce relates that he was working with Terry’s dad, who was an internal watchdog for the company, one of the few checks and balances remaining in the company from when he was the undisputed head. Bruce explains that the Wayne corporation wasn’t just the family business, or even where he sourced his tech. It was where some of the most important, and dangerous, things he ever fought, are buried. The fasciitis he suspected was developed by a madman named Ra’s al Ghul; Bruce had kept a sample, along with an antidote he devised, in case he ever attempted a similar scheme.
We start on a high-tech looking freezer door. It opens, and we see Freeze’s thawing, cryogenically frozen head clamped in place. They reanimate Freeze, and clone him a body. While at first it appears that he’s cured. Because of his history with Batman, Terry trails him, to be sure he’s on the up and up. But for all appearances Victor seems to be a changed man. He uses money he’d set aside, a small trust initially, grown large by decades untouched, and puts together a charity in Nora’s name to benefit those he hurt. He also starts a romance with Dr. Lake, who feels shortchanged by the fact that she feels she’ll never live up to Nora.
Inque, a Clayface-like saboteur attacks Foxteka at Powers’ behest, run by the son of Lucious Fox. Powers has been looking to buy out the company for years, which Bruce was always able to forestall. But now they’re also home to an advanced skin-graft tech that might allow Powers to resume something like a normal life (he’s burning through the inferior Powers competitor in hours, not days), and while Dr. Lake seems confident, he’s not the sort to put all his eggs in a single basket. The facility is on the harbor, and Terry discovers that Inque doesn’t like the water (though he isn’t able to use it to his advantage- he just gets tossed into the drink).
Fries starts to degenerate, proving that Lake’s cloning therapy requires more research- she decides she needs an autopsy. She doesn’t hesitate to try to kill him, motivated in part by feeling jilted by the memory of Nora. She tosses him into a cell and bombards him with heat. She also reveals that Powers has siphoned off most of his wealth from his charity, and used it to open the Nora Fries Advanced Cryogenics Institute. However, the name is a misnomer; it is instead monetizing the experiment that caused her so much pain, and all of his work to try to restore her, at once a huge tax write-off and a way to sucker rubes with the promise of miracle cures just barely this side of research- it’s a perversion on every level of what Fries wanted.
To Lake’s dismay, it doesn’t just kill him- it forces a reversion of his degenerate physiology, he becomes Mr. Freeze again, and is able to break loose. It turns out, he also had a spare of his old armor, too, one he refits to look even more sci-fi. Freeze decides to bring the entire complex down, with Lake and Powers inside it.
Freeze attacks Dr. Lake while she’s working on Powers. Freeze is surprised when Powers puts up more of a fight than he intended; apparently Lake has convinced him one of his better chances is her cryonics research, and he fights Freeze, until Batman arrives. Powers attacks Batman on sight, and it’s eventually Freeze who saves him. Enough damage has been done to the facility in the fighting that it’s going to explode. Terry tries to get Fries to leave with him, but he coldly says there’s no one left to mourn him. He’s able to postpone the destruction until Terry is away safely, but stays behind.
The next day, Terry is opening some of Bruce’s mail, when he discovers Freeze’s will, leaving everything to Bruce. “Why you?” Terry asks, suspicious.
“I couldn’t save Victor… but we managed to free Nora from cryonic storage twenty years ago. She lived about a decade; years of experimental medicine took its toll. But she remarried. She has a daughter in the city.”
“He didn’t leave this to Batman.”
“And I didn’t keep him in the cave.”
“You told him.”
“Fries was a genius, and unlike most of the other Arkham inmates, he wasn’t obsessed with keeping our ‘game’ going. There were a few times I think I only survived because he didn’t want to succeed enough that he could justify killing me.” There’s also a storage locker key in the envelope. Terry raids it as Batman, and finds all kinds of goodies, including a futuristic-looking freeze gun.
Bruce calls him, and Terry slips the gun into his waistband. Bruce tells him there’s another break-in at Foxteka, this time the skin-graft research facility. Batman arrives, and takes samples from Inque, but is too late to stop her. He gets back into his car and flies back to the cave. Inque hitched a ride inside, and attacks them both. Terry provides a distraction while Bruce gets a firehose, and is able to soften her up. She manages to sever the hose, and knock Terry into the Batmobile, going after Bruce, reasoning that he’s the brains of the operation. I’m warming to the idea Bruce grabbed one of the Joker’s gag lapel flowers, and squirts her with water to free himself. Terry then freezes her with the gun.
Blight throws a hissy fit. Inque had the tech stashed, and hasn’t been heard from since she called Powers to tell him she was hitching a ride back to Batman’s hideout, to get him and his partner (I imagine we play back some audio of her call). Powers has an important meeting with the board, one that won’t keep. His doctors warn him that his rage is an accelerant, that the angrier he gets, the faster he burns through the prosthetic skin.
Terry and Bruce have a little tete a tete when he drives him to the shareholder meeting. Bruce has suspected something for a while, that he knows who Blight is. He tests the theory by provoking Powers in the meeting. He expected him to have more control, to make an attempt on his life, but instead he freaks out and shoots green radioactivity all over the place, including other board members. This was broadcast worldwide to Wayne-Powers shareholders, and Powers is only stopped from killing Wayne and the rest of the board by the timely intervention of Batman. Powers goes on the lamb.
Powers, in a last, desperate Gambit, tries to have his son act as his proxy. The son, however, gives him up, leaking his whereabouts to Terry. Terry attacks Blight in one of the only locations he can hide (without a Geiger counter giving him away), a decommissioned nuclear sub once used by the late Doctor Phosphorus that still leaks radiation. Bruce tells him it’s safe, despite what his suit is telling him. Terry plays with Blight before confronting him. “You killed my father.”
“Do you have any idea how little that narrows it down?” Blight asks. Terry manages to subdue him, albeit temporarily, only for the entire submarine to be detonated around them. Terry barely escapes. Bruce explains it to Terry as he flies back to confront the younger Powers, that his father’s shares were about to be seized by the government; he had a tiny window in which to see to his father’s tragic demise in an industrial accident, likely leading to him inheriting his father’s shares, his wealth, and maybe even letting him collect on a sizeable life insurance policy.
Terry asks if there was any chance it was the sub that went off. Bruce tells him the sub was decommissioned by the Justice League- namely by Captain Atom and Ray Palmer “Between them I wouldn’t expect a single atom of radioactive material remained.” Bruce is coy, and Terry realizes he had radioactive material he was hiding nearby.
Terry arrives in the cave at that moment, hopping out of the car. “You need to show me everything.”
“I was waiting for you to ask.”
Credits. Mid-credits scene: the Dee Dees are in a holding cell amongst the other Jokerz. “Delia and Deidre Dennis, your bail’s been posted. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” We see him long enough we’ll remember him- you definitely want an actor with an easy to remember face. The Dee Dees have rope-burns from Terry tying them up.
They’re greeted by an older woman, who doesn’t look pleased to see them. She comments about having “plenty of rope-burns in my youth, and blisters from where a chain would catch and pinch you; one time I got tied up in Plastic Man, and I’m still not sure it wasn’t just an excuse to rub against me.” She stops reminiscing. “Now what have I told you girls?” We pause a beat. “Always have a fall-guy to take the rap.”
“Yes, Grandma Harley,” they say in unison. Yes, this is elderly Harley Quinn. And yes, I do want her played by Margot Robbie in age makeup. Or if her grandmother’s still alive, I guess you could cast her. But I think paying Margot Robbie to be old would be hysterical. Hell… I kind of want to make the character a presence in the sequel so we can have some more Old Lady Harley.
End-Credits Scene: the same hallway we just watched the Dee Dees walk down. We play something like the theme music of the Joker from the animated series, but relatively slow, relatively dramatic. The halls are filled with acrid green smoke. The officer from earlier is hanging off the now wide open holding cell door, a rictus grin plastered on his face, and we see that the rest of the Jokerz are gone. Another cop has a “Bang” flag planted in his back, and is slumped over a desk. If we want to be real fancy, pan to frame the entire bullpen, showing that the bodies of officers lay in the shape of a smiley face, then fade to black, where white text appears, each line appearing after a short pause:
Batman Beyond 2: Return of the Joker