The school poltergeist turns out to be the telekinetic Willie Watt.
  Original Airdate: December 11, 1999
  Episode # 24
  Rating: * * 1/2

Credits Cast

Written by Hilary J. Bader
Directed by Kyoung-Won Lim
Music by Lolita Ritmanis
Animation by Koko/Dong Yang

Will Friedle as Terry McGinnis
Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne
Stockard Channing as Commissioner Gordon
Cree Summer as Max Gibson
Teri Garr as Mary McGinnis
Ryan O'Donohue as Matt McGinnis

Melissa Disney as Blade
Seth Green as Nelson Nash
Lauren Tom as Dana Tan
Scott McAfee as Willie Watt
Victor Gandell as Guard
Geddy Watanabe as Principal

Everyone loves a good ghost story, and during its first half "Revenant" has a pretty good one going. Ghosts are spooky and romantic and silly, and as long as all the girls at Hamilton High are convinced that the odd happenings around school are the work of the dead but still dreamy Garrison Jacobs the episode has an undeniable, chuckleheaded charm. Blade and Dana and Chelsea and their crew are seriously turned on by the thought of a sexy spirit haunting the halls, and it's not surprising that they should be: given the louts they deal with every day, it makes sense that they should pine for a guy who is safely in his grave. This psychological acuity is the episode's greatest strength; it understands these girls and never mocks them directly even as it has fun tweaking at their giggling conviction. Besides, it knows that we're turned on too. It looks like we're going to get an unexpected story that is smaller in its scope and its action and more keyed to ordinary people than we are used to in Batman Beyond.

The first hint that the promise will go unfulfilled comes during a ghostly encounter in the gym. The first manifestation of the spirit we see in the episode—a bunch of trophies stuck in the ceiling tiles—is quite modest, but uncanny in a way that doesn't defy common sense. Pranksters, one could sniff while still grooving, like the girls, on the thought that it might be something more. In the gym, all suspicions that we are dealing with ordinary vandals is scotched. That's fine too; every ghost story has its "uh oh" moment when the weight shifts from doubt to credulity, and it is usually the most effective moment in a spook yarn. But this one quickly goes overboard—if it is Garrison Jacobs haunting the school, he's no restless soul in need of a good spectral handholding and a turn toward the tunnel of light. Nor is theres anything particularly uncanny about furniture flying around, and the sheer volume of debris that gets tossed around seems beyond the work of one poor spirit—it has the dimensions of Polgergeist, and that haunting took the ghostly equivalent of a chain gang to pull off. You don't dial a ghost story up to eleven this quickly unless you're incompetent—or unless you've got a twist in mind. Suddenly, we're out of the ghost story and back in familiar "action" territory.

Following hard is a bathetic scene in the McGinnis house where Matt speculates about using a séance to summon up his dead father. Aside from the creepiness of the notion, the scene strikes a harshly "realistic" note. Ghosts aren't "fun" when it's our own loved ones we're talking about. This one-two punch both hardens the story and hardens our attitude toward it. A feeling of trepidation remains, but it's trepidation about the path the story is following, not the haunting it is supposedly about.

There's another overdone scene in the girls' shower, and then all the air goes out of it when Terry deduces that it must be Willie Watt who is pulling the pranks. And here the story makes two more grave errors.

First, there's a continuity problem with regard to Willie's powers. That he has acquired telekinetic abilities is supposed to be a surprise to the characters; but then why is Terry so convinced that Willie, locked away in juvenile hall is responsible? There is no mechanism that Terry is aware of to explain how Willie could be responsible for what we have witnessed, and absent that motivation Terry is merely borrowing the writer's omniscience. And it can get us to go along with the deduction only with a cheat: We remember at the conclusion of "Golem" that Willie showed proto-telekinetic prowess and so are primed for the revelation. But again, that knowledge is not available to Terry.

Second, we discover that Willie has bulked up. That makes sense within the confines of the story (no one is supposed to know that Willie has extraordinary powers) but it instantly clashes with what we the viewers already know or suspect about the existence of those powers. For the idea that a person endowed with telekinetic powers—especially a person who has been mercilessly persecuted by jocks—would condescend to compete with mere muscle is a psychological clanger: you show that you're superior to your persecutors by showing that your own innate gifts are superior to theirs.

By the end we get another big fight scene which is executed well enough, even if it can't compete with the similar fight in "Mind Games," and even if it can't make up for the series of disappointments that came before. Still, what is here is handled smartly enough, and it has more than its quota of clever lines. Wayne's dismissal of the events as "so high school" rings truer he (or its author, maybe) knows, but it doesn't detract from the fact that this is one of the best "high school" stories that the series gave us. That's not the highest praise, but it will do. Otherwise, those looking for a good and creepy (and ultimately affecting) haunting are advised to check out "Earth Mover."

Related Episodes
   * Golem
   * Mind Games
   * Earth Mover
   * The Demon Within

What Others Are Saying ...
"... an entertaining and sometimes saddening episode."Batman: Tomorrow and Beyond

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