"Legacy" is a two-parter consisting of the second and third episodes of the fourth season of Superman: The Animated Series, and the 53rd and 54th of the overall series. It is also the series finale. It depicts Darkseid brainwashing Superman into thinking that he was brought up in Apokolips instead of Earth, turning him into a tool to conquer the universe. However, when Superman reaches Earth, his memories start to return and he is defeated. Now branded a traitor and distrusted by the world at large, Superman must escape from prison and end Darkseid's designs once and for all.
Out on an unnamed planet, a race of aliens desperately fights an army of Apokoliptian soldiers. At first it seems that they have won, as the army has stopped its advance, but then a lone soldier bursts into the ceiling of the palace throne room. All attempts to stop him are futile and the king of the planet, seeing that his forces have been defeated, hands over his scepter: his symbol of power.
The soldier returns to Darkseid onboard his flagship and removes his mask. It's revealed that this soldier is Superman. Darkseid calls Superman his son Kal-El and tells him that as a reward for defeating the alien world, he'll get his own planet to rule: Earth.
Back in Metropolis, Superman flies over the city while Lois Lane and Clark Kent watch from the ground. It's then revealed that both Superman and Clark are robots controlled by Supergirl. No one knows where Superman has gone, not even Supergirl or Ma and Pa Kent.
On Apokolips, Kal-El flies over and is attacked by the people of the planet. However, the people suddenly turn into Jimmy Olsen, Ma Kent, Pa Kent and Lois. He is then attacked by Superman, who eventually destroys him with Heat Vision. Kal-El awakens, and Lashina urges him to go to Granny Goodness for "therapy". Granny puts him into a chair that places memories into his mind. His origin is the same, except Kal-El landed on Apokolips and was raised by Darkseid. Darkseid is supposedly benevolent and wants only to bring order to the universe. Kal-El feels better and leaves. However, it is then revealed that Darkseid only wishes to have Superman attack Earth, so that the military forces would be united to destroy him. Afterwards, Darkseid would take over the decimated world under the guise of restoring order to it.
That night, on Earth, the Superman robot picks up a strange signal and starts crashing into things. An alarm awakens Kara but she is unable to control the robot. She flies in after it but is unable to prevent it from reaching its destination: LexCorp Tower. Lex Luthor explains that he's been aware of Superman's absence and wants to know what's going on. He believes that Superman will not return and assures Kara that she can't keep up her charade. Kara refuses to believe him and leaves.
Meanwhile, Kal-El is given a banner bearing his own symbol and sent out to Earth. Kara sees a news report about Superman and a legion of Parademons attack a NATO base. Hardcastle and Luthor now feel that they've found the perfect opportunity to kill Superman. Luthor orders Hardcastle to prepare for a final attack while Luthor gets a specialized weapon ready.
Superman attacks another military base and easily manages to fight past their defenses but Supergirl eventually shows up and fights him. Superman is outraged at Supergirl wearing his symbol but fighting against him. He pummels her into near-death but Lois arrives and tells him to stop. Superman suddenly recollects everything. However, a Kryptonite missile is fired at Superman and Supergirl, seemingly killing both of them.
Lois Lane runs up to Superman as soldiers carry him off. Superman is alive and remembers everything now: He had gone to a strange ship letting off a distress beacon but found it was a trap. He was hit and incapacitated by a weapon on the ship and brainwashed by Granny Goodness so that he was led to believe Darkseid was his adoptive father.
Superman awakens in a military prison cell filled with red light. General Hardcastle enters into the room and explains that the lights nullify Superman's powers and that he's only kept alive to explain his actions. Superman asks about Supergirl but gets no answer. Superman tries to explain about how Darkseid brainwashed him, but Hardcastle chooses not to believe him.
Determined to save her friend, Lois uses her father's connections to get into the prison where Superman is being kept. She witnesses Superman trying to escape and free Supergirl but he is subsequently captured. Lois figures that she'll have to take things into her own hands.
Angered by Superman's actions, Hardcastle agrees with Luthor that he should be executed, and Supergirl as well in order to avoid a possible vengeful wrath. Luthor and Hardcastle arrive and seek to inject a liquid Kryptonite formula into Superman in order to kill him. However, Superman fights back and Lois stops Luthor from finishing the job. She and Superman escape from his cell but Superman insists that they save Supergirl before leaving. After finding Supergirl, they discover they have to carry her out due to her weakness to the red sunlight. As they carry her out, Supergirl is shot in the chest and nearly killed. Fortunately, Superman and Lois manage to escape with Supergirl still alive.
They take her to S.T.A.R. Labs but Professor Hamilton refuses to help her as it would be considered an act of treason. Superman threatens Hamilton into aiding Supergirl but now realizes that he's lost his friend's trust. Seething with anger, Superman steals a boom tube generator and heads off to Apokolips to "settle things" with Darkseid.
On Apokolips, Superman makes his way to Granny's orphanage, easily fighting his way through a legion of parademons. After a brief fight with Granny he manages to push her into the brainwashing machine, which has been put up into full power. The machine temporarily wipes out her mind.
With Granny out of the way, Superman continues towards Darkseid's palace and is confronted by the Female Furies. He defeats them with relative ease and makes it into Darkseid's palace. Kalibak attacks but is instantly taken out. Darkseid rises and engages Superman in a brutal fight. Superman proves tired due to lack of Sunlight and his previous battles and though he lands some powerful blows, Darkseid quickly gains the advantage and pummels Superman around with relative ease. However, Superman turns the tables as Darkseid prepares to use his Omega beams: He covers Darkseid's eyes at the last moment, causing the beams to deflect and blast Darkseid in the head, causing a massive explosion. This leaves Darkseid severely injured and unable to continue the fight, as he collapses at Superman's feet.The commotion within the palace has not gone unnoticed by the Apokoliptian slaves, and when they come to see what is going on, they are shocked when Superman throws Darkseid from the palace walls to the ground. Superman tells them that they are free to do whatever they want to Darkseid. However, much to Superman's surprise, the people aid Darkseid and take him back to his palace for medical treatment. As they carry him away, Darkseid tells Superman that while he may oppress them, he is still their god. Superman tries to go after Darkseid but Kara arrives and talks him out of it.
Back on Earth, nearly everyone refuses to trust Superman, thanks to the lies spread by Luthor and Hardcastle, with only his closest friends defending him. Superman is also afraid at the prospect of losing control again and feels he can't win back the trust of the planet. However, Lois kisses him gently, telling him "One person at a time".
- The Mother Box kept at S.T.A.R. Labs which Superman uses to go to Apokolips is the one he used to extricate himself and Supergirl from Darkseid's clutches in "Little Girl Lost".
- Both Darkseid and Superman recalls "Apokolips... Now!" in which the former says "...if you won't be my knight, you will be my pawn..." and the latter vents his rage for Dan Turpin's murder.
- This finale is the second time that Lois Lane kisses Superman after "Brave New Metropolis" when Lois kissed Superman's alternate counterpart.
- This finale's events was one of the seminal factors leading to Project Cadmus' formation as well as Emil Hamilton stealing Supergirl's DNA sample.
- Superman's rampage is referenced in several subsequent series: the Batman Beyond episode "The Call", the Justice League episodes "Secret Origins" and "Twilight", and several Justice League Unlimited episodes ("Fearful Symmetry", "Question Authority" and "Divided We Fall").
Home video releases
- Superman: The Animated Series, Volume Three (DVD)
- Superman: The Complete Animated Series (DVD)
- Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (Blu-ray only)
- DC Comics Super-Villains: Superman - Worlds at War! (DVD)
- Footage from the scene in "My Girl", in which Mr. Eelan blows a vat of hot lead off its support, is reused in Part I when Superman blasts his way through the palace wall of the invaded aliens, and again in Part II when Granny Goodness's rod blows up.
- Footage from "Where There's Smoke" when Volcana blasted Superman with a fire ball in the parking lot is reused several time throughout this finale. In Part I, when the Parademons are blasting the aliens in the beginning (there's a full screen frame of a fire cloud), during Superman's dream when he is blasted by Superman's "real" version, then when Supergirl blows up Lex Luthor's control, and finally when the military start bombarding Apokolips's invasion front. In Part II: during Superman's nightmare; when Lois Lane shoots Superman's ankle-cuffs; the various times when the military opens fire at Superman, Lois, and Supergirl; and finally three more times during the final showdown.
- In the commentary, Bruce Timm stated that Granny Goodness's line "This time I won't leave you wits enough to pick your..." to Superman was originally intended to be "This time I won't leave you wits enough to wipe your...". However, it had to be changed.
- According to Bruce Timm in this finale's DVD commentary, this two-part finale was intended to be the premiere for a new season in which Superman would have to earn back the people's trust. However, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini were asked to work on Batman Beyond so this concept became a series finale and its planned storyline played out off-screen in-between Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League. However, elements of this concept were recycled during the Cadmus storyline on Justice League Unlimited.
- In addition, there was originally supposed to be a Batman Beyond episode planned where the ramification of Superman and Lashina's brief affair was revealed: Superman ended up having a son who had deposed Darkseid as the ruler of Apokolips and is planning an invasion, with his mother warning the Justice League about the invasion. Superman would also have felt guilty for never raising his son due to not knowing about his son's existence.
- The newscaster mentions Superman's battle against NATO forces, but the tattered flag uses the emblem of the United Nations, as the letters "NA" are still visible underneath the logo.
- When Darkseid says "So the prodigal son returns. Let him come.", the cracks on his forehead disappear. Bruce Timm even acknowledges this in the commentary on the Superman: The Animated Series, Volume Three (DVD) set.
- The interior of Darkseid's palace is left unchanged from its appearance in "Little Girl Lost", including a video screen of Earth. Fleischer's Comet is still visible, even though it was destroyed.
- When Superman and Lois are talking, after Superman yells at Professor Hamilton, Lois's green outfit turns purple in one shot.
- In the final fight with Darkseid, Superman punches him, saying "That's for Dan Turpin". Darkseid replies "Who?" but his mouth doesn't match the line.
- When Lois and Superman kiss, Superman's body disappears, leaving his head floating.
- There are strong similarities between this episode and "Superman: The Dark Side", an Elseworlds story that has the baby Kal-El's spacecraft being diverted to Apokolips instead of Earth, by Metron. There, Darkseid raises the Kryptonian as his son, and orders him to lead an invasion of Earth when he discovers the Anti-Life Equation hidden there. In particular, Superman's battle armor in this episode is markedly similar to his Apokoliptian battle suit in the comic.
Superman: So it ends like this.
Lois Lane: Have you ever tried to get a story out of the military? I figured it'd be easier to go straight to the source.
Darkseid: YOU DARE STRIKE ME?!
Darkseid: (after Kalibak is easily beaten by Superman) I can't believe he's blood.
Darkseid: A final gift, my wayward son. A fast death. Infinitely preferable to the shame of returning to Earth. There, your legacy would be one of fear and distrust. A pariah desperatly chasing the favor of a world that cursed your name.
Superman: I did lose control and it scares me. If I can't trust myself, how can I win back the trust of an entire planet?