"Zeta" is the twentieth episode of the second season of Batman Beyond. It depicts the appearance of an assassin droid named "Zeta" in Gotham City. People start acting strange around Hamilton Hill High School and it's soon discovered that they're being replaced by a droid with the capability to mimic other people. Terry becomes greatly concerned when the droid kidnaps Max, but it tries to convince Max that it has given up killing.
During a lecture in biology class at school, Max and Terry note that the teacher, Miss Martel, is answering questions in a strange way; not with a personal answer and opinion, but instead just reading pre-written information.
Later, as they discuss their suspicions, they are surprised to see men dressed as phone workers pull guns on Miss Martel and open fire. Even more surprising, Miss Martel avoids their attack with an amazing show of strength and agility, and drives off in a car. The car eventually crashes and the pursuers catch up, but Batman arrives and stops them from shooting her. Just then, the teacher punches through the car and draws weapons of her own. One of the men, Agent Bennet, jumps from the truck and explains that "Miss Martel" is really a synthoid. During the fight, Miss Martel is hit and loses her disguise.
The police go to Miss Martel's apartment and find her tied up. Finding evidence that points to the school, Barbara Gordon confronts Bennet. He explains that the robot is an assassin droid called "Zeta" and it has stopped taking their orders. Because Zeta was on an assignment to infiltrate a terrorist group, they assume it's now taking orders from them and must destroy it, whatever the civilian cost. After Bennet leaves, Batman talks to Barbara and she explains that it's most likely that Zeta is still at the High School.
That night, Max is working in the school computer lab, where she carefully hacks into the NSA files about Zeta and discovers that it's equipped with a homing beacon. Dana arrives and invites Max to go to a study group. Max mistakes the gender of a classmate that Dana refers to, but Dana takes this in stride, believing Max is just over-absorbed in her schoolwork, as usual. Later, Max sneaks into the Gotham Mint and is revealed to be Zeta in disguise.
The next day, Terry finds "Max" working on a device. As they talk, he quickly realizes that this person doesn't know he is Batman, and so is not Max.
When "Max" leaves, both Terry and the NSA agents follow her/it. Dropping his disguise, Zeta returns to the Mint, where Max is being held captive. Zeta gives her a sandwich, and tells her he's concerned for her safety. Contrary to what they might think, Zeta assures her, he may have been built to kill, but he doesn't want to anymore.
Max believes him and convinces him to remove all of his built-in weapons. However, Batman shows up and attacks Zeta. Zeta is quick to retaliate and a fight ensues. Max tries to quell the fight but is unsuccessful. On the one hand, Batman doesn't believe that Zeta's peaceful, while Zeta is inexperienced at resolving situations peacefully. However, after Batman is disabled and nearly crushed by the Mint's printing press, Zeta saves him and proves his intentions.
Unfortunately, the NSA soon arrives and attacks. Zeta quickly arms himself with a laser cutter and fights back. Only through Batman's intervention do they escape without bloodshed.
After the ordeal Zeta explains why he decided to quit killing: when he was on assignment, he had to replace an accountant that was unwittingly associating with terrorists. During this time, he had to live with the accountant’s family and saw his daughter ride a bike for the first time. Believing that he couldn't deprive the man of his family, he disobeyed his orders to kill the man.
His story done, Zeta explains he chose the high school as a low-security facility that nonetheless had the equipment necessary for him to build a signal filter, which would allow him to mask his homing beacon from the agents. Now that he's done that, he can adopt a new identity and strike out on his own.
Batman is still wary, since Zeta admits that he is programmed to remove any person whose identity he assumes, and doesn't know any other way. Max, however, comes up with a new idea: mix up the images to create a new one. Zeta tries it and comes up with a passable face, then leaves.
Batman follows after Zeta, not wanting to let him out of his sight until he leaves Gotham. In spite of the fact that the NSA can no longer track his signal, they manage to determine Zeta's motive and stake out the train station. For a while it seems they won't find him but an accident reveals him. Zeta makes his escape into the station and is confronted by the agents. However, Batman intercepts the agents leaving Zeta and Bennet to face one another alone. Zeta manages to disable Bennett and takes his gun. Batman worries that Zeta will kill his enemy but Zeta destroys the gun and walks away. Bennet, however, isn't convinced and draws another gun. With this gun, he and his agents force Zeta to fall from the building to his apparent destruction.
Batman goes down to investigate and discovers that Zeta's destruction was just an illusion. Zeta then takes on another appearance and escapes. Batman takes his leave as well, throwing some explosives to the ground causing the agents to believe that Zeta self-destructed and thereby buying him the time he needs to escape. Zeta leaves on the train and Batman flies off to Gotham, convinced that all is well.
- This episode started the spin off show The Zeta Project, making it the only episode to add a new series to the DCAU.
- Zeta recounts his last mission. It'll be fully shown in "Lost and Found".
- The Zeta design here strongly resembles the training droids used by the Justice League in the episodes "Secret Society" and "Far From Home". In "Fearful Symmetry", Green Arrow, Supergirl and the Question are attacked by a similar droid; during this appearance it's revealed that the League buys the droids from the government, their model is called Z-8, and General Hardcastle spearheaded the project that created them.
Home video releases
- Batman Beyond - Season Two (DVD)
- Batman Beyond - The Complete Series (DVD)
- The Zeta Project: Season One (DVD)
- When Zeta (as Max) leaves the high school, the "Hamilton Hill High School" logo ends with "Sch" (even though more of the wall can be seen). In the next shot, it starts with "n Hill".
- Batman throws a Batarang to disarm the female NSA agents, but when it hit the weapon it's clearly not the Batarang but one of his dispensable discs.
- When Zeta crimps Agent Bennet's weapon and tosses it aside, it freezes in the air a few inches from the ground.
- Zeta's escape is said to have occurred six days ago. In The Zeta Project, "Quality Time", Zeta's going rogue is said to happen on August 5, 2041. This would make six days later August 11, which will be a Sunday. Nonetheless, it appears to be a normal school day at Hamilton High.
- This episode was nominated for an Annie Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement for Writing in an Animated Television Production.
- This is the fourth out of five episodes from which Bruce Wayne is absent — the others being "Hidden Agenda", "Final Cut", "Armory", and "Inqueling".
- The subject of the biology class — the influence of genetics versus that of free will on a person's behavior — is paralleled by Zeta's dilemma. It also calls to mind Terry being Bruce Wayne's biological son and eventually taking up the mantle as Batman.
- Zeta's appearance here is greatly different from the appearance later given to him in The Zeta Project, in which he gained a more human appearance.
- First appearance of both Zeta and Agent Bennet.
- When creating a composite face from those he's killed, Zeta goes through several faces, hair styles and skin tones (adding up to six people) before choosing a final form (who'd have to be at least two people). None of these former targets are women.
- Zeta's first 'mixed up' disguise looks near-identical to a student behind Terry in Sneak Peek's physics class. The only difference is the jacket is orange instead of green.
- Dakota, home of Static, is mentioned for the first time in the DCAU during the scene at the train station. This was an early hint at "Static Shock", which would begin the following season. Central City, home of The Flash, is also referred to.
- Strangely enough, everyone at the train station is wearing blue and black except for Zeta and the NSA agents.
|Will Friedle||Terry McGinnis / Batman|
|Cree Summer|| Maxine Gibson|
Park girl (uncredited)
|Kerrigan Mahan|| Baker|
Station speaker (uncredited)
|Joe Spano||Agent Bennet|
|Edie McClurg||Miss Martel|
|Jeff Harlan||Agent Console|
|Gregg Berger||Dispatch Agent|
|Lauren Tom|| Dana Tan|
Skiing girl (uncredited)
Max: (After hearing about the influence of genetics on behavior) But, what about free will? I mean, I'm not going to believe that everything I am was completely decided before I was born.
Terry: Is being Batman just giving me a suspicious nature?
Zeta: I was created for one purpose — to destroy. I do not wish to destroy anymore.
Max: (after Zeta removes his weapons) Now, isn't that a load off your chest?
Zeta: I decide who I want to be.