-Written by J.M. Dematteis
Batman and Wonder Woman are flying in the polar ice caps to Superman's Fortress of Solitude in Wonder Woman's invisible plane. They banter about the fact that it's Superman's birthday, and ask each other what they got him. Wonder Woman is mum on the subject, but Batman remarks "What do you get for the man who has everything?" Wonder Woman takes this to mean that Batman got him a gift certificate. Actually, it's just cash.
They arrive at his fortress' interior to find Superman standing in one spot, a curiously eerie expression on his face, and huge black-and-purple plant attached to his chest. Batman examines him and notes that he appears to be in a comatose trance. Wonder Woman wonders aloud who got this for him and why, before wandering off to find anything to help take the thing off of Superman's chest.
*BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!*
Kal-El wakes up in his bed, having had a non-restful sleep. Brainiac hovers next to Kal-El's bed, where he and his wife Loana are blearily getting to their feet, and gives him the daily weather report on Krypton while also reminding him that he and his son Van-El have an appointment with Kal-El's father Jor-El later that afternoon. Kal-El tries to start moving around the house to prepare, but he steps in something, and begins to chastise Van about Krypto leaving behind presents inside. Suddenly, the house begins to shake, but no one really notices anything except Kal-El, who is confused. He looks at Brainiac, who simply says that Krypton's Seismic Institute had predicted that minor and completely harmless tremor. Loana manages to pin the distracted Kal-El down and proceeds to give him a kiss...
Back in the real world, as Batman tries to free Supes from the plant, Mongul steps out of the shadows with an evil grin on his face and an unconscious Wonder Woman in his hands, and explains that he sent the Black Mercy to Superman. The Black Mercy is a plant that feeds its victims a vision based on the innermost desires of its victim's heart while it slowly feeds on the body — the perfect distraction for Mongul to take advantage of in order to subjugate Earth's inferior species. Wonder Woman, who was merely playing possum, chooses that moment to wake up and give him a kick under the chin. Fisticuffs begin to occur between Wonder Woman and Mongul while Batman tries to get the plant off of Superman, but Wonder Woman is very apparently out of her league.
In Superman's dream, he and Van find themselves at Jor-El's lab. Jor-El is now a tired old man, having spent the last many years rebuilding his reputation after his prediction that Krypton would explode turned out to be false. Yet Kal-El notes that there are a great many tremors still going, and they are increasing. What's more, for one brief moment, Jor-El's voice even changed to Jonathan Kent's. But then finally, he hears a faint voice, a whisper on the wind. "Fight it, Clark." Now, he begins to realize the truth, and in a moment of total heartbreak, he confesses his realization to his imagined son.
- Superman: I don't think you're real. I don't think any of this is— is real.
As soon as he says these words, the world around them starts to crumble. Krypton really is being destroyed. Kal-El says his final goodbye to Van-El, promising him he'd never forget. Finally, with a flash, Krypton is gone, and the Black Mercy is pulled free from Superman's chest, returning him to the real world.
And he is pissed.
Without even sparing a moment of thought, he flies straight into the next room, taking Mongul through several walls and relieving Wonder Woman from the fight. Wonder Woman stumbles through the hole Superman had just come through, and discovers that now Batman has the Black Mercy affixed to his chest, and starts trying to pull it free.
Inside of Bruce's head, a familiar Noir-esque scene plays. A young boy and his father and mother are walking through an alley after a performance of Zorro, when a mugger arrives, brandishing a gun and demanding they hand over their valuables. Rather than stand idly by, the father, Thomas Wayne, charges forward and averts the gun blast, before going to town on the mugger, to the delight of the boy watching, a young Bruce Wayne.
Outside, Superman and Mongul are trading punches, with Superman demanding to know if Mongul had any idea what he did to Superman. Mongul smugly replies that he fashioned a prison Superman couldn't escape from without sacrificing his heart's desire, before rubbing salt in the wound by saying it must have been like tearing off his own arm. Superman doesn't take that well.
- Superman: BURN!
Menawhile, Wonder Woman is successfully wrestling the Black Mercy free. And just like with Superman, this means that in his head, Batman is starting to see things go horribly, horribly wrong. Thomas Wayne still has the upper hand, but as a familiar voice from far away calls his name, the mugger starts to gain the upper hand in the shadows, before finally, the scene vanishes with the sound and flash of a gunshot.
At once, Wonder Woman finds herself fighting the Black Mercy as it tries to ensnare her, and the fight takes her away from the room. Batman, however, does not rejoin the fight, instead caught up in what he just saw.
Mongul, meanwhile, is still holding his own against Superman, even continuing to hold the upper hand, before sourly informing Superman that he should have stayed in the happy prison the Black Mercy granted him. Superman, barely holding on before, finally snaps. Only a few punches is all it takes to send Mongul through a wall and into the room with the statues of Jor-El and Lara-El, where he goes to town on Mongul's face.
- Superman: Happy!? Do you know what I've lost!?
The statue above them starts to crumble, ever so slightly.
- Superman: What I've—!?
But Superman finds himself distracted by the statue above him. This momentary distraction proves fatal, as Mongul is able to take control of the fight once again, and prepares a spear to finally end the Last Son of Krypton once and for all.
But Wonder Woman gets Mongul's attention before he can finish. She has successfully gained control over the Black Mercy, and before Mongul can react, she tosses it right at him.
With the fight finally over, they reveal the presents they brought him for his birthday. Wonder Woman shows him a new breed of rose that had been cultivated, called the Krypton. After the fight, it has been damaged, but Superman accepts it gratefully. Then, they go and stand over Mongul, who is lying on the ground with the Black Mercy on his chest, his face twitching and looking almost peaceful.
- Wonder Woman: I wonder what he's seeing.Batman: Whatever it is, it's too good for him.
As the screen closes in on Mongul's face, it fades to black as we hear the sound of distant screams...
This episode contains examples of:
- Adapted Out: Jason Todd doesn't appear in the JLU adaptation, as he was never introduced in the DCAU. Similarly, Tim Drake, who held the title at the time the story was set, did not appear. This may not been because of the Bat-Embargo, which went into effect partway into this season's production note . According to quotes on this page, the creative team had some say in this; Bruce Timm and others "didnt hesitate for a moment to cut Robin" (though Dwayne McDuffie tried to keep him in before relenting).
- All Just a Dream: Courtesy of the Black Mercy.
- Batman Gambit: Batman surmises Superman was overtaken by the Black Mercy because it was in a container made to look like a birthday present.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Averted in the animated version, however, where Krypton really is a paradise — making it all the more painful for Superman to reject it.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Oh, dear God.
- Big Damn Heroes: Mongul's about to deliver a nasty blow to Wonder Woman when Superman swoops in.
- Bloodless Carnage: Mongul beats the living daylights out of Wonder Woman. While she demonstrates some bruise marks here and there, it should look far worse than it does.
- Casting Gag: The mugger who shoots the Waynes (theoretically Joe Chill) is voiced by Kevin Conroy, who is the voice of Batman.
- Comes Great Responsibility: Superman leaves his dream world because of his belief in his responsibilities as a hero.
- Composite Character: Superman's ideal wife, Loana is a composite of his love interests Lois Lane and Lana Lang in name, appearance, etc. Perhaps the writers were inspired by this Silver Age comics story issue here http://www.comics.org/issue/17678/cover/4/
- Continuity Cameo: Krypto and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to "little Zod".
- Curse Cut Short: Wonder Woman's "Go to hell!" is cut off by her firing the BFG.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The animated version has only Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman present, and it's Diana who gets in the final shot with the Black Mercy.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Mongul speculates that the Black Mercy is showing Superman as ruler of the universe; in reality, Superman's having a dream of living a peaceful, quiet life with a loving family on Krypton. In both versions, it's implied at the end that Mongul is perfectly content with the fantasy of bloody conquest the Black Mercy is giving him. Whereas Superman is able to break free because, being a hero, he was able to comprehend something wrong with the fantasy he was given.
- Fate Worse than Death: Mongul is trapped by the Black Mercy.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Mongul is defeated by the very plant he used to immobilize Superman.
- "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: While trying to pry loose the Black Mercy, Batman keeps talking to Superman."He'll kill her, Clark, and then he'll kill us all. Come back to us.""Yes, that's it. Fight it, Clark. Fight it."
- Innocuously Important Episode: In a sense to the Cadmus arc, which hadn't even started yet. Superman is angrier than he's ever been and about to kill his hated enemy, but he hesitates at the last moment because he's The Cape.
- Lotus-Eater Machine: The Black Mercy, a telepathic parasitic plant, subdues victims by showing them a perfect mental simulation of their greatest desires.
- Karma Houdini/Karmic Death: Mongul's fate. Death being figurative here, of course. Depending on if Mongul's dream turns sour or if he's dissatisfied with it, he got exactly what he wanted and was satisfied with it. In the Justice League Unlimited episode, Batman bitterly states that whatever he sees is "too good for him".
- Manly Tears: "I promise you, I'll never forget."
- Meaningful Name:
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Wonder Woman does a lot better here then she did in the original comics, actually putting up a good fight and being the one to pull the Black Mercy off of Batman to use on Mongul. This doesn't change the fact that Mongul outclasses her, though — by the time Superman is out of his fantasy and intervenes, she's been beaten so badly that she can't even walk, forcing her to pull herself forward on one arm.
- Mongul himself, courtesy of Superman. His face is seriously battered and he himself believed Superman would have killed him had it gone on any longer. It's worth noting, however, that Mongul in the comic also did a lot better than the episode implies. Namely, his face in the original story was perfectly fine after fighting against a bloodlusted Superman.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Unlike the comic version (where we see Mongul's fantasy of triumph and conquest), we never actually get to see what it is that Mongul sees in his fantasy. And yet, it is so much worse...
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Superman's not trying to stop Mongul; he's trying to kill him.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: A very brief version in the animated adaptation, in which Superman overpowers Mongul, who previously had the upper hand, while falling through several floors in thick smoke.
- Playing Possum: Mongul sneers at Wonder Woman for apparently going down in one hit, but she was just trying to get him to talk a little more about what he did to Superman. Unfortunately, he really is much stronger than her.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: As in the comic, Mongul makes a number of blatantly sexist remarks toward Wonder Woman.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Alan Moore's For the Man Who Has Everything. They took out some of the darker aspects which gave it its own unique effect while sticking to the overall idea. Notably, this is the only adaptation of his work that Moore actually likes.
- Properly Paranoid: Superman just can't shake the feeling that something is wrong with his perfect life.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: BURN!
- Scream Discretion Shot: After Mongul's mind gets trapped in the Black Mercy plant, Wonder Woman wonders what he's dreaming about. The camera then zooms in on his smiling face to the sounds of horrific screaming.
- Shadow Discretion Shot: In Batman's desire, he see direct shots of Thomas Wayne kicking Joe Chill's ass. However as the Black Mercy is pulled off of him, we switch to only seeing their shadows as Chill slowly recovers and turns the gun on Thomas, and finally close in on Bruce's horrified face.
- Self-Serving Memory: Amusingly, Mongul tries to accuse Superman of that:Mongul: I suppose Superman told you about our previous encounter.Batman: You mean how he humiliated you?Mongul: A... jaundiced account.
- Suplex Finisher: Wonder Woman to Mongul. Though not a finisher move — it barely fazes him.
- Title Drop: This is Batman's explanation for giving Superman cash.Batman: I mean, what do you buy for the man who has everything?
- Took a Level in Badass: Mongul comes across as far more menacing and dangerous than his first appearance.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: Superman still can't bring himself to kill Mongul, who mocks him for it.
- Unreliable Narrator: Subverted, much to Mongul's irritation.Mongul: I suppose Superman told you about our previous encounter.
Batman: You mean how he humiliated you?
Mongul: A... jaundiced account.
- Unstoppable Rage: Superman comes this close to beating Mongul to death. He only hesitates when seeing the statues of Jor-El and Lara.