Batman: The Animated Series – “I Am The Night”

I_Am_the_Night-Title_CardEpisode Number:  49

Original Air Date:  November 9, 1992

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Michael Reaves

First Appearance(s):  The Jazzman

“I Am The Night” is perhaps our most introspective episode thus far. It borrows its title from the “catch phrase” Batman used to psyche himself up and overcome The Scarecrow’s fear toxin way back in episode 3. It’s a very melodramatic episode where Batman, facing a crisis, ponders his own worth. Should he let the past murder of his parents dictate his life? Is he really making a difference in Gotham by being Batman? Because it’s so heavily focused on the Batman character, this is an episode that doesn’t need a big name villain, so we get The Jazzman (Brian George) instead. He’s pretty much a run-of-the-mill Gotham City gangster type. He doesn’t have an outlandish gimmick, though he is fond of music puns. The episode also returns both Leslie Thompkins (Diana Muldaur) and Barbara Gordon (Melissa Gilbert), with the latter showing further signs of the woman she will become.

stonechair

A tired Batman.

The episode opens in the Batcave. A weary Batman is seated staring down at his feet as Alfred enters the picture with a newspaper and what looks to be coffee. Batman remarks he’s tired, and not just physically as Alfred comments on how little he’s slept in recent days. The newspaper brings more depressing news. The Penguin, presumably caught doing something illegal by Batman, has had his conviction overturned and will be set free. Batman angrily tosses the paper aside while questioning if he’s making a difference. Alfred is reassuring, but apparently not convincing. He hands over “it” which Batman had requested – a long yellow box.

Jazzman

Our villain of the day is the Jazzman. You don’t need to know anything about him.

Our attention shifts to some kid working a street corner. His street name is Wizard (voiced by a teenaged Seth Green) and he’s conning folks for spare change under the guise of needing bus faire to get home. The camera pans on a gift shop selling Batman merchandise that Wizard scoffs at. We’re also shown that Commissioner Gordon and Detective Bullock are positioned outside a building with a bunch of armed cops. The Jazzman is inside apparently conducting a big time drug deal and they’re just waiting on Batman, but he’s occupied. It’s the anniversary of the murder of the Waynes, and Dr. Thompkins is at the scene waiting for Batman. When he arrives he confesses he wonders each year if he should be doing this, if this year should be the last. It’s a similar conversation to the one he had with Alfred. And like Alfred, Thompkins is reassuring, though I’m a little surprised that as a friend to Bruce’s parents she doesn’t try to persuade him to hang up the tights.

As Batman finishes up his ritual of laying a pair of roses at the spot of the crime, a commotion gets his attention. Wizard is being accosted by a couple of thugs. Apparently, they allow him to work that little corner for money, but he’s supposed to pay up. Things are about to get out of hand when Batman steps in and puts a stop to it. Wizard is not impressed, but Batman grabs him by the collar and asks Leslie if there’s room for one more at the house she works at.

gordon shot better

This is hardly the time for a nap, Jim.

Meanwhile, the bust has taken a turn. Jazzman was setting up the police as he’s got a vendetta against Gordon for a prior arrest. He and his associates open fire on police, and things are getting out of hand. Batman finally shows up, striking a rather impressive pose atop the building the Jazzman is occupying. Using one of his many ropes, he runs alongside the building tossing tear gas into the windows. This flushes out the bad guys and Bullock and the police are able to apprehend the Jazzman. When he turns to celebrate with Gordon, we get our second “Oh, my God,” of the series as Bullock sees Gordon lying face down on the ground. Batman sees it too, and the look of shock on his face is surprisingly emotive for a man in a mask.

iamthenight8

Paying a visit to a fallen friend.

Gordon is rushed to a nearby hospital and stabilized. A news report is played to relay just what happened. They never actually say Gordon was shot, but they mention removing a bullet from him that was matched to the weapon the Jazzman was using. Gordon is placed in the ICU, and Batman soon pays a visit. It’s surprisingly easy for Batman to enter through the window even though an armed guard has been placed outside Gordon’s door. He apologizes to the unconscious Gordon and blames himself. Barbara Gordon emerges from the shadows to console Batman and assure him it isn’t his fault. Bullock bursts in with the opposite opinion. He berates Batman, blaming him for not sniffing out the setup to begin with and for being late to the action. He screams at him, and Batman offers only a small amount of resistance before leaving out the window he came in while Bullock hollers challenges at him.

Batman returns to the Batcave and does what every protagonist in a melodrama would do – he smashes stuff. Alfred apparently knew to stay away as he never interrupts. The Jazzman is then shown being ordered held without bail, but at a prison outside of Gotham due to overcrowding. He quickly puts a plan into motion that allows him to escape. Apparently jails around Gotham suffer from the same problems as the ones in Gotham. He’s not satisfied with wounding Gordon and wants to “send him to Harpland,” so he’s hellbent on returning to Gotham to finish the job.

17

Man wasn’t supposed to live in darkness, Bruce.

Dick enters the Batcave at Alfred’s insistence in hopes of cheering up Bruce. He’s been down in the cave for days. Dick finds him, still in costume, and the two rehash what happened. Like the others, Dick tries to assure Bruce of his worth, but he won’t hear it. He sneaks in the tidbit that Gordon is the same age as his father, adding a little gravitas to the situation and hinting that Bruce looks to Jim as a father figure. Dick is about as successful as the others, or perhaps even less so as the scene ends with Bruce denouncing Batman and tossing his mask down a chasm seemingly giving it all up.

Dick is then shown paying a visit to Gordon. For the first time, Dick and Barbara share a scene together. It’s not explained why the two would be friendly, but I think it’s mentioned in another episode that they attend the same university and know each other through that. Barbara bemoans that she can’t do more (foreshadowing!). They know the Jazzman has escaped from prison, and she’s certain he’ll be returning to finish what he started. Dick then returns to Wayne Manor to try and convince Bruce to put the tights back on and get out there. Bruce just sits quietly at a desk in his pajamas as Dick declares that if Bruce won’t stop the Jazzman, then he will. The scene cuts to the Batcave with Robin heading for one of the Batcycles when a gloved hand clamps down on his shoulder. Batman declares this is his hunt, and we’re off!

I_am_the_night_friends

Crisis averted.

True to his word, the Jazzman is found at the hospital. He takes out a window washer and begins using his equipment to scale the side of the building to get to Gordon’s room. How he knew which room Gordon was in is not explained, nor is it explained how Gotham PD could be so foolish as to allow window washing in the area. Jazzman raises the scaffolding up to Gordon’s room and produces a handgun. He takes aim intending to shoot through the window when Batman swoops in at the last second to redirect the shot. The commotion gets the attention of Bullock, who was at ground level, and he races back inside. Batman is left hanging from the scaffolding as the Jazzman tries to knock him off, but he ends up going through the window. A guard bursts in, but Jazzman slams the door on him causing him to drop his weapon. Jazzman is able to gain possession of the weapon and take aim at Gordon as Barbara screams and throws herself onto her father. Batman recovers outside the window and lets loose a shuriken as Jazzman fires. The projectile flies true and sticks into the end of the barrel of the gun, causing it to backfire. Bullock bursts in and Jazzman is apprehended once again.

As the commotion dies down, Gordon wakes up to see Batman and Barbara at his bed side. He offers words of encouragement, first making sure the bust was a success. He then expresses his admiration for Batman, who in turn encourages him to get some rest. As Batman swings away, he settles in on a rooftop and notices the kid from earlier, Wizard, picking up an unattended suitcase by a bus stop. He swoops in, questioning who’s briefcase he stole, only to find out he misread the situation. Wizard tells him it’s his, then says he was hoping he’d run into Batman. He explains he’s been to many halfway houses before and heard the same schtick about getting on the right track and how it never worked. This time though, it did. He offers Batman the two words he needs most right now, “Thank you.” Wizard then hops on the bus intending to head home. Batman looks a bit stunned at first, then smiles as he heads back for the rooftops. The camera lingers on his face as the episode closes – still smiling.

wizard

The kid with the stupid name telling Batman exactly what he needs to hear.

“I Am The Night” is a pretty weighty episode. There’s a lot to unpack with this one. It tiptoes around the theme of escalation a bit and how Batman could potentially be doing more harm than good, though it doesn’t really go too far down that road. Really, it focuses its attention on Batman himself and how easy it would be for a guy in his situation to feel depressed. As viewers, we look to Batman as a hero and this series presents him in that light in an unquestioning manner without ever really stopping to show us how Batman might view himself. Many episodes are even light on Batman as the villains absorb a tremendous amount of the spotlight. As such, it’s nice to see an episode focus almost entirely on Batman for a change. This episode also deals with consequences in a manner many children’s shows of its ilk ignore. For once, someone actually got caught in a hail of gunfire and we’re reminded of the stakes. While I don’t think anyone really felt that Commissioner Gordon would die, the image of him lying there in the street and the genuine look of fear on both Batman and Bullock is affecting.

The joyless portrayal of Batman in this episode comes across as more authentic than many of the others. Batman isn’t effortlessly fighting off bad guys or solving riddles. He’s tangling with something more human that probably anyone can relate to. Because of this, “I Am The Night” probably isn’t a favored episode for many children especially since it doesn’t feature a noteworthy criminal. For adult viewers though, it’s hard to deny that this one isn’t one of the better episodes. It toes the line of melodrama and corn, but I don’t think it ever goes over it. If you want to nitpick the episode you could certainly mock it for how easy it is for Jazzman to escape prison or how quickly Bruce goes from his pajamas to Batman. I definitely can suggest that naming a street kid Wizard was an odd move. This is a pretty intense episode though and one I enjoy. It also helps that it looks pretty great with several shots of Batman really standing out. His dejected mood at the episode’s beginning, his heroic pose from the top of the building the Jazzman was hiding in, the way he runs across the wall, it’s all very dynamic. Sunrise handled this one and they did a good job. About the only thing I don’t like is the slow-mo when Jazzman is about to shoot Gordon and that Batman can toss a throwing star into the barrel of a handgun. Even for a cartoon, that seems implausible. This is a good one though even with the nitpicks. I take him for granted, but lastly I should say this is Kevin Conroy’s best performance to date in the role of Batman. It’s hard to imagine anyone else being able to capture the humanity of the character the way he did in this episode.


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