Episode Number: 55
Original Air Date: January 24, 1993
Directed by: Kevin Altieri
Written by: Steve Perry, Laren Bright, Randy Rogel
First Appearance(s): Earl Cooper
Last week we got a little peek into Bruce Wayne’s past before he became Batman. This week, we’re getting a peek at Batman’s past and how he came to possess his most wonderful of toys: the Batmobile. For seemingly as long as there has been a Batman, there has been a Batmobile and it has almost always been awesome. Sure, everyone likely has their own favorite Batmobile (the 60s one can’t be topped in terms of aesthetics), but they’re all pretty awesome in their own right. This episode is also going to borrow rather heavily from Batman Returns. The Penguin (Paul Williams) is included and he’s going to basically utilize the same scheme that he had in that film in this episode, but with a few wrinkles in how the setup occurs. We’re also at another milestone for the series and this feature, as episode 55 marks the halfway point. Including The New Batman Adventures, 109 episodes were produced so technically the halfway point is the middle of this episode.
The episode opens with Batman and Robin in hot pursuit of The Penguin’s thugs Eagleton (John De Lancie) and Falcone (Walter Olkewicz)(I don’t think this is the same Falcone featured in Batman Begins). They can’t escape and their bullets do nothing to the Batmobile forcing the criminals to take drastic measures. They attempt to beat a diving bridge by going below the lowering slab and crashing onto a boat below. Batman and Robin aren’t so lucky and the Batmobile gets caught in-between the divider and the bridge proper doing a number on the Batmobile in the process. Batman remarks that someone named Earl is going to have his work cut-out for him.
The Batmobile was apparently still drivable after the collision with the bridge and Batman is able to get it to a garage run by Earl Cooper (Paul Winfield). Earl is apparently Batman’s mechanic and he tells him he’ll take care of it. The Batmobile will be out of commission of course so Batman and Robin leave via Batcycles to presumably go after Penguin’s men.
At Penguin’s sewer lair, the rotund crime boss is raving mad that his men stole the wrong stamps he requested. While he’s fuming, Falcone brings in an associate of his, a fellow by the name of Arnold Rundle (Steve Franken). Rundle has made an interesting discovery during his day job working for an auto parts manufacturer. Some rare parts have been ordered by an Earl Cooper, and based on what Falcone told him of their encounter with Batman, Rundle believes these parts are intended for the Batmobile. This immediately perks up The Penguin’s mood and he informs Rundle he’ll be rewarded for his aid this day. He escorts him to the famous duck boat and sets him off with a generous check. Rundle immediately becomes concerned when he sees the canal leads only to a large drain, while Penguin and his men ignore his plight. Rundle is then presumably drowned.
Penguin and his goons head to the garage Rundle pointed them to and find Earl and his daughter Marva (Lynn Moody) at work. Penguin finds it’s pretty easy to get what he wants from Early by threatening his daughter, but before he relays his scheme he does want to know how Earl and the Batman came to be acquaintances. Earl recounts his days as a designer for Global Motors. He noticed some significant safety defects with the company’s products that put lives at risk, but rather than listen to their man, they chose to fire him instead. They weren’t done with him though since Earl knew things that could harm the company if made public. They sent thugs after him, but Batman came to his rescue. Many months later after struggling to make ends meet thanks to being labeled a whistleblower in the industry, Earl ran into Batman once again. This time it was Batman who needed help. His car was looking pretty down and on its last legs. He proposed making Earl his private mechanic. He set him up with a new garage, let him design a new Batmobile, and best of all paid him really, really, well.
By putting Marva in danger, Earl is forced to comply with The Penguin and he assists in sabotaging the Batmobile. He informs Batman the car is ready, and he and Robin soon show up to claim it. As Batman and Robin are preparing to head out, they notice Earl is acting rather strangely. He informs Batman that Marva is not present because she is in the basement. He also mentions he fixed the air conditioner, even though Batman didn’t request it. Batman thanks him and he and Robin take off pondering why Earl seemed out of sorts.
With the Batmobile on the road, Penguin and his men are free to follow with Marva still their hostage. They get Batman’s attention and lead him on a chase. It’s at this point Penguin uses a remote control to take over the Batmobile. He smashes it into guard rails and drives rather recklessly. Batman and Robin find the eject button has been disabled, and start to thinking about how they can get out of this mess. Batman then realizes Earl was trying to warn him. “Down in the basement” is a racing term for crashing, and he immediately reaches for the AC. Turns out, Early re-wired the eject button to the AC and he and Robin are shot from the Batmobile their seats breaking apart into hang gliders.
Penguin and his men did not see the caped crusaders eject and only witness the Batmobile plunge off a cliff. They celebrate prematurely and even let Earl know the “good” news, who was back at the garage being held hostage by Falcone. Hearing that Batman and Robin were killed is enough to motivate Earl to act drastically and he turns on Falcone eventually hoisting him in the air with some rigging equipment tearfully reflecting on Batman and Robin, and likely worrying for his daughter.
Batman and Robin pursue Penguin into an airport and stop the car. Penguin tries to escape and takes Marva hostage while firing from his umbrella at Batman. Marva stomps his foot to escape, and Robin swoops in to finish him off. An angry Penguin has been foiled once again.
Back at the garage, Earl is happily packing up his belongings with Marva while Batman and Robin look on. He’s happily going on about redesigning the Batmobile and seems totally unphased about having to move to a new garage. Batman lets him know he’ll set up some dummy corporations to order the parts through with the goal being to never put Earl and his daughter in harm’s way again. For his part, Earl just seems delighted everything turned out okay. At least for them. Penguin finds himself back in prison and polishing license plates. As a final insult a new plate comes his way reading 1BAT4U, which he angrily snaps in two.
“The Mechanic” is a fun little action-packed episode with some exciting sequences. Car chases can be tricky, especially with a vehicle as long as the Batmobile which has a tendency to start bending and stretching with the animation. Dong Yang Animation is able to avoid those mistakes in delivering a quite fine looking episode. It’s always fun to see how something came to be where Batman is concerned, and seeing the genesis of his car is pretty fun. The flashback contains Batman’s 1940s Batmobile, which is a nice touch. Earl’s story in general is rather heart-warming and it’s nice to see good things happen to good people. Penguin gets to bring his feature-film scheme to the small screen. In the movie, the taking over of the Batmobile is but a small part, and here it’s used quite well to hinge an episode on. It’s arguably done better if anything, as Penguin getting to Batman’s mechanic is a better setup than his men just seemingly knowing how to sabotage the fancy vehicle.
This episode of Batman isn’t the greatest, I’m not even sure if it’s top 10 material, but it is entertaining. The actors give convincing performances, as they so often do, and the plot is nice and tidy with both suspense and emotion to drive it along. Earl and his daughter Marva won’t be seen again, but as far as one hit wonders go, they scored pretty high.