Batman: The Animated Series – “Blind as a Bat”

Blind_as_a_Bat-Title_CardEpisode Number:  59

Original Air Date:  February 22, 1993

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Len Wein and Mike Underwood

First Appearance(s):  None

I think there’s some kind of law in art that if you have a bat-related protagonist you must make use of the phrase “blind as a bat” at some point, which brings us to today’s episode. This is another Len Wein written episode and we’ve seen a few of these in the second half of the production run on season one. It makes sense that the first chunk of the season would be left to those who created the show, with the second half drawing more directly from the artists who worked with Batman previously. This episode contains no real “firsts” for the show, but it does contain some “lasts,” which we’ll get to. It’s another Penguin episode, and interestingly, with his last appearance somewhat mirroring the events of Batman Returns this one brings to mind some events from Batman ’89.

Raven_X1-11

Wayne Tech’s new murder machine.

The episode opens at an airfield demonstration for a new helicopter being unveiled. The Raven X1-11 is a specialty stealth helicopter developed by Wayne Tech as a device best equipped for reconnaissance and rescue missions due to its quiet operation and stealth capabilities. It’s not solely designed for that though as it also features impressive offensive capabilities as well. Bruce Wayne is onhand for the demonstration as Wayne Tech is presumably looking to sell the device to the US government and various military personnel are onhand as well. Dr. Lee (Haunani Minn) is leading the demonstration as a flight crew circles the area in response. Everyone seems rather impressed, though Bruce remarks he has some misgivings about creating a weapon.

The Raven is a remarkable success at everything it demonstrates. Naturally, a weapon this fine is going to attract the attention of Gotham’s less dignified individuals, and indeed it already has. The Raven starts to fire on the crowd forcing everyone to scatter. When a group of officers check in the hangar from where the Raven presumably launched from they find the crew have been tied up and left behind. A voice soon booms from the Raven and it identifies itself as The Penguin (Paul Williams). Penguin has not only hi-jacked the Raven, he’s also apparently stolen Snoopy’s World War I flying ace costume as well. Penguin and his crew, led once again by Falcone (Walter Olkewicz), fire upon the crowd once more. Dr. Lee is directly in harm’s way forcing Bruce into action. As he knocks her out of the way he emerges to hide behind a vehicle which immediately gets lit-up by the Raven and explodes. Bruce howls in pain and is sent flying to the ground. Alfred soon approaches in the limo and ushers him inside as Bruce orders him home. When Alfred questions why they aren’t heading for a hospital, Bruce explains it’s because he doesn’t want anyone to know that he can’t see.

i cant see

A disheveled Bruce realizing he can’t see.

At Wayne Manor, Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Diana Muldaur) administers to Bruce. She thinks the blindness is temporary, caused by a flash-burn to the retina of both eyes, and orders Bruce to keep his eyes covered for at least 36 hours. Bruce is adamant that he can’t be out of commission that long insisting that Batman needs to track down the Penguin. He tries to stand up and demonstrate his fitness with his head wrapped in bandages and promptly tips over a coffee table. Making matters worse, loyal butler Alfred lets him know the Bat Signal is calling for him. Man, sometimes you need to keep your mouth shut, Al.

Commissioner Gordon is puzzled when Batman fails to show, but he can’t dwell on it much longer. He’s due for a meeting with Detective Bullock and Mayor Hill, and as the three sit around discussing their next move, the Penguin contacts them. He tells them they can have their chopper back, but it will cost them $100 million. Hill is aghast at the sum, but they’re not making much progress on their own. To show he means business, Penguin takes the Raven on a joy-ride. Some teens out doing the same notice the Raven as they cruise over a suspension bridge. The Raven opens fire and takes out the cables of the bridge causing it to collapse. The teens made it off though; we can’t have any fatalities, of course.

blind bruce

Bruce is not really in any condition to do Bat stuff.

With Penguin showing no signs of slowing down, Batman is forced into action. Somehow, he convinces Leslie to craft a special device for him that will allow him to see. Using the same technology that Wayne Tech built into the Raven, she solders him a helmet with the device implants. Once Bruce puts it on, it gives him the ability to see, but only in red and black. It’s basically Virtual Boy. He demonstrates its effectiveness in the Batcave and deems it satisfactory. There’s catch to the device though; it’s a battery hog. Batman needs to keep it connected to his the battery in his belt or else it will run out quickly. It has advantages too though, like giving Batman glowing red eyes when he puts his cowl back on. He hops into the Batwing, because that’s the best vehicle for a legally blind man to go with, and hooks the device up to the console in that and takes off.

aviator penguin

Hey Penguin, Snoopy called, he wants his costume back!

Batman first drops in on the Mayor who is still meeting with Gordon and Bullock. When they ask this badass, red-eyed Batman what they should do he tells them to do exactly what Penguin wants. Hill then takes over Gotham’s television airwaves to tell Penguin they’ve agreed to his deal. Penguin receives and notes it could be a trap, but has full confidence that the radar capabilities of the Raven will let them know of that before anyone can get the drop on them. They head for the ransom location and Penguin and Falcone retrieve a briefcase in the spot they requested. It only contains a taunting note though and soon the Batwing appears in the sky. Interestingly, Penguin makes the connection that the Batwing must possess similar technology to the Raven for them to not detect it, but he fails to take it one step further and determine that the Batwing must come from Wayne Tech.

Penguin and Falcone flee in the Raven but Batman is right on top of them. He quickly takes out the Raven knocking it from the sky as Penguin and Falcone dangle from it via a rope ladder. Somehow, they survive the crash landing without any apparent injury and so does the rest of the crew. They flee to the immobile, but not defenseless, Raven. Falcone climbs into the laser canon and takes aim at a charging Batwing. Penguin is there to basically shake his fist at Batman and this is the part that reminds be of Batman ’89 as it’s very similar to Batman’s approach with The Joker. Falcone nails the Batwing, and it’s sent careening through the sky as Penguin unleashes his trademarked laughter first popularized by Burgess Meredith.

not good

That’s not good.

With the Batwing out of control, Batman is forced into a crash landing of his own outside some kind of metal refinery. As he jumps out of the Batwing before it explodes, he forgets to unplug his helmet from the console and the jack is ripped off. Batman escapes the exploding Batwing, but apparently without a spare cord. Without being able to plug his helmet into the battery on his belt, he’ll soon run out of power and lose his sight once again.

Batman stumbles into the refinery as Penguin insists that he and Falcone give chase. As they catch up to him they note how he’s not moving properly and they assume he must be injured. Inside the refinery, Batman stumbles around as his sight goes in and out and finds himself on some stairs as he’s forced to dodge Penguin’s umbrella gunfire. If Penguin just carried a more traditional weapon I bet he’d have better aim. Batman stumbles onto a conveyor belt and gets his foot lodged into it. Helpless, he gets lucky when Penguin runs out of ammo and apparently he failed to bring a reload. Falcone declares that he’ll take care of Batman and, armed with a chain, he hops onto the conveyor belt and starts swinging. Batman is able to finally extricate himself from the conveyor belt, but tumbles off the side. He’s now dangling a few stories up as Falcone stomps on his fingers. Batman is able to switch to the other side, and as Falcone bends down to try to figure out where he went, Batman is able to see his head and executes a flawless head-scissors takedown.

about to drop in

Blind, but not helpless.

Falcone crashes to the ground far below, though he rises momentarily to apparently demonstrate that the fall did not kill him. Penguin is irritated, but that last bit of juice in Batman’s device has apparently run out. He stumbles off the conveyor belt and Penguin takes note of his erratic movements. He starts making noises and watches as Batman tries to hit the origins of the sounds with bat-a-rangs. It’s enough to let Penguin know that Batman is indeed blind as a bat, and begins to taunt him. Batman proves to be blind, but not helpless, as he kicks a few barrels into Penguin. He’s able to flee down a walkway, but it ends abruptly with nothing but molten metal below. Batman fires his grapple gun into the ceiling to escape Penguin, but he’s left dangling above with no where to go. As Penguin taunts him, he notices some water dripping down onto his head. Assuming there’s a water pipe above him, Batman searches for the valve with his hands, and finding it, opens it up to drop a ton of water onto the metal below. A huge amount of steam goes up which sets the Penguin to coughing giving Batman an aural target which is all he needs to take him out.

Sadly, we’re not shown how Batman got out of that mess after he subdued Penguin. He likely would have needed some assistance getting home and presumably Alfred helped him, but how they got in touch we do not know. The next scene is simply Bruce at home with Alfred and Leslie. She’s removing the bandages she had put in place while remarking that she wishes Bruce had followed her advice which is supposed to make us a bit fearful that his eyesight is permanently damaged. When the bandages fall, Bruce flashes concern on his face which causes Alfred to recoil in fear and drop the newspaper he was holding. Bruce deftly snatches it before it can hit the floor, and lets his old friend know that his eyes are just fine. He opens the paper to see coverage of Penguin’s capture and remarks he’s never seen anything prettier.

Interestingly, “Blind as a Bat” deals with Batman losing his sight in a similar manner to another Len Wein episode, “Off-Balance.” In case you forgot, in that episode a vertigo device made it difficult for Batman to navigate a room full of traps forcing him to close his eyes. I was kind of annoyed with how well Batman was able to then dodge all of the traps without his vision, but I’m happy to say this episode doesn’t make Batman do anything particularly super human when he’s blinded. Penguin is a terrible shot, which definitely helped him survive, and the various aircraft crashes definitely go beyond the realm of plausibility. It’s also pretty ridiculous for Batman to attempt this sort of thing alone. Where’s Robin? He really doesn’t trust the Gotham PD to do anything right, apparently, for him to go out blind. This is definitely an easy episode to nit-pick, but on the whole it’s still pretty entertaining. Not really one of the best, but far from the worst.

As for those “lasts” I mentioned, this will probably surprise you, but this is the final episode in which The Penguin is a main villain. He’s going to be reduced to a few cameos for the rest of this series, but he’ll come back in a more meaningful way with The New Batman Adventures. Still voiced by Paul Williams, he’ll undergo a major redesign that sees him resemble his classic comic self. He’ll also be “reformed” in that he no longer spearheads his own criminal operations, but he’s still rather clued-in on the Gotham Underworld. Batman will drop in on him as he operates his own club to try to shake him down for information, though I’d hardly describe him as an ally to the caped crusader.

leslie helmet

This is Leslie’s final appearance in a meaningful capacity, and she even demonstrates some new skills.

This episode is also the final appearance of Batman confidant and sometimes doctor Leslie Thompkins. She’s played a pretty nice role as a link between Bruce and his parents. As one of the few people that know about Bruce’s alter-ego, she’s played a pretty important role in this show. I don’t know why they chose to not feature her in season 2. She has one, lone, cameo in The New Batman Adventures, but that’s it. She also gets a mention in the Batman Beyond film The Return of the Joker. Whatever the reason for her absence after this episode, I will say I miss the character and I enjoyed her when she showed up.


One response to “Batman: The Animated Series – “Blind as a Bat”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: