Batman: The Animated Series – “The Terrible Trio”

terrible trio title cardEpisode Number:  71

Original Air Date:  September 11, 1995

Directed by:  Frank Paur

Written by:  Alan Burnett and Michael Reaves

First Appearance(s):  The Terrible Trio, The Robin-a-rang(?)

They can’t all be winners. That’s the feeling I get when I watch “The Terrible Trio,” a very underwhelming episode of Batman. It’s easy to point to the villains of the episode, The Terrible Trio, as being the reason why, but this is a show that has done pretty well with the lesser known villains Batman is known for. Though the concept for this villainous group is pretty limited – a group of bored, wealthy, men who resort to crime to get their thrills. There’s not a lot there to work with in terms of character development removing any chance at sympathy. The best the episode could probably do is make the viewer hate this group so much that seeing Batman pummel them in the end is supremely satisfying. And when your episode is almost depending on violence to make an impact that’s probably not a good thing for a show that’s essentially rated PG.

the terrible trio are lame

Behold! The incredibly lame costume of The Terrible Trio!

This episode is considered by Fox to be the premiere of the fourth season, first airing in September of 1995. It was a brief season consisting of just five episodes, but it’s five episodes produced under The Adventures of Batman and Robin umbrella so Robin is featured. It’s also animated by Jade Animation and this is that studio’s lone contribution to this show. That may also explain why it took so long to air relative to the production order since Jade was starting from scratch.

The episode opens inside an apparent corporate building of some kind. Three thieves wearing masks, a fox, shark, and vulture, are hitting a safe and apparently having a pretty good time of it. The fox stops to hassle a security guard they’ve knocked aside, mocking him for what he assumes is a low salary. He tries giving the guard a stack of cash out of pity, but the guard tosses it back in his face. The crooks are amused by his gesture, and then Batman shows up to break up the party. He’s not alone, as Robin is with him and he whips out what I can only assume is called the Robin-a-rang, an R-shaped shuriken like Batman’s Batarang. It’s beyond stupid. The trio flee down to a dock and Robin gives chase, though the bad guys take out his rope causing him to land awkwardly. Worse for him is that the docked is rigged with explosives, and as the crooks flee via speed boat they detonate the bombs tossing Robin into the bay. Batman is forced to rescue Robin allowing the trio to escape.

trio clever names

They didn’t put much thought into those names.

The next day, Robin is reading about the theft in the paper with the media dubbing the criminals as The Terrible Trio. He notes that their masks seem to denote their superiority over land, sea, and air while also noting that they look rather cheap. Bruce, in a new outfit of a white sweater and slacks, is not at all amused by the new crime wave and declares they’re just a bunch of arrogant nobodies.

trio unmasked

Bruce and his rich guy associates, who harbor a rather easy to uncover secret.

Bruce is then shown at a sportsman’s club of some kind shooting skeet. Despite his aversion to guns, he’s a damn good shot. A kid by the name of Warren (Bill Mumy) gives Bruce crap for thanking the man who handed him his gun. He expresses his philosophy that the wealthy shouldn’t associate with the lower class and should instead be asserting their dominance. His friends Gunther (Peter Scolari) and Armand (David Jolliffe) laugh it off while the three share a corny triple handshake. I wonder who our villains could be? As Bruce takes his leave Warren refers to him as one of the dumbest men on the planet.

warren and rebecca

This is not a good looking episode, but Jade Animation does have some fun making Rebecca look rather sexy.

Sometime later, a woman by the name of Rebecca (Khrystine Haje) is being admonished by her father, Sheldon Fallbrook (Hector Elizondo), for her choice of dress. They’re clearly quite wealthy and at the same club Bruce was shooting at. Bruce actually comes over to greet Sheldon, while Warren and his buddies arrive for Rebecca. He and Rebecca are an item, and she mentions her dad is going to flip when he sees the credit card bill sharing that her little dress he dislikes so much set him back five grand. Later, Rebecca is getting ready to take a dip in the pool when Warren gives her a check. It’s apparently to cover her expenses to keep her dad in the dark about the money she’s blowing through. She seductively removes a coat she was wearing before slinking off to the pool as Gunther and Armand show up. Before Warren can chase after her, he tells his buddies that Sheldon will actually be reimbursing him for the check he just cut to his daughter.

What I can only assume is that night, the Terrible Trio hit the Fallbrook’s apartment. Vulture expresses some reservations about robbing from someone they know, while Fox just remarks it makes the act more thrilling. In the process a vase is broken, and old man Fallbrook  sneaks up on the Trio armed with a rifle. Rebecca had said he was out-of-town, so the three are surprised to see him. The episode also isn’t making any attempts at hiding who the Terrible Trio are as they refer to each other by name, though not in front of Sheldon. As he attempts to call the police, one of the Trio yanks the phone by the chord which creates an opening for Warren/Fox to jump in and knock Fallbrook over. One of the others then lifts him up and holds him so that Warren can deliver a punch to the face, in which the camera pans down to Fallbrook’s feet as a bit of self-censoring. The old man collapses and Warren makes a crack about him being where he belongs – at his feet. He also takes a stick-pin off of him before the three flee via grappling hook as the police arrive.

getaway car

It can’t be easy to drive in a getup like that.

As they speed away in a getaway car, driven by Fox since this is his apparent domain, Batman receives word of what’s happened on his scanner and races to the scene. He soon finds the Trio and fires off a grappling hook at their bumper. They’re able to shoot it off as Batman tries to pull them to stop via his e-brake. This gives them a chance to put some ground between the two vehicles and Fox has the others start dumping the cash they just looted out of the sun roof. As they’re heading through downtown Gotham, this gets the attention of pedestrians who take to the streets to retrieve the bills. Batman is forced to swerve into an alley to avoid them, thus allowing the Terrible Trio to escape.

The punch from Warren was enough to land Sheldon Fallbrook in the hospital leaving him in a coma, no less. Rebecca is shown visiting him where a nurse remarks there’s no telling when he’ll wake up. As she leaves she runs into Bruce who offers to help her in any way he can. Warren then sidles up to play the role of comforting boyfriend and the two walk off leaving Bruce alone with Sheldon. He examines the black eye left behind by Warren’s punch and notices an indent in his skin that matches the unique ring worn by Warren.

fox takes aim

Imagine if he had that gun when they knocked off Fallbrook’s apartment.

Warren, Rebecca, Gunther, and Armand have all left Gotham for the mountains. Rebecca is feeling uneasy and guilty about leaving the city while her dad is in the hospital, but the other three assure her everything is fine. As she gets cozy with Warren on the couch, her father’s stick-pin falls from his jacket onto the floor. She recognizes it immediately and a look of horror flashes across her face as she realizes who is responsible for putting her father in the hospital.

At the Batcave, Dick has used the computer to figure out what caused the mark left behind on Sheldon’s face. Apparently, Bruce didn’t know it right away, but the mark is the logo of a frat that Warren and his friends belong to. They soon figure it out, while Rebecca is left to ask “why?” and Warren explains they were bored, while Gunther and Armand seem at least a bit apologetic. They even claim they’re willing to repay everyone they’ve stolen from. Warren is not on the same page and declares Rebecca is a liability they must take care of. The other two aren’t so sure, but they’re too weak to actually challenge Warren who uses some ether to knock her out. They put her in a car and push it up a snowy hill. When Vulture questions Warren again, he’s basically told to shut up as they push the car off a ledge.

shark vs batman

Batman shark do do do-do do-do

As the car plummets to what will be a smashing end, a grappling hook appears to save it. The Batwing is on the scene, and the Terrible Trio decided to fasten Rebecca’s seatbelt for some reason so the force of the car stopping its rapid descent appears to leave her without serious injury. As the Trio flees, Batman leaves Robin (who apparently broke his arm at the start of the episode) to pilot the Batwing while he goes after the boys via his Bat-glider. Fox shoots a few holes in it, and Batman drops from the sky to land on Shark. He wails on him and then takes out Vulture with a simple bolo leaving only Fox.

Fox heads for a shed as Batman gives chase on foot, and Fox emerges from the shed on a snow mobile. Batman is able to jump onto it and the two wrestle with each other with Fox wielding a pick axe. Batman dumps him off, but is about to plunge off yet another ledge and is forced to bail, but not before some playful editing makes us think he went over the edge. Crisis averted, Batman retrieves Fox who does the only thing he can think of – he tries to bribe Batman. That’s a non-starter, and Batman hauls him in. We’re then shown Warren entering a jail cell. He doesn’t seem happy, and then he seems terrified when his rather large cell mate gives him a threatening look complete with a growl for added effect. Have fun, Warren!

welcome home warren

Warren’s got a new friend.

The Terrible Trio is a fairly bland episode. The villain of Warren is easy enough to dislike, but he’s also one that never feels like a threat to Batman, even if he and his gang broke Robin’s arm. It’s also hard to care much for the character of Sheldon, since we just see him being a grumpy rich guy and we don’t have much of an attachment to his daughter either. I did like the gag of dumping money into the streets as a way of escaping the Batman, but not much of anything else done by these guys was particularly entertaining.

Not helping things is the animation by Jade. It’s nice to see some new outfits for Bruce, and the HD transfer has left the colors looking quite vibrant. They’re also looking rather flat, and there’s even less detail than what we’re used to. A lot of the characters appear almost squat, while Batman is oddly rigid. Dick isn’t shown to be injured the morning after the initial confrontation with the Trio, but then later has a cast. There’s also a disconnect between the characters and their environment half the time, and the whole production just looks rather cheap. There are some entertaining Batmobile shots, so there’s that.

“The Terrible Trio” is not a good episode of Batman, though I still hesitate to call it a bad episode of television. It’s at least a bit satisfying to see Warren get what’s coming to him in the end, and good on the writers for not making a prison rape joke to close it out. In the end, this is an episode not worth revisiting.

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