Batman: The Animated Series – “Riddler’s Reform”

riddlers reform cardEpisode Number:  79

Original Air Date:  September 24, 1994

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Randy Rogel

First Appearance(s):  None

 

We’re coming to the end of Batman: The Animated Series so just about every episode from here on out will feature a final appearance of a specific rogue. In today’s case, there’s even more finality than there will be for others. The Riddler (John Glover) is considered a notoriously difficult character to write. His “super power” is he’s really, really, smart and also quite clever. It’s not easy to just come up with riddles or puzzles to fill an episode worthy of The Riddler. As a result, his appearances have been few despite his popularity as a villain largely owing to the 1960s series and the performance of the late Frank Gorshin. Nonetheless, three starring episodes isn’t too bad, but the real sense of finality comes from this essentially being it for The Riddler. Most of the villains featured in this show will return in The New Batman Adventures with new schemes, new motivations, and new costumes. The Riddler will return, and with a new costume too, but he won’t receive an episode to call his own as he’s basically reduced to a cameo and brief, supporting, role.

Give that this episode is, more or less, his encore hopefully it’s a good one. It has an interesting premise right in the title as The Riddler looks to establish a life for himself outside of crime. We’ve seen both Catwoman and The Penguin attempt the same and eventually slip-up and fall back into their old villainous ways. Is there any reason to think The Riddler will be any different? Probably not. Last we saw him he was antagonizing Commissioner Gordon and Batman with a virtual reality device. At the episode’s conclusion he became trapped inside the VR world with Batman offering an ominous commentary on the situation that would lead the audience to believe he may be trapped there forever. If you were hoping to find out what happened, well you’ll be disappointed. Similar to how The Joker appeared to die in “The Laughing Fish” only to resurface later as fine as can be, we don’t know how Riddler got here. Maybe Batman was just wrong and they unplugged the console and he was fine. Or maybe he found his own way out. Your guess is as good as mine.

baxter and riddler

Riddler and his new buddy Baxter who owns a toy company.

This one opens at a nondescript warehouse. Before we get to the action, we get a shot of some newspapers being unloaded featuring a cover story about the release of The Riddler from Arkham. We’re then taken to the warehouse where some typical looking goon-types are carrying a large red box emblazoned with a purple question mark. They’re taking directions from The Riddler on where to place it. After setting it down, they get paid a visit by Batman and Robin who come swooping in to kick ass and ask questions later – literally. Riddler takes a seat on the box and seems amused by their presence. He’s evasive when Batman asks him what’s inside the box and when it looks like he’s about to get punchy they’re interrupted by a nicely dressed old man.

His name is Charles Baxter (Peter Mark Richman) and his name is either a direct call-back to the Baxter Box puzzle from an earlier Riddler appearance or a coincidence. He’s not a puzzle-creator, as we’ll learn, so if it’s a reference it would seem it’s merely for fun. Baxter demands to know what’s going on, and after Robin fills him in on who The Riddler is, he tells him he’s well aware. The Riddler is his new business partner. He purchased the rights to the character’s likeness and intends to use him to market Nygma’s toys. The box then springs open unveiling a toy display kiosk and Riddler even tosses one to Robin referring to him as a kid, which you know he takes well. Baxter orders them to leave, and the two head into the building leaving Batman and Robin to tuck their tails between their legs.

At Wayne Manor, Dick is having a tough time with the puzzle Riddler gave him while Bruce is reading the paper. The television is on in the background and a story about The Penguin is running before leading to another story about a robbery. Some ancient relics were stolen, and this gets Bruce’s attention. When Riddler explained to them the night before his desire to be on the straight and narrow he made references to ancient history and Batman thinks he was referring to the items stolen. A commercial featuring The Riddler then comes on hawking the new toys. He ends the commercial by displaying a number on a chalkboard and then flips it around to reveal a map. It’s a part of some contest, but Bruce isn’t buying it. He pulls out a map and uses the number as a coordinate which leads him to the First National Bank.

riddlers ladies

Riddler enjoying the perks of being a celebrity.

Batman and Robin stake-out the bank that night, but nothing is doing. Robin begins to wonder if maybe he is reformed, but Batman remembers Riddler flipping the chalkboard over in the commercial, thus flipping the number. He looks at the number which he wrote down on a scrap of paper and turns it around. Before it read “31753701” but when reversed it looks like “10 LESLIE” which Batman determines is an address. They head there to find a large building with a jewelry store in it and sure enough there are crooks inside. They infiltrate the store and take on the bad dudes, but when a large cabinet falls over on Robin the crooks escape. Robin urges Batman to go on without him as his ankle or knee appears injured thus ending his contribution to the episode.

boing

The woman who really seems to get Nygma’s attention.

In a nearby high-rise, Riddler is getting ready for a party. He shows off a nifty little two-way radio that will be going to market soon and begins schmoozing with Baxter and the party-goers. Baxter is having a dreadful time with Nygma’s toy puzzle, but Nygma demonstrates it’s easy if you’re a genius. This earns him lots of laughter and even the attention of a fetching brunette in a blue dress (Patricia Alice Albrecht). When Riddler first lays eyes on her a cartoonish “boing” sound like a spring is heard. Yeah, the universal sound for a boner in a comedy setting. Riddler just popped a boner. Another female joins her and he’s very much enjoying their attention until a butler comes by to inform him he has a phone call. Riddler takes it in another room, but not before admiring himself in mirror. No one is on the line, but Batman is in the room. He mocks him a bit for his vanity, but Riddler quickly gains the upper hand in their conversation. He also activates his two-way radio, which one of them women had asked him to demonstrate. Since she’s holding the other one, all of the party-goers then overhear Batman threatening The Riddler. He doesn’t mind though, and opens the wall with a switch to introduce his guests to the one and only Batman. Batman, to his credit, doesn’t seem flustered by the display and tells Riddler he’ll get him eventually before taking his leave.

riddler batman

Look who crashed the party.

While Batman’s confidence remains intact, Riddler’s is not. He’s now convinced that Batman will indeed catch him. He has no desire to return to Arkham, so there’s really only one solution:  he must kill Batman.

riddler depressed

Sad Riddler is losing confidence in himself.

In order to set a trap, Riddler relies on yet another commercial to get Batman’s attention. This time the clues lead Batman to the Gotham Toy Fair. Batman heads for the local convention center and finds a rather large Riddler Box. The sides fall away, nearly crushing Batman, to reveal an equally large television inside. Riddler comes onto it, and he tells Batman farewell. It would seem the games are over, and rather than present Batman with a riddle, metal shades are dropped over all of the exits while Riddler reveals a bomb is about to go off that will kill Batman. Batman frantically searches for a way out, but the bomb detonates as Riddler said it would.

inflatable riddler

At some point Riddler had inflatable versions of himself made that could fire guns. Neat.

Back at his penthouse, Edward Nygma is burning his Riddler outfit. With Batman out-of-the-way, he has no need for it. No one to play with, and he vows now is the time to really reform his act. He doesn’t get to enjoy the satisfaction of victory for very long as Batman appears inside the room with him. Nygma is shocked to see Batman and absolutely perplexed at the thought of him escaping. He wants to know so bad that he’s willing to cut a deal. In exchange for the knowledge of how Batman escaped he’ll tell him where all of the stolen goods are hidden. Batman agrees, and Nygma explains his crime. Batman then produces Nygma’s own two-way radio and speaks into it “You get everything?” Commissioner Gordon is then heard on the other end confirming that he did. As Nygma is taken away he’s screaming at Batman to tell him how he escaped his trap, but Batman just smiles.

riddlers inmates

A couple of quick cameos of two famous rogues.

At Wayne Manor the next morning, Bruce and Dick are seated at the table and Dick asks just how he did escape. Bruce explains he couldn’t, but there was a safe on display and he climbed into it. It was strong enough to protect him from the explosion, though Bruce doesn’t say how he got out of it. Maybe it had a safety release on the inside. Dick says he never would have thought of that, and Bruce suggests The Riddler would not have either. We then cut to Arkham where several familiar faces are shown in their cells covering their ears as Nygma can be heard screaming from his own cell demanding to know how Batman escaped. It’s not going to be fun being locked-up with him for the foreseeable future.

raging nygma

Poor Eddie. It’s unlikely Batman will ever take pity on him enough to tell him how he escaped his death trap.

“Riddler’s Reform” is a fun little episode for The Riddler. It’s not particularly clever, but it’s interesting to see how Riddler’s mind operates. He literally can’t help himself when it comes to Batman and is compelled to commit crimes and leave behind clues just to see if Batman is smart enough to figure them out. There’s some situational humor, and seeing Batman with egg on his face to start things is an interesting look for our hero. It’s rare that he’s wrong. Of course, he wasn’t wrong in his hunch that Nygma was up to no good, it just took him a little while to prove it. The erection joke was a surprise, and it’s a greater surprise that it made it into the episode. It’s a low brow joke so it’s not really funny on its own, but amusing given the setting. The ending is perhaps a bit embellished I would think a man of Nygma’s intellect would figure out how Batman did it as he seems like the type who would have a near photographic memory. Maybe I’m giving him too much credit thought.

This is yet another episode animated by Dong Yang Animation Co., LTD. and it looks rather good. There’s some rainy sequences that look great and also some fun, shadowy shots of Batman. Riddler is animated in an amusing fashion as well as he’s quite expressive in costume when receiving female attention and I am just plain fond of his costume in this series. It’s too bad this is the last we’ll see of it as he’ll have a more classic look next we see him with a green unitard.

This is a good episode for Riddler to go out on. It was, after all, the rubber match or tie-breaker for these two. In Riddler’s first appearance he escaped capture while Batman emerged victorious in the second. With Batman foiling him here, and basically driving him even more insane, he earns a convincing win over the cerebral villain. I wish we got another starring episode out of the character, but I’m happy the writers never did a bad Riddler episode for the sake of doing another.


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