The New Batman Adventures – “Double Talk”

tnba double talkEpisode Number:  4 (89)

Original Air Date:  November 22, 1997

Directed by:  Curt Geda

Written by:  Robert Goodman

First Appearance:  None

“Double Talk” brings back another villain from the first iteration of this show:  Scarface. For the first time in this animated universe, The Ventriloquist is also given a name:  Arnold Wesker. Scarface was last seen in the episode “Catwalk” when he was once again destroyed and Wesker was sent off to Arkham for rehabilitation. This time, it’s going to work and Wesker gets his own rehab story which would have fit in quite well with the back half of season two. And like all of the villains from the prior series, he comes with a redesign. The prior version of Wesker was a short, bald, middle-aged man with glasses. This version appears a bit taller and is even more bald than before. His hair is almost completely gone save for these Abe Simpson-esque stray hairs on the side of his head. His head is also no longer pear-shaped and looks more like a thumb. It’s hard to tell where the head ends and the neck begins. His glasses are also transparent now instead of opaque and beneath them are just two dots for eyes. He sports a more casual gray suit with no tie and an unbuttoned collar as opposed to a tuxedo. All in all, it seems like not much of a drastic redesign on paper, and yet he’s basically unrecognizable without his dummy.

Scarface is also redesigned trading his blue pin-striped suit for a white one. He has black hair now and his scar runs the whole length of his face even going over his eye. He’s ditched the cigar and his tommy gun is now basically a full-sized one instead of a custom, tiny, one fit for a dummy. He’s a bit bland compared with the prior version as overall his design has been greatly simplified, but again, not a huge difference really.

wesker's nightmare

Scarface is back and now the stuff of nightmares.

The episode opens at Arkham Asylum. Or at least it appears to. We soon see Wesker (George Dzundza) passing through a darkened doorway. He turns to regard a chest behind him, and it soon starts to bang around. He runs and the scenery grows more surreal as it becomes obvious we’re witnessing a nightmare. Soon the Scarface voice is heard emanating from the chest, and even Scarface’s old henchmen Mugsy (Townsend Coleman) and Rhino (Earl Boen) make an appearance. Wesker eventually wakes up in his cell and sits on the edge of his bed. He looks to a piece of paper on his nightstand which is an official declaration claiming he’s been rehabilitated.

arnold therapy

The Ventriloquist has a name and it’s Arnold Wesker.

The next day, Wesker meets with Dr. Leland (Suzanne Stone) and tells her about his nightmare. It’s good to see he’s not hiding it, but Dr. Leland is unconcerned. She tells him it’s natural for him to be experiencing some anxiety about his condition as he prepares for his reintroduction to society. She mentions he’s been healthy for six months which is all the state requires. Wesker is then shown moving into a halfway house that’s apparently owned by Bruce Wayne, or sponsored by him, as it’s called Wayne Gardens. The woman running the place, Mrs. Segar (Patty Maloney) shows him his room and mentions he has a job at Wayne Enterprises as well. Wesker theorizes he must have a guardian angel looking out for him, but the camera pans to reveal Batman listening in from the fire escape and it’s obvious who is really looking out for him.

bruce meets arnold

I wonder if he always greets the new employees.

Lucius Fox (now voiced by Mel Winkler replacing Brock Peters) and Bruce Wayne are at work overseeing the delivery of some bearer bonds (which you know are going to eventually be stolen). Wesker strolls by pushing a mail cart and Wayne introduces himself. He tells Wesker he should be proud of himself for his rehabilitation and Wesker says that he is, and comes across rather convincing. That night though, he looks concerned as he heads to the bus stop and justifiably so apparently. Mugsy and Rhino approach and ask where Mr. Scarface is. Wesker insists he’s gone and that he wants nothing to do with them, but they’re persistent. Batman then swoops in and goes after Rhino. The two trade punches and Mugsy makes a couple of attempts to get in some offense but is dispatched effortlessly. Wesker runs off, while Batman eventually gains control of the situation and warns the two that Wesker is off limits.

mugsy and rhino

Mugsy and Rhino are very dependent on and loyal to a dummy.

Wesker returns to his apartment and grabs a glass of water from the faucet. I assume it’s water, since it came from a faucet, but the liquid looks almost white and is opaque. Maybe Arnie should invest in a water filter when he gets that first pay check. He then hears Scarface taunting him and drops the glass causing it to smash on the floor. He assumes a rather pitiful position kneeling on the floor clutching his ears as he attempts to drive away the voice.

wesker park

What are the odds? I mean, really, how often do you ventriloquists in the park?

The next day, a somewhat refreshed looking Wesker is strolling through the park (be on the lookout for the very quick Lois and Clark cameo in the background). I think this is our first outdoor scene in the new show at daytime. The sky, and all of the surrounding buildings, are colored yellow instead of red and black to brighten the image. Wesker sees a man working a ventriloquist dummy for some kids (that’s one crazy coincidence) and of course Wesker sees Scarface’s visage when the dummy turns towards him. He then runs to catch his bus, but sees Scarface in the window and doesn’t get on. At work, he’s distant and unnerved as he pushes the mail cart and haphazardly delivers the letters to other employees. He eventually tips the cart over and as he picks up the mail he notices a letter addressed to Dummy. It’s a note from Scarface telling him to be at his phone at 9 o’clock. Wayne notices Wesker and tries to talk to him but he runs away leaving Wayne to find the discarded envelop on the ground.

phone booth

Kids watching this will say “What the hell is that?” and they won’t be talking about the dummy.

That night, Wesker sits nervously by his phone. Sure enough, it rings, but he lets the answering machine get it. What he hears is Mr. Scarface ordering him to pick up the phone. He does, and as he’s instructed that they’re getting the gang back together we see Batman listening in. Wesker can’t believe what he’s hearing, and Scarface tells him to look across the street. In a phone booth, the outline of Scarface can be seen further unnerving Wesker. Batman sees it too, but before he can get to it the dummy vanishes. He picks up its trail though and we get the somewhat comical visual of Scarface actually running from Batman and firing his gun as well. Batman chases him into a stone factory of some kind where it looks like statues are prepared. He spots Scarface high up on a structure, but as he gets to it he’s smacked with a swinging block of stone. The dummy fires from above at Batman and drops a statue on him for good measure. Batman is able to avoid serious injury, but Scarface escapes.

Batman is then shown filling Batgirl in on what happened back at the Batcave. She’s confused at how this could be happening, but Batman distinctly heard Scarface on the phone with Wesker. He’s forced to conclude that someone is posing as Scarface to try and bring the persona out from within Wesker, and there’s really only two suspects for who that could be.

scarface is back

It must feel good to get that whole forearm back in there.

We then see Wesker arriving home and shutting off the lights and closing his blinds. He rips the phone out of the wall in a bid to avoid Scarface entirely. Unfortunately, someone has placed a new Scarface dummy on his couch, and Wesker is unable to resist the temptation to pick the dummy up and return it to his left arm. He then heads to the old hideout and finds Mugsy and Rhino. They seem almost surprises at first, but Scarface is back and he’s got a job for them.

At a rather sad looking apartment building, a little person is shown heading for his apartment. He stops to swipe his neighbors newspaper and milk delivery before heading in and is soon confronted by Batman and Batgirl. It would seem this fellow is Hips McManus (Billy Barty) a small-time crook (no pun intended) who was hired to play Scarface by Mugsy and Rhino, in case you hadn’t figured that out yet. Johnny Tight-lips he ain’t, as almost without any effort from Batman he spills the beans on a job Scarface and the boys are to undertake that evening.

scarface leaves scar

Scarface likes to leave scars, it would seem.

And that job? Why the bearer bonds – what else? Scarface has Lucius Fox at gunpoint and forces him to open the vault where the bonds are being kept. Fox can’t believe a dummy is threatening him, and he makes the mistake of trying to ignore Scarface and talk to the others which earns him a smack across the face with Scarface’s gun leaving a mark on his cheek. Fox opens the vault, and is then knocked out for his troubles as Mugsy and Rhino grab what they came for. Batman and Batgirl then show up, but when Scarface holds Fox hostage, they’re forced to obey. Scarface locks them in the vault and tosses a ticking time bomb in there for good measure. With less than a minute to work with there’s no time to hack the electronic lock forcing Batman to get crafty. He rips off a vent cover (which seems like a pretty obvious security flaw for a vault) and fires his grapple gun down it. He then affixes the handle to the bomb and presses the retract button. He and Batgirl take cover as the bomb explodes deep within the ventilation system.

mugsy and rhino betrayed

Mugsy and Rhino finding out they ain’t so smart after all.

On the roof, Scarface and his boys are making their escape. As they head across a catwalk, Scarface orders the men to stop and toss him the bonds. Confused, they obey as they then stare down the barrel of Scarface’s tommy gun. He scolds them for trying to bring him out on their own. He claims he was laying low until the heat was off Wesker and then he was going to re-emerge, but these two forced his hand. He remarks that when the muscle starts thinking it’s the brain, it’s time to amputate. Then for some reason, maybe he just likes explosives, he opts to toss another bundle of dynamite at Mugsy and Rhino rather than just shoot them. It explodes destroying the catwalk the pair were standing on. They grab onto the remains as it swings towards the opposite building. As they hang precariously, only then does Scarface open fire.

weskers revenge

A Batarang knocks the dummy from Wesker as Batman and Batgirl jump in. Batgirl goes off to save the two clowns, while Batman works on reasoning with Wesker. Scarface orders him to take out Batman and retrieve him, and Wesker initially grabs the gun. As Scarface taunts him, and Batman pleads with him, Wesker hesitates, but eventually he turns the gun on Scarface. The dummy gets sucked into a giant fan destroying it once again.

Wesker is then shown at the apartment of Mrs. Segar. She mentions she’s glad he’s doing better and encourages Arnold to seek out the other tenants, maybe check out the rec room (sounds like an invite for something else, Arnie). Wesker mentions that Mr. Wayne gave him his job back, so I’m not sure if this is all immediate or following another stay at Arkham. Anyway, Wesker says he will take her up on the offer eventually, but for now he’s happy being alone for a change indicating he might finally be rid of Mr. Scarface.

bye bye scarface

The last we’ll see of old Mr. Scarface.

And what do you know? This actually is a happy ending for a change as Scarface will not be heard from again. Wesker apparently was able to rehabilitate himself and unlike, say Harley Quinn, was not discouraged by the setbacks he initially experienced. Which is a good thing as I was getting a bit frustrated with Batman while I watched the episode. He knew someone was just toying with Wesker, and yet he never told him. It felt like that would have solved a lot of problems right there. No matter, I suppose. This was actually a pretty well told story and early contender for best episode of The New Batman Adventures. It won’t remain that way as I know of at least one episode to come that I enjoy more than this one, but that doesn’t diminish this one in any way. Which is somewhat surprising as I’ve never been enamored with the Scarface character, but the show has found interesting things to do with him.

ventriloquist reformed

The first successful rehabilitation in the history of Arkham Asylum!

As I mentioned in the opening paragraphs, the redesigns for Wesker and Scarface are not particularly drastic in principle, but they still look fairly different. Wesker in particular is almost unrecognizable when compared with his old design. I don’t really like this version and find him to be rather ugly. I’m not saying he is an ugly man, but rather there’s nothing stylistically about the character that I like. I do appreciate though that the animators didn’t play so fast and loose with the Scarface character this time. Every time a limb moves it’s clear that Wesker is doing it. Wesker’s lips still never so much as quiver when Scarface speaks, but that’s all right since he’s basically supposed to be the world’s greatest ventriloquist. I do miss Scarface’s little baby gun though. Also, it’s a nice touch that the two little people depicted in this episode, Mrs. Segar and Hips McManus, are voiced by actual little people. It’s also neat that a character like Mrs. Segar exists and her physical appearance isn’t a part of the plot at all. She’s just a little person. Though she might exist to offer a positive portrayal of a little person since a not so positive one existed within the plot in the person of McManus.

As for Scarface, I can’t say he’ll be missed, but he also wasn’t a dud like some of the other villains to come and go. He was fine and managed to contribute without overstaying his welcome. He was starting to become a bit too frequent a character in season two so I’m glad he won’t be utilized like that in this series. Ultimately, he did his job. And a lot credit goes to actor George Dzundza who is great in the role of both Wesker and Scarface. The two voices are so distinct that I assumed as a kid they cheated and hired two actors for the role. Unlike Scarface, the contributions of Dzundza will indeed be missed.

 


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