The New Batman Adventures – “Over the Edge”

over the edgeEpisode Number:  12 (97)

Original Air Date:  May 23, 1998

Directed by:  Yuichiro Yano

Written by:  Paul Dini

First Appearance:  None

I have not encountered anyone who is willing argue that The New Batman Adventures is superior to the first two seasons of Batman: The Animated Series, but almost everyone agrees that “Over the Edge” is one of the best episodes of Batman ever produced. Coincidentally airing just over a week before the WWF event of the same name, “Over the Edge” is one of the most infamous episodes in the show’s history because of its subject matter and the visceral scenes it presents. A character falls from the sky and comes crashing down on a car and dies and the camera is not particularly shy about showing any of it. It was downright shocking the first time I saw it, and this is an episode with a twist ending. And because of that, I want to encourage anyone reading this right now who has not seen the episode to stop what you’re doing, bookmark the page, and come back to it after you’ve seen the episode. The twist isn’t completely without surprise given the advances in the plot, but it’s still worth it to not spoil it. These posts are one part synopsis and one part review, so spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

“Over the Edge” lives up to its name right from the start as it begins in the midst of some uncomfortable action. Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings) and the Gotham PD have stormed the Batcave in pursuit of Batman and Robin. Almost immediately, Gordon shouts out to Batman and refers to him as Bruce Wayne, letting you know something really big has happened offscreen and we have some serious catching up to do. Before that can happen though, Batman and Robin need to make their escape from the Batcave. As they run and dodge fire they first make a run for the Batmobile, but Gordon orders a cop with a rocket launcher to take it out. They aren’t messing around.

batman robin flee

Batman has been at the end of many a barrel, but seldom has it been attached to a Gotham PD firearm.

In order to create a diversion, Batman makes use of an old friend:  the giant penny from “Almost Got ‘Im.” As Robin and Batman run deeper into the Batcave, they’re confronted by Renee Montoya (Liane Schirmir) and a bunch of cops. Appearing to be cornered, Batman grabs Robin and the two jump off the ledge they were standing on. As they fall Robin rather sincerely makes the observation “We’re gonna die,” before Batman deploys a grapple gun to slow their descent towards the Batboat. As they run for it, Gordon tries to line Batman up in his sights (an impossible shot considering they’re several hundred yards away), but Alfred makes the save by tackling Gordon. He implores Bruce to run, who takes a look and utters a sad “Alfred,” before jumping in the boat.

batman penny

I knew he saved that penny for a reason.

As the Batboat fires out of the Batcave, a police boat is waiting to greet it. The boat is far more restrained than the forces inside the Batcave as it gives Batman a chance to surrender, which he obviously does not entertain. As the boat lines up the Batboat in its sights, Nightwing enters the fray riding on a jet ski, which seems really dangerous given all of the gunfire going on. Nightwing is able to distract the police and maneuver through its fire while also shooting off some torpedoes of his own. He successfully incapacitates the police boat allowing he and the others to seek shelter in another nearby cave.

It’s in this cave where we finally get a chance to breath. Batman takes a seat and appears to be in a sullen and despondent mood. Nightwing is in shock and he’s the first to mention the name Barbara. Where is Batgirl in all of this? Time to find out as Batman welcomes us to story-time.

batgirl falls

Usually this ends with the blast of a grapple gun. Usually.

The Scarecrow (who does not speak a line but does laugh at one point, which was performed by Jeff Glen Bennett in an uncredited role) had City Hall under hostage. The mayor and a bunch of others are tied up, but Batman, Robin, and Batgirl are there to dispense with the justice. As they wail on Scarecrow’s many goons, the big villain makes an escape and Batgirl goes after him. She chases him out onto the roof and there she spies the villain with his back towards her. She creeps in and then goes for a tackle only to find out what she thought was Scarecrow was actually a duster jacket draped over an antenna. As she turns around, the real Scarecrow is there (still in his coat, so apparently he carries a spare) to smack her with his stick. Robin arrives just in time to see Batgirl fall off the building.

Down below, Gordon and Detective Bullock (Robert Costanzo) are heading to the scene when they’re rudely interrupted. From inside the car, we see Batgirl strike the windshield causing Bullock to jerk the car to the right and come to an abrupt stop. The two jump out of the car and Gordon races to Batgirl’s side. It’s not a pretty situation, and Bullock points that out matter-of-factly, but with a hint of sadness in his voice. As Gordon orders him to call an ambulance, he notices Batgirl stir. He kneels down beside her as she calls out to him, “Daddy.” Shocked, Gordon removes the cowl to see his daughter’s face staring back at him. Immediately he begins to panic as Barbara tries to choke out something, but she dies there in his arms.

gordon's pain

It’s hard to think of a more honest depiction of death and grief in an American kid’s show.

Batman and Robin watched from above, and as Scarecrow laughs Batman very angrily punches him as hard as he can in the face. Gordon then cradles the body of his daughter in his arms as Batman arrives. He approaches cautiously, and obviously not knowing what to say, he can only utter a “Jim.” Gordon can only respond with a “How could you?” He’s hurt that the two could work so close together all of these years, and yet Batman never once told him his daughter was working alongside him. Before Batman can explain we hear a gun cock, and Bullock orders him to put his hands up referring to him as a murderer. Batman just looks at him and Bullock lets go a warning shot at his feet. From above, Robin strikes Bullock with a projectile and then beckons Batman to come with him. Batman does so as a bunch of cops arrive on the scene. He drops a smoke bomb to mask their escape. When Bullock starts shouting out orders for choppers and search parties Gordon calls him off. He concedes they’ll never catch him, not like that. When Bullock asks what they should do then, he simply says “Something I should have done a long time ago.”

We cut to Wayne Manor where Bruce is seated behind his desk while Alfred and Tim mope about. The phone rings and it’s Gordon, who curtly informs Bruce it’s over. The implication of his meeting with Bullock seemed to suggest that Gordon had a suspicion regarding Batman’s identity, but he explains he learned the truth after looking at Barbara’s computer. Bruce tries to explain referencing the loss of his parents. When he says taking the law into his hands was the only way he knew to keep his sanity, Gordon replies with a “Now we’re even.” The cops then arrive at the mansion, and the three flee to the Batcave. Before Bruce departs, he takes one last look at the image of his parents and apologizes. And it’s at this point that I must point out that Bruce is a terrible father figure as he should have made Tim stay behind (and Alfred should have been in agreement, for that matter) as he’s a minor and likely had little to fear. Instead, he’s being put in harm’s way as a fugitive.

The story ends there. The three inhabitants of the cave seem pretty down and when Robin asks what’s next Batman just gestures to the ground. Nightwing says they’ll need supplies and volunteers to return to his loft. Batman thinks it’s a bad idea, but Nightwing seems to think the cops won’t find it and I have no idea why he would think that unless he rents or owns the place under an alias.

nightwing arrested

Nightwing’s plan turned out the way I thought it would.

We then go to Dick’s loft where Nightwing is making a quiet entrance. Predictably, he finds an army of cops waiting for him with Montoya in command. She starts reading him his Miranda Rights at gunpoint, but he politely waives them. As he flips around, the Gotham PD once more demonstrates that it’s collectively a terrible shot. Nightwing flees to the roof, only to be met by a helicopter. As it opens fire, it looks like the worst is about to happen.

it's over tim

It’s time for Tim to go his own way.

Instead, we cut to Nightwing being taken into custody as part of a news broadcast. His suit is torn up, but he looks no worse for ware. I don’t know how he survived, but whatever. Tim Drake is in the crowd, and he soon reports back to Batman on what happened. It’s then Batman finally realizes that maybe the best place for Tim isn’t at his side. He tells the boy it’s over, who doesn’t really protest with the tears streaming down his cheeks indicating he’s accepted this. When he asks Batman what he’ll do, he responds with an “I don’t know.”

talk show villains

A brief moment of comedy in an otherwise heavy episode.

Gordon is being confronted in his office by the mayor (Lloyd Bochner). He informs Gordon that this whole situation has made them look bad since Batman was basically allowed to operate outside the law with the Commissioner’s daughter as an accomplice. He tells him there will be an investigation, and that most view Gordon as unfit to lead the police department. Outside his office, Bullock and Montoya are watching a talk show featuring some familiar faces:  Harley Quinn, The Mad Hatter, The Riddler, and The Ventriloquist. Since Bruce Wayne has been outted as Batman, the rogues now see this as an opportunity for money and announce they intend to sue Wayne. The Johnny Cochran lawyer then makes his second appearance with another variation on that whole “You must acquit,” line. Did we really think Cochran parodies were this funny in 1998?

With Gordon apparently unable to get his revenge through legal means, we see him turning to possible illegal means. He makes a trip to Stonegate where he’s meeting with a very large inmate. The inmate says nothing and is kept in the shadows to preserve his identity, but Gordon indicates he can pull a few strings to get him released. A lame duck commissioner can do that? Okay, if it will advance the plot.

At Barbara’s funeral, Gordon is shown as one of the paul bearers. Batman is watching from above, and Gordon is shown to be wearing an earpiece. One of his cops tells him there’s no sign of Batman, but Gordon insists they keep looking because he will show up. The cops then spy him and Gordon orders them to take him out. Once again, Gotham police officers prove they can’t hit shit as they miss Batman who is just standing still. Gordon abandons his daughter’s casket to pursue Batman giving us a window into how important catching Batman is to him.

new bane vs batman

Bane’s back with a sexy new look.

As Batman flees, he’s met by a very large man in a gimp mask with a red tube coming out of his head. If the audience couldn’t figure out who this guy is, Batman clues them in by saying his name:  Bane. Bane (Henry Silva) goes after Batman and is quite eager to get his revenge following their last encounter. As he knocks Batman around he refers to him as a child murderer. Batman is able to hit him with a mace-like substance to gain some separation. As Bane smashes the concrete around them, Batman catches a bunch of the debris in his cape and uses that as a sack full of rocks to pummel the behemoth. He ends up knocking Bane off the building where he falls a very long distance to another rooftop below.

Batman swings down after him and Bane, showing no ill effects from such a fall, springs into action knocking him down. Gordon then appears on the rooftop shining the Bat Signal in Batman’s face, so apparently we’re on the Gotham Police Department. Bane wants Batman dead, but Gordon indicates he wants him taken alive so he can live out the rest of his years in Arkham with the freaks he’s created. Bane disagrees, and when Gordon gives him that old line “I thought we had a deal,” Bane just shrugs it off. He kicks the old man and surprisingly Gordon doesn’t break in half. He does, however, end up dangling from the edge of the roof for Bane to mock. He tells him to say hi to Barbara for him, but before he can stomp Gordon’s fingers, Batman makes the save. Bane gets him in a sleeper hold though and tells Batman it’s time for him to die, Batman gives him a “You first,” and then uses a knife to cut Bane’s hose and sever his supply of Venom. He smashes him into the Bat Signal, and then turns his attention to Gordon.

gordon bat signal

(In 1960s announcer voice) Is this the end for our caped crusader?!

Gordon looks up to see Batman, who extends a hand. He tells him to take it for Barbara, and Gordon looks down sullenly as if he intends to drop. It was just a fake-out though, and he grabs Batman’s hand. As he does so, Bane comes to and with his last ounce of strength he rips the Bat Signal from its mooring and rolls it at Batman. Batman pulls Gordon up, and then turns to see the massive steel wheel come barreling down on them. As it strikes he and Gordon, we hear a woman shout “No!” As the two fall off the building to their apparent demise, the voice continues to shout “No!” until we finally see who’s making all that noise.

img_0018

More falling without a grappling hook.

Barbara wakes up in an apparent hospital bed in shock. We soon see the bed is in the Batcave, and Batman, Robin, and Alfred are there to calm her down. She then hugs Batman, and gives everyone the cliff notes version of what she just saw in her dreams. Batman lets her know that The Scarecrow hit her with his fear toxin before she passed out and what she just witnessed was her greatest fear. She says she has to rectify this fear, indicating she intends to tell her father about her alter ego. Batman lets that hang a moment, before curtly letting her know that he understands.

We’re then taken to Barbra’s apartment and Jim Gordon is rising from the table indicating his daughter just fed him a pretty wonderful meal. Before he can depart though, Barbara takes him by the hand and tells him she has something to tell him. She takes him over to a window and sits him down on a window seat. She then sits beside him and tells him that she needs to tell him about a new job she recently took. Before she can continue, Gordon stops her. Taking her by the hand, he explains himself and it wouldn’t make sense for me to summarize it, so here’s the exchange:

img_0019

Barbara has a confession that’s been a long time coming.

Gordon:  Sweetheart, you’re capable of making your own decisions. You don’t need me to approve or even acknowledge them. And in this case, I can’t. All you need to know is I love you. All of you. (he kisses her forehead) And that is all I have to say on the subject.

Barbara:  Daddy! (they embrace)

The episode then ends as the camera pans to the full moon over Gotham. It’s a really sweet and revealing scene. Anyone who ever questioned how Gordon could possibly not know his own daughter was under that mask has their suspicions confirmed. The only gray area I see with Gordon’s statement is the sentence, “All of you.” When I first saw the episode, I though that referred to the rest of the team indicating Gordon knew who was under the masks of everyone. In watching it again, I think he’s just referring to Barbara and her two sides:  Barbara his daughter, and Batgirl. On the commentary for the episode, Paul Dini makes it a point to clarify that Gordon does indeed know that Barbara is Batgirl, but he doesn’t mention the others, leading me to believe my current interpretation is the proper one.

img_0020

The suspenseful and often uncomfortable episode ends on a sweet moment.

That’s a hell of an episode. What a roller coaster. After the flashback concludes I always think the episode is almost over, but it’s really only about halfway there. It’s impossible to overstate how shocking this one is on a first viewing. Gordon going after Batman, Batgirl’s death, and the fallout. The only reason to believe it’s a dream is due to how the episode basically writes itself into a corner. How could the show continue like this? Even so, Batman saving Gordon feels like it could be an out and maybe the show will just take a different turn from here on out. And considering the fate of Barbara in the comics, paralyzed by Joker, it makes her initial accident believable as well. Of course, that’s not the case and it’s probably the right call. Even with the old “Dusty finish” on this one, I’ve never felt cheated by this episode. It’s a great ride while it’s happening, and it’s actually so unbelievable and uncomfortable to see Batman at odds with Gordon that the reveal comes with a sigh of relief.

Bob Hastings really gets a chance to shine in this one as Jim Gordon. He has to be angry, sad, outraged, and cheerful. He hasn’t had much to work with during this season, so it’s nice to see one of the star members of the incredible voice cast get something meaty to chew on. Kevin Conroy also gets to do more with Batman here. This season has distilled Batman into a simpler character which has meant less room to work for Conroy. He’s the best to ever play the character, so it’s nice to see him get to work here.

There’s little to discuss in terms of shortcomings with this one. The Gotham PD is comically inept when it comes to hitting a target, and not just moving targets but even stationary ones. That’s nothing knew though as the good guys in this show are often impossible to hit. Some plot points are glossed over a bit,  but there’s also a lot packed into this one so some of that is by necessity. I really wish that dated Johnny Cochran joke wasn’t in here, as it wasn’t even particularly funny in 1998.

batman hits hard

One of the best shots of the episode is Batman here really reaching back for a punishing haymaker.

This is another TMS episode and it’s arguably the best yet for this young series. The gray of Batman’s costume has a really cool tone to it, almost as if there’s a hint of blue in it. It works with the morose sentiment of the episode. The little scene of the other villains on TV is also interesting because it includes our first look at redesigns for Mad Hatter and Riddler. Riddler basically has the old Frank Gorshin costume now, while Mad Hatter looks like a little, old, elf or something. I don’t care for it, but I’ll say more when we get to his episode. As for Bane, he’s ditched the lucha libre gimmick for more of an S&M one. I think he looks kind of stupid, but not offensively so. This is actually his only appearance in the show, though he’ll show up in the film Mystery of the Batwoman. There’s some great action on the part of TMS, in particular Batman’s fight with Bane. The shot of Batgirl striking the police cruiser is also incredible and so raw. The images couple with the sound design add tremendous to impact to the scene that makes me wince every time I view it.

As for the fallout, well, there isn’t really any. And that’s okay. Gordon makes it clear he can’t even acknowledge his daughter’s role as Batgirl, so he doesn’t. For Scarecrow, he actually never returns which isn’t surprising considering there aren’t that many episodes remaining. Needless to say, this one doesn’t need any big, lasting, acknowledgements by future episodes. It’s probably the best episode of this new version of Batman and it rivals anything the prior iteration did. If you have somehow been a fan of Batman this whole time and slept on this one, do yourself a favor and change that as soon as possible.


One response to “The New Batman Adventures – “Over the Edge”

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