The New Batman Adventures – “Cult of the Cat”

cult of the catEpisode Number:  15 (100)

Original Air Date:  September 18, 1998

Directed by:  Butch Lukic

Written by:  Paul Dini, Stan Berkowitz

First Appearance:  Thomas Blake

For the one-hundredth episode of Batman:  The Animated Series we’re getting a special team-up. As Batman has spent much of this season working alongside the likes of Batgirl and Robin, this episode will feature neither and at his side will be the seductive rogue, Catwoman (Adrienne Barbeau). Catwoman started off as a thief with a heart of gold in the first iteration of this show, but by its conclusion she had returned to her roots as just a thief with a fixation on cat-themed jewels and artwork. In The New Batman Adventures she has held onto that while sporting a new all black costume and matching black hair. In “You Scratch My Back,” she unsuccessfully tried to drive a wedge between Batman and Nightwing, but all that got her was another trip to jail. She’s out, and how she got out is a mystery, and up to her old tricks once again. Only this time she gets in a little over her head.

The episode begins with Catwoman fleeing someone through a hedge maze. She has just stolen a golden cat idol and seems quite pleased with herself, but she’s made a few new enemies in the process. Her pursuers basically resemble ninjas, only their all black attire includes cute little cat ears on top of their masks. They don’t look particularly fearsome, but they make up for that with weaponry. They carry fully-automatic guns and also sport claws that function just like Marvel hero Wolverine’s, they even pop-out with a little “snikt” sound too.

ugly catwoman

Have I mentioned I really hate Catwoman’s redesign?

Catwoman does her best to avoid these individuals, but their affection for cats goes beyond their costumes and artwork as they also employ a big ass panther. Catwoman comes face to face with the big cat in what would normally be an uncomfortable situation, but not for Catwoman. She sweet talks the feline and it soon abandons her to go after one of the cat-ninjas.

cat cult

Catwoman has some Wolverine-like problems in this one.

Catwoman appears to be home free as she’s made it out of the compound and into the city, but gunfire soon drives her from the safety of Gotham’s buildings down to the street where she winds up surrounded. Deciding that living is better than possessing a priceless artifact, Catwoman offers to return the statue, but one of the ninja informs her the statue has been defiled now and only her blood can erase that. He menacingly does a Wolverine pose as Catwoman seems to shrug off the threat and returns to fleeing.

catwoman batmobile

There are worse things one could find hiding in their car.

Elsewhere, Batman is doing his usual thing and has some crooks suspended from a street light ready for Gotham PD to come pick them up. He heads for the Batmobile and opens it up and is surprised to find a lounging Catwoman inside. She is her usual playful self while Batman plays the role of the stiff and drives off with Catwoman riding shotgun. She tells him she needs some help dealing with a problem, but Batman would rather take her to prison to ride out the heat. Some gunfire on the roof of the Batmobile indicates the severity of Catwoman’s predicament. Batman agrees to help her out, but only if she agrees to surrender everything she’s stolen. Catwoman is unwilling to make such a commitment, but Batman coaxes it out of her by slowing down the Batmobile.

The duo escape the cat people and make it to Catwoman’s hideout which appears to be a cat food factory. She’s got a computer set up inside and Batman uses it to show her just who wants her dead. It’s some cat cult which traces its roots back to ancient Egypt. They won’t rest until she’s dead. Catwoman seems unimpressed, but a red dot flashes across her head forcing Batman to pull her to safety. With the cultists descending upon the factory, Catwoman leads Batman to a way out via a furnace which is connected to a smokestack. Batman fires a grappling hook to escape, while Catwoman elects to use her claws to scale the brick wall. As she does so, Batman slowly retracts his rope to stay alongside her – how cute.

batman catwoman smokestack

Maybe next time Catwoman won’t be so chatty when trying to escape.

The cultists break into the factory and rather easily figure out where their prey went, despite Catwoman thinking they’d never guess. One of the cultists orders another to turn on the gas and fire up the furnace. They do so, and Batman is forced to grab Catwoman to speed up their escape. As they emerge from the smokestack, the explosion causes Batman to lose Catwoman. He recovers on the roof and looks down to see the cultists placing an unconscious Catwoman on one of their motorcycles. They take off, save for one, who looks up to see Batman descending upon him which is where the episode cuts to commercial. I cannot recall another episode that cuts to commercial with Batman on the attack like that, usually that’s a play reserved for the villains.

Catwoman wakes up to find herself chained to an altar. Her captor emerges and we meet Thomas Blake (Scott Cleverdon), the leader of this cult. In the comics, Black is the villain known as Catman because every gendered hero and villain needs an opposite. Here he doesn’t appear to go by that name, but since he wears one of those dorky cat ninja suits I suppose the intent is there. Blake seems to admire Catwoman a bit, while a nameless female cultist (Tasia Valenza) clearly does not. She thinks they should dispose of the thief, though that doesn’t phase Catwoman. What does bother her is when the woman refers to her as a common thief which Catwoman corrects. Despite the protests of this woman, Blake thinks Catwoman can be converted to their side given her affection for the feline species and Catwoman is happy to go along with this.

female cultist

I bet you didn’t know X-23’s first appearance was in a DC cartoon.

At the Batcave, the cultist Martin (Jim Piddock) wakes up on a ledge. Batman’s taunting voice booms from some nearby speakers demanding answers. Martin keeps quiet, causing Batman to share his favorite animal with the cat-lover. I’m assuming you can guess what that is. Batman’s deployed bats cause Martin to fall, but a grappling hook snares him by the ankle to prevent certain death. It’s at this point that Martin agrees to cooperate.

Back at the cult, Catwoman is shown to her quarters. It’s a spacious room that’s well-decorated. Blake seems interested in getting some alone time with Catwoman, but she indicates that she needs some rest and he takes his leave. Catwoman then grabs a pillowcase and starts filling it with some of the goods in the room, but she’s interrupted when Batman shows up. Batman wants to get her out of there, but Selina insists she’s got it under control. When he notices she’s casing the room, he starts to reprimand her and Catwoman goes into a dramatic routine where she plays the victim, crying that she needs help so that she’ll stop stealing. She even finishes the routine with a kiss, but Batman just seems irritated and asks if they can go now. And when he turns his back on her, Catwoman wallops him in the back of the head with her pillowcase full of goodies.

thomas blake

Thomas Blake has some Dr. Evil vibes.

Blake then comes storming in with some other cult members. He heard the commotion and is surprised to find an unconscious Batman on his floor. Catwoman explains what happened, and Blake is pleased. Telling her they need blood for their ritual, he orders his men to take Batman downstairs. Catwoman is confused and inquires about her own initiation and Blake says that won’t be necessary now claiming she’s proven her loyalty by supplying Batman. When she asks what will happen to him, Blake is coy and simply remarks that she’ll see.

Batman wakes up in a pit. It’s like a small-scale gladiator arena and the cultists are able to look down on him. Catwoman has swiped the seat of the female cultist who dislikes her, which seems to please Blake. Blake taunts Batman by displaying the caped crusader’s utility belt. He then introduces Batman’s opponent, a rather large genetically engineered saber-toothed cat.

catwoman and sabre

She has a way with cats, big and small.

We’ve seen Batman dispatch of sharks, alligators, and other wildlife before, so this doesn’t seem that bad, but evidently I’m wrong. The cat lays into Batman tearing up his costume while exerting its dominance. It’s enough that Catwoman does the predictable thing and jumps in to help her sometimes foe. Batman is able to get on top of the beast, and with Catwoman’s help, steers it into a column which gets smashed up pretty well. The beast then gets in Catwoman’s face, but just like before, Catwoman is able to seemingly tame the critter and it licks her. At Catwoman’s command, it jumps out of the pit to go after the cultists, forcing them to run. Catwoman asks Batman for help in getting out of the pit, but he’s not in a trusting mood. She insists she’s trustworthy and that once out she’ll help him out and Batman is forced to go along with it. After he gives her a boost out, the camera lingers on Batman just long enough to put doubt into his mind, before a rope comes dangling down.

beat up Batman

This is quite possibly the most beat up we’ve seen Batman get in this series.

With Batman free from the pit, the two make a run for it, but Blake jumps out from behind some cover and slashes at Batman’s back with those Wolverine claws. Batman turns and we can see his costume has been ripped open, but no blood has been spilled. He then engages with Blake while the female cultist emerges with a torch and tries to attack Catwoman. She’s able to deftly parry the cultist causing her to plummet into the pit and fall unconscious. Batman is also able to get the upper hand against Blake, but the big old cat from earlier re-emerges. Batman looks around and can’t find Catwoman, so he instead uses a commanding voice to halt the beast. Whether it worked or not is hard to say, but the cat turns its attention on Blake. The two fall back into the pit with the cat landing on Blake. Batman looks down as the two slip into unconsciousness.

batman gordon cat cult

Another hard night’s work has come to an end.

The police are then shown rounding up the other cult members while Blake is being wheeled around on a stretcher hooked up to a ventilator. Batman is seated in the back of an ambulance all bandaged up as Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings) returns his belt. Gordon remarks that the big cat is going to the zoo while the cult members are off to jail. Batman supposes there’s enough stolen goods in the place to convict them, and Gordon agrees but also remarks that there’s less in there than would be expected. Batman reacts subtly to this statement indicating he knows why the haul may be a bit light. We then cut to Paris, and Selina Kyle is shown surrounded by jewels as she presents her beloved cat Isis with a couple of dinner choices. She stretches out on her large bed as she remarks to Isis that being on the side of the virtuous has its perks.

And that is the last we’ll see of Catwoman in this one. She’ll resurface in the short “Chase Me” which is basically just a fun little piece of animation that’s free of dialogue. It’s an interesting exit for Catwoman as she’s one of the rare villains who seemingly got away with one and is leading a happy life of crime far from Gotham. She has a hard to shake compulsion though so it’s safe to assume she’ll one day return to Gotham to mess with Batman and his allies, we just won’t be there to see it. It closes the book on her character though, which went from villain to anti-hero back to villain again. The ending here with her musing about being an ally to the law in a small way I suppose opens the door to assuming she might return to the anti-hero persona, but I think it’s just the playful side of her character coming out. She’s a thief and proud of it and nothing is going to change that. I definitely prefer the playful thief to the directionless Selina we saw for much of BTAS, and if any villain was going to get away, it makes sense for it to be Catwoman.

“Cult of the Cat” is an entertaining team-up between Batman and Catwoman that remains logical throughout. Batman never really allows himself to get duped by Catwoman, though he does make the mistake of turning his back to her in that one scene. Even though he gets her to agree to his terms in order to assist her, I never got the impression he expected her to actually abide by such. Had he been able to keep better track of her during his fight with Blake, I get the impression he would have either just arrested her or tailed her to her hideout where the goods are kept. It could have been interesting seeing Batman deceive Catwoman, but he basically already did that in her last appearance so it may have felt too similar.

As for Blake and the others, we’ll never see them again either. The cat cult was pretty silly, but not offensively so. I’m surprised their claws were made so similar to Wolverine’s as it’s impossible to separate the two, though ultimately it matters little. The female cultist is revealed at the end of the initial chase sequence and when she pulls off her mask I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to know who she is. She resembles Red Claw a bit, which made it more confusing, but in the end she’s a nobody. When she’s sporting those claws though she’s a dead-ringer for Marvel’s X-23 character, so much so that I’d have called her a rip-off if she didn’t predate that character’s first appearance by several years.

selina kyle spoils

This is the last we’ll see of Selina in the main series. I think she did all right for herself in the end.

“Cult of the Cat” may be remembered for being Catwoman’s final appearance, but it’s also quietly a contender for best Catwoman episode. Her episodes are not the greatest, so the competition is surprisingly light. I think I prefer “You Scratch My Back” to this one though, and she’s actually pretty fun in “Batgirl Returns.” Obviously, if we consider a Catwoman episode to being any episode in which she makes an appearance then the clear answer is “Almost Got ‘Im,” but I don’t think of that as a Catwoman episode. Given this one is even in the discussion though makes it a worthy exit for the femme fatale. I think the show could have done more with the character which is why I’ll miss her.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this is not only the 100th episode of Batman but also post number 600 for this blog. If you actually count all of the published entries you would find it totals less than 600, but that’s because you’re not reading them in the order written. A weekly Batman post plus 25 days of Christmas coming in December means I have to schedule things in advance. And while I initially planned on doing something special to mark the occasion of 600 blog entries part of me felt it made sense for it to be a Batman post given the presence the show has had on this blog for over two years now. And then when I saw it matched up with the 100th episode of the show it became a no-brainer, so thanks to those who have read and continue to read these things. I do it for fun and welcome any who want to take this journey with me.

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