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The New Batman Adventures – “Chemistry”

chemistryEpisode Number:  22 (107)

Original Air Date:  October 24, 1998

Directed by:  Butch Lukic

Written by:  Stan Berkowitz

First Appearance:  None

This week’s episode brings back another classic villain with a fairly familiar scheme, as it relates to this series. It’s also going to retread some of the themes of Mask of the Phantasm, but in a much more simplified and truncated manner given the runtime of an episode of television. “Chemistry” essentially posits what Bruce Wayne would do about Batman were he to fall in love. I don’t know that the answer is particularly surprising or satisfying, but it leads to at least one dramatic moment. That money shot, as it were, happens basically before the midway point of the episode so it’s interesting to see if the rest of the story can matter following Wayne’s declaration. This episode is a bit of a mystery, with the reveal of the villain saved for the penultimate act, so in the interest of not spoiling things I am going to recommend ahead of time that you view this one yourself before reading my reaction. However, it’s not the sort of thing that would prevent you from enjoying the episode if you knew about it beforehand. Nevertheless, on with the show!

susan and bruce

In this episode, Bruce meets a new woman and becomes instantly taken by her.

The episode opens at the estate of one Veronica Vreeland (Marilu Henner), or perhaps her father. It’s the site of a wedding as Veronica has decided to tie the knot to a mysterious man with piercing green eyes by the name of Michael (Tim Matheson). He seems familiar, but he’s not, he just reminds me of the villain from “See No Evil.” Veronica tosses her bouquet and a green-eyed blond by the name of Susan (Linda Hamilton) is the one who ends up with it. A photographer then asks if she’d mind posing with the gentleman who caught the garter and she’s more than happy to do so. That gentleman happens to be Bruce Wayne and as the two pose for a picture Bruce confesses he hates these sort of things. When Susan responds with a joke, it goes over Bruce’s head, but the two seem to have a mutual understanding. Veronica and Michael soon approach the two and Veronica mentions that Susan is a friend of Michael’s. She also reveals the two only dated about two weeks before deciding to tie the knot.

Elsewhere, Tim and Barbara are attendants as well. Tim I suppose was brought along by Bruce, as for Barbara I have no idea what her connection to Veronica or her husband would be for her to be in attendance. Tim is not having a particularly good time, but at least there’s cake. When a horn sounds it’s Alfred there to retrieve Tim and Bruce. Tim is eager to get out of there, but Bruce is lagging behind for he’s dancing with Susan. Alfred and Tim take notice and the camera lingers on Bruce’s contented face.

dopey batman

The look of love.

The scene transitions from Bruce’s face to Batman’s as he’s wearing a really dopey smile, a rare occurrence for him. Robin then gets in his ear as the two are apparently on a stake out of some kind. Four biker-looking dudes just hit a shop and Robin is ready to go. Batman snaps at him a bit to let him know he’s ready and the two head down to the street. Inside, they smack around the bikers. Batman then lets his guard down after taking out the third guy only for Robin to nail the fourth with a Batarang. He then reprimands Batman for forgetting that he told them there were four, and Batman apparently realizing his mistake has no response.

At the Batcave, Robin is sharing the events of the night with Alfred. As he does, Alfred begins removing Robin’s cape to hang up. Does he undress Robin every time he returns from a night out? If so, these rich boys are more helpless than I thought. Anyway, Robin remarks that Batman’s head isn’t in the game and Alfred seems to pay it no mind. We then see that Batman is still out on the town and being quite the creep too as he’s using binoculars to spy on Susan as she struts around her apartment.

susan says yes

I think that’s a “Yes.”

We’re then taken to a rather luxurious looking yacht. Bruce has invited Susan out and she’s happy he called, though she admits she thought he wouldn’t. He’s a bit taken aback by that, but she points out she assumed that based on what he had told her about being too busy for relationships. Bruce confesses he’s been thinking about her a lot and he gives her a box of white roses. She’s pleased, and seemingly prepared for the next gift:  a diamond ring. She says nothing when Bruce springs it on her and the two kiss.

At the Batcave, Bruce has summoned Tim, Barbara, and Dick to tell them something. As he paces in front of them he explains that the pain he feels over the murder of his parents isn’t gone, but it’s not as bad as it used to be. He explains these past few weeks with Susan have made him feel something he has never felt before. When Tim chimes in with “happiness” he gets a frown in response. Bruce then tells them he’s asked Susan to marry him, and when Dick gestures to the Batman costume and asks what he’s going to tell her, Bruce lets them know he has no intention of being Batman anymore (enter dramatic music).

The wedding is held at Wayne Manor and the guests at the wedding present the opportunity for some fun cameos. I won’t list them out, but feel free to watch this scene a few times to try and spot them all. Lucius Fox (Mel Winkler) makes a toast to the bride and groom while Dick grumbles to Barbara that it will never last. Barbara mistakes him for suggesting the marriage won’t last, but Dick corrects her and says there’s no way Bruce is done playing super hero. Barbara is more optimistic and suggests it could happen to Dick some day, but he rebukes her and suggests she’s hoping that’s the case. Barbara is quick to deny that was her aim.

michael gash

Veronica’s new husband shares some traits with T-1000, which is interesting because Linda Hamilton has a guest role in this episode.

Bruce is soon lured away from his wedding by a phone call. He’s reluctant to take it, but Alfred informs him it’s an emergency and Veronica is the one on the other end. He excuses himself and takes the call and finds a near hysterical Veronica on the line. She tries to tell him that something is up with her new husband, but before she can explain they’re disconnected. Michael is shown emerging from the bathroom and Veronica tells him to stay away. They appear to be in her bedroom. As Michael approaches her he tries diffusing the situation, but Veronica retreats to a panic room that’s protected by laser bars. She tells him he’d die if he tried to get in, and he simply sports a wicked smile and forces himself in. The lasers cut through his skin and he holds his head in position so that one beam is going right through it like one of those gag headbands with an arrow sticking out. Veronica is terrified, and as Michael pushes through his body is left a greenish brown where the lasers burned him. The wounds close, and he’s able to move in.

bruce through flames

Bruce to the rescue.

Bruce informs Susan that something is up with Veronica and she’s supportive of him checking on her. He races over to her house and finds the doors locked. When he barges in an explosion goes off knocking him back. With the house fully engulfed in flames, Bruce throws his jacket over his head and runs in. He races upstairs to find Veronica unconscious in her panic room with no sign of Michael anywhere. Bruce is able to get her out using a tri-panel mirror to deflect the lasers and to a hospital. It’s then that Michael shows up. He claims he had been at a business meeting. Bruce doesn’t pry, but informs him they’ll know what’s going on when Veronica wakes up. Until then, Bruce has hired security to watch over her as the police suspect arson. Bruce then takes his leave and once outside the hospital he whips out an old flip phone and instructs Robin and Batgirl to keep an eye on their boy Michael, for he has a boat to catch.

Michael, likely knowing he’s screwed when Veronica wakes up, quickly flees the hospital and heads for some sort of botanical garden. Batgirl and Robin follow and soon they see who’s really behind all of this:  Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing). Ivy is not happy to see Michael, but he explains that he’s in trouble since he tried to kill Veronica and failed. She admonishes him for doing it so soon as he was supposed to wait for the cruise. When she asks why he did it, he removes his shirt to say she saw “this.” “This” refers to some leaves apparently sprouting from his chest. Ivy realizes there’s a flaw in her plan as she thought she had more time. She then grabs Michael’s face and rips it off, along with the skin of his arms and torso. Robin practically retches when she does so. Underneath, Michael is a plant monster and he more resembles Killer Croc than the plant monsters we saw last season in “House & Garden.”

Ivy and her plant minion take off as they have a boat to catch allowing Batgirl and Robin to inspect the area. They realize this probably relates to Bruce and his new bride somehow, but before they can get out of there Ivy’s defense mechanisms kick in. Vines start grabbing them and they’re forced to use some chemicals Ivy left laying around to kill them. This appears to give them a solution for how to combat Ivy’s monsters.

plant susan

Susan’s secret revealed.

Aboard a luxury cruise liner, Bruce is chatting about his new bride with a pair of wealthy newlyweds. They boast about how agreeable and perfect their green-eyed brides are. The green eyes serves as a tip-off for Bruce and he soon returns to his cabin. There he finds Susan and confronts her. She’s defensive, though who wouldn’t be if their spouse came barging in and started demanding answers about their past? They apparently never discussed such details, and Susan plays coy. Bruce then grabs her, making this situation a bit uncomfortable to watch. Susan begins to sweat, and as she does her true appearance reveals itself as green streaks appear on her forehead. Bruce has dealt with Poison Ivy enough in the past to know this is her work. Susan doesn’t hide it, and starts using her vines to whip Bruce around the cabin. He eventually breaks free and gets out, pinning the door shut behind him with a ladder.

ivy and michael

Ivy arrives with her Killer Croc knock-off.

Aboard the deck, the other patrons are shocked when the boat comes to a screeching halt. It seems living seaweed is the culprit, and before long Poison Ivy is boarding the ship with Michael in tow. It’s there she reveals her scheme to her wealthy victims. Her pheromone-laced plant people were able to seduce the rich, marry them, and now Poison Ivy intends to drown them. Only the plant spouse will survive to inherit the riches, which Ivy can claim for her own. As she explains her plan, Bruce watches from a distance. Soon, the Batwing arrives and Robin pops out armed with a tank of weed killer and knapsack containing Bruce’s preferred attire. He sarcastically asks how the honeymoon is going and Bruce just winces in response.

melting michael

Robin seems to be enjoying himself as he melts a sentient being.

Batgirl apparently remains behind in the cockpit of the Batwing as Batman and Robin attack. Some of the rich decide to fight back as well, but they’re no match for the plant people. When Michael appears ready to dump a pair over the railing, Robin blasts him with his gun full of weed killer causing him to melt into a hideous puddle. Poison Ivy grabs him, and Batman moves in to help as Ivy dumps Robin over the railing where he lands harmless on a pipe. She hits Batman with a cloud of something which knocks him to his knees. As she goes in for a potentially lethal kiss, Robin alerts her that he’s not done with her. As she turns to looks at him, he smacks her across the face with the barrel of his gun which has to be one of the most visceral pieces of violence we’ve seen on this show. It’s certainly the most direct violence we’ve seen perpetrated by a male character against a female.

robin goo

You kind of deserve that for taking enjoyment in killing these plant people, Robin.

The vines below the water’s surface start to break the ship apart, and the battle soon turns into a rescue mission. Batman and Robin ferry everyone to the boat Ivy arrived on which Robin pilots. Batman though has to stay back when Poison Ivy attacks him once again, but he orders Robin to disengage from the sinking vessel. The ship breaking apart separates Ivy and Batman. Batman is able to grab a rope ladder dangling from the Batwing, and as he swings past Poison Ivy she calls out for help. He reaches for her, but they don’t connect and she disappears under a wave. As the Batwing flies away, Batman looks and sees Susan staring at him from the porthole to their cabin. With a look of horror on her face, the vessel submerges taking her with it. Batman then holds up his wedding band and flicks it into the ocean.

drowning susan

The last we’ll see of Susan. That’s probably a better fate than melting, at least.

“Chemistry” is a bit familiar, but also fun. It’s yet another Poison Ivy story that pits her against not just Batman, but Bruce Wayne. Almost all of her schemes put her in contact with rich folk, so it makes sense she would target Bruce Wayne multiple times. It’s a bit funny that she has yet to figure out who’s under Batman’s mask, as a result. It’s nice to see her get a solo story though, as she was previously used in the anthology premiere “Holiday Knights” and then as part of an ensemble in “Girl’s Night Out.” Her reveal is concealed rather well with the only clue really being the episode’s title, which is certainly less blatant than past Poison Ivy episodes. The green of Susan and Michael’s eyes stand out and is a bit of a clue as well, though since the clones in “House & Garden” did not possess such eyes it isn’t exactly a big give-away.

The episode is fairly entertaining, though it does fall apart when one begins to think scrutinize it in greater detail. Bruce apparently knows nothing of Susan even after their marriage. I can see how him being under a pheromone induced spell could dull his senses, but there’s no way Bruce is capable of planning a wedding by himself. Someone, most likely Alfred, probably handled that and you would think he’d raise an eyebrow at Susan not inviting any family to the event. This also probably happened at every wedding orchestrated by Poison Ivy, and if Michael had that leaf problem then surely others did too. These folks are all newlyweds, so they’re probably seeing a lot of each other naked meaning there’s little chance to hide such a detail. I also feel like I should point out that seemingly only the rich people on that cruise ship were saved. A cruise ship populated by only the wealthy would probably have a huge cast of servers and cooks who were apparently all left for dead.

batman ring

Of course, the episode needs a dramatic shot of Batman discarding his wedding band.

This being one of the last episodes in the series, it features many final appearances for a lot of characters. Many cameos at Bruce and Susan’s wedding are obviously the last time we’ll see some of those faces. Many of those characters had not been seen in a long time, so it was good to see them return albeit briefly. This is the final appearance of Loren Lester as Dick Grayson. We had already passed Nightwing’s final mission, and this is the last we’ll see of Dick. Lester would not return to voice the character in future series. This is also Batgirl’s last appearance which is a shame as we never explored what happened between she and Dick. Unlike with Lester, Tara Strong would continue to voice Batgirl in other shows and has become more or less synonymous with the character. It’s also the last we’ll see of Veronica Vreeland. While she had a tendency to show up in bad episodes, she was an entertaining character and a fun foil for Bruce. And this is also the last of Poison Ivy. She’s not dead, despite how the episode ended, as she would return in both Gotham Girls, Static Shock and Justice League. She was perhaps the best female villain on the show not named Harley Quinn, and I can honestly says she never had a true dud of an episode and often made things better just by being there.

ivy bash

If you slow this sequence down, there’s a flash of light just as Robin’s gun strikes Ivy. It’s no less impactful though, especially at normal speed.

This episode has holes, but I ultimately found it to be a fun experience. The drama of Bruce giving up his Batman persona doesn’t really work as I doubt anyone would buy into it, but I appreciate them repurposing part of the score from Mask of the Phantasm since that film dealt with the same issue. Of course, in that film it was handled far better. Maybe if this one had been a multi-part episode it would have worked better, especially if it were the final episode of the show. I still have my doubts though, so I don’t consider this a missed opportunity. Even though the plot is executed in a corny and soapish manner, it’s supported with some really mature moments and somewhat shocking moments of violence. I mentioned how Robin striking Ivy really caught me off guard, but also Michael being exterminated via melting was pretty surprising. As he’s turned into a puddle of green goo his eyeballs pop out to land atop the smoldering heap before being absorbed. It’s a nice, albeit gross, piece of animation. There’s also the scene of Veronica calling Bruce where it appears like she and her spouse were in the midst of some marital relations given their state of dress. And even Dick is shown with a big mug of beer at the wedding reception.

All in all, a fine episode if a bit shallow. It at least accomplishes the goal of giving several characters a curtain call of sorts before the show’s conclusion, which is appreciated. It’s also never boring, and at the end of the day that’s probably what we desire most from our television programs.

 


The New Batman Adventures – “Girl’s Night Out”

girls night outEpisode Number:  20 (105)

Original Air Date:  October 17, 1998

Directed by:  Curt Geda

Written by:  Hilary J. Bader

First Appearance:  Livewire, Supergirl

It was bound to happen eventually. Since Batman: The Animated Series was resurrected as The New Batman Adventures largely to pair it with Superman on the new WB Network you knew a cross-over had to occur. Batman had already appeared in Superman during the arc “The World’s Finest” which featured a team-up between the heroes to combat the villainous team-up of Lex Luthor and The Joker. This one is similar in principal, though much smaller in scope (one episode vs three), as it features a team-up of the female heroes Batgirl and Supergirl in Gotham to combat a trio of female villains. Team-ups and cross-overs in general rarely impress me, but the added wrinkle of this being an all female episode of Batman certainly intrigues me. It’s also encouraging because a woman wrote the episode, Hilary J. Bader, in what would be her last contribution to the show.

girl team

Today’s episode features a team-up many might not have been expecting.

The episode begins with a police officer (Hal Rayle) escorting a prisoner via truck to GothCorp. That villain happens to be Livewire (Lori Petty), a woman who possesses electrical powers and has tangled with Superman in the past. She is being taken to GothCorp for treatment, which I assume means they’re going to try and cure her of her affliction. Her body, as we’ll soon learn, is essentially like a living battery that can stockpile electricity. She can also discharge it in the form of lightning bolts and even turn her entire body into living lightning to move through electrical wires. Not being familiar with her appearances in Superman, I have no idea if she actually wants to be cured. Her powers I assume are partly responsible for her blue-white skin so perhaps she would like to appear more “normal.” Her costume is very much a Bruce Timm design as it it’s basically a black leotard with a neckline that goes down to her naval (and is in the shape of a lightning bolt for added flair) along with some thigh-high boots.

If Livewire desires a cure, she doesn’t act like it. The police truck is forced to slow down for an accident up ahead. Another cop informs the driver that he can proceed, but he should avoid the downed wires. This is most convenient as Livewire needs to be exposed to electricity to take advantage of her powers, and downed wires are precisely what she needs to escape her confines. When the truck passes them, Livewire basically makes them dance with a telepathic ability. She absorbs the electricity within them and turns herself into living light to pass through the back of the truck into the cabin. She taunts the driver a bit, then makes her dramatic and attention-grabbing escape.

meet livewire

Meet Livewire, seen here introducing herself to Batgirl.

The Batmobile is shown speeding through the streets of Gotham, but it isn’t Batman whose behind the wheel. It’s Batgirl, and she’s out on her own looking for Livewire. Batman appears briefly on a video chat in the cockpit so he can maintain his streak of appearing in every episode. He appears to be piloting the Batwing somewhere and he tells Batgirl he won’t be back in Gotham for at least 48 hours. He tells her he’ll try to get her some backup, but Batgirl thinks that won’t be necessary and assumes Livewire is heading back to Metropolis now that she’s escaped.

Oh, how wrong you are, Ms. Gordon. Batgirl sees Livewire atop some power lines right when the call is ended. Worse, Livewire sees her and jumps down onto the Batmobile. The show then demonstrates it doesn’t understand how electricity works as Livewire is able to attack Batgirl through the car with her powers.

kara kent

Kara not enjoying a quiet night in Metropolis.

Elsewhere, Kara Kent (Nicholle Tom) is bored house-sitting for her cousin, Clark Kent until she gets a phone call. It’s Batman, only she doesn’t know it’s him. He gives her a message to leave for Clark about a breaking story in Gotham. He’ll need to get there right away. As Batman emphasizes that part Kara says he sounds “like a cape” causing Batman to hang up. Realizing her night just got less dull, Kara heads for the closet for an outfit change.

Batgirl uses the eject feature on the Batmobile to get out of Livewire’s shocking trap. Once ejected, Batgirl descends via a handheld glider and comes to rest harmlessly on the street. Livewire resumes her attack and starts blasting Batgirl with her powers. Batgirl is forced to use the glider like a shield until it’s knocked away. As she runs, she manages to dodge all of Livewire’s blasts despite them traveling at the speed of light – a most impressive feat by Batgirl or just really poor aim on the part of Livewire. Failing to strike her, Livewire emits a huge electrical pulse that’s essentially unavoidable for Batgirl which knocks her on her back. Before Livewire can finish her off though, Supergirl flies in for the save.

super rescue

It’s nice having allies that can fly.

Supergirl deposits Batgirl a safe distance away from Livewire and then goes on the attack. She’s not very effective, and Livewire tosses insults at her that probably sting a little as they draw unfavorable comparisons between her and Superman, whom Livewire essentially phrases as superior in every way. She gets Supergirl in her clutches and is really making this look easy, until her juice runs out. Realizing she needs to recharge, Livewire bids a cheerful goodbye to her foes and disappears in some nearby cables leaving Batgirl and Supergirl alone to face their failure together. To add further insult to injury, the pair are forced to explain to Detective Bullock (Robert Costanzo) that they failed to subdue Livewire. He mocks them by referring to them as rookies and even seems to wish Batman were available. Supergirl is naturally ticked off, but Batgirl is more calming and assures her they’ll get their girl.

weird toaster

I too make this face when the toaster does something odd.

Our setting changes to some old zoo. An unmistakable hyena appears to be searching for a place to relieve himself when a topiary comes to life and kicks him away. Inside a dwelling, Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing) expresses her displeasure to Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin) about where her hyena’s choose to urinate, but she doesn’t see the harm in it. Harley is much more interested in getting out of this hideout and going on a shopping spree. Ivy reaches out to her in an almost motherly fashion to remind her they have to lay low in order to avoid The Bat. Ivy doesn’t want to leave and draw attention to themselves until they have an edge in their seemingly eternal conflict. On cue, the toaster starts rumbling and shooting sparks and out pops Livewire. Declaring herself their edge, she proposes a team-up and the villainess duo is apparently now a trio.

harelys ire

Harley has a case of the old jealous eyes.

The newly formed team heads for the mall to do some shopping. It’s apparently well past closing time as Harley marches up to the door with her trusty mallet and starts swinging. She doesn’t get anywhere with such a tactic, and Livewire makes a comment at Harley’s expense as she brushes the woman aside and blasts the door down. As they head inside, Ivy and Livewire are quite chatty with each other while Harley lags behind looking a touch jealous. They’re soon confronted by a security guard, but Ivy saunters over (while a saxophone plays in the background) and leaves him unconscious with her unique gifts. They then set their sights on a cluster of cash machines. Ivy tosses some seeds in one which causes some vines to explode out of the machine freeing the cash inside. Declaring this too messy, Livewire one-ups Ivy by simply shooting a bolt of electricity into another machine causing it to dispense cash. As she waits for praise, the two hear grunting and turn to see Harley wailing on a third machine with her mallet. Livewire seems both amused and annoyed with Harley and simply blasts the cash out of the machine knocking Harley on her rear. She then orders the woman to bag up the cash while she goes shopping, causing Harley to gripe aloud, “When did we become the gang?”

batgirl rides supergirl

This is oddly intimidating.

Livewire heads for a clothing store and starts zapping herself into some dresses. As she does so her costume mysteriously disappears each time she appears in a new dress, so either that’s an animation goof or her powers allow her to create her costume, which if so, renders “clothes shopping” kind of pointless. Supergirl and Batgirl soon arrive, with Batgirl riding on Supergirl’s shoulders as she flew through the night sky, and corner Livewire by herself. Supergirl is able to knock her around this time, and Batgril nails her with a giant sphere that apparently contains powdered silicate which neutralizes Livewire’s powers.

ivys entrance

Ivy always has to make an entrance.

It’s at this point that Batgirl and Supergirl learn about the team-up as Ivy enters riding on a bunch of sentient vines. Supergirl, appearing over-confident, saunters towards Ivy and gets hit with some seeds that immediately produce more vines which coil around her. Harley uses one of her gimmick guns to knock down Batgirl allowing her to turn her attention to Livewire. Apparently no longer salty with the woman, Harley happily produces a giant seltzer bottle to wash the silicate dust off of Livewire. Of course, water and electricity are a bad combination and dousing Livewire causes her powers to go a bit haywire and appears to inflict some degree of pain as well. She grabs Harley and appears ready to punch her out of frustration (“Are you out of your mind?!” “…Yeah!”), but instead drops to one knee forcing Harley to help her to safety

Ivy corners Batgirl just as Supergirl finally frees herself from the vine trap. She makes her way towards the two as Ivy tosses more seeds at Batgirl. Supergirl uses her heat vision to incinerate them as Ivy runs. With that taken care of, Supergirl moves to block Ivy’s escape, but Ivy is happy to congratulate her for being so predictable. It seems those seeds required heat to activate a poison that’s quite lethal. Batgirl is trapped behind some glass doors as the gas spreads and soon collapses. Supergirl is forced to abandon Ivy in order to save her ally. Ivy then hops in her getaway car, a pink convertible named Rose Bud, with Harley and Livewire and the three escape.

Supergirl apparently takes Batgirl back to Barbara’s apartment. There she’s able to get some oxygen and gives us a little insight into her life beyond Batgirl. It seems she works for the police in a tech role which grants her access to all of their files. In a bit of a nod to her Oracle persona from the comics, she explains to Supergirl how she knows what’s going on with the police at all times and is able to hack into their system for more info. Supergirl is impressed, and the two trade compliments as each seems to desire the other’s life. It’s a bit forced and Batgirl makes it even more on the nose with a “grass is always greener,” comment as the two prepare to head out and track down the bad girls.

at the club

It would appear Livewire has found Harley’s last nerve.

At the Iceberg Lounge, the villainesses are celebrating their getaway. Harley and Ivy appear to be in a good mood, but Livewire still seems irritated with Harley. Worse for her is the location of the table by the seal pool, which amuses Harley but puts Livewire on edge given the abundance of water. They start to argue amongst themselves when Ivy finally sticks up for Harley which gets the attention of the club’s owner:  The Penguin (Paul Williams). He tries to quiet the trio down which just causes Livewire to address him as “Lard Butt.” Insulted, he demands they leave and in retaliation the three start trashing the place.

Batgirl and Supergirl, apparently learning of the commotion, show up in the aftermath of the trio’s attack on the Iceberg Lounge. Penguin, looking rather worse for ware, is unimpressed with the heroines and, like Bullock, seems to desire Batman’s presence. The women seem less insulted this time around and when they point out they’re all he’s got Penguin relents and gives up the dirt on where Ivy and Harley have been hiding out.

topiary elephant

Ivy has some interesting new methods of attack.

Livewire is not happy to be back at Ivy’s hideout. She dislikes the hyenas and isn’t much into the décor. She zaps one of Harley’s hyenas which understandably irritates Harley, but before the tension can escalate one of Ivy’s plants starts pulsating indicating intruders. It’s Batgirl and Supergirl, and this time Batgirl has a tank on her back loaded with silicate to take down Livewire. As Supergirl scans the area with her X-Ray vision, she finds Harley who sticks her tongue out at Supergirl indicating they’ve been spotted. As Supergirl warns Batgirl, Livewire attacks. Ivy comes riding in on an animated topiary in the shape of an elephant. Apparently living, animal-shaped, plants are Ivy’s new go-to weapon as Supergirl will soon be set upon by topiary tigers.

batgirl in trouble

Meanwhile, Livewire’s methods are a bit more straight-forward.

Batgirl is quickly separated from her weapon, while Harley takes herself out when her boxing glove gun bounces harmlessly off of Supergirl and knocks her out instead. Without her weapon, Batgirl is no match for Livewire. Once again, the show demonstrates its electrical shortcomings when Batgirl successfully blocks Livewire’s attacks with a metal trashcan lid. Fortunately for her though, her opponents are not very coordinated. As Ivy bares down on Supergirl from atop her elephant, Livewire’s blasts set its rump on fire causing Ivy to abandon the fight. Livewire gets Batgirl in her clutches and is preparing to off her, but Ivy activates a defunct waterslide to douse the flames on her “baby.” Livewire is directly in the path of the rushing water from the slide, and Batgirl is able to slither away as it strikes. Supergirl also frees herself from the tiger things and grabs Batgirl before the water reaches her. Livewire essentially shorts out, and the burst of electricity knocks Ivy out as well while Harley is still unconscious as a result of her own misfire.

high five

Ain’t that cute?

Kara and Barbara are then shown seated on Barbara’s couch eating ice cream in bath robes. On television, Bullock is being interviewed about the capture of Livewire, Ivy, and Harley and he credits it to a pair of rookies. This seems to irritate the two, but Bullock then adds that the two show promise and their demeanor changes to jubilation as the two share a high-five to end this one.

Accepting that a cross-over was going to happen, choosing to make that cross-over focus on a friendship between Batgirl and Supergirl is a solid enough choice. It gives the show a chance to highlight its female characters, including the villains, and it’s something the show should be commended for as an all-female episode is a rather bold move for a cartoon primarily aimed at boys. The only downside is that it places a spotlight on how weak the show’s female designs are, which I’ve harped on in the past. I just wish I liked the result more. This episode tries to do some interesting things, but it just doesn’t go for it. I liked seeing the early stages of a Livewire/Harley rivalry with Ivy caught in the middle, but it’s squashed almost immediately. They never come to blows or anything, and it would have been interesting seeing how the more pragmatic Ivy approached such a conflict. It’s also tiresome seeing so much of the episode focus on males discrediting Batgirl and Supergirl. While the women are triumphant in the end, it doesn’t feel like those characters were punished in any way for their misogyny. Bullock gives the two a little shout out at the end, so I guess he learned a lesson?

girls night out toys

This episode has been immortalized in action figure form, which is rather cool.

The other thing holding this episode back for me is the presence of Livewire. She’s not a villain I particularly enjoy. I do like that her powers are clearly defined with strengths and a glaring weakness and it makes sense that she would assume an alpha position amongst her co-conspirators. Her personality is boring to me, and no disrespect to Lori Petty, but I don’t like her voice on this character. It just bums me out because I find Harley and Ivy and their dynamic quite interesting, but it’s pushed aside to make room for Livewire. They never got their true follow-up to their initial pairing as the only other time we’ve seen them working together is in the anthology episode “Holiday Knights”. And with this showing winding down we have seemingly run out of opportunities for these two to create additional mischief.

Another long-running shortcoming highlighted by this episode is the lack of personality in the leads. Batgirl had some spunk to her in the original Batman: The Animated Series, but 20 episodes into this series and I feel like she still doesn’t have much of a personality. She gets to interject one-liners and such like Robin and Nightwing, but mostly she’s just a nice girl who fights crime. The scene between Supergirl and Batgirl in Barbara’s apartment was a chance to do something with the pair, but it just felt like shallow girl talk where they both envy the other’s station in life. Supergirl has even less personality, but in her defense, this isn’t her show. I gather she clearly has a bit of an inferiority complex where Superman is concerned which feels like a natural direction to take her in. She doesn’t really do much here though and basically exists to even up the muscle a bit.

I don’t want my criticisms to detract from the work of writer Hilary J. Bader. I imagine Bader was basically told to write an episode where Batgirl teams up with Supergirl to take on Livewire, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn. If this was the best she could do with that premise then so be it. That’s a lot to juggle in one episode with little time to establish a true conflict while also exploring a new bond between the protagonists. It’s not a terrible episode, just not a high point for the series. And Bader has had high points as she has been often tasked with the more female focused episodes like “You Scratch My Back” and “The Ultimate Thrill.” I think her best work was on “Mean Seasons,” an episode I thought was pretty damn good. The showrunners also must have felt confident in her abilities because she was tasked with the Mr. Freeze return in “Cold Comfort.” Given his reputation as it relates to the series that’s quite an honor. She would also get to write his Batman Beyond episode, “Meltdown,” along with several others. This is her last contribution to The New Batman Adventures and sadly she would pass away in 2002 after a battle with breast cancer. She was 50.

hilary j bader

Hilary J. Bader (April 27, 1952 – November 7, 2002)


Batman: The Animated Series – “House & Garden”

house and garden title cardEpisode Number:  70

Original Air Date:  May 2, 1994

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Paul Dini

First Appearance(s):  None

It’s taken a few episodes, but we’ve finally arrived at our first “special” episode of the second season. That’s not to say the first five have been bad, they’ve just been a tad underwhelming. “House & Garden” puts the show back into a role it’s best suited for in which it takes a villain and applies a sympathetic edge to the character. Sounds simple, right? It’s not so easy though as the villain does need to earn our sympathy and it’s on the writers and animators to pull that off. Good thing then we have Paul Dini on this one, who has written some of the show’s best thus far. And the subject this time around, and the title probably gives it away, is Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing) once again. In her final appearance in the original series as a featured villain, Ivy demonstrates that the old adage “save the best for last” still applies. And that’s no small statement, as I’m a big fan of her debut episode “Pretty Poison” and her team-up with Harley Quinn was one of the most entertaining episodes of season one. She’s basically played the part of small-time eco-terrorist without much of a relatable aspect to her personality making her the perfect candidate for an episode like this one.

The episode opens on a giant creature infiltrating an apartment building. He’s shadowed, but it’s obvious he’s pretty imposing and probably not human. It’s obviously fairly smart as it knows where to locate a safe in the residence, and when the creature is interrupted by the presumed owner of this dwelling, it takes him out quickly and flees with the loot. At the police department sometime later, Gordon and a police scientist are examining the facts on the crime we just witnessed. Some green residue was left behind that the scientist identifies as a plant-based poison. Batman emerges from the shadows to name the one suspect we’re all thinking:  Poison Ivy. Normally, Gordon is one to go with Batman’s hunch, but this time he tells the Dark Knight to think again. Apparently Poison Ivy, real name Pamela Isley, was recently released from Arkham. She was able to complete her post-release therapy and even ended up marrying her therapist, Steven Carlyle (Peter Strauss).

mr and mrs carlyle

The happy couple.

This is probably the episode’s lone weak point as it’s hard to believe that Batman would not be up to date on the whereabouts of one of his famous adversaries. The guy prides himself on being up to date with the criminal underworld, and him not knowing that Ivy not only was released, but married, stretches belief. Nonetheless, Batman needs to see for himself so he and Gordon pay the new Mrs. Carlyle a visit. There they meet Steven, as well as Pamela’s step sons Chris (Scott McAfee) and Kelly (Christopher Pickering). She expresses an understanding that she would naturally be a suspect in these crimes given the circumstances, but insists she’s innocent and is quite content with her new life as a wife and mother. Steven stands up for his wife as well, and with Gordon convinced, Batman is forced to concede it’s possible the former villain has reformed.

Our setting then shifts to Gotham University where Dick Grayson (Loren Lester) is putting the moves on a co-ed by the name of Cindy (Megan Mulally). As one assumes happens to Dick often, his potential romance is put on hold by a phone call from Batman. It would seem that Dr. Carlyle is a professor at Gotham U and Batman wants some info on him. Dick knows him, and even had a class with him, and he agrees to keep an eye on him. When the call is over, Dick notices a shadow in his room. He at first thinks it’s Cindy and he’s probably ready to turn back on that old Grayson charm, but it turns out to be the creature from before. He trashes the room and batters Dick, who didn’t see it coming.

bruce attacked

Damn backseat drivers.

The police are called to Dick’s dorm as the ward of Bruce Wayne has been kidnapped. Cindy is there speaking with the police in hysterics and Bruce is there as well. Gordon tells Wayne he worries this may be an extortion scheme, which Bruce seems to take seriously. Later, he’s shown driving in his car when the creature (Jim Cummings) that abducted Dick pops up from behind him. He was hiding out in the backseat of Bruce’s car, and we get a good look at him. He resembles a human cactus with spikes for fingers which are placed perilously close to Bruce’s neck. He demands five million dollars and instructs Bruce to meet him at the docks at midnight or Dick’s life is forfeit.

batman caught in the act

This seems to happen to Batman a lot when he messes with Ivy.

The creature escapes, and Bruce is left to return to his home. It’s early in the day, so he has some time to kill and chooses to essentially stalk Pamela Carlyle as Batman. He follows her all day and observes her doing boring, housewife, stuff. Shopping, picking up the kids from school, nothing incriminating. His last stop is the Carlyle residence and as he observes from the roof some sentient vines take hold of him. They drop Batman to ground level, where Pamela confronts him. She reminds him that trespassing is a crime, and again insists she’s clean. Batman actually seems to believe her this time.

Bruce arrives at the docks with the money, seeing no alternative to getting Dick back safely. True to its word, the creature shows up, but like any true villain it doesn’t hand over Dick even after Bruce produces the money instead choosing to attack. Bruce dodges and lets the monster force him off the dock, so that he can emerge from the waters as Batman! It’s a bit dramatic, but Batman does enjoy the theatrics. Dick is tied up and still in danger when Batman attacks severing the creature’s claws with a Batarang. The creature appears unnerved by the loss of its claws and panics a bit, but is able to knock Batman into some crates giving him an opening to escape.

plant monster attacks

He’s a big boy.

Batman lets the creature go, instead turning his attention to Dick who is bound. They then are shown in the Batmobile and Dick is in his Robin costume. Batman explains he’s already checked out Poison Ivy and believes her when she says she’s found happiness with her new husband and sons. Robin is surprised to hear this, as he mentions that while attending one of Carlyle’s lectures his ex-wife brought their children by for a visit revealing that Chris and Kelly were girls.

The Dynamic Duo head for the Carlyle residence. It’s after midnight, and Robin observes that everyone appears to be asleep except Pam. Batman noses around, and eventually the two stumble upon a hidden laboratory. Inside they find Steven Carlyle – the real Steven Carlyle. He’s in a tub of goo and when he’s awakened he says that he was fooled by Ivy. Before they can talk further, some plants start to move around and in one of the creepiest events in this show some babies emerge.

Batman The Animated Series CR: Warner Bros. Animation

Unsettling, but not really threatening. Yet.

The three soon find themselves entangled in vines, and Poison Ivy makes her dramatic entrance. She goes into the typical villain routine and explains her actions and what’s been going on. She’s uncovered a formula that allows her to make plant creatures. Unable to conceive children herself due to her unusual toxicity, these plant creatures are like her babies. She needed the DNA of Carlyle to complete the process, and reveals that the plant babies are actually short-lived. The creature Batman has been tangling with returns, and it’s apparently about to expire. Ivy feeds some of her babies a formula that will hasten their development. They grow and resemble Carlyle before mutating into hideous cactus creatures as well. Ivy was doing all of this because her new life needed money if it was ever able to get off the ground, hence why her creatures are thieves.

Batman and Robin are forced to do battle with them with Robin’s attention mostly diverted to keeping Carlyle safe. The creatures force them into the main house as they stick and move. Batman is apparently just trying to lure them into a trap as he had planted herbicide in Ivy’s sprinkler system when they first arrived. Once activated, the children of Ivy are destroyed leaving the villainess to ponder where she went wrong. As Batman approaches her, she begins to melt herself. She had created a plant-clone of herself allowing an easy escape. The police and Batman are unable to catch her, but Batman suspects these events have been hard on her. She’s shown leaving Gotham on an airplane, looking at a photo album. He suspects she was telling the truth when she told him that she was happy with her new life, and he’s apparently right as the tears well up in Isley’s eyes as the episode comes to a close.

ivy copy

She’s a slippery one.

“House & Garden” is an excellent example of this show finding a way to incorporate some sci-fi elements without losing its core. The previous episode, “Avatar,” was not successful at the same and it was my main point of criticism there. This one works because it introduces a human element. Poison Ivy, in creating these plant-monsters that start life as human-like babies, is compensating for her inability to conceive children. It’s something many women struggle with and I’m sure most people know someone in that boat, if they aren’t themselves. Her motivations for wanting a new life are honest, she just doesn’t really know any other way to get what she wants without breaking the law. The plant-babies are unsettling making this one of the creepier episodes in the series. It’s a good kind of unsettling, and helps this episode stand out and really feel like a true sci-fi story. The slow reveal of the plot is also handled well, and I do love how Batman discovers she’s been playing him via Robin’s revelation. Before that though, the viewer is also like Batman and left to wonder if she’s telling the truth, and I think like Batman, we want to believe her.

This is another Dong Yang episode and it’s another good showing for the studio. I like the design of the plant monster, who’s pretty fearsome and even a tad gross. The whole sequence in the lab though is the stand-out moment as the plant babies are made to be as cute and lovable as possible. It really helps sell their transformation as something awful. The subtle animation of Poison Ivy beginning to weep at the episode’s end is also a moment of beauty. She looks truly pained, and it’s the shot that was needed to really bring this one home.

ivy cries.jpgAs I mentioned before, “House & Garden” is Poison Ivy’s last featured episode. She’ll make a cameo in a future episode, but this is essentially her finale before returning in The New Batman Adventures. It’s a great way to go out, and since it is essentially her finale it makes it easier on the writing staff as they don’t really need to figure out where to take her next. Presumably this has no true lasting effect on her. She’s defeated and sad in the moment, but likely is forced to carry on. After all, this is a woman who weeps when someone steps on a pretty flower so maybe I’m making too much of her demeanor on that airplane. Regardless, this is quietly one of the better episodes in the series, and Poison Ivy is one of its best characters.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Trial”

btas trialEpisode Number:  68

Original Air Date:  May 16, 1994

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Paul Dini and Bruce Timm

First Appearance(s):  None

“Trial” could be described as one of our first big payoff episodes for the series as it draws heavily on the events of season one. After spending considerable time developing Batman’s rogues’ gallery, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm decided to play around with them like a kid diving into a toy box for this episode as many of Batman’s foes are brought back for an ensemble episode. It also refers back to “Shadow of the Bat” and Gotham’s new district attorney, Janet Van Dorn (Stephanie Zimbalist, replacing Lynette Mettey, and also the daugher of Alfred voice actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr.), who was first introduced there as a hard-nosed and rigid authority figure. Here her personality is essentially doubled-down on as we find out she has a strong dislike for Batman and Gordon’s reliance on the vigilante in combating the crime infecting Gotham. Her dislike of Batman is a bit more practical than that of Detective Bullock’s as Batman’s clearly breaking the law, or at least bending it, with his vigilante antics and it makes her job considerably more difficult. And since she is at odds with Batman, it only makes sense to lean into that conflict as the backbone for this episode.

janet trial

Goth DA Janet Van Dorn assumes the spotlight for her second appearance. She also has been slightly redesigned to appear more youthful.

“Trial” opens in a court setting. Pamela Isely (Diane Pershing), better known as Poison Ivy, is facing incarceration beyond just treatment at Arkham Asylum and Van Dorn is arguing for life in prison. Ivy is able to avoid jail-time due to her capture being at the hands of Batman, who naturally isn’t present to even testify against her. The judge sends her back to Arkham, not an outcome Ivy probably wanted but it’s still better than prison. When the media approaches Van Dorn following the verdict, she uses the camera time to blast Batman calling him a disgrace and placing the blame for the presence of criminally insane rogues in the city on him. She’s also not afraid to let Commissioner Gordon know how she feels, but as always, he’s willing to stand-up for Batman viewing him as their best weapon in the fight against crime. Batman even drops in on their little meeting, presenting a gang leader as a present (who is wearing a skull shirt that seems to resemble a certain Marvel character’s logo). When Van Dorn challenges him to take off the mask and put on a uniform, Batman says nothing and departs. She takes a batarang from the perp as a parting gift, I guess?

At Arkham, a somewhat somber looking Poison Ivy is returned to her room. Her pal Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin) tries to cheer her up, but she has little success. She mentions something big is about to go down though that will likely lift her spirits. We then see some zombie-like orderlies and doctors milling about and The Mad Hatter bursts into the picture to reveal he’s used his mind control cards to subdue them as chaos breaks out.

captured batman

Van Dorn and Batman find themselves tied together by the real foes of Gotham.

A fatigued Van Dorn is shown arriving at a restaurant for dinner. Her date this evening is none other than Bruce Wayne. If Bruce is romantically interested in Van Dorn or just looking to get inside the head of someone who could either be friend or foe to Batman is not shown. Given his dedication to his Batman persona, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if it was the latter. A waiter (clearly voiced by Mark Hamill, which is an unintentional piece of foreshadowing) comes to the table to tell Van Dorn she has a phone call. She never returns, and soon Batman is summoned by Gordon to find out the DA has been kidnapped. A ransom note was left behind containing a riddle. Batman deciphers it and heads for the court-house where he’s jumped by Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.

Janet Van Dorn finds herself locked-up in Arkham. As she demands to speak with someone, she’s greeted by the former district attorney, Two-Face (Richard Moll). They’re having a little trial and need Van Dorn to act as a defense attorney with Two-Face the acting DA. Her client? None other than Batman. And to make things more interesting, Van Dorn’s fate is to be tied to that of her client. As Killer Croc (Aron Kincaid) dumps Batman in the cell with her, she complains about their situation and suggests Batman is where he belongs. Batman has no interest in debating his existence with Van Dorn.

trial jury

Batman’s jury hardly seems fair and impartial.

The two are lead into the court room, where a bunch of raving inmates jeer the presence of Batman and Gotham’s DA. Harley Quinn is there to taunt Batman revealing she stole his belt. The Ventriloquist (George Dzundza) with a newly reconstructed Scarface (also Dzundza) are acting as the bailiff and the jury is rather stacked against Batman as it contains:  Poison Ivy, Harley, Mad Hatter (Roddy McDowall), Killer Croc, Scarecrow, and The Riddler (Scarecrow and Riddler are not voiced in this episode). The judge? Well, it has to be The Joker (Mark Hamill) who is looking resplendent in a black robe and wig.

After Dent makes a rather brief and to the point opening statement, the trial gets underway. The Mad Hatter is the first witness who blames Batman for creating him. Van Dorn is able to expose his sick side rather easily, recalling the events of his debut and his obsessive pursuit of a woman who spurned his advances. Harley is the next, and Van Dorn is quick to point out she’s improperly influencing the judge who is laying his head in her lap (they apparently made up). Van Dorn gets no where with that complaint, but during her questioning of Quinn she actually reveals her origin for the first time as a doctor at Arkham perverted by The Joker. She also reveals that Joker ratted her out during his last capture, which enrages Harley and forces Croc to carry her out kicking and screaming.

harleys tampering

Harely and Joker are shown to have a still combustible relationship, but Harley just can’t seem to dump the clown.

Poison Ivy is next up, and her past with trying to murder Harvey Dent is once again brought up. Van Dorn accuses Ivy of having more love for plants than humans, and when Ivy denies that, Van Dorn begins taunting her by plucking the petals off a flower. This sets her off, and Ivy attacks Van Dorn and the two have to be separated. Van Dorn then composes herself for her closing remarks, claiming she now sees that it wasn’t Batman who created these villains, but the villains are the ones who created Batman. Her argument is apparently persuasive, and the jury actually finds Batman innocent. Joker is quick to point out that this is a court composed of the violent and depraved, and as such, they’ll still sentence Batman to the same fate that would have befallen him had he been guilty. Quoting Porky Pig’s “That’s all folks,” Joker strikes the bench with a rubber chicken and the two are dragged away.

van dorn and judge joker

The straight-laced Van Dorn is forced to contend with the crazies of Arkham, something she proves she’s capable of.

The rogues drag Batman to an execution chamber where the electric chair awaits him. Joker enters dressed as a preacher now as Batman is taken out of his strait jacket and placed in the chair. It’s at this point Van Dorn remembers the batarang in her jacket from earlier, and she takes out the only light in the room with it. This gives Batman the only opening he needs as he slips out of his confines and returns to the shadows where he is oh so comfortable being.

The tables have now turned, and Batman lets them know they’re now locked-up in there with him (perhaps a nod to Watchmen?) as he starts picking them off. When he grabs Croc, Joker reaches for Scarface’s miniature, but functional, tommy gun and opens fire. When Scarface warns Joker that he’ll hit Croc, he responds with “What’s your point?”

batman electric chair

This seems like a bad situation for Batman to find himself in, but as usual, he’ll make the best of it.

Batman grabs Van Dorn and the two attempt to escape, but are met by a scythe-wielding Scarecrow on the stairs. Batman is able to parry his strikes, which result in Scarface losing his head, and dispatches of the villains closing in on them. They escape to the rooftop where The Joker awaits. Joker ropes Batman and tugs him off the building with the rope affixed to an abutment that allows Joker to swing from the other end. He tries to take Batman out with a giant mallet, but as always, Batman is able to escape and take him out in the process. By now, the police (who have been tracking Batman’s location this whole time) arrive to clean up the mess. In a brief sequence to close things out, Van Dorn admits to Batman she sees a need for him in Gotham, but adds she’ll still work to create a Gotham that no longer needs Batman. He responds with a smile and a simple “Me too.”

“Trial” is a fun examination of how Batman and his adversaries are connected. Van Dorn’s argument that the cartoonish villains of their world are created by Batman is a common one, while the episode makes the case that it’s the other way around. The reality is that the two are forever intertwined. A criminal act created Batman, but Batman has certainly had a hand in creating some of the villains he combats (Van Dorn even references Joker’s creation which follows that of Batman ’89). It’s a fun little debate, and getting a bunch of villains together in one place is also equally fun and basically the impetus for Batman:  The Movie. I like seeing how the villains also play off each other, though Croc is back to being a dim-witted piece of comic relief who just wants to throw a rock at Batman. Having Harley’s origins touched upon is a nice little nugget and something that will be explored down the road. I could certainly nitpick how easy it was for Mad Hatter to gain access to his special cards or how Van Dorn is a great shot on her first try wielding a batarang, but this episode is pretty packed as-is (supposedly, this plot was considered as the first movie, but was scrapped in favor of Mask of the Phantasm) and had it spent any additional time on such details it would likely not have worked out as well. The script is also delightful, making this perhaps the most quotable episode of the series. The only gaffe, plot-wise, is the presence of Killer Croc in Arkham when it was established in “Sideshow” he’s not insane, just a bad guy.

preacher joker

Preacher Joker is one of the fun little touches in this episode.

Dong Yang Animation does a nice job with this episode having to animate so many unique characters at once. They even went through the trouble of portraying the villains in jumpsuits initially, rather than taking the easy way out and just having them in costume from the start. Bruce Wayne also gets a new look as he’s ditched his old brown suit for a sharp-looking gray one that seems to be his new default look. The drab backgrounds of Arkham are juxtaposed against the colorful costumes everyone sports and it creates a nice look. I also really enjoyed Joker’s various attires and the toy collector in me wouldn’t mind an action figure of Judge Joker and Preacher Joker. Van Dorn also received a subtle make-over from her prior appearance. She wears a blue suit now and appears a bit more youthful than before. There are a couple little production gaffes, like a character’s mouth moving when it shouldn’t and Riddler just disappearing, but nothing glaring enough to take away from the overall presentation.

“Trial” is a good second season episode that really takes advantage of the lore and backstories established in season one, and even elsewhere. It’s the type of episode I like to see in a show’s second season, and for a show like Batman that typically focuses on stand-alone stories, I always get a little rush of excitement when past events are mentioned.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Harley and Ivy”

Harley_and_Ivy-Title_CardEpisode Number:  56

Original Air Date:  January 18, 1993

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Paul Dini

First Appearance(s):  None

Episode 56 brings us to the end of the second volume of Batman:  The Animated Series. As I’ve mentioned probably too many times though, this is still production season one and we won’t be done with that for several more weeks. This is a pretty monumental episode for the series though, as it’s the first pairing of Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin) and Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing). Since Harley was such a break-out star for the show that made the move to print, I suppose anything that added to her character in this series is equally as important. The Ivy/Harley friendship became very popular, and though it was mostly shelved for the rest of the series, it was returned in The New Batman Adventures. It too has made the move to the comics and I’m sure the hardcore fans of the characters are hoping to see it one day captured on the big screen. Not to be lost in the Harley/Ivy pairing is the fact that this episode also further delves into the relationship between Harley and her beloved Mr. J. Up until now, she’s mostly been portrayed as his number 1, but this episode further explores her obsession with Joker and hints that there is a bit more to their working relationship than just boss and henchwoman.

The episode opens like many do with Batman in hot pursuit of this week’s villain. In this case, he’s chasing Joker (Mark Hamill) and Harley in the Batmobile with Harley driving and Joker relaxing in the backseat. Harley is pretty stressed as she tries to escape from Batman while Joker’s feet are propped up and he remarks on how beautiful an evening it is. He, as he often does, snaps between glee and irritation ordering Harley around including making ill-advised suggestions on where to turn. When Harley tries to point out that it might not be a good idea he just gets angry. When his decision turns out bad, he blames Harley. Such is the life of a goon. Joker calls for his gun and Harley hands it to him. Unfortunately, she gave him the gag gun which just fires “Bang!” flags. The opening allows Batman to grapple onto the rear of Joker’s vehicle, but they were prepared for such and Harley is able to eject the rear of the car and escape.

harleyivy3

Joker is eager to put the blame on anyone but himself, and poor Harley is his lamb.

Joker and Harley return to their hideout where Joker rants and raves about their encounter with Batman to the other henchmen. He puts the blame for tonight’s failure square on Harley, and when she sticks up for herself he just lays into her worse. He asks if she thinks she’s a better crook than him and it’s enough to actually anger Harley. When she suggests that maybe she is, Joker literally tosses her out of the hideout. Harley shows some defiance and determination, but also some sadness as she leaves her life with Mr. J behind.

Harley sets her sights on the precious Harlequin Diamond which is on display at the Gotham Museum. We get to see just how adept at sneaking and stealing Harley is as she makes her way towards her target, only for the alarms to be set off by another criminal. Poison Ivy is also there and she’s swiping some plant specimens. Irritated by Ivy’s presence, Harley abandons all notions of stealth and just grabs the diamond. She then helps Ivy escape from the police, and the pair use Ivy’s getaway car.

getaway

And the pairing begins!

The two flee to Ivy’s hideout, a little house smack-dab in the middle of a toxic waste dump. Ivy is immune to the chemicals in the air and she’s devised a serum that can pass that onto others, the only problem is it has to be administered via injection which does not sit well with Harley. She goes through with it though, and the two have a long conversation about Harley’s relationship with Joker. Ivy, not surprisingly, is well aware of how poorly Joker mistreats her, but nothing she can say makes Harley see the light. Still, the two are eager to form a partnership to take on Gotham as a two-woman crime team.

Harley and Ivy first target a men’s only club before hitting other spots in Gotham. Their crime spree gains media attention and the two are dubbed The Queens of Crime. This is enough to get the attention of two other noted individuals. First up is Batman, who naturally has an interest in putting a stop to any crime spree that occurs in his city. And then there’s Joker. He’s not exactly bursting with pride to his former protegé having success without him, and with Poison Ivy, no less. He wants to be on the front page, and he vows to put an end to Harley’s fun.

harley misses

Harley missing her Mr. J.

Despite his intentions, there’s little Joker can actually do to slow Harley and Ivy in any meaningful way. He doesn’t know what the two are planning or where they’re hiding out. At least, he wouldn’t if Harley wasn’t homesick for her beloved clown. She secretly phones him from Ivy’s home and he keeps her on the line long enough to trace the call. Unknown to the women, Batman is on to them. He was able to analyze the soil left behind by Ivy’s car and traced it back to the waste dump. Upon arrival he’s attacked by Ivy’s plant guardians and the two women taunt him and chain him to a table. Ivy tries to target Batman’s masculinity by asking if he ever thought he’d be taken down by two women, but Batman won’t bite remarking a sick mind knows no gender.

harley calls joker

Not Harley’s finest moment, but abusive relationships aren’t easy to escape.

Ivy and Harley dump Batman into some toxic water without his gas mask on. Satisfied, they turn their attention back to the house where a certain clown awaits them. Joker, dressed rather dapper, is acting kind of friendly, but also has his goons scooping up Harley and Ivy’s loot. He’s almost immediately confrontational with Ivy, putting Harley in the middle. He tries to gas Ivy with his boutonniere, but it has no effect on her due to her other toxic immunities. Ivy puts him on his rear, and makes off with an obviously conflicted Harley.

joker vs ivy

It’s never easy when the old partner confronts the new.

Joker orders his men after them, but they soon run into Batman. Did you think that little stunt with the table would end Batman? Of course not. He wriggled out of it and now he’s ready to knock some skulls. Joker, upon seeing his mortal enemy, whips out a tommy gun and opens fire. Batman points out that doing so is a bad idea since all of the gas in the area makes the place a powder keg, and sure enough, the whole place goes up in flames. Batman is able to take out the Joker following the commotion, while Harley and Ivy flee in their car. As Ivy announces that no man can take them prisoner, the car is taken out by a shot to the tires. The one responsible is one of Gotham’s finest, officer Renee Montoya, essentially proving Ivy right. Next stop for our villains is Arkham Asylum. Harley and Ivy are gardening while Joker is confined to his own cell in a straitjacket screaming about how he’s going to swear off women when he gets out. Despite that, Harley remains hopeful that she and her “puddin'” can salvage their relationship while Ivy reacts with disgust while tossing soil in her face.

In terms of episodes that are just plain fun, it’s hard to top “Harley and Ivy.” A lot of the episode is a Thelma & Louise style joy-ride shared by the two villains. Poison Ivy is depicted as the self-reliant, man-hater type while Harley is just along for the ride. Her good nature, for a criminal, and cheery demeanor inject a lot of personality into the episode. I love the little quirks given to Harley such as her affinity for nicknames be it Mr. J or her preferred name for Ivy, Red. Batman is often reduced to a side character in villain-packed episodes, and he definitely is here. The trio of starring villains leaves little room for our protagonist, but the episode doesn’t suffer. It’s also interesting how the episode essentially gets us to root for Ivy and Harley, though more so Harley. Most viewers probably find themselves conflicted. Joker is clearly an abusive boss who does not appreciate the talents of Harley. Meanwhile, Ivy has her own agenda. I think she is more interested in Harley’s well-being than Joker is, but both are clearly using her for their own benefit. As a result, whom does the viewer root for? It’s a fun conflict and something to ponder.

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In the end, they’re foiled by a woman.

This is another Dong Yang animated episode, and it looks and animates rather well though there are more errors than usual. There are a few continuity errors and one scene where the characters’ faces actually disappear. There are plenty of fun scenes though and I like the bits of home life shown between Harley and Ivy. It’s cute, like something you’d see in a film set in college or something. Harley, missing Joker, also manipulates the food on her plate to resemble his face.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, the Harley and Ivy pairing has been a pretty big success for both characters. They’re paired up often in the comics with many fans seemingly wanting to see the two as more than just a partnership, and DC even gave them what they want. The writers on the show would recognize how popular Harley had become and she gets multiple episodes centered around her in season two, though the pairing of these two isn’t really utilized again until The New Batman Adventures. Similarly, Harley’s relationship with Joker remains strained for the rest of the series. Aside from the episode “Trial,” where all three villains are involved in a plot with basically every reoccurring villain, they remain at odds with each other. A lot of Harley’s madness and her good side are explored in season 2 as their eventual make-up is put on hold. For a show that isn’t too concerned with continuity, it’s nice to see this fracture in their relationship isn’t something that’s just glossed over and reset for their next appearance.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Eternal Youth”

Captura_de_pantalla_2011-09-20_a_las_02.44.27Episode Number:  29

Original Air Date:  September 13, 1992

Directed by:  Kevin Altieri

Written by:  Beth Bornstein

First Appearance(s):  Maggie Page

 

Sometimes there are episodes I really look forward to re-watching and blogging about, and sometimes there are those I dread. And on a rare occasion, there’s an episode I dread that I end up enjoying, which is the case for this week’s entry:  “Eternal Youth.” As I go through this series again, I’m finding my attitude towards each episode is still firmly grounded in the opinion I held as a kid, even though I have seen all of these episodes as both a kid and an adult. And in the case of an episode like this one, I probably had a negative perception because it’s light on action and the plot revolves around a pair of sexagenarians in Alfred Pennyworth and the debuting Maggie Page (Paddy Edwards) coupled with a villain I still wasn’t too familair with:  Poison Ivy.

The episode opens with a frightened older woman running from a shadowy subject. It’s pretty obvious the person she’s frightened of is Poison Ivy. She warns she knows things and she’s seen what Ivy has done to the others, but that seems to only provoke Ivy into passing the point of no return. Since this is a kid’s show, and Ivy isn’t so boorish as to simply shoot her victims, she instead sprays the woman with some kind of green chemical cloud that looks similar to weed killer which freezes the old gal in place. We cut quickly to Bruce Wayne angrily ordering someone on the phone to back out of some business dealing because it will endanger a rain forest. Alfred remarks it was a good thing he noticed what was transpiring, while Bruce remarks he was lucky to notice, and we have our establishing plot.

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Meet Maggie, but don’t get too attached as you’ll never see her again.

Poison Ivy is out to get CEO’s and business types who have made money at the expense of the environment. We don’t know just how far is too far with Ivy, but destroying a rain forest probably fits the bill. The plot needs her attention to fall on Wayne, but the show can’t make Wayne some monster who bulldozes endangered ecosystems for profit, so it establishes right away that he’s against such behaviour, but Wayne Enterprises is so big (and he’s rather consumed by his other profession) that it’s possible some things could sneak by. Or maybe Ivy just heard about this business deal while it was in the planning stages before Bruce squashed it. Either way, we’ve established that Bruce Wayne is in Poison Ivy’s crosshairs (or whatever aiming device is on that weed killer gun) while also making him innocent of being a menace to the environment.

A VHS is delivered to Bruce that Alfred runs by him. It’s apparently for a spa of some kind. At the same time, Alfred’s apparent girlfriend Maggie shows up and is eager to see the tape. It’s for a resort that claims it can slow down and even reverse the aging process, and as a demonstration of what it can do, has extended a free invite to Bruce. He’s not interested, but when he suggests Alfred and Maggie take his place Maggie is very eager, while Alfred not so much. It’s a bit hard to pin down just what this relationship is. Alfred almost seems annoyed by her presence while she seems to very much enjoy him. I don’t know if she’s just trying to get some affection thrown her way, or if they are actually dating. Maggie will make a few comments here and there that sort of support both theories, and when they part after returning from the spa a vigorous feeling Alfred merely plants a kiss on her cheek. Some parting gift.

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That’s about as romantic as these two are going to get.

The two do head to the spa and while Alfred is a sour puss at first, he soon comes around when he samples the refreshments and enjoys being waited on for a change. The two are sad to see their time there end. When Alfred returns home he brings along some of the spa’s goodies, namely some additive that’s mixed with water, and he decorates the Bat Cave with plenty of flora. Batman finds the behaviour a bit odd, but doesn’t seem too concerned until Alfred passes out. After some rest, Alfred wakes up and basks in the sun. Maggie soon shows up and the two decide they must return to the spa – they can’t stop thinking about it.

Meanwhile, various other notable individuals have turned up missing. The police haven’t turned up anything in their investigation, and Gordon basically gives Batman the okay to rummage through one of the missing person’s apartments. And wouldn’t you know, Batman notices the same VHS tape Bruce Wayne received for the Eternal Youth spa in the missing woman’s VCR. Really, Gotham PD? It doesn’t take long for Batman to realize something is up. He’s analyzed the junk Alfred brought home with him, finding out it creates some kind of crazy, living plant when he mixes it with human plasma (I wonder if they couldn’t say blood) prompting Batman to go pay a visit to the spa.

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Admittedly, that’s kind of disturbing,

Unfortunately, Batman is too late to help Alfred and Maggie. Upon return, the two were shown what really happens at the spa. All of the guests have been turned into trees! Yes, trees. Admittedly, it’s pretty silly to read about, but the episode kind of pulls it off by showing all of the individuals with frozen expressions of horror on their faces. Alfred and Maggie fall victim to the same fate thanks to Poison Ivy and her two lovely assistants Lily (Julie Brown) and Violet (Lynne Marie Stewart). When Batman arrives, he sees the grisly sight and Ivy tries to do the same to him. Too bad for her he coated his cape in a herbicidal antidote – hah! I got a real 60s vibe out that one. With her spray stuff rendered toothless, Ivy doesn’t have much else to choose to do except run. She tries to use the cover of the nearby forest to ambush Batman, and even makes use of that nifty little wrist-mounted crossbow she has, but it’s to no avail. Batman gets his girl, and he also reverse engineers a cure for all of the folks turned to wood.

Alfred and Maggie are forced to spend some time in the hospital after their ordeal. A few plant puns are made as Maggie sits beside Alfred’s bedside. We end the episode on a bit of a joke, as Maggie remarks Bruce isn’t too bright when he attempts to cheer them up with a plant – which is met with revulsion. This episode is quite fine. There’s a bit of a horror element to Ivy’s scheme which helps inject some danger into the proceedings. A lot of the episode rests on the chemistry of Alfred and Maggie, which is surprisingly amusing. Too bad for Maggie this is her lone appearance in the show. Batman kind of takes a back seat to things, as he really often does, but he doesn’t come away looking omnipotent or anything, though he is a pretty impressive chemist. The episode has a some-what understated look, but it animates well. Ivy is especially impressive bounding through the forest during her attack on Batman.

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I always liked it when Poison Ivy actually fired that weapon, so often it’s just treated like a decorative piece.

For Poison Ivy, this is her second appearance on the show as a featured villain. She had a cameo in one of the Scarecrow episodes, but this kind of establishes what to expect from future repeat villains. For The Scarecrow, we’ve been shown that he’s escaped Arkham to reek havoc on Gotham, and for The Joker we’re usually given no explanation for how he’s out and about once again. For Poison Ivy, she’s given The Joker treatment, so if we thought he was just a special case that’s shown to be not exactly true. Most villains are just going to come and go on this show with little explanation for how they got back on the streets. While it’s nice to have that information provided, I can totally understand the writers and directors not wanting to devote time for some prison breakout every time they want to re-use a villain. Perhaps it’s lazy, but for a show that only has about 22 minutes to work with it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t make sense.


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