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The Batman TAS Episode Ranking – Part 2

Z_34_-_Batman_and_ZeeWelcome back for the second installment in the Batman: The Animated Series episode ranking. This week, we’ll be taking a look at entries 79 through 60. As a reminder, this feature encompasses all of the episodes produced under the banner of Batman, The Adventures of Batman & Robin, and The New Batman Adventures which are collectively referred to as Batman: The Animated Series. If you wish to view my thoughts on the episodes as a whole each episode here is linked to the write-up. If you prefer to explore more, simply head on over to the index page for all things BTAS. Now, lets take a look at the episodes coming in at number 79:

runaway bomb79 – Time Out of Joint

The return of the Clock King! Yeah, I’m not sure many were looking forward to that one, but we got it anyway. I was really down on the Clock King when I was a kid, as an adult I still really don’t care for him. There’s some fun time-lapse business here, but it’s still not an episode I care to return to.

78 – Birds of a Feather

Penguin’s attempt at redemption didn’t go too well for him, but at least he got to fly through the air with a Viking helmet! This was actually a fun story that just didn’t have a satisfying resolution.

77 – Terror in the Sky

Another return, this time it’s the Man-Bat from the first episode. We didn’t need another dose of this character, but I wasn’t opposed to the idea. This show sometimes stumbles with the supernatural, but the Man-Bat is the rare exception to that. This is a solid episode with a little bit of deja vu holding it back.

76 – The Clock King

The debut of the Clock King was low on my list of favorites as a kid. I did warm to it a bit as an adult because it’s just so silly. The Clock King is full of dubious puns and the image of him with his clock face glasses and cane does make me smile. The thing I disliked about this one though is how Batman plays down to his competition and that’s something I could never reconcile in my brain.

seenoevil175 – See No Evil

This is one of those early episodes of the show with a very grounded premise. An ex-con father wants to see his kid, but the law has wisely stripped him of that right, so he’s resorting to other means. This time it’s via an invisible suit which allows him to get close to his estranged daughter, whom he eventually kidnaps. It’s a good story, but I felt like it may have wanted me to feel a touch of sympathy at times for the bad dad when it really should have been more forceful to show him as in the wrong. This one earns bonus points for featuring the fun visual of Batman riding on the roof of an invisible car.

74 – Be a Clown

This one is actually rather similar to “See No Evil” as it once again involves an adult assuming a friendly persona to dupe a minor. In this case, it’s Joker who befriends the mayor’s son in a bid to get back at the mayor for saying some mean things. This one could have been a classic Joker episode if it went a bit further. It also included the somewhat annoying character of Jordan. Joker just wasn’t intimidating enough to make me, as both a kid and adult, fearful for Jordan while he was in Joker’s presence. I think this is the rare first season episode that may have been better served had it aired during the WB days.

thomas-wayne-273 – Nothing to Fear

The third episode of the show is mostly remembered for some wild visuals, including a giant skeleton harassing Batman, and for that early look at Scarecrow with the teardrop shaped mask. It ends up feeling a bit too by the numbers when examined with the rest of the material. As the third episode, it’s pretty good though.

72 – Beware the Creeper

This one is very much a mixed bag. The character of The Creeper is pretty entertaining as sort of a Loony Tunes character existing in this world. There’s also some gross stuff with Harley though which was growing tiresome at this point nearing the end of the show.  I guess ultimately I was okay with never hearing more from The Creeper.

71 – Holiday Knights

It was a bit of a surprise that The New Batman Adventures began with a Christmas/New Year’s episode. It was even more surprising it was better than the previous Christmas one, “Christmas With The Joker.” This little anthology episode is fine. It features a vicious (yet ugly) Joker, a fun romp with Harley and Ivy, and ends with a nice moment between Batman and Gordon. That’s not bad.

On_Leather_Wings_50_-_Batman_bleeds70 – On Leather Wings

The first episode of the series is more a feast for the eyes and ears than a great episode of Batman. It has a simple mystery with an obvious red herring, but the thriller aspects of the episode give it almost a horror vibe. The Man-Bat is a cool spectacle though and the sound effects may be the best in the entire run of the show. Solid action, great visuals, maybe I should actually put this higher?

69 – Avatar

The return of Ra’s al Ghul was a bit underwhelming. I was looking for a scheme on par with “The Demon’s Quest,” but we ended up with something lesser. Worse, it also had a feeling of retread with the Talia/Batman relationship. Batman is a world class detective and has to be one of the smartest men alive, but I guess he’s still a sucker for a pretty face. He’s only human.

68 – Read My Lips

The premise of this episode shouldn’t work, but it pulls it off. A ventriloquist gives life to a dummy that ends up taking charge. Scarface is the bad guy, not the “dummy” with his hand up his ass. The animators have some fun, as do the writers, with the premise. There’s still a ludicrous aspect at play to the plot, but it makes it work.

67 – Zatanna

One of the few team-up episodes of the show. In this case, it’s Batman and the sexy magician Zatanna. There’s some interesting character building in this one with it being revealed that Bruce studied under a magician to learn techniques that could benefit him as a crime fighter, namely the art of the escape. We already saw Batman get out of a dunk tank trap so this helps make that more believable in hindsight. Aside from that, the episode is a bit ho-hum.

Kyodai_Ken_subdues_Batman66 – Night of the Ninja

Kyodai Ken’s debut episode is a solid one. It posits that Batman is more Samurai than Ninja in his training, even though ninjas were considered pretty damn cool in the 90s. It fleshes out a bit how Bruce came to be such an accomplished fighter and gives him a win over an old rival. The Ninja might have been more interesting a villain had he bested Batman in one-on-one combat, but since he only came back once I guess it doesn’t matter.

65 – Vendetta

Killer Croc’s debut in the series portrayed him as a vengeful murderer, which is probably the persona I prefer as opposed to the dim-witted goof he sometimes embodies. The episode itself is a fun little mystery at first and it puts Batman in the position of helping Bullock, someone who is arguably more foe than friend to Batman. That part is arguably more interesting than Batman vs Croc, who while at first appears to be a villain Batman can’t just take on head-to-head, he still gets the job done with minimal suspense. This one does lose some points for featuring perhaps the dumbest scene in the entire show’s run. Bruce, looking to figure out who is after Bullock, is shown visiting a crocodile exhibit at a zoo and when the exhibit gives him a piece of on-the-nose info he turns (almost to the camera) and says “Of course!” If the episode were poking fun at shows that do this sort of thing that would be one thing, but it plays it totally sincere.

roxy vs batman64 – The Ultimate Thrill

This episode is certainly something. Roxy Rocket is a fun addition to the show, even if it can be hard to take her seriously. One could argue her motivations aren’t much different from The Terrible Trio, the villains of the most disliked episode of the bunch. At least she’s entertaining though, and the surprising innuendo of her encounter with Batman is shockingly funny for what is ostensibly a children’s cartoon.

63 – Love is a Croc

An odd couple paring and one I would have never dreamed up returns Baby-Doll and introduced a new version of Killer Croc. Croc is reframed as a manipulator with an appetite for cash and women. He’s basically your garden-variety sleaze ball now who just so happens to resemble a crocodile. Baby-Doll has a severe case of arrested development now as she appears to be in worse shape emotionally than before. As a result, she ends up being even more sympathetic. I think if the episode leaned into that harder it would have been better, but it also wants to be funny and feels it needs an exciting climax in the form of a confrontation between the heroes and villains. It’s solid, but I prefer her debut episode to this one.

62 – Cold Comfort

The third Mr. Freeze episode is the most uninteresting. Unsure of what to do with the villain, but feeling like he needed to return for The New Batman Adventures, the writers basically just returned him to how he was when we first saw him:  a cold, uncaring, villain. Only now his motivation was lost. His wife is alive and well, but no longer with him. Given how SubZero ended, we were to assume this was okay for him, but now Freeze is just generally ticked off at the world because he had it so bad. He wants to make others feel the same. It’s a motivator that keeps him in the role of a villain, but removes the sympathy that made him so special.

61 – Batgirl Returns

Batgirl made her debut near the end of season one, so it made sense she would be brought back in season two. She even got the prestigious role of closing out the show in a solo adventure where she was paired up with the most famous female character in the show:  Catwoman. By now, Catwoman was back to a more villainous role and much of the episode has fun with the notion of how trustworthy can she be. Robin is also tossed in as one part voice of reason, and one part smug jerk who tries to hold Batgirl back. To her credit, Batgirl is still decisive in her decision-making and self-confident, but not to a fault. The pairing is fairly fun, in a disposable way. After her father’s framing being the motivating factor to get her to take on this new persona, it’s a little disappointing something on that level didn’t get Barbara to bring back Batgirl in this one, but at least she’s back.

catwoman alone60 – Catwalk

This is basically the re-debut of Catwoman. After toeing the line of thief and vigilante in much of the first season, this one returns her to the role of a thief. Nothing of significance causes that change, Selina is mostly just bored living the straight life. Predictably, she gets into some trouble that requires some help from Batman who naturally tries to implore her to change her ways. It’s a bit lacking in drama this time around, but I mostly rank this one as highly as I do because it ends on the right note.


The New Batman Adventures – “Judgement Day”

judgement dayEpisode Number:  24 (109)

Original Air Date:  October 31, 1998

Directed by:  Curt Geda

Written by:  Rich Fogel, Alan Burnett

First Appearance:  The Judge

We have arrived at the final episode of The New Batman Adventures and what is essentially the final episode of Batman: The Animated Series. This third season seemed to go by fast, and while that’s certainly partly attributed to the fact that it was 23 episodes versus the 85 that totaled the first two seasons, that’s still more than six months of weekly blog posts. And this final episode certainly has an ominous title to it, doesn’t it? “Judgement Day” is the final produced episode of the show, though it was never envisioned as a series finale since most assumed the show would continue into a fourth season. It did not, as DC and Warner elected to instead create a sequel series in the form of Batman Beyond depriving us of what would be a true series finale.

Even though this wasn’t necessarily intended to be farewell, some aspects of this episode work as a series finale. For one, this is a Batman solo adventure. He’s going to do everything on his own in this one and even look to Alfred for a little help along the way giving this one a very season one feel to it. It’s also going to bring back a few villains we haven’t heard from much during the events of this third season. It also introduces a new one in the form of The Judge, who bares a rather strong resemblance to The Phantasm from the film Mask of the Phantasm. And like that persona, this one has its identity unveiled at the end so if you’ve never watched this one on your own, maybe do that before reading any further. It’s a fun and worthwhile reveal that I’d rather not spoil.

bartering

Just The Penguin taking care of some business.

The episode opens during some negotiations between rogues. The Penguin (Paul Williams) is haggling with Killer Croc (Brooks Gardner) over a diamond he’s brought him. Penguin is a tough negotiator and it’s getting under Croc’s skin. Penguin appears to think little of Croc, and even flaunts it when another rogue saunters in:  Two-Face (Richard Moll). Penguin is open about how he’s willing to pay someone of Two-Face’s stature more money than he would Croc and the two quickly complete a business transaction. Croc, grumbling, reluctantly takes what Penguin is offering and he has his two female associates, Lark and Raven, escort the men out.

judge strikes

The rogues of Gotham have a new problem, and he carries a big sword.

As he deposits his newly acquired goods in a safe, Penguin remarks to himself essentially how fun it is ripping off Croc. Unfortunately for him, he’s not alone. A hollow, yet booming, voice (Malachi Throne) causes Penguin to turn around. Before him is a large man dressed in a long black robe. His face is completely black and surrounded by an old-fashioned white judge’s wig. He admonishes Penguin for possessing no honor among thieves and brandishes a sword declaring he must pay for his many crimes. Penguin, for his part, appears unfazed and is ready to go toe-to-toe with this apparent vigilante, but his umbrella is no match for The Judge’s sword. He runs and calls for his associates, but he stumbles upon them tied up and hanging from the ceiling. As The Judge chases him, he hacks at a large penguin statue on wheels which rolls over and lands on the “legitimate businessman.” The result leaves him unconscious and looking rather worse for ware.

A news broadcast the next day is covering the attack and reveals that Penguin is in critical condition. Killer Croc is shown watching the report smugly while Bruce Wayne reacts somewhat angrily as he watches from his limo. When it’s revealed that a vigilante was responsible for the attack, Alfred asks Bruce if it’s a friend of his, but gets a growl in response. Two-Face also sees the story, but isn’t happy, unlike Croc. The news then pivots to another new face in Gotham, councilman J. Carroll Corcoran (Steven Weber). Corcoran remarks that everyone knows Penguin is not on the up-and-up, but no one was brave enough to take him on. He thanks the vigilante for his brand of justice and for doing what Gotham’s police and D.A. would not.

A couple of security guards are loading an armored car along one of Gotham’s suspension bridges. They apparently are collecting the haul from the tolls and making small talk, but we all know the only reason for an armored car to be in this show is for it to be robbed. And sure enough, lurking beneath the vehicle is Croc. He emerges from a manhole to grab onto the underside of the car as it pulls away. Once on the bridge, Croc demonstrates his claws are quite sharp by ripping through the underside of the vehicle and climbing inside. He quickly gets rid of the guards, but someone is on the vehicle’s roof and unwilling to let Croc get away.

croc and judge

If it works in Donkey Kong it will work on you, Croc.

That someone is The Judge. This time he’s armed with a giant hammer and he causes Croc to lose control and flip the vehicle. Once he climbs out he confronts the new vigilante who has come prepared with numerous trial-related puns. He’s so generous with the puns that he comes across like a menacing version of a 1960s villain. Croc appears to be in no mood to fight with this guy, and makes his escape. He apparently forgot that he’s part crocodile, because rather than dive into the waters below he instead climbs up the cables of the bridge. When he gets to the top, he finds out that The Judge is just as capable as Batman in scaling great vertical distances without notice as he’s there waiting for him. He clocks Croc with the mallet knocking him from his perch.

Fortunately for Croc, Batman was watching from a nearby rooftop. He makes the save before Croc can go splat on the pavement. When Batman looks up following the rescue The Judge is gone. How does it feel, Batman?!

corcoran

This guy Corcoran is basically a piece of shit and the episode isn’t interested in hiding that.

Councilman Corcoran is shown tossing some floppy disks across his desk. He says the data on them would prove invaluable for someone trying to track down Gotham’s most notorious villains. There to receive the data is The Judge. It would seem Corcoran’s endorsement of Gotham’s latest vigilante has been good for him in the polls, which is good news since there’s a primary on the horizon. He reasons that if Gordon can have his pet bat, why can’t he have The Judge? Really, everything he’s saying makes total sense given the reality of this world, but the delivery of his lines is done in such a way that it’s obvious this dude is a villain and there’s more to this story. The Judge, for his part, is fine with this arrangement and the two shake hands indicating they’ll be a force going forward.

riddler judgement day

The New Batman Adventures sure did The Riddler dirty.

We’re then shown another news report. This time it’s The Judge putting a stop to a crime being committed by The Riddler (John Glover). There’s footage of The Judge in action as Riddler is given just one brief line in which he’s not even allowed to deliver a riddle. Such an inauspicious way for his character to go out. Corcoran is again interviewed by the crew and heaps praise on The Judge. He confirms that the two are in communication and even issues a warning for Two-Face that he’s next on the list.

The image explodes as Corcoran issues his threat and it’s revealed we were watching this through a television in a bar. The bartender is initially pissed when his TV explodes, but he turns to see the responsible party and promptly shuts up. Apparently he forgot that Two-Face and his associates had sauntered into the bar, and since he didn’t like the program, he turned it off in his own special way. Two-Face then leaves and as he does another individual leaves as well. That individual is Wayne in disguise who quickly throws on his Batman attire and begins following Two-Face’s ride.

batman twoface gas

Don’t light a match.

Batman follows Two-Face to his hideout which is the same one from “Shadow of the Bat.” Two-Face is alone and soon Batman barges in. Two-Face is rather angry to see Batman on top of him, but Batman insists it’s for his own good as he’s trying to protect him from The Judge. Two-Face does not seem to want Batman’s help, but before the two can sort things out Two-Face’s security mechanisms take effect. Metal shutters cover the windows and doors turning the lounge into a panic room. A television then flips on and it’s The Judge. He delivers his judge-speak and sentences Two-Face to death by asphyxiation for his crimes. Gas then starts pouring into the room. With the doors and windows sealed, Batman demands to know where the secret exit is as he knows Two-Face would have one. He shoves Batman aside and then removes a trap door from the floor. He finds it’s been sealed with metal bars and then panic sets in. Two-Face claims no one knew that exit was there, but that doesn’t change the reality of the situation. Batman then tosses Two-Face over the bar and tells him to stay down. Ducking behind a wall, he pulls out an explosive Batarang and nails the source of the gas which results in a large explosion.

With the gas no longer a threat, Two-Face emerges from behind the bar. He finds Batman down on the floor and gives him a nasty kick. He then thanks him for saving his life and walks on by. This seemingly makes the two even.

Corcoran is shown on the phone having a conversation with The Judge. The Judge is angry with Batman for preventing The Judge from delivering justice to both Killer Croc and now Two-Face. He is seeking permission to deal with Batman from Corcoran, but he doesn’t think that would be a good look for anyone. The Judge hangs up in response and Batman soon appears. He wants info on who The Judge is, but Corcoran tells him he doesn’t know. He then goes off telling Batman that The Judge is good for Gotham and the people don’t mind if he kills the bad guys, as long as it gets them off the streets. Batman does his disappearing act, per usual, and Corcoran is actually happy by this development as he assumes it means Batman was in agreement.

two-face interrogates

Brought to a courtroom? This seems like something a judge would do…

Corcoran then heads for his car, his work done, when he’s confronted by Two-Face. Corcoran’s happy mood changes quickly and as he backs away he’s knocked out by Two-Face’s men. He is then taken to a courtroom and bound to a chair. Two-Face wants info on The Judge, but Corcoran swears he has nothing. The Judge always seeks him out, not the other way around. Two-Face consults with his men, who are seated where the jury normally would be, to see if they believe Corcoran’s story. Manny (Peter Jason) and Mo (Loren Lester) both say they believe him, but that doesn’t mean Corcoran is free to go. Two-Face consults his coin, and the results are not good for Corcoran. He tells the boys to do their thing, and they spring up armed with a knife. Corcoran is terrified as they approach, but the knife is just used to cut his restraints. As they lead him away, Corcoran begs with Two-Face. He reveals he has 100 grand in cash he can pay him with, all kick backs and bribe money he’s been taking. Two-Face says he wishes he knew that before he flipped the coin, but it’s too late now.

At the Batcave, Batman is examining the mallet The Judge wielded in his attack on Killer Croc. Alfred is there to monitor and wonders what Batman could be looking for since the police already checked it for prints. Batman is more interested in some holes in the mallet itself. He assumes there used to a plaque affixed to it and he turns to his omniscient computer for awards resembling mallets. He finds one, which is an award given out to lawyers and judges. He then pulls up a list of past winners and we’re not allowed to see the list of names. He asks Alfred if any look familiar, and he just gives us an “Oh my God!” in response. I think that’s a yes.

img_0382

This has been fun, but it’s time for these two to go one on one.

We now return to Corcoran who has been bound and blindfolded at the base of a giant Lady Justice statue. Manny and Mo appear ready to execute him and once more Corcoran tries to barter his way out. The two are amused that Corcoran would propose they two-time Two-Face and raise their guns to off the councilman. Suddenly, metal shackles snap onto their wrists. They’re apparently magnetized as not only do their wrists end up bound together, but they also end up pointing their guns at each other. The Judge then emerges once again armed with his sword. He knocks the men down and traps them with a wooden adornment. He then turns to Corcoran who is delighted that The Judge has come to rescue him.

Or not. It would seem The Judge was listening in on Corcoran’s attempts to bribe his way out of this predicament and he’s especially angry with Corcoran about the bribes he’s been taking. He takes aim with his sword, but a Batarang knocks his sword away. Batman informs Corcoran he’s not going to like what he’s about to reveal, but he’s unable to reach The Judge’s mask. Instead, The Judge flings the shackles he used on Manny and Mo at Batman binding his hands together. He then has to dodge The Judge’s sword strikes and use his body to knock him down. The Judge then uses another pair of shackles this time striking Batman’s ankles and binding them together. Realizing he can’t possibly fight like this, Batman uses a grapple gun on the ceiling and attempts to get away. The Judge won’t allow it though and jumps on Batman’s back. As the two rock towards the ceiling, Batman is able to swing himself into the statue of Lady Justice and knock The Judge from his back.

judge revealed

The Judge revealed. Is it surprising? Eh, close enough.

Batman returns to the ground where the judge lays unconscious, one of the scales having fallen on him. He takes the keys from The Judge to free himself from the shackles, then rather proudly informs Corcoran his life is about to get worse. He pulls the mask off of The Judge to reveal his identity:  Two-Face. Corcoran is shocked and soon the police and some reporters come storming in. They’re surprised to see Two-Face as well and Batman leaves Corcoran to explain this mess.

Bruce Wayne is shown reading the newspaper which contains a story about Corcoran being indicted and losing his primary. Alfred shows up to express how surprised he was to learn that Two-Face was The Judge all along, allowing Bruce to explain to the audience what happened. Two-Face essentially created a third persona, unknown to him, which is how The Judge knew about Two-Face’s hidden exit to his apartment. Alfred expresses pity for the man formerly known as Harvey Dent, which takes us to Arkham. The voice of The Judge can be heard demanding to know how Two-Face pleads when confronted with his crimes. Two-Face is shown in a strait jacket with his head hung low as he just repeats the word “Guilty” over and over, his face rising to reveal a haggard expression.

guilty

“Guilty…guilty…guilty…”

And that is how The New Batman Adventures comes to an end. One of the best villains the show produced is returned in yet another new role to disburse justice across Gotham. It’s a fitting sister episode to “Second Chance,” for in that episode it was Harvey’s bad side that took control to make sure an operation that would repair his face never took place. In this one, it was the side of him that is Harvey Dent, District Attorney, who found a way to manifest itself in the form of The Judge. The reveal is protected rather well, with the only tip-off being that The Judge was clearly either a judge or lawyer when not in costume. The only other clue was the throw-away line from Two-Face about his secret exit, but it’s not as if the exit was hidden well. It was plausible that if The Judge could gain entry to the apartment for long enough to hack the security system and plant the gas bombs that he also could have found the hidden exit. It works well as a clue though and helps to make sure the episode didn’t do anything unfair in hiding the real identity of the vigilante.

For Batman, he only has to do some simple detective work to figure this one out. And as we saw in “Second Chance,” Harvey is a tough villain for him to confront given his failure to protect him back when he was disfigured by Rupert Thorne. It makes sense for this to be a solo mission given that fact, and truthfully there wasn’t much room for anyone else given how this one moves along. It might have been nice to see Robin confront Two-Face again, but it wasn’t exactly needed either.

Corcoran is the only real weakness for this episode. His portrayal is so slimy in nature that the reveal that he’s a crooked politician was expected as opposed to surprising. If he had been played different or made to seem a little less self-serving it might have made that reveal a bit more shocking and effective, rather than just being ho-hum. The writers felt that Corcoran needed to be a villain, and since Gordon endorses a vigilante all of the time they had to make him different to further illustrate the difference between Batman and The Judge.

batman soars

It feels appropriate that the show ends like it started with a Batman solo tale.

For Harvey Dent, this is a sad end for him. He will not appear in any of the series that follow and clearly he’s no closer to regaining his sanity at the end of this one than he was at any time before. He feels like a lost cause, and even Bruce shows him no sympathy in the end which is in contrast to his appearance in “Second Chance.” They could have given him a line about how The Judge’s presence indicates that there’s still some of Harvey Dent locked inside of there somewhere, but alas they chose not to. I’m not complaining as I’m fine with the story of Two-Face essentially having a sad ending even considering it is the final episode of the series. And not to be forgotten, but this is also the final appearance of Paul Williams as The Penguin. The Penguin character will return in Mystery of the Batwoman, but Williams did not reprise his role. A lot of praise is heaped on Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill for being the definitive take on their respective characters, but I can never read a line of dialogue from The Penguin and not hear Paul Williams in my head.

And that is the inescapable reality of this one. The end of Batman: The Animated Series, possibly the greatest action cartoon of all time. I started this project as a celebration of the show’s 25th anniversary more than two years ago. I also wanted to do it as a chance to revisit the show with a critical eye and determine for myself if it’s still worthy of much of the praise heaped upon it. And while it is true that not every episode is great, the vast majority are more than entertaining and it leads me to believe that the show has a well-earned reputation. It’s not just nostalgia talking. I will return to this show again to do a proper wrap-up, but it will have to wait until possibly the new year. I could not have timed this better when I started for next week will be a review of the show’s feature length finale, Mystery of the Batwoman. After that comes December which means Christmas, so there won’t be room for Batman for awhile. If you have been reading this weekly since the start, or just popped in now, thanks for doing so. I know it’s not as fun to read about Batman as it is to watch it, but hopefully this has been an acceptable use of time for anyone choosing to spend that which is so precious on my humble little blog.

 


The New Batman Adventures – “Love is a Croc”

love is a crocEpisode Number:  9 (94)

Original Air Date:  July 11, 1998

Directed by: Butch Lukic

Written by:  Steve Gerber

First Appearance:  None

 

There are no noteworthy first appearances in this week’s episode, “Love is a Croc,” but it almost feels like we have a pair. Killer Croc was a frequent contributor during the original run of Batman. He was sometimes portrayed as a vicious killer, and sometimes as a goof, but he was always voiced by Aron Kincaid. Kincaid is no longer a part of the show though, and he’s been replaced by Brooks Gardner. Perhaps less noticeable is the addition of Laraine Newman as the voice of Baby-Doll, replacing Alison LaPlaca. This is only less noteworthy because the character previously only had one appearance, but the difference between the two is pretty noticeable so I would guess that long-time fans picked up on it quite quickly.

chicken

Killer Croc is back with a new look, a new cell, and a new love for raw chicken. It’s finger-licking good!

The New Batman Adventures consists of many redesigns for villains, and today is no exception, and it also contains new directions for said characters. Perhaps the show was unsure of what to do with both Croc and Baby-Doll, so rather than create a new scheme for them on their own they decided to do an odd couple pairing. Baby-Doll is the sympathetic villain, as she has largely been victimized by her condition which is summed up in this episode as one that does not allow her to grow. Croc, on the other hand, has never been played for sympathy even though he has an obvious physical condition that could lend itself to such a portrayal, had the show wanted to explore that. Instead though, Croc seems quite happy as he is and enjoys looking rather freakish. Basically, Baby-Doll views her outward appearance as a betrayal of what she feels inside, while Croc’s is more like an accurate manifestation of the person, or reptile, he is on the inside. It’s certainly an interesting approach, so let’s see how it turned out.

The episode opens in black and white, a palette we were accustomed to in the first run of this show, but one that is now rare. And it’s colored that way because we’re watching an old clip of Love That Baby, the sitcom starring Mary Louise Dahl. It’s a little comedy piece that is there to remind us of Baby-Doll as we head into the episode proper.

mad mary

I think he made her mad.

A wife is helping her husband stumble into a hotel lobby. Judging by their attire, I’d say they’re on vacation in some place warm. The man is obviously drunk, which is probably a first for this show, and he’s lost his room key. The wife seems to have lost something as well, her patience, as she drops him and heads to the concierge. Working the desk is a diminutive woman with an oversized shirt on. She informs the guest that she can get her a duplicate. The woman watches as this host hops off of a large stool and pushes the stool over towards the wall where the keys are hanging. Drunk husband is also watching and he’s the first to notice her. Phrasing it as, “You used to be somebody,” he eventually remembers and starts reminding Mary of her past failures, including the whole trying to kill Batman thing. He tells her to do something funny, and eventually the former Baby-Doll snaps. She grabs the man by the nose and slams his face into a ledger before shutting it on his head violently. She then utters her catchphrase, “I didn’t mean to,” but not in her usual playful way.

Mary retreats to her own room where she angrily tosses aside her coat before settling into more of a depressive state. She asks why people can’t see her as an adult before plopping on the couch between two giant teddy bears (that might be contributing to your problem, Mary). Of course, her show is on television and she angrily changes the channel and finds some live courtroom show. Killer Croc is being presented to a judge and is shown pleading his case that he’s the victim of prejudice based on his appearance. And his new appearance is even more monstrous than before. He’s green-skinned now with monstrous eyes, claws, and these weird ridges on his body. In short, he more clearly resembles a crocodile.

croc escape

That seemed a little too easy.

The judge (Buster Jones) decides Croc is competent enough to stand trial, and Croc is not in agreement. Apparently wanting to prove the judge wrong, be breaks out of his restraints and goes on the attack. As he batters the police aside and makes his escape, Mary cheers him on from her couch apparently recognizing a kindred spirit.

croc batarang

Croc is clearly not impressed with Batman’s toys.

Croc’s escape from the courthouse does not mean he’s home free. Outside, he’s forced to contend with more police, and then a Batman. Batman swings in to deliver a nice kick, but Croc is up for a challenge. He starts putting on a show by tossing cars and crushing batarangs in his jaws, but he’s eventually subdued by the caped crusader. At this point, a crowd has formed to watch and Baby-Doll herself is among the spectators (so I guess her hotel is no where tropical?) and looks on with sadness as Croc is apprehended.

crocs confines

That bag of several chickens probably weighs more than she does.

Arkham Asylum is our next setting, and it seems they’ve made some modifications for old Croc. He’s shown swimming in a giant tube of water that’s open on top. A guard walks in to inform him that he has a visitor, and in strolls Baby-Doll. Croc has no interest in conversing with her, but she informs him she brought chicken. She tosses a whole, raw, chicken at Croc who devours it in one gulp bones and all. She’s brought more than one, and her strategy seems to have worked as Croc is willing to listen. She tells them their kindred spirits, and Croc seems disinterested owing to the fact that he’s being sent to jail tomorrow. Baby-Doll tells him not to lose hope by suggesting that accidents can happen on the way.

baby-doll and gun

They’ll let anyone be a villain these days.

The next day, Croc is being transported at night and everything seems to be going smooth, for now. The driver of the truck then notices a little girl appear in the road suddenly and he has to swerve in order to avoid her. The truck goes through a guardrail and flips over, and Baby-Doll is there to once again utilize that catch phrase. She goes around to the rear of the truck and finds two guards picking themselves up off the ground. They question what she’s doing there, and she pulls out a gun. It fires two suction cup-tipped darts that strike each man in the forehead. Each dart has a wire trailing out of it back to the gun and an electrical current shoots up it rendering the two unconscious. Baby-Doll then finds Croc inside and gives him a big hug (she’s about the size of his head and neck) while Croc wears a confused expression on his face as she tells him they can be together forever now.

croc welcome home

Welcome home, Precious.

Sometime later, Croc is shown returning home. Home appears to be in a sewer and it’s made up to look like a 1950’s kitchen. Croc comes strolling in to find Baby-Doll at the table in her high chair. She’s delighted to see that her precious has returned home, and Croc is equally delighted. He comes baring newspapers, local and out of town (The Daily Planet), which all feature he and Baby-Doll on the front page. It would seem they have a successful string of robberies under their collective belt, and the stacks of cash in the cupboard make Croc very happy indeed. He’s not here to chat long though as he tells Doll that he’s heading back out. He apparently subscribes to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle philosophy that a trench coat and hat are all you need to disguise an otherwise noticeable appearance. Baby-Doll is sad that he’s leaving and she grabs onto the end of his coat imploring him to take her along. She’s clearly regressed back to an almost child-like persona as she speaks in the third person referring to herself as Baby. Croc spins around like he’s about to backhand her, but he relents. He then resumes his leaving while Baby-Doll tries to tell him they should plan a new job, but he informs her (and us) that’s her job as he disappears down a tunnel.

Batman and Batgirl are shown zipping around in the Bat Boat apparently in search of Croc and Baby-Doll. Batman informs Batgirl that all of their jobs have so far taken place near water tipping him off that Baby-Doll is taking advantage of her new beau’s obvious strengths. A casino cruise ship just happens to be roaming Gotham Harbor and that’s about as likely a hit as one will find for this particular duo. Croc and Baby-Doll enter the casino floor. Baby-Doll plays with a ball which attracts the attention of a security guard who moves to remove “the child” from the area. As she does so, she abandons her position beside the cashier and Croc reaches into his window and rips him through the wall. He heads inside to get the cash as the guard abandons Baby-Doll to go after him. Baby-Doll throws her ball at her and it explodes releasing a gas that takes out the guard as other patrons flee. Baby-Doll joins her man as the two grab as much cash as they can before beating a retreat.

spoiled getaway

They act surprised to see Batman, but how long did they think they could really keep this up before he’d show up?

Getting away won’t be easy though, as Batman and Batgirl show up and block their escape. Croc is clearly unnerved as he turns tail and runs. He ends up chucking a giant roulette wheel at the two, which initially misses but causes a whole host of problems for the two. Batgirl gets squashed under a table while Batman gets nailed by the ricocheting wheel. This provides enough cover for the two to escape, only they lost most of the money. Batman recovers and tells Batgirl they’re getting away, who seems irritated with him for not first making sure she was all right via a sarcastic remark. Batgirl joins Batman on the ship’s deck, and Batman spies the villains heading into a large sewer pipe he assumes is taking them home.

Back at their lair, Croc is livid by Batman’s interference. Baby-Doll tries to calm him down, but he’s not listening. He tells her he’s going out, causing her to give chase once again. This time, Croc doesn’t pull his backhand and he swats her away. Baby-Doll looks hurt, emotionally, by this display of aggression as she watches Croc once again vanish down the sewer pipe. On the waterfront, Croc is shown leaving a place called Live Bait (gross) with a woman on each arm and lipstick on his cheek. He’s bragging to the girls that he’s about to fly solo and confirms that he plans to ditch Baby-Doll. From the shadows, Baby-Doll is shown watching as tears well up in her eyes.

baby-doll hurt

Someone’s been caught.

Croc is shown sleeping on the couch until Baby jumps on him. She wraps her arms around his head and apologizes for before promising he can go out whenever he wants. Croc seems confused, but not concerned. She gives him a kiss and he bushes her aside. As he walks away she tells him she has a new job. Croc gets excited as he learns that this is The Big One and Baby-Doll promises that it will be the one that will allow he and her to live in warmth forever and ever. Her delivery is more than a little creepy so I don’t think this job is going to end well.

Batman and Batgirl are shown walking in ankle deep sewer water. Batgirl is complaining that the two days they’ve spent doing this will result in her suit being forever ruined, as well as her nose. Batman simply replies that it’s better than sitting around the cave. They soon find the happy home of their targets, only it’s empty. As Batman examines a childish drawing of an exploding nuclear power plant, Batgirl picks up a doll that was left on the table. The head rolls off and soon Baby-Doll’s voice is heard admonishing the intruders. A stuffed crocodile opens its mouth and a bomb is revealed. Batman and Batgirl have just enough time to jump back into the sewer water to avoid the explosion. An angry Batgirl emerges from the water expressing a sentiment that this girl needs a spanking (and she’s a-hankering, for some spankering!).

croc baby reactor

I think they’re about to break-up.

Croc and Baby-Doll are shown at the controls for Gotham’s nuclear power plant. There are no workers, no guards, and how they got there isn’t explained. Baby-Doll then cuts off the water supply which keeps the reactor cool. Croc is confused since they can’t accept ransom from a dead city. Baby-Doll informs him via limerick of her plan to destroy Gotham by causing a meltdown, in turn killing them as well. This is Baby-Doll’s punishment for Croc and the solution to his womanizing. First we had a drunk guy, now we have a plot involving a murder-suicide, this show sure has grown up.

Before the two can get into a lengthy argument, Batman comes swinging in and nails Croc. He tries to tell Batman that she’s crazy, but he responds with fists. Batgirl swings in and nails Baby-Doll before turning her attention to the controls. Batman asks if she can fix it, and she responds that he’ll either know in a minute, or he won’t care. She is successful, as Baby-Doll flees. Batman tells Batgirl to keep an eye on the reactor as Croc takes off after Baby-Doll and Batman is forced to pursue them both.

croc vs batman

It wasn’t that long ago we saw Bruce Wayne tangle with the real thing, so this doesn’t seem too threatening for Batman.

Croc reaches Baby-Doll first and he apparently isn’t going to forgive her for her little attempted murder. He grabs her, and dangles her over a large turbine seemingly intending to kill her. As he drops her, Batman is there to make the save as he usually does. This leaves him open to attack though as Croc pummels him into a wall. Hoisting him over his head, he heads back to the turbine to finish off Batman, only this time it’s Baby-Doll making the save. A little gun-like device fell off of Batman as Croc carried him, and Baby-Doll grabs it. It looks like an injection device, but when Baby-Doll uses it on Croc it behaves like a stun gun (shrugs). Croc is angered, but not really affected, but the distraction is enough to allow Batman to pull him down off of the catwalk they’re on and down onto another.

crying baby doll

Nothing but tears in the end for old Baby-Doll.

Croc then gets on top of Batman and tries forcing his head into the turbine (he’s really determined to make use of this turbine). As Batman’s “ears” enter the danger zone, the turbine clinks off of them revealing to us that Batman’s cowl is now reinforced with steel (clever bat). Batman kicks him off and into a wall covered with pipes. Croc ignores the warnings, and a verbal one from Batman, regarding the pipes and rips one off the wall. He’s rewarded with a face full of hot steam which knocks him to the ground. He looks dazed, and then appears to slip into unconsciousness. Beside him, Baby-Doll mourns for the relationship they could have had. Just as her debut episode ended, this one ends with her gentle sobs as Batman looks on.

This is another one of those episodes I wasn’t really looking forward to rewatching. Baby-Doll felt like a one-shot to me. She was fine in her original appearance and made for a unique and sympathetic villain. She was certainly memorable given her appearance, but she also struck me as someone who just needed some help and would then be able to live a semi-adjusted life. And apparently she did, for a time, until someone pushed her buttons too far and she was introduced to Killer Croc. It’s an odd pairing, but one that is mostly logical. Baby-Doll is a bit more mentally distressed it would seem, sd evidenced by her child-like state throughout the episode. It’s a bit strange as we were lead to believe she thinks of herself as an adult, but she certainly doesn’t act that way. She’s obviously not well though, so it’s not illogical to see her act this way, just different.

Killer Croc, on the other hand, is mostly true to his nature. It is a bit hard to get used to his new voice. Aron Kincaid brought this New York sleaziness to the character that is mostly replaced by just a deep, some-what monstrous, voice by Brooks Gardner. It’s fine on its own, but I definitely miss Kincaid. Otherwise, Croc just wants money and apparently girls, and remains a main without morals who just happens to resemble a crocodile.

With so much of the episode devoted to showing us the home life of our unlikely couple, there’s very little time for Batman and Batgirl to do much of anything. They write Batgirl much in the same way as they used to write Robin. She makes jokes and sarcastic remarks and is all together rather chatty compared with Batman. Batman is slightly more willing to banter now, as I feel like before he would have met Robin’s remarks with silence, but here he does not. When Batgirl openly wonders what Croc and Baby-Doll do on a date he takes a long pause before responding with a “I don’t want to think about it.” I think it would have been a touch more humorous to just have Batman let her question hang in the air rather than have him respond. I sometimes get the sense that the writers are trying to find Batman’s personality now that he’s always shown to have someone with him, where as his personality before was mostly just silent brooding. Something just feels “off” about Batman, and I keep waiting for things to click, but I’m not sure they will.

high angle croc ending

Baby-Doll’s second appearance ends the way her first did with an almost identical shot.

This is the final appearance for Baby-Doll, while Killer Croc will return. It was a surprise to see her brought back at all, so the fact that she won’t be making a third appearance is hardly a surprise. There’s only so much that can be done with her. Plus she basically tried to nuke Gotham, so she’s probably been sent somewhere that isn’t likely to set her free anytime soon. She did her job, and while her episodes are not among my favorites, they certainly weren’t bad.

 


Batman: The Animated Series – “Bane”

Bane title cardEpisode Number:  75

Original Air Date:  September 10, 1994

Directed by:  Kevin Altieri

Written by:  Mitch Brian

First Appearance(s):  Bane

 

Episode 75 brings us a relic from the 90s:  Bane. Bane has always felt like the Omega Red of DC. He’s kind of cool looking, yet also lame at the same time. Both characters were introduced into the comics in the early 90s, then fast-tracked to their respective animated counterparts. In the case of Bane, basically a year elapsed between his debut and this episode’s airing, so it was likely in development not long after Bane’s lore was created. Either as an indictment of that lore, or because things were still in flux, this version of Bane is merely a basic representation of the character from the comics. His look is largely intact, save for the superficial difference of his mask featuring an exposed mouth, and he’ll rely on the serum Venom to augment his strength. Almost everything else is different, and arguably for the better. He’s a mercenary here, rather than a guy tormented by visions of a bat monster, and the episode has no need to dive deep into his origins. So much of Bane’s comic book back story strikes me as ridiculous, and it’s rightly ignored for this episode. It’s just possible the lot of it was ignored or glossed over for time constraints rather than because of its quality.

knightfall bane

I guess when you do something like break Batman you get to make the leap from comic to TV rather quickly.

Bane, for all of his problems, is merely here to play the role of physical adversary for Batman. He can overpower Batman with no problem, and unlike a Killer Croc, he’s got brains to back-up his brawn. He’s portrayed as a tactician and takes to the task of destroying Batman in the way an expert hunter would approach its prey. It’s a unique approach for the series as really few have attempted to engage Batman in a similar manner. And for all his strength, Killer Croc has never been much of a problem for Batman in a fight. One could argue his toughest physical foe up to this point has been the ninja Kyodai Ken. Say what you will about Bane, he has a role to play on this show and it’s a role that had not been filled by anyone else.

This episode also marks the beginning of Fox’s third season of the show launched in September 1994. That makes “Bane” the first episode to feature the new opening. It’s set to Shirley Walker’s Batman theme, which some argue is superior to the Elfman theme. Obviously, Walker probably never would have arrived at this sound for her Batman theme without Elfman’s, but it’s a point worth taken. And even though I think this opening is inferior to the original, I do think it’s nice Walker’s theme got a chance to shine.

Candice meets Bane

An old enemy is introduced to Bane.

“Bane” begins inauspiciously at an airport. A rather large man emerges from a commercial flight and finds a car waiting for him. We don’t get a full-frame look at him, but get to see the vehicle buckle under his tremendous weight as he climbs in. Inside is a character we haven’t seen for quite some time. Candice (Diane Michelle), the assistant to Rupert Thorne whom we haven’t seen since “Two-Face,” welcomes the man. He sits beside her and speaks with a Spanish accent. She takes him to her employer, Thorne himself (John Vernon), who is in the middle of a work-out. His coach, in a bid to motivate Thorne to hit the punching bag harder, hits a sore spot when he brings up Batman and gets knocked out as a result. Thorne greets the big man, who we come to know as Bane (Henry Silva), and we find out he’s been hired to take out Batman. The caped crusader recently cost Thorne a lot of money, but he did manage to hang onto a suitcase full of diamonds which he uses to pay Bane. After payment, Bane hands over a newspaper with a cover story on Killer Croc, who recently escaped from Arkham (as we saw in “Trial,” he ended up there for some reason following the events of “Sideshow” in which he was supposed to be transferred to prison), and wants to know how he can find “the reptile.” Thorne isn’t really thrilled to see Bane targeting Croc when he’s supposed to be going after Batman, but Bane explains he wants to see the Batman in action before engaging him.

thornes hire

Rupert Thorne may be the man paying Bane to take out Batman, but we’ll learn that Bane has been looking forward to matching wits with the detective for some time.

Apparently not one to sit around, Killer Croc (Aron Kincaid) has assembled a small gang and is either on the run from Batman and Robin or is in the midst of having a crime foiled. He’s being chased through a construction yard or factory of some kind, a typical nondescript backdrop for the show, and Croc demonstrates his own impressive strength by mangling a series of pipes and tossing them at Batman and Robin, scoring a direct hit. This gives Croc time to flee into the sewer. Wanting Batman to follow, he makes no attempt to hide his escape and is shown waiting in the sewers with a pipe in hand quietly urging Batman to come on in. Behind, the wall smashes in and in comes Bane. He’s dressed like a giant lucha-libre performer (Mexican wrestler) complete with mask and singlet. He announces that Batman is his to destroy, and when Croc retorts with “Over my dead body,” Bane responds with “As you wish.” He flicks a switch on a wrist contraption and a liquid starts pumping from it into a tube connected to the back of Bane’s skull. His muscles begin to bulge and the background turns bright red to heighten the apparent adrenaline rush Bane receives. He grabs Croc by the skull, his hand now large enough to palm it effortlessly, and shoves his head underwater.

bane emerges

Killer Croc gets a look at Bane, now in full wrestling-inspired attire.

By now, Batman and Robin have entered the sewer and we can hear the sounds of Croc being pummelled, Bane apparently not content to merely drown him. He soon floats into sight, but Bane is gone. As the two haul Croc out of the sewer, Robin wonders if there’s a new vigilante on the block while Batman remains silent. They arrive at the Batmobile to find it’s been smashed. It’s there Batman agrees with Robin that whoever stopped Croc is tough because he notes the damage to the Batmobile was done with bare hands.

Later on, Batman pays Croc a visit at Arkham where he’s looked better. His head is bandaged and he has a broken arm and leg both of which are being suspended by slings on pulleys. Batman wants to have a chat, but Croc is in no mood. Batman basically uses some mild torture by messing with the pulley which is enough to make him sing. Croc tells him about Bane, in particular about the drug that pumps him up, and also taunts Batman a bit as he’s convinced Bane will snap him in two once he gets his hands on him. Batman doesn’t seem too concerned and departs with a, “Later gator.”

At the Batcave, Robin is working on the Batmobile while Batman is at the computer. Alfred comes strolling in (feels like we haven’t seen him in awhile) and mentions something about Bane to Batman who makes a quip about it being personal now that he totaled his car (Batman is on point with the jokes so far). Batman, having heard enough from Croc, already knows everything there is to know about Bane as his computer reveals all. Bane is the only man to escape from some notorious prison in Cuba. It was there he was experimented on with the substance that will be identified as Venom. Since escaping, Bane has fashioned himself into a merc for hire, and a real expensive one at that. His price starts at 5 million a job, and when Batman questions who has that kind of money and a desire to kill him Alfred hands him a newspaper (this again?) that inexplicably has a headline that just reads Rupert Thorne.

robin hides

Robin must not have been very good at hide and seek.

At Thorne’s office, Candice is seated with Bane while he does curls with a massive dumbbell. Earlier, Thorne had offered Bane the “services” of his assistant and Bane appears to be taking full advantage of said services. Candice tells him that he could own this city, and she, once he takes out the Batman. When he asks her about her boss, she just says “accidents happen,” and plants a kiss on his exposed lips. Thorne then enters and Candice takes her leave. When Thorne casually says “He’s out there, Bane,” referring to Batman, Bane respond with a “Closer than you think.” Across the way, Robin has been eavesdropping the whole time and recording the conversation too. As he’s putting his equipment away he notices Candice leave in her own vehicle and the Batmobile then appears and follows her. Behind Robin, a red-eyed shadowy figure emerges and starts racing up behind Robin. He spins around at the last second to find Bane. He dodges Bane’s attack, but soon finds himself in his clutches. As Bane dangles him over the ledge, Robin is able swing between Bane’s legs and upend the big man. He wisely doesn’t try to pick a fight with Bane and flees to another rooftop. He hides behind some ventilation as Bane walks by, but when Robin tries to sneak away Bane is there to wrap him in a bear hug. He turns his back to the camera so we don’t see Robin get choked out. When he turns back around he’s cradling an unconscious Robin in his arms and makes a remark that he may prove useful to him as he walks off.

bane cradles robin

It would be sweet had he not just choked Robin out.

Batman has followed Candice back to her apartment. He enters and confronts the woman about Bane. She seems rather casual and plops herself down on the couch to watch cartoons (surprisingly, not another Warner cartoon) while Batman yaps on. She then tells him he has no chance against Bane. He’s studied him since he was in prison and is obsessed with taking him down (a slight nod to Bane’s comic origin, I suppose). As she goes on, the phone rings and she tells him that it’s probably for him. Batman answers and it’s Bane, who lets him know that if he were a sniper he’d already be dead. He then threatens to get him by getting to whom he values most. Batman is alarmed and looks out the window to see Robin’s shirt and cape draped over an antenna on a rooftop across the street. In an action that was actually amusing to me, Batman smashes Candice’s window rather than open it so he can fire his grapple gun to retrieve Robin’s garment. A note is affixed to it with Robin’s apparent location on it.

The note instructed Batman to head to a wharf where a ship called The Rose’s Thorn is docked. I don’t know if it’s Thorne’s ship or if Bane picked it because it reminds him of his employer. There Robin has been chained up with a massive weight chained to his ankles. Candice managed to beat Batman there and tries to remove Robin’s mask, but Bane stops her for no apparent reason. Robin is then lowered into a pool on the ship that has water pouring in. Soon enough he’ll be underwater with no apparent way to escape.

bane vs batman

They should have just gone all-in and hired Jim Ross to do commentary.

Batman arrives to see Robin and goes for him, but Bane soon announces his presence from the top of a mast. He activates the Venom and jumps down, the camera shaking as he lands on the deck. Batman is tentative, but goes in eventually. The fight turns into a faux wrestling match with Bane no-selling Batman’s strikes as if he were The Undertaker. He tosses Batman into the ship’s railing, which cartoonishly bends like wrestling ring ropes allowing Batman to rebound off of them into a massive clothesline from Bane. Batman gets up and uses some lucha-libre of his own with a series of head-scissor takedowns on Bane. Eventually, the enraged behemoth just catches Batman and heaves him into a bunch of crates. Among the rubble, Batman finds some device which turns out to be a grappling hook gun. He plunges it into Bane’s midsection and fires catapulting the villain from the deck to the water below.

With Bane out-of-the-way, Batman races to Robin’s aid and finds the water level has reached his chin. He dives in and starts prodding at the chains around Robin’s wrists, but the boy wonder quickly directs Batman to the weights on his ankles. Batman goes under water and finds the chains padlocked. Expecting him to go to his belt for something to break the lock or chain with, Batman surprises me by pulling out a set of keys. Did he remove them from Bane during the fight? He frees Robin, but while Batman is busy Bane re-emerges behind Candice, who looked like she was about to flee.

robin vs candice

This isn’t the fight we were promised.

Bane waits for Batman to climb out of the pool before grabbing his head and tossing him. He merely kicks Robin back into the water, apparently not at all concerned about him. From the water, Robin spies Candice and beckons her into the water. For some reason she obliges, tossing aside her red pumps (but not her jacket) and dives in and the two start wrestling with each other. Likely owing to the show not wanting to show Robin assaulting a woman, Candice is shown to have the upper hand immediately.

bane scream

The animators at Dong Yang utilized a red background for some of Bane’s Venom scenes, which is pretty effective.

On the deck, Batman and Bane have resumed their fight. Batman, apparently running out of ideas to confront this beast, tosses a Batarang at Bane who catches it. He crumples it in his hand and taunts Batman for trying to fight him with toys. Now clearly with the upper hand, Bane methodically beats on Batman though the camera is careful not to show anything particularly gratuitous. He grabs Batman by the shirt and demands he scream his name, but of course Batman isn’t about to do that. Looking to end the fight, Bane lifts Batman over his head and announces that he will break him. He assumes another classic pro-wrestling position, that of the backbreaker. It’s at this point those who were familiar with Bane’s presence in the comics may have actually fallen for the tease. In the books, Bane does indeed break Batman’s back across his knee, but he won’t be so lucky here. Batman, holding onto the mangled remains of his Batarang, uses it to stab the pump on Bane’s wrist. This causes it to go haywire and continuously pump Venom into Bane’s noggin. He drops Batman and starts freaking out as he can’t control the Venom. His muscles keep increasing and we return to the red background to focus in on Bane’s face. The red lenses over his eyes pop off as his eyes bug out and the whole sequence is rather freaky. He’s in obvious pain and in a state of panic, but he also is in a state of disbelief that he could be defeated. Taking apparent pity on him, Batman rips the tube out of Bane’s head causing the massive man to collapse and begin returning to a normal size. At the same time, Candice climbs out of the water with Robin right behind her. She takes off running and Robin is prepared to go after her but Batman stops him since he knows where she’s heading.

batmans mercy

Batman’s mercy.

Batman drops by the office of Rupert Thorne on his way home. A still soaking wet Candice is cowering behind her boss’s chair as Batman presents the defeated Bane. He mocks Thorne as he pulls off Bane’s mask to reveal a baby-faced man beneath it who lets his head slam onto the desk. Still in a pretty good mood, Batman whips out a tape player and lets Thorne know he has a new release and even gives it a title, Better Luck Next Time. It’s the recording Robin made of Candice propositioning Bane where it’s insinuated they were going to knock-off Thorne. Batman then takes his leave while Thorne roars “Candice!”

And that’s all she wrote for Bane. He won’t show up again until the made for television move Mystery of the Batwoman which is part of The New Batman Adventures. I suppose it’s not surprising since Batman would be able to beat him the same way, kind of like how X-Men ruined The Juggernaut by revealing the blueprint for beating him in his first appearance. It’s also the final appearance for Candice, which is actually a little menacing. Did Thorne have her killed? If he really is a ruthless criminal he probably would. My guess is we’re supposed to assume she was fired. The ending scene feels like it’s played for laughs, but she just got caught plotting to have Thorne killed. He’s not going to let that slide.

bane_unmasked

The baby face beneath the mask.

The whole tone of this episode is really amusing to me, though not necessarily in a good way. Mitch Brian is the writer, and he previously wrote “On Leather Wings” and “P.O.V.” which were not particularly humorous. For this one he really went all-in on the wrestling motif of Bane with the fight scene especially looking silly. I like wrestling, but Batman rebounding off of steel railings like they’re ring ropes was pretty over the top and it takes me out of the scene every time. Batman is also jokey, which is unconventional, though his dry delivery to Alfred helps sell his car line. The “Later gator” line is way more playful, and pretty out of character. Not offensively so, but it is jarring. I wonder if some of the humor was intended to soften the menacing undertones of the episode where a contract killer is out to get him.

The way Bane is made a fool of, and subsequently not utilized again, leads me to the conclusion that the staff wasn’t too high on Bane. Was he forced upon them because of Knightfall? I don’t know if anything was necessarily mandated upon, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they were encouraged to do Bane in season two. He’s fine, and the episode largely is as well. He’s not one of Batman’s greatest foes, but at least he’s not a big, dumb, strong man like so many similar villains. He didn’t need to come back, and I’m fine with this being his lone appearance. Not to be forgotten, this also marks Killer Croc’s final appearance in this show. Unlike Bane though, he’ll return in The New Batman Adventures where a reboot is sorely needed. He’s turned into a silly character who isn’t a threat to Batman despite his appearance. Most of all though, I’ll actually miss Candice. She’s just so nasty and a natural bad girl that it’s a shame she and Thorne were separated. It might have been fun to see her resurface with one of Thorne’s rivals down the road, but alas it was not to be, so pour one out for Candice.

 


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 – “Sideshow”

sideshowEpisode Number:  66

Original Air Date:  May 3, 1994

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by: Michael Reeves, Brynne Stephens

First Appearance(s): Goliath, Billy the Seal Boy, Richard, May and June (none who will reappear)

We have arrived at the first episode of production season two! Fox broadcasting seems to consider the 5 episodes that aired in September of 1993 as the first of the second season, but this was the first produced. It was also the second episode to debut in 1994, with the first being production episode S02E05 “House and Garden.” The episode is credited to Michael Reeves and Brynne Stephens, though the story is very similar to one written by Dennis O’Neil for Detective Comics #410, with one pretty significant departure being the main villain of the stories. For this episode, it’s Killer Croc (Aron Kincaid) and he’s going to get a chance to be more than the punchline he started to become. Even though he was Batman in disguise back in “Almost Got ‘Im,” I still get the impression that version of the character is what people think of when they hear the name Killer Croc. The other villains in that episode certainly don’t bat an eye at his limited thinking skills making the performance feel authentic. That’s not the case for his first appearance in “Vendetta” when he’s a cold, hard, killer. We’re back to that version of Croc for this one, except he’s going to meet some people who might change how he feels. It’s as close to a deep dive as we’ll see from Croc, and while I don’t think of this as a particularly strong episode of Batman, it is at least interesting from that perspective.

croc jaws

Croc is about to give a lesson on crocodile anatomy.

The episode opens on a train. Killer Croc has been declared sane and is thus responsible for the many crimes he’s committed. He’s being transferred from Arkham to a penitentiary, but the cops didn’t take the assignment seriously enough. In the cabin, Croc demonstrates the strength of his jaws by biting through his restraints, much to the horror of the cop riding along with him. Before he can get a shot off at Croc the giant takes him out and escapes to the roof of the train, because that’s where everything always leads when the setting is a train. On the roof waiting for him is Batman. Evidently Batman felt the cops needed some added security to make sure Croc got where he needed to be. Batman is a pretty smart guy, but what would have been smarter would have been for him to recommend some different restraints.

Croc is quite ticked to find Batman on the train, and the two tangle. As Croc was fleeing the confines of the train though he was shot in the shoulder with a sedative. Batman cautions him about trying to fight with that coursing through his veins, but Croc doesn’t seem like the type who takes his doctor’s advice, let alone Batman’s. The two end up tumbling off the train and Batman is left unconscious. Croc grabs a giant boulder intending to smash Batman’s head, in a way making Batman’s false story about him come true, but the sedative has taken effect and he misses his target. Stumbling away, he ditches his prisoner attire and tries to put some distance between he and the Batman.

croc great outdoors

It’s odd to see an episode of this show take place out in the sunshine.

It’s at this point I feel like I should mention how this episode looks. I am watching it in HD, as I intend to watch every episode from here on out, which may be leaving a greater impression than it did previously. This episode though really stands out because it takes place almost entirely during the day and away from Gotham out in the countryside. It’s so weird to see Batman battling in daylight with nothing but green and brown in the background. We’ve seen Batman in a forest setting before, but usually at night. This must have been an expensive episode to produce given the new backgrounds and new characters to come.

croc rescued

Croc gets rescued by a kid that looks like a seal. That’s certainly different.

Croc and Batman are going to trail each other in the woods. Eventually, Batman will take a nasty fall that will deprive him the use of his grapple gun going forward, allowing Croc to escape. He takes a fall himself into some rushing water, and likely compounded with the sedative, it looks like he could be a goner if not for a nearby boy, a seal boy at that. The kid is named Billy (Whit Hertford) and his arms and legs are deformed to resemble flippers like that of a seal. He swims in after Croc and another guy, the much more physically imposing Goliath (Brad Garrett), helps get Croc to safety at a nearby farm.

When Croc awakens he finds himself in the company of “freaks.” A hunchback by the name of Richard (Kenneth Mars) introduces himself and the others, which include conjoined twins May and June (JoBeth Williams) in addition to Billy and Goliath. They were once part of a circus freak show, but once they earned enough money they stopped living that life and moved out into the country to be away from those who would pass judgement on them due to their unusual appearances. They view Croc as a kindred spirit, and while he does thank both Billy and Goliath for their aid, he still seems guarded.

croc meets the gang

Croc getting to know his new “family.”

The troupe is rather welcoming and they offer Croc lodging and food. He starts to see how he can take advantage of them and spins his own sad tale about being a fellow freak. He’s still wearing the remnants of the police shackles and uses those to his advantage to claim he was bound and held captive as a freak as well forced to eat fish heads. They buy his story hook, line, and sinker. At dinner, Goliath some-what foolishly lets it slip they’re also sitting on 50 thousand dollars which further intrigues Croc. That night while the others are sleeping, he noses around through the place in search of the money eventually finding it stashed in a pipe organ. As he holds the security box he looks around at the old freak show memorabilia decorating the place indicating that maybe he’s having reservations about stealing the cash. Before we can find out, Billy finds him and asks what he’s up to. Croc claims he’s just looking for a blanket and Billy offers to help. When he hops away, Croc puts the money back where he found it. Does he intend to come back for it?

goliath and croc

Goliath and the others accept Croc’s story with no questions asked.

Outside, Goliath is sleeping on a pile of straw having offered his bed up to Croc. Batman sneaks over and placing a hand over Goliath’s mouth he wakes him. He tells Goliath he’s looking for someone half-man, half-crocodile, and Goliath glances towards the building. Batman then assumes Croc is in there, and saying as much aloud causes Goliath to attack. Thinking Batman is one of the men who imprisoned Croc unjustly, he tells Batman that Croc is one of them. When Batman tries to reason with him it fails. He tells Goliath he doesn’t want to hurt him, and in response Goliath says, “You won’t.” That’s pretty bad ass, Goliath.

batman vs croc and goliath

Batman has his hands full with these two.

The commotion causes everyone else to run outside. Batman has his hands full with Goliath, but he seems to gain the upper hand. Once Croc joins the fight though he’s overwhelmed, and the two toss him into a caged wagon. Croc, proving once again that he really isn’t as dumb as we think, has the presence of mind to take Batman’s belt before locking him in the cage. Batman tries telling the others that Croc isn’t who he seems to be, but they view the shackles on his wrists as evidence that it is Croc who is telling the truth.

batman behind bars

Croc seems to enjoy this view.

With Batman locked up, Croc tells the others they need to get rid of him or more will come. He grabs a pitchfork and is preparing to spear Batman when the others protest. They don’t want to see Batman murdered, and they quickly come around and realize that maybe Batman is telling the truth. Croc isn’t going to just walk away though and leave Batman breathing, so he pulls some smoke bombs from Batman’s belt and tosses them at the feet of the troupe. The gas released causes them to fall asleep, and Croc puts them all in another caged wagon and is forced to chain Goliath to one of the bars.

croc true colors

Croc makes a brief attempt at convincing the others Batman must die, but he’d rather just gas them.

As they wake up, Richard questions Croc why he’s doing this, but doesn’t really get an answer. Croc just suggests that they’re all lucky he hasn’t killed them. He returns to the home for the money and also grabs a hunting rifle. While he’s busy doing that, Batman is able to reach and remove a block from behind the wheel of the wagon he’s being held in while Goliath and Richard work at freeing themselves. When Croc returns with the gun, Batman slams his shoulder into the side of the wagon causing it to roll at Croc and over him and smash upon the rocks along the shore of a nearby river. Now free, he and Croc can do battle in the water and around the grounds.

Billy and the others are able to get free as well, and when Croc vanishes into the lumber mill, Billy offers to show Batman a secret way inside to get the drop on Croc. Batman takes his advice and meets Croc inside where the two battle until they fall out and into the river. They end up on a water wheel, with Croc above Batman as the wheel turns and he runs out of room. He gets crushed between the wheel and the building, though we don’t actually see it happen. The force of the wheel against the building causes it to break, and an unconscious Croc falls into the river below where Batman is waiting to drag him to shore.

croc in chains

Croc is heading back where he belongs.

The next morning the police arrive and Croc is once again chained up. This time he’s bound to a dolly with a cage over his head and a strait jacket for good measure. He won’t be getting out this time. As the police prepare to airlift him out of there, Billy approaches and does the predictable “Why?” routine. Croc responds by telling Billy it was he who told him he could be himself out here in the woods, and that’s just what he did. The chopper lifts him out of there as Batman looks on.

“Sideshow” is a solid take on Killer Croc. He’s a killer and a dangerous one at that. He’s not insane, just a bad guy. He’s given a chance to maybe reconsider that and ultimately doesn’t take it. Though really, in order to play up that angle more this episode would have needed to be longer or arranged differently. Croc doesn’t spend much time with his new “family,” making the whole “Why?” routine at the end feel rather forced. He doesn’t truly get a chance to reform, but that also could be because he never would have anyways. We saw him attempting to steal the money and he only replaced it when he got caught. Sure, I suppose he could have murdered Billy and ran off without anyone knowing until morning, but it also makes sense that he wouldn’t want to leave a mess behind. Chances are, if he just steals the money and runs the others who won’t come after him or bother alerting any authorities. Where as if he were to murder one of them, and a child at that, things likely would go differently.

The episode perhaps could have been strengthened with a time jump in the middle. Batman can’t find Croc so he returns home for the Batwing while Croc gets to further build a relationship with the others. Had it been Croc who first found Batman instead of Goliath, we could have seen a desperate Croc trying to hide Batman from the others and try to preserve his new life. Then again, I just think that was a story they didn’t want to tell and preferred to keep Croc in the “evil” bucket. His parting words with Billy further affirm that. And on a show where many villains are sympathetic, it’s actually not bad to have one who’s just a nasty person.

batman and robin intro

We’re now into the show’s second form, The Adventures of Batman & Robin, but to keep things simple we’re still just going to stick with Batman: The Animated Series.

Dong Yang Animation handled this one and it might be their best work yet on the show. I mentioned all of the work this one likely took to create because of the new setting and characters, but in addition to that it’s also just really well animated. There’s a sequence where Batman pulls himself onto a ledge and collapses to the ground in exhaustion and the animation on his cape looks so fluid and perfect. It’s easy to draw Batman’s cape when he’s swinging around Gotham and it’s open like a pair of giant bat wings, but when it’s just limp and falling over him that’s tough to pull-off. And while I definitely prefer the dark-deco look of Gotham to other settings, it’s a nice change of pace to see something different here.

Ultimately, this was an episode I wasn’t too excited to revisit, but I actually liked it better than I remembered. The forest setting is a touch off-putting because it’s so different, but I warmed to it. The parts spent with the former circus troupe are actually quite brief, and while they’re perhaps far too trusting of someone they just met, it’s also easy to see how they could view Croc in a sympathetic light. And Croc plays the role of bad guy quite well. This will never be my favorite or among my favorite episodes of the show, but it’s a worthwhile episode to watch and an interesting way to begin our journey into season two of Batman:  The Animated Series.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Almost Got ‘Im”

200px-AlmostgotimEpisode Number:  46

Original Air Date:  November 10, 1992

Directed by:  Eric Radomski

Written by:  Paul Dini

First Appearance(s):  None

It’s quite silly how excited I get when we’re coming up on a favorite episode of mine from this series. Nothing is stopping me from watching episodes like “Almost Got ‘Im” basically whenever I want, but for some reason this feature makes me feel like I’m being given permission to go watch these all over again. “Almost Got ‘Im” is a Paul Dini episode, and his tend to be pretty good. It’s a great concept for an episode that may or may not have been influenced by a series of comics in 1977 entitled “Where Were You on the Night Batman Was Killed?” Basically, we have a group of villains all hanging out and sharing a personal story about a time when they almost killed Batman and rid Gotham of him once and for all. We’re treated to numerous flashbacks recalling these moments (though this isn’t a clip show, these stories are all new) before everything comes together in the end to further a story in the present. Even though it’s an episode light on Batman, since we’re almost always looking at him from a villain’s perspective, I loved this one even as a kid and I still do today.

bar scene

When the girl walks in…

The episode opens over a game of poker. All we see are the hands of some recognizable villains from the show as they shoot the breeze and make plays. The players are Joker (Mark Hamill), Two-Face (Richard Moll), Penguin (Paul Williams), and Killer Croc (Aron Kincaid). The camera lingers on their hands, from the point of view of the person those hands belong to, and there’s some nice little touches adhering to the personalities of each guy. Joker, for instance, is shown pulling cards out of his sleeve while Two-Face discards two low number cards, but elects to hang onto a deuce (I love this). They’re ribbing each other for the most part, in particular Joker is pretty much all over Two-Face with several puns on his name. They appear to be in some kind of bar, but everything around them is covered in shadows. Soon Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing) comes strolling in and takes a seat at the table and that’s when the conversation turns to Batman.

ivy pumpkin

Joker mocker Ivy for her exploding pumpkins, and yet voice actor Mark Hamill would go on to voice the Hobgoblin who, wouldn’t you know, wields exploding pumpkins.

Poison Ivy is the first to tell her little tale about the time she almost got Batman. Of all of the tales, hers is probably the least interesting as it’s basically just her gassing Batman with a jack-o-lantern. It’s most interesting contribution is a self-driving Batmobile segment and I’ve been a sucker for those ever since Batman ’89. Two-Face is up next, and his tale is a partial adaptation of a story from the comics in which Batman and Robin were tied to a giant penny. It’s a rather fun segment, but since we’ve got a bunch to get through, none are long so we’re mostly going for visual flair. Perhaps best of all, the giant penny in this flashback is going to remain a fixture in the Batcave in later shots as Batman was allowed to keep it for some reason.

Killer Croc is up next and his story is brief and makes me laugh every time. I don’t want to spoil it so I’ll say nothing further on the subject. Penguin goes after him after all the villains seem to agree to ignore Croc from here on out. Penguin’s story takes place in an aviary and involves attack hummingbirds. It’s preposterous, but what isn’t where this show is concerned? Penguin actually escapes at the conclusion of this tale, indicating he hasn’t faced any consequences.

Almost_Got_Im_Joker

Not a good predicament for our hero.

Saving the best for last is Joker. He actually insisted on going last and he does have a good reason for that. His story is typical Joker – he’s taken the Gotham airwaves hostage and setup Batman in a game show. The game in this case is to make the audience laugh which will cause Batman to be electrocuted. Did I mention Batman was strapped into an electric chair? The story of how he ended up in such a predicament is probably a good one, but apparently not deemed worth retelling by The Joker. Joker first tries to get the audience to laugh via threats, but it doesn’t produce great laughter. His next idea then is to simply fill the studio with laughing gas while Harley (Arleen Sorkin) reads the phone book. It proves effective, but before Batman can be fried to a crisp Catwoman (Adrienne Barbeau) barges in and saves him. Unfortunately for her though, while chasing Joker she’s attacked from behind by Harley and incapacitated. We then jump back to the card game where Joker reveals this all happened last night. He may not have got Batman, but he still has Catwoman and she’s currently about to be made into cat food and served to the cats of Gotham – ha ha ha!

Almost_Got_'Im

This is actually a good time to be committing petty crimes in Gotham since both Batman and the entire Gotham PD are apparently in this one bar.

It’s at this point one of our villains is revealed to be none other than Batman in disguise. He infiltrated this little game to presumably to find out what Joker had done with Catwoman. And he didn’t come alone as all of the patrons in the bar turn out to be undercover cops. With the villains all taken care of, Batman is free to go after Catwoman. Lucky for her, Harley has been waiting for Mr. J’s arrival before turning on the conveyor belt that will carry Catwoman into a vicious looking grinder. When Batman shows up instead, she does the old ploy of turning on the machine and taking off forcing Batman to choose between saving Catwoman or apprehending her. Batman, it turns out, can do both and it’s actually kind of funny. With that out of the way, Batman and Catwoman share a moment on the rooftop of the factory. When Catwoman tries to go in for a kiss, she’s distracted momentarily by the goings-on at ground level giving Batman an opening to take off on her. As he swings away Catwoman looks on with a wry smile and gives us the line of the show, “Almost got ‘im.”

Catwoman_in_danger

This seems like a real messy way to make cat food.

This episode is just fun. There’s tons of little details, mostly in the beginning of the episode, that add personality to our rogues gallery. I also really like that there’s an acknowledgement of Two-Face and Ivy’s previous relationship and their shared lines are some-what tense. It’s just a great framing device for an episode to have a bunch of interesting characters just hanging out and shooting the breeze. There are also loads of fantastic one-liners or little dialogue bits in this one.

btas-almost-got-im-catwoman

Not really sure why you’re running from this one, Batman. Maybe those trunks he wears doesn’t hide much?

Where the episode does come up short is mostly nitpicking. Once more we have Catwoman just in a weird spot. What is she? A villain or is she now a vigilante? I think clearly she was used in place of Robin to setup that little bit on the rooftop at the end, but it does feel off. She also should have been able to escape from Harley since she was just tied up and placed on a conveyor belt. Nothing that I can see was stopping her from just rolling off. I also wish the episode played with the concept of the unreliable narrator more. All of these stories are being told from the point of view of the villains and some embellishment on their part would have been fun. Especially since the format of the episode forces those flashbacks to be quite brief. And lastly, this is another episode where a character is probably way too good at being disguised, but that’s nothing new.

batman_ag_cg_productshot

This episode is popular enough to have spawned its own card game.

My issues with the episode are rather minor. This is one of my favorites, though I’ve never given it much thought beyond that. Is it in my personal top 25? Top 10? Top 3?! I’m not sure, but I’m at least leaning towards Top 10 and I’d have to do some more work to determine if I’d go further than that. Maybe that’s a feature for when this is all said and done, but we have a long way to go before we’re out of episodes.


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