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The Batman TAS Episode Ranking – Part 5

batman_bewareWelcome back for the fifth and final installment in the Batman: The Animated Series episode ranking. This week, we’ll be taking a look at entries 19 through 1. 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.

These remaining episodes represent the cream of the crop. When I applied an arbitrary numerical rating to each episode in the series these all came away scoring a 9 or better so they’re all episodes I love and treasure. These are the best works produced by the best animated show based on a comic to grace a television set. It should go without saying that if you haven’t seen all of these and consider yourself a fan of Batman or animation in general then you owe it to yourself to seek these out.

hqdefault-3119 – Joker’s Favor

When adapting a murderous psychopath for a kid’s show, some changes have to be taken. In the case of The Joker, it means finding a way to make him seem dangerous without actually allowing him to murder some of the citizens of Gotham. He could easily have just been reinterpreted as a prankster, a villain who can get a laugh and little more, but this show wasn’t content with that approach. “Joker’s Favor” sees Joker in a very uncomfortable setting as he forces a regular chum named Charlie (who reminds me of Tim Conway) to partake in a crime for him or else he’ll do some horrible things to Charlie’s family. The threats aren’t spelled out explicitly, but they don’t need to be. Also, this episode features the debut of a popular henchwoman named Harley, which is certainly a part of its legacy.

18 – House & Garden

Poison Ivy was one of the several villains to receive a redemption story in season two of the show. This is the one where a seemingly happy Pamela Isley is married and step-mother to two boys. When Batman finds out that Pam’s husband previously had daughters, not sons, he realizes something is up. He soon discovers that Poison Ivy has discovered a way to make plant-based clones of humans, though they can only be male, and she’s literally made a new life for herself. There’s some tense moments, but also some heartbreak, which is basically the mix that often makes an episode of Batman great.

17 – Second Chance

Ever since Harvey Dent was horribly disfigured leading to the rise of Two-Face, Batman and viewers of the show wanted to see him overcome his demons and return to being just plain old Harvey. In “Second Chance,” the wheels are in motion for that to finally happen, but Dent is kidnapped before the operation can begin and Batman has to find him and whoever is responsible. Like the prior episode, it has a bit of a sad ending and it’s one that reinforces who Two-Face is, for better or worse.

batgirl unmasked16 – Shadow of the Bat: Part II

The proper debut of Gotham’s newest vigilante:  Batgirl. Barbara Gordon has been pushed to take matters into her own hands, and since she happens to have a Batman costume on hand, she decides to borrow his gimmick. She’s rather green, but also crafty, and we see her determination shine as she looks to clear her dad’s name and expose a traitor within Gotham’s police force. It’s a spirited debut and one that leaves viewers wanting to see more of Batgirl.

15 – Shadow of the Bat: Part I

Before Barbara could become Batgirl though, she had to be properly motivated. The first part of the two-parter that leads to her transformation is a good little crime noir story. Commissioner Gordon has been wrongfully accused of misdeeds, and Barbara has to sort out who her allies or and who might be her foe. A rally is organized in support of Gordon and Barbara thinks Batman needs to be there, but he’s obviously busy investigating the culprits responsible for Gordon’s arrest. Feeling she has no one to turn to, Barbara decides to take matters into her own hands which sets her on the path we always knew she was destined to tread. Because of Batgirl’s presence in the title card at the episode’s start, viewers knew what this story was leading to, but it’s still thrilling to see Batgirl emerge at the end accompanied with a fun theme all her own.

14 – Mudslide

Clayface was one of the first B-tier villains to be elevated to the big time by this show. His debut was perfect as it was one born of tragedy, though some of which Matt Hagen brought on by himself. His “death” at the end was obviously staged, and his return was inevitable. When he does resurface, it’s as a mud monster who can barely hold his body together adding a new layer of tragedy to his character. He turns to thievery in an attempt to repair his body, and that no-good Batman screws it all up. It’s even frustrating when Batman shuts down the machine feeding some serum into Clayface during the episode’s climax as by then we’re actually rooting for Clayface! He proves self-destructive though, and the battle he chooses to force with Batman in a rain storm is hard to watch because we know how it will end. And while I like Clayface’s return in “Growing Pains,” it does almost ruin his apparent death at the end of this one, but not enough for me to rank it any lower than this.

tumblr_nrrp4yKE3S1ub7n3do1_128013 – The Laughing Fish

Joker’s classic scheme in which the fish in the waters around Gotham have been tainted by Joker poison giving them hideous smiles. It’s all a long con by Joker to make some money by securing a patent on the fish. His reasoning is since they look like him then surely he should profit from every sale of the seemingly harmless Joker fish. His reasoning turns out to be unsound (as usual), so Joker decides to inflict pain and misery on those who wouldn’t go along with the scheme by giving him what he wants. It features probably the best cat and mouse game the show will feature between Batman and Joker and the scene in which Batman appears to get a dose of Joker poison is pretty damn terrifying, especially when you’re 8. The only thing I dislike about the episode is that it tries to make us think Joker is dead in the end and they go for it so hard they don’t even include a plausible way for him to survive, he just will return as if nothing happened in a later episode. It’s cheap, but the episode still rules.

12 – Feat of Clay: Part II

This episode animated by the folks at TMS features easily the most impressive visual moment of the series. It happens at the end, when the newly created Clayface loses control of his shape-shifting powers when surrounded by a bunch of monitors baring his former likeness. And that’s not the only part of the episode that dazzles. Throughout, Clayface takes on some amazing forms with his body as he masters his pliable physique. My personal favorite is when his hand sprouts metal claws which he launches at Batman. Not that it necessarily needed all of these amazing pieces of animation to be a great episode as the story of Clayface was just wonderfully executed leading to the formation of a terrible, yet tragic, monster.

getaway11 – Harley and Ivy

The best pairing of any characters in this show is not Batman and Robin, it’s Harley and Ivy. The two females were paired up in this episode and a legend was seemingly born as their popularity has endured to this day with DC even taking things further by making them lovers. Back when this episode aired, that wasn’t even suggested, but that didn’t mean some horny artists couldn’t have some fun by putting the two in their underwear for parts of the episode. Anyways, Harley and Ivy have natural chemistry as a bit of an odd couple pairing. They’re also shown to be incredibly capable as criminals, undermining the more famous Joker. Speaking of whom, he’s along for the ride as well as Ivy has basically put herself in between he and Harley. His inclusion is not a bad thing, but it says a lot about the ladies that his part wasn’t exactly needed. It’s actually a shame we didn’t see more of these two together in later episodes.

10 – Robin’s Reckoning: Part II

After learning Robin’s origin in the first part of this two-part story, we get to see Robin go on a quest for revenge with flashbacks to his first attempt at such. It’s not as compelling as the first part, but it’s still an engrossing story and it has something to say about the relationship between Batman and Robin. There’s a sweetness there that is actually unexpected. It also is the first time we see the makings of a rift forming between Batman and his ward. And mostly, these rifts seem to form when Batman chooses to keep his motives to himself and shut Robin out. We see his heart is in the right place in the end, but it underscores how maybe a life largely spent chasing bad guys has withered Batman’s social skills.

9 – Feat of Clay: Part I

The creation of Clayface was one of my earliest introductions to this show, if not the first. As a result, it’s possible it’s getting a bit of a nostalgia boost as a result, but I prefer to think this is really one of the finest episodes the show produced. It is confidently slow to bring along Matt Hagen which makes the payoff at the end all the more impactful. It also has the subplot of Bruce Wayne being framed for attempted murder which injects a little extra spice. Roland Daggett is the main villain introduced here and he works very well as a white collar criminal. He’s quite detestable proving you don’t need a flashy gimmick to be a good Batman foil.

harleys back8 – Harley’s Holiday

I love this episode as it features my favorite portrayal of Harley Quinn. In this one, Harley tries to go straight, but a calamity of errors and confusion leads to her reverting back into her alter ego. It’s quite funny, but there’s a touch of sadness added which makes the viewer feel a bit guilty at laughing at her misfortunes. She ends up going on a Smokey and the Bandit styled romp with Veronica Vreeland as her hostage. Throughout it all, Harley actually has Veronica’s best interests in mind even though she’s using her, but obviously she’s not getting away from Batman. Which would make it a bit of a disappointing ending for Harley, but there’s a fun touch added onto the end and a humanizing moment from Batman. We see Batman in the role of bringing the criminally insane to Arkham, and rarely do we get a glimpse of him actually encouraging any of these inmates to properly reform.

7 – Almost Got ‘Im

Another classic. This is the episode where Batman’s most famous rogues are gathered for a game of poker and start telling tales about the time they came closest to putting Batman down. Unbeknownst to them, Batman is among them disguised as Killer Croc, whom he plays as a dim-witted fool. Some of that performance seemed to seep into Croc’s portrayal in later episodes, though he’s never this dumb. The construction of the episode is damn near genius as there are numerous bread crumbs sprinkled throughout. It’s extremely rewarding to watch it multiple times as once you know about the Batman performance you can notice how Batman steers the conversation where he needs it to go in order to find Catwoman, whom Joker has kidnapped. It’s maybe the funniest episode of the show, but it doesn’t sell itself out for a joke. And “I threw a rock at him,” is quite possibly the most memorable line the series ever produced.

6 – Beware the Gray Ghost

This episode is just a real delight as it’s basically a send-up to Adam West whom a generation of kids had grown up with as Batman. Adam really wanted to continue in the role, but he was obviously never going to land the part in Tim Burton’s take on the character. I don’t think he auditioned for this show, but he probably would have welcomed the chance to. This episode though was essentially made for him and it tells a wonderful story about an aging actor who once played a hero on television struggling to find work as a result of being forever linked to that character. And in-universe, that character happened to be a huge influence on Bruce Wayne and his creation of Batman. There’s some twists and turns and some excellent editing and animation along the way. And keep your eyes open for the Bruce Timm and Paul Dini cameo, though they’re hard to miss.

twoface5 – Two-Face: Part I

This show really did tragic villains so well, but I think the best of them all might be Two-Face. Like another rogue still to come on this list, Two-Face’s origin was so well crafted that it made it hard to bring the villain back because it could never be topped. Two-Face would end up fairing pretty well though, but it’s true his genesis was still his best moment. Watching Harvey be pushed to the edge by the mobster Rupert Thorne was truly compelling. The whole time there’s a sense that Batman will arrive and make everything better, and since Harvey had been put in danger before and saved, it seemed possible that his villainous turn would be delayed. At least it would have seemed plausible if not for the episode’s title, but I digress. This one is very dramatic and it deftly handles the drama better than anyone would have expected a cartoon would in 1992. Of course now, it’s practically the norm for the show.

4 – Robin’s Reckoning: Part I

Speaking of drama, it doesn’t get much more dramatic than seeing a kid lose his parents to murder. Robin’s origin story is told and it’s become the story most often associated with Dick Grayson, the former Boy Wonder. A small-time crook looking to run a protection racket sabotages some trapeze equipment causing Dick’s parents to perish in a circus performance. Bruce is there to witness it, and I love how the show chose to show the murder without actually showing it. We just see the silhouette of the performers and then a lone swinging cable as the audience gasps. It cuts to Bruce’s reaction before fading to black. It’s not all sad though, as it’s sweet to see Bruce take Dick in as the two share an unfortunate link in being a witness to the murder of their parents.

harley tears

Harley is full-blown crazy during these events as she’ll stop at nothing to win Joker’s affection.

3 – Mad Love

The New Batman Adventures was not as good or as successful as the first two seasons from the Fox years. Despite that though, two of the top 3 episodes are from that final season and I don’t think it’s particularly controversial either that they’re placed this prominently on my ranking. Coming in as the third best episode is “Mad Love,” a look at Harley and Joker’s complicated relationship. This one is both funny and tragic, a trait that has come to define the character of Harley Quinn. Her unhealthy relationship with Joker is detailed from the start and it becomes clear she’s dependent on him, but he is not with her. She’s just another target for his violence and abuse and it can be hard to watch. One of the saddest scenes in the entire show is Harley laying broken in a heap of trash after Joker shoved her out a window blaming herself for making him mad.

2 – Over the Edge

One of the most talked-about episodes of Batman is “Over the Edge.” The violence the network allowed to be shown on air is shocking the first time it’s witnessed and it remains shocking even on repeated viewings. Batgirl, shoved off the roof of a tall building by Scarecrow, crashes onto the hood of a police car occupied by her father, Commissioner Gordon. From there, Gordon makes the discovery that it’s been his daughter under the mask this whole time and he immediately turns his anger on Batman. With the whole city after him, Batman is forced to flee. Nightwing gets embroiled in the controversy and Robin is forced to distance himself from Batman and seek refuge somewhere else as their identities have all been revealed to the public. It’s surreal watching the whole thing unfold and the ride is so captivating that we forgive it for being basically a dream sequence the whole time. Actually, we’re glad to see that it was just a dream as the ending was fixing to be so horrible in resetting the status quo that we’re practically begging for someone to wake up. And after the reveal, it’s able to deliver one more heartfelt scene that was a long time coming.

Heart-of-Ice-Batman1 – Heart of Ice

As if it cold be any other episode. “Heart of Ice” is widely regarded as the show’s best episode, and I’ve felt that way ever since I first saw it back in 92 and I see no reason to change my mind now. It introduced to us a new take on Mr. Freeze, a villain few cared about before this show’s premiere. He was just another gimmick, but in the hands of Paul Dini he became a tragic figure moved to a mission of vengeance after witnessing the death of his wife at the hands of some rich prick by the name of Ferris Boyle. With his body forever altered and now requiring a sub-zero environment to thrive, Mr. Freeze sees no reason to live outside of revenge. Nothing can ever possibly move him to feel happy again and I’m genuinely curious what would have become of the villain had he simply succeeded. Of course, Batman is there to save the jerk responsible for the death of Nora Fries, but Boyle at least gets his comeuppance as well, just not in the manner Freeze would have chosen. Would Mr. Freeze have simply slunk off to the arctic like he eventually does with his mission accomplished, or maybe he would have just removed his suit and let nature take its course? As curious as I am about that, it’s hard for me to think it would have made for a better ending than what we got: a downtrodden Freeze looking longingly at an effigy of his wife in his jail cell surrounded by snow longing to touch her warm hand one more time.


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 Batman TAS Episode Ranking – Part 1

batman and selinaWe have arrived at the ultimate end game of our feature on Batman: The Animated Series. After doing a blog entry on all 109 episodes, plus each film, it is time to determine just what is the best of the best. This is always an exercise in futility as people are going to disagree on what is ostensibly a subjective exercise. Still, it feels like a worthwhile way to put a bow on the coverage here as it was the biggest undertaking this blog has done.

To arrive at these rankings I basically added a subjective score to each episode. At first, I started with a 5 point scale, but found that lacked nuance. Inevitably I ended up with a lot of 3 and 3.5 grades without a tidy way to arrange those episodes. I then switched to a 10 point scale and found that much easier to work with. I’m not going to include these ratings with the episode as I don’t think they’re really worth much. It was just a way to make arranging 109 data points in a more manageable fashion. And ultimately, what separates an episode with a rating of 8 with one awarded a rating of 8.5? I don’t really know, it just felt right. Mostly it was me going over the episodes and comparing them. Maybe I did score two episodes the same, but in isolating them I felt one deserved to be ranked higher than the other and thus the 8.5 rating was born. In that, I felt like an old professor I had in college who explains how he approached grading on a curve. If he awarded one student an A and another an A-, but felt they both demonstrated the same knowledge of the material in an equal fashion, he bumped the A- recipient to an A. And there are quite a few episodes of this show that I felt were pretty much equal to one another in terms of quality and enjoyment.

Mostly, this ranking was about separating the episodes I liked from the ones I loved. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some bad ones, but none managed to receive a rating of 0 from me. It also ended up being a bit of a Bell curve in the end as I had three episodes with a perfect score and three with a score of 1 or less. I didn’t do that on purpose, but it amused me to see it play out that way.

Anyway, if you disagree with my list then that is totally fine. I would not expect anyone’s list to match mine. I did not consult any other publications to see what they felt was the best and worst episodes of the show and it has honestly been a long time since I did view such a list. And since there are so many episodes, it didn’t make sense to cram this all into one post as I want to provide a sentence or two to justify my ranking for each one as opposed to just presenting a list. I’m also just doing the episodes and not the films as it hardly seems fair to weigh a feature-length subject against a 23 minute television episode. And if you’re curious, I’d rank the moves in order of release anyways with Mask of the Phantasm being the clear cut best of the three. Let’s get this show on the road though with my pick for worst episode of Batman: The Animated Series.

trio clever names

There’s a trio to fear.

109. –The Terrible Trio

So this episode basically sucks. I hate to be so negative right out of the gate, but I’m not going to say that often so I feel fine with it for now. Basically, three rich kids decide life is boring and turn to crime to get their kicks. It’s not very compelling, nor is the animation particularly enjoyable. Not every episode needs a marque villain, but it needs something better than these clowns. Let’s move on.

108. – Prophecy of Doom

A con artist dupes Gotham’s wealthy into handing over their money as part of a doomsday cult. It’s pretty incredible, and why should Batman care if a bunch of rich people get taken for a ride? A fool and his money are soon parted.

107 – The Underdwellers

This one felt like the show pandering to children. It almost feels like it started with the notion of Batman admonishing a child for handling a firearm and then the episode was created around it, and rather haphazardly. This is the one where Batman has to go into the sewer to beat up a jerk who dresses like a pirate and has pet crocodiles. It is one of the most “anime” looking episodes which at least makes it visually interesting at times.

106 – The Forgotten

If you had asked me to name my least favorite episode of Batman when I was a kid, I probably would have named this one. As an adult, it’s merely the fourth worst episode. Batman spends much of the episode with amnesia trapped in a slave labor camp being run by a morbidly obese man who seems to always have food in his mouth. It’s just not a compelling story and the payoff of Batman getting this guy doesn’t make up for it. Plus, I really dislike the music in this one which is a criticism I can really only say about this particular episode.

Cape_and_Cowl_Twist105 – The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy

Batman is lead through a series of traps by some joker named Josiah Wormwood who wants his cape and cowl to give to some other jerk. It ends up being a long con by Batman himself to basically entrap the guy which makes it feel rather pointless in the end.

104 – The Worry Men

Another one of Gotham’s wealthy is victimized once again, this time it’s Veronica Vreeland who brings back little dolls from a vacation she recently returned from. They end up being mind control devices created by the Mad Hatter, so this is the first appearance of what I would consider a noteworthy villain on this list. Once again, it’s just not a very compelling plot, but at least it does an okay job of holding back on the reveal of the plan’s mastermind, something even the good mystery-based episodes fail to do.

103 – Moon of the Wolf

Steroids are bad, kids, which seems to be the message in this one. Anthony Romulus seeks an edge and winds up a werewolf courtesy of Dr. Milo, one of the worst of the reappearing villains. There’s also some animation gaffes and some odd visual choices which further hurt this one.

102 – Fire From Olympus

Another one I detested far more as a kid than I do now. At least I can find humor in this one which depicts Maxie Zeus as a guy basically out of his mind. He thinks he’s the actual Zeus from Greek mythology with Batman serving as Hades. It’s almost too ludicrous though for an episode of Batman. Some laughs can be had, but little else.

TT_41_-_Cat-Woman

A new look for Catwoman.

101 – Tyger, Tyger

Batman does The Island of Dr. Moreau, only here it’s Catwoman who serves as a victim. This one may be a favorite of those who identify as Furries considering Catwoman is essentially nude throughout it and covered in fur, but for the rest of us it’s just merely a dud.

100 – Lock-Up

This episode has a solid premise, but the execution is just so-so. Lock-Up is a more extreme vigilante who views himself as judge, jury, and executioner which obviously doesn’t mesh with Batman’s world view. It does a good job of laying the groundwork before falling apart in the second act. It also contains one of Batman’s sillier “transformation” techniques when he uses a briefcase full of smoke to hide so he can change into his Batman costume.

99 – The Lion and the Unicorn

This is basically an Alfred solo episode, and no disrespect to the world’s most famous butler, but he’s a bit out of his element. It also marks the return of lesser villain Red Claw, someone no one needed to hear from again. The story takes our characters over to London though which at least makes for some new backgrounds.

 

klarion in control

98 – The Demon Within

Our first appearance of The New Batman Adventures. In short, if you’re a fan of Etrigan the Demon then you’re mad at me right now. If you’re like me and you care not for the character, then you’re probably in agreement that this is one of the lesser episodes in the series. Batman doesn’t do supernatural real well, and there’s a lot of that going on here. It’s just not an episode I was ever able to get into.

97 – Eternal Youth

The episode where we are introduced to Alfred’s friend, or girlfriend, Maggie. She will not be heard from again and I suppose that was for the best. They get lured to a resort being operated by Poison Ivy and wind up turned into trees. Yet another episode where a villain preys on the stupidity of Gotham’s wealthy. At least Batman has a personal stake this time and the rich aren’t just being extorted out of their money, but also their lives, unless you consider existing as a tree living.

96 – The Cat and the Claw – Part II

The follow-up to the show’s premiere was…okay? Batman and Catwoman team-up to stop Red Claw from basically nuking Gotham. A Batman/Catwoman team-up could have been appointment television, but it happened way too fast killing the novelty. Plus Red Claw just wasn’t up to the task of being the big baddie who gets the pair to cooperate anyway.

95 – Joker’s Wild

Our first appearance of the Joker! His episodes are usually pretty good, but this was a rare dud. Joker gets lured into attacking a casino baring his likeness in what amounts to an insurance scheme. It’s a bit amusing to see Joker get played, but this sort of thing would be executed far better in a later episode. It’s also a real low point in terms of animation as this episode basically lead to Akom Production Co. getting fired from the show after producing several other season one episodes.

94 – Chemistry

Poison Ivy’s lone solo outing in The New Batman Adventures comes in at 94. She basically just repeats her cloning trick from “House & Garden” only this time she creates a spouse not for herself, but for (you guessed it) Gotham’s wealthy singles. Bruce is part of the scheme and he ends up getting married to a plant lady. There are some interesting choices in this one, but mostly the plot just isn’t believable which ruins the whole mystery of it all.

bruce mantis

93 – Critters

A much derided episode that Paul Dini is at least willing to stand up for. He can like whatever he wants to like, but I’m just going to have to disagree here. I never wanted to see Batman battle giant bugs or anything similar. The humor the episode aims for also just doesn’t really land.

92 – Sideshow

Killer Croc’s redemption story might have turned into a worthwhile episode if it was ever believable. Instead, we know he’s just a bad guy and it’s only a matter of time until Batman finds him among the circus folk he falls in with. There’s a solid fight scene though, and I like the logic of Croc being declared completely sane and thus deserving of jail as opposed to being placed in Arkham. It’s too bad that didn’t stick though.

91 – I’ve Got Batman in my Basement

A surprisingly divisive episode. Bruce Timm seems to despise it, and with some good reason. This one really talks down to its audience, and it also makes The Penguin look completely incompetent. There’s some fun bits in it though that make it hard to hate. I actually know some folks who think this is one of the best of the series! I disagree, but I can at least see what they might find appealing about it. Basically, if you like it when the show doesn’t take itself seriously, or ever wanted to save Batman as a kid, then you probably rank this one higher than I do.

90 – Girl’s Night Out

I want to like this one, but the character of Livewire just doesn’t do anything for me. She’s annoying and a bit overpowered for the likes of Batman, not that he’s in this one really. This is the one that features the Batgirl/Supergirl team-up and unfortunately that just isn’t nearly as interesting as the villainous ladies. Poison Ivy and Harley are along for the ride and their chemistry keeps this thing from floundering. They’re so much more interesting than the heroines that I wish the episode focused entirely on their perspective and eventual clash with Livewire rather than presenting something a bit too conventional in the end.

CSF_46_-_Batmobile-2

Let it snow!

89 – Cat Scratch Fever

Dr. Milo’s other outing. I think I have this one too high because it’s not among my favorites, by any means. It once again puts Catwoman in the role of the victim as Dr. Milo and his annoying goons target Gotham’s strays. I do give this one bonus points for all of the snow though as it is a great deal of fun to look at. I still think I could have ranked this one closer to 100 though.

88 – The Cat and the Claw – Part I

The premiere episode of the show put Batman and Catwoman at odds. It’s a solid episode, reminding me that once we got past #95 or so the episodes actually became fine, just nothing to write home about. As a stand-alone episode, there’s just not a ton to work with though, and it’s too bad the setup created by this episode had such woeful payoff. The episode is at its best when we get to see Catwoman and Batman play off each other and Adrienne Barbeau really nails the role of Catwoman.

87 – P.O.V.

This was an experimental episode in which three cops are forced to recount the events of the evening to Investigative Affairs and we’re left to figure out whose account is the most accurate. It’s written pretty well, but the nature of the beast means it’s also repetitive and I don’t think it quite manages to remain compelling for the entire duration. I like that the show tried something like this though and other episodes would attempt similar things and really knock it out of the park.

joker0286 – Christmas with the Joker

Maybe my most disappointing episode. I love Christmas so I want to love this, but it’s just okay. Joker at least gets to sing the popular alternate version of “Jingle Bells” and be genuinely amusing, it’s just the action spots that are a bit weak. Plus there are some awful puns and Robin really adds nothing in his series debut. Even though it’s not great, I still think it’s worth watching around the holidays.

85 – Day of the Samurai

The rematch few wanted, but most were fine with. Batman takes on the Ninja only this time it’s in Japan and we get a silly Touch of Death plot device added to raise the stakes. There’s a fun Bat-death fake-out and a fight around an erupting volcano which is pretty cool.

84 – Animal Act

The Mad Hatter returns only this time he’s decided to control the minds of animals rather humans to some degree of success. Nightwing gets to return to the circus which is cool, and Tim literally shovels poop. It’s also one of the better mystery plots the show did, which is worth something.

batman catwoman smokestack

83 – Cult of the Cat

Catwoman gets herself caught up in some cat worshiping cult that you just know is bad news. This puts her at odds with her masculine counterpart which just feels incredibly corny. I was definitely sick of victim Catwoman by the time this one came around which probably prevented me from enjoying it more. It’s basically just another average episode.

82 – Torch Song

A celebrity has herself a violent stalker in the form of Firefly. It’s a different setup from what we’re accustomed to, but a more worthwhile one than rich person gets extorted. I wish Firefly was just a better adversary though. It feels like Batman got scaled-down to be on more equal footing with him, but that’s a criticism I could level at a great many villains on this show.

81 – Deep Freeze

The much anticipated return of Mr. Freeze saw him team-up with the Walt Disney wannabe, Grant Walker. This one marked an extremely contrived way to bring back one of the show’s breakout stars. It nailed the motivation for Freeze, but the rest was a bit lacking. The film SubZero ended up being really similar and a much more suitable way to bring back Mr. Freeze making this episode feel nonessential as a result.

the condiment king strikes80 – Make ‘Em Laugh

Joker’s finale from the original run of the show had him seeking revenge on some comedians who dared to suggest he wasn’t funny once upon a time. It’s silly, but Joker is insane so I can’t say the plot doesn’t make sense. This has some of the funniest moments from the show in it such as the debut of The Condiment King. I think if the final act was more satisfying this could have been a classic, instead it’s just merely good.

This is where I’m going to cut-off Part I of this feature. This will be the longest entry in this series in terms of episodes covered with the rest spanning 20 episodes each until we spotlight them all. It seems only right to make this the Friday feature going forward as that’s what Batman was for the better part of two years on this blog. Check back next week for episodes 79 through 60. Same Bat-time, same Bat-blog.

 


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 – “Beware the Creeper”

beware the creeperEpisode Number:  23 (108)

Original Air Date:  November 7, 1998

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Rich Fogel

First Appearance:  The Creeper

As we rapidly approach the end of The New Batman Adventures I find myself having some expectations of how the final episodes will go. I, of course, have watched all of these before, but I’m certainly thinking about them differently as I engage with them this time around. Last week’s episode, “Chemistry,” gathered a bunch of old faces from the first two seasons of Batman: The Animated Series for one giant cameo. That’s the sort of thing I would expect a show to do near its end. Next week’s finale is going to reexamine a villain who is very much associated with the program. That also seems like a thing to do. What does not is introducing a new face to the mix, but that’s exactly what this week’s episode, “Beware the Creeper,” is aiming to do.

There is a bit of a long game at play here. It’s not an obvious one though, but if you’ve been paying attention during the show’s run you may have noticed that Jack Ryder has essentially replaced Summer Gleason as Gotham’s go-to news anchor person. He’s appeared in multiple episodes, though he’s never played much of a role in any. He’s just been there. A long game designed around him doesn’t feel like it was in play, but today’s episode some-what rewards viewers for noticing him as he’s going to assume this new persona of The Creeper. And tied into it all is Joker, making his final appearance on the show.

The episode opens at a familiar location:  Ace Chemical Plant. This is where I remind you that the lore of this television show has largely been adapted from Tim Burton’s Batman from 1989. At least as it relates to Joker, anyway. Unlike in the comics where Joker’s origin is non-committal, in this series he was indeed born at this chemical plant. He was a mob hitman, as outlined in the film Mask of the Phantasm, who went by the name of Jack Napier. He encountered Batman one fateful night at this plant, and the resulting fight caused him to fall into a vat of chemicals and become disfigured leading to his current persona as The Joker.

joker gang

Joker and his gang are here to supervise the television special and make sure it’s accurate.

Jack Ryder (Jeff Bennett) is hosting a special on the Joker titled “The Madness Behind the Laughter” from this location. It feels like one of those docu-series programs or an episode of Dateline, with the peculiar distinction that it’s being broadcast live. As Ryder walks across the scaffolding above the chemicals, he takes the viewer through Joker’s creation complete with dramatization. Interestingly, we find out this all happened a mere seven years ago, though Batman is depicted in his 1940s costume in the re-telling. Bruce Wayne is watching rather intently from home and Tim gives him some grief for being interested in hearing about how Joker was created.

reenactment

The reenactment of when Joker met Batman.

As Ryder goes about his business, high above in the rafters lurks Joker himself. The camera catches him in frame, and Wayne notices him right away as he and Tim race out of there. Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin) is with Joker (Mark Hamill) and asks him if he thinks Batman saw him. Joker responds in the affirmative (and quotes Tweety Bird in the process) as Batman is his biggest fan – there’s no way he’d miss this! Also with Joker today are his henchmen Mo, Lar, and Cur (Billy West) whom we haven’t seen since the first episode. It’s nice to see they’ve been doing well.

joker and ryder

Joker and Ryder just having some laughs.

Joker was going to wait for Batman, but he’s a bit bored. To make sure he’s noticed, he bombs Ryder and his crew with gas-filled rubber chickens. The crew starts laughing as Ryder barks at them that they’re on live TV. When Joker hops down he starts shouting for the viewers that this isn’t part of the show, but soon the gas gets him as well and he begins laughing uncontrollably. Joker then gives him a shove and he flips over the railing and into the same vat of chemicals that created Joker.

The Batmobile comes barreling in and Batman and Robin emerge. Harley and the boys hop down to take them on as she blows a whistle signaling the beginning of the fight. As Batman and Robin tangle with the big men, Ryder tries to climb out of the chemicals. He’s looking no worse for ware, but still laughing and Joker promptly kicks him back in. He again emerges and this time Joker shoves a cigar in his mouth. It’s a gag cigar that soon explodes. The image shifts to reveal a sign that says No Smoking and warns of explosive chemicals. Director Dan Riba apparently didn’t trust viewers to see the sign so the camera even zooms in on it to make sure.

ryder emerges

I think Ryder is going to be okay…

As the place starts to go up in flames, Batman is finally able to confront The Joker. Unfortunately, Joker has opened a valve on the chemical tub which is ejecting all of the chemicals into the ocean, including Ryder. Joker points this fact out to Batman and he’s forced to go after Ryder as opposed to Joker, completely forgetting he has a partner in Robin who could have probably tended to the reporter. When the two head to where the chemicals are being ejected, they see Ryder’s shirt which is on fire floating in the chemicals, but no Ryder. Assuming he’s dead, the two climb back into the Batmobile to presumably try and catch the Joker or alert the police of what transpired. As the Batmobile races away, a manhole cover opens and Ryder emerges. He’s still got a serious case of the giggles and a crazed grin to go along with it. His hair is green like Joker’s and his skin slightly yellowed. He basically mugs for the camera before running off.

Ryder then bounces around the streets of Gotham laughing to himself. It’s apparent these chemicals have really heightened his agility and strength as he effortlessly leaps from street level to the top of a street light. He tries to slow down and encourages himself to think logically about the situation. The sound of a coocoo clock going off is played and Ryder grimaces as if he has a headache. He jumps to a nearby ledge as he sees a woman inside. She is frightened and runs off and Ryder gets even more cartoonish by quoting Mindy from Animaniacs (“Okay-I-love-you-Buh-Bye!”) and bounds into a clothing store named Ditko’s, an obvious nod to Steve Ditko who created the character of The Creeper. Inside there he scares all of the patrons away, but a clearly bored store associate (E.G. Daily) just hangs around and even gives him fashion tips. She suggests green and hands him a little pair of green and black undies that he puts on along with some fashionable red gloves and boots. To complete the ensemble a large red boa is draped over his shoulders.

harley pie

She puts so much effort into her relationship with Joker and what does she get in return?

Batman and Robin are driving around in the Batmobile when they receive a call from Alfred. It would seem Ryder actually paid for his new threads with his own credit card, and Alfred is relaying the tip. Meanwhile, Joker is heading back to his hideout in a bit of a rage as word on the street is someone is stealing his act. When he enters the hideout he finds a surprise waiting for him. Harley emerges from a giant cream pie. She’s covered head to toe in whipped cream, but the presence of her headdress seems to suggest she’s not nude underneath it all, but I suppose she could be. Joker is rather stunned and Harley kicks an oversized cherry his way. It would seem she wants to celebrate the anniversary of Joker’s creation and beckons her puddin’ to come play with her. She playfully informs him that he’ll enjoy her “pie” and probably want seconds. It’s yet another risqué joke the show somehow managed to get past standards and practices.

As was the case in “Mad Love,” Joker is in no mood for play. Once again, Harley is shown being thrown out on her ass and comes crashing down between her beloved hyenas who start licking the cream off of her. Joker tastes some of the filling stuck to his coat and recoils with dissatisfaction remarking she’s a good kid but a not so good cook. He also orders her to find the plagiarist stealing his act.

stacked deck

He’s not here to play pool.

We return now to another location we haven’t seen in awhile, the Stacked Deck club on Gotham’s waterfront. Mo, Lar, and Cur are inside playing pool when Ryder comes busting in. They refer to him as a creep, which Ryder likes and uses to create a new name from himself:  The Creeper! He then tangles with the trio, and Billy West voices Lar with his Stimpy voice which is both weird and funny. A mopey Harley then walks by and is nearly hit with a flying pool table. Above, the shadows of Batman and Robin are seen arriving as well.

Inside the club, Creeper mostly has things under control. He’s been made much stronger than a normal person, but he still has the same “appetites” as normal men. When Harley enters he’s immediately taken by the pale-skinned woman. The camera lingers on her sexualizing her in a very obvious manner, much as it did when she was covered in pie. He starts hitting on her, and Harley soon realizes he’s the one Mr. J is after. As the two stand and talk, Batman tries walking up behind Creeper who casually uppercuts him without taking his eyes off of Harley. Batman crashes into a pool table and soon Mo opens fire on he and Robin as Harley and Creeper take things outside.

creeper and harley

The Creeper has found himself a new target and Harley is not having any of it.

Creeper keeps advancing on Harley like, well, a creep while she shows no interest. She soon realizes she can use this attraction to her advantage though and beckons Creeper to come forward. As he does, she releases the restraints on some cargo dangling precariously over Creeper’s head which drops on him. Satisfied, she flips away as Batman and Robin race over. Batman tells Robin to help him check on Creeper and Robin suggests they get a mop. They tare down the walls of the battered crate and find a huge statue was inside. The head then breaks off and inside is Creeper. He jumps out and when Batman asks who he is he informs him that he is “…Yellow-skinned Wacky Man! But I prefer The Creeper!”

Creeper is not at all interested in chatting with the Dynamic Duo. He seems to desire revenge on Joker and Harley’s affection, possibly in that order, and he bounds away. Batman and Robin follow and they come across him sniffing around an alley like a dog. It’s at this point it dawns on the two that this guys is Jack Ryder, and Batman reasons that the combination of Joker’s laughing gas with the chemicals in the plant are what caused this odd mutation.

joker meets creeper

Joker coming face to face with his latest creation.

Creeper apparently locks on Harley’s scent and runs off causing Batman and Robin to lose him. Harley went running back to Joker’s hideout and she busts in on him while he’s refilling his boutonniere which nearly causes an explosion. She frantically tells Joker someone is after her, when Creeper busts in. He approaches and quickly lives up to his name by grabbing Harley and licking her face. She tells Joker he’s the guy stealing his act and swears she didn’t lead him on. He believes her, remarking he knows she’s a one man loon. He then asks Creeper if he’d like to head on a one-way trip to Metropolis and waves a vial threateningly.

Batman and Robin are perched on a clocktower searching for Creeper. An explosion lets them know where he is and the two race to find Joker’s hideout. The explosion did little to discourage Creeper and Joker and Harley flee via a large parade float. Creeper races after them and hops into Joker’s convertible forcing Batman to grab onto the bumper. Robin hits it with a grapple gun and ends up on a dolly being pulled behind it.

creeper crash

He just can’t stop from acting like a creep at all times.

Joker leads the Creeper on a chase through the streets of Gotham and onto the freeway. Creeper is close behind the uncharacteristically fast parade float with Batman hanging onto the bumper and Robin being pulled behind. The parade float has a giant castle on it with a massive glove above which Joker knocks off. It crashes into Creeper’s car and smashes into pieces. Creeper starts fiddling with the various devices in the car and inadvertently fires off a bunch of rockets which nearly roast Batman and Robin and likely kill some unfortunate motorists offscreen. He then finds the rocket ejector seat which launches him onto the parade float.

Creeper crashes into Joker which knocks the both of them into Harley, who is trying to drive. This sends them careening off the overpass and into a waste disposal plant also conveniently owned by Ace. As they fly through the air, Creeper continues being a creep by gleefully chewing on one of Harley’s tassels from her costume. The car Creeper was once driving goes flying off the overpass as well and Batman is able to grab Robin and keep the two of them relatively safe. High above them, the other three have come to rest atop a giant heap of garbage. Creeper has Joker in a reverse chin-lock and eventually tosses him down to Batman. Joker, bleeding and on his knees, pleads with Batman to save him from the lunatic and Batman responds by slapping some bat-cuffs on him.

creeper assault

I do not like where this is going at all!

On the garbage heap, Creeper is continuing to live up to his name as he moves in on Harley. He shoves her down and basically looks like he’s about to commit a rather serious crime. Batman then shows up and prevents the rape by injecting Creeper with a sedative. He remarks he’s getting sleepy and then collapses on Harley his head coming to rest right in between her breasts.

Batman, Robin, and Ryder are then shown at Ryder’s apartment. He’s mostly removed his costume, save for those fashionable green undies, and is a tad distraught that his career is over. Batman informs him no one knows he was The Creeper, and informs him a patch he’s placed on his shoulder should keep him as Jack Ryder. He tells him he’ll supply him with more as he and Robin take their leave. Ryder watches them go from his balcony and seems to act derisively towards the patch, referring to it as “a little piece of cotton.” He then peels it off and walks back into his apartment. The camera stays on the balcony as he vanishes with his laughter soon filling the night air.

ryder bandage

Ryder is not a fan of the patch.

It was surprising to see a new face like The Creeper introduced so late in the game. Apparently, there had been a desire to include him going all the way back to the Fox days but it just never came to pass. Paul Dini has also mentioned they thought another season would be ordered so introducing him at this stage probably wasn’t frowned upon since he was clearly being setup to return in a future episode. Eventually, he would be added to the Justice League, but obviously there was no second appearance for the character in a dedicated Batman show. This episode also marks the final appearance of Robin in the show. Mathew Valencia would not return to voice the character in Mystery of the Batwoman, but he did return for the Batman Beyond film Return of the Joker.

For Joker and Harley, this is a rather inauspicious conclusion to their time on the show. A lot of their screen time is a bit derivative of “Mad Love,” in particular Harley trying to woo Joker and failing. It was a bit cute in “Mad Love” to see Harley try and be sexy for her Mr. J, but here it feels more indulgent than anything. It feels like the writers are just horny for Harley at this point, and that’s further driven home when Creeper is given an unhealthy attraction to the woman. It apparently wasn’t enough for Harley to be constantly abused by Joker, now we need to have her be sexually assaulted by another lunatic. Creeper’s licking and groping of Harley is gross and again it feels like we’re supposed to laugh at her constant abuse. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but I didn’t find it funny and instead I was left feeling sorry for Harley once again.

creeper uppercut

There may be some comedic potential in a Batman/Creeper pairing, but this being his only appearance in the show means it was never meant to be, I suppose.

Aside from the fact that Creeper is a downright creep, it was a bit interesting to see Joker targeted by another maniac. His constant giggling and chattiness reminds me of Freakazoid, though less charming. His look is rather goofy, but I suppose it befits the character and was true to his comic book counterpart. I would have preferred to see him remain focused on getting back at Joker than turning into some horn-ball for Harley. I think a better avenue for the episode would have been Creeper trying to use Harley to get at Joker, only to come to find Joker doesn’t actually value Harley thus ruining his plan. That would put Harley in the victim role again, but at least it would force her to again confront that Joker doesn’t care about her and she needs to remove him from her life, which would be a good place to leave the character as it would at least give her some hope.

“Beware the Creeper” is an entertaining episode, though one that perhaps reveals a bit too much about the men working on the show. It’s hard to watch this and not feel slightly dirty with how Harley is portrayed since the camera practically humps her in several scenes. It was fun seeing Joker’s origin reenacted once again, and the show made it a point to reveal that his old alias of Jack Napier was just that, an alias, which is a bit of a departure from Batman. I like an ambiguous origin for Joker and seeing the show maintain some of that ambiguity was nice. Had the show continued, I don’t know that I would have needed to see Creeper again. It would have been interesting to see if he returned with a Joker plot, or if he would have come back in another capacity. He has some sense of justice to him, so it’s possible he would have just returned as a vigilante that Batman encountered and probably would rather not work beside. An odd couple paring for the two has some comedic potential, but it was apparently never meant to be.


The New Batman Adventures – “Chemistry”

chemistryEpisode Number:  22 (107)

Original Air Date:  October 24, 1998

Directed by:  Butch Lukic

Written by:  Stan Berkowitz

First Appearance:  None

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

susan and bruce

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

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

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

dopey batman

The look of love.

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

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

susan says yes

I think that’s a “Yes.”

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

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

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

michael gash

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

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

bruce through flames

Bruce to the rescue.

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

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

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

plant susan

Susan’s secret revealed.

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

ivy and michael

Ivy arrives with her Killer Croc knock-off.

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

melting michael

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

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

robin goo

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

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

drowning susan

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

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

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

batman ring

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

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

ivy bash

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

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

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

 


The New Batman Adventures – “Mad Love”

mad love titleEpisode Number:  21 (106)

Original Air Date:  January 16, 1999

Directed by:  Butch Lukic

Written by:  Paul Dini, Bruce Timm

First Appearance:  None

During the development of The New Batman Adventures, Paul Dini always assumed there would be another season. There could have been some thought that Batman had peaked by then given the bomb that was Batman & Robin, but it’s hard to imagine someone thinking Batman wasn’t still a bankable character. To the surprise of probably not just Dini, Warner Brothers decided to go in a different direction with Batman leading to the creation of Batman Beyond. It seems like an unceremonious end for what started as Batman: The Animated Series, but when it came time to select a series finale the network did at least do the show right.

mad love comic

Like “Holiday Knights,” this story originated in the pages of Batman Adventures, the comic tie-in to BTAS.

“Mad Love” was the episode chosen to usher Batman out of the spotlight and into semi-retirement. Of course, Kevin Conroy’s Bruce Wayne would return in Batman Beyond and then eventually move onto Justice League, but he still deserved a good send-off of his own. “Mad Love” is a story that originated in a comic by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm that was done back in 1993. It centered on series break-out star Harley Quinn as it revealed her origin and explored her complicated relationship with the villainous Joker essentially filling in the gaps left unexplained by BTAS and taking advantage of Harley’s popularity. Somewhat surprisingly, it was not adapted for the second season of BTAS and maybe that’s because Dini and Timm felt the censors at Fox wouldn’t allow them to do the story justice. When the series was resurrected on Kids’ WB it made the adaptation realistic and was a pretty easy way to fill an episode order.

“Mad Love” the comic was also hugely successful. It won an Eisner Award for best single issue and Timm was nominated for an additional award for his artwork on the book. Even though the book takes place in the Animated Universe of Batman, it’s essentially been adopted as part of Batman canon for the regular line of comics and was even sourced for the Arkham series of Batman video games. At this point, it’s surprising the story hasn’t been adapted for film. This episode may only be 22 minutes or so, but it actually would not be all that difficult to pad it out into a feature length. Normally for classic stories DC commissions animated features, but the company probably feels that’s not necessary since this episode exists and it’s done really well.

joker dentist

Finally, a legitimate reason to avoid going to the dentist.

The episode opens with Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings) grumbling about a dentist appointment. As he heads into the office the dentist’s back is facing him and he’s directed to sit down. As Gordon yammers away it becomes quite clear to the viewer that this is not Gordon’s regular dentist, but the Clown Prince of Crime himself, the Joker (Mark Hamill)! And he’s not alone, as dental assistant Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin) is here as well to administer the laughing gas. Joker is ready to get started with a power drill as Gordon is restrained, but Gordon’s knight in dark and grim armor arrives in the form of Batman. He crashes through the window and tosses some chattering teeth on the ground. He reprimands Joker for getting sloppy and predictable, but Harley chimes in that the teeth were her idea as she blasts Batman with some gas. She makes a pun about it being a gas, which enrages Joker as he’s the one who’s supposed to deliver the jokes. Off his game, Joker then decides to run, but he leaves behind a parting gift – a grenade. As he tosses it, the script has some fun with Hamill by having Joker deliver the line “May the floss be with you!” Batman knocks the grenade away and sets to freeing Gordon who gets to deliver his own pun about always hating this appointment.

harley revs

Possibly the most “adult” reference from this show.

At the Funnibones Warehouse, an obviously unnerved Joker is working on some new blueprints for his next crime. He’s very intent on coming up with something much to the chagrin of Harely who comes strutting in wearing some lingerie as she tries desperately to get her man’s attention. In one of the more risqué gags, she even climbs onto the table Joker is working on to beckon him to “Rev up his Harley,” as she pantomimes riding a motorcycle. Joker swats her off the table and goes into a rant about how Batman is right and he is getting stale. He wants to correct this by doing the unthinkable – killing Batman! He expresses frustration at coming up with a way to do it and Harley suggests he just shoot him. This irritates Joker further who explains that the death of Batman needs to be something big as it will be his magnum opus. He then notices some old plans for a piranha tank trap he had planned for Batman. He wanted the fish to gobble him up while sporting Joker smiles, but he could never get his toxin to work properly on the miserable little fish.

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Joker inflicts much violence on Harley in this one. Some of it has a slapstick quality to it, but a lot of it is also painfully honest.

Joker then slumps in his chair assuming a defeated posture. Harley sees this as an opening to resume her romantic advances. The camera cuts to the alley outside and Harley comes flying into the picture. Apparently, there’s no room for love tonight. She then starts to walk away defeated with her babies, the hyenas Bud an Lou, in tow. As she does so she monologues about where her life went wrong. She blames Batman for messing things up between she and Mr. J and as she slumps against a brick wall she begins to let us in on how this all got started.

harley meets joker

Harley’s first encounter with The Joker.

Harleen Quinzel was a new hire at Arkham Asylum. On her first day she entered her office to find a single rose and a note from a “J” beckoning her to come see him some time. She confronts Joker in his cell and demands to know how this note made it into her office. He replies that he put it there, and when she suggests the guards would like to know this he responds that if she were going to tell them she would have done it already. He explains his interest in her is largely stemming from her name, Harley Quinzel, which sounds like harlequin when you drop the suffix. She remarks she’s heard it before, but as she walks away Joker calls out to her that he’s looking for someone to spill his secrets to which puts a smile on her face.

harleen and joker

This episode provides a good look at just how manipulative Joker can be.

It took three months, but eventually Harley was given the clearance to host Joker for some therapy sessions. As he lay on a sofa, Harley listened to his tales. He describes to her an abusive father and tells a story about his dad taking him to the circus to see the clowns. When he describes how he tried to recreate a gag from the show using his father’s pants as a prop, he’s able to make Harley laugh hard enough to produce tears setting her up for the real punchline which is that his dad broke his nose following the stunt. Harley narrates how Joker gained her trust and her sympathy and as she does we see flashbacks of Joker’s creation at the chemical plant and some battles with Batman (all new animation) as she puts the blame for his psychotic nature on his upbringing and the continued involvement of Batman. She admits her love for Joker and we see the tables have turned and it’s now Joker listening to her confessions. When Joker eventually escapes, he is brought back to Arkham in a sorry state by Batman and Harley is there to weep at his side. This was the final straw as we see her leave Arkham and head to a joke shop. She grabs a costume and even her prop gun she’s now known for and returns to Arkham. After clocking the security guard with a brick-stuffed rubber chicken, she blows open Joker’s cell and the two escape laughing all the way.

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The black and white television returns as Harley makes a plea for Batman’s help.

Harley is shown once again in the alley. With resolve in her voice, she once again pins blame for all of her life’s misfortunes since then on Batman. The scene cuts to the Bat Signal high in the sky over Gotham. Inside the police station, Gordon, Bullock, and Batman are viewing a tape from Harley in which she claims Joker has gone too far and is planning something horrific. She claims she needs their help, and to add gravitas to her words she removes her mask as she does so.

harley syringe

This is easily the most menacing Harley has ever looked in this show.

Harley is then shown, no mask and in a trench coat, at a dock. Batman spots her from a rooftop and as Harley paces with some blueprints for Joker’s crime Batman appears behind her. She hands over the plans and Batman looks at them eagerly. He says he wants Gordon to see them, but before they can discuss it further Joker shows up on a boat. He shouts about Harley being a stool pigeon and opens fire. Batman pulls Harley to the ground and hits Joker with a Batarang that takes his head off revealing it was a dummy. As Batman looks on with some confusion he winces in pain. As he falls Harley is standing behind him with a syringe.

harley traps batman

Batman is in a bit of a pinch, but he’s always so resourceful.

We’re then taken to a place called Aquacade which sounds like an aquarium crossed with an arcade which would be a rather interesting concept. The inside of the place makes it look more like a traditional aquarium, though there are bar stools. Batman is bound by chains and suspended over a tank of water swarming with piranhas. Harley is there in full costume adding more water. She explains she’s going to win Joker over by killing Batman using one of his plans that she tweaked a bit. She explains that with Batman hanging upside down, the piranhas will appear to be smiling from his perspective as they devour him. Before she lowers Batman further into the tank, she expresses some remorse as she explains she did kind of enjoy their encounters. She needs to do this for her beloved puddin’ though and when she suggests this will set everything right Batman does something a bit unexpected:  he laughs.

harley tears

Harley is full-blown crazy during these events as she’ll stop at nothing to win Joker’s affection.

Harley spins around clearly unnerved by Batman’s laughter. Batman goes on to explain that Joker couldn’t possibly love her because he only loves himself. When she tells him he’s wrong she justifies her convictions by citing how Joker opened up to her at Arkham. Batman, appearing amused, then starts citing all of the stories Joker has told others looking to gain their trust over the years. They align with what he told her, only with slight variations like his dad taking him to an ice show instead of the circus. Harley, clearly upset, decides to just ignore Batman’s words and sets out to finish the job, but Batman points out to her that the piranhas won’t leave much of him behind and that without a body Joker will never believe her. This causes worry to flash across Harley’s face.

harley's fall

Harley’s night ends in tragedy, though amazingly she survives this fall.

Joker is then shown pacing around his hideout clearly still trying to dream up the perfect way to kill Batman when the phone rings. It’s Harley, and when Joker finds out she’s got Batman trapped he races out of there in his purple convertible. Harley then approaches Batman smugly to tell him Joker is on his way. He apparently drove exceptionally fast because he then bursts through the doors. He immediately heads for Harley who is expecting praise, but instead gets a backhand. It’s delivered offscreen so we just here the “smack!” and then see Harley come flying into frame. She sets to calming him down by explaining how she changed the trap so the piranhas appear to be smiling which only irritates Joker further. It’s not a joke if you have to explain it, and as she backs away from him she ends up in front of a window. Joker, in a scene reminiscent of Catwoman’s creation in Batman Returns, shoves her through the window. We see her fall from his perspective and it happens in slow-motion. Harley crashes to the ground amidst boxes and trash. As she lays there broken with blood trickling from her mouth she pathetically blames herself for making Joker mad.

Harley didnt get the joke

“It’s my fault. I didn’t get the joke.”

Joker looks down on her and declares he never liked her pet name, puddin’, that she used for him. He then turns his attention towards Batman and essentially apologizes for the whole thing. He says he thinks they should just forget about all of this before heading for the door. He then stops and reconsiders his plan and returns to Batman. He pulls out a gun and is seemingly prepared to do what Harley suggested earlier and just shoot the guy, but Batman kicks him causing him to shoot the tank instead freeing the piranhas. As Joker fends off the fish, Batman hops around in the chains and grabs his utility belt with his teeth. While Joker makes a run for it, Batman picks the lock on his chains to free himself before giving chase.

joker smokestack

At least he got what was coming to him.

Joker reaches the roof of the aquarium and decides to make a jump. He crosses the huge gap which takes him over some train tracks and grabs onto a railing on another building. The railing breaks, and Joker cries out as he falls. Batman reaches the edge and looks over and finds a laughing Joker (“Made ya look!”) riding on top of a passing train. Joker enjoys himself for a moment and then turns to see Batman has jumped on the train as well. Batman then informs Joker that Harley came closer to killing him than he ever did. If it weren’t for Joker’s massive ego, she probably would have got the job done. He ends his explanation by dropping a “puddin'” on Joker and this infuriates him into attacking Batman. Joker gets in some shots, but he’s really no match in a one-on-one fight with the Dark Knight. Batman nails him with an uppercut, and Joker flies off of the train and plummets into a smoke stack.

damaged harley

The consequences of Joker’s violence towards Harley is shown.

A news program on an Arkham television is utilized to inform us that Joker’s whereabouts are unknown following his confrontation with Batman. The camera pans and we see a brief flash of inmates (one of which I swear is intended to look like Conrad Veidt from The Man Who Laughs, often cited as a real world inspiration for The Joker) and Harley in the background getting wheeled down the hall. She’s covered in bandages and her arm is in a sling. She then narrates for us how she finally sees Joker for what he is vowing that from now on things are going to change. As she’s placed in bed in her cell she lists off a bunch of negative adjectives that describe Joker. She then looks to her left to see a single rose on her nightstand with a note that says “Feel better soon. – J” and a smile crosses her face as she finishes her list of labels out loud describing Joker, the last word being “Angel.”

harley smiles

The final shot of the episode. She may be smiling, but it’s painfully sad.

Lets just get it out of the way and declare this one of the best episodes in the series. “Mad Love” encapsulates everything I love about Batman, Joker and Harley all in one episode. Batman is resourceful, and perhaps even a bit naïve in trusting Harley, but she and him have had a close moment in the past so his decision isn’t completely without merit. Joker is psychotic and truly evil. He’s entertaining, and even funny, but also unlikable and terrifying which is how the character should be. He’s not someone deserving of sympathy, and he doesn’t get it from the viewer. He does get it from Harley, who is truly a tragic figure. She’s grown over the course of this series, and in some respects her character here doesn’t reflect that. I chalk that up to this story being an old one relative to when this episode was adapted. Some of the plot points were reused for “Harley & Ivy,” mostly Harley trying to figure out where things went wrong, but it’s done well here so I don’t mind. Her sequence in the alley is what is utilized as reference for basically any video on the character, and her hopeless devotion to her beloved Mr. J is truly sad. Seeing her lying there in the rubble blaming herself for the violence inflicted upon her by her partner is almost too real as many abuse victims can attest. This might be the rare episode that’s actually too troubling for some people to watch. The ending, with her smiling and apparently forgiving Joker, is the only place I find it easy to criticize. It almost feels like it’s supposed to be funny, when really it’s tragic. I think the episode was fine to end this way, but the score could have been better utilized to make it absolutely clear that this is a sad ending for Harley.

Production wise, this is also a high point for the series. Maybe not visually, as there are a few gaffes here and there, but the voice acting across the board is stellar. Kevin Conroy, Arleen Sorkin, and Mark Hamill all turn in possibly their best work on the series. Maybe not so much for Conroy, but that’s only because he didn’t have as much to work with here as he has in the past. Even so, his delivery of Batman’s lines are biting. He’s remorseless in exploiting Harley and Joker’s mental state giving him a touch of viciousness we’re not used to. Part of me wishes he was worked into the end so we could see a showing of sympathy on his part towards Harley. His laugh is also well done. It sounds genuine and it’s even a touch unsettling, which is good because it helps us react to it in the same way Harley did. Sorkin has always been wonderful as Harley, but here she is able to inject both comedy and tragedy into her performance. It’s painful to see her expecting praise from Joker like a dog expecting a pat from its owner only to have pain inflicted upon her instead. And Hamill, what more can be said about his Joker? I may not like what this show did to Joker visually, but the loosening of the censors has been a boon for the character. It’s allowed Hamill to approach Joker in a more menacing manner giving the villain the chill he needs. He’s no longer just a punchline, but a dangerous psychopath.

mad love two-pack

In case you were wondering, you can indeed get an action figure two-pack based on this episode. And better yet, it features the season one version of Joker.

I am slightly disappointed that this episode isn’t the last we’ll see of Joker and Harley. It really is a great way for the show to end, but we’re going by production order which means the pair have one more appearance to make. This episode is the final appearance of Commissioner Gordon though in this series. He’ll return for the film based on this series, but he won’t be seen in any of the final episodes. The same is true for Detective Bullock, who was seen, but not heard in this episode. It feels weird to say goodbye to these characters after so long, but there’s more of that coming with only three episodes remaining so I guess I should get used to it.

“Mad Love” is on the short list for best episode in the series, and by series I mean Batman as a whole as this is considered season three for Batman: The Animated Series. If you just want a great Joker and Harley story then this is it. No other tale about the two has really come close and given the critical failure of Suicide Squad it surprises me that DC and Warner have yet to turn to this as a remedy. That’s a movie I’d be excited to see, but by no means is such a thing needed to legitimize this story or anything. Whether it’s experienced as a comic or television show, “Mad Love” is excellent as is. I’m partial to this episode as being the definitive take because the voice acting performances are so well done, but both are stories that should not be ignored.

 


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