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Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman

mystery of the batwomanOriginal Release Date:  October 21, 2003

Directed by:  Curt Geda, Jennifer Graves (Sequences), Tim Maltby (Sequences)

Written by: Alan Burnett, Michael Reaves, Paul Dini (Chase Me)

Animation:  DR Movie Ltd., Warner Bros. Animation (Chase Me)

Running Time:  75 minutes

The final episode of The New Batman Adventures aired on January 16, 1999. “Mad Love” was the chosen finale and it came more than two months after the preceding episode (Beware the Creeper). It was a bit of an inauspicious end to Batman: The Animated Series, not because the episode wasn’t great (it most certainly was), but that it was never written to be the finale. The staff for the show assumed another episode order was bound to happen, but it never did. Instead, Warner Bros. wanted to try something different. Seeing rival comic company Marvel having success with its younger characters and perhaps fearing Batman’s aura was damaged by the flop Batman & Robin, Warner had the braintrust on the series come up with a new, younger, Batman. That became Batman Beyond which premiered the same month The New Batman Adventures came to an end.

Batman Beyond would produce 52 episodes and a single film coming to a close in 2001. That obviously wasn’t the end for DC Animated productions as team-focused shows would follow. For some reason, Warner decided to revisit Batman: The Animated Series in 2003 with the direct-to-video Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman. From an artistic perspective, there’s never a bad reason to do a Batman film, especially one set in this much beloved universe. From a business end, it’s a bit unclear why this film exists. Following the show’s conclusion, there were a few video games produced including one in 2003, Rise of Sin Tzu, but I can’t see Warner commissioning a new film to promote a video game. My best guess is this was just a little something to keep Batman in the minds of fans as the company was preparing to bring the Caped Crusader back to theaters in 2005 with Batman Begins. It also allowed those who worked on the show to explore a period in time not touched on previously, namely the gap in time between the end of The New Batman Adventures and the death of Joker as explored in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.

batwoman wave

Batwoman is the latest vigilante to wind-up in Gotham

Whatever the reason may be, it’s certainly not a bad thing to have more Batman set in this universe. Mystery of the Batwoman, as the title implies, is a mystery tale with the subject being a new vigilante in Gotham, Batwoman. If that sounds too similar to Mask of the Phantasm well then let me point out right away that Batwoman is not a homicidal vigilante getting Batman in trouble. The plots are different enough and the mystery is sound. It’s also preceded on most releases with an animated short titled Chase Me. It’s pretty interesting to see a short subject set in this universe as one had never been done before, even though it would have made a lot of sense to pair the theatrically released Mask of the Phantasm with one. It’s a cute little piece of animation though done in-house at Warner in which Batman chases Catwoman through Gotham. It contains no voice acting and is mostly just a visual treat. It’s been included on basically every release of this film and is worth checking out.

Chase Me runs about five minutes long and its title says it all. When Bruce is shown out of his element at a ball being held at Wayne Enterprises, he slips away from his many suitors and retreats to his office only to find Catwoman robbing him. He gives chase as Batman as the two traverse the city of Gotham winding up at a zoo. Along the way there’s a cameo from Bullock and Batman does battle with some big cats. It ends with Catwoman cornered and she makes her usual play of appealing to Batman in only a way she can. At first he rebuffs her, but then moves in for a long, lingering, kiss as the police arrive. He then gives her a smile and leaves with the sack of money she swiped. She thinks he’s letting her go, but she soon realizes he handcuffed her to a gate. It then returns to the shot it began on with Bruce staring forlornly at the city from the ball implying it was all a fantasy as a blond woman taps him on the shoulder to lead him back to the party.

chase me end

Chase Me is brief, but fun.

Chase Me contains no dialogue and is set to an original piece of music. It’s uncharacteristic in nature for the series as it contains elements of jazz and has an obvious Latin flavor to it. It works for the romantic and seductive parts, but not so much for the action bits. The designs for the characters are taken from The New Batman Adventures, which is a bit of a shame as I don’t care for this take on Catwoman. Otherwise though it’s pretty entertaining and provides a little window into Bruce’s mind and what really gets him going.

The actual film, Mystery of the Batwoman, is a procedural mystery. It quickly tasks Batman (Kevin Conroy) with uncovering who Batwoman (Kyra Sedgwick) is, even by having her simply tell him to figure it out when the two first meet. It’s a mostly Batman affair, with a dash of Robin who is slightly older (and now voiced by Eli Marienthal) from when we last saw him. Barbara pops in only briefly to phone Bruce about this new person in Gotham stealing her gimmick and Nightwing is never mentioned.

batman robin batwoman

Batman and Robin will cross paths with Batwoman, but if you were hoping to hear from Batgirl and Nightwing then you’ll be disappointed.

Batwoman is targeting a weapons ring organized by The Penguin (David Ogden Stiers) and Rupert Thorne (John Vernon, making his first appearance since Season Two of BTAS). They’ve hired Carlton Duquesne (Kevin Michael Richardson) to provide security for their operation and when Batwoman proves to be too much for him they bring on Bane (Hector Elizondo). Batman, for his part, is mostly concerned with Batwoman and what her motives are.

kathy duquesne

Kathy Duquesne is suspect number 1. She’ll also have a bit of a romantic fling with Bruce Wayne.

These sort of mysteries are often undone because the list of suspects is often small and limited to whoever is new. Mystery of the Batwoman is prepared for that by introducing three candidates for the role of Batwoman. And to make it harder, they all have different voice actresses including Batwoman herself. The first introduced is the daughter of Carlton, Kathy Duquesne (Kimberly Brooks) who carries a grudge against her father and his choice of work as it was his profession that got her mother killed years before the events of the film. She also has the added wrinkle of being named Kathy Duquesne, with her last name pronounced as “Do Kane,” making her name very similar to Kathy Kane, the name of Batwoman in the comics.

rocky and tim

Rocky works for Bruce, but seems to form more of a connection with Tim than her boss.

The second suspect is an employee of Wayne Tech by the name of Rocky Ballantine (Kelly Ripa). She’s invented a metal that can be programmed to take whatever shape she wants it to, which is pitched to the board of Wayne Enterprises and then utilized by Batwoman in an attack on The Penguin later. She also has the added motivation of wanting get back at Penguin for he framed her fiancé sending him to jail for 9 years.

bullock sonia

Bullock has a new partner in Sonia leaving Montoya out in the cold.

The third is Bullock’s new assistance, Sonia Alcana (Elisa Gabrielli), who is a dead-ringer for Elektra from the Cowboy Bebop movie. She may be a cop now, but she lost her home and her parents’ business to a fire started by Rupert Thorne. Batman saved her, but she and her family lost everything and to make it worse, Thorne escaped prosecution.

All three women will cross paths with either Bruce Wayne or Batman, with Kathy serving as a romantic interest as well. It’s engaging to watch Batman search for clues and even run into apparent dead ends as he focuses on one girl, then is forced to consider another. The film actually reveals who Batwoman is by the end of the second act leaving the third to contain mostly action as Batman is forced to basically save the villains from Batwoman while also facing off with Bane. There’s a bit of a twist to the mystery, but it works and I mostly enjoyed what the film gave me.

rupert thorne tnba

Rupert Thorne makes his first appearance since the second season of the show. He has some new card gimmick for some reason in which he’s always fidgeting with playing cards.

Continuity wise, this film tries to address some of the things opened up by Batman Beyond, but commits to very little. When Barbara calls Bruce from college, it’s clear she harbors a romantic interest in him that he is uncomfortable dealing with. Such was implied by Barbara in Batman Beyond, and it’s odd to see Bruce basically ghosting before the term was invented. I would have liked to see more of this subplot, but it basically amounts to a tease. The end of the film provides a plausible explanation for what happened to Penguin and Thorne, though there’s little there that’s definitive. It’s a bit of a spoiler, but the ending for Bane makes it appear as if he perished, which is somewhat odd considering he’s one of the few villains from this era to show up in Batman Beyond. I suppose it’s possible this is meant to be his final encounter with Batman.

The animation for this feature was handled by DR Movie Co., LTD. in what is its first opportunity to work on this series. The company did do work for The Zeta Project and would go on to do work for Justice League Unlimited. It adheres to the visual look of The New Batman Adventures with little embellishment. One welcomed return is the use of the Dark Deco look for certain exterior shots of Gotham which hadn’t been seen since the first two seasons of BTAS. The level of violence in the show is possibly less than what was present at times in The New Batman Adventures and there doesn’t appear to be any increase in budget for the feature over a traditional episode. The animation itself is good in places, and poor in others. When Kathy is introduced, for example, she’s supposed to have a sexy sway to her as she walks, but the character looks bendy instead. There’s also spots where the camera zooms in on an image that really isn’t detailed enough for the look. And since this was released in 2003, it’s formatted for a 4:3 picture as HD television sets had yet to really take over even though it was created in 1.78:1.

batwomans gilider

Batwoman gets to have fun zooming around on a glider like she’s some Spider-Man villain.

The character designs are basically all the same as what we saw in The New Batman Adventures. The only new character is Batwoman and her costume looks like a silver version of the Batman Beyond costume, but with a cape and different colored boots and gloves. She rides around on a giant glider that looks like the oversized glider Hobgoblin utilized in the Spider-Man animated series, only Batwoman chooses to kneel on it rather than stand. It’s also reminiscent of the glider utilized by Nausicaä from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and it would not surprise me if that was an inspiration for the device.

batwoman penguin

A lot of people have an issue with Penguin in this one, including me as I don’t like his new voice.

Andrea Romano is back to handle the voice casting duties and she was able to return most of the voices we’re familiar with. In addition to Kevin Conroy as Batman, Bob Hastings returns to voice Commissioner Gordon and Robert Costanzo is at his side as Detective Bullock. Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. is also back to give voice to Bruce’s trusty butler, Alfred and he gets to be as cheeky as always. Eli Marienthal takes over as Robin and this is the only time he voices the character while Hector Elizondo takes over for Henry Silva as Bane. I’m not sure why Silva did not reprise the role of Bane, but Elizondo does fine. In what is a bit of a controversial move, Paul Williams was replaced by David Ogden Stiers as the voice of The Penguin. I do not mean this as an insult to the memory of Mr. Stiers, but my reaction to his Penguin is not favorable. Stiers uses his Cogsworth voice from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and I do not understand the motivation behind the change. Bruce Timm has stated that writer/producer Alan Burnett felt the character needed more of a “mob boss” type of voice, but I don’t understand how this voice is superior to Williams’ performance given that direction. Timm has been too polite to say what most fans probably felt, but I think he agrees with the sentiment that Williams should have returned.

cherie

The musician Cherie gets to have a cameo in the Iceberg Lounge.

Lolita Ritmanis handled the score for the film. It makes use of Shirley Walker’s Batman theme while also going off and doing it’s own thing. There’s liberal use of a saxophone in the opening segment almost giving this film a Lupin feel at times. Once it gets going, the score largely blends in with the rest of the BTAS feel, though it’s certainly distinctive on its own. The only exception being the use of the licensed track “Betcha Neva” by Cherie, which was taken from her debut album. The song is played during a part that takes place inside Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge with Cherie essentially voicing the performer who is singing the song, even though it’s just her track that’s played. The sequence feels a bit odd for the film, but it does feature some of the best animation in the film in a brief shot of patrons dancing. The song is returned for the closing credits. It gives the film more of a feature feel to it, but in that inauthentic sort of way a lot of features are guilty of when bringing something from television to the big screen.

Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman is ultimately an entertaining ride. The 75 minutes runtime is appropriate for the story, and while it could have held onto the mystery a touch longer, it handles that aspect of the plot well. There’s some solid action pieces, but the presentation is very much in line with what the show produced making it a little disappointing in that regard. And while it seemed to promise a willingness to address some of the things left unexplained in between The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond, it ultimately revealed very little making the whole thing feel very inconsequential. It’s less a grand finale for the show as it apparently just wanted to give fans a chance to live in this world one final time. And if that is all it was going for then it turned out fine. It’s not at all comparable to Mask of the Phantasm, but it’s comparable in quality to SubZero.

bane carlton

This film may or not may not depict Batman’s final confrontation with Bane.

Unfortunately, Mystery of the Batwoman was basically the lone holdout when Batman: The Animated Series was released as a Blu Ray set in 2018. The entire television series plus the other two films were included, but this one was strangely left out. It’s even odder because the film was already available on Blu Ray so it’s not as if it needed a new transfer. Perhaps there were licensing issues due to the Cherie song as it’s odd to leave this, and Chase Me, out of that set. Nonetheless, if you wish to view it yourself you have options. The film was released on both DVD and Blu Ray and it’s also available for paid streaming. The DVD, which I have, is old enough that it came in a snapback case and contains satisfactory visuals. There are some odd scanlines on parts of the image and I’m curious if that is corrected on the HD release. Neither is particularly expensive, so if you wish to own it (and if you already own the entire series you might as well) I’d say go for the Blu Ray as it’s likely a little better to look at and is probably presented in the proper aspect ratio.

This essentially wraps up our look at the complete Batman: The Animated Series. This blog is about to switch over to The Christmas Spot so it’s also the last Batman content for a little while. I will be back in the new year to share my thoughts on the series as a whole before moving onto one of my favorite exercises – ranking! Yes, after viewing all 109 episodes we need to decide which is the best the series produced. And following that, I’m not sure where this blog will take me. Batman Beyond is out there and certainly in play, but after 112 weeks of Batman coverage I may need to take a little break from the guy for a bit.

 


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 – “The Ultimate Thrill”

the ultimate thrillEpisode Number:  11 (96)

Original Air Date:  September 14, 1998

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Hilary J. Bader

First Appearance:  Roxy Rocket

Episode 11 brings us to the second season premiere of The New Batman Adventures. Even though the first season contained 13 episodes, this one was held back. My guess is Warner ordered the full series right away and just elected to air them in whatever order they were received or whatever made the most sense. As for why this one was given the prestigious spot of season premiere, that I cannot say. I can see why maybe the network wanted to juggle the order of these episodes some as this one is yet another Batman/Batgirl pairing meaning Robin and Nightwing have been MIA for quite a few weeks now. That part I get, but I’m surprised the network would go with a debuting villain for the season premiere. Maybe they thought highly of Roxy Rocket – who knows?

Roxy Rocket is a villain that was sort-of made for television. I say sort of because she was actually first created for the Batman Adventures comic, which was a tie-in with the animated series. Bruce Timm and Paul Dini apparently saw something in the character that made them want to bring her to television, though not enough to actually write the episode themselves. I don’t mind the new blood, but Roxy is a bit of an odd one. Her look would have fit in quite well with the dark-deco look of the prior series, but in this more modern one she looks out of place. She reminds me of The Rocketeer, just minus the helmet. And instead of a jetpack, she straddles a big old rocket. Yes, there’s going to be some suggestive elements to this character making Roxy Rocket possibly our horniest villain yet, not that there’s stiff competition for that title (pun, intended).

roxys getaway

Roxy is a villain who is all about taking risks.

The episode begins aboard a zeppelin, once again, something that would have fit with the style of the previous series, but not so much with this one. This is some kind of luxury airship full of wealthy party-goers, and Roxy Rocket (Charity James) is here to rob them. She’s holding up the patrons and collecting valuables. She’s in a rather jovial mood as she doesn’t even get upset when one woman can’t get her ring off, though Roxy claims it’s a fake. She snags a large, red, brooch off another woman then takes off by simply jumping out of the zeppelin.

As she falls through Gotham’s eerie red sky, a police helicopter spies her. Apparently they either know about the robbery, or they’ve been tracking her for awhile. They basically decide to wait for her to go splat, but Roxy has other ideas. Activating a beacon on her watch causes her rocket to show just as she disappears below the tallest buildings. As she jets off in celebratory fashion, one of the cops opens fire from the helicopter (this seems really reckless on his part). Roxy returns fire with some kind of gas canister gun which goes through the windshield taking out the helicopter.

roxy meets batman

That’s a pretty solid way to introduce yourself to Batman.

The problem of the police may be solved, but another has just arrived in the form of the Batwing. Batman is behind the controls and Roxy seems positively delighted by this turn of events. As she makes quips and zips about, she remarks old Batman doesn’t have the right tools for the job. They play a little game of chicken in a tunnel, and Batman is the one who blinks. His Batwing has sustained some significant damage, and this allows Roxy to get away calling out to him, “Thanks for the first date. I’ll call ya!”

As Batman maneuvers the plane out to sea, Alfred pops up on the radio. Batman lets him know the wing is badly damaged and he doesn’t know if he can keep the thing airborne. He flies it toward a cliffside, which just so happens to be where the entrance to the Batcave is. He’s able to steer the Batwing into the tight opening and we get a little look at how this thing is setup. Like an aircraft carrier, a series of cables are used to slow the Batwing down and bring it to a stop. Once it does stop, Alfred is there to remark he’s taking the costs for repairs to the plane out of Bruce’s allowance. Batman is not amused.

sleuthing in the batcave

Alfred and Batgirl will take whatever screen time they can get in this one.

Batman then turns to his computer to give us the rundown on just who Roxy Rocket is. It turns out she used to be a stuntwoman by the name of Roxanne Sutton. When the stunts got too dangerous, no one would insure her putting an end to that career. Roxy then did what any sane person would do and turned to a life of crime to get her rocks off. Batgirl is here as well to give her two cents and even make a playful remark towards Batman’s way about Roxy now getting a taste for him, which he doesn’t appear to appreciate. Batman remarks she’ll need a fence to unload her stolen goods, which lends nicely into the next scene.

penguins play

Penguin likes Roxy for the goods she brings him, but he’d also like to wet his beak in another manner.

Roxy’s fence turns out to be an old friend:  The Penguin (Paul Williams). It would seem Penguin’s new business isn’t as straight as it seems. He’s shown having a little meeting with Roxy and remarking on her newfound stardom. Penguin pays for the goods Roxy just knocked off, and she in turn asks if he wants to go double or nothing by drawing cards. She tries instigating him into doing so, but Penguin clarifies he does not take unnecessary risks. This in turn prompts him to warn her about her risk-taking ways for he’s not about to risk his business on someone who attracts too much attention from Batman. Roxy insists Batman is worth the thrill. When Penguin tries to suggest maybe she try and get the attention of a “bird of prey,” she shoots him down causing him to wrinkle his nose at her as she departs.

roxy steals from wayne

Roxy is a stranger to subtlety.

At Wayne Enterprises, Bruce and Lucius Fox (Mel Winkler) are unveiling for the board members some new artwork the company purchased. I have no idea why Wayne Enterprises is buying art, but it serves its purpose in a moment. As Bruce questions the lax security, Fox assures him no one can get in which means that someone is about to burst in. Roxy comes flying through the glass window, and I mean through, and she’s after the artwork. She grabs it and is delighted that it’s small enough to fit in her saddle bag. She doesn’t intend to just rip off some art though as she puts some cartridge into the end of her gun that has a Batman logo on it. When she fires it into the sky it explodes in a pattern of lights resembling the Batman signal, and sure enough here comes Batman. Bruce has either gotten really bold at this quick change thing, or Dick is impersonating him again (see The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne), for him to get there so fast. And since his plane is messed up, he’s got a fancy new jetpack to show off.

batman in pursuit

Batman with yet another toy to show off.

Roxy leads Batman on a chase throughout Gotham with a large part of it taking place in a tunnel once again, only this time amongst automobile traffic. She pulls a Maverick move out of her bag of tricks by hitting the brakes causing Batman to sail right past her and into a Farmer Brown truck (that will pay off slightly in a future episode). Roxy once more gains the upper hand, but Batman is able to hit her rocket with a Batarang causing it to short out. She dumps it in an unfinished building and flees to the top of the steel beams. Batman soon joins her and suggests she give up. She responds by tossing the artwork which was remarkably spared being damaged during her crash. Batman is forced to jump after it (maybe he had yet to insure it) leaving him hanging from one of the beams. Roxy blows him a kiss and presses a button on her wrist-thingy once again which causes her rocket to explode. Using the explosion as cover, she jumps from the building to land on an oversized balloon below to once again make her escape.

With Batman foiled once again, he’s in need of some good news and he gets it. Batgirl calls him on his cell, apparently, to tell him she’s figured out who Roxy’s fence is:  The Penguin. This leads us back to Penguin’s club where he’s none too pleased with Roxy and her reckless ways. Roxy doesn’t see the harm in having some fun, but Penguin makes it clear he considers her a loose end at this point. Deciding she isn’t worth the trouble, he pulls his umbrella on her. Normally, such an action wouldn’t seem all that threatening, but considering this is The Penguin an umbrella takes on a whole other meaning. As he prepares to off her, she tries reasoning with him and even resorts to a, “but I thought you liked me.” Penguin does, but he’s a pretty cold and ruthless business man. Before he can shoot her though, she kicks the umbrella out of his hands and flips over a railing into the sealion pool behind her.

penguin mad

He may look harmless, but Penguin isn’t really someone you want to piss off.

Roxy darts across floating chunks of ice avoiding Penguin’s fire. She eventually falls into the water and the sealions pounce. Penguin lowers his head remarking his way would have been much cleaner, but then Roxy emerges once again now riding a sealion as if it was her rocket. She manages to reach a glacier where she takes cover as Penguin’s umbrella is apparently switched to fully automatic mode. Having spent all of his ammo in a futile attempt to kill Roxy, Penguin can only watch as she uses a grappling hook to swing over the water and to the ceiling narrating her own escape. As Roxy vanishes, Penguin orders his minions (all women who look like Playboy Mansion rejects) to go after her and kill her, though in his usual poetic way.

penguins gun

Penguin with an actual gun? This feels wrong.

Penguin is shown freshening up in his penthouse. He’s in his robe and apparently ready to retire for the evening, but a shadowy figure lurks behind him. Batman makes his presence known and demands to know where Roxy Rocket is. Penguin back peddles towards his umbrella canister as Batman produces a ring. It’s one of the items Roxy stole from the zeppelin earlier and he found it in Penguin’s coat. As Penguin questions whether or not Batman is in possession of a search warrant, he steps on a lever on the umbrella canister and up pops….a machine gun? It would seem Penguin isn’t always in the mood for theatrics, as he catches the gun and opens fire on Batman. He only manages to lay waste to his beautiful furniture as Batman takes him out for some fresh air. Dangling him over the balcony, Penguin can only smile sheepishly as Batman suggests they have a little talk.

At an airplane hangar, three of Penguin’s girls are shown snooping around. Roxy is inside the hangar and she has several extra rockets in there. As the trio sneak around, Roxy pops out of the hangar to take one out. She plays with them a bit before knocking the other two into a biplane. She hits the lever on it and it takes off down the runway as Batman arrives in the Batmobile. He ignores the plane as it crashes into a water tower and we see the two occupants in a pool of water coughing, so apparently they’re fine.

Batman heads off into the hangar after Roxy and comes face to face with the front end of her rocket. He ducks out of the way as she blasts off through the hangar door to apparent freedom. Or so she thinks. Batman hops on one of her other rockets and takes off after her. This is actually a pretty risky maneuver since we know Roxy can control her rockets via her wrist device. Luckily for Batman, she apparently doesn’t feel like causing it to self-destruct with him on it. This is, after all, a game to her as she calls back to him “I love a man with staying power!” Yup, things are about to get a little blue.

roxy vs batman

So it’s come to this, Batman and Roxy face to face on a speeding death trap.

Roxy leads Batman on a chase into a canyon area. Remarking it’s “the third act climax,” she shoots Batman’s rocket down forcing him from it. He uses his grapple gun to get ahold of her rocket, which causes her to take him on a trip through some trees. Roxy thinks she lost him, but Batman pulls himself up and onto her rocket. She seems impressed as she tosses her jacket in his face. Turning around so that they’re face to face, Roxy explains the game to come. They’re now over water, and she tells Batman he can jump into it and maybe get off without injury. Or, he can stay on and smash into the canyon up ahead. When Batman remarks she will too, she confirms that’s the game as the two prepare to play another game of chicken.

Batman stares at her and crosses his arms, while Roxy smiles back. Eventually, she starts to grow concerned as Batman remains stoic. Roxy then shyly turns to press something on her control panel, but Batman grabs her wrist. Taunting her about seeking the ultimate thrill, Roxy at first appears worried. Then her smile returns and she gives him an “Oh baby!” As the rocket gets closer to annihilation, Batman grabs her and she starts wailing “Yes! Yes!” like that infamous scene from When Harry Met Sally. Batman pulls her off the rocket and to safety as it crashes while Roxy apparently enjoys herself. As the two fall towards the ground, she confesses she always knew it would end this way, and seems really content. When Batman pulls a parachute, she looks sad. As they land, she remarks they’ll live to play another day, but is then dismayed when Batman slaps some cuffs on her. He lets her know she lost, and this one ends somewhat abruptly right there.

roxys o

What I assume to be Roxy’s “O” face.

“The Ultimate Thrill” is certainly a cheeky one. Roxy Rocket is almost too much as the thrill-seeking villain of the hour. She’s rather one note, which I supposes makes her a decent one-off kind of villain. The show definitely pushed some boundaries as far as standards and practices go. While some of the suggestive language would fly over the head of younger viewers, there were probably a few parents who overheard Roxy’s climax and went to check on what their kids were watching. It certainly caught me by surprise the first time I saw this one, but voice actor Charity James seemed to have fun with it.

Batgirl was in this one, but only barely. This ended up being pretty much a Batman solo adventure. Combine that with the old school aesthetics of Roxy’s costume and the zeppelin scene and this one has a nice Batman: The Animated Series feel to it. I prefer my Batman solo, so this isn’t a problem in my book, but other viewers might be disappointed at the lack of heroes in it.

Roxy Rocket is indeed a one and done villain for this show. There’s enough to her personality that it wouldn’t have bothered me if she showed up again. And unlike the new take on Catwoman, Roxy actually does possess a certain amount of sex appeal to go along with her flirtatious attitude. Maybe it’s the bulky costume, but she doesn’t look like a kid with a giant head as so many of Gotham’s females do in this show. She does reappear in an episode of Superman called “Knight Time,” which actually aired about a month after this episode. Maybe that’s why this one was held over until season two so it could air closer to that episode. It was also nice to see Penguin wetting his beak, once again. His business is apparently fine at the end of this one, aside from being in need of some repairs, and we’ll hear from him again.


The New Batman Adventures – “Joker’s Millions”

Jokers-MillionsEpisode Number:  7 (92)

Original Air Date:  February 21, 1998

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Paul Dini

First Appearance:  None

After starring in a segment of the series premiere, “Holiday Knights,” The Joker (Mark Hamill) returns to helm his own stand-alone episode. And for the first time, our little feature on this show is running up against continuity from the other DC Animated Universe show at the time – Superman. In the three part episode “World’s Finest,” Joker arrives in Metropolis to accept a contract from Lex Luther that would have paid him one billion dollars if he could kill Superman. He fails, and old Bats is partly responsible as this was the first crossover event for the two super heroes.

Joker had gone to Metropolis because he was having money problems back home. Considering he failed at taking out Superman, his woes have continued. Here we find a broke Joker taking unnecessary risks in order to acquire more cash to finance his unique lifestyle. These risks naturally put him at odds with Batman and the other vigilantes of Gotham. “Joker’s Millions” is based on a comic of the same name from 1952 and also shares some similarities with the 1985 film Brewster’s Millions. It’s largely a comedy piece, as Joker episodes tend to stray in that direction, only this time more so than usual.

The episode opens with Joker and Harley (Arleen Sorkin) robbing what appears to be an electronic’s convention or museum. Joker is seen running around decked out in a new purple trench coat and hat blasting away as civilians run around screaming. Joker is running from Batman and Batgirl and he doesn’t appear to be having his usual good time, especially when Batman lands a punch on his jaw. He runs out of ammo and soon comes across Harley who’s racing around as well. She informs him they’re all out of bullets forcing Joker into a game of fisticuffs with Batman, which he loses. He’s able to fool Batman and Batgirl momentarily after taking a hit to the eye. He lets out a scream and lets a fake eye hit the ground which soon explodes providing the duo enough of a cover to escape.

harley and joker flee


Harley is a bit irritated with Joker’s money problems.

Outside, Harley and Joker are shown speeding away in a rather mundane looking getaway car. As the two flee, they soon realize they forgot the cash they just attempted to steal and soon run out of gas. When Joker admonishes Harley for not filling the tank like he told her to, she responds that they’re broke and asks what she was supposed to do – fill the tank and then shoot the guy?! Joker responds with an emphatic “Yes!” as Harley bemoans their situation. Batman and the cops soon arrive and Joker is forced to eject. Unfortunately for Harley, he could only afford one ejector seat and she’s left behind to get arrested.

joker's inheritance


Joker gets the good news.

Joker is then shown arriving at the Chelsea Arms apartment building. It’s looking a lot worse from when we first saw it in “Double Talk.” Joker walks in and gets his mail while the super complains about his rent being late. He heads inside a rather dilapidated looking apartment and is greeted by his pet hyenas, Bud and Lou. Joker settles down on the couch and reads the letter the super gave him which informs him that a crime boss he never cared for, King Barlow, has passed on. Joker is amused to know this, but then grows excited when he finds out Barlowe has left him his entire fortune valued at 250 million dollars!

We then see a brief montage of sorts where Joker is shown using his new found wealth to hire some fancy lawyers to clear his name framed as a news piece. One is clearly a parody of Johnnie Cochran who offers up the line “If a man’s filled with glee, that man must go free!” A psychiatrist is also interviewed who claims he’s tested Joker rigorously and found he’s no longer a danger to society. When the interviewer points out the accusation that Joker is just bribing doctors and lawyers to say what he wants, the man insists such a notion is preposterous. As he does, the camera pans out to reveal the doctor is driving a fancy new car. This gag feels like something we would have seen on Animaniacs. The segment ends at the Batcave with Batgirl wondering if Joker will now go straight since he’s got plenty of money. Batman can only growl in response as he snaps some expensive looking object in half.

Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon are shown standing in line waiting to get into a swanky new club:  The Iceberg Lounge. The club is owned by none other than The Penguin (Paul Williams), making his first appearance with his new redesign. Penguin had previously been modeled after the version of the character seen in Batman Returns, but for The New Batman Adventures he’s been restored to his classic look which is that of a short, rotund, man with a long nose. He emerges from the club to say they’ve reached capacity forcing Barbara to use her status as the commissioner’s daughter to gain entry with Dick. Penguin, apparently wanting to keep the cops off of his back, acquiesces though not happily.

joker and new penguin


A more dignified Penguin on display.

Inside we see Joker seated at a table ordering food and drink. The club is massive and has an ice theme going on with a gigantic pool in its center inhabited by seals. Penguin shows up to Joker’s table to toast the old rogue to his good fortune and adding that living well is the best means of revenge when it comes to getting back at Batman. Dick and Barbara watch from their table almost in awe of what they’re witnessing. The party is soon crashed by some gun-wielding dudes. One of them had been shown previously as part of the news report on Joker’s inheritance. He was the bodyguard for Barlowe and was perplexed why the crime boss left Joker everything, considering he hated Joker, and left his beloved bodyguard with nothing. He’s come to take what he feels is rightfully is.

As Joker is held up, Batgirl and Nightwing make the save proving they are incredibly quick at changing into costume. A Nightwing shuriken strikes the former bodyguard in the back and sticks in there while another gets booted into the seal pool. These seals are apparently quite violent as they attack the man immediately. Joker applauds the two heroes and even tries to pay them a tip for looking after him. They crumple up the offering in their fists and drop it on the floor causing Joker to howl with laughter.

joker limo


Joker living the good life.

We then go into another montage of Joker enjoying his wealth. He’s bought a new mansion and is having it painted purple, enjoying some time on the golf course at the expense of Bruce Wayne, and is shown riding around in a limo tossing money out the back to a crowd of people chasing after him. Harley watches all of this on a television set in Arkham and is enjoying it thoroughly. When Ivy (Diane Pershing) questions why she’s so happy to see her old beau enjoying his wealth she responds because she’s certain he’ll come bust her out any day now. Ivy then shows her a full-page ad in the newspaper she’s reading which was placed by the Joker. It seems he’s looking for a new henchwoman, and Harley reacts to this in the only way she could be expected to.

Joker is then shown auditioning for his opening. Several individuals in Harley costumes are lined up as Joker dresses them down:  too fat, too old, too short, etc. One is clearly modeled after Paul Dini and Joker doesn’t even really dignify the poor sap with a response. He soon settles on a new Harley, who looks like the old one only taller and a bit more curvaceous. This new Harley (Maggie Wheeler) is a bit slow and mistakenly refers to Joker as Mr. G. She’s happy to have the job though and Joker is happy to have something to look at. Meanwhile, the real Harley is trying to escape Arkham via the laundry chute, but she just ends up trapped in a washing machine which is turned on.

paul dini quinn


Sadly, he didn’t get the job.

Joker is about to find out he has a new problem though. A man from the IRS shows up to inform Joker he owes them quite a bit of cash as part of an inheritance tax. The sum is around 140 million, and Joker is surprisingly panicky about having the IRS on his case. He even tells one of his henchmen he’d much rather have to deal with Batman than old Uncle Sam. As he and his crew start filling bags with stacks of bills to pay off the debt, Fake Harley notices something strange about the money. Joker takes a closer look and notices the face of one Ben Franklin is missing from his hundreds, replaced by the ugly smirk of King Barlowe. He soon finds a video tape buried under the cash and is forced to put it on.

The tape is a recording of Barlowe (Allan Rich) himself from his hospital bed informing Joker that he’s been had. He only left Joker 10 million bucks, and he guesses that by the time Joker found this tape he had already blown through it. The other cash and assorted valuables are all fake, and he has a good laugh at Joker’s expense for he knows the clown is much too prideful to admit he’s been made the butt of a joke. Joker is understandably irate at the revelation, and quickly starts trying to think of a way to make back some money. When henchman Ernie (Sam McMurray) suggests he repeat his laughing fish scheme, he yells at him for such a thing would alert Batman that he’s returned to crime. He needs to acquire cash using a method he’s never been good at:  subtlety.

fke joker


Not Joker.

Bruce Wayne is shown at Penguin’s club. Penguin greets him briefly, and Wayne soon spies Joker alone at his table. He approaches to have a chat and Joker suggests he doesn’t recognize him. Wayne reminds him he recently threw him off a building (referencing the events of “World’s Finest” again) and Joker seems flustered. The voice may be right, but this is clearly not Joker as his conventional eyes give it away. He mops at the sweat on his forehead revealing a normal flesh-color below the white makeup and retreats to the restroom. Inside, we see it’s actually Ernie posing as Joker and as he frets about trying to keep up this charade Batman shows up to confront him in a bathroom stall. He begins his interrogation, while Penguin listens from outside. He’s prepared to put a stop to this poor treatment of his patron by Batman, but a growl from Batman and a flushing toilet convinces him otherwise.

batman john


Well, at least if the sight of Batman caused Ernie to mess himself he was in the right place.

We’re then shown a bunch of odd looking armored cars as they drive onto a ferry. They’re gray and rather blocky and frequently their doors disappear in what is easily the shoddiest piece of animation I’ve come across in this series. The occupants of the vehicles step out and are confronted by some shadowy individuals with guns. These guns are packed with gas that knocks them out and Joker emerges from the shadows sporting a ship captain’s hat. Fake Harley is steering the vessel, as Joker soon turns his attention to the money inside.

joker captured again


Joker’s fun appears to be done.

The ship rocks causing Joker to bark out at Harley, but things are about to get worse as Batman, Batgirl, and Nightwing show up. The fight is surprisingly brief, and Joker finds his feet bound by a rope from Batgirl as he teeters on the edge of the ship. She thinks he’s trying to save some money that blew away over the side of the ship, but Joker corrects her by informing her he just wants to go with it. Batman pulls him back onto the ship and in a parting shot flips him a quarter and tells him to go call his fancy lawyers.

On shore, the cops take it from here. Joker is loaded into a police wagon in shackles and he seems to be in an all right mood. He remarks it will be good to see the old gang again as a female cop looks on from inside the back of the wagon with him. She soon leans into the light and reveals to Mr. J she ain’t no cop, but rather Harley Quinn. Joker is a bit concerned by this development and tries to play it cool, but as the wagon drives away we can hear the sounds of Harley wailing on Joker with a nightstick to bring this one to a conclusion.

harleys revenge


In an episode that’s basically all about comedy, it’s Harley who gets the last laugh.

“Joker’s Millions” is a very comedic episode of Batman. There’s the show’s trademark violence on display as Batman lands some solid blows on Joker early on, but most of the scenes are practically slapstick in nature. It is a bit amusing to see Joker out of cash and then to see him go on a spending spree. It’s also interesting to see him use money to essentially buy his freedom and go straight, even though it doesn’t necessarily fit the character. I suppose we can hand wave this one though as being short term. Had Joker really inherited all of that money he likely would have eventually returned to crime as just living a wealthy life would likely grow stale for old Mr. J. Likewise, the scenes of Harley from Arkham are all played for laughs, with the washing machine gag being especially cartoonish in nature.

Because so much of the episode is spent with Joker, there’s actually very little for the heroes to do. Wayne just happens to be in the right place at the right time to find the fake Joker, so there’s little detective work on display. As was the case with “Riddler’s Reform,” Batman just doesn’t buy Joker being reformed and essentially is harassing him by keeping tabs on him. It was fun to see the new Penguin on display though. I’m a bit surprised they didn’t recast him considering the drastic change to his appearance, but that would also be no reason to get rid of a fine voice actor like Paul Williams.

Ultimately, this episode is fine. While I look forward to something a bit more menacing from Joker given the new standards of the show, an occasional comedy episode is okay. And if you’re going to have a comedy episode, why not feature The Joker? It’s a bit hard to believe that Joker could ever be out of money, or that being out of cash would be a problem for him, though it’s also even more unlikely he could rent an apartment anywhere. I’ll ignore that though, just like the episode basically is asking me to ignore the fact that Harley and Joker have once again patched things up offscreen. Their relationship is combative here, and I think that’s what can be expected going forward. The nice thing is that Harley now gives as good as she gets so things don’t seem so one-sided anymore.

We’re actually not going to hear a lot from Joker during this run of the series. He’ll be mentioned in a few episodes, and his likeness shows up in the anthology episode “Legends of the Dark Knight.” His next outing is actually a flashback in the episode “Old Wounds” and his real next episode isn’t until episode 21, the classic “Mad Love.” Too much Joker is obviously not a good thing, but I have a feeling I’m going to wish there was a bit more of him.

 


Batman: The Animated Series – “Second Chance”

second chance cardEpisode Number:  80

Original Air Date:  September 17, 1994

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Paul Dini, Michael Reaves, Gerry Conway

First Appearance(s):  None

 

When Two-Face debuted back in his self-titled two-parter it made a big impact on me as a child. I really had never seen something comparable to a just character getting maimed and falling into a depression. The dual personality and all of the style wrapped in the character was equally fascinating and I felt genuine sympathy for Harvey Dent. It may have even been my first experience of not knowing who to root for:  the hero or the villain.

Two-Face’s introduction was almost done too well. His plight was clear, but it would be hard to sustain; perhaps even impossible. As a result, Harvey’s fiancé, Grace, never resurfaced and that hopeful ending was ignored. When Two-Face would come back to tangle with Batman he was just a conventional villain with a gimmick. It was a shame to see him brought to this, but I suppose the alternative was to either reform him or place him in therapy for the remainder of the series.

surgery prep

Harvey’s getting some work done.

“Second Chance” is the first episode since “Two-Face” to really tackle the villain from the same angle he was originally approached from. Harvey is getting a second chance at being Harvey Dent. When the episode begins he’s being brought, by the police, to a hospital for a procedure to try and repair the damage done to his face in that accident from season one. Batman and Robin are there to watch over the proceedings and to also introduce a flashback to Dent’s accident, in case anyone forgot.

As the procedure begins, a surgeon who reminds me of Leslie Thompkins, but is actually Dr. Nora Crest (Linda Gray), speaks enthusiastically to Harvey as she administers the anesthesia for surgery. Dent (Richard Moll) is lucid and shares the detail that Bruce Wayne is paying for the surgery. He refers to him as Good Old Bruce and shares a story of their earlier days hitting the Half Moon Club before passing out. Batman and Robin watch from a conveniently place skylight as masked thugs break in. They open fire on the surgical team and make it clear they’re here for Dent. One of the thugs remarks he’s not to be roughed up, as the boss wants to handle that task himself, as they haul him out.

Batman tries to fire his grapple-gun through the skylight, but it bounces off the glass harmlessly. He and Robin then head to cut the crooks off before they can escape. They evade Batman and Robin and manage to get Dent out of the hospital. They pile into two vehicles:  a sedan and a truck. The vehicles flee in opposite directions, and Batman and Robin are forced to split up. Robin tails the sedan, while Batman goes after the truck via the Batcycle. Robin tries to stop the sedan, but they give him the shake. Meanwhile, Batman gets nearly flattened by a tanker-truck on his bike, but manages to keep his target in sight. The crooks exit the freeway and nearly lose Batman who misses the turn. Rather than give up, Batman launches his bike off the overpass and crashes down on top of the truck. When he looks inside, he finds only two of the crooks and no Harvey.

two-face kidnapped

Batman and Robin fail once again.

Batman and Robin regroup and Batman theorizes there are two individuals who have a vendetta against Two-Face:  Rupert Thorne and The Penguin. Robin apologizes for losing his target, and really he kind of needs to at this point as he’s been pretty ineffective the last few episodes. Batman says, some-what curtly, “I’m sure you did your best,” and Robin takes offense. He says he’ll check in on Thorne, while Batman apologizes saying this one is personal and hard on him. Robin leaves the Batmobile while Batman presumably heads for The Penguin.

Robin is shown on the roof of Thorne’s home. He watches through a skylight (I seriously can’t stress this enough:  criminals of Gotham, get rid of all of the skylights) and pulls out a glass cutter and goes to work. As he does so a gun is placed between his shoulder blades and he’s ordered to get up by Frankie (Matt Landers), one of Thorne’s men. Robin says nothing and stuffs the glass cutter in his glove as he stands with his arms up. The sentry takes him inside to show him to his boss. Rupert Thorne (John Vernon) seems amused by Robin’s presence as he heats up a fire poker in his fireplace, in case he needs it. Robin is tied to a chair and he tells him that Harvey Dent was kidnapped. Thorne laughs off the thought that he would have done it, while admitting there’s no love lost between the two. He then orders his men to do to Robin what he planned to do to Dent and the two men haul him away.

robin tossed

Robin’s going for a swim.

Thorne’s men take Robin to a bridge. In the trunk of the car, Robin works at cutting his restraints with the glass cutter but doesn’t finish the job. As the two men haul him out, Frankie goes on and on about how he used to fish here, but now can’t, because of the pollution. Ever after they toss Robin off of the bridge he continues sharing his thoughts on the environmental tragedy. As Robin falls, he’s able to break free of the rope on his hands and fires a grapple-gun to the top of the bridge. He then swings in striking our environmentally cautious goon as he was sitting down in the car and the force pushes both men out the driver’s side knocking them unconscious.

penguin and birds

The Penguin seems to be enjoying his incarceration.

At Stonegate Penitentiary, Batman is able to find The Penguin’s (Paul Williams) cell. Inside the stout villain has a pigeon coop and is tending to his flock. Batman stands on a ledge outside the window and questions The Penguin about the events from earlier in the evening. We as viewers know about Thorne and Dent’s relationship, but not of Penguin and Two-Face’s. Apparently Two-Face stole something out from under The Penguin’s nose recently, and while it did anger him, The Penguin insists he would never pull such an act of revenge against a fellow rogue – honor among thieves. He then tosses a bird in Batman’s face and soon all of the pigeons start harassing him causing him to lose his footing. Penguin tries to get the attention of a patrolling guard outside, but by the time a light is shone in his direction Batman is gone.

Batman and Robin then return to the scene of the crime as their only leads proved fruitless. They sport some nifty goggles that make them look like Cyclops from the X-Men as they examine the room in infrared. Batman finds footprints from the assailants and masonry dust within them. This is enough of a lead. He announces he knows who took Dent, but also that he needs to do this alone. As he leaves, Robin gives him a pretty nasty look behind his back like most teenagers would.

kidnapper revealed

The true kidnapper revealed.

Batman then shows up at a demolition site. It’s a rather large building called the Half-Moon Club, the same club from Dent’s story about he and Wayne from earlier, and way up by the top is where he finds the man who kidnapped Harvey Dent:  Two-Face. Dent’s Two-Face persona would never allow the procedure to go through and Batman seems embarrassed he didn’t realize it sooner. Two-Face’s men then capture Batman, and as they chain him to a wrecking ball Two-Face explains that he could never let Dent destroy him and that he needed to teach him some respect. He also explains he has dynamite rigged to the wrecking-ball he just tied Batman to and that Batman’s fate is now tied to his coin. Two-Face flips his signature item and Batman demands he let it hit the ground so he can see the result. Two-Face obliges, but is shocked to see the coin land on its edge. He flips it again and the same phenomena repeats. Two-Face starts to panic, while his men seem to decide on their own this is silly and open fire on Batman. They fail to hit Batman, as they always do, but manage to damage the bomb and electricity starts arcing from it.

Batman gets out of his restraints and swings down to take out the thugs leaving only Two-Face who is chasing his rolling coin around. He ends up out on a steel beam and as the coin rolls off the edge so too does Two-Face. He manages to grab the coin, while Batman gets ahold of him. Batman confesses he switched out Two-Face’s coin with a gimmicked one that will alway land on its edge. He needs Two-Face to drop the coin (apparently that suit has no pockets) and give him his other hand so he can help him up. With Batman distracted, the other thugs prepare to take him out, meanwhile the dynamite is getting ready to blow as the electricity from the detonator gets nearer and nearer to the actual explosives. Robin swings in to take out the thugs before they can shoot Batman from behind and deposits them in an elevator shaft.

frustrated two-face

Two-Face feels betrayed by his coin.

With that danger averted, there’s still the matter of the dynamite and Two-Face’s precarious position. Two-Face reluctantly lets the coin fall, and as he reaches for Batman he pauses and shouts, “Never!” He takes a swing at him instead causing Batman to lose his grip on Two-Face’s other hand. He jumps off the building after him and as he catches up to him he fires his grapple-gun as the dynamite explodes.

We’re then taken to Arkham Asylum. Two-Face, having survived the fall, is being led back into the facility in shackles. As he heads in, Bruce Wayne approaches. Dent looks at him, the shadows hiding his bad side, and remarks how Bruce has never given up on him. Bruce just smiles and places a hand reassuringly on Dent’s shoulder before the police lead him inside. Dick is there too and remarks that Harvey is lucky to have someone looking out for him. Bruce places an arm around Dick and says he’s lucky he’s always got Dick to be there for him.

old friends

A sweet ending to go out on.

“Second Chance” adds to the tragedy that is Harvey Dent and Two-Face. It’s perhaps melodramatic, but it is satisfying and the ending is rather sweet. As a viewer, it’s frustrating to see Dent blow his second chance, but his condition is something that can’t be cured so easily. The status quo is maintained by the episode’s end, but it was still a compelling ride getting there. It also fooled me when I first saw it, as I didn’t figure out who was behind the kidnapping and when it was revealed I was actually quite sad. I do wonder if it would have done the same had I been older. Harvey telling his story about the Half Moon Club before going under on the operating table certainly feels like foreshadowing as this show never mentions such a detail without it meaning something. Plus it’s called the Half Moon Club which fits the Two-Face gimmick. This is also another episode where a rift between Batman and Robin is teased. That will pay-off in the sequel series, though it’s mostly brushed aside by the end of this episode.

“Second Chance” is just a really good episode. I don’t even have any criticisms to offer other than the usual which is to say the villains can’t shoot. There’s some especially bad shooting in this one, though at least with the scene in the hospital it’s plausible the kidnappers didn’t want to kill any doctors. The Penguin is shoe-horned into this one, but it’s not something I mind. It’s nice to hear from him since he’s been missing in action throughout season two. This was actually, quietly, the last appearance of the Danny DeVito-like design for the villain. Next time we see him he’ll have his classic appearance restored. This is also the final appearance of Rupert Thorne. He won’t show up in The New Batman Adventures, but he gets an encore of sorts in Mystery of the Batwoman. Given the role he played in this series, it’s surprising that this is it for him.

Where does Two-Face go from here? It would seem back to being an everyday villain. He’ll show up again, so this isn’t the last we’ll see of him, but it is the last in the original series. His redesign will actually be one of the least extreme, which is a good thing since his look for this show is pretty damn great. He’s been one of the show’s best villains though, and this is the follow-up to his debut the character deserved. It may have taken longer than expected, but the show delivered like it almost always does.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Blind as a Bat”

Blind_as_a_Bat-Title_CardEpisode Number:  59

Original Air Date:  February 22, 1993

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Len Wein and Mike Underwood

First Appearance(s):  None

I think there’s some kind of law in art that if you have a bat-related protagonist you must make use of the phrase “blind as a bat” at some point, which brings us to today’s episode. This is another Len Wein written episode and we’ve seen a few of these in the second half of the production run on season one. It makes sense that the first chunk of the season would be left to those who created the show, with the second half drawing more directly from the artists who worked with Batman previously. This episode contains no real “firsts” for the show, but it does contain some “lasts,” which we’ll get to. It’s another Penguin episode, and interestingly, with his last appearance somewhat mirroring the events of Batman Returns this one brings to mind some events from Batman ’89.

Raven_X1-11

Wayne Tech’s new murder machine.

The episode opens at an airfield demonstration for a new helicopter being unveiled. The Raven X1-11 is a specialty stealth helicopter developed by Wayne Tech as a device best equipped for reconnaissance and rescue missions due to its quiet operation and stealth capabilities. It’s not solely designed for that though as it also features impressive offensive capabilities as well. Bruce Wayne is onhand for the demonstration as Wayne Tech is presumably looking to sell the device to the US government and various military personnel are onhand as well. Dr. Lee (Haunani Minn) is leading the demonstration as a flight crew circles the area in response. Everyone seems rather impressed, though Bruce remarks he has some misgivings about creating a weapon.

The Raven is a remarkable success at everything it demonstrates. Naturally, a weapon this fine is going to attract the attention of Gotham’s less dignified individuals, and indeed it already has. The Raven starts to fire on the crowd forcing everyone to scatter. When a group of officers check in the hangar from where the Raven presumably launched from they find the crew have been tied up and left behind. A voice soon booms from the Raven and it identifies itself as The Penguin (Paul Williams). Penguin has not only hi-jacked the Raven, he’s also apparently stolen Snoopy’s World War I flying ace costume as well. Penguin and his crew, led once again by Falcone (Walter Olkewicz), fire upon the crowd once more. Dr. Lee is directly in harm’s way forcing Bruce into action. As he knocks her out of the way he emerges to hide behind a vehicle which immediately gets lit-up by the Raven and explodes. Bruce howls in pain and is sent flying to the ground. Alfred soon approaches in the limo and ushers him inside as Bruce orders him home. When Alfred questions why they aren’t heading for a hospital, Bruce explains it’s because he doesn’t want anyone to know that he can’t see.

i cant see

A disheveled Bruce realizing he can’t see.

At Wayne Manor, Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Diana Muldaur) administers to Bruce. She thinks the blindness is temporary, caused by a flash-burn to the retina of both eyes, and orders Bruce to keep his eyes covered for at least 36 hours. Bruce is adamant that he can’t be out of commission that long insisting that Batman needs to track down the Penguin. He tries to stand up and demonstrate his fitness with his head wrapped in bandages and promptly tips over a coffee table. Making matters worse, loyal butler Alfred lets him know the Bat Signal is calling for him. Man, sometimes you need to keep your mouth shut, Al.

Commissioner Gordon is puzzled when Batman fails to show, but he can’t dwell on it much longer. He’s due for a meeting with Detective Bullock and Mayor Hill, and as the three sit around discussing their next move, the Penguin contacts them. He tells them they can have their chopper back, but it will cost them $100 million. Hill is aghast at the sum, but they’re not making much progress on their own. To show he means business, Penguin takes the Raven on a joy-ride. Some teens out doing the same notice the Raven as they cruise over a suspension bridge. The Raven opens fire and takes out the cables of the bridge causing it to collapse. The teens made it off though; we can’t have any fatalities, of course.

blind bruce

Bruce is not really in any condition to do Bat stuff.

With Penguin showing no signs of slowing down, Batman is forced into action. Somehow, he convinces Leslie to craft a special device for him that will allow him to see. Using the same technology that Wayne Tech built into the Raven, she solders him a helmet with the device implants. Once Bruce puts it on, it gives him the ability to see, but only in red and black. It’s basically Virtual Boy. He demonstrates its effectiveness in the Batcave and deems it satisfactory. There’s catch to the device though; it’s a battery hog. Batman needs to keep it connected to his the battery in his belt or else it will run out quickly. It has advantages too though, like giving Batman glowing red eyes when he puts his cowl back on. He hops into the Batwing, because that’s the best vehicle for a legally blind man to go with, and hooks the device up to the console in that and takes off.

aviator penguin

Hey Penguin, Snoopy called, he wants his costume back!

Batman first drops in on the Mayor who is still meeting with Gordon and Bullock. When they ask this badass, red-eyed Batman what they should do he tells them to do exactly what Penguin wants. Hill then takes over Gotham’s television airwaves to tell Penguin they’ve agreed to his deal. Penguin receives and notes it could be a trap, but has full confidence that the radar capabilities of the Raven will let them know of that before anyone can get the drop on them. They head for the ransom location and Penguin and Falcone retrieve a briefcase in the spot they requested. It only contains a taunting note though and soon the Batwing appears in the sky. Interestingly, Penguin makes the connection that the Batwing must possess similar technology to the Raven for them to not detect it, but he fails to take it one step further and determine that the Batwing must come from Wayne Tech.

Penguin and Falcone flee in the Raven but Batman is right on top of them. He quickly takes out the Raven knocking it from the sky as Penguin and Falcone dangle from it via a rope ladder. Somehow, they survive the crash landing without any apparent injury and so does the rest of the crew. They flee to the immobile, but not defenseless, Raven. Falcone climbs into the laser canon and takes aim at a charging Batwing. Penguin is there to basically shake his fist at Batman and this is the part that reminds be of Batman ’89 as it’s very similar to Batman’s approach with The Joker. Falcone nails the Batwing, and it’s sent careening through the sky as Penguin unleashes his trademarked laughter first popularized by Burgess Meredith.

not good

That’s not good.

With the Batwing out of control, Batman is forced into a crash landing of his own outside some kind of metal refinery. As he jumps out of the Batwing before it explodes, he forgets to unplug his helmet from the console and the jack is ripped off. Batman escapes the exploding Batwing, but apparently without a spare cord. Without being able to plug his helmet into the battery on his belt, he’ll soon run out of power and lose his sight once again.

Batman stumbles into the refinery as Penguin insists that he and Falcone give chase. As they catch up to him they note how he’s not moving properly and they assume he must be injured. Inside the refinery, Batman stumbles around as his sight goes in and out and finds himself on some stairs as he’s forced to dodge Penguin’s umbrella gunfire. If Penguin just carried a more traditional weapon I bet he’d have better aim. Batman stumbles onto a conveyor belt and gets his foot lodged into it. Helpless, he gets lucky when Penguin runs out of ammo and apparently he failed to bring a reload. Falcone declares that he’ll take care of Batman and, armed with a chain, he hops onto the conveyor belt and starts swinging. Batman is able to finally extricate himself from the conveyor belt, but tumbles off the side. He’s now dangling a few stories up as Falcone stomps on his fingers. Batman is able to switch to the other side, and as Falcone bends down to try to figure out where he went, Batman is able to see his head and executes a flawless head-scissors takedown.

about to drop in

Blind, but not helpless.

Falcone crashes to the ground far below, though he rises momentarily to apparently demonstrate that the fall did not kill him. Penguin is irritated, but that last bit of juice in Batman’s device has apparently run out. He stumbles off the conveyor belt and Penguin takes note of his erratic movements. He starts making noises and watches as Batman tries to hit the origins of the sounds with bat-a-rangs. It’s enough to let Penguin know that Batman is indeed blind as a bat, and begins to taunt him. Batman proves to be blind, but not helpless, as he kicks a few barrels into Penguin. He’s able to flee down a walkway, but it ends abruptly with nothing but molten metal below. Batman fires his grapple gun into the ceiling to escape Penguin, but he’s left dangling above with no where to go. As Penguin taunts him, he notices some water dripping down onto his head. Assuming there’s a water pipe above him, Batman searches for the valve with his hands, and finding it, opens it up to drop a ton of water onto the metal below. A huge amount of steam goes up which sets the Penguin to coughing giving Batman an aural target which is all he needs to take him out.

Sadly, we’re not shown how Batman got out of that mess after he subdued Penguin. He likely would have needed some assistance getting home and presumably Alfred helped him, but how they got in touch we do not know. The next scene is simply Bruce at home with Alfred and Leslie. She’s removing the bandages she had put in place while remarking that she wishes Bruce had followed her advice which is supposed to make us a bit fearful that his eyesight is permanently damaged. When the bandages fall, Bruce flashes concern on his face which causes Alfred to recoil in fear and drop the newspaper he was holding. Bruce deftly snatches it before it can hit the floor, and lets his old friend know that his eyes are just fine. He opens the paper to see coverage of Penguin’s capture and remarks he’s never seen anything prettier.

Interestingly, “Blind as a Bat” deals with Batman losing his sight in a similar manner to another Len Wein episode, “Off-Balance.” In case you forgot, in that episode a vertigo device made it difficult for Batman to navigate a room full of traps forcing him to close his eyes. I was kind of annoyed with how well Batman was able to then dodge all of the traps without his vision, but I’m happy to say this episode doesn’t make Batman do anything particularly super human when he’s blinded. Penguin is a terrible shot, which definitely helped him survive, and the various aircraft crashes definitely go beyond the realm of plausibility. It’s also pretty ridiculous for Batman to attempt this sort of thing alone. Where’s Robin? He really doesn’t trust the Gotham PD to do anything right, apparently, for him to go out blind. This is definitely an easy episode to nit-pick, but on the whole it’s still pretty entertaining. Not really one of the best, but far from the worst.

As for those “lasts” I mentioned, this will probably surprise you, but this is the final episode in which The Penguin is a main villain. He’s going to be reduced to a few cameos for the rest of this series, but he’ll come back in a more meaningful way with The New Batman Adventures. Still voiced by Paul Williams, he’ll undergo a major redesign that sees him resemble his classic comic self. He’ll also be “reformed” in that he no longer spearheads his own criminal operations, but he’s still rather clued-in on the Gotham Underworld. Batman will drop in on him as he operates his own club to try to shake him down for information, though I’d hardly describe him as an ally to the caped crusader.

leslie helmet

This is Leslie’s final appearance in a meaningful capacity, and she even demonstrates some new skills.

This episode is also the final appearance of Batman confidant and sometimes doctor Leslie Thompkins. She’s played a pretty nice role as a link between Bruce and his parents. As one of the few people that know about Bruce’s alter-ego, she’s played a pretty important role in this show. I don’t know why they chose to not feature her in season 2. She has one, lone, cameo in The New Batman Adventures, but that’s it. She also gets a mention in the Batman Beyond film The Return of the Joker. Whatever the reason for her absence after this episode, I will say I miss the character and I enjoyed her when she showed up.


Batman: The Animated Series – “The Mechanic”

The_Mechanic_TCEpisode Number:  55

Original Air Date:  January 24, 1993

Directed by:  Kevin Altieri

Written by:  Steve Perry, Laren Bright, Randy Rogel

First Appearance(s):  Earl Cooper

Last week we got a little peek into Bruce Wayne’s past before he became Batman. This week, we’re getting a peek at Batman’s past and how he came to possess his most wonderful of toys:  the Batmobile. For seemingly as long as there has been a Batman, there has been a Batmobile and it has almost always been awesome. Sure, everyone likely has their own favorite Batmobile (the 60s one can’t be topped in terms of aesthetics), but they’re all pretty awesome in their own right. This episode is also going to borrow rather heavily from Batman Returns. The Penguin (Paul Williams) is included and he’s going to basically utilize the same scheme that he had in that film in this episode, but with a few wrinkles in how the setup occurs. We’re also at another milestone for the series and this feature, as episode 55 marks the halfway point. Including The New Batman Adventures, 109 episodes were produced so technically the halfway point is the middle of this episode.

The_Mechanic_Crunch

That’s not going to be a cheap repair bill.

The episode opens with Batman and Robin in hot pursuit of The Penguin’s thugs Eagleton (John De Lancie) and Falcone (Walter Olkewicz)(I don’t think this is the same Falcone featured in Batman Begins). They can’t escape and their bullets do nothing to the Batmobile forcing the criminals to take drastic measures. They attempt to beat a diving bridge by going below the lowering slab and crashing onto a boat below. Batman and Robin aren’t so lucky and the Batmobile gets caught in-between the divider and the bridge proper doing a number on the Batmobile in the process. Batman remarks that someone named Earl is going to have his work cut-out for him.

The Batmobile was apparently still drivable after the collision with the bridge and Batman is able to get it to a garage run by Earl Cooper (Paul Winfield). Earl is apparently Batman’s mechanic and he tells him he’ll take care of it. The Batmobile will be out of commission of course so Batman and Robin leave via Batcycles to presumably go after Penguin’s men.

earl and marva

Earl and Marva survey the damage.

At Penguin’s sewer lair, the rotund crime boss is raving mad that his men stole the wrong stamps he requested. While he’s fuming, Falcone brings in an associate of his, a fellow by the name of Arnold Rundle (Steve Franken). Rundle has made an interesting discovery during his day job working for an auto parts manufacturer. Some rare parts have been ordered by an Earl Cooper, and based on what Falcone told him of their encounter with Batman, Rundle believes these parts are intended for the Batmobile. This immediately perks up The Penguin’s mood and he informs Rundle he’ll be rewarded for his aid this day. He escorts him to the famous duck boat and sets him off with a generous check. Rundle immediately becomes concerned when he sees the canal leads only to a large drain, while Penguin and his men ignore his plight. Rundle is then presumably drowned.

Penguin and his goons head to the garage Rundle pointed them to and find Earl and his daughter Marva (Lynn Moody) at work. Penguin finds it’s pretty easy to get what he wants from Early by threatening his daughter, but before he relays his scheme he does want to know how Earl and the Batman came to be acquaintances. Earl recounts his days as a designer for Global Motors. He noticed some significant safety defects with the company’s products that put lives at risk, but rather than listen to their man, they chose to fire him instead. They weren’t done with him though since Earl knew things that could harm the company if made public. They sent thugs after him, but Batman came to his rescue. Many months later after struggling to make ends meet thanks to being labeled a whistleblower in the industry, Earl ran into Batman once again. This time it was Batman who needed help. His car was looking pretty down and on its last legs. He proposed making Earl his private mechanic. He set him up with a new garage, let him design a new Batmobile, and best of all paid him really, really, well.

Original_Batmobile_(BTAS)

The version of the Batmobile seen in Earl’s flashback.

By putting Marva in danger, Earl is forced to comply with The Penguin and he assists in sabotaging the Batmobile. He informs Batman the car is ready, and he and Robin soon show up to claim it. As Batman and Robin are preparing to head out, they notice Earl is acting rather strangely. He informs Batman that Marva is not present because she is in the basement. He also mentions he fixed the air conditioner, even though Batman didn’t request it. Batman thanks him and he and Robin take off pondering why Earl seemed out of sorts.

CaptainPenguin

Look at him! He’s so happy!

With the Batmobile on the road, Penguin and his men are free to follow with Marva still their hostage. They get Batman’s attention and lead him on a chase. It’s at this point Penguin uses a remote control to take over the Batmobile. He smashes it into guard rails and drives rather recklessly. Batman and Robin find the eject button has been disabled, and start to thinking about how they can get out of this mess. Batman then realizes Earl was trying to warn him. “Down in the basement” is a racing term for crashing, and he immediately reaches for the AC. Turns out, Early re-wired the eject button to the AC and he and Robin are shot from the Batmobile their seats breaking apart into hang gliders.

Penguin and his men did not see the caped crusaders eject and only witness the Batmobile plunge off a cliff. They celebrate prematurely and even let Earl know the “good” news, who was back at the garage being held hostage by Falcone. Hearing that Batman and Robin were killed is enough to motivate Earl to act drastically and he turns on Falcone eventually hoisting him in the air with some rigging equipment tearfully reflecting on Batman and Robin, and likely worrying for his daughter.

penguin and marva

Perhaps the most villainous we’ve seen The Penguin act yet in this series.

Batman and Robin pursue Penguin into an airport and stop the car. Penguin tries to escape and takes Marva hostage while firing from his umbrella at Batman. Marva stomps his foot to escape, and Robin swoops in to finish him off. An angry Penguin has been foiled once again.

Back at the garage, Earl is happily packing up his belongings with Marva while Batman and Robin look on. He’s happily going on about redesigning the Batmobile and seems totally unphased about having to move to a new garage. Batman lets him know he’ll set up some dummy corporations to order the parts through with the goal being to never put Earl and his daughter in harm’s way again. For his part, Earl just seems delighted everything turned out okay. At least for them. Penguin finds himself back in prison and polishing license plates. As a final insult a new plate comes his way reading 1BAT4U, which he angrily snaps in two.

Arnold_Rundle

Let’s take a moment to remember our old buddy Arnie. You were too good for this world.

“The Mechanic” is a fun little action-packed episode with some exciting sequences. Car chases can be tricky, especially with a vehicle as long as the Batmobile which has a tendency to start bending and stretching with the animation. Dong Yang Animation is able to avoid those mistakes in delivering a quite fine looking episode. It’s always fun to see how something came to be where Batman is concerned, and seeing the genesis of his car is pretty fun. The flashback contains Batman’s 1940s Batmobile, which is a nice touch. Earl’s story in general is rather heart-warming and it’s nice to see good things happen to good people. Penguin gets to bring his feature-film scheme to the small screen. In the movie, the taking over of the Batmobile is but a small part, and here it’s used quite well to hinge an episode on. It’s arguably done better if anything, as Penguin getting to Batman’s mechanic is a better setup than his men just seemingly knowing how to sabotage the fancy vehicle.

This episode of Batman isn’t the greatest, I’m not even sure if it’s top 10 material, but it is entertaining. The actors give convincing performances, as they so often do, and the plot is nice and tidy with both suspense and emotion to drive it along. Earl and his daughter Marva won’t be seen again, but as far as one hit wonders go, they scored pretty high.


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