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The Batman TAS Episode Ranking – Part 2

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

runaway bomb79 – Time Out of Joint

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

78 – Birds of a Feather

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

77 – Terror in the Sky

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

76 – The Clock King

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

seenoevil175 – See No Evil

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

74 – Be a Clown

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

thomas-wayne-273 – Nothing to Fear

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

72 – Beware the Creeper

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

71 – Holiday Knights

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

On_Leather_Wings_50_-_Batman_bleeds70 – On Leather Wings

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

69 – Avatar

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

68 – Read My Lips

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

67 – Zatanna

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

Kyodai_Ken_subdues_Batman66 – Night of the Ninja

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

65 – Vendetta

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

roxy vs batman64 – The Ultimate Thrill

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

63 – Love is a Croc

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

62 – Cold Comfort

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

61 – Batgirl Returns

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

catwoman alone60 – Catwalk

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


The New Batman Adventures – “Over the Edge”

over the edgeEpisode Number:  12 (97)

Original Air Date:  May 23, 1998

Directed by:  Yuichiro Yano

Written by:  Paul Dini

First Appearance:  None

I have not encountered anyone who is willing argue that The New Batman Adventures is superior to the first two seasons of Batman: The Animated Series, but almost everyone agrees that “Over the Edge” is one of the best episodes of Batman ever produced. Coincidentally airing just over a week before the WWF event of the same name, “Over the Edge” is one of the most infamous episodes in the show’s history because of its subject matter and the visceral scenes it presents. A character falls from the sky and comes crashing down on a car and dies and the camera is not particularly shy about showing any of it. It was downright shocking the first time I saw it, and this is an episode with a twist ending. And because of that, I want to encourage anyone reading this right now who has not seen the episode to stop what you’re doing, bookmark the page, and come back to it after you’ve seen the episode. The twist isn’t completely without surprise given the advances in the plot, but it’s still worth it to not spoil it. These posts are one part synopsis and one part review, so spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

“Over the Edge” lives up to its name right from the start as it begins in the midst of some uncomfortable action. Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings) and the Gotham PD have stormed the Batcave in pursuit of Batman and Robin. Almost immediately, Gordon shouts out to Batman and refers to him as Bruce Wayne, letting you know something really big has happened offscreen and we have some serious catching up to do. Before that can happen though, Batman and Robin need to make their escape from the Batcave. As they run and dodge fire they first make a run for the Batmobile, but Gordon orders a cop with a rocket launcher to take it out. They aren’t messing around.

batman robin flee

Batman has been at the end of many a barrel, but seldom has it been attached to a Gotham PD firearm.

In order to create a diversion, Batman makes use of an old friend:  the giant penny from “Almost Got ‘Im.” As Robin and Batman run deeper into the Batcave, they’re confronted by Renee Montoya (Liane Schirmir) and a bunch of cops. Appearing to be cornered, Batman grabs Robin and the two jump off the ledge they were standing on. As they fall Robin rather sincerely makes the observation “We’re gonna die,” before Batman deploys a grapple gun to slow their descent towards the Batboat. As they run for it, Gordon tries to line Batman up in his sights (an impossible shot considering they’re several hundred yards away), but Alfred makes the save by tackling Gordon. He implores Bruce to run, who takes a look and utters a sad “Alfred,” before jumping in the boat.

batman penny

I knew he saved that penny for a reason.

As the Batboat fires out of the Batcave, a police boat is waiting to greet it. The boat is far more restrained than the forces inside the Batcave as it gives Batman a chance to surrender, which he obviously does not entertain. As the boat lines up the Batboat in its sights, Nightwing enters the fray riding on a jet ski, which seems really dangerous given all of the gunfire going on. Nightwing is able to distract the police and maneuver through its fire while also shooting off some torpedoes of his own. He successfully incapacitates the police boat allowing he and the others to seek shelter in another nearby cave.

It’s in this cave where we finally get a chance to breath. Batman takes a seat and appears to be in a sullen and despondent mood. Nightwing is in shock and he’s the first to mention the name Barbara. Where is Batgirl in all of this? Time to find out as Batman welcomes us to story-time.

batgirl falls

Usually this ends with the blast of a grapple gun. Usually.

The Scarecrow (who does not speak a line but does laugh at one point, which was performed by Jeff Glen Bennett in an uncredited role) had City Hall under hostage. The mayor and a bunch of others are tied up, but Batman, Robin, and Batgirl are there to dispense with the justice. As they wail on Scarecrow’s many goons, the big villain makes an escape and Batgirl goes after him. She chases him out onto the roof and there she spies the villain with his back towards her. She creeps in and then goes for a tackle only to find out what she thought was Scarecrow was actually a duster jacket draped over an antenna. As she turns around, the real Scarecrow is there (still in his coat, so apparently he carries a spare) to smack her with his stick. Robin arrives just in time to see Batgirl fall off the building.

Down below, Gordon and Detective Bullock (Robert Costanzo) are heading to the scene when they’re rudely interrupted. From inside the car, we see Batgirl strike the windshield causing Bullock to jerk the car to the right and come to an abrupt stop. The two jump out of the car and Gordon races to Batgirl’s side. It’s not a pretty situation, and Bullock points that out matter-of-factly, but with a hint of sadness in his voice. As Gordon orders him to call an ambulance, he notices Batgirl stir. He kneels down beside her as she calls out to him, “Daddy.” Shocked, Gordon removes the cowl to see his daughter’s face staring back at him. Immediately he begins to panic as Barbara tries to choke out something, but she dies there in his arms.

gordon's pain

It’s hard to think of a more honest depiction of death and grief in an American kid’s show.

Batman and Robin watched from above, and as Scarecrow laughs Batman very angrily punches him as hard as he can in the face. Gordon then cradles the body of his daughter in his arms as Batman arrives. He approaches cautiously, and obviously not knowing what to say, he can only utter a “Jim.” Gordon can only respond with a “How could you?” He’s hurt that the two could work so close together all of these years, and yet Batman never once told him his daughter was working alongside him. Before Batman can explain we hear a gun cock, and Bullock orders him to put his hands up referring to him as a murderer. Batman just looks at him and Bullock lets go a warning shot at his feet. From above, Robin strikes Bullock with a projectile and then beckons Batman to come with him. Batman does so as a bunch of cops arrive on the scene. He drops a smoke bomb to mask their escape. When Bullock starts shouting out orders for choppers and search parties Gordon calls him off. He concedes they’ll never catch him, not like that. When Bullock asks what they should do then, he simply says “Something I should have done a long time ago.”

We cut to Wayne Manor where Bruce is seated behind his desk while Alfred and Tim mope about. The phone rings and it’s Gordon, who curtly informs Bruce it’s over. The implication of his meeting with Bullock seemed to suggest that Gordon had a suspicion regarding Batman’s identity, but he explains he learned the truth after looking at Barbara’s computer. Bruce tries to explain referencing the loss of his parents. When he says taking the law into his hands was the only way he knew to keep his sanity, Gordon replies with a “Now we’re even.” The cops then arrive at the mansion, and the three flee to the Batcave. Before Bruce departs, he takes one last look at the image of his parents and apologizes. And it’s at this point that I must point out that Bruce is a terrible father figure as he should have made Tim stay behind (and Alfred should have been in agreement, for that matter) as he’s a minor and likely had little to fear. Instead, he’s being put in harm’s way as a fugitive.

The story ends there. The three inhabitants of the cave seem pretty down and when Robin asks what’s next Batman just gestures to the ground. Nightwing says they’ll need supplies and volunteers to return to his loft. Batman thinks it’s a bad idea, but Nightwing seems to think the cops won’t find it and I have no idea why he would think that unless he rents or owns the place under an alias.

nightwing arrested

Nightwing’s plan turned out the way I thought it would.

We then go to Dick’s loft where Nightwing is making a quiet entrance. Predictably, he finds an army of cops waiting for him with Montoya in command. She starts reading him his Miranda Rights at gunpoint, but he politely waives them. As he flips around, the Gotham PD once more demonstrates that it’s collectively a terrible shot. Nightwing flees to the roof, only to be met by a helicopter. As it opens fire, it looks like the worst is about to happen.

it's over tim

It’s time for Tim to go his own way.

Instead, we cut to Nightwing being taken into custody as part of a news broadcast. His suit is torn up, but he looks no worse for ware. I don’t know how he survived, but whatever. Tim Drake is in the crowd, and he soon reports back to Batman on what happened. It’s then Batman finally realizes that maybe the best place for Tim isn’t at his side. He tells the boy it’s over, who doesn’t really protest with the tears streaming down his cheeks indicating he’s accepted this. When he asks Batman what he’ll do, he responds with an “I don’t know.”

talk show villains

A brief moment of comedy in an otherwise heavy episode.

Gordon is being confronted in his office by the mayor (Lloyd Bochner). He informs Gordon that this whole situation has made them look bad since Batman was basically allowed to operate outside the law with the Commissioner’s daughter as an accomplice. He tells him there will be an investigation, and that most view Gordon as unfit to lead the police department. Outside his office, Bullock and Montoya are watching a talk show featuring some familiar faces:  Harley Quinn, The Mad Hatter, The Riddler, and The Ventriloquist. Since Bruce Wayne has been outted as Batman, the rogues now see this as an opportunity for money and announce they intend to sue Wayne. The Johnny Cochran lawyer then makes his second appearance with another variation on that whole “You must acquit,” line. Did we really think Cochran parodies were this funny in 1998?

With Gordon apparently unable to get his revenge through legal means, we see him turning to possible illegal means. He makes a trip to Stonegate where he’s meeting with a very large inmate. The inmate says nothing and is kept in the shadows to preserve his identity, but Gordon indicates he can pull a few strings to get him released. A lame duck commissioner can do that? Okay, if it will advance the plot.

At Barbara’s funeral, Gordon is shown as one of the paul bearers. Batman is watching from above, and Gordon is shown to be wearing an earpiece. One of his cops tells him there’s no sign of Batman, but Gordon insists they keep looking because he will show up. The cops then spy him and Gordon orders them to take him out. Once again, Gotham police officers prove they can’t hit shit as they miss Batman who is just standing still. Gordon abandons his daughter’s casket to pursue Batman giving us a window into how important catching Batman is to him.

new bane vs batman

Bane’s back with a sexy new look.

As Batman flees, he’s met by a very large man in a gimp mask with a red tube coming out of his head. If the audience couldn’t figure out who this guy is, Batman clues them in by saying his name:  Bane. Bane (Henry Silva) goes after Batman and is quite eager to get his revenge following their last encounter. As he knocks Batman around he refers to him as a child murderer. Batman is able to hit him with a mace-like substance to gain some separation. As Bane smashes the concrete around them, Batman catches a bunch of the debris in his cape and uses that as a sack full of rocks to pummel the behemoth. He ends up knocking Bane off the building where he falls a very long distance to another rooftop below.

Batman swings down after him and Bane, showing no ill effects from such a fall, springs into action knocking him down. Gordon then appears on the rooftop shining the Bat Signal in Batman’s face, so apparently we’re on the Gotham Police Department. Bane wants Batman dead, but Gordon indicates he wants him taken alive so he can live out the rest of his years in Arkham with the freaks he’s created. Bane disagrees, and when Gordon gives him that old line “I thought we had a deal,” Bane just shrugs it off. He kicks the old man and surprisingly Gordon doesn’t break in half. He does, however, end up dangling from the edge of the roof for Bane to mock. He tells him to say hi to Barbara for him, but before he can stomp Gordon’s fingers, Batman makes the save. Bane gets him in a sleeper hold though and tells Batman it’s time for him to die, Batman gives him a “You first,” and then uses a knife to cut Bane’s hose and sever his supply of Venom. He smashes him into the Bat Signal, and then turns his attention to Gordon.

gordon bat signal

(In 1960s announcer voice) Is this the end for our caped crusader?!

Gordon looks up to see Batman, who extends a hand. He tells him to take it for Barbara, and Gordon looks down sullenly as if he intends to drop. It was just a fake-out though, and he grabs Batman’s hand. As he does so, Bane comes to and with his last ounce of strength he rips the Bat Signal from its mooring and rolls it at Batman. Batman pulls Gordon up, and then turns to see the massive steel wheel come barreling down on them. As it strikes he and Gordon, we hear a woman shout “No!” As the two fall off the building to their apparent demise, the voice continues to shout “No!” until we finally see who’s making all that noise.

img_0018

More falling without a grappling hook.

Barbara wakes up in an apparent hospital bed in shock. We soon see the bed is in the Batcave, and Batman, Robin, and Alfred are there to calm her down. She then hugs Batman, and gives everyone the cliff notes version of what she just saw in her dreams. Batman lets her know that The Scarecrow hit her with his fear toxin before she passed out and what she just witnessed was her greatest fear. She says she has to rectify this fear, indicating she intends to tell her father about her alter ego. Batman lets that hang a moment, before curtly letting her know that he understands.

We’re then taken to Barbra’s apartment and Jim Gordon is rising from the table indicating his daughter just fed him a pretty wonderful meal. Before he can depart though, Barbara takes him by the hand and tells him she has something to tell him. She takes him over to a window and sits him down on a window seat. She then sits beside him and tells him that she needs to tell him about a new job she recently took. Before she can continue, Gordon stops her. Taking her by the hand, he explains himself and it wouldn’t make sense for me to summarize it, so here’s the exchange:

img_0019

Barbara has a confession that’s been a long time coming.

Gordon:  Sweetheart, you’re capable of making your own decisions. You don’t need me to approve or even acknowledge them. And in this case, I can’t. All you need to know is I love you. All of you. (he kisses her forehead) And that is all I have to say on the subject.

Barbara:  Daddy! (they embrace)

The episode then ends as the camera pans to the full moon over Gotham. It’s a really sweet and revealing scene. Anyone who ever questioned how Gordon could possibly not know his own daughter was under that mask has their suspicions confirmed. The only gray area I see with Gordon’s statement is the sentence, “All of you.” When I first saw the episode, I though that referred to the rest of the team indicating Gordon knew who was under the masks of everyone. In watching it again, I think he’s just referring to Barbara and her two sides:  Barbara his daughter, and Batgirl. On the commentary for the episode, Paul Dini makes it a point to clarify that Gordon does indeed know that Barbara is Batgirl, but he doesn’t mention the others, leading me to believe my current interpretation is the proper one.

img_0020

The suspenseful and often uncomfortable episode ends on a sweet moment.

That’s a hell of an episode. What a roller coaster. After the flashback concludes I always think the episode is almost over, but it’s really only about halfway there. It’s impossible to overstate how shocking this one is on a first viewing. Gordon going after Batman, Batgirl’s death, and the fallout. The only reason to believe it’s a dream is due to how the episode basically writes itself into a corner. How could the show continue like this? Even so, Batman saving Gordon feels like it could be an out and maybe the show will just take a different turn from here on out. And considering the fate of Barbara in the comics, paralyzed by Joker, it makes her initial accident believable as well. Of course, that’s not the case and it’s probably the right call. Even with the old “Dusty finish” on this one, I’ve never felt cheated by this episode. It’s a great ride while it’s happening, and it’s actually so unbelievable and uncomfortable to see Batman at odds with Gordon that the reveal comes with a sigh of relief.

Bob Hastings really gets a chance to shine in this one as Jim Gordon. He has to be angry, sad, outraged, and cheerful. He hasn’t had much to work with during this season, so it’s nice to see one of the star members of the incredible voice cast get something meaty to chew on. Kevin Conroy also gets to do more with Batman here. This season has distilled Batman into a simpler character which has meant less room to work for Conroy. He’s the best to ever play the character, so it’s nice to see him get to work here.

There’s little to discuss in terms of shortcomings with this one. The Gotham PD is comically inept when it comes to hitting a target, and not just moving targets but even stationary ones. That’s nothing knew though as the good guys in this show are often impossible to hit. Some plot points are glossed over a bit,  but there’s also a lot packed into this one so some of that is by necessity. I really wish that dated Johnny Cochran joke wasn’t in here, as it wasn’t even particularly funny in 1998.

batman hits hard

One of the best shots of the episode is Batman here really reaching back for a punishing haymaker.

This is another TMS episode and it’s arguably the best yet for this young series. The gray of Batman’s costume has a really cool tone to it, almost as if there’s a hint of blue in it. It works with the morose sentiment of the episode. The little scene of the other villains on TV is also interesting because it includes our first look at redesigns for Mad Hatter and Riddler. Riddler basically has the old Frank Gorshin costume now, while Mad Hatter looks like a little, old, elf or something. I don’t care for it, but I’ll say more when we get to his episode. As for Bane, he’s ditched the lucha libre gimmick for more of an S&M one. I think he looks kind of stupid, but not offensively so. This is actually his only appearance in the show, though he’ll show up in the film Mystery of the Batwoman. There’s some great action on the part of TMS, in particular Batman’s fight with Bane. The shot of Batgirl striking the police cruiser is also incredible and so raw. The images couple with the sound design add tremendous to impact to the scene that makes me wince every time I view it.

As for the fallout, well, there isn’t really any. And that’s okay. Gordon makes it clear he can’t even acknowledge his daughter’s role as Batgirl, so he doesn’t. For Scarecrow, he actually never returns which isn’t surprising considering there aren’t that many episodes remaining. Needless to say, this one doesn’t need any big, lasting, acknowledgements by future episodes. It’s probably the best episode of this new version of Batman and it rivals anything the prior iteration did. If you have somehow been a fan of Batman this whole time and slept on this one, do yourself a favor and change that as soon as possible.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Harley’s Holiday”

harleys holiday title cardEpisode Number:  81

Original Air Date:  October 15, 1994

Directed by:  Kevin Altieri

Written by:  Paul Dini

First Appearance(s):  General Vreeland

We’re down to the last five episodes of Batman, which means basically every episode contains a final appearance from someone in the show (and surprisingly, we still have a first appearance or two). For today’s episode, the last appearance falls to the show’s biggest star it created:  Harley Quinn. It’s actually her last in-costume appearance, as she’ll have a small role in the following episode. This is the second episode in this short second season to feature Harley as a main player. We last saw her in “Harlequinade” when Batman needed her help to stop The Joker. The episode concluded with Harley wanting to kill her beloved Mr. J, before abruptly making up giving the episode a “happy” ending of sorts. This episode leaves out Joker entirely and focuses all of its attention on Harley.

Through seeing just how abusive and awful Joker is towards her, Harley has become a sympathetic figure. It’s made easier by the fact that she’s a pretty jovial person and quite charismatic. She’s the comic relief in almost every episode she’s featured and I think viewers genuinely want to like Harley Quinn even though she’s technically a bad guy. Paul Dini likely recognized this and he too probably liked the character a lot and probably had to wrestle with the idea of just making her a good guy. This episode deals with that prospect to some degree. In what has become a running theme in the show’s second season, this is another reform episode for a villain. This time it’s Harley’s shot at redemption, but it will stop short of actually turning the character, but leaves that door open a crack. It’s basically her misadventures in Gotham flying solo and is yet another peek into the character’s soul.

harley skate

In this episode, Harley finds herself as a free woman.

The episode opens with Batman and Robin dropping off their latest catch at Arkham Asylum. Making his second appearance of the season is The Scarecrow (Henry Polic II), a real star in season one reduced to cameos in season two. He’s ranting and raving about being feared and demanding respect as the duo drop him off. While I feel like the character deserves better, I do admit this is a pretty humorous scene. Nearby, Harley (Arleen Sorkin) is receiving her clean bill of health from Dr. Joan Leland (Suzanne Stone) and she happily shares that news with Batman. To her surprise, Batman offers his hand as a sign of congrats, but does issue her a warning that he’ll catch her again if she doesn’t keep her nose clean. Harley asserts that she’s going on the straight and narrow and seems sincere. She takes his warning as a challenge and vows to show the world a new and better Harleen Quinzel.

She gets to it the next day in true Harley fashion. Sporting some short-shorts and roller skates, her precious hyenas pull her down the sidewalks of Gotham via a leash as she happily blows bubbles while fellow pedestrians duck for cover. Harley is confused by the terrified reactions of her fellow citizens but is otherwise unfazed by it. An advertisement for a clothing sale catches her attention causing Harley to duck into a department store, hyenas and all.

harley sane

Harley happily showing off her clean bill of health.

In that very same store, Bruce Wayne is doing some shopping as well along with socialite and fellow wealthy person Veronica Vreeland (Marilu Henner). Wayne doesn’t seem to be enjoying this little game of dress-up at Vreeland’s expense, while she remains blissfully ignorant of his enjoyment, or lack thereof. Harley soon approaches and stumbles into the arms of Wayne. She pauses to admire Wayne’s chin and even covers the rest of his face with her hand indicating she’s about to stumble upon something important, but just remarks that she recognizes him to be Bruce Wayne, the boy billionaire! Bruce has little time to be relieved as Harley’s hyenas, likely recognizing his scent, start barking rather viciously at him. Harley acts confused by their reaction, and then turns her attention to the lack of wedding band on Bruce’s finger and begins flirting with him. Vreeland takes exception, and Harley backs off thinking she’s a jealous girlfriend. She then asks Vreeland if she remembers her from a past job (“I was the clown holding a gun on you!”) before displaying her sanity diploma. The two take their leave, while Harley goes to pay for her dress.

harleys back

Well, that didn’t take long.

Harley heads to a checkout register, while the department store manager seems really anxious to be rid of her and her troublesome pets. Harley, happy with herself for actually paying for something, then goes to leave the store. Unfortunately, the clerk forgot to remove the security tag on her dress, and when the store alarm goes off at the door she panics. A security guard approaches in a some-what agitated manner to explain the problem, but Harley gets extremely defensive. She freaks out, swats him with a mannequin arm and makes a dash for the changing rooms all the while bemoaning her predicament, her tenuous hold on sanity apparently about to break. Outside, Bruce is helping Veronica into his car when he notices the commotion as the hyenas knock some mannequins through a store window. He runs inside to see what’s going on and is pointed towards the dressing rooms. When he gets there, he reassuringly calls to Harley that it’s just a misunderstanding and she should come out. She does, only now she’s in her Harley Quinn attire. She assaults Bruce with the same mannequin arm and runs for the exit, hyenas in tow, and commandeers Bruce’s car with Veronica inside.

Harley flees the scene as Veronica is dumped into the backseat with the hyenas. As she peels out, Detective Bullock (Robert Costanzo) nearly collides with her and instead crashes into the store. Enraged, he pulls out his siren in preparation for a pursuit, while Bruce Wayne is left flummoxed on the sidewalk.

sorry veronica

Veronica does not enjoy riding with Harley’s babies.

At Gotham Police Headquarters, Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings) is receiving an undressing in his office by General Vreeland (Frank Cover), Veronica’s father. He’s irate that his daughter has been kidnapped and is convinced the police aren’t doing enough. Gordon tries reasoning with him as he reiterates what the audience knows which is that Harley fled in a moment of panic over a mistake. He fears an aggressive pursuit could just put Veronica in further danger. General Vreeland is not receptive to the argument, and in his rage he knocks over a cup of coffee on Gordon’s desk. He then gets quiet and apologizes and asks Gordon if he could have a moment to collect himself. Gordon happily obliges and leaves the general alone in his office, but Vreeland uses the time to pick up the phone and place a call to the army.

boxys back

I bet fans are happy we get to check in with Boxy one more time.

Batman and Robin are on the scene and they conclude that Harley needs to head to a friendly place, possibly to skip town. They pick her up on a tracking device, and as they close in on Harley so does Bullock. His car is fine now, but it soon won’t be as he crashes into a hydrant. Harley challenges Batman to a race, while he tries to get her to stop. She’s able to shake him eventually.

As is often the case, Batman’s hypothesis is correct and Harley heads for the current hideout of Boxy Bennett (Dick Miller). Bennet is still angry with Harley after their encounter in “Harlequinade” and isn’t thrilled to see her show up at his doorstep this time. She explains the situation, and also uses the fact that Bennett is sweet on her to her advantage. Bennett agrees to help her out, but he wants Vreeland in exchange since she’s a pretty valuable hostage. Harley is unwilling to do that declaring she intends to let the woman go, but Bennett won’t budge in his demands. Batman and Robin show up when things start to look dark, and a fight breaks out. Harley eventually gets to assault Boxy with a fish(his hideout is at a wharf), but eventually he corners she and Vreeland at gunpoint. Harley is forced to summon her babies to her aid, and they take out Boxy and occupy him long enough for Harley to grab Vreeland and flee. Batman and Robin are forced to give chase in the Batmobile, while Bennett ends up in a box truck (pun intended?) to do the same.

harleys sorry

Veronica and Harley have a little heart to heart while escaping.

It’s at this point the episode takes on a sillier tone. We already saw Bullock crash once, and he rejoins the chase and this time his car is looking rather damaged. He’ll end up crashing once more, and his car will gradually deteriorate in what feels like an obvious homage to Smokey and the Bandit. Meanwhile, as Harley and Veronica flee the two have a heart to heart. Veronica is somewhat touched to find out Harley meant what she said back there, and in a showing of good faith, tells Harley she won’t press any charges if she can get her home in one piece. Harley is positively elated to hear that and just when she thinks her luck is changing, she runs into General Vreeland.

general vreeland

This guy is pretty nuts.

General Vreeland confronts the two on Gotham’s most famous bridge from the confines of a tank. Even though his daughter is in the vehicle, it doesn’t stop him from firing upon it. Harley is forced to swerve and turn around, but soon finds herself with assailants from all directions:  General Vreeland, Bullock, and Bennett. She somehow makes it through a four-way intersection only to come face to face with the Batmobile in an alley, forcing her to turn around. Her other pursuers come barrelling after her and end up crashing in a humorous manner. General Vreeland even runs over Harvey’s car, but not before the ladies bail. Skating through all of that without so much as a scratch is the Batmobile.

Batman and Robin hop out to survey the damage of the big crash. As they look around, Harley calls to them from above and drops Vreeland into Robin’s arms unexpectedly. General Vreeland runs over to greet his daughter. Boxy tries to flee, but Robin lassos him before he can get away. As he shouts out that he’s got nothing on him, a soaking wet Bullock grabs him by the collar and assures him he can find something.

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Harley refusing to go quietly.

Batman chases after Harley onto the Gotham rooftops. As he pursues her he tries to urge her to give it up as he knows what happened to cause all of this. Harley, seemingly beyond help at this point, just rants about her terrible day. She’s convinced the world is against her and is rather down. She attacks Batman wildly, who doesn’t seem like he really wants to fight back. Harley winds up on a billboard and whips out a Joker bomb and tosses it at Batman. A comedy of errors resulting from the explosion leaves Harley dangling precipitously from another billboard. She makes a crack about going out on a joke before plummeting to her would-be demise when the structure breaks. Batman is able to make the save and use his trusty gadgets to get them both to ground level safely, but not before Harley makes a mess on his cape.

harleys dress returned

She may be back in Arkham, but at least she got her dress.

Batman and Robin then bring Harley back to Arkham, where she apparently still belongs. Harley is dismayed, but Dr. Leland is there to greet her and assures her that her stay won’t be as long this time. Vreeland isn’t pressing charges, which perks her up. Harley then turns to Batman and asks why he keeps looking out for her, even though she’s obviously a real pain in the neck for him. He responds by telling her he can sympathize with her desire for a normal life adding that he once had a bad day too. He then presents Harley with the dress she bought earlier, the one that started all of this, and she happily takes it and places a kiss of gratitude on his lips. She pauses to regard what she did, while a big smile spreads across her face. Harley tosses the dress then goes back in for a much longer, and more sensual, kiss that seems to surprise Batman quite a bit. Robin looks on with amusement, while Poison Ivy looks on from her cell like she feels betrayed. Harley then instructs Batman to call her, who then tries to play it cool with a “Don’t press your luck,” and fails miserably. The heroes depart, while Harley heads for a cell. Noticing the amused look of Poison Ivy, she sticks her chin up and responds with a “What are you looking at?”

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Parting is such sweet sorrow.

“Harley’s Holiday” is a fun, at times even slapstick, story with a solid heart at its core. Even though it’s Harley’s first foray without Joker, his presence is somewhat felt in the whole notion of one bad day really messing things up as it feels like a callback to the classic Joker story The Killing Joke. For viewers, there is a frustrating component to this type of story as a character we’re rooting for keeps making destructive decisions based mostly on misunderstanding. And in the end, Harley is returned to the walls of Arkham with the rest of Gotham’s criminally insane, but there’s at least a hint at a silver lining. Plus her final exchange with Batman is a great way for the character to bow out of the series. It’s funny, and I like that Robin and Ivy’s reactions were included. It would have also been interesting to see Joker’s reaction, but I do actually prefer that he was kept out of this one all together so that Harley didn’t have her spotlight usurped for even a second. Though it is a bit odd to see Ivy in Arkham. Last time we saw her, she successfully evaded capture at the end of “House & Garden.” Apparently, she was captured offscreen once again.

The visuals of this episode are really quite fluid. It’s another Dong Yang episode and it’s one of their best. There are lots of new character models and scenery to make use of. The chase scenes are ludicrous with Bullock’s deteriorating vehicle and animated with a ton of charm. The final confrontation between Harley and Batman is also made interesting with the numerous neon billboards filling the background. Most of which are animated, so it wasn’t a simple task of just painting a new background. The glow of it at all certainly makes me think of the Joel Schumacher Batman films that would follow.

The comedy and also sweet undertone of the episode makes up for the frustrations it places on the viewer. It’s a bit of a shame that Harley’s reform did not, and will not, stick as she’s back to a life of crime in The New Batman Adventures. Which, I suppose, is for the better as it would be a shame to not have Harley Quinn opposite Batman from here on out. At the same time, it’s nice to be able to feel something for a character that began life as just a plucky henchwoman many episodes ago. Harley Quinn is quite possibly the greatest success of Batman: The Animated Series and it’s impossible to separate her from the show’s impactful legacy.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Trial”

btas trialEpisode Number:  68

Original Air Date:  May 16, 1994

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Paul Dini and Bruce Timm

First Appearance(s):  None

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Batman’s jury hardly seems fair and impartial.

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

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

harleys tampering

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

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

van dorn and judge joker

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

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

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

batman electric chair

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

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

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

preacher joker

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

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

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


Batman: The Animated Series – “Dreams in Darkness”

Dreams_in_Darkness-Title_CardEpisode Number:  28

Original Air Date:  November 3, 1992

Directed by:  Dick Sebast

Written by:  Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

First Appearance(s):  None

Episode 28 of Batman:  The Animated Series is one noteworthy and packed episode. This episode is both based on a story from the comics and also the inspiration for an even bigger story. It features, once again, The Scarecrow who is making his third appearance in this cartoon as a featured villain. This is pretty remarkable as prior to this series The Scarecrow wasn’t exactly a household name. He had appeared in some versions of The Super Friends television shows, but he was hardly popular. More prominent villains like Catwoman and The Penguin, fresh off starring in Batman Returns, have only been featured in 3 episodes total, and one was a two-parter. In the case of The Penguin, he was featured in the sort of throw-away goofy “I’ve Got Batman in my Basement” episode which is not exactly a prominent spot considering he’s foiled by kids for most of that one. Another classic and fan-favorite villain The Riddler hasn’t even been featured in one yet! It’s pretty cool that the show is able to elevate a villain like The Scarecrow, as his episodes have generally been pretty solid and this one is no different. This episode will go on to inspire much of Batman Begins as both feature The Scarecrow trying to poison Gotham’s water supply via Arkham Asylum’s basement. Presumably, Scarecrow was included in that film because he hadn’t been used in prior feature films starring Batman and if you’re going to look for Scarecrow stories you could do worse than looking at Batman:  The Animated Series. The main notable difference between the two is the inclusion of Ra’s Al Ghul in the film’s version of the plot as the mastermind behind everything.

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Not the way we’re used to seeing our hero.

“Dreams in Darkness,” not to be confused with the upcoming “Perchance to Dream,” also draws inspiration from the tale “Batman:  The Last Arkham” as both feature Batman as an inmate in Arkham Asylum. It’s also been a part of Batman’s character that some citizens of Gotham view him similarly to the weird, costumed villains he fights against. Batman walks a fine line between righteousness and obsession, which can teeter on the edge of sanity. This show won’t dive too deep into those themes, but it is a part of his character that I do find interesting. For this episode, he becomes an inmate of Arkham by being exposed to Scarecrow’s fear toxin. It makes him hallucinate and act a bit crazy. He has an antidote this time, but a doctor tells him he’ll need to rest a couple of days after taking it and he just doesn’t have that kind of time. All of Gotham is in danger, and Batman needs to convince the doctors at Arkham that he needs to be set free so he can stop The Scarecrow from infecting all of Gotham with his hallucinogenic drug.

What adds a nice twist to the episode is it’s largely a flashback. The episode opens from the perspective of a doctor and some orderlies at Arkham discussing their latest inmate, which is revealed to be Batman. Batman then narrates us on how he ended up in this state, before the story catches up to the present and Batman is forced to get creative to free himself. In some ways, the real antagonist of the episode is Dr. Batholomew (Richard Dysart) who doesn’t believe Batman’s tale of imminent danger, or that The Scarecrow could be behind it because he’s safely imprisoned at Arkham. The Scarecrow himself appears only really for the climax of the episode.

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Despite spending a good portion of the episode cowering in fear, Batman still finds time to look like a bad ass.

Most of the episode is devoted to Batman’s narrated flashback. He gets poisoned when stopping an attempt by one of Scarecrow’s goons to poison the water supply at a spa. The goon in this case has a missing right hand and in its place is an attachment that features a welding torch and a drill, the latter of which is used to create a tense little moment where it looks like Batman is going to have his heart exhumed. Batman stops him, but during the confrontation the crook accidentally smashes his machinery causing a red gas to seep out. At the time, Batman is unaware it has anything to do with The Scarecrow which is why he seeks medical advice after experiencing hallucinations such as seeing The Joker in the Batcave or nearly running over an illusion of Robin with the Batmobile. It’s when he visits the crook he took out at the hospital that he learns he’s been diagnosed with fear hallucinations, which is all Batman really needs to hear to know The Scarecrow is behind it.

Batman is able to put two and two together; the crook he stopped was trying to poison a water a supply for a spa and Scarecrow is not likely to stop there. He’s just now in Arkham and needs to get out. Dr. Bartholomew won’t even entertain Batman’s story, until someone finally bothers to check on Dr. Crane and finds out that he has, once again, escaped. Batman will soon do the same, and he’s able to extricate himself by taking an axe which was mounted on a hallway wall beneath a fire extinguisher. I’m no doctor, but having an axe in an easily accessible area of a mental hospital seems like a bad idea.

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Beware of Joker rat!

Since Batman is rigged up in a strait jacket for most of the episode, the writers have to find a way to explain why no one takes Batman’s mask off. Dr. Bartholomew offers some goofy medical reason why they should not, which I suppose is good enough. Of interest though, is when Dr. Bartholomew starts name-dropping other inmates of Arkham he uses their real names, including Jack Napier who is canonically established as Joker in this series. I suppose that makes sense given how heavily inspired it is by the Burton films. There’s also a really interesting dream sequence for Batman where he’s in a mostly red environment trying to chase after his parents. They disappear into a tunnel which morphs into the barrel of a gun dripping blood that blows Batman away. It’s pretty chilling and a good example of how hard it would be for Batman to simply push aside the hallucinations brought on by the drug.

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Things get pretty weird underneath Arkham.

Eventually, Batman will reach the bowels of Arkham Asylum and find The Scarecrow trying to infect the river that runs underneath Arkham. Like the other Scarecrow episodes, Batman is forced to battle his own hallucinations more so than The Scarecrow. A series of timers rigged to Scarecrow’s gas is the source of the tension, but it just makes me wonder why Scarecrow doesn’t just eliminate the timer and shoot the stuff off. Batman’s hallucinations allow the artists to bring in other villains when a rat morphs into The Joker, Penguin rises from the ground, Two-Face emerges from Penguin and then melts into Poison Ivy. Robin and Alfred pop in to admonish Bruce for living in the darkness too long which is basically the only time the episode really dips its toe into the waters of “Bruce really belongs in Arkham” plot point. It’s some great animation, maybe not as great as the Clayface stuff but a similar effect is in play here. The only drawback is Batman uttering a hack kind of line, “No! You’re not real!” More embarrassing, is when Batman is being confronted by some of Scarecrow’s henchman he’s paralyzed with fear and resorts to whistling into a microphone which in turn paralyzes the henchmen. This is, by far, the dumbest thing we’ve seen Batman do in this cartoon thus far.

Batman does indeed stop The Scarecrow’s scheme, with only one second to spare. Scarecrow will have the ignominy of being exposed to his own gas and reduced to a raving lunatic at the episode’s end, at which point Dr. Bartholomew laughably suggests the orderlies keep him locked up this time. The guy has escaped twice in the past five episodes, so I’m not betting on Arkham this time. With Scarecrow taken care of, Batman is able to rest in the Batcave and have Alfred administer the antidote which will take him out of action for two days so hopefully the criminals of Gotham behave. It’s sort of sweet that Bruce chooses to rest up in the Batcave as opposed to Wayne Manor, likely feeling more at home there and more secure.

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So long, Scarecrow, we’re going to miss you.

With this being episode 28 this also marks the final episode of the Batman:  The Animated Series Volume One DVD release. Amazon refers to it as season one, which is a bit of a lie as we’re actually not even halfway through season one yet, but it does feel like the first milestone for this little project. “Dreams in Darkness” is a great concept for an episode that I don’t think is fully realized here. It’s still a perfectly fine episode for the show with some great animation and a few trippy moments as well. It’s not my favorite of The Scarecrow episodes, that distinction still belongs to “Nothing to Fear,” but it maintains his consistently solid track record thus far. This is actually Scarecrow’s final turn as a featured villain in the show, which seems weird after seeing him so much over the course of the first 28 episodes. He’ll pop up in a lesser role though down the line before getting a redesign in The New Batman Adventures that many folks prefer to this one. He can be proud of the mark he made on this series though, which is more than some other villains can say.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Nothing to Fear”

Nothing_To_Fear-Title_CardEpisode Number:  3

Original Air Date:  September 15, 1992

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Henry T. Gilroy and Sean Catherine Derek

First Appearance (s):  The Scarecrow, Thomas Wayne

Episode 3 of Batman:  The Animated Series introduces us to what is probably the standard episode template. A physically unimposing villain with a gimmick shows up to cause some sort of havoc while leading a gang of incompetent muscle who mostly exist just to get pummeled by Batman. That’s not necessarily a criticism as its a format that works just fine so long as the main villain is interesting enough.

Enter The Scarecrow (Henry Polic II), a costumed villain armed with a fear-inducing toxin and a grudge. The Scarecrow will see a redesign later this season, but for his first appearance he’s uniquely toon-like with a tear-drop shaped masked head that’s not at all indicative of the shape of the skull beneath it. His eyes, like Batman’s, are void of pupils and his head will curve in natural ways. He’s rail-thin with claw-tipped fingers with a rather ordinary looking attire to go with it. He’s fairly creepy looking, probably because of the unique shape of his model. His future version will add pupils and a more natural shaped head as well as teeth to the hideous moth and some straw hair. This original version is basically the under-stated version, though I like it, despite the simplicity.

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The Scarecrow as seen in this episode. He will undergo a redesign before his next appearance in “Fear of Victory.”

This episode also introduces us to the Bruce Wayne character by showing us how some in the public view him. The episode opens with Gotham University head Dr. Long (Kevin McCarthy) fretting over a recent crime wave impacting the school and being chased down by Summer Gleason for comment. A chance encounter with Wayne, in which Long refuses to shake his hand before admonishing him, shows us that some view Bruce as just some billionaire play boy not living up to the Wayne name. It’s an aspect of the character that’s really not going to be explored much outside of this episode, but I’m glad it’s at least touched upon here. The comments naturally sting Bruce, even if his actions as Bruce are just an intentional cover for his Batman persona.

Batman soon has his first encounter with The Scarecrow, who appears to be robbing a vault on university grounds but may in fact just be looking to harm the university by any means. He’s able to show off his toxin, first on a hapless guard and then on Batman himself. Dr. Long’s words come back in a big way by unveiling to the viewer that Batman’s greatest fear is that he’s letting his parents down. The Scarecrow escapes, but the effects of the toxin linger throughout the episode. It’s not until the climax, where Batman being confronted by a vision of his dead father as a giant skeleton, utters his most famous line from this show:  “I am vengeance! I am the night! I. Am. Batman!” It’s a bit corny, but I know at the time I thought it was awesome and it’s a still a fun little catch-phrase for Batman.

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That’s probably not how your dad wants you to remember him looking, Batman.

Batman naturally figures out The Scarecrow’s identity as that of Johnathon Crane, a former university employee specializing in fear. I should say, Batman’s computer figures out who Scarecrow is in what is easily my biggest pet peeve with this show. Batman’s computer basically knows everything and responds to voice commands in 1992 better than Siri does in 2017. The computer is often the detective with Batman taking all of the credit.

There are some fun little easter eggs in this episode. When Batman is confronted by Bullock after Scarecrow escapes, Bullock refers to him as Zorro with a mocking tone. Zorro is often cited as the real-life inspiration for the Batman character, although the in-universe inspiration will be established later. Also, when Batman is looking at a list of possible sources of The Scarecrow’s mask, Axis Chemicals pops up which is the same name as the chemical plant from the Batman movie that gave birth to The Joker. The vault guard from early in the episode is also seen reading an issue of Tiny Toon Adventures, and enjoying it immensely.

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If this is how everyone on Scarecrow’s toxin would view him, then maybe Batman should start arming himself with it.

Plot wise, this is the best episode so far and The Scarecrow is an interesting villain in his own right. Unfortunately, it’s a low point for the animation quality of the program. I already covered the minimalist approach taken in designing The Scarecrow, but also the character just animates unnaturally. Bruce looks especially off-model in his appearance early in the episode and we get a really bad shot of the Batmobile at one point, as well as the first instance of bendy Batmobile. The vault guard who is the first affected by The Scarecrow’s fear toxin hallucinates spiders all over his body, which strangely only appear to have four legs apiece. On the plus side, I like the added stubble on Bruce when he’s in the Batcave essentially withdrawing from The Scarecrow’s fear toxin. His hands are shaky as he tries to pick up a picture of his parents and he looks appropriately disheveled. There’s also a nice bit of artistic licensing in the closing shot of the episode where Bruce’s shadow is cast as Batman.

This is a good episode, and for a lot of kids this was probably their first look at The Scarecrow. He’s a unique villain who has a good look that gets better and his fear toxin is a fun weapon for the writers to play with. He’ll actually be one of the most used villains by the show which is a bit surprising on the surface, but his episodes tend to deliver which is why the show runners kept returning to him. Also of note, we get to see Batman actually driven to strike Bullock over his mocking, heightening their rivalry. We also get to see one of The Scarecrow’s henchmen, after being exposed to the toxin and revealing his fear as returning to prison, basically kill himself by jumping out of a zeppelin rather than risk capture by Batman. He lands on some trees with a nice leafy canopy. The censors probably intended for us to think those leaves cushioned his fall, but I’m not buying it. That guy is dead. This is also the last episode for Clive Revill as Alfred who will be recast. We hardly knew ye, Clive.


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