Batman: The Animated Series – “The Demon’s Quest – Part II”

demons quest 2Episode Number:  61

Original Air Date:  May 4, 1993

Directed by:  Kevin Altieri

Written by:  Dennis O’Neil and Len Wein

First Appearance(s):  None

One thing I appreciated about Batman:  The Animated Series as a kid was that it was a week day afternoon show, so when these two-parters aired I had to wait only a day for the conclusion. With X-Men or Spider-Man, it was usually a week which is a long time for a 10-year-old. “The Demon’s Quest – Part II” picks up right where the first part left off and it has a lot to reveal. We know Ra’s al Ghul is a bad guy with some righteous qualities, but we don’t know just how bad he is since at the end of the last episode he looked ready to kill his own daughter. Batman had just saved him by plunging him into a Lazarus Pit which contains a green liquid that has apparently sustained Ra’s al Ghul for some 600 years. Batman had also just denied Ra’s al Ghul’s request to become his heir, because he’s apparently a sexist individual and will only pass on whatever it is he has to give to another male as opposed to his daughter. Doing that was considered a great insult by al Ghul, and forced him to declare they are now enemies. Well, Batman, you just brought one of your enemies back to life and he looks to be in superhuman physical condition now, what’s your next move?

mad ras

Watch that left hand, dad.

As the episode begins, Ra’s al Ghul (David Warner) is ready to toss Talia (Helen Slater) into the Lazarus Pit from which he had just emerged. Ubu (Manu Tupou) informs Batman that the pit can restore a dying man to life, but it will destroy someone so young as Talia. Batman is able to grapple Ra’s causing him to drop Talia onto the ground. She immediately approaches her father once more and slaps him across the face, which causes him to finally cease with the creepy laughter. His senses are soon restored, and Talia explains that each time he emerges from the Lazarus Pit he is momentarily insane and cannot be blamed for his actions. Batman and Robin look like they’re done with all of this, but Ra’s still repeats his offer to the detective and he once more refuses.

Once again, Batman has decided to make an enemy of Ra’s al Ghul, and Ra’s decides to destroy the mountain base they are currently in. Talia tries to talk him out of it, but he reasons that they have plenty of other locations and their desert base will do just fine. He activates a switch in the rock and bids Batman and Robin farewell as a steel door closes sealing the two in with the Lazarus Pit. Batman and Robin, amidst explosions and falling rocks, jump from the cliff they’re on to grab ahold of the rope affixed to the gurney system they used previously for Ra’s. Spying an opening in the ceiling of the chamber, they climb up and out and emerge in the snowy Himalayas once more. To add a dash of drama, the ground upon which they tread is collapsing into the pit they just escaped and the two jump off the side of the mountain towards the camera positioned below, a shot most will recognize as it will soon be featured in the opening credits for the show.

snowed in

I bet they wish they had some of Adam West’s trusty Bat-thermal underwear.

Trapped in the mountains and clearly not dressed for the arctic-like conditions, it would seem things are looking bad for our crime fighters. Batman picks Robin’s brain about his time in captivity, and he mentions he kept hearing the word “Orpheus” repeated by the men guarding him. As the two chat, the camera zooms out to reveal a Wayne Enterprises building at the base of the mountain. How convenient.

Inside an office, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are more conventionally dressed and searching a database, or the internet, for clues relating to the word Orpheus. Bruce recognizes the name from legend and also discovers it was recently adopted as the name of a satellite launched into orbit over the Sahara Desert. Bingo.

batmans disguise

Batman’s disguise doesn’t look like it would work very well.

Robin and Batman apparently commandeer a Wayne airplane and Robin positions them over the Sahara for Batman to eject. He’s going solo from here on out. Once he touches down in the chilly, night-time, desert, he spies a caravan of camels with some armed men aboard them. They’re riding single-file, which makes it quite easy for Batman to get the drop on the rear rider and take his place. In what is a rather amusing visual, Batman just puts the man’s clothes on over his costume and apparently no one notices the mask under the mask. He also apparently is so against guns that he doesn’t even carry the mercenary’s weapon to make his disguise look as authentic as possible.

They arrive at the base of Ra’s al Ghul, and old friend Ubu is there to command them inside. Batman, grabbing a bed roll for some reason, walks off away from everyone else which does not miss the eye of Ubu. He gives chase, but once he rounds the corner after him he sees only the lime green bed roll on the ground. Batman is then shown sneaking around, but soon Ubu ambushes him. The two fight, and when it looks like Batman is about to gain the upper hand more of the mercenaries show up and they all take him down. Ra’s al Ghul then appears and orders them to stop. He wants to know who this foolish, or brave, individual is that has infiltrated his stronghold and he’s not at all surprised to find it’s Batman. Proving that he might be smarter than most villains, Ra’s has them remove Batman’s belt and anything else that might aid his escape which means they get to rip his shirt off.

ras and batman reunion

Two guys who love capes.

Ra’s al Ghul may have been smart enough to partly defang his foe, but not smart enough to kill him or keep his mouth shut. Batman claims Ra’s has nothing to lose by telling him what he’s planning on doing, and Ra’s agrees (idiot). He reveals that the Lazarus Pit is a naturally occurring thing on the planet and that many of them are scattered across the globe, which explains why he didn’t mind losing the one in the Himalayas. He’s had his global agents work to position bombs above each one, and when the Orpheus satellite is in position this evening, a signal will go out to all of those bombs causing them to fall into the pits. The resulting explosions will cause the pits to erupt and spread their goo all over the world. He even has a number for the lives lost, totaling over 2.5 billion (which I assume would have been about half of the world’s population in 1993).

Batman declares Ra’s is insane, but he disagrees saying this cleansing is needed to restore the Earth to her former glory. He had initially planned on this cleansing taking place over generations, with his heir taking up his work, but since Batman denied him he’s just going to accomplish his goal in one fell swoop. He wants Batman to witness his triumph, so he has him taken away. Before the guards can lead him away, Talia requests a moment and gives him one, long, lingering, kiss.

en garde

They’re going to settle this like men.

Once locked up, Batman finds he’s been chained to the wall of his cell and his two guards demonstrate almost immediately that they’re going to underestimate him. Batman reveals a lock pick was slipped into his mouth by Talia, presumably, and quickly frees himself and effortlessly dispatches his captors. Once free, he’s able to move about the base undetected causing mischief before eventually detonating most of the weapons stored on site. The many explosions attract a lot of attention and also leads to another confrontation with old friend Ubu. Batman is able to beat him rather easily, once again, which just leaves the old man.

cross blades

Ra’s is clearly a misogynist, but he’s not above using eye-liner.

Ra’s al Ghul declares they must do battle to settle this, and because his opponent is bare-chested I guess he decided he needed to do the same. The two sword fight, because this is a classy fight, and neither appears to have the upper hand over the other. As Batman ascends some stairs to the Lazarus Pit located there, he realizes he’s running out of time if he wants to stop Ra’s al Ghul’s master plan. He hurls his sword and it zips past the head of al Ghul, a narrow miss? Nope, Batman was aiming for the satellite uplink dish below and scores a direct hit thwarting the operation. Enraged, Ra’s attacks the now unarmed Batman. Batman avoids the would-be fatal blow causing Ra’s to fall into the Lazarus Pit. Batman looks down to find Ra’s has saved himself by jamming his sword into the side-wall. Batman extends a hand, we’ve seen this before, and beckons Ra’s to do the same. For a moment, Ra’s looks like he’s going to comply, but then you can tell pride prevents him from ultimately accepting the aid of Batman. Declaring that Batman is the victor here, and expressing a desire to join with the planet he so loves (he’s like a demented Captain Planet), Ra’s lets go of the sword and plunges into the Lazarus Pit below.

talia sad

Talia is said to see her “beloved” go.

Out in the Sahara, Talia accompanies Batman to Robin who is waiting by the airplane. She explains to Batman that she shares her father’s ideals, but does not agree with his means. When she asks if she is now to become his prisoner, Batman simply  pulls her in close for a romantic smooch as the sun rises in the distance. Surprisingly, Robin has nothing snarky to say about this as Batman boards the airplane, leaving Talia behind. Once in the sky, Robin asks if they’ve finally seen the last of Ra’s al Ghul, as if he’s some villain they’ve been tangling with for years. Batman remarks it looks that way, which seems rather naive of him. And indeed it is, as we’re taken back to the edge of the Lazarus Pit to see a hand emerge from below and grab the edge as laughter rings out.

the kiss

The money shot.

After a more procedural Part I, Part II of  “The Demon’s Quest” is largely action-oriented. We get some stealth Batman action and even a sword fight amidst the backdrop of Armageddon. I suppose the stakes have never been higher in an episode before, not that the outcome is ever seriously in doubt. Ra’s al Ghul proves to be both smart and dumb as he seemingly has a backup plan for everything, but makes the villain mistake of letting the hero in on his plan while he still has time to stop it. He was willing to kill Batman at the episode’s start, but for some reason was not when they met up later. It moves quickly though and the action looks great. The outcome is satisfying enough too, with Ra’s defeated, but not dead. Talia is still out there and her father likely knows she played a role in orchestrating Batman’s escape so we’re left to wonder how their relationship will play out.

If you’re the nit-picking sort though, then you can probably get after this episode a bit. Batman and Robin’s frequent escapes are almost routine, and they’re lack of alarm at being stranded in the frozen mountains was odd, until Wayne Enterprises showed up. A total deus ex machina is that one, and the episode even ignores how the two gained access. Did they sneak in and steal some clothes? Can Bruce Wayne just go to any building with his name on it and demand an airplane? Batman also didn’t do anything about the bombs planted around the world, wouldn’t Ra’s have a simple manual override function on each one? He could radio his cohorts to all release the bomb at a certain time, the satellite really isn’t necessary.

ras goes shredder

Ra’s showing us his Shredder impersonation.

Like with Part I, Part II is animated by TMS and the results are pretty great. Curiously, there is a disconnect in visual style between the end of Part I and the beginning of Part II, implying the studio had two different teams work on it rather than treat it like one long episode. They must have been working on both episode simultaneously. They did maintain continuity with Robin missing his belt and Batman having claw marks on his shirt from his battle with the panther. Talia seems toned down though in terms of her sex appeal, but Batman gets to make up for it. Proving that TMS is all about keeping things equal, shirtless Batman is jacked and there’s a funny looking sequence where he’s knocked on his back and his pecs are gigantic. Ra’s is also rather proud of his physique, and rightly so.

Ra’s al Ghul, and Talia as well, feel like pretty big villains from this show. Interestingly, this is their penultimate appearance as foes for Batman. They will both show up in the season two episode “Avatar,” and Ra’s has one final appearance in the flashback episode “Showdown” which does not feature Batman. After that, they’re all done. Perhaps the writing staff just felt Ra’s was a special attraction and a villain they feared would be diminished if he showed up too much. After the conclusion of this one, he certainly needed at least one follow-up and they delivered there, but it’s really surprising he never showed up in The New Batman Adventures. Both do make an appearance in Batman Beyond and in sister series Superman:  The Animated Series. I’ll save my final thoughts on the characters for “Avatar,” but it does surprise me how infrequently the two were actually used given their presence over the series as a whole. As a true debut though, this was good and it did capitalize on the mystique of the character created in “Off Balance.” A rare example of a long-form story in this series being executed and also paying off.

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