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The New Batman Adventures – “Cold Comfort”

cold comfortEpisode Number:  3 (88)

Original Air Date:  October 11, 1997

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Hilary J. Bader

First Appearance:  Jack Ryder

“Cold Comfort” (which shares a name with the Iceman episode of X-Men) is the unofficial completion of the Mr. Freeze trilogy in Batman: The Animated Series. It’s interesting to me now in doing these how fast and furious it feels like Mr. Freeze has come at me with the trio of “Deep Freeze,” SubZero, and now this episode following the amount of time that passed between the debut “Heart of Ice” and Freeze’s return. Of course, in real-time “Deep Freeze” aired in 1994 with SubZero seeing release in 1998. This episode actually aired before SubZero was widely available so this episode some-what spoils the ending to that feature.

This episode also isn’t the reintroduction of Mr. Freeze that we were supposed to have. The Batman Adventures Holiday Special, which “Holiday Knights” was partly adapted from, also featured a Mr. Freeze tale called “White Christmas.” That segment was supposed to be featured either as part of “Holiday Knights” or as its own episode. Following SubZero though, that story didn’t make sense as it required Nora Fries to be dead so those plans were scrapped and we somehow ended up here. This episode is interesting to me because it’s written by someone not named Bruce Timm or Paul Dini. Of course, neither worked on SubZero (which is what initially led to the confusion with “White Christmas”) so their hold on Freeze had already been lessened. Handling writing duties for this one is Hilary Bader in her first contribution to Batman. She wrote several episodes for Superman (and actually first wrote for the character of Superman on the show Lois & Clark) and will make additional contributions to this series. She’ll also handle the final Mr. Freeze episode in this continuity, the Batman Beyond episode “Meltdown.”

freeze why not

Mr. Freeze is back in black looking to spread some misery.

After somewhat flirting with heroism, “Cold Comfort” returns Mr. Freeze to the world of villainy. At the end of SubZero, Victor Fries is shown witnessing a news report of his wife, Nora’s, revival and curing. With tears running down his cheeks, he leaves the scene to walk off with his two polar bear companions into the arctic. We don’t know what he’s planning next, but we obviously know he’s happy to see his wife is okay and will get another shot at this whole life thing. He’s not sporting his handy cold suit, so for all we know it’s been destroyed and he’s trapped in the cold confines of the arctic. Will he return to be at his wife’s side or is he resigned to let her be? He’s obviously found his emotions and is no longer the cold, dead, man he was when we first met him. I’m pretty sure by the end of that movie most of the audience is rooting both Victor and Nora, but no villain seems to ever truly give up their life of crime so I doubt anyone was holding their breath.

The episode opens with a long, lingering, shot on a dinosaur skeleton at a museum. Dr. Margaret Madsen (Tress MacNeille) is exhibiting some new bones discovered at the Gotham Museum and it’s being covered by the local news, hosted by Jack Ryder (Jeff Glen Bennett). It’s a pretty standard piece for the local news, until Mr. Freeze (Michael Ansara) crashes the party. He’s got a new look going on with a mostly all black suit with some light blue accents wisely trading in those purple gloves and boots. His head is still in a fishbowl and his voice is modulated. The shape of his head is much longer now and it basically looks like a cross between a skull and a potato. His goggles have also been replaced as he just naturally has red eyes now with a liberal amount of black surrounding them. If his head weren’t so oddly shaped I’d probably prefer this look to his past one.

ice maidens

Working for Mr. Freeze apparently includes a dress code now.

Freeze is accompanied by some new henchwomen this time. Basically taking a cue from the old 1960s television show, they’re all wearing purple parkas and sunglasses and are very campy looking. In the credits they’re referred to as Ice Maidens and are voiced by Tress MacNeille, Cree Summer, and Lauren Tom.

Mr. Freeze turns his attention to the dinosaur while one of the women restrains Dr. Madsen. When she points out that no one would buy a stolen dinosaur Freeze corrects her – he doesn’t wish to steal this priceless artifact, but destroy it. He uses his freeze ray to coat the once great beast in ice and watches it shatter. Madsen is reduced to tears calling out “Why?” over and over as Freeze leaves with a simple “Why not?”

freeze painting

So destructive.

Sometime later, Gotham is shown celebrating its tricentennial with a gala. Mayor Hamilton Hill (Lloyd Bochner) is shown for the first time in this series looking very similar to his previous version, but with more white in his hair. Bruce Wayne is in attendance and is shown complaining to Commissioner Gordon about seeing Mr. Freeze on his television. He comes across as a spoiled, entitled, citizen who wants more from the police which is a pretty solid cover and different from the usual playboy persona he exhibits. Gordon, for his part, listens to Wayne’s complaints without offering much in return likely looking for a way out of the conversation.

All attention is then turned towards Hill who unveils a new work of art to commemorate the city’s birth. Artist Guiseppe Bianci (Ian Patrick Williams) is poised to speak about the mural he painted when Mr. Freeze once again shows up. He offers some praise towards Bianci’s for the work he did while pondering how long it must have taken him to perfect his technique. He then takes aim at it while Bianci begs him not to destroy it for he’s old and couldn’t possibly complete another in his lifetime. Freeze is unmoved and destroys the mural. Wayne, upon seeing his old foe, radios to Alfred who is outside in the limo that he’ll need to change. Expecting Alfred to unveil a fancy contraption housing Bruce’s Batman attire, I was letdown when he simply opens the glove box to fetch the outfit.

look out dog

He seems like the type who would dislike little, yippy, dogs.

With the mural destroyed, Mr. Freeze sets his sights on the wealthy attendees of this gala. He offers them a warning, “Search your hearts for the thing you value most, then despair, for I have come to take it from you.” His gaze lingers on a small dog whose owner tries to shield. As Freeze takes aim, Batman shows up and is able to strike Freeze’s gun with a batarang causing him to misfire. Freeze hardly seems alarmed at the sight of his adversary, and his three maidens start firing at Batman. They’re armed with their own freeze rays, but Batman is able to avoid their fire and take the fight directly to Freeze on stage. Freeze, powered by his new suit, tosses Batman aside with tremendous force yet little effort. This causes one of the girls to think she’s got him dead to rights, but Batman is able to reflect her ice blast back at her freezing her leg. Batman then finds himself staring down Mr. Freeze’s gun, but interestingly, Freeze explains he has no desire to destroy Batman at this time and merely freezes his cape to the ground. As Batman struggles to free himself, Freeze departs leaving his partially frozen henchwoman behind in an homage to “Heart of Ice.” By the time Batman is able to tear his cape from the ground, Freeze is gone.

Batman returns to the Batcave and Robin and Batgirl are there as well. He’s at his computer brushing up on his Mr. Freeze knowledge and giving the audience a refresher. They recall the accident that created him, as well as his wife Nora and her curing. Following that, Nora waited for her husband to return to her, but he never did. Eventually she remarried and left Gotham. Now Freeze is back and apparently out to make everyone simply feel terrible.

freeze doctors

Mr. Freeze is apparently not in the best of health these days.

Elsewhere, in a very cold room a doctor clad in a warm parka reviews some data on a string of paper (it looks like a modern-day CVS receipt). He remarks that his patient’s brain waves look good, and the camera pans to show Freeze on a gurney being examined by a team of doctors. Freeze thanks the doctor for his work, who reminds Freeze that a more appropriate way to say “Thanks” would be to let them go. He walks over to the door, but in come Freeze’s two remaining Ice Maidens. Freeze tells the doctors they do not have his permission to leave, as he rises from the gurney and places his dome back on. Freeze exits the room and heads towards a giant computer (where did he get this stuff?) and explains he needs to strike at someone who feels safe. On the screen, a video of Bruce Wayne making a charitable donation is shown with Bruce saying that those with the most should give the most. Freeze then notes that those with the most also have the most to lose.

Batgirl is shown getting in a pretty rigorous workout at the Batcave. She’s jumping all over various handlebars and such and ends up on a circular device that randomly pops up laser-firing pillars that she has to strike in order to subdue. She’s doing quite well for herself, but eventually she takes a couple of shots before the training session is ended. Wayne approaches and Batgirl remarks she did pretty well. A score is tabulated and she’s delighted to see it’s a new high score, whether that’s a new high for her or in general is not elaborated upon. As Robin found out in the last episode, seeking praise from Wayne often doesn’t end well and Bruce reminds her that she ended the session “dead.” She seems uninterested in arguing the point and instead suggests they call it a night. Bruce agrees, for himself. He remarks she still needs more practice and he restarts the program at a higher difficulty and leaves Batgirl to it as he heads upstairs.

bruce and tim

Bruce and Tim have to deal with an uninvited guest.

Once in the manor, Bruce confronts Tim while he’s doing homework. Apparently he failed a recent civics test and Tim remarks he doesn’t need to know what a district attorney does. When Bruce tells him that he knows nothing about the justice system, Tim retorts that he knows it’s bogus. When Bruce questions how he got such a notion into his head he says from watching Bruce. It’s a humorous exchange given Batman’s flippant attitude toward law and order. When Tim goes on to remark that Batman doesn’t care one bit about due process, Bruce changes the subject to math.

A knock at the door gets Alfred’s attention, and to his surprise it’s Mr. Freeze and his two lackeys. Freeze freezes the giant stairs leading down into the living room as he casually slides in to confront Bruce. Bruce goes into his whole “I can help you,” routine, but Freeze doesn’t care. He tells him it’s far too late for all of that before turning his attention towards Tim. He remarks that Bruce has been trying to create a new family for himself over the years to make up for the one he lost as a boy. Now Freeze intends to take that which he holds most dear referring to Tim as his surrogate son. Bruce positions himself between Freeze and the boy, but Freeze was just misleading. Deciding that Bruce would be more pained by losing his surrogate father, he turns and fires at Alfred freezing the old butler up to his neck.

freezing alfred

Well, that’s the last time he’ll be able to wear that tux.

Batgirl, having been alerted by a simple push of a button from Bruce’s watch, shows up and attacks Freeze. As he turns his attention to her, Bruce rather coolly approaches one of the Ice Maidens who does not look thrilled to be face-to-face with an unhappy Bruce. The camera cuts away though as we’re not going to show Bruce assaulting a woman. Nor is the show going to do so with Tim, as he’s behind a couch on top of the other maiden who eventually boots him off and into view. They tangle some with Tim being allowed to be shown sweeping her leg. Bruce gets to Alfred, who’s expectedly shivering. Batgirl is able to knock Freeze’s gun out of his hand, and she turns it on him freezing him to the wall. His suit is quite powerful though, and he breaks free as one of the maidens strikes Batgirl from behind. The villains then take their leave, but not before Batgirl is able to fire a homing device at their escape vehicle.

Down in the Batcave, Batman and Batgirl are preparing to go after Freeze while Alfred is shown enjoying a nice chemical bath. Apparently Batman has improved his tech as no longer do frozen subjects need to be completely submerged in a tube. Tim is informed that he gets to stay behind and tend to Alfred, who will apparently enjoy being served for a change. Batman and Batgirl then leave in the Batmobile and the tracking device leads them to an old meat-packing plant that has apparently been abandoned. As they enter, most of the music cuts out and the various meat hooks in the background give off a rather eerie vibe. They find no trace of Mr. Freeze, but then Batman finds a manhole leading to an underground area. There it’s rather quiet as well, but Batgirl is momentarily startled when she stumbles upon Freeze’s suit. The two are forced to deduce it’s a spare because Batman notes it’s not cold enough in there for Freeze to be walking around without his suit.

spider freeze

Now there’s a surprise.

Some yelling from behind a door catches the attention of our heroes and Batman blasts the door in to find the captive medical team. They explain their situation to Batman, and as they prepare to leave they’re stopped by the two Ice Maidens. Held at gunpoint, the two call for their boss who enters into the hallway to unveil his secret. Strolling into the hall comes just the head of Mr. Freeze with four spider-like robotic legs carrying him. When Batman questions what happened, Freeze tells him the accident that created him also caused his body to deteriorate. By the time the medical team assembled before them got to him all that could be salvaged was his head. It’s why he never returned to his beloved Nora, and feeling that he lost everything, he explains he wants the whole world to experience the same sense of loss that he had to endure.

robo freeze

It’s like a docking station for his head. This must be where Nintendo got the idea for the Switch.

In a surprising act of gratitude, Mr. Freeze allows the doctors to leave as he climbs back into his suit, which is apparently entirely robotic at this point. Freeze wants Batman to experience his loss and the only thing Batman adores above all else is his beloved city. Freeze unveils what he calls a reverse fusion bomb which once detonated will coat everything in a ten-mile radius in ice. It’s loaded onto an odd-looking helicopter and Freeze intends to drop it on Gotham while Batman watches helpless from ground level. He departs in the helicopter and leaves Batman and Batgirl in the incapable hands of his hoodlums. When one orders Batgirl to put her hands up, she does, but is able to fire off what looks like her tracker gun and hits the maiden in the face. Batman takes out the other one while Batgirl places a full nelson hold on her girl and tells him to go after Freeze.

batgirl ice gunpoint

Yeah, I doubt she can contain Batgirl.

Batman fires his grapple gun at the helicopter and is able to get aboard it just before the doors on the hangar close. Inside, he approaches Freeze quietly from behind, who does a 180 with his head to spot Batman before he can strike. The two fight, with Freeze smashing Batman into the windshield of the helicopter drawing blood from Batman’s lip and nose. Freeze informs Batman he has no qualms about changing his plans and simply killing Batman there before dropping his bomb, but as he approaches Batman is able to fire his grapple gun at the bomb itself latching onto it (this seems really dangerous given that Batman’s new grapple gun just stabs into things as opposed to hooking on). He then hooks the other end to Freeze and presses the retract button which causes Freeze to get pulled towards the bomb allowing Batman to drop it over the ocean with Freeze attached to it. It detonates under water creating a massive tower of ice. Batman begins piloting the helicopter back to land and informs Batgirl over the radio that they’ve seen the last of Mr. Freeze. The camera then pans to the ice tower to reveal Freeze’s frozen body encased within it, but his head is missing.

Mr. Freeze had been softened enough to the point that it was a bit challenging to bring him back as a true villain. Having him once more turn to his feeling of loss as a prime motivator was a logical path for the villain, though his indifference to the plight of others is basically lost as a result. While he still operates in a cold manner, and Michael Ansara still voices him in a monotone fashion, he’s essentially enjoying the suffering of others just without an obvious reaction to it. He also needed a reason to not have returned to Nora. While it could have been a noble choice, it did make more sense for the character to feel like Nora was taken from him once again. The only issue is that the deteriorating body thing basically goes against what we knew previously about Mr. Freeze. Back in “Deep Freeze” it was thought his condition was the complete opposite and that he was effectively immortal. It does give the episode a little something extra to have that reveal in the final act, though “Spider Freeze” is pretty damn hokey.

batman bleeding

It’s not exactly a crimson mask, but it’s always a little exciting when Batman bleeds.

The episode is also not at all concerned with explaining how Freeze ended up in this situation. Presumably, he noticed his body was failing and was able to abduct a bunch of medical professionals before succumbing to his condition, but he sure did end up with a lot of high-tech stuff, not to mention that reverse fusion bomb. How did he get all of that stuff? Did he just buy it? Steal it? Create it himself? He did mention possessing a lot of gold in SubZero, so I suppose he used that to finance his criminal operation, but it is worth acknowledging that the episode takes a lot of liberties with its villain. The Ice Maidens are also atypical for this series. While it appears like we can expect a bit more personality from those who serve the main villains, the matching attire of these women is so camp. It’s not the tone I want this show to strive for.

frozen suit

It’s not the last we’ll see of Mr. Freeze, and yet it also is.

Even though the ending is an ominous one, this is Mr. Freeze’s only appearance in The New Batman Adventures. He will be allowed the distinction of being one of the few villains who gets to return in Batman Beyond and that’s the next time we’ll see him. After a stunning debut in “Heart of Ice,” Mr. Freeze has certainly struggled a bit to maintain the aura he had in that episode. “Deep Freeze” was a real letdown, while SubZero was able to put a worthwhile bookend on things. This episode is largely unnecessary for the character, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s not at all surprising that this show wanted to feature Mr. Freeze, and this portrayal is fine. Things do get a bit rushed though and this is a case where maybe a two-part format would have worked out better. I could do without the whole robot thing, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s certainly better than “Deep Freeze,” but I’m not heartbroken that Mr. Freeze won’t show up again either.

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Batman: The Animated Series – “His Silicon Soul”

His_Silicon_SoulEpisode Number:  62

Original Air Date:  November 20, 1992

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Marty Isenberg and Robert N. Skir

First Appearance(s):  Batman Duplicant

Episode 62 of Batman is one where my memory has apparently betrayed me. “His Silicon Soul” first aired on Friday, November 20, 1992 and yet I swear I first saw it in prime time. If it was re-shown in prime time, I can’t confirm, as I suppose it’s possible I missed it in its first showing. Since we’re talking about 26 years in the past though, it’s also possible I created a false memory. It’s just odd to me because I definitely remember my reaction to this one as a kid as it’s a pretty memorable episode. It’s a follow-up to the two-part story “Heart of Steel” which occurred way back in episodes 38 and 39, though in relation to this episode it had aired just days prior with only two episodes airing in between. It ties up basically one loose end from that episode:  What did H.A.R.D.A.C. do with the knowledge that it gained from the Batcave?

robot guts

That’s never happened before.

The episode opens with three seedy gentlemen poking around a warehouse at night. When one questions why they’re here, the apparent leader of this operation says an old computer factory went up in flames and some of the high-end tech it contained was moved here. They come upon a crate and emblazoned on the crate is the H.A.R.D.A.C. logo. They have no idea what that logo means and begin prying at the crate. It soon shakes, and a fist punches through the top. It’s Batman, and the trio of crooks are soon shaken to their core. They attack with crowbars, and Batman remarks how pathetic their attempt is to take him out as he catches their swings. He tosses them around, but one of the crooks whips out a gun and pops off a few shots. They remarkably connect, and when Batman is still standing the crook drops the weapon and flees screaming “He’s not human!” Batman, with a look of shock on his face, looks down to find he’s been wounded and there’s nothing but circuitry spilling out of him.

hardac reflection

I know that image.

At Wayne Manor, an injured Batman ascends the stairs to Bruce Wayne’s study. He pauses at a mirror and traces his face with his finger on it and the image of H.A.R.D.A.C. appears. Alfred emerges thinking there’s a prowler and is relieved to see it’s only Batman. When Batman indicates he needs help, Alfred notices the damage and immediately makes the connection to H.A.R.D.A.C. This duplicant Batman reacts with confusion, insisting he needs help and implying bewilderment over his condition. Alfred flees into the Batcave where he’s able to activate a clever security measure that fills the Batcave with gas while he puts on a gas mask. At least, it would be clever if his assailant wasn’t a robot, so I’m not sure what Alfred expected, and the duplicant soon emerges and pulls the gas mask off of Alfred. With Alfred unconscious, the robot accesses the computer database for information relating to H.A.R.D.A.C.

Elsewhere in Gotham, the police have stumbled upon the would-be burglars who faced-off with the robot Batman. The real Batman shows up as well and Commissioner Gordon suggests he not hang the guys so high next time. They lower the bound thugs and Gordon removes a Bat-a-rang from the rope and gives it back to Batman. “Yours, I presume,” he remarks to which Batman responds with “So it would seem.”

Batman notices the guys are pretty shaken up at his presence and he pulls Gordon aside. He explains to Gordon that he didn’t apprehend these men, despite how it looks. Batman seeks information on what the crooks were going after, and finds a microchip stuck to the jacket of one of them.

farm bot

So when is this robot going to rebel and start killing people?

We’re taken to a farm that’s being attended to by various little robots. It’s the home of H.A.R.D.A.C. creator Karl Rossum (William Sanderson) who has given up on creating advanced robots in favor of a more simpler, but still quirky, lifestyle. Batman approaches him from behind, as he always does, and startles the skittish farmer. He questions if more duplicants could exist, specifically if H.A.R.D.A.C. could have created one of him. Rossum insists H.A.R.D.A.C. is no more and that the police seized everything from his old lab. Batman apologizes for bringing up the past, before taking his leave.

Later on, Rossum is alone in his green house when Batman shows up once again. Rossum is agitated, but then realizes this isn’t the same Batman. It’s the robot Batman, and he’s there for help. He insists something has been done to him, that his mind was taken from his body and implanted in a robot. He needs help getting his body restored, or getting into a new robot one. Rossum explains that he’s not and has never been human but is in fact a robot. When the duplicant reacts angrily insisting it has memories, Rossum reveals that it’s all data driven. When he asks it to recall its first kiss or favorite song it’s unable to, because it’s never had that information. Rossum also reveals its body has been damaged beyond repair and its circuits will likely cease all functions within a few hours. This enrages the cyborg, and it looks like it’s about to inflict some pain on Rossum until the real Batman ambushes it from behind.

green house rumble

It’s time for a rumble in a green house, and this isn’t even a Poison Ivy episode!

The two fight and Batman is at a disadvantage. The robot copy of him fights like him, but with enhanced strength. He takes cover and uses a hose, of all things, to subdue the robot when he blasts the damaged area and exposed wires with water. Rossum runs up ready to destroy the robot with a hoe, but Batman stops him claiming they need this machine to lead them to whatever remains of H.A.R.D.A.C. The robot then “wakes up,” and now has sinister glowing red eyes instead of white. The fight resumes, and the main casualty is Rossum’s green house. The robot tosses Batman through the side of it, but when the green house starts to cave in, the robot Batman goes back to save Rossum. With Rossum tossed out of the falling structure, the whole thing comes down on the robot. Batman walks over to scour the remains, but the robot appears to have vanished. He jumps into the Batmobile and searches on his computer for where the confiscated material from Rossum’s lab ended up and it brings up a Gotham PD impound lot.

repair sequence

Repair sequence initiated. It’s oddly satisfying to watch.

Somehow, the duplicant Batman is already there despite apparently not lifting a Batcycle or Batwing from the Batcave. It enters the warehouse and finds some components. Once one in particular is identified, some latent programming takes over. The duplicant is clearly fighting it, but cannot resist. It pulls off the outer skin covering its mechanical head and inserts a chip into a slot on the forehead. Once done, the voice of H.A.R.D.A.C. (Jeff Bennett) starts telling the robot what is happening. All of H.A.R.D.A.C.’s data files are being downloaded and integrated with the duplicant Batman. It details the robot’s creation and also its new objective. Duplicant Batman is now essentially both a Batman clone and H.A.R.D.A.C. in one and it is to resume the operation to replace humanity with robots. Better yet, that chip activated a repair function that has undone the damage from earlier. The duplicant puts its “face” back on and moves to a window to see the Batmobile has just arrived. It declares it will replace all of humanity, starting with Batman.

Batman enters the warehouse and finds it quiet at first. The duplicant then attacks from behind and it’s Batman vs Batman once more. The only way to tell the two apart now is by the glowing, red, eyes of the robot version. The confrontation is brief as the robot slams Batman through a wall to plunge into the waters below.

robot eyes

When the eyes go red you know you’re in trouble.

The Batmobile arrives back at the Batcave and Alfred is at first relieved to see Batman emerge. He soon realizes, partly based on the more robotic speech pattern of the repaired duplicant, that this is not Batman. The robot declares there is only one Batman now, but it will let Alfred live and continue on as caretaker of the mansion until a replacement is constructed. It also reveals that it intends to use the Batcomputer (Richard Moll) to upload H.A.R.D.A.C.’s directive to all connected devices across the globe. From there it will take over defense systems and hold the world hostage forcing humanity to help build the era of robotics.

more swords

You just knew its face would end up like this at some point.

The real Batman shows up to declare this won’t happen. His cape was apparently torn in the last fight, and he has a comically small cape dangling from his back. The duplicant has activated its program though and a classic countdown has initiated with 5 minutes to go. Alfred tries to cancel it but gets electrocuted for his efforts. Seeing no alternative, Batman once more does battle with his imposter. As the two fight throughout the Batcave, Batman taunts the fake declaring it’s been made too well. Since it’s based on him, it won’t take a life. That’s why it didn’t finish him off earlier and it’s why it won’t kill him now. The robot denies this as the two fight, and Batman flings some acid in its face which was basically required as it burns off half of the robot’s face giving us a classic Terminator half-human half-robot look.

batman v batman

More sword fighting!

As the two fight, they end up in an armory where Batman grabs a sword. The robot counters by doing the same, and for the second consecutive episode we get a sword fight. This one is brief though, and results in Batman falling into a chasm in the Batcave. The robot reacts in horror thinking it has taken a life. As it stands before the computer, it goes berserk and with only 2 seconds left it smashes everything in sight. An explosion results that tosses the robot back to smash against the Batmobile. The sprinkler system kicks on and the glowing eyes of the now badly damaged robot flicker out.

duplicant smash

Smashing a computer solves every problem.

Alfred heads back to where Batman fell and shines a light down below. A light is returned and Batman is shown hanging from some lighting affixed to the Batcave wall. He climbs back up and both he and Alfred go take a look at the deactivated robot. Batman ponders if, in the end, the duplicant possessed a soul hearkening back to the inspiration for all three of these robot episodes, the Phillip K. Dick story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” which was the inspiration for the film Blade Runner. The camera lingers on the face of the android, now mask-less, to ponder Batman’s question a moment before the credits take over.

“His Silicon Soul” is a fun follow-up to “Heart of Steel.” It was surprising that Batman never had to take on a Batman copy in that two-part episode, but it makes sense that the staff saved that confrontation for its own episode. I mentioned how, despite getting the air date wrong in my memory, that I did actually remember the first time I saw this episode and that’s because of the impact it made. I had somehow missed the first-run of “Heart of Steel” so I had no idea what that logo on duplicant Batman’s box was when I first saw this. Seeing Batman fight some guys and turn out to be a robot was shocking and confusing to me. I had no idea what was going on and it actually made the experience more exciting. It makes me wish that logo wasn’t present because it kind of deprives the audience of that initial shock at seeing Batman’s exposed robot parts.

dead eyed stare

A some-what unsettling image to end the episode on.

For the robot Batman and the fights between it and the real Batman, the episode obviously borrows from The Terminator franchise, which was incredibly popular at the time. It was noted for “Heart of Steel” how the duplicants resemble the Terminators from those films, and this episode even brings in that half-robot look. H.A.R.D.A.C.’s ambitions are essentially the same as Skynet’s and the only thing missing is time travel. Even if it is obvious, it’s still a lot of fun and taking a more Blade Runner approach towards the actual robots injects a little philosophy into the episode which The Terminator lacks. It’s not nearly as heavy-handed as Blade Runner, and the question raised by Batman is almost ridiculous regarding a silicon soul, though it’s also the type of thing that felt really impactful to me as a kid, so considering the audience, mission accomplished. The duplicant Batman would end up as a fan-favorite character and he was even brought back for a 2014 Batman Beyond short where he leads an army of Batmen into the Batcave. It’s nothing special, but it’s kind of fun since all of the other Batmen are costumed differently reflecting a Batman from a prior period in the real world. Aside from that, H.A.R.D.A.C. and its many duplicants will not be heard from again.

Dong Yang animated this episode and does a pretty good job with it. It’s worth noting since it had to follow the TMS episodes, but the robots and the robot Batman are all quite fun to look at. The whole removing of the robot’s face could have probably been embellished more, but they also likely didn’t want it to be too unsettling. I like the sound design for that sequence as it has a peeling sound that is a bit gross, even if the visual is rather tame. Early in the episode I did think the darker sequences did not hold up too well. The blue accents of Batman’s costume have an almost fluorescent quality to them and there are a few shots where Batman has a hook nose when shown from the side, and I always disliked hook-nosed Batman.

“His Silicon Soul” is overall a really fun and engaging episode of the show and it’s a good one to take a break on. It’s now post Thanksgiving and The Nostalgia Spot will soon morph into The Christmas Spot. In some sense it feels like poor timing since we only have three episodes left of season one. It also kind of stinks because our re-entry episode following Christmas is going to be one of the worst episodes of the season so far. I don’t control time though. If you come to this blog just to read about Batman:  The Animated Series then I hope you don’t mind the three-week break in programming here. And hopefully you return on December 28 for our next episode. Until then, I encourage you to indulge in the Christmas programming as the next 25 days will feature a new post about a holiday-inspired episode of television, or something similar, and I promise to even fit a super hero story or two in there.


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.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Day of the Samurai”

Day_of_the_Samurai-Title_CardEpisode Number:  44

Original Air Date:  February 23, 1993

Directed by:  Bruce W. Timm

Written by:  Steve Perry

First Appearance(s):  Kairi Tanaga, Master Yoru

 

“Day of the Samurai” is basically the follow-up to “Night of the Ninja.” The plots for the two aren’t necessarily connected, which is why it didn’t necessitate a two-parter designation, but both feature the ninja character Kyodai Ken and hinge on his rivalry with Bruce Wayne. Ken (Robert Ito) has returned to Japan following his defeat at the hands of Bruce Wayne and is seeking an ancient scroll in order to strengthen himself presumably to exact his revenge on those who have wronged him. It will have direct call-backs to the prior episode while also bringing in Wayne and Ken’s sensei, Master Yoru (Goh Misawa), in a proper fashion (he was previously only featured in a flashback sequence). It also loosely introduces Yoru’s new star pupil Kairi Tanaga (Julia Kato), who will go on to make a follow-up appearance in the sequel series Batman Beyond as a much older woman.

Day_of_the_Samurai_Fight

Get ready for an episode of weird looking art, by Batman standards.

The episode opens on a dojo in Japan. Kairi is alone at night practicing her martial arts when she’s visited by the ninja Kyodai Ken. Ken is not there on a social visit, and the two square-off for battle. In a nice touch, they both speak in Japanese and the image is subtitled, even though they’re just exchanging typical pre-fight banter. Ken is no match for Kairi, and he takes her out rather quickly and efficiently with a roundhouse kick to the head. The camera is cleverly positioned so that we can see that Ken is administering a kick, but we don’t actually see it strike the young woman in what I hope is for obvious reasons. Ken scoops up the unconscious Kairi and leaves a piece of rolled parchment affixed to the wall via shuriken. The following morning, Sensei Yoru is shown finding the document.

The setting shifts to the Batcave and Alfred is shown bringing the phone to Batman. He tells him it’s his sensei and Batman answers in his Bruce voice. We quickly leave those two behind to jump back to Japan where Ken is explaining his intentions to Kairi. He intends to ransom her, for what we don’t know. Bruce and Alfred are then shown arriving in Japan and Bruce meets with his old sensei. Yoru lets him know that he’s aware that Ken returned from Gotham in shame having been defeated. Bruce insists it was Batman’s doing and Yoru goes along with it, but I suspect we’re supposed to understand that Yoru has deduced the identity of this Batman. Either way, Yoru needs the help of the Batman in saving Kairi and hopefully keeping his family’s secrets away from Ken.

Yoru

Master Yoru seeks the help of Batman is recovering his star pupil.

It’s those secrets that Ken is after in return for the safety of Kairi. Yoru’s great-great grandfather uncovered the secret to a fighting style called Kiba no Hoko, which translates to The Way of the Fang. Part of that discipline includes the o-nemuri technique, otherwise known as  The Fatal Touch, or if you’re Bart Simpson, The Touch of Death. Yoru’s ancestor determined the discipline was too dangerous and refused to teach it to anyone. Instead, he wrote down the art’s secrets on a single scroll and hid it in a cave. He told only his family and they’ve kept it a secret these past few generations. Yoru has no sons though, so when he dies the secret dies with him, forcing Ken to act now if he wants to find the scroll (why the ancient master didn’t just let the discipline’s secrets die with him is a mystery).

Bart Touch of Death

Beware! The Touch of Death!!

Yoru, citing his strict adherence to the code of Bushido, refuses to lie or deceive Ken and gives up the location of the scroll by giving Bruce a map to exchange with Ken for Kairi’s safe return. Bruce is, of course, supposed to then give the map to Batman who is to confront Ken, which he does. Ken is quite happy to see Batman once again, and their brief banter allows Kairi a chance to get the upper hand on Ken and attempt an escape. It’s a good try, but Ken is able to give chase and knock her from the rooftop their meeting is taking place on. Batman is forced to drop the map and dive off the roof after Kairi. He saves her, and in doing so does a neat trick with his grapple gun in which the cable disengages from the firing mechanism so that they don’t swing into the side of a building. Batman then goes back for Ken, but the slippery ninja is able to escape.

Day_of_the_Samurai_Find

The scroll, just before it crumbles in Ken’s hands.

Ken is able to follow the map to a volcanic region. Unfortunately for him, Father Time has seen to it that the scroll is barely legible and crumbles at first touch. Ken is angered at first, but then smiles as he picks up a larger piece of the scroll that didn’t completely fall apart. Following Ken’s departure, Batman finds the cave himself and the crumbled scroll. He brings it back to the dojo where Bruce and Yoru are shown examining it. Bruce thinks they’re in the clear, but Yoru notices a large piece of the tattered document is missing and he apparently knows it’s the portion that contains the information for The Fatal Touch.

Bruce is then left to decide if he can risk pursuing Ken. Kairi pops in to basically pass on her admiration for Batman (she doesn’t seem to be in on the double-identity thing) while Alfred is sort of surprised they can’t head home just yet. Alfred is then shown the next day in the local market shopping for goods, when a suspicious character pursues him. Batman is also able to find Ken’s hideout. He’s looking for information that could help him understand The Fatal Touch, since no one knows where the touch has to be administered (Yoru never allowed himself to view the scroll). He comes across Ken’s practice dummy, which he lingers on, until a phone call interrupts him. It’s Ken, and he’s calling to let Batman know that he’s taken Alfred hostage and desires a final battle. Batman is able to trace the call (which shows an American number, even though they’re in Japan), and our final showdown is all set and ready to go.

Ken Death Touch

We call that a bad touch.

Ken has chosen a volcano, one apparently near eruption, as the setting for their showdown. When Batman arrives, he expresses a desire to fight as men and the two remove their masks. Batman also removes his cape, and Ken his shirt since he has that large demon tattoo on his back to show off. The two fight, and Bruce tries to keep his distance. Ken notices and taunts him, asking if he fears his touch. Ken is able to gain the upper hand, his fingers thrust forward hunting for Bruce’s chest. Turns out, the special spot for The Fatal Touch is basically right where you would expect, and when Ken plants his two fingers on the Batman logo on Bruce’s chest, Bruce lets out a howl. His eyes roll back into his head, and his limp body hits the ground. Ken, satisfied with himself, begins to walk away, until a gloved hand clamps down on his shoulder. It’s Bruce! He’s not dead after all, and he soon dominates Ken in hand-to-hand combat. Ken is aghast that his touch didn’t work, and forced to regroup, he begins to retreat. The erupting volcano splits the terrain in two, and the combatants find themselves separated by the river of lava. Bruce tosses a rope to Ken, imploring him to take it and jump across. Ken kicks it into the lava, takes a bow, and becomes engulfed in an explosion. Bruce then frees Alfred, and explains how he survived Ken’s touch. By examining the practice dummy, he was able to figure out the spot Ken struck repeatedly and assumed that was where The Fatal Touch had to be administered. He placed some sort of padding over his chest, under his shirt, to protect him from the attack.

Back at the dojo, Yoru expresses his admiration for Batman to Bruce. When Bruce questions why since Batman is more ninja-like than samurai, Yoru explains his reasoning and it’s pretty obvious he’s speaking to Bruce with the knowledge that Bruce is Batman, in case anyone was still wondering. It’s a nice little pick-me-up for Bruce as he’s basically gained the endorsement of his old sensei on top of his recent victory.

Kyodai_Bows_to_Bruce

Kyodai Ken takes a bow before departing the series for good, though no one really requested one.

“Day of the Samurai” marks the last appearance of Kyodai Ken. He was created just for this show, and he’s basically just remained confined to these two episodes. As an old rival from Bruce’s formative years, he’s fine. What I don’t like about him and the episode is the approach to Japanese culture and placing this hokey, fantasy, martial arts story onto it. The idea of a touch of death just feels like a western viewpoint of Japan, and it was mocked by The Simpsons, which feels like the proper approach as opposed to this sincere one. It also felt kind of dumb to play the angle that no one knew where the touch had to be administered, and yet it ends up being the center of the chest. Isn’t that basically where one would assume? Maybe a little off to the side and over the heart, but pretty much that general area. As we went over in the “Night of the Ninja” entry, ninjas were rather popular at the time so it was hardly a surprise to see one show up in Batman. I guess in short, no one likely missed Kyodai Ken following this episode and his apparent death.

This episode was also the second, and last, episode animated by Blue Pencil, S.I. Previously, that company had worked on the Riddler episode “If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?” and I wasn’t a huge fan of the visual style present there. It’s much the same here, with the whole thing having more of a “toon” vibe. Here it’s more apparent as we’re dealing with a pretty mature plot and the cartoonish visual flair works against the episode’s aura. Bruce Wayne even looks off model at times, and not really for the better. Batman himself looks all right though, as his cape has a little more personality and flair. The movements are kind of floaty, but they are frequent, so in some respects this style was ambitious. Everyone just kind of looks like they’re made of water though, so it’s a give and take. There’s a few animation gaffes as well such as attire changing color from one shot to the next and a few instances where a character’s mouth isn’t moving even though they’re speaking. I did like that they didn’t shy away too much from the physical style of Ken, and allowing him to assault a woman is a rather bold move. The sequences were story-boarded and executed well to please the censors while still retaining their impact. Lastly, the final fight between Batman and Ken gets a little slapstick following Bruce’s bounce-back from apparent death, which just didn’t work as comedy or within the context of the fight and I have no idea why they went that route. Maybe someone got cold feet and felt they needed to dial back on the tension of the scene.

Kairi_Old

This may be the end for Kyodai Ken, but Kairi gets to show up in Batman Beyond.

As a send-off for Kyodai Ken, I guess this one is fine. Since no one was really looking for one anyway. I’m not sad to see Blue Pencil go either, though I couldn’t dig up anything online about them regarding why they were never asked to animate another episode. Bruce Timm, who directed this episode, expressed a displeasure with the animation when it gets too “anime,” so it wouldn’t surprise me if he wasn’t a fan of their work here as well. This episode also gave us a break from weird mutated monster enemies, but apparently we’re in for another one of those next week so I will see you then for “Terror in the Sky.”