Tag Archives: dc comics

The New Batman Adventures – “Holiday Knights”

holiday knightsEpisode Number:  1 (86)

Original Air Date:  September 13, 1997

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Paul Dini

First Appearance:  Robin (Tim Drake), Mo, Lar, Cur

After pausing for a week to discuss the 1998 film Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero we have now finally arrived at The New Batman Adventures era of the show. This is essentially the start of a sequel series, but it’s been retconned over the years (or just simplified) as Season 3 of Batman: The Animated Series. The Blu Ray set released in 2018 simply refers to it as such and the intro for each episode is the Season One intro from the Fox Kids era. The show largely exists thanks to two new developments since the previous series ended in 1995:  the WB network, and Superman.

Warner Bros. and Fox had a nice relationship in the 1990s where WB created several shows that Fox aired as part of its Fox Kids lineup on weekday afternoons and Saturday morning. At some point, the executives at WB decided it would just make more sense for them to start their own network. On January 11, 1995 The WB was launched and alongside it came Kids’ WB. That block of programming would be occupied by cartoons primarily, most of which included characters WB owned. Gradually, as the license agreements with Fox expired the shows WB had created for that network migrated to its network.

TNBA trio

The New Batman Adventures placed greater emphasis on Batman’s supporting cast.

The network’s flagship action cartoon was Superman, or Superman: The Animated Series. It was decided that it would make a lot of sense for Superman to simply be partnered with Batman to form an hour programming block of DC’s hottest heroes. It would make sense for the two to cross paths, and so WB commissioned a new Batman series envisioned as a sequel to BTAS. Like the second season of that show, this one would focus on Batman and a supporting cast of heroes. Dick Grayson would return, but not as Robin but rather Nightwing. In his place was a new, much younger, Robin and Batgirl would be there as well. The show would need to be updated to match the style of Superman and to also make the show cheaper to produce. “Dark Deco” was now out, in its place was a modern Gotham with cell phones and (gasp!) color TV. Oddly, Gotham would also feature a red sky apparently to heighten the darkness of the show vs the much brighter Superman. There is a reduction of shadows as well making everything lighter in appearance. Perhaps something that disappoints only me is the dropping of title cards. I loved the title cards on BTAS and I was so bummed to see they weren’t continued here. It also makes each one of these posts a little less interesting to look at.

TNBA redesigns

A look at the various villains from the show, some old some new.

This new style meant character redesigns. Batman would ditch the blue of his prior costume opting for a strictly black and gray ensemble. His belt was also muted in tone and more utilitarian in appearance. Robin’s costume dropped the green and Batgirl ditched the gray as well. On the villain’s side things were a bit more extreme. We’ll mostly get to them as they show up. To highlight a few; Scarecrow received an entirely new look while Joker featured an aggressive redesign that removed the sclera of his eyes and the red of his lips. Some of these redesigns are quite interesting on their own, while some are just plain inferior to the previous look. The characters had to be simplified to reflect the shrinking budget, but some sacrifices just aren’t worth making.

Most of the creative staff was returned for the new series. Paul Dini and Bruce Timm served as executive producers alongside Alan Burnett. Dini and Timm would both contribute to multiple episodes as writer while Dan Riba returned to direct multiple episodes as well. Also returning was the majority of the voice cast from the prior series, with the only notable change being Tara Strong (then known as Tara Charendoff) as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl. A lot of new blood was also brought in, many of which would hang around the DC Animated Universe which was about to expand to include The Justice League and Teen Titans. This is basically the beginning of an expansive television universe by WB and DC which is basically the television equivalent of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m primarily only interested in Batman when it comes to DC, so don’t expect me to do this for the other shows. Hopefully no one is disappointed.

TNBA logo

New show, new logo.

The New Batman Adventures was released on DVD as Volume 4 of Batman: The Animated Series and is included in both the DVD and Blu Ray box set of the series as Season 3. For this feature, I considered simply sticking with the BTAS title, but decided this show was different enough to change it up. I’ll include both the episode number as it relates to this series as well as how it relates to the entire series. We’re also sticking with production order as opposed to air date order. The show was ordered as one season, but aired as two seasons of 13 and 11 episodes respectively concluding in January of 1999. At some point I’ll summarize my thoughts on the whole of Batman: The Animated Series, but since we’re getting started with The New Batman Adventures I’ll say upfront that I find this series to be inferior to its predecessor. It’s less unique looking and not as well written. The new villains introduced aren’t as memorable and we also lose a little bit of Batman by switching to an ensemble format. He’s made to be more grim, apparently to heighten how different he is from his younger companions, and as such loses some of his humanity in the process. He’s overall just less interesting as a character, and the focus on the others doesn’t really make up for that. It feels like a diservice to the excellent Kevin Conroy, who simply has less to work with in regards to Batman and Bruce Wayne.

Anyways, let’s finally start talking about this first episode, shall we? First airing just over 2 years after the conclusion of BTAS, “Holiday Knights” is a pretty bizarre way to kick-off this series. For one, it’s a Christmas/New Years episode that’s presented in anthology format with three separate mini stories starring different heroes and villains. It’s based on the Batman Adventures Holiday Special released in 1995 written by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. Oddly, WB chose to air this as the premier as well in September rather than stashing it away until closer to Christmas like Fox did with “Christmas with the Joker,” the second episode from BTAS. Also complicating things, the new Robin (Mathew Valencia) debuts here even though the second episode is the one that details how he met Batman and came to assume this persona. Clayface is also the featured villain of the middle tale, but his actual return from the events of “Mudslide” is recounted in a later episode as well. This episode almost feels non-canon as a result, and it’s just overall a weird and confusing way to bring the series back.

new ivy

Ivy has apparently spent the past couple of years avoiding the sun.

The episode begins on December 22 and quickly reintroduces us to a pair of villains:  Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing) and Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin). Harley largely looks the same as she did in the previous series, while Ivy has received a fairly dramatic makeover. Her hair is more stylized and her skin bone white. She displays what is basically the new female body-shape on the show:  short, pointed, with an oversized head. It’s a more “toon” presentation and is less realistic compared with BTAS. I personally don’t care for it, but it is what it is.

Harley is bored and not at all excited to be stuck in a slummy motel for the holidays. She bemoans their lack of a Christmas tree, which naturally sets Ivy off as she views them as a form of genocide against trees. Ivy insists she has a plan that will brighten up their holiday and urges her friend to trust in her. We’re then taken to a gathering of the wealthy at the Vreeland estate where we get our first look at the new Bruce Wayne. He dresses all in black now with a white shirt under his suit and red “power” tie. His hair is black as well and slicked back to give him a real douchey look befitting a billionaire playboy. He’s socializing with Veronica Vreeland (Marilu Henner) who has returned to her red-haired look after a brief dabble with being a blonde and seems amused when a gaggle of women swarm Bruce. While Bruce is being pushed around by the ladies, one of them plants a kiss right on his lips. It’s Ivy, and as we learned way back in “Pretty Poison” getting a kiss from her is not something anyone should desire.

bruce ivy harley

Not the women Bruce was hoping to take home.

Bruce leaves the party and as he heads for his car he’s invited into a limo by a pair of women. Bruce finds himself unable to control his own body as he’s subjected to Ivy and Harley’s whims. They then use Bruce and his fabulous wealth to go on a shopping spree. A montage plays which feels fitting for a holiday special and is set to a saxophone rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The women seem to enjoy themselves while Bruce is helpless. As they force him to carry all of their purchases he begins to make some headway in fighting off the effects of the poison. The girls realize too late that he needs another dose, and as they approach to do so Bruce is able to back away falling into an open elevator shaft. The girls are indifferent to Bruce’s plight as they still have his credit cards and continue on with their evening. Meanwhile, the gloved hand of Batman reaches up from the depths of the elevator shaft.

harley ivy shopping

The Ivy and Harley montage is probably the best part of the whole episode.

Harley and Ivy make their escape in their stolen limo being driven by another brainwashed lackey, but soon enough the cloaked outline of Batman flashes behind them. Harley warns Ivy about who’s on their tail and Ivy makes some evasive maneuvers to avoid The Dark Knight which leads them to a toy store – how fitting. Batman enters and encounters all manners of toy-related traps:  wooden soldiers, giant boxing gloves, and Harley’s trusty mallet. The ladies lure Batman through their fun house leading up a tower of toys before they hastily attempt a retreat. As the duo turn to rub salt in his wounds, Batman fires his redesigned grappling hook (it makes a less satisfying hissing sound when fired and features an end that’s just a bladed Batman logo) to hook the base of a massive Christmas tree. He topples it landing right on the thieves putting a damper on their holiday, but returning to the Christmas tree gag with Harley who’s strangely comforted by its presence.

santa bullock

Santa Bullock, ho, ho, ho.

Our second story takes place on Christmas Eve. Barbara is shopping at Mayfield’s Department Store for a gift for her father. As she’s paying for her gift, a crying child gets her attention and the clerk remarks it’s been like that all day. Not far from the checkout station is a department store Santa being played by none other than Detective Harvey Bullock (Robert Costanzo). Apparently, Bullock isn’t the best Santa and tends to leave the kids who sit on his lap in tears. Serving alongside him as his elf is Officer Renee Montoya (Liane Schirmir) and the two are apparently on a stake-out which is why Bullock isn’t exactly into this whole Santa schtick. Bullock does at least find the Christmas spirit momentarily when a little girl sits on his lap asking to have her dad back for Christmas. Apparently, her dad is a crook Bullock just helped get put away. Not really knowing what else to do, he gives her some money. That should cheer her up.

Barbara is amused by Bullock’s turn as Kris Kringle and makes her way for the exit. Along the way she notices a child who appears to be shoplifting. The daughter of Gotham’s police commissioner can’t stand idly by as someone commits a crime, so she reaches out to grab him only she comes away with a handful of mud instead. Montoya then receives word to be on the lookout for a rabble of child thieves which fellow detectives are chasing through the store. They corner the kids, who then all merge into one being right before their very eyes.

batgirl crowd control

Batgirl showing off her new attire.

It’s Clayface (Ron Perlman), and he’s not the type of bandit to go quietly. He immediately begins trashing the place forcing Barbara to duck out and re-emerge as Batgirl. She takes the fight right to Clayface knocking him through an oversized window and onto a skating rink outside causing him to smash through the ice. Santa and his elf arrive to provide backup, though their guns do little to bother Clayface. Batgirl hollers at them to stop wasting their ammo and to aim for the Santa. Bullock at first confuses her command to mean him, but above Clayface is a giant, lighted, Santa and lights and Bullock and Montoya blast it down to land on top of Clayface. The frayed wires land in the water around Clayface electrocuting him and putting a stop to his rampage. Montoya then leaves Bullock to handle the clean-up.

new joker

I don’t like this new Joker at all, but at least we still have Mark Hamill doing his voice.

Our final tale takes place on December 31 and involves The Joker (Mark Hamill). He’s sent out one of his famous broadcasts to the people of Gotham revealing his New Year’s resolution to not kill anyone in the new year. This means he needs to make up for it all tonight and send the current year out with a bang! A taping of this broadcast is being viewed by Batman and Robin in Commissioner Gordon’s office. It would seem Gordon stopped heading to the gym following the events of BTAS as he’s a lot smaller and older looking now than he was before. Gordon (Bob Hastings) informs Batman that they have a lead on Joker as a GothCorp scientist was murdered earlier in the day. The scientist specialized in sonics and had been working on a new weapon that could kill with sound. Batman deduces that Joker’s likely target will be The New Year’s Countdown in Gotham Square and it’s likely he’ll have this new weapon in hand.

jokers favors

Joker’s party favors.

Joker is shown at Gotham Square with some of his finest: Mo, Lar, and Cur (all voiced by Ron Perlman and obvious reference to The Three Stooges). They’re rigging the sonic bomb to a massive bell. Apparently at midnight, the bell goes up to ring in the new year and when that happens the bomb will go off. And to make things harder on Batman, Joker has some “party favors” to distribute.

Batman and Robin head for the party and realize finding Joker will be a bit harder than expected. Joker has distributed his Joker masks to all of the party-goers making it hard to find the real Joker. Batman peers through some binoculars and spots a clown in a purple suit at a piano in the middle of the gathering onstage. He’s wearing ear muffs and so are the rather large men flanking him. Figuring that’s his man, Batman and Robin head for the stage and Batman dings Joker’s head with a Batarang knocking off his ear muffs. They then turn their attention to Joker’s goons, but find they’re pretty hard to deal with. Joker ends up grabbing the upper hand by smashing a bucket full of ice and champagne over the back of Batman’s skull.

joker champagne

This will be a short-lived victory for Joker.

Joker grabs the bottle of champagne to celebrate and apparently die with everyone else. As Joker gloats over Batman, The Dark Knight is able to snatch the bottle of champagne and sprays it all over the controls to the bell shortening out the killing device. As he does so, Joker tries to stop him and shoots at him and actually hits Batman in the right arm. As Batman lays on the ground, Joker laughs like only he can. As he does so the bell begins to fall, and it just so happens to land right on Joker who offers a well-timed “Ouch,” from beneath it to close out the scene.

bat gordon toast

We’re introduced to an annual tradition for Gordon and The Dark Knight.

With Joker’s plot foiled once again, Commissioner Gordon is shown entering a diner around 2 AM. The owner (Corey Burton) ushers everyone out and tells them he’s closing up as Gordon takes a seat at a booth. The man brings him a mug of coffee as well as a second mug and wonders aloud if Gordon’s buddy is coming. Gordon assures him he is, and Batman soon enters through a rear door. He sits down and the two indicate this is a yearly tradition of theirs. They speak only a few words before Gordon turns to request something from the kitchen to go. When he turns back he finds an empty booth and a couple of bucks left on the table to cover the tab. Remarking he’ll one day beat him to the check, Gordon collects himself and heads out into the night while Batman is seen swinging off into the red sky himself.

As I said, this is an odd way to begin the series. Three fragmented stories which lean heavily into comic relief that contain characters who will require a true introduction (or reintroduction) further down the road. It at least gets a lot of characters on-screen though giving us a peek at this new look. In general, I’m not much of a fan for how this series looks. It uses mostly straight lines in its characters and the women and children have huge heads. I mostly hate the new Joker as his face just lacks personality and is so bland and wooden to look at. The removal of his lips also just makes his mouth flaps look odder as he’s all teeth gnashing together. He looked so great in BTAS so it’s just really disappointing to see him reduced to this. This practically elderly looking Commissioner Gordon is also not a favorite of mine and Bullock looks like he’s gained about 50 pounds.

clayface hk

Clayface doesn’t come across looking so hot. Meanwhile, less censorship apparently extends to Montoya’s attire as well.

Not surprisingly, Clayface isn’t as well animated as he was before. He still contorts his body into weapons and other beings, but not a lot of resources are spent on the transitioning animation. He’s also far more stable looking than he was in “Mudslide” and has almost a rocky appearance compared with his old one. It should also be pointed out he was previosuly immune to elecrocution so either that was a goof by Dini or they intentionally took that immunity away from him. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but this is just a less interesting looking show. They wanted it to be in-line with Metropolis from Superman and it wouldn’t make sense to have Gotham look like it was trapped in the 1940s and Metropolis like something from the 90s.

harley and the tree

It’s nice to have a little Christas in June, right? Interestingly, the comic this episode is based on portrayed Harley as Jewish.

There is one advantage this show has over its predecessor and that appears to be with the level of violence on display. It’s blatantly discussed that Joker murdered someone and he has an apparent lust for carnage and mayhem that was more tip-toed around on Fox. Batman is also free to punch people while villains, and the police, are still able to wield realistic looking weapons. Warner must have desired a way to differentiate its network from Fox and upping the violence was apparently one such way.

As an episode, this is a pretty benign, disposable, piece of entertainment. And there is entertainment value for it largely as a comedic vehicle. I wish it had chosen to end on Batman and Gordon sipping coffee together rather than turn to the tired gag of Batman vanishing whenever someone turns their back on him. I think that would have been the way the old series would have ended this one with a somber, but also sweet, ending. I guess this is just one more way for this show to announce it’s here and it’s not the same one we’re used to. Since I am a bit of a Christmas cartoon junkie, I should add that as a Christmas episode this is also just all right. It doesn’t linger much on the holiday, but it also doesn’t beat anyone over the head with Christmas clichés. It’s probably a touch better than “Christmas with the Joker” actually though less memorable. I don’t think either makes a strong case to be included with annual Christmas viewings, but you could certainly do worse.

Advertisements

Batman: The Animated Series – “Second Chance”

second chance cardEpisode Number:  80

Original Air Date:  September 17, 1994

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Paul Dini, Michael Reaves, Gerry Conway

First Appearance(s):  None

 

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

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

surgery prep

Harvey’s getting some work done.

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

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

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

two-face kidnapped

Batman and Robin fail once again.

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

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

robin tossed

Robin’s going for a swim.

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

penguin and birds

The Penguin seems to be enjoying his incarceration.

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

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

kidnapper revealed

The true kidnapper revealed.

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

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

frustrated two-face

Two-Face feels betrayed by his coin.

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

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

old friends

A sweet ending to go out on.

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

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

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


Batman: The Animated Series – “Riddler’s Reform”

riddlers reform cardEpisode Number:  79

Original Air Date:  September 24, 1994

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Randy Rogel

First Appearance(s):  None

 

We’re coming to the end of Batman: The Animated Series so just about every episode from here on out will feature a final appearance of a specific rogue. In today’s case, there’s even more finality than there will be for others. The Riddler (John Glover) is considered a notoriously difficult character to write. His “super power” is he’s really, really, smart and also quite clever. It’s not easy to just come up with riddles or puzzles to fill an episode worthy of The Riddler. As a result, his appearances have been few despite his popularity as a villain largely owing to the 1960s series and the performance of the late Frank Gorshin. Nonetheless, three starring episodes isn’t too bad, but the real sense of finality comes from this essentially being it for The Riddler. Most of the villains featured in this show will return in The New Batman Adventures with new schemes, new motivations, and new costumes. The Riddler will return, and with a new costume too, but he won’t receive an episode to call his own as he’s basically reduced to a cameo and brief, supporting, role.

Give that this episode is, more or less, his encore hopefully it’s a good one. It has an interesting premise right in the title as The Riddler looks to establish a life for himself outside of crime. We’ve seen both Catwoman and The Penguin attempt the same and eventually slip-up and fall back into their old villainous ways. Is there any reason to think The Riddler will be any different? Probably not. Last we saw him he was antagonizing Commissioner Gordon and Batman with a virtual reality device. At the episode’s conclusion he became trapped inside the VR world with Batman offering an ominous commentary on the situation that would lead the audience to believe he may be trapped there forever. If you were hoping to find out what happened, well you’ll be disappointed. Similar to how The Joker appeared to die in “The Laughing Fish” only to resurface later as fine as can be, we don’t know how Riddler got here. Maybe Batman was just wrong and they unplugged the console and he was fine. Or maybe he found his own way out. Your guess is as good as mine.

baxter and riddler

Riddler and his new buddy Baxter who owns a toy company.

This one opens at a nondescript warehouse. Before we get to the action, we get a shot of some newspapers being unloaded featuring a cover story about the release of The Riddler from Arkham. We’re then taken to the warehouse where some typical looking goon-types are carrying a large red box emblazoned with a purple question mark. They’re taking directions from The Riddler on where to place it. After setting it down, they get paid a visit by Batman and Robin who come swooping in to kick ass and ask questions later – literally. Riddler takes a seat on the box and seems amused by their presence. He’s evasive when Batman asks him what’s inside the box and when it looks like he’s about to get punchy they’re interrupted by a nicely dressed old man.

His name is Charles Baxter (Peter Mark Richman) and his name is either a direct call-back to the Baxter Box puzzle from an earlier Riddler appearance or a coincidence. He’s not a puzzle-creator, as we’ll learn, so if it’s a reference it would seem it’s merely for fun. Baxter demands to know what’s going on, and after Robin fills him in on who The Riddler is, he tells him he’s well aware. The Riddler is his new business partner. He purchased the rights to the character’s likeness and intends to use him to market Nygma’s toys. The box then springs open unveiling a toy display kiosk and Riddler even tosses one to Robin referring to him as a kid, which you know he takes well. Baxter orders them to leave, and the two head into the building leaving Batman and Robin to tuck their tails between their legs.

At Wayne Manor, Dick is having a tough time with the puzzle Riddler gave him while Bruce is reading the paper. The television is on in the background and a story about The Penguin is running before leading to another story about a robbery. Some ancient relics were stolen, and this gets Bruce’s attention. When Riddler explained to them the night before his desire to be on the straight and narrow he made references to ancient history and Batman thinks he was referring to the items stolen. A commercial featuring The Riddler then comes on hawking the new toys. He ends the commercial by displaying a number on a chalkboard and then flips it around to reveal a map. It’s a part of some contest, but Bruce isn’t buying it. He pulls out a map and uses the number as a coordinate which leads him to the First National Bank.

riddlers ladies

Riddler enjoying the perks of being a celebrity.

Batman and Robin stake-out the bank that night, but nothing is doing. Robin begins to wonder if maybe he is reformed, but Batman remembers Riddler flipping the chalkboard over in the commercial, thus flipping the number. He looks at the number which he wrote down on a scrap of paper and turns it around. Before it read “31753701” but when reversed it looks like “10 LESLIE” which Batman determines is an address. They head there to find a large building with a jewelry store in it and sure enough there are crooks inside. They infiltrate the store and take on the bad dudes, but when a large cabinet falls over on Robin the crooks escape. Robin urges Batman to go on without him as his ankle or knee appears injured thus ending his contribution to the episode.

boing

The woman who really seems to get Nygma’s attention.

In a nearby high-rise, Riddler is getting ready for a party. He shows off a nifty little two-way radio that will be going to market soon and begins schmoozing with Baxter and the party-goers. Baxter is having a dreadful time with Nygma’s toy puzzle, but Nygma demonstrates it’s easy if you’re a genius. This earns him lots of laughter and even the attention of a fetching brunette in a blue dress (Patricia Alice Albrecht). When Riddler first lays eyes on her a cartoonish “boing” sound like a spring is heard. Yeah, the universal sound for a boner in a comedy setting. Riddler just popped a boner. Another female joins her and he’s very much enjoying their attention until a butler comes by to inform him he has a phone call. Riddler takes it in another room, but not before admiring himself in mirror. No one is on the line, but Batman is in the room. He mocks him a bit for his vanity, but Riddler quickly gains the upper hand in their conversation. He also activates his two-way radio, which one of them women had asked him to demonstrate. Since she’s holding the other one, all of the party-goers then overhear Batman threatening The Riddler. He doesn’t mind though, and opens the wall with a switch to introduce his guests to the one and only Batman. Batman, to his credit, doesn’t seem flustered by the display and tells Riddler he’ll get him eventually before taking his leave.

riddler batman

Look who crashed the party.

While Batman’s confidence remains intact, Riddler’s is not. He’s now convinced that Batman will indeed catch him. He has no desire to return to Arkham, so there’s really only one solution:  he must kill Batman.

riddler depressed

Sad Riddler is losing confidence in himself.

In order to set a trap, Riddler relies on yet another commercial to get Batman’s attention. This time the clues lead Batman to the Gotham Toy Fair. Batman heads for the local convention center and finds a rather large Riddler Box. The sides fall away, nearly crushing Batman, to reveal an equally large television inside. Riddler comes onto it, and he tells Batman farewell. It would seem the games are over, and rather than present Batman with a riddle, metal shades are dropped over all of the exits while Riddler reveals a bomb is about to go off that will kill Batman. Batman frantically searches for a way out, but the bomb detonates as Riddler said it would.

inflatable riddler

At some point Riddler had inflatable versions of himself made that could fire guns. Neat.

Back at his penthouse, Edward Nygma is burning his Riddler outfit. With Batman out-of-the-way, he has no need for it. No one to play with, and he vows now is the time to really reform his act. He doesn’t get to enjoy the satisfaction of victory for very long as Batman appears inside the room with him. Nygma is shocked to see Batman and absolutely perplexed at the thought of him escaping. He wants to know so bad that he’s willing to cut a deal. In exchange for the knowledge of how Batman escaped he’ll tell him where all of the stolen goods are hidden. Batman agrees, and Nygma explains his crime. Batman then produces Nygma’s own two-way radio and speaks into it “You get everything?” Commissioner Gordon is then heard on the other end confirming that he did. As Nygma is taken away he’s screaming at Batman to tell him how he escaped his trap, but Batman just smiles.

riddlers inmates

A couple of quick cameos of two famous rogues.

At Wayne Manor the next morning, Bruce and Dick are seated at the table and Dick asks just how he did escape. Bruce explains he couldn’t, but there was a safe on display and he climbed into it. It was strong enough to protect him from the explosion, though Bruce doesn’t say how he got out of it. Maybe it had a safety release on the inside. Dick says he never would have thought of that, and Bruce suggests The Riddler would not have either. We then cut to Arkham where several familiar faces are shown in their cells covering their ears as Nygma can be heard screaming from his own cell demanding to know how Batman escaped. It’s not going to be fun being locked-up with him for the foreseeable future.

raging nygma

Poor Eddie. It’s unlikely Batman will ever take pity on him enough to tell him how he escaped his death trap.

“Riddler’s Reform” is a fun little episode for The Riddler. It’s not particularly clever, but it’s interesting to see how Riddler’s mind operates. He literally can’t help himself when it comes to Batman and is compelled to commit crimes and leave behind clues just to see if Batman is smart enough to figure them out. There’s some situational humor, and seeing Batman with egg on his face to start things is an interesting look for our hero. It’s rare that he’s wrong. Of course, he wasn’t wrong in his hunch that Nygma was up to no good, it just took him a little while to prove it. The erection joke was a surprise, and it’s a greater surprise that it made it into the episode. It’s a low brow joke so it’s not really funny on its own, but amusing given the setting. The ending is perhaps a bit embellished I would think a man of Nygma’s intellect would figure out how Batman did it as he seems like the type who would have a near photographic memory. Maybe I’m giving him too much credit thought.

This is yet another episode animated by Dong Yang Animation Co., LTD. and it looks rather good. There’s some rainy sequences that look great and also some fun, shadowy shots of Batman. Riddler is animated in an amusing fashion as well as he’s quite expressive in costume when receiving female attention and I am just plain fond of his costume in this series. It’s too bad this is the last we’ll see of it as he’ll have a more classic look next we see him with a green unitard.

This is a good episode for Riddler to go out on. It was, after all, the rubber match or tie-breaker for these two. In Riddler’s first appearance he escaped capture while Batman emerged victorious in the second. With Batman foiling him here, and basically driving him even more insane, he earns a convincing win over the cerebral villain. I wish we got another starring episode out of the character, but I’m happy the writers never did a bad Riddler episode for the sake of doing another.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Time Out of Joint”

Time_Out_of_Joint_Title_CardEpisode Number:  73

Original Air Date:  October 8, 1994

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Alan Burnett, Steve Perry

First Appearance(s):  None

No one’s favorite villain, The Clock King (Alan Rachins) is back once again to resume his quest for vengeance against Mayor Hamilton Hill (Lloyd Bochner) who had the audacity to make him late long ago. The Clock King, real name Temple Fugate, hasn’t been heard from in quite some time. He was thought dead after his first appearance, but Batman had a premonition he’d return like so many others. When last we saw him, Fugate was little more than a man of extreme punctuality which was his only defense against Batman. It was quite the mismatch though Batman has a way of scaling down to his adversaries to make things seem more equitable. This time, Fugate has wisely shown up armed with a new device that can manipulate time. It’s pretty fantastic and makes for some fun visual flair though it does open up some plot holes here and there. The creative staff, perhaps wisely, chose to ignore the questions such a device raises and just try to have fun with it. In other words, shut your brain off for this one.

The episode opens with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson attending a charity auction. Dick is acting like a child and is bored out of his skull while Bruce reminds him they’re doing this for a good cause. An antique clock goes up for sale and that attracts the attention of The Clock King. He comes strolling in but soon starts blinking in and out and moving at an impossible speed. He befuddles anyone he comes across and startles one woman (Tress MacNeille) while inquiring with her if the Louis XVI clock went on the block yet. When she tells him it did, he blinks out of sight.

happy clock king

Back in black.

In the galley, Bruce places a sizable bid on the clock while Dick remarks he wouldn’t even use it for a doorstop (he really has become spoiled). Dick then catches a glimpse of The Clock King as he vanishes and reappears all over the room. He alerts Bruce (apparently Dick read up on him in the Batcave because he’s never tangled with The Clock King) and as the auction ends the clock disappears. In an alley outside, The Clock King looks over his new prize. Remarking he has one already, he tosses it on top of a pile of trash which at least should reduce his crime from theft to something more along the lines of criminal mischief.

At Commissioner Gordon’s office, Batman and Robin replay security footage of the clock theft. They’re able to make out a hand reaching for the clock as it vanishes when slowing the tape down. Given what Dick saw just before the theft, Batman believes it’s the work of Fugate and advises Gordon to warn Fugate’s old nemesis, the mayor.

wakati and harold

Dr. Wakati and “Harold”

At a rather lavish looking mansion, an old scientist by the name of Wakati (Roscoe Lee Browne) is working on an experiment. He’s created a small, infinity shaped, device that can slow or advance time. His butler Harold strolls in with his breakfast, right on time, and we see it’s Fugate. Wakati apparently doesn’t know him by his real name and likely is ignorant of Fugate’s criminal past. Fugate marvels at the device while Wakati tells him about all of the wonderful things it could accomplish for mankind like speeding up the deterioration of radioactive material or placing terminal patients into a stasis until a cure is found for what ails them. Fugate rather aggressively snatches a device to take a closer look, but Wakati does not object to the intrusion as he turns to his breakfast. Fugate pockets the device, and leaves while making bad time puns.

Mayor Hill is shown on the phone at his residence. Whomever he’s speaking with is being told how little Hill fears Fugate thanks to his beefed up security. Batman and Robin are lurking on the roof keeping an eye out expecting Fugate’s arrival at any moment. And lo and behold he does show up, but with the time device he “freezes” everything around him and simply strolls in. We’re shown that time isn’t actually frozen when he passes by a small fan which is spinning ever so slowly. Realizing he can’t use the elevator, he’s forced to take the stairs and makes a remark as he passes by a woman who’s about to take a rather bad fall. When he arrives at Hill’s office he knocks several times, and to Robin this sounds like machine-gun fire over his ear piece.

fugate vs the cops

With the ability to freeze time the Gotham police force is somehow even less effective than before.

Fugate strolls into Hill’s office, who is quite surprised to see he slipped past security. Fugate begins taunting him, and when Hill reaches for some alarm device Fugate uses his time-slip powers to snatch it away. Hill races for the window, but Fugate intercepts him. As he bares down on Hill, Batman and Robin swing through the open window after activating a light trap which momentarily blinds Fugate. Batman tries casually walking up behind Fugate, but gets swatted away by Fugate’s clock hand cane. He uses a Tazmanian Devil-like spin move to avoid Robin, and then again when Batman lassos him. He uses the time device to tie up Batman before stumbling down the stairs. The woman he passed by earlier has now fallen, and Fugate doesn’t see her and trips over her knocking him out of his stasis field and partially breaking the device. Confronted by the woman, Fugate is forced to run as she wails on him for essentially being a jerk. The security guard offers no resistance, apparently not realizing what just happened in his boss’s office.

Outside, Fugate is surrounded by the police as his vision returns. He’s able to get the time device functioning once again and gives them the slip by swiping a police car, but not before he audibly notes the presence of the Batmobile. Upstairs, Robin frees Batman, but Fugate is long gone. Gordon assures the mayor that they’ll find him since all of their cruisers are equipped with a tracking device. Back at the mansion of Wakati, the old scientists is alarmed when he can’t find his trusty Harold, but Fugate soon returns. He’s angered to see Wakati snooping around his room, and Wakati is further startled to see his time device affixed to Fugate’s person. Fugate leans in threateningly as the scene fades out.

frozen batmobile

Robin doesn’t respond well to the possibility of being a part of an atomic explosion.

The police have found the car Fugate used to escape in a canal. Batman and Robin are there as well and Batman takes note of the nearby train tracks. He recalls Fugate’s knowledge of train schedules from their last encounter and discerns that he likely utilized a passing train to escape. The only train to come by in the last six hours would have been heading towards the mountains, and Batman knows the only thing out there is Wakati’s mansion. As the two head out, the camera pans to show us that Fugate planted a time device underneath the Batmobile. As Batman is driving, the device switches on putting the Batmobile into a stasis field. From inside, cars are flying past as streaks of light as the outside world moves in what appears like incredible time to Batman and Robin. Batman also notes that if a car should strike them it could trigger an atomic explosion. He’s soon able to locate the device, and by firing his grapple gun through the floor, it smashes and the field is ended. The Batmobile rockets out of stasis, but there’s literally no other cars in sight. Batman is able to fishtail the car into a light post to bring it to a stop.

Batman and Robin arrive at Wakati’s residence via motorcycle and find the doctor trapped in a stasis field. They deactivate it and have a little conversation about Wakati’s servant. Fugate’s little trap with the Batmobile resuled in Batman and Robin being tied up for 48 hours real-time, and Hill is set to dedicate a new courthouse momentarily. They figure out, based on another bad pun Fugate left with Wakati, that he plans to strike at Hill during the ceremony, but it starts in two minutes and Wakati has no phone to alert the police (though given what has already transpired, they should be expecting this anyway). Their only chance is to use Wakati’s device to reach the ceremony in time.

runaway bomb

A bit different from the more famous Batman bomb scene.

For Fugate, he’s had two Batman-free days to plan for this, so how did he spend those two days? He made a bomb, and apparently not much else. With time frozen around him, he’s able to walk to the podium Hill will be giving a speech from and plant the bomb on the underside of it. He then heads into the crowd to watch apparently secure in thinking that no one will notice his understated super villain attire. Meanwhile, Batman and Robin are streaking towards the city on their bikes, and Robin just has to make a crack about being faster than a speeding bullet. Thankfully for them, Fugate wants to savor the moment of Hill’s demise and is watching the events unfold in slow-motion. Hill lifts a rather large gavel to strike the podium in a ceremonial fashion, which apparently will trigger the bomb (even though it looks like a time bomb). Batman and Robin arrive just as Hill strikes it forcing Batman to attach another time device to the bomb itself and run for the bay. As Batman appears to run at a tremendous speed, the bomb is detonating at an impossibly slow rate. It looks like an expanding ball of light and Batman is able to heave it into the river.

From the podium, Hill and the crowd are startled by the explosion off in the distance as The Clock King attempts to escape. Given that Robin is there with his own time manipulating device, Fugate has no edge and is apprehended easily. Batman and Robin are then shown back at Wakati’s residence where the scientist has decided to keep his invention a secret concluding that mankind isn’t ready for it. Batman is a bit dismayed at the thought, while Robin just makes a joke about Fugate likely wishing he could speed up time where he’s going. We’re then shown Fugate being stuffed into a paddy-wagon. As it takes off, the camera pans to a clock tower which reads three o’clock, the same hand position that appears on Fugate’s Clock King glasses.

clock king undone

So long, Fugate.

“Time Out of Joint” returns a lame villain, but it at least reduces the villain’s lameness with a new toy. As I noted in the intro, you do need to shut your brain off a bit for this one. For one, how far does Fugate’s device reach? It creates a bubble, one can see from its smaller applications, but it must have an end? And the whole thing with the Batmobile, while neat, begs further questions. To the outside world, the Batmobile would have appeared frozen. And since they sat there for two days, one would think a crowd or something would have formed around it. Fugate also could have made sure, in those two days, that his trap indeed proved fatal, but apparently he opted not to. And since he failed at basically everything, The Clock King sure comes up looking rather foolish for not making better use of his technological advantage. He even stole that clock at the beginning of the episode for no reason, which ended up tipping off Batman that he was back in town. Really, he might be the dumbest villain thus far.

All that said, I do like this episode better than the prior one featuring The Clock King. It plays with a new toy, and I suppose no one is better suited for it, thematically anyway, than The Clock King. Though I do wonder what Joker would be like with this device, or maybe Riddler. No matter, this episode is fine and it’s also thankfully the last we’ll see of the old Clock King which feels like a cause for celebration.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Harlequinade”

Harlequinade_Title_CardEpisode Number:  72

Original Air Date:  May 23, 1994

Directed by:  Kevin Altieri

Written by:  Paul Dini

First Appearance(s):  Boxy Bennett

“Harley & Ivy” introduced some unhappiness to crime’s most celebrated couple. The Joker, angered with Harley, tosses her out forcing her to make it on her own where she finds a kindred spirit in Poison Ivy. That was back in episode 56, and Harley and Joker have made just one appearance each since and that was the ensemble episode “Trial” which seemed to reset their relationship while still drawing on their dysfunction for comedy. “Harlequinade” feels like the true follow-up to “Harley & Ivy” as a result. This is an episode that’s going to further establish that Harley and Joker do not share a relationship that anyone should aspire to emulate. It’s an abusive, toxic, relationship that will likely eventually end with one, or both, dead. And therein lies the strange dichotomy of this relationship as it’s largely presented for laughs, but writer Paul Dini isn’t afraid to peel back some of that surface-level humor to show what’s underneath.

In order for this episode to work, it’s going to ask of us to suspend our notion of disbelief. It begins with a mob auction, and what’s on the docket? An atomic bomb! The episode makes no mention of how the Gotham underbelly acquired such a destructive weapon, which really might be more interesting than the episode itself. Obviously, if a crime boss ever got ahold of something such as an atom bomb more than just the Gotham PD would be on-hand.

btas abomb

On the block today, one A-Bomb!

Those attending this auction aren’t particularly of interest. On one hand, it’s admirable that Dong Yang Animation didn’t re-use a bunch of season one characters, but it might have also made sense to see a Rupert Thorne in attendance. The bidding opens at a million, and it escalates from there, until someone interjects with a “zero!” That someone is The Joker (Mark Hamill), and when he walks on stage in his usual attire plus a fashionable top-hat (The Mad Hatter would be furious) all of the guns in the place soon find him. Before anyone can open fire, Joker removes his hat to reveal a lit bomb. Not a realistic one, mind you, but a cartoonish, spherical, black bomb. Everyone hightails it out of there, but Joker grabs the auctioneer (played by Neil Ross) and sticks him with the bomb. Predictably, it’s a gag-bomb, but it also houses a sinister purpose as Joker Gas soon pours out of it. The auction dealer bursts into hysterical laughter while his eyes look like they’re about to pop from their sockets. And now Joker is in possession of an atomic bomb. The setup may be silly, but I can’t lie, it’s an interesting situation.

sinister gag bomb

Did real bombs ever resemble this?

Commissioner Gordon is shown on the phone with Mayor Hill (Lloyd Bochner) who is stressing this needs to be hidden from the public. Why a mayor gets to make that call is not explained, but Gotham feels like it’s its own island. A quick cut to Hill on the phone reveals that the hand holding the receiver to his ear possesses a violet jacket and white glove, so someone is obviously being coerced into making this statement to Gordon. Batman is there to eavesdrop and makes the pronouncement that in order to catch The Joker they need to be able to think like him, and there’s only one person capable of doing that.

batmans proposal

Batman’s got a proposition for old Pig Tails.

Which brings us to Harley (Arleen Sorkin), who seems perfectly content by herself in her room at Arkham when Batman busts in on her. She’s not particularly thrilled by his presence, but Batman brings her up to speed and offers her a way out:  help him find The Joker and she can walk out of Arkham a free woman. Harley accepts and there’s some good visual humor as she enthusiastically waves Batman’s arm around while proclaiming herself his greatest female adversary. Batman, for his part, is able to convey a feeling a dread as he now has to put up with her for what could be a long night.

harley bat teamup

She may be a psycopath, but she sure is adorable.

They jump into the Batmobile, and after Harley nearly causes a crash (and Batman gets really angry with her, bravo Kevin Conroy on this piece of voice-acting), he tells her they should first head to Joker’s last known hideout. It’s some kind of dilapidated fun house, but it was obviously in use recently. Harley disappears a moment to “slip into something more comfortable” while Batman takes note of Joker’s vast surveillance network that includes City Hall, Gordon’s office, and Hill’s office. He also gets reacquainted with Harley’s babies, two massive hyenas that pounce on him and rip his costume a bit. Harley emerges form the back, now in her harlequin costume, and calls off her dogs who are delighted to see their mommy. This leads to an interesting conversation between Harley and Batman who questions why she’s so infatuated with Joker. She reveals another layer to her origin by explaining that she got sick of listening to other’s problems while she was a psychiatrist at Arkham and that Joker was the first one to listen to her’s. And he made it all seem fun. When Batman asks about the people Joker hurts, she crosses her arms and stubbornly responds with, “It’s just a joke.” Batman then offers up what can only be foreshadowing when he says she’ll think differently when it’s she who is on the receiving end.

harley and her babies

Harley reunited with her precious babies:  Bud and Lou.

Batman and Harley then head off to another old hideout and Batman radios ahead to Robin (Loren Lester) to meet them there. As Batman fires off a grappling hook to enter, Harley tries to impress him with one of her own, but only succeeds in hurting herself. They enter, and much to their surprise, find a thriving night club full of mobsters. They turn and notice Batman’s presence and start pulling out their guns. As Batman surveys the room, he’s struck from behind and knocked out cold by, who else, Harley Quinn.

harleys performance

Silly and seductive.

She ties him up and tosses him on a roulette table announcing her presence with extreme authority. The host of this party is Boxy Bennett (Dick Miller), who has taken over this location from The Joker. Harley and Bennett apparently know each other as they reminisce and Harley soon jumps onto the stage and launches into a rendition of “Say that We’re Sweethearts Again.” It’s a humorous little number full of slapstick humor. It soon becomes obvious this performance is a distraction, and one that apparently is working as the men all hoot and holler and Bennett himself displays a disturbingly aggressive expression upon his face. As Harley sings, Robin sneaks in through a window and is able to cut the ropes on Batman’s wrists. After that, it’s a just matter of beating up the bad guys. As the dynamic duo take them all on, Harley encourages them in a rather cute manner referring to them as “B and R.” She also gets in on the action herself, swinging from a chandelier that she drops onto Bennett.

the dynamic trio

Maybe they should just replace Batgirl with Harley.

As the trio escape into an alley, Harley cheerfully encourages Batgirl to eat her heart out while Robin asks Batman just what was she before she went nuts. They arrive at the Batmobile, and Robin came via motorcycle, and he gives Batman an update. No one has been able to locate the Joker, but Hill still refuses to evacuate Gotham. At that point Harley starts laughing. When Batman inquires why she responds with how better to tie-up the police than to tie-up the mayor himself?

We then cut to a bound Mayor Hill. He’s at his home and Joker soon struts into the picture wearing an old-fashioned striped swimsuit complete with sunglasses and his duck floaty from “The Laughing Fish.” The atomic bomb is the backdrop to Joker gleefully jumping into Hill’s swimming pool as ominous music thunders in the background and Joker laughs menacingly.

Outside Hill’s residence, Harley is happily congratulating herself for figuring out the scheme until Batman cuffs her once more and seals her in the Batmobile. She easily gets out of the cuffs and starts playing with some of the many buttons as Batman and Robin sneak in.

harley n joker reunited

Joker surprised, but hardly disappointed.

Done with his swim, Joker is happy to taunt Hill as he prepares to make his escape. Viewing Gotham’s annihilation as the ultimate punchline, he radios for his boys to bring in the plane and shoves a bound Hill into the pool. Batman bursts in and wacks Joker with a batarang before attending to Hill. Joker then attacks with his only weapon, a patio umbrella (first Mad Hatter, now Penguin!), which proves rather ineffective. It seems like the fight will end rather quickly, until Batman gets shot with a strange weapon. What basically look like steel “U” shaped stakes hit him in each wrist before going into a nearby tree, pinning him against it. The camera pans to Harley, who is armed with some kind of rifle she found in the Batmobile. She fires it again at Robin, who was busy untying Hill, and a bolo comes out and ensnares him before she jumps into Joker’s arms.

harleys worried

What about the babies, Mr. J? WHAT ABOUT THE BABIES?!

Joker is about as surprised as he’s ever been to see Harley. It takes him a few moments to compose himself before eventually congratulating her and asking her how she got there. When Batman cries out to remind her they had a deal, she lets him know the deal’s off and that no one could turn her against her beloved Mr. J. An old-school looking Joker Plane then arrives and Joker activates a ten-minute countdown on the bomb. As the two head for the plane, Robin calls out to Harley that it’s a good thing they came because that countdown didn’t leave Joker enough time to swing by Arkham to get her before blowing the whole city up. Joker tries telling him to shut up, but this gets Harley’s mind racing. She starts bemoaning all of their friends who will soon be killed and she lists them off in amusing fashion:  Ivy, Two-Face, Hat Guy, Lizard Man, and Puppet-head. It’s Batman’s reminder that her precious pets will also be killed that puts her over the edge. Joker tries shoving her onto the plane, but she kicks him in the face and races over to Batman declaring for the first time that maybe Mr. J isn’t the right guy for her after all.

jokers attire

Getting a real Snoopy vibe, here.

Undaunted, Joker climbs aboard the plane and emerges in the gunner position complete with flying attire. Batman is able to escape from his bounds just before some Joker bombs strike. Joker is discouraged to see his attack failed and he orders his men to circle back. They, understandably, protest given the presence of the atomic bomb about to explode and Joker responds by swinging the gun turret in their direction. Batman and Robin are able to cancel the bomb’s countdown, but Joker soon swoops in with machine guns blasting. He declares the bomb is going off no matter what, but they fly too close to the ground allowing for Harley to make a move. With one final bad ass line, “Laugh this one off, puddin!” she fires her jester-head device and lands a direct hit on Joker’s noggin. He lurches back, obviously concussed, with his hands still squeezing the triggers causing the turret to spin around wildly.

harley rattattat

Of course.

The plane crashes into Hill’s house, but Joker demonstrates once again his hidden super power of avoiding death as he merely stumbles out the backdoor, unharmed. He collapses on the ground as his chute deploys. He eventually looks up to find Harley standing over him with a gun aimed right at him. He stands up to confront her and declares she doesn’t have the guts while Batman calls to her to stop. She’s determined though, and yanks the trigger only for a “Rat Tat Tat” series of flags to emerge. Joker appears shocked, while Harley seems just as surprised and even a little disappointed. He soon smiles and declares “Baby, you’re the greatest!” She too smiles and jumps into his arms once again as the camera pans up to close out the episode with an iris shot in the shape of a heart. Before it fades to black, Joker’s two henchmen can be seen crawling from the wreckage of the plane as well, in case you were concerned.

baby youre the greatest

I guess they’re made for each other, for better or worse. Mostly just worse.

“Harlequinade” both explores the dysfunction of Joker and Harley’s relationship while also serving as a bit of a reset. We find out what it was that lead Harley into Joker’s life and get a little peek into both of their minds. For Harley, Joker is an obsession, a controlling force in her life not unlike addiction. Even when she proves to herself that she’s ready to move on, she still comes crawling (or jumping) back. For Joker, she’s merely another plaything. When she’s there to help with a punchline she’s useful, but when the joke doesn’t call for her he’s fine to move on. And moving on for Joker essentially means he no longer places any sort of value on her life. For Batman and Robin, the events of this episode probably help them to understand Harley a bit more and I presume even pity her. She demonstrated an ability to be heroic, but also further punctuated that her Joker obsession is far from over. It just further stresses that this relationship won’t have a happy ending.

Arleen Sorkin is delightful as Harley, as usual, but this time gets to show off some singing skills as well. It’s a fun sequence and it’s interesting to see the usually goofy Harley Quinn take advantage of her obvious sex appeal (that costume leaves little to the imagination). The whole sequence came about when Paul Dini heard Sorkin singing this same song and thought it would be perfect for Harley and Joker. This is also one of the better episodes from Dong Yang in terms of visuals. Batman looks especially intimidating, and it obviously helps when Kevin Conroy is playing up his angry side when he’s yelling at Harley. The only shortcoming is a goof with the piano player who appears to lack legs. The commentary also points out an issue with Robin’s green attire. They didn’t have access to a good dark green, so a lighter shade of blue is used for the shadows and I think it’s made more obvious by the HD transfers. It’s amusing that given the show’s budget, which was quite large for a cartoon, they couldn’t afford a dark green. It also seems obvious that the network wanted the characters to shy away from the atomic bomb and it’s really only inferred rather than stated explicitly.

Harley is truly the star though here. It’s not surprising to find out via the commentary that Paul Dini had developed a Harley and Ivy spin-off, but it obviously never made it into production. She plays well off of serious characters, and Batman is perhaps the most serious of them all (despite the fact the he wears a Halloween costume all of the time). She has a tremendous amount of character in all facets:  her mannerisms, the script, the acting performance. It’s actually a shame that spin-off never came about. The episode could be uncomfortable for some though, as when viewed through the lens of Harley as Joker’s victim, the story is less comical and more sad. That angle really isn’t played up and the ending feels like it’s intended to be almost cute while also being funny. Maybe it’s asking too much for what is a kid’s show to really wade into such dark waters, but I’m comforted by the fact that we have more episodes to come and more time to see if Harley can break away from the psychotic Joker.

 


Batman: The Animated Series – “The Terrible Trio”

terrible trio title cardEpisode Number:  71

Original Air Date:  September 11, 1995

Directed by:  Frank Paur

Written by:  Alan Burnett and Michael Reaves

First Appearance(s):  The Terrible Trio, The Robin-a-rang(?)

They can’t all be winners. That’s the feeling I get when I watch “The Terrible Trio,” a very underwhelming episode of Batman. It’s easy to point to the villains of the episode, The Terrible Trio, as being the reason why, but this is a show that has done pretty well with the lesser known villains Batman is known for. Though the concept for this villainous group is pretty limited – a group of bored, wealthy, men who resort to crime to get their thrills. There’s not a lot there to work with in terms of character development removing any chance at sympathy. The best the episode could probably do is make the viewer hate this group so much that seeing Batman pummel them in the end is supremely satisfying. And when your episode is almost depending on violence to make an impact that’s probably not a good thing for a show that’s essentially rated PG.

the terrible trio are lame

Behold! The incredibly lame costume of The Terrible Trio!

This episode is considered by Fox to be the premiere of the fourth season, first airing in September of 1995. It was a brief season consisting of just five episodes, but it’s five episodes produced under The Adventures of Batman and Robin umbrella so Robin is featured. It’s also animated by Jade Animation and this is that studio’s lone contribution to this show. That may also explain why it took so long to air relative to the production order since Jade was starting from scratch.

The episode opens inside an apparent corporate building of some kind. Three thieves wearing masks, a fox, shark, and vulture, are hitting a safe and apparently having a pretty good time of it. The fox stops to hassle a security guard they’ve knocked aside, mocking him for what he assumes is a low salary. He tries giving the guard a stack of cash out of pity, but the guard tosses it back in his face. The crooks are amused by his gesture, and then Batman shows up to break up the party. He’s not alone, as Robin is with him and he whips out what I can only assume is called the Robin-a-rang, an R-shaped shuriken like Batman’s Batarang. It’s beyond stupid. The trio flee down to a dock and Robin gives chase, though the bad guys take out his rope causing him to land awkwardly. Worse for him is that the docked is rigged with explosives, and as the crooks flee via speed boat they detonate the bombs tossing Robin into the bay. Batman is forced to rescue Robin allowing the trio to escape.

trio clever names

They didn’t put much thought into those names.

The next day, Robin is reading about the theft in the paper with the media dubbing the criminals as The Terrible Trio. He notes that their masks seem to denote their superiority over land, sea, and air while also noting that they look rather cheap. Bruce, in a new outfit of a white sweater and slacks, is not at all amused by the new crime wave and declares they’re just a bunch of arrogant nobodies.

trio unmasked

Bruce and his rich guy associates, who harbor a rather easy to uncover secret.

Bruce is then shown at a sportsman’s club of some kind shooting skeet. Despite his aversion to guns, he’s a damn good shot. A kid by the name of Warren (Bill Mumy) gives Bruce crap for thanking the man who handed him his gun. He expresses his philosophy that the wealthy shouldn’t associate with the lower class and should instead be asserting their dominance. His friends Gunther (Peter Scolari) and Armand (David Jolliffe) laugh it off while the three share a corny triple handshake. I wonder who our villains could be? As Bruce takes his leave Warren refers to him as one of the dumbest men on the planet.

warren and rebecca

This is not a good looking episode, but Jade Animation does have some fun making Rebecca look rather sexy.

Sometime later, a woman by the name of Rebecca (Khrystine Haje) is being admonished by her father, Sheldon Fallbrook (Hector Elizondo), for her choice of dress. They’re clearly quite wealthy and at the same club Bruce was shooting at. Bruce actually comes over to greet Sheldon, while Warren and his buddies arrive for Rebecca. He and Rebecca are an item, and she mentions her dad is going to flip when he sees the credit card bill sharing that her little dress he dislikes so much set him back five grand. Later, Rebecca is getting ready to take a dip in the pool when Warren gives her a check. It’s apparently to cover her expenses to keep her dad in the dark about the money she’s blowing through. She seductively removes a coat she was wearing before slinking off to the pool as Gunther and Armand show up. Before Warren can chase after her, he tells his buddies that Sheldon will actually be reimbursing him for the check he just cut to his daughter.

What I can only assume is that night, the Terrible Trio hit the Fallbrook’s apartment. Vulture expresses some reservations about robbing from someone they know, while Fox just remarks it makes the act more thrilling. In the process a vase is broken, and old man Fallbrook  sneaks up on the Trio armed with a rifle. Rebecca had said he was out-of-town, so the three are surprised to see him. The episode also isn’t making any attempts at hiding who the Terrible Trio are as they refer to each other by name, though not in front of Sheldon. As he attempts to call the police, one of the Trio yanks the phone by the chord which creates an opening for Warren/Fox to jump in and knock Fallbrook over. One of the others then lifts him up and holds him so that Warren can deliver a punch to the face, in which the camera pans down to Fallbrook’s feet as a bit of self-censoring. The old man collapses and Warren makes a crack about him being where he belongs – at his feet. He also takes a stick-pin off of him before the three flee via grappling hook as the police arrive.

getaway car

It can’t be easy to drive in a getup like that.

As they speed away in a getaway car, driven by Fox since this is his apparent domain, Batman receives word of what’s happened on his scanner and races to the scene. He soon finds the Trio and fires off a grappling hook at their bumper. They’re able to shoot it off as Batman tries to pull them to stop via his e-brake. This gives them a chance to put some ground between the two vehicles and Fox has the others start dumping the cash they just looted out of the sun roof. As they’re heading through downtown Gotham, this gets the attention of pedestrians who take to the streets to retrieve the bills. Batman is forced to swerve into an alley to avoid them, thus allowing the Terrible Trio to escape.

The punch from Warren was enough to land Sheldon Fallbrook in the hospital leaving him in a coma, no less. Rebecca is shown visiting him where a nurse remarks there’s no telling when he’ll wake up. As she leaves she runs into Bruce who offers to help her in any way he can. Warren then sidles up to play the role of comforting boyfriend and the two walk off leaving Bruce alone with Sheldon. He examines the black eye left behind by Warren’s punch and notices an indent in his skin that matches the unique ring worn by Warren.

fox takes aim

Imagine if he had that gun when they knocked off Fallbrook’s apartment.

Warren, Rebecca, Gunther, and Armand have all left Gotham for the mountains. Rebecca is feeling uneasy and guilty about leaving the city while her dad is in the hospital, but the other three assure her everything is fine. As she gets cozy with Warren on the couch, her father’s stick-pin falls from his jacket onto the floor. She recognizes it immediately and a look of horror flashes across her face as she realizes who is responsible for putting her father in the hospital.

At the Batcave, Dick has used the computer to figure out what caused the mark left behind on Sheldon’s face. Apparently, Bruce didn’t know it right away, but the mark is the logo of a frat that Warren and his friends belong to. They soon figure it out, while Rebecca is left to ask “why?” and Warren explains they were bored, while Gunther and Armand seem at least a bit apologetic. They even claim they’re willing to repay everyone they’ve stolen from. Warren is not on the same page and declares Rebecca is a liability they must take care of. The other two aren’t so sure, but they’re too weak to actually challenge Warren who uses some ether to knock her out. They put her in a car and push it up a snowy hill. When Vulture questions Warren again, he’s basically told to shut up as they push the car off a ledge.

shark vs batman

Batman shark do do do-do do-do

As the car plummets to what will be a smashing end, a grappling hook appears to save it. The Batwing is on the scene, and the Terrible Trio decided to fasten Rebecca’s seatbelt for some reason so the force of the car stopping its rapid descent appears to leave her without serious injury. As the Trio flees, Batman leaves Robin (who apparently broke his arm at the start of the episode) to pilot the Batwing while he goes after the boys via his Bat-glider. Fox shoots a few holes in it, and Batman drops from the sky to land on Shark. He wails on him and then takes out Vulture with a simple bolo leaving only Fox.

Fox heads for a shed as Batman gives chase on foot, and Fox emerges from the shed on a snow mobile. Batman is able to jump onto it and the two wrestle with each other with Fox wielding a pick axe. Batman dumps him off, but is about to plunge off yet another ledge and is forced to bail, but not before some playful editing makes us think he went over the edge. Crisis averted, Batman retrieves Fox who does the only thing he can think of – he tries to bribe Batman. That’s a non-starter, and Batman hauls him in. We’re then shown Warren entering a jail cell. He doesn’t seem happy, and then he seems terrified when his rather large cell mate gives him a threatening look complete with a growl for added effect. Have fun, Warren!

welcome home warren

Warren’s got a new friend.

The Terrible Trio is a fairly bland episode. The villain of Warren is easy enough to dislike, but he’s also one that never feels like a threat to Batman, even if he and his gang broke Robin’s arm. It’s also hard to care much for the character of Sheldon, since we just see him being a grumpy rich guy and we don’t have much of an attachment to his daughter either. I did like the gag of dumping money into the streets as a way of escaping the Batman, but not much of anything else done by these guys was particularly entertaining.

Not helping things is the animation by Jade. It’s nice to see some new outfits for Bruce, and the HD transfer has left the colors looking quite vibrant. They’re also looking rather flat, and there’s even less detail than what we’re used to. A lot of the characters appear almost squat, while Batman is oddly rigid. Dick isn’t shown to be injured the morning after the initial confrontation with the Trio, but then later has a cast. There’s also a disconnect between the characters and their environment half the time, and the whole production just looks rather cheap. There are some entertaining Batmobile shots, so there’s that.

“The Terrible Trio” is not a good episode of Batman, though I still hesitate to call it a bad episode of television. It’s at least a bit satisfying to see Warren get what’s coming to him in the end, and good on the writers for not making a prison rape joke to close it out. In the end, this is an episode not worth revisiting.


Batman: The Animated Series – “House & Garden”

house and garden title cardEpisode Number:  70

Original Air Date:  May 2, 1994

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Paul Dini

First Appearance(s):  None

It’s taken a few episodes, but we’ve finally arrived at our first “special” episode of the second season. That’s not to say the first five have been bad, they’ve just been a tad underwhelming. “House & Garden” puts the show back into a role it’s best suited for in which it takes a villain and applies a sympathetic edge to the character. Sounds simple, right? It’s not so easy though as the villain does need to earn our sympathy and it’s on the writers and animators to pull that off. Good thing then we have Paul Dini on this one, who has written some of the show’s best thus far. And the subject this time around, and the title probably gives it away, is Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing) once again. In her final appearance in the original series as a featured villain, Ivy demonstrates that the old adage “save the best for last” still applies. And that’s no small statement, as I’m a big fan of her debut episode “Pretty Poison” and her team-up with Harley Quinn was one of the most entertaining episodes of season one. She’s basically played the part of small-time eco-terrorist without much of a relatable aspect to her personality making her the perfect candidate for an episode like this one.

The episode opens on a giant creature infiltrating an apartment building. He’s shadowed, but it’s obvious he’s pretty imposing and probably not human. It’s obviously fairly smart as it knows where to locate a safe in the residence, and when the creature is interrupted by the presumed owner of this dwelling, it takes him out quickly and flees with the loot. At the police department sometime later, Gordon and a police scientist are examining the facts on the crime we just witnessed. Some green residue was left behind that the scientist identifies as a plant-based poison. Batman emerges from the shadows to name the one suspect we’re all thinking:  Poison Ivy. Normally, Gordon is one to go with Batman’s hunch, but this time he tells the Dark Knight to think again. Apparently Poison Ivy, real name Pamela Isley, was recently released from Arkham. She was able to complete her post-release therapy and even ended up marrying her therapist, Steven Carlyle (Peter Strauss).

mr and mrs carlyle

The happy couple.

This is probably the episode’s lone weak point as it’s hard to believe that Batman would not be up to date on the whereabouts of one of his famous adversaries. The guy prides himself on being up to date with the criminal underworld, and him not knowing that Ivy not only was released, but married, stretches belief. Nonetheless, Batman needs to see for himself so he and Gordon pay the new Mrs. Carlyle a visit. There they meet Steven, as well as Pamela’s step sons Chris (Scott McAfee) and Kelly (Christopher Pickering). She expresses an understanding that she would naturally be a suspect in these crimes given the circumstances, but insists she’s innocent and is quite content with her new life as a wife and mother. Steven stands up for his wife as well, and with Gordon convinced, Batman is forced to concede it’s possible the former villain has reformed.

Our setting then shifts to Gotham University where Dick Grayson (Loren Lester) is putting the moves on a co-ed by the name of Cindy (Megan Mulally). As one assumes happens to Dick often, his potential romance is put on hold by a phone call from Batman. It would seem that Dr. Carlyle is a professor at Gotham U and Batman wants some info on him. Dick knows him, and even had a class with him, and he agrees to keep an eye on him. When the call is over, Dick notices a shadow in his room. He at first thinks it’s Cindy and he’s probably ready to turn back on that old Grayson charm, but it turns out to be the creature from before. He trashes the room and batters Dick, who didn’t see it coming.

bruce attacked

Damn backseat drivers.

The police are called to Dick’s dorm as the ward of Bruce Wayne has been kidnapped. Cindy is there speaking with the police in hysterics and Bruce is there as well. Gordon tells Wayne he worries this may be an extortion scheme, which Bruce seems to take seriously. Later, he’s shown driving in his car when the creature (Jim Cummings) that abducted Dick pops up from behind him. He was hiding out in the backseat of Bruce’s car, and we get a good look at him. He resembles a human cactus with spikes for fingers which are placed perilously close to Bruce’s neck. He demands five million dollars and instructs Bruce to meet him at the docks at midnight or Dick’s life is forfeit.

batman caught in the act

This seems to happen to Batman a lot when he messes with Ivy.

The creature escapes, and Bruce is left to return to his home. It’s early in the day, so he has some time to kill and chooses to essentially stalk Pamela Carlyle as Batman. He follows her all day and observes her doing boring, housewife, stuff. Shopping, picking up the kids from school, nothing incriminating. His last stop is the Carlyle residence and as he observes from the roof some sentient vines take hold of him. They drop Batman to ground level, where Pamela confronts him. She reminds him that trespassing is a crime, and again insists she’s clean. Batman actually seems to believe her this time.

Bruce arrives at the docks with the money, seeing no alternative to getting Dick back safely. True to its word, the creature shows up, but like any true villain it doesn’t hand over Dick even after Bruce produces the money instead choosing to attack. Bruce dodges and lets the monster force him off the dock, so that he can emerge from the waters as Batman! It’s a bit dramatic, but Batman does enjoy the theatrics. Dick is tied up and still in danger when Batman attacks severing the creature’s claws with a Batarang. The creature appears unnerved by the loss of its claws and panics a bit, but is able to knock Batman into some crates giving him an opening to escape.

plant monster attacks

He’s a big boy.

Batman lets the creature go, instead turning his attention to Dick who is bound. They then are shown in the Batmobile and Dick is in his Robin costume. Batman explains he’s already checked out Poison Ivy and believes her when she says she’s found happiness with her new husband and sons. Robin is surprised to hear this, as he mentions that while attending one of Carlyle’s lectures his ex-wife brought their children by for a visit revealing that Chris and Kelly were girls.

The Dynamic Duo head for the Carlyle residence. It’s after midnight, and Robin observes that everyone appears to be asleep except Pam. Batman noses around, and eventually the two stumble upon a hidden laboratory. Inside they find Steven Carlyle – the real Steven Carlyle. He’s in a tub of goo and when he’s awakened he says that he was fooled by Ivy. Before they can talk further, some plants start to move around and in one of the creepiest events in this show some babies emerge.

Batman The Animated Series CR: Warner Bros. Animation

Unsettling, but not really threatening. Yet.

The three soon find themselves entangled in vines, and Poison Ivy makes her dramatic entrance. She goes into the typical villain routine and explains her actions and what’s been going on. She’s uncovered a formula that allows her to make plant creatures. Unable to conceive children herself due to her unusual toxicity, these plant creatures are like her babies. She needed the DNA of Carlyle to complete the process, and reveals that the plant babies are actually short-lived. The creature Batman has been tangling with returns, and it’s apparently about to expire. Ivy feeds some of her babies a formula that will hasten their development. They grow and resemble Carlyle before mutating into hideous cactus creatures as well. Ivy was doing all of this because her new life needed money if it was ever able to get off the ground, hence why her creatures are thieves.

Batman and Robin are forced to do battle with them with Robin’s attention mostly diverted to keeping Carlyle safe. The creatures force them into the main house as they stick and move. Batman is apparently just trying to lure them into a trap as he had planted herbicide in Ivy’s sprinkler system when they first arrived. Once activated, the children of Ivy are destroyed leaving the villainess to ponder where she went wrong. As Batman approaches her, she begins to melt herself. She had created a plant-clone of herself allowing an easy escape. The police and Batman are unable to catch her, but Batman suspects these events have been hard on her. She’s shown leaving Gotham on an airplane, looking at a photo album. He suspects she was telling the truth when she told him that she was happy with her new life, and he’s apparently right as the tears well up in Isley’s eyes as the episode comes to a close.

ivy copy

She’s a slippery one.

“House & Garden” is an excellent example of this show finding a way to incorporate some sci-fi elements without losing its core. The previous episode, “Avatar,” was not successful at the same and it was my main point of criticism there. This one works because it introduces a human element. Poison Ivy, in creating these plant-monsters that start life as human-like babies, is compensating for her inability to conceive children. It’s something many women struggle with and I’m sure most people know someone in that boat, if they aren’t themselves. Her motivations for wanting a new life are honest, she just doesn’t really know any other way to get what she wants without breaking the law. The plant-babies are unsettling making this one of the creepier episodes in the series. It’s a good kind of unsettling, and helps this episode stand out and really feel like a true sci-fi story. The slow reveal of the plot is also handled well, and I do love how Batman discovers she’s been playing him via Robin’s revelation. Before that though, the viewer is also like Batman and left to wonder if she’s telling the truth, and I think like Batman, we want to believe her.

This is another Dong Yang episode and it’s another good showing for the studio. I like the design of the plant monster, who’s pretty fearsome and even a tad gross. The whole sequence in the lab though is the stand-out moment as the plant babies are made to be as cute and lovable as possible. It really helps sell their transformation as something awful. The subtle animation of Poison Ivy beginning to weep at the episode’s end is also a moment of beauty. She looks truly pained, and it’s the shot that was needed to really bring this one home.

ivy cries.jpgAs I mentioned before, “House & Garden” is Poison Ivy’s last featured episode. She’ll make a cameo in a future episode, but this is essentially her finale before returning in The New Batman Adventures. It’s a great way to go out, and since it is essentially her finale it makes it easier on the writing staff as they don’t really need to figure out where to take her next. Presumably this has no true lasting effect on her. She’s defeated and sad in the moment, but likely is forced to carry on. After all, this is a woman who weeps when someone steps on a pretty flower so maybe I’m making too much of her demeanor on that airplane. Regardless, this is quietly one of the better episodes in the series, and Poison Ivy is one of its best characters.