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Batman: The Animated Series – “A Bullet For Bullock”

bullock title cardEpisode Number:  67

Original Air Date:  September 14, 1995

Directed by:  Frank Paur

Written by:  Michael Reaves

First Appearance(s):  None

Episode 67 brings us a bit of a re-tread as it’s another unlikely pairing of Batman and Detective Harvey Bullock (Robert Costanzo). This one is based off of Detective Comics #651 written by Chuck Dixon, though he doesn’t have a writing credit on the episode. Batman and Bullock have had a bit of a combative relationship throughout this series. Bullock distrusts Batman because he wears a mask and operates outside the law. He views him as a freak, just one who happens to be on their side as opposed to being like Joker or Two-Face. Batman just hasn’t cracked yet. There’s also likely some jealousy on the part of Bullock due to Commissioner Gordon placing more trust in his pet bat than he does the police force. Batman also gets to blatantly work outside the confines of the law, something Bullock would likely love to do. The animosity, up until now, has seemed mostly one-sided with Batman largely ignoring Bullock’s rants and insults. He even expressed some admiration for the detective, or perhaps respect is a better word, when he investigated him during the events of “Vendetta” when Killer Croc tried to frame him. When Bullock needed help in that episode, Batman came calling. Bullock needs help again, only this time he’s not being framed and he’s going to reach out to Batman personally. I’m not sure if there is more to mine from this relationship, and this episode was not a particularly memorable one for me, so it was one I was more eager to re-watch for this feature than others. And after just doing our first episode of 1994, we’re already doing our first one from 1995! That’s because this episode was held back for awhile, relative to production order, as it ended up being the 84th episode to air. And if you know you’re Batman: The Animated Series, then you know that means it was the second to last episode of the series to make it to air. Are we really that close to the end?!

targeting bullock

We’re going to find out that Harvey Bullock is a guy with more enemies than friends.

First of all, this one begins with the intro for The Adventures of Batman and Robin, even on the recently released Blu Ray edition. I had spot-checked episodes when I reviewed the set and found the season one intro to be in use through-out, but apparently I didn’t check well-enough. That’s because, by air date, Fox considered this to be part of the fourth season. When watching in production order, the episodes are all over the place and it was only Fox’s Seasons 3 and 4 (which was a scant 5 episodes) that contained the new intro.

The episode opens at night with Bullock walking the streets of Gotham likely heading home. Someone tries to take him out with their car, but fails. Bullock gets a look at the vehicle and fires off a shot, but the culprit escapes him. Either later that night or the following night, the Bat Signal lights up the Gotham sky summoning the Batman. When Batman arrives at police headquarters he finds not Commissioner Gordon, but Bullock. Bullock tells Batman that he needs help as someone is trying to take him out. He further explains he doesn’t want to go internal because he doesn’t want Internal Affairs nosing around in his business. This prompts Batman to question if Bullock is on the take, which insults the detective as he denies he’s ever taken a dime. He just suggests his methods of investigating perps isn’t always in agreement with company policies. He tosses in a “we’re the same” message Batman’s way which insults Batman. He declares he’ll help, but makes it clear they’re not the same.

bullock needs help

Bullock needs help and he knows who to turn to.

This exchange was rather interesting. Batman is pretty thorough, so I’m not surprised he’d question if Bullock was taking bribes even though he’s previously said he’s a good cop. Expecting an honest answer had he been is probably a bit fool-hardy though. Batman’s disgust at Bullock’s notion though that they’re similar in their methods rings rather hollow. What could Bullock do that Batman would not? Aside from obviously not sharing the same discipline for physical fitness, I’d assume they’re pretty similar. Batman is constantly breaking and entering, conducts searches without a warrant, and threatens witnesses and suspects on the regular. Unless Bullock has a history of shooting first and asking questions later that isn’t explored, it would seem they’re quite similar. Get off your high horse, Batman.

Bullock gives Batman a copy of his case file on a floppy disc and Batman takes it back to his comically gigantic computer at the Batcave (seriously, does he have vision problems or something?) and shares some info with Alfred. Bullock, having handed the data over, goes home to his apartment where he’s confronted by his landlord Nivens (Jeffrey Jones) over his filthy living habits. Bullock pays him no mind though and is his usual rude self, further demonstrating that he’s the type of guy that probably doesn’t have many friends.

Sometime later, Bullock and Montoya (Liane Schirmer) are shown busting up a gang of bank robbers. One flees to the roof, and Bullock chases after him armed with a shotgun instead of his usual revolver. He’s about to take a bullet to the back when Batman swoops in for the save. Bullock is less than grateful about being baby-sat by Batman and asks him if he’s found any suspects. Batman has not, and Bullock tells him to meet him later while he takes care of the perp. Batman does his usual disappearing routine in mid-sentence.

bullock pizza

Bullock’s homelife.

Bullock then arrives home and finds someone is in his apartment. He enters with gun drawn to find Batman, who’s inspecting the threatening letters he’s been sent. The two talk about the case, with Batman suggesting whoever is after him may just be trying to put a scare in him as he doesn’t think this is the work of a professional. Bullock makes a good point that it doesn’t matter if the guy is a pro or not, for had he succeeded in running him over the other night, he’d still be dead. Batman takes off, and Bullock is left to himself. The next night, he’s shown leaving a donut shop and heading for the subway. While waiting for the next train, someone shoves him from behind into the train’s path. Bullock gives the typical terrified look, but then rather unceremoniously just gets out of the way and back onto the platform. At work, he’s visibly shaken up and Montoya takes notice. She tells him he looks terrible, then corrects herself that he always looks terrible and he just looks a bit more terrible today. Bullock reacts appropriately and Montoya tries to laugh it off. She asks him what he’s doing for New Years, and he quips back “the same thing I did for Christmas:  my laundry.” Apparently, Bullock lives a rather lonely life.

batman grabby

Batman seems to have a strong dislike for Bullock. I guess 65 episodes of being treated like dirt by the detective took its toll.

As the snow starts falling, Batman makes an appearance. He tells Bullock he has a lead:  Vinnie the Shark. A drug-dealer who was on the verge of cementing his empire, Vinnie was taken down by Bullock and even threatened him openly in court. It would seem Vinnie was a model prisoner at Stonegate and was let out after serving 8 years of a 10-20 year sentence. Batman instructs Bullock to pay a visit to Summer Gleeson, who had recently conducted an expose on the crack houses of Gotham (nice city). When Bullock objects to being bossed around by Batman, Batman gets grabby. He reiterates the importance of figuring this out to Bullock, and tells him he has other leads to chase before disappearing out the window.

batmans methods

Batman knows how to get what he wants.

Bullock drops in on Gleeson (Mari Devon) who is editing something for the news. She’s not thrilled to see Bullock, but tells him to come back in an hour. As Bullock leaves, he notices her office and decides to sneak in. Elsewhere, Batman swoops in and picks off a drug-dealer who just completed a transaction (he’s apparently unconcerned about the kid running off with some drugs) and takes him to a rooftop. He tells him he wants info on The Shark, but when the dealer insists he has no knowledge of what he’s up to, Batman tosses him off the building. He uses his grapple-gun to stop his fall and barely pulls him out of the way of a passing truck, before getting the guy to sing. See, Batman is no worse than Bullock! Meanwhile, Gleeson catches Bullock making a mess of her office and orders him out. He tries to tell her someone is trying to kill him, but he’s apparently burned his last bridge with her.

caught by the shark

Vinnie The Shark gets the drop of the Dynamic Duo 2.0 for a moment, but it’s a brief moment.

Out on the street, Bullock tries to hail a cab, but with no luck. Apparently they don’t think much of him either. Batman pulls up in the Batmobile and grabs Bullock by the shirt collar and hauls him in, which seems unnecessary. Bullock has a few moments to wonder at the instruments in the Batmobile before the two get down to business. Batman has tracked The Shark to his hideout where a new drug ring is operational. The two enter and quickly have a car dropped on them. Or rather, the hollowed out, frame-less, husk of a car. Batman gets them out of the mess with his smoke bombs, and he and Bullock successfully take down Vinnie The Shark and all of his men. As Bullock cuffs The Shark, he tells Batman that he had to be the guy and thanks him for his help, but of course, Batman has vanished before he can get that out of his mouth.

the would be assassin

Lots of gunpoints in this episode, this one the most threatening.

At police headquarters, Bullock interrogates Vinnie (Gregg Berger) and demands to know why he sent him those letters. Vinnie insists he has no idea what Bullock is talking about, and some concern appears on Bullock’s face. Later on, Bullock is entering his apartment building when a masked man wielding a gun sneaks up from behind. Trembling, the man insists he didn’t want it to come to this and that he tried to make Bullock leave town, but now he has no choice. Bullock indicates that he recognizes the man, but can’t figure out who it is. Needless to say, it’s not looking good for him, which is when Batman drops in and kicks the would-be assassin knocking the gun from his hands. Batman hauls him to his feet and yanks off the mask to reveal it’s Nevins, Bullock’s landlord. Nevins starts rambling on and on about how much he hated Bullock and just wanted him to leave while Bullock looks rather dumb-founded. He eventually sheepishly cuffs Nevins and suggests to Batman that he owes him one. Batman demurs, suggesting Bullock has enough problems to sort out before taking off.

“A Bullet for Bullock” ended up being another unlikely pairing of Batman and Bullock while also serving as a bit of a character study of Bullock, which helps to differentiate it from “Vendetta” some-what. It’s more of a straight-forward team-up as well with both Batman and Bullock combining their brains and their brawn to take down one of Gotham’s criminals, even if it ended up being a different criminal than who they were after. Though since Bullock entered The Shark’s hideout alongside Batman and without a warrant, I wonder if they ended up taking him down at all? It adds to the relationship by revealing that Batman really dislikes Bullock, maybe even as much as Bullock dislikes him. Batman comes across as a hypocrite, while Bullock’s characterization as a gruff, rule-bending, cop is reinforced. It’s also shown that Bullock is a pretty lonely guy and his tough demeanor likely pushes people away. He’s basically a slave to his job as he doesn’t even have time for simple upkeep. When he returns home to find Batman in his apartment, he starts chowing down on a slice of pizza that was apparently left out all day on his kitchen table. Sure it reveals that Bullock is a slob, but also that maybe he doesn’t even leave himself enough time to go grocery shopping.

nevins

Oh, it’s just his crazy landlord. Haha – who doesn’t want to see Bullock dead?

The tone of the episode is definitely noir, and Shirley Walker’s score goes for that right from the start. It’s a very jazzy score with a liberal use of horns. The action sequence at the end at Vinnie’s hideout in particular uses a hot jazz type of track that I wonder if it’s intended to serve as a theme for Bullock. It’s something I’ll be on the lookout for going forward. I could not recall him having a theme prior to this, but I could be mistaken. Studio Junio animated this episode, and I must say, I’ve really enjoyed their work on this series. A lot of shots of Batman feature a little blue triangle on the side of his nose. It’s a subtle touch that most studios don’t bother with, but it adds nice definition to Batman’s face. The coloring is also just really well-done here and I am a sucker for a snowy setting. Batman’s interrogation scene with the drug-dealer is also really well-animated and for an episode with minimal action, it does contain a lot of excitement thanks to the animation.

“A Bullet for Bullock” is ultimately mostly a re-tread of an idea, but it does at least offer something new. I don’t think it’s as successful or as good of an episode as “Vendetta,” and the punch-line ending it goes for is a bit off-brand for the show. It’s an episode more intent on spotlighting the relationship between Batman and Bullock while also showing a side of Bullock previously not shown. It’s less interested in the mystery of who is threatening Bullock as the writing doesn’t offer any nuggets for the viewer to track in an attempt to solve they mystery itself. Which is fine, as mystery has never really been the show’s strength. In the end, this is an unnecessary episode, but it has entertainment value so I wouldn’t call it unjustified in its existence.

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Batman: The Animated Series – “Vendetta”

Vendetta-Title_CardEpisode Number: 23

Original Air Date:  October 5, 1992

Directed by:  Frank Paur

Written by:  Michael Reaves

First Appearance(s):  Killer Croc

For the debut of mostly unheard of villain Killer Croc, Batman: The Animated Series decided to place the focus on Batman’s skills as a detective as well as adding a new dimension to his rivalry with Detective Harvey Bullock. I’ve been critical of the show at times for how Batman is able to seemingly solve every crime that comes his way by virtue of his amazing super computer he has in the Bat Cave. For “Vendetta,” writer Michael Reaves made Batman less reliant on that trope in favor of more traditional sleuthing skills, but when it came time to give Batman a clue to help him solve this little crime, the show still resorted to some flimsy story-telling.

“Vendetta” opens with a police boat at sea escorting a rather nervous prisoner by the name of Spider Conway (Aron Kincaid, who is also voicing our debuting villain, Killer Croc). Conway apparently has some dirt on Rupert Thorne, or so that is the thought, and in exchange for a statement he’s getting a reduced sentence. He’s pretty jumpy though and seems to expect an attempt on his life to come before he can safely reach Gotham PD. Commissioner Gordon is onshore watching when he sees his guards on the boat start abandoning ship as a result of a discovered bomb. We get to see a shadowy object place that bomb on the side of the boat before entering and abducting a pretty terrified looking Conway. Batman is also there to witness the boat explode. Conway is no where to be found, and the police get settled in for a long night of dragging the bay in the pouring rain. Meanwhile, Batman finds a lone toothpick on the dock where the boat had cast off.

Vendetta-23

In this episode, Batman goes toe to toe with Killer Croc.

At Gotham PD, Gordon pulls Bullock off the case out of concern that Internal Affairs will be all over him. Apparently Bullock has a past relationship with Conway in which he was fingered for a crime, but later exonerated. Batman overhears this and decides he needs to investigate further and promptly breaks into Gotham PD and swipes Bullock’s personal record, just as Bullock was apparently about to do the same? Anyway, there’s enough there, coupled with the toothpick, to make Batman suspicious. A visit to the home of Thorne in which Batman comes away thinking he had nothing to do with it pushes him further down the path of suspecting Bullock. He voices his concerns to Gordon, who insists Bullock is a good cop. Things only get messier when an individual impersonating Bullock assaults a cop and abducts another prisoner by the name of Joey, another criminal who was about to sing to the cops.

Back at the wreckage, Batman finds an object that appears to be a scale. He takes it back to his lab to analyze it and finds that despite its appearance it actually came from a human. Alfred steps in to bring him his dinner, pointing out he’s serving it in a crock, which serves as Batman’s eureka moment. We then see him as Bruce Wayne at a zoo exhibit for crocodiles explaining their natural habitat that causes him to walk away smiling and announcing, “Of course!” This whole sequence is beyond stupid, even for a kid’s show. As we are about to find out, Batman has no prior knowledge of Killer Croc, so it wasn’t as if Alfred’s mentioning of the word “crock” brought that criminal to mind, Batman just literally decided that this must be the work of some kind of half-human half-crocodile individual. And Batman is also pretty damn smart, and has that crazy computer, so we’re supposed to believe he needed to head to the zoo to find out the most basic information on crocodiles?

Vendetta

There’s a couple of good fight scenes between Batman and Croc. These underwater scenes are always a bit intense.

Anyways, Batman goes searching underwater and find’s the cave of Killer Croc. The men he’s abducted are there and Batman and he have a brief exchange. Killer Croc does the villain thing of introducing himself and letting Batman know he has the strength of a crocodile. I know Croc is going to be portrayed as something much less than Batman’s equal when it comes to intellect, but this is pretty corny by any standard. Croc escapes, but Batman at least knows who is trying to frame Bullock. Apparently, Bullock had busted him previously with the help of testimony from Jones and Conway. Croc had since escaped from jail, and apparently no one thought to make this connection until now. Croc is simply out for a little revenge against the man who put him away. We’re heading for a showdown, and when Croc reveals himself to Bullock as the man behind all of this Batman is ready and waiting. They take to the sewers where we actually are treated to a fairly impressive confrontation. Batman and Croc beat the snot out of each other, but it’s hardly in question who will emerge victorious.

As a last bit of tension, we get Bullock pulling a gun on Batman as he emerges from the sewer. They speak not a word as Batman hauls an unconscious Croc behind him up and out of the sewer. Bullock questions why Batman went through all of the trouble to help him clear his name, and Batman responds with some mushy stuff about how he respects the detective and Bullock wants none of it and tells him to take off. He does admire Batman’s work once he leaves though.

Vendetta_Confront

Once Batman blows up Croc’s plan he just heads straight for Bullock.

“Vendetta” is a fine introduction for Killer Croc, a C-list villain who is at least a bit scary and intimidating to look at. This little plan of his is more elaborate than anything else we’ll see from him as Croc will be portrayed as kind of dim in subsequent appearances. As a visual though, I do like this take on Killer Croc. More recent ones are pretty outlandish, but at least here he’s sort of believable as a big guy with a bad skin condition and an ugly mug. Some liberties are taken with the shape of his jaw, but it adds character and a little style which is appreciated. The show gives away too much information for us to ever doubt Bullock’s innocence, which feels like a missed opportunity. As a result, what should be a tense situation at the end when Bullock and Batman are face to face has little dramatic flair. The other missteps are less forgivable making this perhaps the most clumsy episode we’ve looked at yet. The atmospheric setting which includes a pervasive rain and the Batman/Croc confrontation rescue it from being a poor episode, but this is definitely not a shining moment for Batman:  The Animated Series.


Batman: The Animated Series – “P.O.V.”

POV-Title_CardEpisode Number:  7

Original Air Date:  September 18, 1992

Directed by:  Kevin Altieri

Written by:  Mitch Brian

First Appearances(s):  Officer Wilkes, Lieutenant Hackle

Batman:  The Animated Series is largely a “villain of the week” kind of show, or in this case villain of the day since it aired six days a week. Sometimes though it will change-up the format and do something a bit different and this week’s episode, “P.O.V.,” is one such episode.

The episode is basically broken up into two acts. The first act involves a botched sting on some drug dealers at a Gotham warehouse that results in an internal investigation of three of Gotham’s finest:  Detective Bullock, Officer Montoya, and rookie officer Wilkes. Each officer gets to recount what happened to investigating officer Lieutenant Hackle (John Considine) with Commissioner Gordon overseeing everything, but largely letting Hackle conduct the investigation as he sees fit. Gordon outranks him, so it makes me think either he gives Hackle a lot of authority and doesn’t want to question his methods in front of the other officers, or Hackle is part of Internal Affairs and Gordon has no authority over him. Anyway, the second act will resolve the first act as Montoya goes off on her own to right the wrongs of the botched sting.

pov

The scene of the interrogation.

This episode is not our introduction to Renee Montoya (Ingrid Oliu) as she was seen in the previous episode “The Underdwellers,” but it’s basically her debut as she actually gets to actually do something and affect the plot. Montoya is unique in that she was created for this show, but someone at DC apparently liked the character enough to add her to the comics where she ended up debuting before the air date of her first episode. She is one of the noteworthy creations of this show, and if not for Harley Quinn (still to come!), she would probably be the most important addition to the Batman comic-verse to come from it.

POV_01_-_Wilkes_and_Montoya

Wilkes on the left, and Montoya in the background, as they race to make it to the sting on time.

The episode opens with Montoya and Wilkes (Robbie Benson) racing to a sting operation where they are to meet up with Bullock. When they arrive they find him nearly unconscious outside a burning building. Bullock claims they’re late, which they vehemently deny and chastise him for going rogue. The two officers race off to salvage what they can, while Bullock sees Batman on the roof and passes out. This takes us to police headquarters where the three officers are now seated and being questioned by Hackle. He’s clearly playing the role of bad cop, and he invites Bullock to recount his version of the events. Bullock shares his story, and while doing so we the viewer get to view what happened with Bullock narrating over the scenes. This means we get to see when he lies, and when he does not. Bullock doesn’t necessarily change the events of the story, but he embellishes a lot. He does falsely attribute the appearance of Batman as his motivation for going in without backup, but otherwise he basically just lies to cover-up his own futility (he says he doesn’t know what tipped off the bad guys to his presence, when it was his tripping that did it. He also claims he rescued Batman from the flames, when naturally it was the opposite) and sticks to his guns that the other two were late.

Wilkes is allowed to go second, and his story is mostly about his encounter with Batman. Like a rookie would, his story reflects the awe he was overcome with at the sight of the Batman in action. He mistakes Batman’s various gadgets for actual super powers, but he does pick up some useful info about a “doc” when Batman apprehends one of the goons. Montoya’s story is also largely about her encounter with Batman, who saves her from a collapsing ceiling, which may have resulted in the death of Batman.

Hackle is dissatisfied with the stories from the officers, and promptly suspends him. The sting resulted in the loss of 2 million dollars that the police had used as a plant and only succeeded in catching one of the gang members. While on her way home, Montoya guesses the one gang member they captured wasn’t talking about a doctor, but a dock in Gotham Harbor. She decides to go off and check it out alone, without her sidearm and badge, and finds Batman captured by the same gang. It’s quickly revealed that Batman was just waiting to score some info from the goons in charge of watching over him before he frees himself from the binds they’ve placed him in and starts taking them out. Montoya helps him out, and the two are able to incapacitate everyone after a fairly lengthy exchange and even nab the drug lord boss, who’s never really shown up close leading me to assume they just wanted the viewer to wonder if it would be a more popular character from Batman’s rogue’s gallery.

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Batman and Montoya taking cover from mostly inept gunfire.

The setup for this episode is fun and rewarding. It may have been inspired by the 1950 film Rashomon which used the same point of view gimmick to tell a story. I really enjoyed how we’re shown the actual events in the Bullock version, while hearing his version as a narration. It adds some fun and it helps to keep the viewer in a state of distrust concerning the Bullock character, which will pay off down the road. This gimmick of sorts also means that the episode doesn’t need a Joker to make it feel important. The only real criticism I have of the episode is that the enemies Batman and Montoya deal with are the first really bad shots we’ll see in this series. One guy manages to shoot around both Batman and Montoya without actually hitting them. It’s comically bad.

Visually this episode is a real joy to behold. It’s nice and dark, like so many episodes of this series, and the visual effects on the fire look great. The characters are well animated and everything is in time with the visuals on screen. Batman really looks like a machine in taking out the gang member in Wilkes’ version of events and it’s believable the same gang member would be terrified into talking with Batman.

Montoya will be a consistent presence in the show going forward, while Wilkes will have a small role. Interestingly, the credits include a character named Scarface, but he’s not THE Scarface who will show up later, just a placeholder name for one of the gang members who happens to have a scar on his face. There are no villains in this episode who will resurface in a meaningful capacity, which is fine as this was a story meant to give some personality to the sometimes nameless Gotham PD and it succeeds quite well in doing so. It gives Batman another ally in the police department in Montoya, who proves she’s a worthy and heroic cop. And in Bullock we have to take a wait and see attitude to know just how far he’ll go to get rid of Batman.