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

harleys holiday title cardEpisode Number:  81

Original Air Date:  October 15, 1994

Directed by:  Kevin Altieri

Written by:  Paul Dini

First Appearance(s):  General Vreeland

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

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

harley skate

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

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

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

harley sane

Harley happily showing off her clean bill of health.

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

harleys back

Well, that didn’t take long.

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

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

sorry veronica

Veronica does not enjoy riding with Harley’s babies.

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

boxys back

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

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

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

harleys sorry

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

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

general vreeland

This guy is pretty nuts.

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

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

harley grenade

Harley refusing to go quietly.

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

harleys dress returned

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

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

harley kiss

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

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

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

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

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Batman: The Animated Series – “Trial”

btas trialEpisode Number:  68

Original Air Date:  May 16, 1994

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Paul Dini and Bruce Timm

First Appearance(s):  None

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

janet trial

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

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

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

captured batman

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

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

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

trial jury

Batman’s jury hardly seems fair and impartial.

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

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

harleys tampering

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

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

van dorn and judge joker

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

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

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

batman electric chair

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

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

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

preacher joker

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

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

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


Batman: The Animated Series – “Dreams in Darkness”

Dreams_in_Darkness-Title_CardEpisode Number:  28

Original Air Date:  November 3, 1992

Directed by:  Dick Sebast

Written by:  Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

First Appearance(s):  None

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

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

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

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

btas-dreamsindarkness15

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

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

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

did22

Beware of Joker rat!

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

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Things get pretty weird underneath Arkham.

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

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

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

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


Batman: The Animated Series – “Nothing to Fear”

Nothing_To_Fear-Title_CardEpisode Number:  3

Original Air Date:  September 15, 1992

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Henry T. Gilroy and Sean Catherine Derek

First Appearance (s):  The Scarecrow, Thomas Wayne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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