Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 57, 58 – Shadow of the Bat – The Beginning of Batgirl

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“Shadow of the Bat,” is a Two Parter that explores the beginning of Batgirl and her welcome into the Bat Family. The premise of the Episode is Commissioner Gordon gets framed after Rupert Thorne is taken down by a mysterious benefactor in relation to the rise of a new detective named Gil Mason. After Commissioner Gordon is framed Barbara takes on the mantle of the bat to defend him to the public and find the perpetrator. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

Pros: Rupert Thorne – He is only in the first 10 minutes of the episode before he is a plot device for the main baddie but he reeks havoc before he is caught. You see him fight every step of the way before finally being brought in.

Commissioner Gordon – Is great as the father to Barbara and the man who comes to sympathize with the plight of criminals after being in prison. He makes a comment about changing the food they’ll receive after this time in there.

Harvey Bullock – Bullock is great as the unswerving friend who believes in the Commissioner. You see him keep faith even after Gordon is being framed before his eyes.

Gil Mason – Is a sociopathic sicko. He is ambitious and will work with anyone to get the power he desires. Commissioner Gordon makes a comment on how the real baddie is one he has more respect for because he is at least honest about what he has become.

Two-Face – Two-Face ascended is the story for most of this episode…and I wish he’d gotten away. He traps Batman, Batgirl and Robin in the subway and even has a clue on who Batman is after while in disguise Batman gives himself away when he warns Robin. He takes out the man who scarred him in the first place (Rupert Thorne) and the cops who had caused him so much pain. He almost wins it all this episode. Two-Face has won and Harvey Dent is dead at this point in the story.

Robin – I almost put him in the okay or con area but decided against it due to him coming to respect Batgirl in the end. He is the Boy Wonder for much of the episode and it is annoying…but he does come through and manages to help save Batman and treat Batgirl like part of the team and family.

Batman – Comes around to treating Batgirl as an equal much sooner in regards to when he’s met her and when she becomes part of the team. He does a good job figuring everything out and he actually gets caught and almost discovered showing that he does in fact make mistakes in the field.

Batgirl – This is Batgirl’s episode and it is a good introduction. We see how her gymnastics are used when she is fighting crime and the process of her learning how to be a vigilante is great…as well as all the effort put in to saving Batman, Robin and her father.

Okay: The Music – The music is forgettable, which is a shame. Batgirl could have received a great theme this episode.

Two-Face Caught – He should have escaped. It would have made the threat of him complete and completed his revenge. Right now no one controls the gangs leaving a power vacuum that is never addressed.

Because of the power vacuum with the gang, the capture of Two-Face can’t give this episode full points. It is still a favorite and one I would recommend though.

Final score is 9 / 10.

 

 

 

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Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 56 – Harley and Ivy – Power to Women

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“Harley and Ivy,” is one of the more poignant episodes in “Batman: The Animated Series,” though it’s execution isn’t the best. The premise is Joker is being his usual abusive self to Harley Quinn. He kicks her out and she begins to go on a stealing spree to impress him that changes into a stealing spree for herself when Poison Ivy takes her under her wing and the two team up to be quite a crime duo. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

Pros: The Joker – The Joker’s abusive sociopathicness is captured really well in this episode. You see how he never recognizes how much Harley helps and how Harley is his punching bag and that he sees Harley Quinn as property. If you already didn’t have reason to hate the Joker, this one is it. In this episode he represents every abusive partner or spouse. You see how much he depends on her to keep his life running since his fort goes to hell in regards to how the Hyenas’ view him and how disorganized it is once she is gone.

Batman – Batman is just kind of there, but it is great to see him fall to Harley and Ivy when teamed up but beat the Joker. He is also the one to find out where Ivy’s hideout is through detective work verses the Joker tracking the call.

Renee – Is meant to be the counter to Harley and Ivy since she is the woman who takes them both down after they’ve taken down Batman. She does it in a Batmanesque way too by booby trapping the street to stop their car.

Harley Quinn – Is the co-dependent partner and “Spouse” of the Joker. After every abuse she comes back and keeps thinking they can work it out. It is powerful how she is a character that was inspired by a real person and that real people like her exist who can’t get out of those types of situations. When she’s going through empowerment via the tutorship if Poison Ivy she is on top of her game…stealing, overturning Old Boys Clubs and even managing to nearly destroy Batman. It is a shame that she never comes out from under the Joker’s shadow until much later in life in the cannon.

Poison Ivy – Is the mentor to Harley. She misses that women can be bad too but nails the abusiveness prevalent among men as represented by the Joker. She is always presenting the alternative view and doing all she can to help Harley move on. Sadly she doesn’t succeed, but it isn’t from lack of trying.

The Friendship and Romance – It is played up in the comic of the same name but Harley and Poison Ivy are implied to be Bisexual. This is the first time we really see this too. Though in this episode Harley does play as more of a friendship because of her obsession with the Joker. There are romantic moments and tension though, which is great! It is a shame it isn’t more common in comics. These two are a great paring due to how well they compliment each other like Batman and Robin.

The Message – The message has a great intent. Don’t put up with abuse and embrace freedom of the self. The main issue I’d say is it being through the eyes of villains which may hurt the argument…The theme of the empowerment of women is pulled off pretty well in this episode though.

Okay: Show Don’t Tell – Poison Ivy’s quips end up taking away from the message of the episode. We see them being powerful and doing acts to upset the patriarchy. It doesn’t really need to be announced every time, it would have been more powerful without that actually. This is the one reason I can’t give it full points. Showing not telling is the best way to tell any story.

I definitly recommend this episode. The message is great even if the execution of it could be better and Harley and Ivy are great characters who I wish could have teamed up more.

Final score the episode is 9.5 / 10. It is a favorite.

 

 

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 55 – The Mechanic – The Maker of the Batmobile and the Plan from “Batman Returns”

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“The Mechanic,” is an episode that could have and would have been terrible if not for the character moments that drive it. The basic premise is the Penguin’s plan from “Batman Returns,” he takes control of the Batmobile and uses it to harass the city with Batman and Robin still in it and after tries to kill them. Suffice to say it is elevated beyond copying someone else’s idea.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

Earl Cooper – Earl is the mechanic and is an awesome guy. He designed the Batmobile and stood up to the Motor Corporation he worked for when they decided to release unsafe sports cars to the public. It was for this reason Batman picked him and made him his personal mechanic. His design for the Batmobile is fantastic and he is a good father to his daughter. He even manages to build in a safe for Batman and Robin to escape the Batmobile and takes out the Penguin thug who takes him hostage. He makes this episode great.

Batman – From taking in Earl as his mechanic to outsmarting the Penguin and understanding Earl’s hints about the sabotage…Batman is able to get control of the situation. It is a good episode for him thinking under pressure.

Penguin – The Penguin is good in that he manages to take control of the Batmobile, it is just a shame that this is a retread of what he already did in “Batman Returns,” it does show how threatening he can be though. The problem is he is almost ripped wholescale from “Batman Returns,” from his maniacal laugh and having a giant Rubber Ducky Boat of Doom and living in the Sewers…it just felt out of character for how he was before. He was still good and interesting it was just inconsistent…

Okay: Robin – He is just kind of there. He doesn’t help or hinder…and really wasn’t needed in this episode at all.

Marva Cooper – Is also like Robin…except she does help her dad. The problem is she is the one needing rescuing for most of this episode once Penguin finds out where the Batmobile gets repaired.

This was a good but not great episode. Robin is unnecessary and the fact that it is a retread doesn’t help it’s case. Did the writers run out of ideas to use for Penguin? I liked his old look better when he was less carnival creature and more gentleman thief. I’m hoping later episodes won’t have this problem.

7.5 / 10.

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 54 – Zatanna – The Art of Escape

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“Zatanna” goes into Bruce Wayne’s past before he went to train in Japan. It was here that we learn that Zatara trained Bruce Wayne in the art of escape and that his daughter Zatanna had a thing for him. We jump to modern day where Zatanna is framed for a crime by the villain Montague Kane. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

Pros: The flashback – We learn that Bruce Wayne was paranoid even when he was younger since when he is being trained by Zatara he is going under the alias John Smith. It is implied Zatara most likely knows who he really is though…but he respects Wayne’s secret.

Zatanna – Is a compelling character, but handled much better later. The majority of this episode is her getting rescued by Batman. She does take out Montague Kane and she is able to deduce who Batman is (the man from her past) that is more than most can say. It is good at exploring the friendship that this episode reestablishes though.

Batman – Is great once again. We see his escape artist tricks to their greatest here (from escaping a spiked room and being thrown out of an airplane chained). He even opens up a bit to Zatanna about the fact that he dresses the way he does because of a painful memory.

Cons: Montague Kane – This guy has no motivation outside of boring. He just isn’t compelling as a villain, which is a shame cause this episode needed that since more in’st done with the heroes.

This episode was alright. The flasback and the ending were the best part…besides that there is way too many “Damsel in Distress,” moments for a character who becomes much more active later on the the DCAU.

Final score is 7 / 10.

 

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 53 – Paging the Crime Doctor – A Story of Thornes

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“Paging the Crime Doctor,” is the story of the Thornes. Specifically Rupert and his relationship to his brother Matt. Matt was the height of virtue until he was pulled into the underworld to save his brother Rupert from prosecution when one of Rupert’s men was sent to the hospital with a gunshot wound. The story unfolds with Rupert needing to be saved from a heart surgery and holding the promise over his brother of getting him his licence back if he succeeds. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

Pros: The Thornes – Rupert and Matt have a great relationship going on. You can see the resentment and owing they feel that each should be given and how Matt feels pressured by obligation and promise.

Matt Thorne – He was once friends with Thomas Wayne and Leslie Thompkins (who saves Batman when he is on the street on multiple occasions). They all went to medical school together and were known as the Three Musketeers. They are the ones offering Matt the choice verbally and symbolically.

Rupert Thorne – Is a sociopathic dick, and a good baddie. He clearly cares about his brother but only so deeply as he can use him. He never takes responsibility for being the one for Matt losing his licence in the first place and even tries to kill the woman Leslie Thompkins who had helped heal him. Rupert may not have make-up and a psychological tick of some kind but he is still one of the greatest threats.

Dr. Leslie Thompkins – We see her save Batman after Batman is hit by a lazer in the beginning, and it her advice that gives Batman the strength to save her later. She also saves Matt too when Matt finds out his brother means to kill her.

Okay: Music – Isn’t super memorable this episode.

The thugs – They don’t get any exploration and are semi-competent, but that is the most that can be said about them.

Thomas Wayne – We don’t know what he was like from this episode since Leslie and Matt don’t give details to Bruce. This factor would have elevated the episode to perfection…even a single well expressed memory would have done the trick.

This is a solid episode and well worth a watch. The ending is worth it because we see how Matt has changed on not taking the easy way out and how all Bruce wants is to know more about his father. The final scene is them talking about Thomas Wayne. It is a beautiful episode and well worth a watch.

Final score is 9 / 10.

 

 

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 52 – Mudslide – Holding Together

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“Mudslide,” is the final time we see Clayface in season 1. The story deals with how he is losing structural integrity and needs a chemical to keep his form held together. Using a doctor he begins stealing chemicals to achieve this…which brings Batman into the picture and the story unfolding.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

Pros: Clayface – Clayface is actually handled pretty well in this. We see how his pride and narcissism drive him from being patient for finding a solution outside of stealing and how obsessed he is with his new identity of Clayface and denying the man he was before.

Stella Bates – Is compelling as the doctor who had advised on his movies and is the obsessed fan. She can actually see the bigger picture of himself that he is unable to see because of his narcissism and pride. It’s a shame her character is never brought back. She brought some much needed dimension to Clayface.

Batman – Batman is great as the one who is trying to help Clayface but also as the one who won’t let him steal and do ill. He wins largely due to luck though considering if he’d attacked Clayface’s hideout when it wasn’t raining Clayface would have had more structural integrity to take him on and end him.

The episode is alright. It is good but not great. Clayface is not that redeemable of a character which takes away from the tragedy of his origin story and situation. He also doesn’t use his awesome powers as well as he should have. It has been a long time since we’ve seen him and I expected him to do more. He just wasn’t threatening.

Final score for this episode is 7 / 10.

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 51 – The Man Who Killed Batman – A World Without Batman

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“The Man Who Killed Batman,” is a fantastic episode. The premise is what would happen if a nobody killed Batman. How would Gotham react? What would be the fallout? In the super hero world these premises are always fascinating and usually handled well since the folks writing know how serious taking out a major character is, even if it is only for an episode or movie.

The premise of this episode is Syndey (Syd the Squid) wants to get in on a drug ring and over the course of the operation he manages to have Batman accidentally fall into an explosion. From here everyone thinks he killed Batman since he is holding his cowl…even though it was Batman who saved his life. From here the story unfolds.

Pros: The music – Captures the feel of intense mourning and bleakness. Batman is such a major part of Gotham city that the question of how would the city feel without Batman is answered pretty quick. A lot of folks would be lost who are both good and bad.

The Underworld – Things start out good and the thugs celebrate him, until a large thug tries to kill him so he’ll be the toughest guy in town. This is the first time Syd realizes he is in over his head.

Gotham Police – We see Bullock and Rene mourning the death of Batman and here how cut up Commissioner Gordon is after what happened. Their hatred becomes directed at Syd once they hear he is the one who did it. The scene is great because we see how much Bullock admires Batman.

The Joker and Harley Quinn – It is in this episode we see how abusive the Joker can be and that he has no love for Harley at all. She is a means to an end, a person to stroke his ego and cheer for his victories…even though she is the one still smart. She wants to steal the jewels but the Joker doesn’t care because his punch line of Batman is gone.

Batman’s Funeral – The Joker throws a funeral for Batman that expresses how incomplete he feels without him and how much he hates Syd for stealing his kill. It ends with Syd being burning alive in a vat of acid only being saved by Batman’s intervention.

Rupert Thorne – The man who set all the wheels in motion again. It was he who had the drug operation that lead to the “death” of Batman and who is so ruled by fear he is not able to believe that Syd did it all by accident and tries to kill Syd. He is once again established as the most dangerous crime boss who isn’t a rogue.

Batman – Batman is great in this episode in that he uses being undercover to finally take out Rupert Thorne…who had been putting the drugs on the street in the first place. He also gives Syd what he wants by playing dead after Thorne is taken in so that Syd will be respected in prison.

Syd – Syd is great as a Woody Allen type of guy. He’s a nervous wreck who manages to be lucky and unlucky to the extreme. Like a Woody Allen character he also wins in the end…getting the respect and recognition he craved. He is a funny and interesting character. He actually manages to carry the episode.

This episode was perfect and deals with the question of “What would Gotham be without Batman?” in this animated universe really well. I kind of wish it was longer so we could see more reactions from other rogues and actually see Gordon…but from the limited point of view we get through Syd’s perspective it is brilliant and a must see.

10 / 10.