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 РWe 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.

 

 

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 50 – Off Balance – The Introduction of the Society of Shadows

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“Off Balance,” is the story that introduces us to “The Society of Shadows,” as they are called in “Batman: The Animated Series,” We get to see Talia and Ra’s al Ghul and just how far reaching their power is.

The story begins with Twitch Batman’s underworld informant beginning to tell him about the Society before some Society agents take him out. From here Batman begins investigating them after a powerful drill is stolen from Wayne Enterprises by Vertigo.

Here is the assessment of the story:

Pros: Vertigo – Vertigo is like DC’s Baron Von Strucker. He has an eye patch with abilities and speaks with an outrageous German Accent, but is actually quite a big threat given it takes Talia and Batman to take him down. He is there to show that division within the Society and how they are not united and have a habit of division.

Talia Al Ghul – She is a femme fatale is in this but at least she saves Batman in the beginning, and she is one of the few to know his identity. She is largely competent though I would have expected them to write her better given she is the second in command of the Society of Shadows. Still better than “The Dark Knight Rises,” Talia.

Batman/Bruce Wayne – Is great in this. We get to see his investigative chops again and creative thinking, such as when he gets through Vertigo’s vertigo ability by closing his eyes and going by instinct. He also puts trust into Talia after she learns who he is (even if it is only for a time) which is more than can be said for most of his rogues and love interests.

Ra’s Al Ghul – Appears briefly at the end and is established to be the mastermind. His design is fantastic and the fact that he knows who Batman is gives him one over most of the other rogues. Liam Neeson’s was better though. Clearer agenda and personal connection to Bruce Wayne.

Okay: The music – It wasn’t terrible, just don’t have much of a memory of what it was. It was forgettable.

The story does a decent job introducing the Society of Shadows and establishing Talia and Ra’s as a threat…the problem is that the plan with the drill is never fully established and known and Veritgo’s agenda is also unknown. I get having mystery but too much mystery is what brought this story down. We don’t know anyone’s agenda which makes character drives weak.

Final score for this episode is 8 / 10.

 

 

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 49 – I Am The Night – Is Being Batman Worth the Cost?

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“I Am The Night,” is one of the more reflective Batman episodes that explores the cons of Batman and the guilt that Bruce Wayne lives with everyday. The story’s premise is that Batman is visiting Crime Alley where his parents are killed which leaves Commissioner Gordon in a setup against the Jazzman that leads to him getting mortally wounded…from here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

Pros: Bullock – Bullock is the voice against Batman. He blames Batman for not showing up (basically admitting the police force hasn’t advanced at all because of it’s dependence on the vigilanty) and that he plans to take Batman on for the injury of Gordon.

Barbara Gordon – Defends Batman and her father from the Jazzman. The set-up to become Batgirl continues.

Robin/Dick Grayson – Is there to remind Bruce Wayne of why he became Batman in the first place. Also is there for Barbara Gordon.

Commissioner Gordon – Explains to Batman how he admires him and would have liked to be him if he was younger. It is a touching scene. “You are already a hero.” Is what Batman tells him.

Batman/Bruce Wayne – Actually postulates some good questions. Why don’t I move on? Am I actually helping this city? Do I do any good in the end? (Paper had Penguin getting free). He brings up how Gotham has become a tourist attraction because of him and in a way that he has inspired some of the way the crazy is expressed in Gotham. In the end it is a “Yes,” because he recognizes the role he plays and how others depend on him (from the small time criminal who reforms after Batman saves him) to the Gordons and Robin.

The Music – Catches the reflectiveness of events since when the drama goes down it is on the anniversary of Bruce Wayne’s parents’ death.

Cons: The Jazzman – He is just a crook with a personal grudge. I’m surprised one of the bigger fish wasn’t used. Like the Joker to do a callback to the 1989 “Batman” movie.

This was a great episode that begins to explore the cons of vigilantism and also personal responsibility. It would have been better with a bigger rogue and more time to explore Batman’s morose but it still works and is a favorite. Definitely recommend this episode.

Final score is 9.75 / 10.

 

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 48 – What is Reality? – The Riddler’s Game

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“What is Reality?” is an all around great episode and one of my favorites. The premise begins with the return of the Riddler who is stealing money from all electronic sources and erasing all records of the existence of Edward Nygma. It comes to a head when he leaves virtual reality game that he traps Commissioner Gordon within and Batman and Robin have to rescue him.

Pros: Robin – Robin is great in this episode. Once again we see why he is Batman’s protege with him being the puzzle master who is able to help Batman through the games that the Riddler poses. It is implied together they would have beat the Riddler if the Riddler hadn’t locked him out of the game.

Commissioner Gordon – Gordon is fantastic in this one too and is the one who needs rescuing…which we haven’t seen for a while. This is the time we see him powerless before the public as the Riddler is taking everything without consequence. We also see his inquisitiveness get him into trouble when Riddler uses it to trap him in the game.

Batman – Batman’s deductive skills are on display here as he solves every riddle the Riddler poses and uses to defeat the game and remain in control of himself as well as find where the Riddler was controlling everyone from. He even manages to trick the Riddler to getting stuck in the game himself.

The Riddler – This episode shows what I hope we see of the Riddler when he appears once more on the big screen. In virtual reality the mind is the greatest thing and we see that here as he uses it to trap Batman and Gordon and keep Robin out of the game. He manages to wipe away all record of his existence as Edward Nygma too fully becoming the Riddler. This version is by far the greatest of all the Riddlers and the one I hope is used as inspiration when we see him again in the movies (using hacking to reek havoc and trapping the heroes in a virtual reality game). His defeat is sad (trapped in his own game in a coma) but we know he gets out of it at some point.

The music – Captures the mysteriousness of the Riddler. Also, I love the Riddler’s theme music.

Puns – The Riddler’s are largely world play and puns but never overused…and quite intelligent when said puns are enemies in the game used to try and kill you. Hats off to the Riddler.

I highly recommend this episode. The only thing that keeps it from being perfect is the Riddler not being able to escape like he did in his first appearance. Still a sold story though that I’m going to give full points too. It was a fun ride and showed why Riddler is one of the greatest rogues and what made this Riddler so memorable.

10 / 10.

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 47 – Birds of a Feather – Can Penguin Reform?

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“Birds of a Feather,” is the best of the Penguincentric episodes. In this one we are faced with the situation of if Penguin can reform. The premise is he has just gotten out of prison and finds that his old haunts are empty and the rogues are gone. Veronica, a high society person and her brother take and interest in the Penguin and began courting him in order to make their parties more popular…what isn’t expected is the shadow of love.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

Pros: The Penguin – The Penguin really owns this episode. We see how eccentric he is and how closely he holds his victories over others (and that he he a high society bully). We see his loneliness with the rogues gone and his hope when Veronica begins to court him. He even has given up being a criminal and protects her up until he finds out she was using him the entire time with her brother. His story is tragic, and fittingly it ends in a battle in the Opera House.

Veronica – Starts out as a starlet sociopath but gets to the point where she sees past the Penguin’s looks and just wants to be his friend. The sad part is, she never stood up for Penguin to her servant Pierce and that is what ends everything…since it was when Pierce reveals the original plan that it all comes crashing down in the battle of the Opera House.

Batman/Bruce Wayne – This is an episode where we see Bruce Wayne warning Veronica and her brother and being willing to give Penguin a second chance after he realizes that the Penguin had been protecting Veronica, not working with the thieves…the same deal when he sees the gift that Penguin bought and how set the Penguin is on love. Sadly at the end he no longer is reasoning with the Penguin like Veronica tries…which I wish would have happened.

The music – Has the high society feel and fits the Penguin perfectly.

Okay – Pierce – Isn’t memorable. He’s just there to be a rich jerk who cares for his mistress.

I highly recommend this episode. It is a great exploration of the Penguin and gives us a glimpse of the culture that he wanted to be a part of…but at the end abandons when he realizes all they want to do is use him.

Final score is 9 / 10.

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 46 – Almost Got ‘Im – A Meeting of the Rogues or So Close to Victory

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“Almost Got ‘Im,” is one of the best exploration of Batman’s rogues gallery. We get to see their moments of near triumph and see that they have a working relationships and a near comradery that almost borders on friendship…all because of Batman. It begins with them all meeting and playing cards as they share their stories…from their the story unfolds.

Here is my assessment of the episode:

Pros: The Dynamic –¬† The Dynamic between the villains is extremely well done. Past history is referenced (Poison Ivy saying that her and Harvey Dent were in a relationship…which they were). There is a playfulness, especially in how Killer Croc is ignored as the dolt and Joker owns the arena.

Poison Ivy – Her plan was actually pretty cool. Poisoned pumpkins on Halloween that explode when Batman arrives. She nearly wins except the Batmobile attacks her and gets Batman his mask. This story reveals why Poison Ivy is one of the greatest of the rogues. She shuts down Two-Face pretty thoroughly too. She is captured though at the end of her story.

Two-Face – Two-Face manages to capture Batman with the Two Ton Gang and luckily has his coin end on death which leads to Batman being flipped on a giant coin that he only manages to escape from by using Two-Face’s coin against him to cut the ropes. He is captured by Batman in the end though and is given back his coin.

Killer Croc – Killer Croc throws a rock at Batman and the silence he receives from the other rogues is perfect. He is ignored after that and becomes sad. He is the thug of Batman’s rogues and only really functions as muscle not planner in relation to the others in the room (which becomes a good ploy later for this episode).

Penguin – Penguin manages to be better than all before him in that he poisons Batman, injures Batman and even escapes. His plan is elaborate with poison tipped hummingbirds and a Cassowary (one of my favorite birds). He is the intellectual of the group and Joker asks him to use smaller words. Penguin is also the most polite and respectful.

Joker – Joker’s plan is the best. In his him and Harley Quinn hijack Gotham Live and have Batman trapped in a laugh machine that sends electric currents through his body the more the audience laughs. He nearly succeeds except for the arrival of Catwoman who Harley Quinn manages to capture in the end for Joker to use against Batman in the final plot. He is the best of them all in regards to how close he gets to killing Batman and is by far the greatest threat of the group.

Harley Quinn – Captures Catwoman and saves Joker. This episode is great at establishing her as more than Joker’s flunky. She is threat to be reckoned with by anyone she sets her sight on…especially in regards to the Joker.

Catwoman – She saves Batman and even dreams of a normal life for her and Batman and is saved by Batman in turn. The equal exchange between them rescuing each other was part of what the characters so interesting in the first place. She ends the episode with it’s name saying she, “Almost Got ‘Im.”

Batman – Batman was playing as Killer Croc the entire time. He went undercover to capture the group and find out where Catwoman was. The group gets captured by him and Gordon and after he manages to stop Harley from killing Catwoman.

This is a fantastic story that has a unique narrative style and a great exploration of every character who gets to speak. I highly recommend it. It is one of my favorites and part of the reason the rogues from this show are so memorable and unforgettable.

10 / 10 The perfect episode.

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 45 – Terror in the Skies – The Curse of the Bat

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“Terror in the Sky,” continues where the pilot left off with the Langstroms. A humanoid bat appears once again terrorizing others which leads Batman to check up on Kirk Langstrom to see if he was the one who was the Man-Bat. From here the story unfolds. This is the story that completes the Langstrom’s arc in relation to Batman in “Batman: The Animated Series.”

Pros: The Langstroms – This drama is really about them and it is executed well. Kirk Langstrom has given up taking the serum it is discovered, but in the process he cut himself off from his wife Francine…which lead to her being used by her father Dr. March as a guenie pig. She tries to escape from him but ends up turning because of what her father did. It is only through Kirk and Batman that she is able to find herself again after being used. I liked this considering she was the one who saved Kirk in the beginning…it completes the circle and saves their relationship.

Batman – We see the sympathetic Batman in this…from his aiding of Kirk to helping Francine and confrontation of Dr. March. Batman is the light cutting through the dark in this episode to reveal the truths.

Okay: The music is alright, again unmemorable.

This was a great episode that I wish had gone more into Dr. March’s motivations behind continuing the experiments. What did he hope to gain and why hadn’t he learned from Kirk’s folly? These are the questions I wish this episode had addressed and keep it from being a favorite.

My final score from this episode is 8.5 / 10. It is solid and good.