Friday, April 1, 2016

Stuff I Grew Up With: Batman: The Animated Series (The Adventures of Batman & Robin) (1992-1995)

Batman has always been my favorite comic book hero and when I was growing up the 90's, there were two incarnations of him that had a lasting impact on me. First, there were the two Tim Burton movies, Batman and Batman Returns, which I watched quite a bit at a very young age, especially the latter, although the former has since become my favorite comic book movie ever; the other was this series, which began airing on Fox when I was five years old. I still have very dim memories of seeing advertisements of this show when it was about to premiere, which were made up of brief, silhouetted clips of Batman beating up bad guys and that iconic shot of him standing on top of that building at the end of the opening sequence, as well as a sound clip of him declaring, "I am Vengeance. I am the Night. I am Batman!" However, at the time, we didn't have cable, so, other than when I visited my cousin, who was always a big Batman fan, I only got to watch the show on Friday afternoons when I would stay with my aunt, who did have cable. I was so young that the storylines and a lot of the dialogue went right over my head and watching the show was more like having a dream while I was awake but I was still captivated by what I was seeing, especially whenever Batman himself was onscreen. But it wasn't until 1998, when Cartoon Network began airing the show, that I really became a fan of it. Being eleven, and despite my initial resistance to watching it since I went through a period of snobbishness towards stuff I liked when I was very young, I was now able to really get into the stories and the characters and looked forward to seeing it every day. And even then, I didn't come to truly grasp just how freaking amazing this show was until my first year in college in 2006, when I bought the DVD sets after having gotten back into the Batman movies just a couple of years before. Now, I can truly see why this show was loved not only by kids but by adults as well, why it got so much acclaim, and why Doug Walker refers to it as the greatest nostalgic animated series ever (an opinion I'm not inclined to disagree with him on). For something that was meant for kids, it took a real chance with its dark tone, complex storylines and characters, natural voice-acting, and unique art-style, and it paid off tremendously. Not only was the show itself great but it created the amazing DC Animated Universe, which many have called the greatest non-comic adaptations of these characters and stories, and inspired others to take bigger risks with animation and realize that not only is it not always just for kids but that they can appreciate darkness and complexity too. Above everything else, though, this and the Burton movies are what immediately come to mind when I think of Batman. There are many other really good adaptations, like the Christopher Nolan movies and the more mature, direct-to-DVD animated films, but these are what have and always feel like the real deal to me.

Before we get into this, I think I need to mention a few things about how this review's going to go. First off, there is a lot to talk about with this show, and I'm going to try my best to cover everything, but it's possible that I could miss some stuff, so don't get upset if I do because I'll more than likely be upset at myself. Second, this review is absolutely enormous (I'd be shocked if it's not the biggest one I ever wrote), so you best not try to read it all in one sitting because you could very well burn out. Third, I'm not at all an expert on comic books, including Batman, so I may get some facts wrong when it comes to the interpretations of various characters here, but I'm going to do my homework and try to be as accurate with it as I possibly can. And finally, this is going to focus on just the original animated series; I'm saving the 1997 sequel series, The New Batman Adventures, which is sometimes referred to as a fourth season, for another day since I consider it to be its own thing due to the different artstyle, the set-up, and its place in the timeline.

It's interesting that this show is called Batman: The Animated Series given how it doesn't have a title card at all, save for the episodes later on that use the title, The Adventures of Batman & Robin. The opening sequence to every episode (save for the ones that carry that title, which is just a bunch of clips from past episodes set to the theme), shows a couple of crooks getting chased by the police after blowing up a bank, climbing to the top of a building, where they're ambushed by Batman, who promptly beats them up and leaves them tied up for the baffled police officers to pick up, with the last shot being Batman standing atop a nearby building, illuminated by a flash of lightning. That's all you get, with no title insight, save whatever the episode in question is, and it kind of reminds me of how the first Tim Burton movie's posters and VHS and early DVD covers just showed the Bat Symbol and nothing else. And whenever there's a two-part episode and you get a recap of the first one's events, you get a voiceover from someone (it's different with every episode) who refers to the show as simply Batman. While it is odd, as some, including frequent writer Paul Dini have said, a title card isn't really necessary because anybody can come into the middle of that opening sequence, or an episode, for that matter, and very quickly realize, "Oh, it's Batman."

The main man behind the show is, of course, Bruce Timm, who has become pretty much a god among men in the eyes of both comic book and animation fans. Before creating Batman, Timm had a varied background in animation, having worked on shows like He-Man, She-Ra, G.I. Joe, and The Real Ghostbusters, as well as with animation giants like Ralph Bakshi and Don Bluth on films like The Secret of NIMH and the video games that Bluth was involved with like Space Ace and Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp. When he joined Warner Bros. in 1989, the first show he worked on was Tiny Toons Adventures, which is what ultimately led to him getting the job to do Batman, along with Eric Radomski, who had also been working with him on Tiny Toons. I'm not exactly sure how that went, and being first-time producers, they often found themselves at odd with studio executives, but once when they saw the pilot episode, On Leather Wings, and realized what they were trying to do, they backed off and quickly struck gold when the series began in earnest. While he only actually directed five episodes, one of which was a short to demonstrate what the series could be and another which featured an original villain that nobody cared about, he still, in addition to developing it, contributed a lot to what made the series so great, including writing, character designs (which have become iconic in their own rights), and taking part in the battles with the censors in order to make the show as effective as it possibly could be. I don't think I need to say anything else about Timm's other credits because, if you're a fan of the DC Animated Universe, you more than likely know who he is and even if you don't, you've probably seen something that he's been involved with.

The majority of the directing duties were handled by three men: Kevin Altieri (who directed the most), Boyd Kirkland, and Frank Paur, all three of whom stayed with the show its entire run and each had their hands in a number of the series' most notable episodes. (They're pictured here in the order that I named them off.) Altieri directed the pilot episode and also did others Two-Face, The Last Laugh, The Demon's Quest, and Bane; Kirkland, who would go on to direct the direct-to-video movie, Sub-Zero, and other shows before dying in 2011 at the age of 60, directed some of the absolute best episodes, like It's Never Too Late, Appointment in Crime Alley, I Am the Night, Perchance to Dream, Joker's Favor, His Silicon Soul, Harley and Ivy, Second Chance, and many others; and Paur's, who went on to direct episodes of Gargoyles and the Spawn animated series, notable episodes include Birds of a Feather, The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne, Vendetta, A Bullet for Bullock, and Shadow of the Bat (he also directed some of the series' least popular episodes, like Tyger, Tyger, Prophecy of Doom, The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy, Be a Clown, and I've Got Batman in Basement, the latter of which really gets a lot of crap). The other directors only stayed with the show for a couple of years, if that (Kent Butterworth, who mainly worked in the animation department, directed only one episode). Dan Riba, who went on to direct episodes of The New Batman Adventures, the Superman animated series, Batman Beyond, and Freakazoid!, did some nice ones like See No Evil, Baby Doll, Blind as a Bat, and Trial (probably his best one), as well as the very last one, Batgirl Returns, but he also did some less popular ones like Fire from Olympus and Lock Up. Dick Sebast has the honor of having directed the excellent Robin's Reckoning and did some other nice ones like Dreams in Darkness, What Is Reality?, and the first part of Feat of Clay, as well as Moon of the Wolf, an episode that a number of people hate but I have some nostalgia for. Eric Radomski himself also directed a few episodes, two of which, Almost Got 'Im and Mudslide, are freaking awesome, and another of which, If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich?, serves as the Riddler's introduction.

Another noteworthy guy who really got noticed due to his involvement with the series is Paul Dini, who got his first big break writing for He-Man: Masters of the Universe and occasionally wrote for other shows like Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Jem and the Holograms, before heading to Warner Bros. to work a bit on Tiny Toons Adventures. On Batman, he often worked as a story editor and became a producer on it during the last couple of years, as well as had his hand in writing either the story or the final script for a number of the series best episodes, including two of the ones that Bruce Timm himself directed, and others like The Man Who Killed Batman, Almost Got 'Im, Trial, Catwalk, Second Chance, Harley and Ivy, and so on. He's also responsible for the creation of two of this show's most beloved characters: Harley Quinn and the reinvention of Mr. Freeze. Dini has been a fixture of the DC Animated Universe ever since, going on to produce and write for The New Batman Adventures, Superman, Batman Beyond, and Justice League, as well as other shows like Freakazoid!, the Clerks animated series, Animaniacs (he created the controversial character of Minerva Mink), Duck Dodgers, and even an episode of Lost.

A big plus for this series is the voice-acting. Not only did they manage to get a number of really good, even pretty big, actors whose voices and performances fit their roles to a "T," they also recorded them in an interesting and effective way. Instead of recording each actor separately, as is the norm with animation, all of the actors sat in a room together, with microphones in front of them, and recorded their lines in a manner similar to a radio play, which enabled them to actually play off each other and, as a result, make the performances feel more real (that method has become the norm for most DC Animated Universe productions). Speaking of which, that's the best thing about the acting: it feels real. The actors (save for Mark Hamill, who really goes nuts as the Joker) don't overact or come across like cartoon characters or caricatures; instead, they talk like real people, with some of the performances being quite subdued and subtle, to the point where you can easily forget that what you're watching is animated.

As much as I love Michael Keaton's performance in the Burton films, I think I have to call this portrayal of Batman the best that's ever been done. Everything about him in this show is just perfect, not the least of which is the performance of Kevin Conroy. He is so awesome in differentiating the voices of Batman and Bruce Wayne. Like Keaton, he deepens his voice and gives it a significantly dark edge when he plays Batman, and then lightens it up to a warmer, more approachable and easy-going sound as Bruce Wayne. In fact, it's interesting to watch the series from beginning to end because the Batman voice changes after the first third. There, Conroy speaks in a dark but, at the same time, fairly soft tone, sometimes talking just above a whisper, but later on, the voice becomes very deep and gruff, which is how his portrayal of the character has sounded ever since. While I like both, with the quieter one reminding me of how Keaton spoke, I think I'd have to say that I like the latter voice more since it gives Batman a much stronger and more commanding presence. Speaking of the voice, another thing that I like is how, whenever Bruce is with those who know who he is, like Alfred and Robin, he still talks in his Batman voice, only in an occasionally softer and more vulnerable manner since he's being more open, reserving the lighter voice for those unknowing people he meets in his everyday life. I like how it shows that Bruce Wayne is the mask, whereas Batman is more the real person, which is a popular and interesting way of looking at it and is how Conroy has said he views it. Besides the voice, I like how both personas are characterized. More than any other iteration that I've seen, this shows how Batman really is a detective, using his equipment like his computer in the Batcave to analyze clues and evidence, sneaking into buildings and looking through files for any information that could help him, searching for leads, etc. It gets across that there's a very intelligent brain behind the mask, one that's often able to find clues that the police can't, as well as enable him to skillfully think on his feet. Plus, while watching Batman kill people in the movies has never bugged me personally, I do like the idea that in this universe, that's a line that he absolutely won't cross in an attempt to keep himself above the scum that he's trying to rid Gotham City of, to the point where he'll go out of his way to save anyone, criminal or not, who's about to be killed. That doesn't mean that he's a pushover, though, as he beats the crap out of criminals, sometimes very easily, and uses his brains, physical prowess, ninja-like techniques, his gadgets, and the dark to stalk and interrogate them, the latter of which he does in a way that convinces them that he will kill them if they don't cooperate. Above everything else, you get the impression that behind the dark, tough exterior, there's a really caring person who wants to make Gotham a better place and to ensure that nobody will ever have to go through what he did. In addition, I like that, instead of making Bruce Wayne either very eccentric or playing up the act of a self-absorbed playboy, as is usually the case, here he's a responsible, intelligent, benevolent businessman who takes an active role in running Wayne-Tech Enterprises. While it is made clear that he is very popular with the ladies, he takes his actual job just as seriously as his crime-fighting, which is a nice change of pace from what you usually get and, in some ways, makes it easier to believe that people wouldn't suspect him of being Batman.

This show is what confirmed for me that the reason behind what Batman does is due to the death of his parents when he was a little kid. There was an episode of the Super Powers Team, the last and much more serious incarnation of Super Friends, that dealt with what happened to his parents (quite effectively, from what I remember) but I wasn't sure if that had always been the case or if it was just something they did for that one show. And while the first Tim Burton film does indeed deal with that, I was so young when I first watched it that I couldn't comprehend it and I wouldn't really see it again until I was in my last year of high school. But, when I began watching this show on a regular basis when Cartoon Network started airing it, I quickly realized that was indeed his motive, as there are many, many moments throughout the series where you can see that he's still haunted by it, dreaming about and experiencing it when he's drugged by the Scarecrow's fear toxins. Speaking of which, this show also makes it quite clear that, as skilled as he is, Batman is far from invulnerable. He gets beaten and scraped up, knocked out, and even poisoned, be it from the aforementioned fear toxins or from other weapons, like a gas grenade the Penguin hits him with in one episode that puts him into something akin to a coma for a couple of days (according to the Penguin, it would have lasted for a week or so had he not been given some anti-toxins he keeps in the Batmobile). In Mr. Freeze's debut episode, being exposed to his freezing gun actually gives Batman a cold, which is mainly played for laughs but, amazingly, doesn't distract from the seriousness of that episode, as we'll get into later.

His design is also really cool as well. I've always liked the idea in the movies of his suit being body armor, enabling him to effectively deal with heavily armed criminals, but I think the way they handle the classic comic book suit, with the body suit and the dark briefs, looks really good, especially in regards to the cape and cowl. I like that the color is a mixture of black and blue rather than all black, like in the movies, with the underside being completely blue, and I've always thought it was cool that it's big enough to wear he can completely cloak himself with it, making it more effective for him to hide in the shadows. The utility belt also looks nicely simple and to the point, although I kind of wish the buckle was shaped like the Bat-Symbol, as it often is in the movies. While the white, slanted eyes doesn't make much realistic sense, they're pulled off very well in animation, especially when he narrows them, which he does a lot. I used to not care for how square Batman's jaw is here, thinking that it didn't look right, but over time I've grown to deal with it and feel that it does fit in with this art-style. As for Bruce Wayne's regular business suit, I've heard some people say that it's really ugly, with its brown and tan coloring, and while I never thought about it before, I agree that it's not exactly the nicest-looking suit he could have chosen and he surely has something much better that he could wear.

Even though his first appearance is in the series' second episode, Christmas with the Joker, Robin/Dick Grayson doesn't become a major part of it until well into it, particularly during the time when the show started carrying the alternate title, The Adventures of Batman & Robin. In the second episode with him, you see that he's attending college, and it's eventually confirmed that he now only gets to help Bruce with crimefighting whenever he has some free time from it; in other words, we don't get to see the time period when he started out and was Robin full-time. In any case, while Robin has never been a character that I've absolutely loved (I always prefer Batman to be on his own), I think he's portrayed very well here. Loren Lester voices him in a very likable manner, coming off as being just as dedicated to crime-fighting as Batman, only in a more laid back and wise-cracking kind of way. He has some nice lines throughout the show, like in his aforementioned first episode when he and Batman are patrolling Gotham on Christmas Eve to make sure everything's alright. When he asks Batman if it fills his heart with warmth to see that everyone's in the Christmas spirit, Batman just throws a line and swings off, prompting Robin to remark, "Well, 'Bah humbug,' to you too." Later on when he tells Batman that he just can't accept that they're not needed for one night and Batman, again, just swings off without saying a word, Robin remarks, "He could give lessons to Scrooge." There's another episode where Bruce is kidnapped by an old rival of his and Robin tracks them down to the hideout, only to trip a security alarm like an amateur. He then admonishes himself, saying, "Oh, way to go, Dick. Master crime-fighter," and scoffs before heading back out. Earlier in that same episode, he saves Batman from certain death and when he walks away after only saying that he's fine, Robin says to himself, "Thanks for saving my bacon, Robin," imitating Batman's voice, then responding, "Hey, no problemo, Batman." However, he does have a purpose besides being the yin to Batman's yang in that he does help him in taking out multiple criminals at once and sometimes uses his own smarts to help him solve clues and puzzles (he appears in every episode that involves the Riddler). And, above everything else, you can tell that he's fiercely loyal to Batman, is inspired by him, and does whatever he can to help him... even if he wishes he would lighten up a bit.

That loyalty, however, is tested in what is undoubtedly Robin's best episode, the two-parter called Robin's Reckoning, where the two of them learn that the man who killed Dick Grayson's parents has returned to Gotham and Batman refuses to let him go up against him, presumably for fear that he might kill him out of vengeance. Enraged by this, Robin goes against Batman's wishes and heads out on his own, telling Alfred that after this ordeal, he may never trust or listen to Batman again, showing that, underneath the calm exterior, there's a scarred, angry young man who, like his mentor, has always wanted vengeance for what happened to his parents. The difference is that Batman has managed to reach that place where he can do so without taking another human life, something that Robin, due to still being young and full of anger and bitterness, might do. This is also the only time in the series where you get a look at Robin's youth as, throughout the episode, he remembers back to the nice life he had as part of a circus performing family, the tragedy that then befell him and the impact it had on him at such a young age, and how he was taken in by Bruce and trained by him, which turned his life back around. You also see that he managed to track down his parents' killer even as a ten-year old and tried to attack him even then, getting across how long the hate towards him has been festering within Dick. We'll talk more about this episode later on, so I don't want to give too much away right now, but for now, I'll say that it has to be one of the best stories, comics or otherwise, to be centered around Robin.

The last thing I'll say about Robin is that I liked the way they designed his costume. One of the reasons why I've always found it difficult to take Robin seriously is the way his suit looked in the classic comics and the early TV shows and cartoons, with those tiny, green briefs and those green booties. I know it was supposed to be modeled after a circus performer's costume but still, that, combined with the fact that he was often depicted as a young kid, made it feel more than a little akward (it was even weirder when he was dressed like that as a teenager; small wonder why his and Batman's relationship have raised some eyebrows in the past). Here, I think they handled him well by not only making him a young man but also by giving him a costume that's much more dignified, with the deep red body suit, green leggings, and long, black boots. It's also nice that his cape is about as long as Batman's, rather than being a little short, dinky thing like it sometimes has been, and the way the R on his chest is drawn gives him another subtle but mature quality. The costume may not be cool as the one he wears when he becomes Nightwing but I'd take this over the way it used to look any day of the week (and at least it doesn't have nipples, like some incarnations of it).

In the first three episodes, Alfred is voiced by Clive Revill (who played the Emperor in the original version of The Empire Strikes Back), speaking in a typical, droll British accent; after he had to leave due to a prior commitment, Alfred was voiced for the rest of the series, and in many other DC Animated Universe shows and films, by Efrem Zimbalist Jr., who, being an American, put on a British accent that was very subtle and actually atypical for the role. Despite who played him and how, though, this remains one of the best versions of the character ever. As usual, Alfred has a very dry wit about him, often making deadpan jokes about whatever Batman is up to, but in spite of this, he's very devoted to serving his master and supporting him in his war on crime, helping him nurse his injuries and even going as far as to take an active part in his investigations whenever the need arises. One of his best moments to me is in the episode, The Forgotten, where Bruce is kidnapped and taken to a work camp, prompting Alfred to go searching for him. He manages to track down the car he was driving, place a homing device on the bad guys' truck, and even takes the Bat-Wing to search for their hideout. Granted, he has the computer actually fly the craft and almost has a heart attack due to the crazy maneuvers it pulls (when he orders it to land, despite the terrain not being suitable for a putdown, the computer actually tells him, "Your funeral,"), but at least he still made the effort. Another nice moment for him is in the episode, The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne, where he keeps Bruce informed of what Dr. Hugo Strange is up to while he tries to put the good doctor's mind-reading machine out of action. Alfred, however, is forced off-camera to tell them where Bruce but, due to his loyalty, he only cracked when he was drugged. Most significantly, you find out in a very late episode that Alfred was once a British secret agent, something that has been a part of history in the comics but not something they did in the movies until the Christopher Nolan films.

This series gets a number of characters exactly right, not the least of which is Commissioner Gordon (voiced by Bob Hastings). While the Gotham City police force isn't portrayed as being made up of a lot of bad cops as it is in a number of other versions, Gordon nevertheless is portrayed as being the best part of it by far. Calm, cool, skilled, and very smart and tactical, he's the police commissioner that a city as overrun with crime as Gotham needs. It's not made clear exactly when he began working with Batman, seeing as how he's not shown meeting with him until nearly a dozen episodes in (although in the third episode, Batman is referred to as, "The commissioner's pet bat,"), but it's obvious that he sees him as a valuable ally to the war on crime rather than a dangerous vigilante who needs to be taken out. Just like in Batman: Year One, he's the one who ultimately comes up with the Bat Signal, something that could get him in trouble with the mayor but he feels is well worth the risk. Even before it's made clear that he's working with Batman, he's quick to defend him when he's accused of being a loose cannon, like in the first episode, On Leather Wings, when Batman is blamed for Man-Bat's rampages, saying that it's not his M.O. He's also very dismissive of Detective Harvey Bullock's claims in the third episode that Batman is working with the Scarecrow, writing it off as nonsense. There's also a running joke throughout the series where Gordon is slightly annoyed by Batman's tendency to appear and disappear without a sound, prompting to say at one point, "One of these days, I'm going to nail his feet to the ground!" On Batman's side, you eventually learn that he sees Gordon not just as a valuable partner but also as someone he looks up to, as well as a surrogate father since he's the same age that his father would have been had he not been murdered. As a result, in the episode, I Am The Night, when Gordon is shot and is hospitalized, with his life hanging by a thread, Batman is severely affected by it, in more ways than one.

Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl (voiced by Melissa Gilbert), isn't introduced until about halfway into the show in the two-part episode, Heart of Steel, where she comes home from college. She wouldn't become Batgirl until quite a while afterward but, in that first episode, she proves that she already has some skills that will come in handy then: she's really smart, having made the dean's list at her college, she's determined, and since her father is a police commissioner, she's picked up on some things, like how to enter without being detected. In Shadow of the Bat, the two-parter where she first becomes Batgirl, you see that she's also very athletic and quite skilled at gymnastics. She and her father are shown to have a very close relationship, with him doting on her and often acting as if she's still a little girl (when she comes home from college, Gordon insists on taking her old teddy bear, Wooby, with him when he picks her up from the airport), which is why, when he's arrested for having supposedly accepted bribes from Rupert Thorne, she's not able to just sit by while her father rots in a jail cell for something she knows he didn't do. She initially dons her own Bat-Suit in order to impersonate Batman at a rally that's held to come up with bail money for her father (all she does is swing from one building to another, high up enough and in the shadows so nobody can tell that it's a girl) but gets caught up in the criminal conspiracy to make her father look all the more guilty. She discovers that Deputy Commissioner Gil Mason is on the whole thing and so, feeling that she can't rely on Batman, who told her to stay out of the affair, she decides to take matters into her own hands and redesign the suit specifically for her needs, officially becoming Batgirl. Being a newbie at crimefighting, she makes some mistakes, including messing up an attempt by Robin to save a disguised Batman from being rubbed out by Two-Face and his gang that results in them getting trapped in an abandoned subway tunnel. Batman is also initially not too enthusiastic about her decision to take up crimefighting and tells her to stay out of their way, but she does prove to be valuable in breaking up the gang in that she gets to father before Batman and Robin can, saving him just in time, and she's also the one who apprehends Mason when he tries to escape (in the fight, he pulls off her mask and learns who she is, but he ends up in a coma following their confrontation and will probably either forget as a result or not be listened to anyway). Afterward, Gordon states that, as far as he's concerned, Batgirl is just as welcome in Gotham as the Dynamic Duo, and even Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, the latter of whom had a bit of flirtatious relationship with her throughout the story, warm up to the idea of working with her again. She only appears in one more episode of the series, Batgirl Returns, where she teams up with Catwoman to prove that the latter didn't steal something priceless (which happens to be the last episode in production order), but she would get a much larger part, even more so than Robin, in The New Batman Adventures, by which time she'd become quite skilled at crimefighting.

In stark contrast to Commissioner Gordon, Detective Harvey Bullock (voiced by Robert Costanzo) initially hates and distrusts Batman, seeing him as a nutcase in a costume who's eventually going to snap. He's also portrayed as a pretty unpleasant person overall: a fat slob who scarfs down food every chance he gets, lives in a nasty apartment, has quite an abrasive personality, and does some pretty heinous things, particularly in the episode, P.O.V., when, after a sting goes south, he lies about his partners being late when they weren't and fabricates a lot of what actually happened (we can tell from the flashback as he talks that he's lying). You even learn in one episode that Bullock was once suspected of accepting graft from crime boss Rupert Thorne, a case that was dropped due to lack of evidence but is, nevertheless, something that makes even Batman suspicious of him when he's accused of sabotage and kidnapping, although it's eventually revealed to be a scheme by Killer Croc. Despite his flaws, which also include bending the rules a lot, you do see that Bullock is a good cop who wants to wipe out crime in Gotham just as much as Gordon and takes a lot of pleasure in beating up and putting away criminals. And even though he does initially hate Batman, to the point where he often looks for an excuse to arrest him or at least pick a fight with him, as time goes on, he grows a grudging respect for the Dark Knight, especially after he saves him several times, to the point where, when he's targeted for death by an unseen person in the episode, A Bullet for Bullock, he himself calls on Batman for help.

Initially, Gotham's mayor, Hamilton Hill (voiced by Lloyd Bochner), also dislikes Batman, lumping him in with other criminals like the Joker and saying that they're cut from the same cloth. However, as the series goes on, Hill comes to see Batman as a great help in stamping out crime in Gotham and, unlike Bullock, grows to genuinely respect and depend on him, especially when Batman saves his life numerous times, particularly from the Clock King, who holds a lifelong grudge against him. Hill is shown to have some personality flaws, like being a bit of an attention whore, wanting newspaper reporters to get the best shots of him with other important figures, and not paying as much attention to his son, Jordan, as he should, but unlike his counterpart in the comics, he's far from a corrupt politician. He's also initially portrayed as a somewhat comical figure due to slight pompousness on his part but that's eventually dropped.

Some other supporting characters include Officer Renee Montoya (voiced initially by Ingrid Oliu and then replaced by Liane Schirmer), a tough, Hispanic police officer who has a lot of respect and trust for Batman, especially after he saves her life in the episode, P.O.V., leading her to track him down after he's taken prisoner by a gang and help him put them out of business; Lucius Fox (voiced by Brock Peters), Bruce Wayne's business manager and friend who often works with him closely in matters pertaining to the company (unlike the version in the Nolan films, this Lucius is apparently unaware that Bruce is Batman and, as a result, doesn't provide equipment for him); Dr. Leslie Thompkins (voiced by Diana Muldaur), a life-long friend of the Wayne family, having attended medical school with Bruce's father, and the only person other than Alfred and Dick Grayson to know of his double-life, acting as his doctor whenever he's seriously injured; Summer Gleason (voiced by Mari Devon), a reporter and talk show host (basically the show's version of Vicki Vale) who pops up throughout the series, mostly in cameo appearances, reporting on crimes mainly as a source of exposition, save for the episode, Night of the Ninja, when she and Bruce are kidnapped by an old rival of his and, as a result, almost learns that he's Batman;Veronica Vreeland (voiced by Marilu Henner), a wealthy socialite whose antics sometimes land herself on the bad side of Gotham's criminals; and, although she appears in just one, self-titled episode, Zatanna (voiced by Julie Brown), Bruce's old friend who was the daughter of the man who taught him how to escape from any situation or trap and who Batman helps out when she's framed as a thief during a magic act in Gotham (not to mention that she has to be the sexiest magician ever, with that outfit that shows off every inch of her amazing legs).

While the series is very episodic, with there being no big, arcing story to the way it flows and the episodes often not having any major connections with one another, save for recurring characters and whenever a story is broken up into two parts, there is something of a progression in regards to the villains. At the beginning of the series, the Joker and the Penguin are the only larger than life, truly comic book-like villains who have been at large in Gotham City for some time (they're the only ones who don't have origin episodes), while all other crime is mainly due to typical criminals and thugs, crime-bosses like Rupert Thorne and Arnold Stromwell, and corrupt businessmen like Roland Daggett. However, as more and more monstrous baddies like Two-Face, the Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and others show up, they eventually become the root of Gotham's problems, with the "normal" criminals slowly but surely edged out, to the point where they're virtually non-existent by the end of the show.

Save for Killer Moth, and some other obscure villains that I've never heard of, just about every member of Batman's rogues gallery, classic and contemporary, pops up in this show, and the majority of them are not only portrayed very effectively but also definitively. In the case of the Joker, I just want to say I was floored when I first saw Batman: Mask of the Phantasm as a kid and read in the credits that Mark Hamill, freaking Luke Skywalker, voiced him. I would have never, ever guessed that in a thousand years and, as I got older, it made grow to respect the guy's acting chops, especially when I realized the layers that he brings to the role. Most of the time, he plays the Joker as a really silly, over-the-top character, with his jokes and one-liners, cartoonish antics, and insane, cackling laugh, which he does incredibly well (you can tell that Hamill absolutely relishes this role, especially after being typecast by Star Wars for the first half of his career; ironically, he now plays villains in his lucrative voice-acting career, more often than not). However, he's far from a harmless buffoon, as you see that there's a really sick, twisted mind behind the clownish exterior, one whose insane schemes and plots only make sense to him (The Laughing Fish, in particular, shows just how severely fucked up he is). His M.O., his laughing gas and toxins, initially seem hard to take seriously but when you see someone laughing uncontrollably to the point where they're about to have a heart attack from it, with their eyes bulging and tears streaming out of them, it becomes anything but funny. The Joker's sick mind also makes pettiness deadlier than it ever has been. There's one episode where he plants a bomb at a birthday party for Mayor Hill's son simply because he's offended at the idea of Hill saying that he and Batman are cut from the same cloth, and another where he escapes from Arkham Asylum in order to destroy a casino built around his likeness, enraged at the idea that the man behind it would try to capitalize on his image. Even his cronies aren't safe from insanity, including Harley Quinn, and you get a major sense that you work for him at your own risk, given that he's unstable and volatile enough to mess you up just because you asked a question he considers stupid, because you didn't laugh or applaud at something when you should have, or when you try to tell him when something's funny, which is a major pet peeve of his. In short, civilian or henchman, he's someone you don't cross.

The show also gets down to how there's an interesting dynamic between the Joker and Batman. He's very frustrated whenever Batman foils his schemes and yet, he often does the stuff that he does knowing that it will get his attention and lead to a showdown between them. What's more, in spite of his many attempts to kill Batman, when it seems like he has been killed in the episode, The Man Who Killed Batman, the Joker becomes very depressed and sad about it, saying that it's no fun without him, and holds a funeral for his cape and cowl, even shedding a tear during the "service." It seems like he's become absolutely obsessed with the Dark Knight, to the point where he can't live without him... and yet, like I said, he often tries to lure him in so he can try to kill him. Maybe, despite his frustrations when Batman does escape his deathtraps and foils his plots, he unconsciously wants him to do so they can continue having their "playtime." Or maybe, as he said in that particular episode, he wants to be the one to take Batman down in a colorful way, which he describes as his own personal way to thank him for the hours of entertainment he's provided him. But then again, it's the Joker; nothing he does makes sense except to him. And that's ultimately what makes him an unnerving figure: he makes absolutely no excuses for the horrible stuff that he does, which often serve no purpose other than to spread chaos or satisfy his sick sense of humor. Even worse, as shown in a moment when Harley Quinn asks, "You're really sick, you know, boss?" and the Joker just nods while going, "Mm-hmm," he knows that he's completely insane... and he loves it, because he has no qualms, inhibitions, or conscience to hold him back. When he gives off that really unsettling, low, and absolutely evil laugh, it's obvious that he's just revelling in his undiluted madness and the fear that it strikes in people.

Coming so soon off of the first Tim Burton movie, you can see how the animated series' version of the Joker was influenced a bit by Jack Nicholson's portrayal there, particularly in how his real name is shown to be Jack Napier, whereas his real identity is typically kept a secret. His outfit also reminds me a lot of one of the suits that Nicholson wore, right down to the purple and orange color scheme, the scrambled tie on his collar, and the little flower that squirts something much deadlier than water. As for his design, if you watch the series in order, you can see it was a work-in-progress. In his first couple of episodes, Christmas with the Joker and The Last Laugh, his design is pretty rough and off, like they were trying to settle on one, but as they went on, they eventually settled on the design that would become his classic, DC animated universe look. There have been some nice takes on his look in other such projects, particularly the way he looks in The Dark Knight Returns and Under the Red Hood films, but this is what instantly comes to my mind when I think of the animated Joker.

When Bruce Timm and Paul Dini decided to give the Joker a female sidekick who was originally meant to be little more than a gag in the episode, Joker's Favor, it's unlikely they had any idea that they would end up creating their most beloved original character. Harley Quinn (voiced by Arleen Sorkin) became an instant hit with fans, especially when her past was revealed in a graphic novel written by Timm and Dini, to the point where she was even incorporated into the comics and has remained something of a staple of the DC universe ever since. I actually didn't know she was that popular until I got much older and watched people like the Nostalgia Critic who gushed about how much they loved her. When I was a kid, I didn't think that much of her. She didn't annoy me but, at the same time, I didn't see anything special about her: just a woman dressed up as a clown who talks like an old-fashioned gangster moll and is smitten with the Joker, for some reason. And before you ask, I never have found her to be sexy. That kind of suit doesn't do it for me, no matter how skin-tight it is. However, when they first started airing reruns, Cartoon Network didn't show any of the episodes that went into Harley's background or how abusive and downright sick her relationship with the Joker often is. Had they done so, I think I would have been more interested in her, because it is the most fascinating aspect of her by far. They mention here and there how she was once a doctor at Arkham Asylum who was corrupted by the Joker but it wouldn't be delved into until The New Batman Adventures when they adapted that graphic novel, Mad Love, into an episode, so I can't talk about it too much here, but when I read that online when I was in college, I was floored and thought, "Okay, now that is very interesting." (In one episode, though, she describes what happened this way: "As a doctor, I was used to listening to other people's problems, but he listened to me, and made me laugh.") There are, however, a number of times where you do get a sense of how twisted and sick her devotion to the Joker is, given how he thinks of her a disposable commodity and is sometimes quite abusive to her, throwing her out of the gang in one episode when she slips up during a chase with Batman and later, very stupidly says out loud that maybe she's a better criminal than him. There's even an episode where he steals an atomic bomb to use to blow Gotham up and, as she was originally locked up in Arkham, it's revealed that he was more than willing to leave her behind to die with everyone else, including their criminal "friends" and her beloved pet hyenas back at their old lair.

But, in spite of all the abuse, Harley can never let go of her devotion to her beloved "puddin'." In the episode where he throws her out of the gang and she joins up with Poison Ivy, she still misses him regardless, calling him up and enabling him to track her down. And even though they're all sent back to Arkham by the end of the episode and the Joker declares that the next time he forms a gang, it's not going to involve any women, Harvey is still blindly optimistic about him taking her back (prompting Ivy to throw mud in her face in disgust). And in that episode where he proves that she's expendable to him, she still goes back to him at the end, which is doubly frustrating because she came very close to breaking the hooks he's always had in her by almost shooting him (even Batman and Robin are perplexed at how that turned out). In fact, the Joker shows that he often takes advantage of and even counts on her sick devotion to him, to the point where, in that episode where he kicks her out, he's surprised when she hasn't come crawling back to him like before and is outright horrified when he learns of her new partnership with Poison Ivy. This makes Harley a very pitiable character in that she could have a much better life, with someone who truly does care for her (when you see her out of makeup, she is quite lovely and could easily entice the men of Gotham) but she's so blinded by her pathological obsession with "Mr. J" that she remains forever trapped in a cycle of crime and abuse, both physical and psychological.

The way the Penguin (voiced by Paul Williams) is portrayed here is interesting. Since the show began production while Batman Returns was being filmed and would debut a few months after the film's release, they designed him to look the way Danny DeVito did there, with the long, beak-like nose, flipper-like hands, and fat, penguin-like body (he also has a lair in the sewers where his main mode of transportation is a boat shaped like a big, yellow duck, something else that's retained from the movie). Personality-wise, however, he's much more like the version in the comics: a refined, sophisticated criminal, often speaking in very fancy vernacular, who has a taste for the finer things in life. However, that said, there is a nasty, brutish side to him, with a foul temper that leads to him angrily berating and threatening his cronies for their incompetence, and while his crimes often come down to little more than theft, he does come up with much more destructive schemes, like when he sabotages the Batmobile in order to get rid of Batman and Robin for good and, deadliest of all, when he hijacks an experimental military helicopter developed by Wayne-Tech Industries and uses it to terrorize Gotham and blackmail the government officials. There's not much else for me to say about the Penguin since, given that he's not out-and-out insane like most of Batman's villains, I don't find him to be the most interesting baddy in the show, but as we'll see, he is the center of some episodes that I do really enjoy.

Two-Face is one of my favorite Batman villains and this show is the main reason why, especially since I still consider this to be the best interpretation of him, even though there's not much in the way of competition (Aaron Eckhart was pretty good in The Dark Knight, though). What's great about the way Two-Face is handled here is that, like Barbara Gordon and Batgirl, we get to know Harvey Dent before his disfigurement. He appears briefly in the very first episode but his real introduction is Pretty Poison, where you learn that he's been close friends with Bruce Wayne for a long time, to the point where Batman risks his life to find an antidote when he's poisoned by a lethal toxin courtesy of Pamela Isley, aka Poison Ivy. On top of that, you also see what a cool, charming guy he is, how much he values Bruce's friendship, and how he's a great district attorney for Gotham City, breaking ground for a penitentiary to help make the city safer and doing everything he can to rid Gotham of crime in general, specifically targeting Rupert Thorne. However, in the origin episode, simply titled Two-Face, it's revealed that Harvey has some very serious demons in the form of a Big Bad Harv, a violently monstrous second personality that came about as a result of Harvey repressing his anger ever since he slugged a bully when he was a kid, which he felt guilt over when the bully ended up in the hospital (although, as it turns out, it had nothing to do with the punch), and comes through whenever he loses his temper. Richard Moll plays both sides of the character really well, giving Harvey a calm, smooth voice, while speaking in a deep, gutteral, demonic one as Big Bad Harv, which carries over into Two-Face. Speaking of which, Harvey almost manages to get control of his alternate personality through counseling, but when Thorne blackmails him with his own psychiatric file, Big Bad Harv takes over again and, in the ensuing fight, stray gunfire causes an explosion that scars the left half of his body. The way his scarification looks, with it basically being blue, warty skin, purple-red lips fixed in a permanent snarl, white hair, and an enlarged eye with a Dr. Seuss-like pupil, isn't exactly the most horrific design but their hands were probably tied with that one. After seeing his deformed face after awaking from his coma in the hospital, Harvey escapes and begins a rampage of crime under the name of Two-Face, with the Big Bad Harv persona now in complete control, flipping a coin to decide whether or not he'll commit crimes. Despite Batman's attempts to save him, and Two-Face's lingering feelings for his former fiance, Grace, it becomes obvious that he's beyond help, as he goes on to become a notable crime boss in Gotham. There's an episode near the end of the series, Second Chance, where Harvey is almost cured, but fate, as well as Harvey's worst enemy, has other plans. It's a shame that these are the only episodes that delve into Two-Face's psychology because they're both well done, especially the origin episode, but I guess they did such a good job that there wasn't much else they could do with him.

The motives of Dr. Jonathan Crane, aka the Scarecrow (voiced by Henry Polic II), are pretty straightforward: he's a demented psychologist who's always been fascinated by fear, having loved to frighten both people and animals ever since he was a kid, and creates his fear toxins and gases in order to study its effects on the people of Gotham. In his debut episode, Nothing to Fear, he takes revenge on the board members of Gotham University for kicking him out when his fear experiments got out of hand, to the point where he was actually using the students as guinea pigs, and drugs Batman with his toxin (the first of two times, I might add), causing him to be haunted by a vision of his father who calls him a disgrace to the Wayne family. Eventually, Batman manages to overcome the poison and uses it on the Scarecrow, forcing him to face his big fear, which is, ironically, of bats. I don't have much of an opinion on the Scarecrow. He's not a villain I've ever found to be that interesting, save for how he often forces Batman to face his own worst fears while, at the same time, trying to stop whatever scheme he has in the works. In fact, I find him to be kind of a wimp, with how he's often seen whimpering and crying when he's exposed to his own medicine and how, after his plan has been foiled in his first episode, he goes back to his lair, whining that he was so close to victory. Plus, a really skinny guy dressed up as a scarecrow doesn't exactly instill terror in me, which is bad since that's his M.O. What is interesting about the Scarecrow, though, is that two aspects of him change significantly in-between his appearances. One is his voice. In Nothing to Fear, he speaks in a deep, guttural voice with a pronounced British accent; in Fear of Victory, his voice is higher but is still noticeably British; and in Dreams in Darkness, the accent is almost non-existent. The other thing about him that changes is his mask, which starts out as a simple, oval shape with no detail to the face and, in his second appearance onward, is a bigger, more detailed, stitched mask, with a pronounced lower jaw, pointed teeth, tufts of straw on either side of his head to resemble hair, and evil eyes.

If you go into this show expecting the Riddler (voiced by John Glover) to be like the kooky, wild character Frank Gorshin played on the Adam West or how Jim Carrey was in Batman Forever, you're going to be disappointed. Instead, he's portrayed as a calm, smooth guy who wears a green business suit rather than a leotard that's covered in question marks and is truly an intellectual genius, coming up with puzzles that are major brain-busters. Edward Nygma initially adopts the Riddler persona in order to get revenge on his boss, a greedy businessman who fired him in order to keep the profits from a successful computer game that Nygma developed for himself, but when Batman and Robin manage to solve his riddles, run the maze that his former boss is being held hostage in, and save him, the Riddler becomes obsessed with proving that he's smarter than them, particularly Batman. In the final episode to center on him, he's released from Arkham Asylum for good behavior and begins working for a toy company, capitalizing on his persona, but he can't resist his criminal ways and sets a deathtrap for Batman that he's confident he won't escape from. It's clear that the Riddler has become quite demented by this point, severely losing his cool when someone tells him he's talking kind crazy and driving himself nuts to the point of raving while trying to figure out how Batman did manage to escape the trap, which is exacerbated when he doesn't tell him. Overall, like the Scarecrow, the Riddler is another villain who I've never been that interested in, although this complex he develops about outsmarting Batman, who he feels is the only opponent worthy of the "game," does make him a bit more intriguing and it would have been nice if they exploited it in more episodes centering on him. Unfortunately, they only did three episodes about him, the first of which isn't until almost halfway into the show, because it was apparently very hard to write for him in that he often made the plots too long, complex, or bizarre, and coming up with riddles wasn't any easier.

The character who's more of an anti-hero than an out and out villain is Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman (voiced by Adrienne Barbeau). While her character and outfit design are based off of Michelle Pfeiffer's portrayal in Batman Returns (in other words, she's sexy as all get-out), she's not a psychologically unstable with something of a split-personality. She's portrayed as both a socialite and a massive environmentalist who also just happens to be a cat burglar, often using the valuable jewels and other items she steals to benefit wildlife, particularly cats. Her criminal ways are how she runs into Batman, whom she is instantly infatuated with. Around the same time, she meets Bruce Wayne as Selina Kyle when she bids for him at an auction to raise money for wildlife, making it clear to him that she only did so for the animals. Despite her initial chilliness towards him, she does grow to like Bruce, but prefers to keep their relationship as a simple friendship since she's in love with Batman. On that front, Batman does have very strong feelings for Catwoman, just as Bruce does for Selina, but her criminal ways drive a wedge between them and he's forced to take her in. She's eventually released on probation but Bruce isn't convinced that she's given up on crime. He turns out to be half-right; Selina does make a valid attempt to go straight but it becomes clear that she also got a sense of freedom and elation from her days as a cat burglar and, even though she's tricked into putting the Catwoman suit back on by Scarface, she decides to go back to her life of crime, much to Batman's disappointment. From then on, she remains aloof and distant towards him. Overall, I think Catwoman is one of the stronger supporting characters in the show. I like that they paint her not as a full-on villain but, as Michelle Pfeiffer described her portrayal of the character, "Good at heart, but it's always running astray." She doesn't go out of her way to hurt innocent people and she commits her crimes mostly to benefit what she considers to be a noble cause but, at the same time, she does get a kick out of her life of crime and ultimately proves to be like a wild animal that can't be caged up for long. I also like their take on the complicated relationship between her and Batman, with the different dichotomies between both characters' dual personas and the idea that Catwoman is as close to his equal as Batman is ever going to find and that they could make a good team, as you're often shown... if only she weren't a criminal. Catwoman is hardly a loner, though. She has a personal assistant, Maven (voiced by Mary McDonald Lewis), who helps her in both her normal life as Selina and in her nighttime criminal activities, and Isis, her beloved black cat who sometimes accompanies her on her burglaries. Plus, above everything else, her character design is very appealing to the eye, to say the least, and Barbeau gives her a nicely sultry voice to compliment it.

Catwoman may be a bit overzealous in her environmentalist ways but at least it doesn't lead her to hurt innocent people, which is more than can be said of Poison Ivy (voiced by Diane Pershing), another villain who I think gets her best interpretation here (it's miles better than the cornball performance Uma Thurman would give a few years later). She may be really sexy, more so than even Catwoman in my opinion, but her obsession with plants drives her to become a full-on eco-terrorist who will kill people for what she considers to be unforgivable crimes amongst mother nature. In her debut episode, Pretty Poison, she dates and poisons Harvey Dent with a lethal toxin as retribution for building a penitentiary over what was the last habitat of a rare flower, and in Eternal Youth, she runs a health spa as a means to lure industrialists who have destroyed acres of forest to their doom, dousing them with a formula she cooks up that turns people into literal human trees (it's much more disturbing than it sounds). Going back to her debut episode, I always thought they made her a little too pathetic there, with how she cries and screams whenever Batman destroys the plants in her greenhouse-like lair and when he causes her to unintentionally do so herself. As the place comes down and Batman gets her out, she's cuddling the last remaining specimen of the rare flower she sought to save, saying, "My baby. My precious baby! My pretty baby." I know she likes plants far more than people but that made me want to hug her more than fear her, something they rectified in her other episodes where she often is quite threatening. As the series goes on, they also give Poison Ivy more of a sense of humor, something that would become more pronounced in The New Batman Adventures, and she also strikes up a friendship with Harley Quinn when the two of them meet while trying to rob the same place, although the latter's undying devotion to the Joker, despite how badly he treats her, really frustrates Ivy, who also has an apparent hatred for men in general. However, the most messed up story surrounding Ivy is in the last episode to feature her, House & Garden, which I'll refrain from talking about until we get into my favorite episodes. Trust me, you won't want to miss that.

One of the best villain portrayals the series has to offer is that of Mr. Freeze (voiced by Michael Ansara), a reinvention of the character that proved to be influential enough to make it into the comics and other media. He's definitely the most pitiable out of all the villains in the series in that he's driven by vengeance for a horrible wrong that was committed against both him and his beloved wife, Nora Fries. Working for the company Gothcorp, Dr. Victor Fries used company funds for an experiment that he hoped would save both his terminally ill wife and other people like her, but the monstrously selfish CEO caught him and ordered him to terminate the project, not caring whether Nora lived or died. When Fries attempted to stop him, he was kicked into a table full of chemicals and was left to die along with his wife. Instead, the chemicals severely mutated him, making him unable to live outside of a frigid environment, which the cryogenic suit he wears. Not only is his origin great (he's the villain whose motivation most closely resembles Batman's) but the way he's portrayed is very effective as well. You need only look at his constantly scowling face, with those glowing, red goggles, and listen to the sheer bitterness in his voice to know that this is a guy who is full of absolute hatred and will not let anyone stand in his way of either getting revenge on those who took his wife from him or, later on when he finds out that she's still alive, curing her of her illness. Even his own men are completely expendable in his eyes, as seen in the episode, Heart of Ice, when one's feet are accidentally frozen by Freeze's cold-gun and he cruelly decides to leave him behind, saying, "He should have been more careful. Now he's paid the price for his incompetence." When one of his other men says, "He's one of us," Freeze points his gun at him and says, "Then perhaps you'd like to share his fate." This is a guy you absolutely do not cross, and I find him to be the most intimidating villain in the whole show as a result. He also speaks very eloquently, coming up with lines that are almost poetic, and while he does often use cold and ice analogies, let me assure you that he does it infinitely better than anything Arnold Schwarzenegger said in Batman & Robin and, needless to say, he's easily the best interpretation of the character outside of the comics.

Now we move on to some Batman villains I'd never heard of until I started watching this show (I know I didn't mention one well-known villain who appears in just one, self-titled episode but, trust me, I'll have plenty to say about him later on), not the least of which is Killer Croc (voiced by Aron Kincaid). He's a character who I've never been that big a fan of, although I actually really like the first episode that centers on him. He's a former carnival sideshow performer and wrestler who became a criminal when he moved to Gotham City and first runs into Batman when he tries to exact revenge of those who got him thrown in prison, particularly Detective Bullock. While I like that they portray as being fairly intelligent with the scheme that he comes up with in that first episode rather than just a big dumb brute, I've never found him to be that compelling of a character. There's no real motivation behind what he does; he's just a criminal because he chooses to be. Plus, I've never cared for his design here, with the gray skin and scales, the sharp teeth, and still mostly human look (I prefer the redesign in The New Batman Adventures, where he looked much more reptilian), or his gruff voice. It's suggested that looking the way he does made his life really tough and there is an episode called Sideshow where he meets some other former circus performers who are also deformed that could have made for some interesting commentary and drama but they didn't take advantage of it like they could have.

I actually knew a little bit of Clayface (voiced by Ron Perlman) long before I saw the episodes featuring him, thanks to this action figure that my Batman-loving cousin had that came with the steel, clawed hand that he uses during his first fight with Batman in his debut episode. Reading up, it seems like there have been many different Clayfaces in the comics throughout the years and that the version here is a bit of an amalgamation of two. In any case, he used to be Matt Hagen, a movie actor who was horribly disfigured in a car accident and feared that his career was over, until Roland Daggett chose him as a test subject for a new face cream that he promised would reshape his face. While it did the trick, Hagen became addicted to the stuff and was in horrible pain whenever it wore off, which Daggett used to his advantage to force Hagen to commit crimes for him. However, when Hagen botches a murder on Lucius Fox while disguised Bruce Wayne, Daggett decides he's outlived his usefulness and orders him killed. When Hagen breaks into the factory get more cream, Daggett's cronies attempt to kill him by pouring an entire jar of the stuff onto him, expecting him to die from the effects. Instead, it turns him into a misshapen creature whose body is made up of clay and is able to shape-shift into any form he chooses, disguising himself as different people, creating weapons out of his arms, and other abilities. I've always liked Clayface and thought he was a pretty cool villain, with his morphing abilities, all the shapes and forms he comes up with, and the way he can easily slip into places thanks to his disguises and his overall amorphous biology. Like Mr. Freeze, he's a pitiable villain due to all the crap he's been through with his accident, the hell that Daggett and his creation put him through, and how he's now lost his humanity because of it, which he almost regains in the second episode to feature him but Batman ruins it. I also like his design, especially his head, with the enormous bottom jaw and throat, crooked teeth, and completely yellow eyes (is it me, or does his head look kind of like a pumpkin?), and the way Perlman voices him, which is accompanied by a subtle, gooey sound effect whenever he talks. Speaking of which, you always hear some nicely gross wet, squishy sound effects whenever he changes shape, and the animation there, which was quite hard on the production team, looks really impressive.

Another villain whom I've never been that interested in is the Mad Hatter (voiced by Roddy McDowall), whose debut episode, Mad as a Hatter, really threw me when I first saw it as a kid due to the abundance of Alice in Wonderland imagery and references. He starts out as Jervis Tetch, a shy but brilliant technician working for Wayne-Tech Enterprises who finds a way to manipulate the minds of both animals and people using special circuitry that he's invented. However, his real passion is Alice (voiced by Kimmy Robertson), a secretary who works in the same office he does, and he's not too thrilled at the fact that she has a boyfriend (who's infinitely better-looking than him, I might add). He does get a chance to woo Alice when her boyfriend dumps her, taking her on a night on the town and using his mind-control devices to make others act like he's some big deal. Unfortunately for him, Alice gets back with her boyfriend and they become engaged, pushing Tetch over the edge and making him determined to do whatever it takes to win her over, even if he has to make her a mindless puppet using his devices, a thought that he despised earlier on. This is where his hatred for Batman stems, in that he blames his interference for forcing him to make Alice into a soulless doll and, by extension, ruining his life. Interesting psychology, which Paul Dini has said is partially based on something that actually happened (I think I've heard that story, about a guy who went on a shooting rampage at his workplace when the woman he had affections for rebuffed him), and McDowall, as always, is really delightful in his performance, particularly in the episodes following his establishment, but, still, the Mad Hatter isn't a villain I always looked forward to seeing. Maybe it's because I've never cared that much for Alice in Wonderland (the original Disney film is not one I watch that often) and also because I find his gimmick to be kind of lame. Alright, he controls other people's minds with his gadgets. Not much else to him.

I have even less interest in the Clock King (voiced by Alan Rachins), whose real identity, Temple Fugate, is apparently different from his comic counterpart. More than any other villain, the Clock King's motives revolve around one person in particular: Mayor Hill. In his self-titled debut episode, Fugate is introduced as an efficiency expert whose company is being fined $20 million. On the day he's to appeal the case, Fugate takes the train to work with Hill, who's a councilman at the time, and after hearing about the law suit, encourages Fugate to get out of his very strict, time-obsessed daily schedule and loosen up in order to better present himself at the hearing. Fugate does so, taking his daily coffee break at 3:15 rather than 3:00 like usual, and does so at the city park, but a string of really bad luck causes him to show up to court late and dishevelled, which leads to him losing his appeal and effectively bankrupting his company. Fugate snaps and returns to Gotham seven years later to enact revenge on Hill, whom he blames for making him late on purpose given that it's later revealed his law firm represented the plaintiff in that case. The Clock King is featured in only two episodes, undoubtedly due to how narrow and specific his vendetta is (he never develops a complex towards Batman and only comes into conflict with him because he tries to foil his attempts to kill Hill), and that's fine with me, because I find his gimmick to be even lamer than the Mad Hatters: he's obsessed with time and is able to mess with devices like time-locks and precisely coordinate time-sensitive elements to his advantage, like knowing how quickly Batman can throw a punch and the like. That's revealed to be a major part of his personality even before he became a villain, which how precise his schedule is and how chastises someone for bring him some important papers five minutes late, threatening to fire him if he makes that mistake again, but the thing is that does not impress or interest me at all. He doesn't have any really memorable weapons, save for the sharp, clock-hand-like cane he uses. Really, the only thing I can give the Clock King is that he has a pretty chilling, maniacal laugh that he lets loose every now and then, and that's just sad.

The episodes featuring Scarface and the Ventriloquist (both voiced by George Dzundza) were not shown on Cartoon Network until much later, and I don't think I even saw them until Boomerang begain rerunning the show. In any case, when I first saw the characters' debut episode, my reaction was, "Okay, this is interesting." It's basically a more extreme version of Two-Face in terms of the double personality. The Ventriloquist, Arnold Wesker, is a meek little man who is absolutely terrified of his second personality, Scarface, who he gives life to by manipulating this little puppet while the other personality speaks through him. Said other personality is a very tough, bullying, nasty crime boss who doesn't let the fact that he's more or less a puppet stand in his way. He's the one who's in control, regarding the Ventriloquist, whom he refers to as "Dummy," as just hired help, which his men aren't inclined to argue with and which new members of the gang learn the hard way when they make the mistake of talking to Wesker instead of to Scarface himself. Like I said, despite their being just two parts of the same psyche, the two personalities are separate enough to where Wesker doesn't know of Scarface's schemes and is scared of him to the point where he feels he absolutely must obey him and is terrified that if he doesn't, he will kill him, even though it would mean the end for both of them. And yet, in spite of this, Wesker is more than willing to risk his life when the puppet is in danger of being destroyed and is completely crestfallen when it is (which happens every time the characters show up because the creators, often frustrated by the Fox censors, were able to do so since it's just a puppet), probably feeling that he's nothing without Scarface. Not exactly my favorite villain, mainly since Scarface's voice and personality tend to grate on my nerves, but definitely a very interesting and complex one. And from what I've read, it seems like two of Scarface's thugs, Rhino and Mugsy, are characters from the comics who were lucky enough to make it into the show as well.

I instantly recognized Ra's al Ghul's voice (David Warner) as also being that of the character the Lobe in Freakazoid!, which Cartoon Network also showed a lot back then, so I had something of a connection to this character from the start and, as I watched the show, he grew to be one who I really liked, even though at the time, Cartoon Network only played The Demon's Quest, the two-part episode that served as Ra's' introduction after appearing at the very end of Off-Balance. I thought the idea of his having lived for centuries, kept alive by the Lazarus Pits, was a cool one, and I liked how he's the one enemy of Batman's who respects him more than hates him, seeing him as a very worthy foe, as well as the only one who's worthy enough to be the heir to his position, especially since his daughter, Talia, loves him. It's interesting to note how he's the one of the few baddies who knows of Batman's true identity, which he deduced quite brilliantly, explaining that Batman would have to have a great deal of money in order to afford his crime-fighting equipment and one of the richest men in the world who had purchased such equipment, and the one who most fit Talia's description of what he looked like unmasked, was Bruce Wayne. I also like how he always refers to him as "Detective," out of respect for his brilliant mind and what he's capable of accomplishing. Unfortunately, the respect is one-sided, since Ra's' ultimate goal is something that Batman cannot condone in the slightest: he plans to "cleanse" the Earth by enacting absolute genocide across it, destroying the humans who he feels have defiled it through pollution, destroying the rainforests, etc. In short, he's the environmentalist villain here who takes it to the absolute extreme. The only thing about Ra's that I find a bit disappointing is how, after the debut episode, he's no longer as buff and athletic-looking as he was after being lowered into the Lazarus Pit when he was close to death before, which allowed him to pose quite a challenge to Batman when the two of them battled during the climax. To that end, he was never used quite as well as he had there but, regardless, I still think he's a cool villain, and Warner's voice gives him a real sense of class and sophistication (he also does a maniacal laugh rather well).

Batman actually encounters Ra's' daughter, Talia (voiced by Helen Slater), first, joining forces with her in the episode Off-Balance to take down Count Vertigo, a former servant of Ra's' who comes to Gotham City to steal a sonic weapon for the Society of Shadows. However, after Vertigo is defeated and Batman recovers the weapon, Talia forces him at gunpoint to give it to her so she can take it to her father (unbeknownst to her, he sabotages it before giving it to her). Like Catwoman's crimes, this undying devotion to her father is what keeps Talia and Batman from coming together, even though Batman has made it clear that he has an attraction to her as well. In addition, Talia has also made it known that while she wants to see the Earth cleansed like her father, she does not wish to do so by killing millions of innocent people, which she proves by secretly helping Batman foil her father's plans. That, however, doesn't stop her from forcing Batman to let Ra's go when, at the end of the episode, Avatar, he makes it clear that he's going to turn Ra's in. This is also the last time Talia is seen in the series and it's a shame that her and Batman's relationship, for the time being, had to end that way. Also appearing in the series is Ubu (voiced by Tomoya Kawai, George DiCenzo, and Manu Tupou), Ra's' servant and henchman, whose loyalty to his master is absolute and undying. In The Demon's Quest, he makes it clear that he has no love for Batman, who he constantly calls, "Infidel," and shoves him whenever he dares to walk in front of Ra's, much to Batman's irritation. However, when Batman saves his life during the climax of Avatar, Ubu is grateful enough to throw him a canteen of water when Talia forces him to let her father go.

Like I said, before the really insane villains begin appearing to push them out of business, Gotham City's problems are mainly due to crime-lords and corrupt businessmen. The most powerful crime-lord in the city is Rupert Thorne (voiced by John Vernon) who, in this interpretation, is the one responsible for Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face when he tries to use his psychiatric file to blackmail him into laying off of his operations. He becomes Two-Face's prime target afterward and is eventually almost killed by him before Batman is able to stop him. Throughout the series, Thorne is shown to be a fairly smooth but, at the same time, brutal crime lord with an explosive temper who'll wipe out any perceived competition, be it rival crime boss Arnold Stromwell, who he sets up to be killed in a restaurant explosion in one episode, or an accomplice to his drug racket who he refuses to believe is as a big of a victim circumstance, or stupid, as he claims to be and is actually trying to take over his business. You eventually find out that Thorne's family has a connection to the Waynes in that his younger brother, Matthew, attended medical school with Bruce's father, and in one episode, he promises to use his influences to reinstate his brother's revoked medical license in exchange for removing a benign tumor from his heart with the help of Dr. Leslie Thompkins, whom he also knows from medical school. However, his willingness to keep that promise depends on whether or not Matthew interferes with orders he gave his men to kill Leslie to keep her from talking, which Matthew, of course, refuses to let happen. I always used to think that Thorne died after the surgery because none of the episodes featuring him after that one were shown on Cartoon Network at first, but I learned that wasn't the case as he's the one who later hires Bane to kill Batman. After Bane is defeated, Thorne learns that his moll, Candice (voiced by Diane Michelle), was planning to have Bane kill him in order to take control of his organization. Candice is never seen again afterward, so I think it's a safe bet that she payed dearly for her treachery. (Speaking of Candice, she's the one who spied on Harvey Dent and found out his secret sessions with a psychiatrist to try to get control of Big Bad Harv, so she's really the one who doomed him.) His last appearance is in the episode Second Chance, where he's the prime suspect in Two-Face's abduction, and while it's revealed that he had nothing to do with it, that doesn't stop him from trying to see to it that Robin ends up at the bottom of the river.

Rupert Thorne may be a crime lord but at least he keeps his evil deeds confined to the streets and within his own organization; Roland Daggett (voiced by Ed Asner), on the other hand, is just a bastard. He's a businessman who puts on a benevolent public face but, in reality, is a sociopathic monster who's more than willing to use blackmail and even mass murder to get what he wants. In one episode, he plans to blow up the buildings that make up Crime Alley in order to pave the way for a block of condos, despite the fact that there are many people still living there who have nowhere else to go, and plans to make it all look like an accident that he had no involvement in. In another episode, Daggett has someone create a virus and then infect dozens of stray animals with it in order to cause an epidemic that can only be cured by an antidote that Daggett has already had manufactured, making him a public hero as well as quite rich. Like I mentioned earlier, Daggett is also responsible for Matt Hagan's misery that eventually led to him becoming Clayface, intends to sell the face cream that causes the transformation to the public despite its addictive nature and painful side-effects, and is also revealed to be possibly funding Dr. Hugo Strange criminal activities at the Yucca Springs Health Resort, one of his subsidiaries. Unlike the other villains on the show, he's often in constant conflict with Bruce Wayne as well as Batman since he's always under suspicion from Bruce and Lucius Fox, both of whom know of his true nature. In the Feat of Clay episode, he attempts to take over Wayne-Tech Enterprises by having incriminating evidence about him destroyed and Fox killed by Hagan and when that doesn't work, he sends one of his henchmen to kill Fox while he's recovering from the attack in the hospital. One thing that's really frustrating about Daggett, especially for Batman, is how he's often able to escape severe punishment, eventually getting back to running his company despite being taken away by the police after the Clayface fiasco and using his public image to get off scott-free when Batman tries to accuse him of the Crime Alley incident. However, his plan involving that virus ends with him declaring bankruptcy since Batman is able to produce concrete evidence of his involvement and, while he does come back in the last episode with a desperate attempt to restore his company and get revenge on Catwoman for her part in ruining him, he's no longer a threat to Gotham afterward.

Speaking of Dr. Hugo Strange (voiced by Ray Buktenica), he appears in only one episode, where he's using a machine he's built that can read minds to blackmail Gotham City's wealthiest citizens with secrets they don't want revealed and when he learns that Bruce Wayne is Batman as a result, he decides to auction off the tape to either the Joker, Two-Face, or the Penguin. Strange is one of a number of villains, many of them original creations, who managed to appear in only one or two episodes before fading into obscurity. Among them is Kyodai Ken (voiced by Robert Ito), Bruce's rival at the martial arts dojo he trained at in Japan whom he caught stealing and, upon getting kicked out of the dojo for it, vowed to one day kill Bruce for it. He dresses up as a ninja and robs Wayne-Tech's subsidiaries before attempting to settle the score with Bruce, who manages to defeat him in combat. In the other episode featuring Kyodai, which takes place in Japan, he tries to use an ancient, deadly fighting move to settle the score with both Bruce and Batman (having studied both their fighting styles, he now knows that they're the same person) once and for all, but is apparently killed by the eruption of the volcano they battle near. The Sewer King (voiced by Michael Pataki) is a creep who takes in a bunch of homeless children, treats them like dirt in his lair in the sewers, and forces them to commit robberies on the streets of Gotham. The only really notable thing about him, other than he has pet crocodiles that he sics on Batman, is that Batman is so enraged by what he's done that when he catches him, he tells him this: "I don't pass sentence. That's for the courts. But this time, this time, I am sorely tempted to do the job myself." Boss Biggis (voiced by George Murdock) is this fat glutton of an asshole who's always scarfing down food while barking orders at his cronies and the men he's imprisoned at his work camp, whom he forces to work in a nearby mine. Red Claw (voiced by Kate Mulgrew) is the leader of a powerful terrorist organization who is the main antagonist in Catwoman's debut episode, The Cat and the Claw, and steals a deadly virus from a military train which she plans to use to blackmail Gotham City. She returns near the end of the series and kidnaps Alfred and a former colleague of his in order to extract from them a code for a missile that can destroy an entire city, which they both know from their days in the British Secret Service.

HARDAC (voiced by Jeff Bennett) is a powerful AI that becomes sentient and plans to replace all of humanity with advanced robots (yes, in other words, it's this series' version of SkyNet; the place where it's housed is even called Cybertron). Dr. Emile Dorian (voiced by Joseph Maher) is a mad geneticist who creates a race of human-animal hybrids on an island and actually turns Selina Kyle into a very literal Catwoman. Milo (voiced by Treat Williams) is a deranged chemist, with a Moe Howard haircut, who cooks up the virus Roland Daggett plans to spread throughout Gotham and later gives an athlete a steroid derivative that just happens to also contain wolf hormones, which turn the guy into a werewolf and Milo then forces him to do his dirty work in exchange for the cure. Josiah Wormwood (voiced by Bud Cort) is a criminal who puts his victims into deathtraps in order to force them give up sensitive information or items. Other than being something of a Riddler wannabe given his penchant for sending his targets riddles they have to solve in order to find him, the only thing memorable about him is how crazy he gets during his climactic fight with Batman, yelling and snarling like a complete loon the whole time. Maximilian Zeus, otherwise known as Maxie (voiced by Steve Susskind), is a severely deluded shipping tycoon who has developed a god complex after losing his mind while dealing with a financial crisis and dealing with smugglers, to the point where he thinks of himself as the real Zeus and even thinks Batman is Hades. Nostromos (voiced by Michael Des Barres) is a self-proclaimed prophet who is a really conman who sees to it himself that his often destructive predictions do come to pass. The Terrible Trio are a group of rich, self-entitled dickheads who, having done it all, decide to try crime out, feeling that they're above the law and limits, particularly their very arrogant leader. Count Vertigo (voiced by Michael York) is a former servant of Ra's al Ghul and the leader of the Society of Shadows who uses a special eyepiece that creates a vertigo effect, causing your visual perception to distort and your balance to be thrown off, to render his victims helpless. And finally, you have Lyle Bolton, aka Lock Up (voiced by Bruce Weitz), the head of security at Arkham Asylum who's revealed to have been terrorizing and torturing the inmates, resulting in him losing his job. He decides to take action against those he feels are the source of Gotham's inability to deal with crimes, including the press, the politicians, and the cops, whom he refers to as gutless. He tries to get Batman to join him but when he refuses, that's, of course, when they come into conflict. I like the idea behind the character and how he thinks he and Batman have the same goals but the story built around him isn't as interesting as it should have been.There are other sporadic villians in the show that I haven't mentioned here but I'll wait until we get into their respective episodes.

I've seen an interview where Bruce Timm mentions how they didn't want their show to be just an animated copy of the Tim Burton movies, that they wanted to do their own thing, and I think Paul Dini said that their show ended up looking nothing like those movies. I find that to be a very strange thing to say since the look of this show constantly reminds me of Burton's films. The look of Gotham City has that Art Deco style that it did in Batman Returns, with the way the buildings and streets are designed, especially in episodes that take place during the winter, and the timeless feel it has, with there being computers and other modern inventions as well as black-and-white televisions, the bad guys often wearing tweed, 40's style suits and using Tommy guns as weapons, and the vehicles often having a very vintage design to them. There's no shortage of Gothic infrastructure either, particularly when it comes to Arkham Asylum, the cemeteries, and some of the buildings in Gotham, like a church in one episode whose roof it dotted with gargoyles. The design of the Batcave especially reminds me of the Burton films, particularly the original 1989 film, with how everything, from the main computer to the platform where the Batmobile sits and even the road leading out of it, is suspended on big chunks of rock stretching out of a very deep abyss (even the way he gets down into the cave from the mansion, which is through an opening behind a grandfather clock in the library, reminds me of something you'd see in the Burton films). Speaking of that movie, this series takes the film noir look that was introduced there and cranks it up to ten, with some of the most amazing lighting I've ever seen in animation. Eric Radomski told the animation department to draw the backgrounds by using light colors on black paper, and the result is one of the, literally, darkest cartoons ever created. The shadows are incredibly deep, especially in the early episodes, and there are many times where everything is so bathed in darkness where it feels like no light-bulb in this entire city is stronger than ten watts (that opening sequence is a perfect example of this style). Combined with the old-fashioned color scheme, it helps the atmosphere of the show immensely, making Gotham feel very ominous, uninviting, and dangerous. Even in daylight, Gotham doesn't always feel safe, either because the skies are usually gray and overcast or, especially in the early episodes, the city is bathed in a dull, golden light by the setting, which makes it feel all the more otherworldly. Just looking at these images, I think you can tell that you could take any number of stills from this show and hang them up as really cool works of art, which is what they are in many ways.

As Warner Bros. often did with their animated series back then, they outsourced various episodes of the series to many different animation houses in Asia, mostly in Japan. While this often resulted in great work, it also led to some notable differences in the style of animation and character and background designs from episode to episode, particularly when you follow the show from beginning to end in terms of production order. At first, the show often went with a much harder, more pronounced, and in some cases, even kind of dirty look to its art-style and animation, but in the middle portion of it, it tended to lean more toward a much softer and less harsh look to everything. A reason for this could be because Spectrum Animation, the Japanese studio that did the show's pilot as well as other notable episodes like Heart of Ice, It's Never Too Late, and the first part of Robin's Reckoning (indeed, the styles to both parts of that episode are noticeably different) went out of business, ironically due to their major attention to detail, although they did manage to provide the layout for episodes that were animated by other studios, as well as the Mask of the Phantasm movie, before going under. Other studios that worked on the show include Don Yang, who did 90% of the last twenty episodes that were produced, including the very last one, and managed to strike something of a balance between the two styles I mentioned up above, Sunrise Animation, TMS Entertainment, which did six episodes, and AKOM, which did thirteen before Warner Bros. stopped using them due to how inconsistent their animation often was. (I kind understand that decision; while I do like some of the episodes they worked on, the animation and look of the characters sometimes come across as weird. Take the way they designed the Joker in that image and compare it to the other, more definitive images of him here as an example.) Speaking of the animation itself, besides weird flubs that you often find in shows like this (in some episodes, you can see vague traces of animation being left behind and disappearing whenever someone moves), when you watch the series in order, you can see how it was work in progress since this show was the first of its kind in many ways. Sometimes, it looks really good and fluid, enough to even rival Disney, and other times, especially in the early episodes, it looks more than a little rough. The same goes for the character designs: some of them look a little too cartoony and caricature-like in the early episodes but became more realistic later down the road. While none of this distracts from the show's effectiveness, it is interesting to see how it took them a while to get into the groove.

The look of the Batmobile here is interesting in that it vaguely looks like the version in the Tim Burton movies, with its overall shape, the roof that slides open to allow Batman and Robin to jump right in and out, the big, jet exhaust in the back, and the bat-like fins on the back fenders, but it has some interesting aspects all its own. What's really impressive is how damn long its front is, with the hood being just as long, and instead of the propellor-like structure at the nose of the Burton car, there's a big, chrome grill. There also many more square edges to this version of it, although it does have a number of the same defense capabilities as its live-action counterpart, like the windshield being bullet-proof, automated shields that Batman can activate when he leaves it parked to make sure that nobody will mess with it or steal it and a grappling hook that it can shoot out of its side to latch onto something to make sharp turns easier to get around. It also has other features like smoke, oil, and tear gas dispensers, ejector seats, wheels made out of titanium, a small radar dish, weapons that can slash wheels, and useful, onboard computer. In the episode, The Mechanic, you learn that the Batmobile was built by Earl Cooper (voiced by Paul Winfield), an automobile mechanic whose life Batman saved when he was about to be killed for being a whistle-blower and who he later asked to build him a new car when his old one bit the dust (his old one looked an awful lot like the Batmobile that was featured in the comics in the 1940's). Batman paid for everything, including the garage he set Earl up at, with his own money and often goes to him have it fixed up whenever it's damaged badly. While the episode itself is pretty average, I do think that was an interesting way to approach the Batmobile and to explain how Batman acquired one of his many "wonderful toys."

All of Batman's other vehicles make appearances throughout the series. The Batwing, which is very much modeled off of what was seen in the first Burton film, has a distinctive, screeching sound that it makes when it flies and banks very quickly, although the only noteworthy features that you really get to see from it is this big, grappling hand that Batman uses in one episode to remove the door off a car and grab a suspect he plans to interrogate by the wrist, as well as this feature that allows Batman to tap into radios tuned to police band and imitate the voices of officers. A smaller and less noisy alternative to the Batwing is the Bat-Glider (literally just a hang glider that has a bat-like shape to it), which Batman uses when he needs to fly somewhere without attracting attention. The Batcycles, which tend to get more use from Robin, don't seem to have anything that special about them, save for automated cables that tie themselves to structures to keep the cycles upright while parked, but they're smaller and much more agile than Batmobile, which, like the Bat-Glider with the Batwing, comes in handy when they need to go somewhere without being too conspicuous. What's funny is that whenever Batman rides one of them, he wears a helmet that's designed to fit around his cowl. The Batboat is the vehicle that isn't used very much, although it has an interesting feature in that it can double as a submarine if the need arises. The designs of both it and the Batcycles aren't that special: they're basically just what they're supposed to be, only designed to be akin to the series' version of the Batmobile, right down to the color scheme. There's also something that can only be described as a Bat Jet-Ski that he makes brief use of in one episode.

As in other media, Batman has a number of different gadgets to help in his crime-fighting, way too many for me to list them all here. The one he uses most frequently is his grappling gun, which comes with either an actual grappling blade or a barbed hook he uses to stick into a wall and he uses to save himself from falling, to escape from traps, or to simply slip away before someboy sees him. It has a distinctive sound that it makes whenever it fires, which they didn't keep in the movies or in The New Batman Adventures, for some reason, and it can also shoot an electrical charge through its cable, powerful enough to blow open a door the hook has latched onto. He also simple grappling lines that he throws and hook himself. He makes frequent use of the Batarangs, which come in two different types: the classic, flat ones that he uses against people and sharp, steel ones that he uses to pin weapons to the wall. Needless to say, his utility belt comes back with all kind of useful toys, like smoke bombs, pellets with knockout gas, gas masks, lock picks, small knives, binoculars, infrared goggles, controls for his vehicles(!), and all sorts of other stuff. I have to say that the amount and type of stuff that he tends to suddenly pull out of his belt or even out of his gloves sometimes gets pretty ridiculous and convenient, like how he produces a blade to cut himself loose from a rope or in the first episode with Killer Croc where he activates these special lenses in his cowl that allow him to see in the darkness of the sewer. You just see that and you wonder how in the hell he could have anticipated that would happen and how he would just happen to have a gadget to help him deal with it. Finally, one of his most useful pieces of equipment is the computer in the Batcave that helps him to analyze clues, trace signals, search files, and so on. A number of his vehicles come equipped with onboard versions of the computer (complete with the same, electronic voice) and he even has a miniature version that he can attach to the back of his glove!

Bruce Timm and company's ultimate goal was to make the show as complex, dark, and adult-oriented as possible, but it often brought them into conflict with the Fox Kids censors, who were very strict about violence and adult content, no matter how subtle. As effective and well-done as the show is, when you watch it, you can see the restraints that the production team often faced, particularly when it came to violence. While there's a lot of fighting and gunplay involved, nobody ever dies (except for maybe Two-Face's goons in the second part of his origin episode, where they fall to the floor and are then never seen again). Even villains who apparently died at the end of an episode returned in either a future episode of this show or in The New Batman Adventures later on. One way they often gotten around a death was to have somebody fall from a great height, only for there to be something down below to break their fall, usually a conveniently placed body of water (that happens over and over and over again). At the beginning of the episode, Off-Balance, Batman corners two agents from the Society of Shadows who, rather than give up, apparently commit suicide by gassing themselves. When Batman removes the goggles off of one's face, the blank look in his eyes would suggest that he's deader than a doornail but, when Batman tells Commissioner Gordon of it later on, he says that the gas merely "erased their... minds." Speaking of Gordon, despite all of the shooting, he's the only character who ever took a bullet in the entire show and, of course, they weren't going to kill him off even if they could. There only a few instances in the entire show where you see a little bit of blood, like in the pilot where Batman has some scrapes on his face after he and Man-Bat crash after a long fight in the air or in the Mad Hatter's first episode where he becomes so enraged upon hearing that Alice and her boyfriend are getting married that he grips the roses he got for her until a little bit of blood drips from his hand. In addition to violence, you can tell that the writers also wanted the language to be a little more adult-oriented than it is, given that people often say, "What the devil?", or, "What in the name of heaven?" They did manage to slip in a few instances of, "My God," and the like but, other than that, they had to skirt around anything that would get parents all worked up. And yet, that said, I find it ironic that they didn't take issue with how incredibly sexy some of the female characters are portrayed, particularly, Selina Kyle, Poison Ivy, and Zatanna, or how they didn't detect a darker or more sensual undercurrent to certain lines of dialogue and situations, as we'll go into more detail on shortly.

Just like everything else, another aspect of the series that helped give it its identity is the music score. The main theme that you hear during the show's opening sequence and end credits was composed by Danny Elfman himself, which is a variation of his amazing theme for the first Batman movie and helps set the tone for the show very well (the version he composed for the opening sequence fits those images to a "T"). Elfman, however, initially turned down the offer to work on the show and, to that end, Bruce Timm hired Shirley Walker, who worked with Elfman as a conductor on some of the movies he did scores for, to do the main theme. The theme that she composed, which is very similar to Elfman's music, was used in the opening for the episodes that carry The Adventures of Batman & Robin title and she also retooled it as Batman's main theme in the show itself. The score, as a whole, has a very old-fashioned feel to it, often sounding like what you would hear in films from the 1940's, and a lot of the characters, especially the villains, have their own individual leitmotifs. For example, the Joker has a silly, carnival-like tune, Two-Face has an eerie, whistling-sort of theme with a low, ominous melody behind it, the Penguin has a dumpy sort of theme that goes, "Dun-dun dun-dun, dun-dun, dun, dun), and Clayface has two themes: one that's very poignant and melodic, and another that's just loud, bombastic, and nasty. While Walker, Lolita Ritmanis, and Michael McCuistion were the main composers on the show, over 24 different composers provided music for it, which resulted in a lot of the episodes having their own unique music, enabling them to really stand out from each other. Just to give you some examples, The Forgotten, the episode where Bruce is taken to a work camp, has a harmonica theme that fits with the idea of imprisonment; Prophecy of Doom, about a fraudulent prophet who sees to it personally that his destructive predictions come true, has a very loud, overbearing, "Dun, dun-dun, dun-dun-dun-dun, dun-dun-dun," that really reminds you of something from the 30's or 40's; and Paging the Crime Doctor, where Matthew Thorne is forced to enlist Leslie Thompkins in helping him operate on his brother, has a distinctive, strong string theme that's followed up by a higher-pitched, almost innocent-sounding melody.

Besides having their own themes, nearly all of their episodes have their own distinct title cards, which are often very suggestive and evocative of the story and, at the same time, would make for nice, impressionistic works of art themselves. While I wouldn't say that any of the episodes are absolutely horrible in my opinion (although some are borderline), there are a number that are just plain average and not stories I can get excited about seeing. Some of them are interestingly experimental, especially those that focus primarily on a member of the supporting cast, one of the villains, or on Bruce Wayne, rather than Batman, and others that are told mainly in flashback, although they're not always successful. In any case, enough stalling. Let's get into my personal favorite episodes. Before we do, though, I want to make two things clear. First, I'm going to go through them in production order rather than broadcast order (the way they were broadcasted, with a number of other episodes in-between a two-parter, doesn't make sense to me at all), which is also how I've been talking about them this whole time. Second, while a lot of the ones that everybody loves are going to be in here, you're also going to see some that make you raise your eyebrow if you know anything about them. I freely admit that some of these aren't exactly the best written or that profound when looked at in the series as a whole but, I'm putting them in here simply for nostalgia's sake and the fond memories I have of watching them when I was a kid. So, without any further ado, let's begin.

On Leather Wings: The pilot episode, Cartoon Network didn't show this until much later and I only saw it one time before I bought the DVD box-sets; before then, I didn't even know it was the pilot. Regardless, while it's a shame that the series doesn't have an origin episode showing what happened to Bruce Wayne's parents and how it spurred him to become Batman, I think this is a pretty good introduction to the show and I think the choice of Man-Bat as the first enemy we see him face was a nice one since the latter's activities cause Batman to become the prime suspect. It shows that at this point, the police and the government officials don't trust Batman, not even Commissioner Gordon, although he does refuse to authorize Harvey Bullock's request for a tactical squadron to hunt Batman down. We also get the idea right away that Bullock believes that Batman is a menace and that Mayor Hill agrees with him enough to authorize the the force. We see how Batman infiltrates a building, using his gadgets to knock out the guards as well as deal with Bullock's strike force when they close in on him, and we also get to see him in his normal life as Bruce Wayne when he goes to the Gotham Zoo to see if they can identify the screeching sound on a tape recorder that he found at the pharmaceutical building he investigated the night before (while talking to one of the doctors over the speaker phone in the Batcave, Kevin Conroy gets to demonstrate how skillfully he can switch between the two voices). The highlight of the episode, however, is the third act, when Batman arrives back at the zoo and confronts Dr. Kirk Langstrom (voiced by Marc Singer), who reveals to him that he and Dr. March, his father-in-law, had managed to create a formula that would lead to an entirely new species, that he's tested the formula on himself, and that the creature has now taken him over. Langstrom then transforms into the Man-Bat (a pretty freaky sequence) and attacks Batman but when Langstrom's wife, Francine (voiced by Meredith Macrae), bursts in and is horrified at what her husband has become, Man-Bat, clearly ashamed, attempts to flee. Batman manages to attach his grappling hook onto the monster's leg before he smashes through the window, flying off into the sky with Batman holding on for dear life. This is the best part of the entire episode: watching the two of them struggle with each other in the sky, with Man-Bat trying to fling Batman off while Batman climbs up onto him and tries to force him to land. Batman gets slammed into the window of a police blimp, Commissioner Gordon and Bullock chase them in a helicopter, Batman gets on top of Man-Bat and punches him in the head before covering his eyes, causing the two of them to crash through a sign. The police then show up and attempt to arrest him but Batman takes the unconscious Man-Bat with him back to the Batcave, where he creates an antidote to reverse the transformation and returns Langstrom to the zoo.

The Last Laugh: Going by production order, this is the second episode to feature the Joker but it really should have been the first because it serves as a much better introduction than Christmas with the Joker. On April Fool's Day, a mysterious barge that's apparently being piloted by a clown in a captain's uniform begins spreading a green gas around the docks, causing all those who inhale to begin laughing like complete maniacs. Upon hearing about this, Bruce Wayne knows exactly who to blame: the Joker. Sure enough, the Clown Prince of Crime spreads his gas throughout downtown Gotham, rendering everybody helpless while he and his cronies loot the place. When the gas reaches Wayne Manor and Alfred becomes infected, Batman decides enough is enough and heads out to put a stop to the madness. Does that not sound like the perfect plot to introduce the Joker with? Really, the only problem with the episode is the strange and inconsistent animation; otherwise, it's simple, to the point, and it's really fun watching Batman take on both him and his cronies. Watching everybody in the financial district laugh their asses off from his gas is both funny and kind of disturbing, especially when you see one guy who's laughing so hard that there are tears streaming out of both of his eyes and down his face. I think it was also a good idea to set the episode on April Fool's Day, making way for some nice playfulness on Alfred's part when he tries to get Bruce to laugh at a joke after a rough night of crime-fighting but Bruce is not amused, leading Alfred to comment, "Not a funny bone in his entire body." In battling the Joker, it turns out that Batman has his work cut out for him when Captain Clown, the figure controlling the boat, is revealed to be a very powerful robot that gives him a run for his money, throwing him into a container that the Joker punches some "airholes" in before having it thrown overboard. Batman just about drowns but, thanks to a control layout for the Batboat on his utility belt, he's able to make it submerge down to where he is and zap open the container, allowing him to swim to the surface. The final battle takes place at a garbage dump where the Joker is refueling. Batman manages to put two of the Joker's cronies out of commission by taking off their gas masks and, after a long struggle that results in his cape getting pulled off, manages to destroy Captain Clown in a trash compactor before pursuing the Joker into the plant, with their final confrontation taking place in the incinerator. The Joker just about causes Batman to fall into the incinerator but then, almost falls into it himself when he slips off some scaffolding. Fortunately for him, his foot is caught in a rope and Batman, despite probably being tempted to let him burn, pulls him up. The episode also ends on a nice note, where Alfred comments on how he destroyed a priceless Ming vase while under the effects of the laughing gas and Bruce responds by saying he'll just take it out of his salary for the next couple of years. Alfred, now even more depressed, says, "Very well, sir," when Bruce comes back into the room and says, "Alfred, April Fool's," before chuckling.

Two-Face: This was one of the first episodes that I saw when Cartoon Network started rerunning the show in 1998 and seeing it really made me a major fan of both the show and the character of Two-Face in general. I also consider this to be the first truly classic episode, as it really delves into the dark stories and the complex characters that the series would become known for. It has a very eerie opening, where Harvey Dent dreams that he's confronted by a shadowy figure who speaks in a deep, almost demonic voice, and repeatedly flips a coin, telling him, "It's time, Harvey. It's time." Harvey wakes up and heads out to join Commissioner Gordon on a raid on an abandoned building occupied by a gang that takes orders from Rupert Thorne. The police aren't able to do much but, when Batman enters the building, he makes short work of Thorne's men and forces them to surrender to the police. As they're being led away, Harvey makes a statement to the press thanking Gordon and his men for their help in the raid and also reiterates his drive to not stop until Thorne is put out of commission completely. However, one of the criminals tells Harvey that he's not going to be able to do much of anything when Thorne gets through with him, and kicks mud on Harvey's suit to further the insult. And that's when you first see that there's something very wrong with Harvey: he explodes in a violent rage and attacks the crook, throwing him to the ground and then picking him back up, yelling, "You little weasel! I'll tear you apart! Kick mud in my face, will ya?!" The cops try to pull Harvey off the guy and when he's about to punch him in the face, Gordon grabs his arm and snaps him out of it, telling him to get ahold of himself. Harvey apparently has no memory of what he just did but he can tell by the horrified looks on the reporters' faces that it was something bad. Before I saw this episode, all I knew about Two-Face was the name. I didn't know that he was really Harvey Dent, that he used to be Gotham's district attorney, and that he has a major split personality. I know the concept of Harvey having always had a split personality was created specifically for this show but I think it was a really good way to go with it, since you'd already gotten to know Harvey at this point in previous episodes and you'd learned that he was a good friend of Bruce Wayne's, which makes it shocking to see that he has such a horrible problem. It gets so bad that, during a special party that Bruce throws for party at Wayne Manor, Harvey flies into another rage when he learns that the case against Thorne's men has been thrown out, possibly because Thorne paid the judge off, and when Bruce tries to calm him down, Harvey snarls, "Let go of me, you rich twit!" and almost punches him, with his fiance, Grace (voiced by Murphy Cross), having to step in to stop him. During a scene where Harvey has a session with a psychiatrist and is put under hypnosis, you see just how bad his condition is when his alternate personality, Big Bad Harv, emerges (there's a very creepy moment here where lightning flashes outside and you get a brief glimpse of what Harvey's going to become) and eventually tries to kill the doctor, saying that "Mr. Goody Good" is the one who's going to be wiped out. Determined to save his sanity as well as his political career, Harvey agrees to continue seeing the psychiatrist in secret and what's sad is that it almost works: he manages to get Big Bad Harv under control, his re-election campaign becomes very successful, and he even decides to marry Grace soon. Unfortunately, everything goes south when Thorne calls Harvey up and blackmails him with his psychiatric file, which Candice, who eavesdropped on the psychiatry session, stole, threatening to give it to the press if he doesn't do what he says. When Harvey meets with Thorne at a chemical plant and the crime-boss makes his intentions clearer, Harvey looses control and Big Bad Harv takes over and attacks Thorne. Batman tries to intervene but is unable to save Harvey when he chases Thorne, who's trying to escape with the file, across a catwalk over a vat of chemicals and is caught up in a massive explosion when a stray bullet from one of Thorne's thugs sends a live electrical wire into the vat. Batman manages to get him to the hospital in time to save his life but when the doctor later removes the bandages covering his face, he and the nurse recoil in horror at what they see. And when Harvey sees his face in a mirror, he yells at the top of his lungs and runs out into the hall... right in front of Grace, who sees what's happened to him and promptly faints. Harvey says goodbye to Grace and climbs out the window, into the stormy night.

The second part of the episode takes place six months later, with Harvey, having now fully become the criminal known as Two-Face, on a crime-spree, hitting establishments that serve as fronts for Thorne's criminal activities. During a raid on a booky joint at the beginning, you see how Two-Face's decisions revolve around the double-headed coin that he flips and whatever side it lands on, he sticks to it, forcing one of the twins that he's enlisted to work for him to leave behind a diamond ring he tries to take from one of the people inside the joint. While Thorne, enraged by the hits he's taking from Two-Face's crime spree, puts out a $2 million hit on him, Bruce Wayne is tortured by his inability to save his friend, tying it in his subconscious to how he was unable to save his parents from death and, after waking up from a horrible nightmare about it in a sweat, vows to save Harvey no matter what. In the meantime, Two-Face decides that it's time to finish Thorne off once and for all, saying, "Let's just say I'm gonna do to him exactly what he did to me." He and his thugs break into the office of Thorne's attorney and steal a file that's chock-full of evidence on his criminal activities, which he plans to send to the police. However, Batman, having predicted this plan, arrives and tries to reason with Two-Face, telling him he wants to help him. Two-Face, at first, wants no part of it but when Batman mentions Grace, this momentarily brings Harvey back out, as he's been thinking about her lately. Two-Face, however, regains control when one of the twins bursts in and, after a brief struggle, manages to escape by kicking Batman down the hall and into a janitor's cart, badly hurting his side. But, on the way back to their hideout, Two-Face once again thinks about Grace and calls her, asking to see her, which she agrees to. Grace is then brought to his hideout at the abandoned Wild Deuc club, where she meets her former fiance, who's covering the scarred half of his face with a cloth. That's when she learns how different a person he is now, calling himself, "A dichotomy of order and chaos," and tells her, "Chance, Grace. Chance is everything: whether you're born or not, whether you live or die, whether you're good or bad. It's all... arbitrary." Grace, however, tells Two-Face that's not true and pleads with him to take control of his life, removing the cloth from his head and saying that she still loves him. Like the first part, what's really sad is that it seems like Harvey is about to be saved, as he goes to embrace Grace, with his voice breaking, but Thorne and his gang once again ruin it by bursting in, with Candice, yet again, making it worse by revealing herself to be the detective who gave her the transmitter to lead them to Two-Face, which he isn't too happy to hear about, police or not. Thorne then forces him to give back the file by threatening Grace and, once has it, orders him to kill them. Batman, despite still suffering from his injury, arrives and saves them, with a fight then breaking out that includes Grace dealing Candice some punishment by pulling her hair and causing her to fall. Once the fight's over, Two-Face attempts to take control of his life by turning a gun on Thorne, who's been pinned by a fallen chandelier. Batman and Grace tell him to let the law handle it but Two-Face snarls, "The law?!" and pulls out his coin, saying, "Here's the only law. The law of averages. The great equalizer!" He flips it to decide Thorne's fate but Batman then throws a nearby tray full of silver dollars into the air, causing Two-Face to lose the coin. Horrified by this, and unable to decide what to do without it, Two-Face has a complete breakdown, screaming, "I have to have it!" and yelling before collapsing into a crying mess on the floor, with Grace then comforting him. The episode ends on a very bittersweet note, with Thorne, his men, and Two-Face, with Grace by his side, being taken away, while Gordon wonders if there's any hope. Batman assures him that where there's love, there's hope, but just for luck, he flips a coin, possibly Two-Face's, into a fountain.

It's Never Too Late: This is one that tends to get overlooked and I'll admit that, while I saw it a lot when I was a kid, I didn't use to care for it because it's not the most action-oriented episode but, as I've gotten over, I've grown to really like the story (plus, I really like that title card). A gang war between Rupert Thorne and Arnold Stromwell (voiced by Eugene Roche), a crime boss who's been active for many years, is raging in Gotham and has now gotten personal with the disappearance of Stromwell's son, Joseph, whom the crime boss is sure is being held hostage by Thorne. One night, he heads to a downtown diner to meet with Thorne about a possible truce, not knowing that Thorne intends to do him in. Stromwell falls for the trick and is nearly killed when the diner explodes from a bomb, but he's saved by Batman, who tries to convince him to turn himself in. What's interesting about this episode is that Stromwell is the only villain in the show who's successfully reformed, although it takes a lot for that to happen. Even after Batman takes him to a drug rehab center and discovers that this is where his son is, recovering from a drug addiction that was started because of his business of manufacturing them, Stromwell still refuses to listen to reason, pulling a gun on Batman when he tricks him into thinking that some dummy books are the records on his mob businesses. All the while, the two of them are being hunted down by Thorne and his goons, who attack them with teargas while they're in the office. While Batman deals with the criminals, Stromwell manages to escape and make his way down to the train yard, where two subplots that were introduced earlier come together. Before Stromwell arrived at the diner, Batman visited a priest (voiced by Paul Dooley) who seemed to know Stromwell, informing him that the crime boss was going to need his help. The priest said that Stromwell was one person he wished he could give up on but Batman told him he didn't believe he'd give up on anyone and asked for him to be there. When Stromwell stumbles into the train yard, he runs into the priest, whose help he initially refuses, and when he tries to run away, he has a repeat of a flashback he'd had earlier in the evening, about something that happened to him when he was a kid. I always remembered this flashback from when I first watched this show on Fox as a five or six-year old. Stromwell and another kid named Michael are walking around on the train tracks, talking about how the former was already a crook even at that young age, when a train came roaring out of the tunnel towards them. Stromwell's foot got caught in the tracks and he managed to get it out and jump right before being hit by the train... when another one came at him from the opposite direction on the other track. The first flashback ended without showing us what happened but during the second, you see that Michael pushed Stromwell out of the way and was hit by the train himself. Michael grew up to be that priest and now has a wooden leg in place of the one he lost to the train. Stromwell still refuses his help at first but Michael, who's also revealed to be his younger brother, reasons with him, telling him that he now has a chance to do the right thing and encourages to do so, for both himself and his family. Upon hearing this, Stromwell breaks down and tearfully embraces his brother, and after Batman knocks out Thorne when he shows up to kill his rival once and for all, the police arrive and the episode ends with Stromwell telling Commissioner Gordon, "I have a statement to give you."

Heart of Ice: This is the Emmy-winning episode that introduced this series' awesome reinvention of Mr. Freeze and it's a shame I didn't get to see this until quite a while after Cartoon Network began playing the show because it's a really good one, with lots of great, poetic lines and a great story of betrayal, revenge, and undying love. The film even begins poetically, with a shot of a ballerina effigy dancing in a snow globe being held by Mr. Freeze, who tells his wife that this is how he'll always remember her and promises her that the "monster" who took her from him will soon learn that, "Revenge is a dish best served cold." The story then picks up with Summer Gleason reporting on a series cold-related attacks on various offices owned by the company of GothCorp, which is a stark contrast to the sweltering hot summer the city is going through. Batman notices another connection between the crimes: the equipment that's been stolen from each of the sites can be put together to create a massive freeze cannon, and the thieves are now only one component away from completing it. When they arrive at the last GothCorp building to steal said component, Batman is hot on their heels and has his first encounter with Mr. Freeze, who eventually manages to freeze him in a sheet of ice and escapes with the last bit of equipment, leaving behind one of his men whose feet he accidentally froze. There's actually a bit of humor put in here with Batman, having broken out of the ice and taking the frozen man back to the Batcave, now having a cold from the encounter, sniffling, blowing his nose, and even sneezing very loudly at one point, and yet, it amazingly doesn't distract from the story, which starts to take a darker turn when he goes to see Ferris Boyle, the head of GothCorp, as Bruce Wayne. Mark Hamill voices Boyle, playing him as a sort of precursor to Roland Daggett, a businessman who tries to make himself out to be the pillar of the community, calling GothCorp "the People Company," but is anything but in reality. When he tells Bruce of a former company scientist who would hate GothCorp enough to attack it in this way if he hadn't died in a laboratory accident after his funding had been pulled, Boyle then adds, "Look, Bruce, that 'People Company' line is great PR, but when the wage slaves start acting like they own the place, it's time to pull the plug." He then goes on to boast about how he's being given a humanitarian award, which Bruce responds with, "I feel ill." However, it's when he sneaks into GothCorp's offices as Batman and finds a security tape of the "accident" that he and the audience learn that Boyle really is a monster, as Freeze described him. The footage shows Dr. Victor Fries recording his experiment of cryogenically freezing his wife, Nora, while he tries to find a cure, only for Boyle and his security guards to burst in on him, telling him that he's using the equipment without permission. Boyle cruelly tells the guards to shut the equipment down, not caring that Fries' wife will die, yelling, "This is my equipment!" When Fries pull one of the guards' gun on Boyle, the despicable CEO talks him down, then kicks him into a table of chemicals and he and the guards run for it, leaving him to die, as the tape ends with a shot of Fries' hand going down the glass on the tube while he yells her name. Batman can only mutter, "My God," and Mr. Freeze then makes his entrance into the room, commenting, "Yes. It would move me to tears, if I still had tears to shed." After he captures Batman and takes him back to his lair, the two of them talk about what happened, with Batman feeling true sympathy for him, undoubtedly because he knows what it's like to lose a loved one. Freeze, however, says that he's beyond emotion and makes his intentions known. When Batman asks if he'll go through with it even if he'll kill a lot of innocent people in the process, Freeze says my favorite line of his and one of the best in the entire series: "Think of it, Batman: to never again be able to walk on the beach with a hot wind in your face, and a warm hand to hold. Oh, yes. I'd kill for that." Soon afterward, Freeze begins his assault on the GothCorp building, using the now completed freeze cannon to freeze the bottom of it and intends to do so to the whole building, before Batman arrives and puts a stop to it. Undaunted, Freeze smashes open a fire hydrant and uses his freezing gun to turn the water into a column of ice that he rides up into the top window, smashing into the room where the humanitarian awards ceremony is being held, and freezes Boyle up to his waist. He's just about to finish him off when Batman intervenes, and since he's unable to beat Freeze in a fight due to the added strength the circuitry in his armor gives him, Batman does so with a thermos of hot chicken soup that Alfred gave him earlier ("The only way to fight a cold"). He cracks the thermos over Freeze's helmet, with the temperature difference shattering it and rendering Freeze helpless when he's exposed to the air in the room. Batman, however, ensures that he will get some retribution, giving Summer Gleason the security tape of what Boyle did to Fries before leaving, but not before he snarls at Boyle, "Good night, humanitarian," not offering to thaw him out. The episode ends on a touching note as Freeze sits in a frozen cell in Arkham, tearfully lamenting to the snowglobe that he's failed in avenging his beloved wife, as Batman watches from a nearby perch.

See No Evil: This episode got my attention right from the opening, where a cute little girl named Kimmy is visited in her bedroom late at night by her imaginary friend, an invisible man she calls Mojo, who brings her a locket to wear around her neck. Mojo then promises to bring her what she really wants, which is a pearl necklace, the next time he visits her, but then, Kimmy tells him that he'd better return soon because her mother is said that they're moving, a revelation that shocks Mojo. When Kimmy's mother comes into the room to ask who she's talking to, Mojo leaves through the window. Later, a man in a business suit carrying a suitcase goes to a gathering of the wealthy of Gotham in the lobby of a building and, locking himself in the bathroom, puts on a plastic suit that turns him and his case invisible. He then proceeds to rob the place, with the first thing he takes being a watch that he just happens to pull out of Bruce Wayne's hand. Seeing that there's trouble, Bruce goes into the bathroom himself and soon emerges as Batman. He attempts to catch the invisible man, chasing him outside into an alleyway, but even though he manages to make him temporarily visible by throwing paint on him, the man manages to burn it off and uses the disorienting sound effects of the alleyway to his advantage, knocking Batman down into a section of wet cement, giving him the chance to escape. When the man gets back to his apartment and becomes visible again, he's revealed to be Lloyd Ventrix (voiced by Michael Gross), little Kimmy's father, whose ex-wife is trying to get both herself and their little girl as far away from him as possible, something that Ventrix is determined not to let happen. This may not be on everyone's favorite episodes list but I like just because it tries to do something different and have Batman go up against someone that has a major advantage over him. And while he's hardly one of the best villains that was created exclusively for this show, Ventrix is an interesting one in that, despite being an ex-con, he does seem to have genuine affection for his little daughter (who was apparently born while he was in prison since she doesn't know what he looks like) and does seem to want to try to make it work with his ex-wife, although that's dropped immediately when she rebuffs him and tells him to stay away. Other than that section, though, Ventrix is hardly sympathetic, especially when he attempts to kidnap his daughter, leading into the final confrontation between him and Batman. For me, other than the basic idea, there are three things I really like about this episode. One is that I like that most of it takes place in a suburban neighborhood near Gotham, which is a nice change of place and I think is made to look very atmospheric at night, with how rundown some of the houses look and the squeaking, swinging gates. Two, I like the idea that the plastic Ventrix uses to make himself invisible, which becomes toxic in the process and can damage a person's mind as well as the body, is an abandoned project that was being developed for Wayne-Tech Enterprises. Ventrix just happened to be an errand boy working with the plastic's late inventor and stole some of it for his own use. Third is the climax. When both Batman and Kimmy's mother realize that Ventrix has taken her, Batman heads out with a tranquilizer pistol and manages to stop him right before he can take her. Admittedly, Ventrix being able to turn his car and everything inside of it invisible is far-fetched and the sight of Batman apparently flying through the air when he ends up on the invisible roof is pretty silly but I've always been entertained with Batman having to hold on to literally nothing, while the now very deranged Ventrix tries to kill him any way he can by slamming the sides of the car repeatedly. After the car is destroyed by a train, the climax ends in a fistfight under a water-tower, with Batman being at a severe disadvantage and Ventrix now completely out of his mind, not caring of the plastic's ill-effects. Batman, however, uses his steel Batarangs to slice open the underside of the water tank, creating a silhouette around Ventrix, and after growling, "Peek-a-boo," beats the shit out of him, telling him afterward, "Get ready for your biggest disappearing act, Ventrix. The one where nobody sees you for ten to twenty." The episode with Kimmy now having a new friend who visits her: an ever watchful Batman, who's told by her that she and her mother are moving again, somewhere where Ventrix will never find them.

Beware the Gray Ghost: Now, here's a real fan favorite and it's not hard to see why. A serial bomber is at large in Gotham City, one who sends the police a ransom note where identifies himself simply as "the Mad Bomber." Batman soon realizes that there's a connection between the case and an episode of The Gray Ghost, a television show he used to watch with his father when he was a young kid. Unfortunately, he didn't get to see the ending of the episode in question since he fell asleep and when he tries to find a copy of the show to watch so he can completely connect the dots, he learns that no known copies of it are believed to exist. He then decides to track down the show's star, Simon Trent, who's living in Gotham. Trent is now an elderly, unemployed actor, typecast due to his association with the Gray Ghost character, and is fed up with it, going as far as to sell all of his memorabilia, including his costume, to a toy store for what little money it'll get him so he can pay the rent for his apartment. However, he's soon confronted by Batman, who asks him about the ending of the Mad Bomber episode of The Gray Ghost. Trent, not wanting to get involved, claims that he doesn't remember anything since he made hundreds of episodes of the show and asks to be left alone, although he appears to recognize a distinct, whirring sound that's heard right before the Gotham Bank is blown up. Later, Trent, reluctantly, gives Batman a reel of the episode in question and asks to be left alone. Upon watching the episode back at home, Bruce realizes what the Mad Bomber's weapons are and warns the police, although he may need some more help with this case. As everyone knows, the greatest thing about this episode is Adam West as Simon Trent, which is an inspired bit of casting, to say the least. Besides the obvious gimmick of having the original actor who made Batman play a role in the show, the episode also talks a bit about typecasting and how an actor can be haunted by one part for their entire life, which West obviously knows a lot about and I'm sure that, like Trent in the show, there have been many, many moments where he's regretted having played Batman back in the 60's. It's also really cool to have him playing an actor who played a television hero that inspired Bruce Wayne when he decided to become a hero himself. You learn that the Batcave is designed like the Gray Ghost Lair from the show and he even has a special corner full of Gray Ghost merchandise from his childhood (plus, it's nice to see some good memories from Bruce's childhood, for a change). Best of all, it's great to see Trent overcome his sorrow and self-pity and don the Gray Ghost costume again to help Batman. The best moments are when he learns that he was Batman's inspiration, saying, "So it wasn't all for nothing," (one would hope that West has had a moment like this in reality, that he meets someone who was inspired by the old Batman show to become a cop, a firefighter, or someone else who saves lives) and the ending where his popularity has now soared and he's signing autographs for fans. Seeing him embrace this character that he now realizes a lot of people love is very satisfying, especially when he meets Bruce Wayne, signs something for him, and hears him say the same thing about The Gray Ghost's effect on him that he heard from Batman, making him realize who he is. The ending line, where Bruce says, "The Gray Ghost was my hero... and he still is," followed by Trent giving him a warm smile, is the perfect way to wrap things up. The only downside to the episode is that when the Mad Bomber's identity is revealed, it's pretty lame. It turns out to be the owner of the toy shop Trent initially sold his memorabilia to: a young guy who's obsessed with toys and commits his crimes to get the money he needs to buy more. Yeah, not the best villain they could have gone with, especially when he's crying over his toys being burned up when the store is destroyed in the climax, and his weapons, which are remote-controlled toy cars loaded with explosives (straight out of The Dead Pool), I just snicker at. However, everything else about the episode more than makes up for it.

Feat of Clay: I actually saw Part II of this first, so I already knew a little bit of what happened in the first part, but I still found it interesting, as I did the episode as a whole and to me, it's another really good origin episode for one of Batman's enemies. The first part opens with Lucius Fox apparently meeting with Bruce Wayne at a decrepit building at 3:00 in the morning to give him papers that will incriminate Roland Daggett, who's trying to take over Wayne-Tech Industries. However, "Bruce" suddenly turns on Lucius, telling him that he intends to destroy the papers rather than turn them over to the police and a group of thugs turn up to make sure that Lucius doesn't tell them anything either. During the ensuing fight, where Lucius is seriously injured when a hanging sign falls on him, a shot is fired that gets the attention of Batman nearby. He immediately arrives at the scene and stops the goons from killing Lucius, who's eventually taken to safety by the police. Batman is only able to stop one of the goons, while the others, including the Bruce Wayne impersonator, manage to escape. After that, we're introduced to movie star Matt Hagan, who's been using a special face cream developed by Daggett's company called "Renuyu" in order to keep a hideous disfigurement he received in a car accident years before a secret. In this scene, you see that it's anything but healthy, as Hagan has become extremely addicted to the cream and is in horrible pain when it wears off. The scene where Teddy Lupus (voiced by Dick Gautier), his stunt double and friend, gives him the last bit of the cream is pretty cringe-inducing, as you can see that it basically makes his face into putty that he then sculps into whatever shape he chooses. Teddy tells him that it can't be good for me and Hagan says, "It probably ain't good for me, but unless all I wanna do is horror pictures, it ain't bad for me, either." Now out of the cream, Hagan will have to go back to Daggett to get more and do another bit of his dirty work in exchange. However, Hagan is tired of being Daggett's puppet and tells Teddy, "I'll have to find a way to get lots of this stuff... on my own." Little does Hagan know that Daggett, irritated at him for botching his latest assignment so badly, has decided that he needs to be done away with and knows that he'll have to come to the factory to steal more Renuyu when his supply runs out. Sure enough, Hagan does so and manages to get some more of the cream, but is then confront by Daggett's henchmen, Raymond Bell (voiced by Scott Valentine) and Germs (voiced by Ed Begley Jr.), who don't fall for his attempt to fool them when he reshapes his face to look like Bruce Wayne. They then decide to kill him by pouring an entire beaker of the stuff all over him, which is a pretty disturbing scene, as it's shown in shadow and you can hear Hagan screaming, "No! No! Don't!" as his throat becomes clogged with the gunk. Another part that really got to me is the moment afterward where they take him to his car and put him, with Bell saying, "Sweet dreams, slimeball," as his body basically melts, with his hand becoming sludge drips down on the inside of the door. That is so sick! Batman, meanwhile, hears that Lucius has implicated Bruce Wayne in the attack on him and, recognizing one of the goons he beat up as Raymond Bell, heads out to make him talk. He uses the fact that Bell wears a set of headphones that's tuned to police band to his advantage, making him think that there's a warrant out for his arrest, and when he tries to run for it, he chases after him in the Batwing, impales his car with it, and drags him out using a mechanical, gripping arm that he can deploy from its front. He then takes Bell on a terrifying ride in the skies of Gotham, interrogating him about who Lucius met with. and while he does get him to admit that it wasn't Bruce Wayne, the crook faints before he can tell Batman the impersonator's real name. The episode ends with Bruce sneaking into Lucius' hospital room to get some answers but instead, is arrested when Lucius panics and summons the police officers who've been guarding his door, and on a more disturbing note when Teddy finds Hagan, only to see that he's become Clayface. Upon seeing himself in the rearview mirror, Hagan lets out a yell of horror.

After opening with Bruce being released on bail and heading out to find the identity of the man who impersonated him, Part II has Hagan return to his trailer at the set with Teddy in order to pack everything up and then disappear forever. As the two of them talk about the possibility of him making a comeback despite what's happened, Hagan remembers when Daggett first came to him after he'd had his accident with the Renuyu formula, which he promised could do in seconds what plastic surgery could only accomplish in years, and then remembers that, despite the jobs he had to do for him in return, he appeared in some of the best films of his career afterward. When he walks by the posters on the wall of his trailer, Hagan's face begins reflexively shaping itself to imitate the characters on the posters and upon realizing this, he practices a little bit in front of a mirror, seeing that with concentration, he can not only look like anybody but can also shape any part of his body any way he chooses and can even form clothes. Teddy sees this as a way for him to continue with his career but when he breaks Hagan's concentration, he reverts back into Clayface and becomes frustrated because keeping the shapes up isn't something he can keep up for long. He trashes the inside of his trailer in a hopeless rage, yelling, "My career, my life, it is gone, and I can never get it back. I'm not an actor anymore. I'm not even... a man." He then breaks down in tears, which is when you really feel for him if you hadn't already, but decides to at least use his newfound ability to settle the score with Daggett, having Teddy drive him to the hospital since he knows that Daggett will eventually send someone to get rid of Lucius Fox permanently, planning to take the henchman's place once he knows who it is so he can attack Daggett without him realizing it until it's too late. Sure enough, during the previous scene between Clayface and Teddy, Daggett does decide to, "Settle the Fox matter once and for all," and sends Germs to do it. (Germs, who's a severe germaphobe, ironically, is hesitant to do so, but when Daggett gives him one hell of a death glare, he decides that it's not such a bad assignment.) That night, when Germs attempts to smother Lucius with a pillow, Batman stops him and, after a short chase, corners the henchman in his absolute worst nightmare: a storage room filled with samples of all sorts of deadly diseases. When Germs cowers underneath a small shelf, Batman places a container of what he claims to be crimsom fever atop and demands to know who impersonated Bruce Wayne, punching the wall, which causes the container to teeter on the edge, threatening to fall on Germs, when he feels he's lying. Germs gives him Matt Hagan's name but before he can tell him exactly how, Batman is interrupted by a police officer, who reveals himself to be Clayface in disguise, pinning Batman to the wall by stretching his arm out to a massive length, before actually tearing off a chunk of his face (God, that horrified me when I was a kid) and using it to gag Germs, who he caries to the roof. He just about throws Germs off the roof but Batman manages to save him and does battle with Clayface, who turns his arms into a variety of weapons, including a hammer, a clawed hand, and big crab claws, to attack him with. However, it wears Clayface out, and when he hears the police coming, he's forced to retreat, jumping off the building, splattering on the road below, and slithering into the sewers. The climax takes place at Summer Gleason's talk show, where she's interviewing Daggett about Renuyu, when an obese woman in the audience asks about the cream's purported addictive properties and then, as Daggett sweats bullets about the question, becomes very overzealous about it, grabbing the microphone out of Gleason's hand and marching up to the stage. She says, "Why don't you show them what an overdose can do, Daggett? Why don't you tell them about me?!", before revealing herself to be Clayface. After everyone in the studio runs off in a panic, Clayface almost manages to kill Daggett but is stopped by Batman, who ensures that Daggett won't escape by tying his legs up while he battles with Clayface. The battle moves from the studio, down the nearby hallway (there's a moment straight out of a horror movie, where Clayface explodes out of an air vent and reforms right behind Batman), and into the control room, with Batman proving to be no match for Clayface's shapeshifting powers, almost getting suffocated when the villain attempts to cover him completely in clay. However, Batman manages to save himself by switching on the monitors in the control, which begin playing videotapes of Hagan's movies that Batman brought with him, stopping Clayface in his tracks. Batman tries to use the images to show Clayface what he used to be and promises him that he can do it again if he'll help him find a cure for his condition. However, the plan backfires when Clayface's body begins changing reflexively, trying to imitate all of the images at once (and as you can see, it's nightmarish, to say the least). Batman tries to turn them off but the wildly changing Clayface accidentally knocks him back and the former actor begins smashing the equipment to make it stop, although he still continues to change wildly, unintentionally clearing Bruce Wayne he imitates his face right in front of some police officers who burst into the room, before smashing his hands into a monitor and electrocuting himself. Clayface falls to the floor and, before appearing to die, tells Batman, "You know what I would have given for a death scene like this? Too bad I won't get to read the notices." However, although all charges against Bruce are dropped and Lucius knows that it wasn't really his friend who attacked him, the episode ends with Batman discovering that electricity doesn't affect the material that makes up Clayface's structure, leading him to theorize that he used his acting chops to fake his death and is still alive. Sure enough, you see that the Clayface that was taken to the morgue was only a dried shell and that he took the form of a woman to escape into the public, laughing evilly upon hearing Teddy saying his final goodbye outside the building.

Joker's Favor: On his way home from work after a particularly bad day, Charlie Collins (voiced by Ed Begley Jr.), an accountant who sees himself as life's punching bag, is forced to make way for both the police and the Batmobile on the freeway, but when another car cuts him off like he doesn't exist, Charlie decides he's had enough and decides to stand up for himself. However, he realizes too late that he picked the worst possible moment to do so, because the driver who cut him off and who he gets alongside and yells threats at is none other than the Joker. As a result, Charlie finds himself stalked by the madman, whom he tries by getting off the freeway and driving into a suburban neighborhood. However, the Joker catches up with him and decides that he's going to have to teach him some "manners," but when Charlie pleads for his life, saying that he'll do anything, the Joker takes his driver's license and tells him that he'll be off the hook if he does a little favor for him. What that is, he doesn't know yet, but he tells Charlie to go back to his life and when he figures it out, he'll call. Two years later, Commissioner Gordon is being honored with a testimonial dinner for his years of service, and the Joker decides that he wants to "honor" him as well. He then tracks down Charlie, who's moved his family to Ohio and has changed his name to Don, and calls him up to head back to Gotham City to keep his part of the bargain, threatening his family if he tries to contact the police. This episode is great because poor Charlie is such a likable and relatable main character. We've all had our moments where we feel like our lives suck, that nothing goes our way, everybody and everything pushes us around (I've felt that way plenty of times), and sometimes, we just want to scream and chew out the next person we see. However, this guy learns that hard way that you should count your blessings because it could always get a lot worst. Charlie has no choice but to go along with the Joker's sick scheme, his part of which turns out to be nothing more than opening a door for Harley Quinn (her first appearance) so she can push in a big cake that the Joker is hiding in. However, after he does so, Charlie finds that his hand is glued to the door handle and he's left as a sitting duck when Harley lets loose a gas that paralyzes everyone else in the room and the Joker has her plant a medal on Gordon's chest that's actually a bomb. When Charlie says, "Wait, you promised to send me home," the Joker retorts, "I never said alive." This is one of the episodes that also goes into just how sick and twisted the Joker is. He threatened this poor guy, made him fear for both his and his family's safety to the point where they moved away, tracks him down and forces him to come back to Gotham to do something very frivolous and threatens his family if he goes to the cops, and then leaves him there to die even after he did what he said. Making this guy scared for his life for two years and keeping tabs on him the whole time was nothing more than a sick game to him and you can tell he takes sadistic pleasure when he leaves Charlie there to get blown up with everyone else. Fortunately, Batman spots a makeshift Bat Signal Charlie had set off and gets rid of the bomb, leading to some confrontations between him and the Joker's goons before he confronts the clown himself. However, what's most satisfying is seeing Charlie stand up to the Joker in an alleyway outside, punching him and shoving him, and threatening to blow them both up with another bomb to ensure his family's safety. The Joker immediately goes from being threatening to a whimpering coward who actually yells for Batman and calls Charlie crazy! Batman does appear and tells Charlie to get rid of the bomb, but when Charlie says that this is the only way he can think of to make sure his family stays safe, the Joker gives up everything on his family. When the Joker thinks he's now safe, he gets cocky again, telling Charlie he's no fun anymore, but then, to both his and Batman's horror, Charlie throws the bomb, prompting the Joker to duck behind Batman. The bomb explodes... and it's revealed that it was just a fake, which Charlie follows up on by telling the shaking Joker, "Gotcha." As Batman takes the Joker away, Charlie heads for home, wondering what his wife's making for dinner. "Right now, anything'd taste great, even meatloaf."

Vendetta: Like I said before, I didn't use to like this episode, mainly because I'm not that big a fan of Killer Croc, which it introduces, but, like It's Never Too Late, I've grown to appreciate and enjoy the story, particularly because it gives Harvey Bullock some character development and suggests that he may have been a dirty cop at one point. Spider Conway, a convict who used to work for Rupert Thorne, is being escorted to Gotham Harbor to testify against Thorne in exchange for some time off of his prison sentence. However, the boat is sabotaged with a enroute to Gotham and Conway is taken prisoner by the saboteur, who climbs aboard the boat from the ocean. Seeing the boat explode from the shore, Batman investigates and finds a toothpick on the docks near Stonegate Penitentiary, tying it to Detective Bullock, who has a habit of picking his teeth and then tossing the pick aside. Batman takes Bullock's file from the police station and you later learn that it reads that the detective was once suspected of accepting graft from Thorne. Although the case against him was dropped due to lack of evidence, Batman begins to suspect that Bullock is to blame for what happened since Conway was the one who gave out the information that got him in trouble. Things get even worse for Bullock when he's seen kidnapping another convict, Joey the Snail, from the police station, knocking out one of the guards in the process. He's immediately arrested, but Batman has now found evidence that the real perpetrator isn't Bullock at all but an old enemy from the detective's past who's out for revenge against him, Conway, and Joey the Snail. One of the things I like about this episode is it shows that Batman, despite being as intelligent and as skilled a detective as he is, is not infallible. He was fooled by Killer Croc's framing job on Bullock just as much as everyone else, which was probably bolstered not only by the past blot on Bullock's career (which you never learn the truth about) but also in no small part by the massive dislike the two men have for each other. Batman does interrogate Rupert Thorne himself since he would definitely have a reason to get rid of Conway but when the crime boss comes across as very confident that nothing Conway could tell the police would hurt him, Batman is forced to go back to suspecting Bullock. It's also interesting to note that this is one time when Commissioner Gordon is hoping that Batman's wrong, feeling that, despite his personality flaws, Bullock is a good cop. When Batman does learn that Killer Croc was the real culprit, he's man enough to admit to Bullock that he was wrong and tells him that while they may have different ways of enforcing the law, they're both determined to serve it. And while not a big fan of the character himself, I do like that Croc, while maybe not an out and out genius, is depicted as being clever enough to come up with a way to get revenge on Bullock, who busted him years before, and Conway and Joey the Snail, who testified against him, a way that would ensure Bullock spent some time in jail and likely ruin his career. Plus, I really like the way this episode looks, with the deep colors, the constant rain and overcast skies, and the way the characters are designed, with Batman looking particularly badass here, and the climactic fight between him and Croc in the sewers, forcing him to fight somebody who's stronger and more agile in the water, is a decent one.

Dreams in Darkness: Batman is in Arkham Asylum, deemed insane by the staff, particularly the administrator, Dr. Bartholomew, who has always felt he was mentally unstable. Batman tries to warn Bartholomew that they're all in danger and that Commissioner Gordon must be informed of what's going on, but his pleading fall on deaf ears. He thinks back on the events that led him to this. A few nights before, he had heard of something happening at a spa near Gotham and when he went to investigate, he found a man who was trying to do something to the spa's water supply. In the fight, the bizarre pump he was using was damaged and the two of them were doused with a red gas that spewed out of it. The man was taken to the hospital, suffering from horrific hallucinations that had him raving in terror, and as Batman examined the pump, he began to hallucinate as well. Concerned, he headed to the hospital to find out what affected the man and when he was examined by a female doctor who came in on him, she revealed that he has indeed been inoculated but because it was a smaller dose, it was taking longer to affect him. Although she had come up with an antidote for the poison, it would make him sleep for two days. Knowing he couldn't risk being out of action for so long, Batman took the medicine with him and headed for Arkham Asylum to find the one man he knew could have created the gas and who was possibly planning to infect the entire water supply of Gotham with it. However, on his way there, Batman had a hallucination of Robin in the road in front of him and when he swerved to dodge him, he crashed the Batmobile near Arkham. He was promptly rescued and taken to the asylum, and by this point the hallucinations had gotten to the point where he was raving, leading to his imprisonment. What's interesting about this episode is that it hits some of the same beats as the Scarecrow's debut episode, Nothing to Fear, particularly with Batman being infected by his fear toxin and having to stop him while trying to overcome the frightening visions he's having. While that first episode wasn't bad, I feel that this one does that much better since here, you really see what Batman is experiencing, while you only get a small taste of it in that first episode. The visions start out small, with Batman thinking the Joker is creeping up on him in the Batcave and seeing Robin in the road in front of him, but later on, they become very vivid and horrifying. In one scene, Batman hallucinates that he sees his mother and father walking into a tunnel and he runs for them, trying to warn them not to go in there, when the ground quakes and the tunnel rises up from the ground, where it's revealed to actually be the barrel of a gigantic gun (which seems to be leaking a stream of blood!) It then loads a bullet and Batman screams in horror as it fires at him. However, that's nothing compared to the nightmare he has when he manages to get down into the caverns below Arkham, where the Scarecrow is planning to infect the underground river that feeds Gotham its water. He hallucinates that he runs into his worst enemies, from the Joker (who he imagines start out as a rat at his feet) and the Penguin to Two-Face and Poison Ivy, and even Robin and Alfred show up and act sinister towards him, as Ivy hooks him with vine-like arms and drags him into a deep abyss, where he falls into the mouth of a giant Scarecrow head, who taunts him, "The great Batman, scared out of his mind. How does it feel?" Seeing Batman, who's usually as tough and fearless as they come, absolutely raving in terror and locked up in an Arkham cell with a straightjacket on, is quite humbling. This also all turns out to be part of the Scarecrow's plan, who set him up to go to the spa, knowing he would be infected by the gas. And while that first episode showed Batman dealing with only one hallucination during the climax, which he was able to overcome fairly easily, here you can see that he's going through a neverending nightmare as he tries to stop the Scarecrow, seeing his goons as hideous monsters and a power cord that he must tear out of the wall as a snake that's trying to bite his hand. However, with a strong will, he manages to destroy the Scarecrow's giant pump, exposing the good doctor to his own gas (which also happens at the end of Nothing to Fear). Finally, I always loved the ending, where, having returned the Scarecrow back to Gotham, Bruce is able to take the antidote and sleep peacefully in the Batcave, with the last shot being the shadow of a bat casting over him.

Eternal Youth: This is one that I remember vividly from when I was a real little kid, with some of the images really sticking with me over the years. If I can get one major problem I have with it out of the way, though, I don't think the opening, where you see a woman who attempts to escape from a spa being hunted down Poison Ivy, one because it ruins the mystery and you already know that there's something wrong with the place before it's introduced in the actual narrative, and two, in spite of that, they still try to make it a surprise that Ivy is the one behind everything when you can tell it's her at the beginning even though you don't see her face. It would have worked better if that opening had been scrapped. But, regardless, the story has Bruce Wayne receive a promotional video for a place called the Eternal Youth Spa in the mail. The video invites him for a free weekend there but Bruce feels that he's too busy to take the offer, instead allowing Alfred and his sort of girlfriend, Maggie (voiced by Paddy Edwards), to go in his place. While Alfred isn't too thrilled and initially refuses, the energetic for her age Maggie drags him along to the spa, where they're introduced to its founder, Dr. Daphne Demeter (if you've seen her first episode, you know right off the bat that this is really Poison Ivy; once again, the reveal doesn't work). She tells them that she has created a new compound called Demetrite, which can be found in the food, water, and even the air at the spa. While Alfred is still initially skeptical, he soon warms to it when he tastes the food and water and begins to really enjoy himself. Back in Gotham City, Commissioner Gordon tells Batman that several prominent industrialists have recently disappeared without a trace, and when Batman investigates the apartment of one of them, Mrs. Thomas (the woman at the beginning), he finds another promotional video for the Eternal Youth Spa. When he calls Alfred at the spa, all he's able to tell him is that Mrs. Thomas supposedly left by herself several weeks before. When he returns home, Alfred begins feeling like a new man, decorating the Batcave with potted plants and continuing to ingest doses of the Demetrite compound. However, when Alfred almost falls faint and Batman has to help him up to bed, he becomes suspicious of the Demetrite. When he combines it with human plasma in an experiment, a massive vine shoots out of the beaker and when he attempts to warn Alfred, he finds that he's gone. He and Maggie have returned to the spa... where Dr. Demeter has them sprayed with the same chemical solution that was used on Mrs. Thomas at the beginning, petrifying them. My favorite thing about this episode is that, as you can see, it mainly focuses on Alfred, who doesn't get that many episodes centering around him. He may fall victim to Poison Ivy's scheme but it's still nice to see him getting to do more and having a sort of girlfriend for him to spend time with (Maggie's never seen again, though). However, what really stuck with me when I saw this as a kid was the images of Alfred and Maggie being petrified by the Demetrite gas, completely with nasty cracking and snapping sounds as their joints freeze up. Even more horrific is when Poison Ivy reveals the full extent of what she's done to Batman: she's turned all of her victims into humanoid trees, punishment for having committed various crimes against nature, such as leveling entire forests and the like. She targeted Bruce Wayne for taking part in a slash-and-burn operation in the Amazon; little did she know that, at the beginning of the episode, Bruce gave the director who approved that deal without his authorization a massive verbal lashing over the phone, threatening to fire him if he didn't shut it down. That's another I like about this episode: it gives one of the best examples of how actively involved with his company this iteration of Bruce Wayne is. Plus, I also like the setting of the spa, with its greenhouse-like center where Ivy is creating this garden of horrors. The final confrontation between her and Batman isn't much to write home about (although I like how Batman was clever enough to coat his suit with an antidote to the Demetrite) and the compound's causing a massive tree to explode out of the ground when it's knocked over is a bit random, but everything else about this episode works for me.

Perchance to Dream: One night, Batman pursues a car full of crooks into a warehouse, where he seems to fall into some kind of trap that knocks him out. He awakens back at Wayne Manor the next morning as Bruce Wayne, not knowing what happened afterward or how he made it back, with Alfred not seeming to know who he's talking about when he asks if Robin was the one who brought him home. However, that proves not to be the only thing that's amiss: the entrance to the Batcave doesn't exist, he's engaged to Selina Kyle, and, most surprising of all, his parents are alive and well and Batman is someone else entirely. How's that for an interesting set-up? First off, I find that this mystery works much better than the one in Eternal Youth, since it is quite possible that the opening was the latest in a long series of dreams and delusions that Bruce Wayne has had about being Batman. I also find the idea that he's perhaps been disatisfied with his life because, due to his wealth, everything has been handed to him without him having to work for it and that, as a result, he's identified with Batman, someone whose existence does have a great effect on the world around him, to the point where he's imagined that he is Batman, to be an interesting and plausible one. What's more, it's interesting to see how Bruce's life would have turned out had his parents not been murdered and how, while he initially finds it hard to accept that his life as Batman and what led up to it was nothing more than a delusion, he very briefly begins to enjoy and accept it. However, he knows for sure that something's very wrong when he tries to read the newspaper and the books in the manor's library and sees that the text is a scrambled mess. Feeling that Batman is somehow responsible for what's happening, Bruce, with the police being called on him due to his erratic behavior, heads to Gotham Cemetery and climbs to the top of a belltower there, where he confronts his alter ego. He tells him that his inability to read anything proved to him what he suspected all along: he's dreaming, which is caused by the left side of the brain, whereas reading is a function of the right side. He and Batman then engage in a fierce brawl, which is surreal to watch, to say the least, and you could sort of view it, as well as the anger Bruce showed towards Batman earlier and how he blamed him for whatever was going on, as an expression of a subconscious resentment he may possible have towards his alter ego and what taking it on did to his life. Eventually, Bruce unmasks Batman to reveal, of all people, the Mad Hatter, albeit a dream version of him, while the real one still has no knowledge of his secret identity. It's revealed that Batman is actually hooked to the villain's dream machine in the real world and that what he's been experiencing has all been manufactured by it. (There was actually a subtle hint at the very beginning that he had some involvement in the story: his theme music was played over the title card.) Although he's told that this dream is his own private Wonderland and that there's no way to wake up from it, he's determined not to live a lie, no matter how attractive it is, and jumps off the belltower, jarring himself awake in the real world. He immediately breaks free and grabs the Mad Hatter, angrily asking him why he did it. The Mad Hatter then breaks down, tearfully telling that he ruined his life (referring to his origin episode, Mad as a Hatter, where Batman foiled his attempt to make Alice his sweetheart through mind control) and that he was willing to give him whatever dream he wanted, just to keep him out of his life. The episode ends with the police being called and the Hatter being taken away, while Commissioner Gordon asks Batman what the dream machine is. He simply says, "The stuff that dreams are made of," and heads home, dealing with the sobering reality that the life he'd often hoped for and was living for a little while was nothing more than a fantasy.

Robin's Reckoning: After everything I said about it earlier, you had to know that this awesome two-parter was coming. One night, Batman and Robin stake out a construction site, waiting for the arrival of some mobsters who are planning to extort money from one of the city's wealthy architects. When the crooks do arrive, a fight breaks out between them and the two heroes high up in the uncompleted building, resulting in all but one of them escaping. Eventually, they manage to make the one crook name his boss: Billy Marrin. Batman appears horrified to hear the name and unexpectedly tells Robin that the job is over and they head back to the Batcave. When they get back home, Batman goes to look for Marrin by himself, telling Robin to stay out of this one but not explaining why. Frustrated by his actions, Robin looks up Billy Marrin in the Batcave's computer with Alfred and they discover that it's one of many aliases for Tony Zucco (voiced by Thomas Wilson): the man who engineered the death of Robin's parents back when he was a young child. The episode then flashes back to when Dick Grayson was a ten-year old acrobat who performed with his family in the circus. When they arrived in Gotham City to perform at a charity convention for Wayne-Tech Industries, Dick overheard a heated argument between the circus' ringmaster, Mr. Haley, and Zucco, who was trying to make him buy some insurance for his performers. When Haley rebuffed his offer, Zucco decided to take revenge by sabotaging the Graysons' performance that night, partially cutting through a trapeze rope. The way the death of Dick's parents is played off is subtle but extremely effective: all you see is the cut rope gradually weakening as the act goes on, Dick noticing it at the last minute, and his mother and father swinging out of camera as they catch each other and the now broken trapeze swinging back into frame. The next shot is the horrified reactions of the audience, with Bruce Wayne among them. In the ensuing investigation, Commissioner Gordon fears that the boy will have no place to go since he's a material witness who identified Zucco since he saw him leaving the tent right before the tragedy, but Bruce, feeling pity for him since he knows what he's going through, takes him in. You really see just how personal this is for him as he becomes obsessed with finding Zucco, tracking him down all over Gotham, to the point where nobody will house him since they know Batman's on his trail. He even causes Zucco's uncle, who just happens to be Arnold Stromwell from It's Never Too Late, to throw him out of the house after Batman shows up and threatens him if he doesn't get his hands on Zucco. He becomes so obsessed, especially when Zucco slips out of town, that it takes Alfred to remind him that he's been neglecting Dick, who really needs a father figure at the moment. There's a nice bonding moment between the two of them when Dick admits that he feels responsible for what happened since he didn't speak up about Zucco when he had the chance and Bruce tells him that something similar happened to his parents and that he felt the same way. He can't promise him that the pain will go away completely but he does assure him that it will get better with time. The first part then goes back to the present-time, with Robin angrily telling Batman over the Batmobile's communicator that he can't take Zucco on without him but Batman again tells him to stay out of it and switches it off. Robin, however, isn't about to let this chance for revenge slip out of his hands and sets out on a Batcycle to find Zucco himself, telling Alfred that as a result of this deception, he may never listen to Batman again.

Part II begins with Batman, seeing that Robin disobeyed him and is following the Batmobile via the Batcycle's radar, switching the signal off so he can't follow him. Robin, however, is undeterred, feeling that he can find Zucco himself just like he did before. We then get another flashback that shows just how that happened, where Dick, after having become very close to Bruce by that point, over hears Gordon telling him that Zucco may try to kill the kid at Wayne Manor in order to silence him. Dick decides to find Zucco first and runs away to do so, unsuccessfully at first but eventually finds a lead that proves to be fruitful. He's caught by Zucco when he attempts to call the police and almost does the kid in, when Batman arrives. He's just about to capture the murderer when Dick's rage boils over and he lashes out at Zucco, who responds by throwing him into a nearby spillway. Batman attempts to incapacitate Zucco while he tries to save Dick but, by the time he does so, they see that he's escaped again, with Dick taking his frustration out on Batman, admonishing him for saving him instead of dealing with Zucco. Undaunted, Batman takes Dick with him back to the Batcave and asks him just how badly he wants Zucco. He then reveals himself to really be Bruce and then officially accepts him as his crimefighting partner. Back in reality, Robin uses his own detective skills to find where Zucco is. Batman manages to find him first but Zucco, extremely paranoid of being back in Batman's territory, fires his Tommy gun at the ceiling of the shack he and his men are staying in, resulting in Batman falling down into the room, his leg now severely injured. He just barely manages to escape and hides out in a nearby amusement park, where he makes a splint using a wooden plank and a ripped piece of his cape. He's successful in dealing with the thugs, leading into a fight on a moving carousel, but Zucco is a different story and he almost manages to kill him, when Robin arrives on the Batcycle. He grabs Zucco by the collar of his suit and drags him to the end of a pier near the park, his hatred now boiling over as he prepares to settle the score once and for all. His frustration towards Batman and the cold, distant way that he acts, which you can tell isn't a recent wedge between the two of them, also boils over when the former tries to talk him down from killing Zucco. He angrily says, "Stuff your adivce, Batman! You and your stone-cold heart!" and tells him that he has no idea how he feels. Batman has no reaction to this and Robin, getting ahold of himself, realizes who he just said that to and, feeling ashamed, apologizes and hands Zucco over to the arriving police. As the sun rises, the episode concludes with Robin telling Batman that he was right in not bringing him along, that he wouldn't have been able to control his desire for revenge, but Batman reveals that wasn't it: after everything Zucco had put him through, he didn't want Robin to go through any more, and he especially didn't want to risk losing him to the murderer. And with that, the two heroes, back on friendly terms, head home after a long and painful, both physically and emotionally, night.

The Laughing Fish: Two things about this episode really stuck out to me from when I was a little kid, the first of which is its very opening. Instead of a title card, you have an opening shot of a fishery sign, which sports a kind of disturbing grinning fish, swinging in the wind, illuminated briefly by a flash of lightning as the title comes up. There's no music either, making it all the more eerie: a perfect set-up for an episode that serves as a prime example of how demented and psychotic the Joker is, with some surprisingly disturbing moments and ideas. Plus, the dreary, rainy feel of the entire story and an unsettling but simple piano main theme significantly add to its feeling of unease. At Gotham Harbor, a group of fishermen take a look at the big catch of the night, only to be horrified to see that all of the fish are pale and green and have a hideous, Joker-like smile on their faces. Seeing this, Batman takes one of the fish back to the Batcave for analysis, unable to guess what the Joker's plan is since his bizarre schemes only make sense in his twisted mind. In the meantime, the Joker pays a visit to the Gotham Office of Copyrights and makes a nonsensical request to a random worker there, G. Carl Francis (voiced by George Dzundza): since all of the fish in Gotham Harbor now have his face, he should be entitled to royalties from any use made of them. Francis, however, tells him that a natural resource like fish can't be copyrighted, which only angers the Joker, prompting him to give him an ultimatum: he has until midnight to change his mind, or else. That scene alone makes for a nice glimpse into the Joker's depraved psyche, particularly the moment when he tells Francis not to speak and when he answers a question that he asks immediately afterward, he smacks him with a fish and yells, "I thought I told you not to speak!", and how he seems absolutely crushed that he can't copyright the fish who have his face. Things only get more insane when Batman, hearing about the Joker's threat towards Francis due to a fake commercial the clown plays on every television channel in Gotham, join the police in guarding Francis at his house. Batman explains to Francis, who doesn't understand why the Joker is targeting him since he's hardly in a position to change the copyright laws overnight, that in his sick mind, that's exactly the joke. When midnight arrives, Francis just happens to mention how Harley Quinn sprayed him with some type of perfume after the Joker smacked him with that fish, which prompts Batman to yell that he needs to be taken to a hospital immediately. However, it's too late: a Joker van that drove up outside launches a fish-shaped rocket through the window that releases a gas that causes Francis to begin laughing uncontrollably, with his eyes bulging out and a Joker-like grin spreading across his face. Fortunately, Batman's come prepared with an anti-toxin and injects Francis with it just in time, explaining that the reason they weren't affected was because the gas and the "perfume" that Harley sprayed him with earlier worked together as a binary compound. Still not satisfied, though, the Joker appears on the television again and announces that copyright office head Thomas Jackson will suffer the same fate unless his demands are met by 3:00 AM. This leads into the other part of the episode that always stuck with me: Batman and the police again try to protect Jackson, with Jackson trading outfits with Batman in an attempt for the latter to act as a decoy, when Jackson's cat slips in with a Joker fish in its mouth. Knowing instinctively who its master is, the cat jumps at the disguised Jackson and poisons him, with Batman again forced to administer an antidote. The thing is, you don't realize until right then about the decoy plan, so it looks like Batman is the one who's been poisoned and is laughing like a maniac! Not being old enough to understand at the time, that really shook. And as if that wasn't unsettling enough, the cat laughs in a hissing manner! The climax takes place at Gotham Aquarium, with Detective Bullock going there when he tires of Batman's methods and gets captured by the Joker, who really wants Batman (whether this was really his plan all along or if he really did intend to copyright fish is anyone's guess). When the hero arrives, he switches places with Bullock and is lowered, with his wrists shackled, into a tank to face an enormous shark, with the Joker pushing Bullock in as well. They both, of course, manage to escape and Batman faces off with the Joker on the roof. After a brief fight, with the Joker trying to whack Batman with a wrench, he attempts to escape by jumping down into the harbor below, only to apparently be eaten by the very shark he tried to feed Batman and Bullock to. The episode ends on an ominous note, with Batman unable to believe that the Joker is really gone since he didn't actually see the shark eat him, and the last shot is of said shark diving in and out of the water, swallowing a Joker card floating on the surface.

The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne: Judge Maria Vargas (voiced by Carmen Zapata) meets with two goons on a closed bridge to trade a purse filled with cash for a strange videotape. However, one of the thugs deduces that there's $20,000 missing, she's told that the price for the tape just went up by $100,000, which she can't afford to pay. When the thugs rebuff her, Batman appears and attacks the men, resulting in the tape getting knocked onto an I-beam jutting out the side of the bridge. Judge Vargas goes after it in desperation but knocks herself out when she falls on the beam and almost falls. Batman manages to save her but the distraction enables the goons to escape and the tape falls into the river below. After the police arrive and Vargas is taken to the hospital, Commissioner Gordon talks with Batman about it, insisting that Vargas is such an honest woman that it can't be a case of blackmail. Batman, however, isn't so sure given how desperately she was to retrieve the tape, and his suspicions grow when Gordon tells him that Vargas had just recently returned from a vacation at the Yucca Springs Health Resort... a subsidiary of Daggett Industries. He decides to head there as Bruce Wayne and schedules an appointment with Hugo Strange, the same doctor who treated Vargas. During their session, Strange puts him on a machine that he says will relax him by lowering the defenses people put to hide the truth from both themselves and others. As a result, Bruce thinks back to the death of his parents and how it drove him to seek revenge, with images taken from his brain appearing on a monitor that shows Strange that his patient is actually Batman. Following the session, Bruce investigates the machine during Strange's absence and discovers that it can read a person's thoughts, not realizing that the good doctor plans to do something far more drastic than using the tape to blackmail him, like he did Vargas. I like this episode for two reasons, one of which is the idea that you have a villain who's created a machine that can see into a person's most private thoughts, their dirtiest secrets, and then use what he's found to blackmail them. That's possibly the ultimate violation imaginable, and is especially devastating for somebody like Bruce Wayne, whose secrets would spell complete doom for him if they were exposed. What's really awesome about it, though, is that Bruce is able to use the machine against its inventor, creating a tape that appears to expose Strange as using the machine to imagine Batman to be anyone he wants and then sell the tape to his enemies, making him a target of said enemies when they feel like they've been had. The second thing I really like about this episode is seeing the Joker, Two-Face, and the Penguin, whom Strange has flown in to bid for the tape, interact and play off of each other. It's a cool idea to see such iconic villains in the same scenes together and there are some great moments, like when they're bidding for the tape and the Joker suddenly interrupts. Two-Face snarls, "Get out of my face, clown!" and the Joker quips, "Which one?" Speaking of the Joker, he has some funny moments here, like when he first arrives and takes a deep breath, saying, "Ah, sunshine, clean air," before coughing and adding, "Ugh, I hate it," and when Strange runs into technical difficulties while trying to play the tape and he yells, "Focus! Focus! Foooo-cus!" (I almost got in trouble at school when I did that during a presentation that was having similar problems.) When they think that they've been tricked, the villains chase after Strange and manage to take him prisoner aboard a plane at the nearby airport. Once they're in the air, Strange tries to convince them that Bruce Wayne is Batman but Two-Face, ironically, comes to Bruce's defense, saying, "That's absurd! I know Bruce Wayne, and if he's Batman, I'm the King of England." They're about to throw Strange out to his death when Batman, who climbed onto the plane's underside, cuts the fuel lines, forcing them to land. The Joker has another funny moment when he you hear him do the Goofy yell as the plane spirals downward and once they're on the ground, he jumps out wearing a parachute, saying, "Oh, what a rush." The episode ends with a nice ruse from Batman. When Strange, still thinking he has the upperhand, tells Batman that he knows his secret and has figured out how he made him look like a liar in front of the other villains, Bruce Wayne suddenly walks up to them and Batman tells Strange that he enlisted Bruce's help in exposing him. Once the confused and distraught doctor is taken away, Bruce is revealed to actually be Dick Grayson dressed up as him. I look at that and I'm like, "Nice one, Bats."

Moon of the Wolf: Alright, here's one that's most definitely on this list purely out of nostalgia. I do agree that there are holes in this episode's plot and it's not exactly the most thought-provoking either, but I saw it a lot when I was a kid and I still enjoy it even now. For one, I like werewolves, so Batman going up against one is fine with me (let's face it, he's gone up against stranger), and I really like the music for this episode, which uses a distinctive electric guitar theme for the werewolf that sounds really cool. The story begins with John Hamner, who works as a guard at Gotham Zoo, walking his dog in the city park in one night, when he's attacked by a very large werewolf. The monster almost kills him when Batman arrives just in time, his introduction being the epitome of badass: he tells the werewolf, "If it's a fight you're looking for, try starting one with me!" as he runs in and kicks him right in the face. He fights with the werewolf for a little bit but when he throws Hamner off a bridge and into a stream, Batman sees to him, allowing the werewolf to escape. Batman heads to the police station and tells Commissioner Gordon about the attack, describing the culprit as, "A mugger in a werewolf mask," but when Gordon checks the police database, all he can find is a report of two Alaskan timber wolves that were stolen from Gotham Zoo the previous Friday. Remembering that Hamner worked at the zoo, and upon finding some hair from the creature on his glove, Batman begins to wonder if the attacker was an actual werewolf. Speaking of which, the werewolf heads to a construction site and smashes into a cabin occupied by Milo, the demented chemist who was introduced in Cat Scratch Fever as the one who created the virus Roland Daggett attempted to infect the populace of Gotham with. Not at all frightenend by the beast, Milo watches as he reverts back to his human form, former Olympic champion Anthony Romulus, and prepares to cure him of his werewolfism now that he's gotten rid of Hamner. However, when Romulus tells him that Batman interfered, Milo decides to make him the werewolf's next target. To that end, Romulus has it announced that he will double his planned donation to a Gotham charity if Batman comes by his house to pick up the check personally. Batman complies but when he enters Romulus' house, he realizes too late that it's been filled with gas that renders him unconscious. Romulus and Milo take Batman back to the construction site and chain him up, waiting for the moon to rise so the werewolf can take care of him. That's when Romulus reveals that he's not a willing participant in Milo's crime and, in a flashback, how their "partnership" came about is revealed. He trained as hard as he could to be the best champion ever but, not satisfied, he met Milo, who provided him with an undetectable steroid derivative that also contained wolf estrogen. Taking the serum did wonders for Romulus, allowing him to win at every event he took part in, which also led to fame and a massive fortune. However, Romulus made the mistake of refusing to share the profits with Milo, after which he learned of the serum's nasty side-effect: it infected him with lycanthropy. When he went to Milo, the chemist told him that he could only cure advanced werewolfism and tricked him into drinking a formula that completed the process, telling him that he would have to do whatever he told him to for the cure. Here's where the first plothole comes up: if Romulus wanted to be free of this condition, why didn't he just keep his mouth shut about Batman stopping him from killing Hamner when Milo was just about to give him the antidote? If I was him, I would have taken the antidote and said, "Oh, by the way. Batman stopped me from doing your dirty work, but that's not my problem now. So long, sucker!" Another plothole comes up after that, when Harvey Bullock interrogates Hamner at the zoo, finding strong evidence that someone paid him to leave the cages of the two wolves that were stolen unlocked. Obviously, you assume that Milo is the one who paid him to do so in order to extract the estrogen needed for the werewolf serum and that he sent the werewolf to kill him to keep him from ever talking about it, but, the thing is, Gordon said that the wolves were only stolen the previous Friday. So, does that mean that Milo's infecting Romulus with the serum, his competing in the games and becoming rich and famous, his discovery of what's happening to him and Milo tricking him into becoming a full-blown werewolf, and the incident with Hamner at the park all happened within a week or less? That's really hard to swallow. So, yeah, this episode is hardly a masterpiece of writing but I still like the idea and I really enjoy the climax, where Romulus transforms (another scene from this show that stuck with me from when I was a kid), attacks Milo, causing him to drop the tube containing the antidote, and puts him out of commission by destroying the cabin and knocking him down into a ditch, before setting his sights on Batman. Batman manages to pick the lock to his chains and engages the werewolf in another fierce brawl, smashing him over the head with a wooden beam, has him follow him to the top of the stadium that was being constructed, slides a chain through his mouth to try to get him under control, and eventually knocks him into mid-air with the hook on a nearby crane. The werewolf grabs ahold of the hook but the crane is struck by lightning, electrocuting the werewolf and sending him plummeting into the river below. After Milo is taken away and Bullock says that they couldn't find any trace of the werewolf, saying that they'll no for sure the next full moon, the episode ends on a shot of the werewolf baying at the moon. I think it's a shame that he was never featured in another episode, especially since Batman never found out that Milo was involved and that he was fighting with Romulus the whole time. Maybe they could have had Batman trying to help him find out how Milo cooked up the antidote.

Terror in the Sky: Yeah, another episode about somebody turning into a monster due to a serum. I know these types of episodes aren't very popular with fans but I hope we can all agree that this, On Leather Wings, and Moon of the Wolf are much better than Tyger, Tyger. In any case, during a cold winter in Gotham, two dockworkers are attacked one night by a familiar, humanoid bat-creature that gorges itself on the fruit they were loading. After the monster leaves, the workers report it to the police, who are quite skeptical, but when Batman overhears the conversation, it reminds him of Dr. Kirk Langstrom and the monster that he turned himself into: the Man-Bat. The next morning, Batman confronts Langstrom at his laboratory but the scientist, who appeared to have a nightmare about it the night before and found that the rug in his bedroom to have claw marks and pieces of fruit, tells him that he hasn't taken the formula again and that the cure he gave him didn't work. To prove who's right, Batman takes a sample of Langstrom's DNA and heads out, only to be attacked by the Man-Bat when he attempts to leave on the Batcycle. The monster chases him through the streets of Gotham and Batman tries to capture it by snagging its leg with his grappling gun but it manages to use its massive strength to get away, with Batman being forced to abandon his Batcycle on the train tracks when a train heads right for him (he groans, "The end to a perfect day,"). Fortunately, back at the Batcave, he discovers that some bits of the Man-Bat's hair got caught up in his suit, providing him with enough samples that he needs to confirm whether or not the creature is Langstrom. After running his tests, Batman goes to Langstrom and tells him that, according to his tests, the cure did work and that this Man-Bat is someone else. While Batman attempts find out who, Langstrom heads to Gotham Airport to try to stop his wife, Francine, who said that she couldn't go through this nightmare again, from leaving him. Batman goes back to Dr. March's, Francine's father, laboratory and confronts him about what's been going on. March admits that he's refined the serum that originally turned Langstrom into the Man-Bat but tells Batman that he himself hasn't taken it, recounting to him that after working through the night on it, Francine came into the room and startled him, causing him to drop the beaker. And that's when he remembers that Francine, unaware of what her father was doing, helped him clean up the mess and cut her finger on a shard of glass from the beaker, meaning that she was inoculated with the serum. March, horrified at what he's done, is angrily asked by Batman, "Is that what it's going to take, your daughter's life, before you end this insanity?" After Batman leaves, March destroys his files on the experiment. The climax starts on a plane that's leaving Gotham, where Langstrom meets up with Francine and tells her that he's not the Man-Bat and that Batman can prove it. It looks like they're about to reconcile when Francine, who's been feeling ill lately, runs to the bathroom and painfully transforms into the monster (I guess it should really be called a Woman-Bat, then). She goes on a rampage inside the plane, smashing open the door in order to escape and depressurizing the cabin as a result. Langstrom, who was knocked unconscious in the pandemonium, is sucked out of the door but the Woman-Bat, still retaining some of Francine's psyche, dives after him and saves him. In the Batwing, Batman saves a stewardess who also gets sucked out the door and then closes it, allowing the plane to land safely and him to go after the creature. He chases her above the Gotham skyline and she eventually lands atop one of the towers on Gotham Bridge, where she fights Batman physically. During the fight, Batman shoots her with two darts containing an antidote that he created but it takes a bit for it to take effect, enough time for Woman-Bat to almost knock him off the bridge, but she eventually collapses and changes back into Francine. There's one last bit of tension as Francine, disoriented, almost falls off the bridge but Langstrom catches his wife just in time and they embrace, happy that it's finally over (I like Batman just walks back to the hovering Batwing, as if he's just going to leave them there!) Nothing really special about this episode but, because I saw it a lot as a kid and also because I happen to like episodes with this kind of plot in any show, it's one I always enjoy watching.

Almost Got 'Im: Doug Walker considers this to be the best episode of the entire series and it's not hard to see why. This takes what was one of my favorite things about The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne, the villains sharing screentime and playing off of each other, and runs with it. The Joker, the Penguin, Two-Face, and "Killer Croc" (you'll see what I meant by that later on) are joined by Poison Ivy in a card game at the Stacked Deck Club, where they're all attempting to hide from the police and, especially, Batman. To pass the time, they share their individual stories of how they each almost managed to do the Dark Knight in: Poison Ivy lured him to her when she attempted to spread poison ivy gas throughout Gotham City on Halloween night and almost unmasked him (God, the outfit that she wears in this story is hot); Two-Face tried to do him in by tying him to a gigantic penny at the Gotham Mint; and then flipping it with a catapult to see whether it would land face-down and smash him or face-up, which would break every bone in his body; Killer Croc threw a rock at him in a quarry, which does not impress the other villains at all, leading Croc to say, "It was a big rock,"; the Penguin led him into a large aviary at the Gotham Zoo and sicced a number of dangerous birds on him; and the Joker, having both the most elaborate and most recent scheme, took over the set of a popular talk show the night before, took the audience, managed to capture Batman when he arrived to save the audience, hooked him up to an electric chair that was powered by the intensity of laughter, and then pumped his laughing gas into the studio in order to elicit said laughter. Like Walker said, what makes this episode is not just the stories of their encounters with Batman, which are all entertaining to watch, but just the sight of some of Batman's most popular enemies just sitting around and shooting the shit, which tells you just as much about them and their personalities as their schemes. What's more, it's also enjoyable to see them play off of each other. When Poison Ivy shows up, Two-Face, who remembers how she tried to kill him back when he was still Gotham's DA, says, "Half of me wants to strangle you." Ivy asks, "And what does the other half want?" and Two-Face growls, "To hit you with a truck," prompting Ivy to explain, "We used to date." When the Penguin begins telling his story, he's using a lot of big, fancy words, prompting the Joker to tell him, "Smaller words, please. You're losing Croc," and during the story, when he tells Batman that he's in his "Aviary of Doom," it cuts back to the game, where Ivy remarks, "Aviary of what?" and the Joker goes, "Yeesh, Pengers, how corny can you get?" I also like when Ivy asks Two-Face what happened to the giant penny that he tried to kill Batman with and he says that they let him keep it as a souvenier (and you actually see it in the Batcave in other episodes!) However, the episode isn't all about a bunch of stories courtesy of the villains; there actually is a wrap-around plot. The Joker's story ends with Catwoman breaking into the TV studio and saving Batman, only for her to be knocked out by Harley Quinn when she tries to chase after the Joker. He then reveals that Catwoman was taken to a catfood factory, where Harley strapped her to a meat chopper, and that, after spending some time at the club to lose Batman, he's now heading to the factory to turn Catwoman into literal cat food. (I love the looks on the villains' faces, especially Ivy's, as the Joker tell them this. I can't tell if they can't believe that he might actually be able to lure Batman to his doom with this plot or if they can't believe how freaking sick it is.) That's when Croc reveals himself to actually be Batman in disguise, and while it at first seems like this infiltration was pretty foolish on his part, since he's now alone with some of his deadliest enemies who see an opportunity to do him in, everyone else in the bar turns out to be cop: the whole thing was a sting. With the villains under control, Batman heads to the factory and manages to save Catwoman from being chopped while putting Harley out of commission. The episode ends with Batman and Catwoman atop the factory, as Catwoman comes on to him, talking about how they make a good team... only for her to make the mistake of turning her back to him, enabling him to swing off into the night. What else can she say as she watches him other than, "Hm. Almost got 'im,"?

Birds of a Feather: This is definitely one of the best episodes that focuses solely on the Penguin. It starts with him up to his usual antics: stealing some priceless paintings, only for Batman to show up, thwart his plan, and once again send him to prison. Some time later, when he's released from prison, he decides to give up his life of crime and rejoin the elite society, which he's always considered himself to be part of, despite his criminal ways. At the same time, socialite Veronica Vreeland is afraid that her own social status is slipping and feels that she needs to do something special to get it back up. She then learns of the Penguin's release and, remembering the attention a friend of hers got when the Joker crashed her party, decides to snag him for a party of her own. The Penguin, who's disappointed when he returns home to only find Batman waiting for him, warning him to watch his step because he'll be keeping an eye on him wherever he goes, gets a call from Veronica and takes her up on her offer for a dinner date that evening. What's interesting here is how the episode comments on the really bad side of high society. When the Penguin announces that he's reformed, you may initially think, "Yeah, right," but, in actuality, he means it, and tries his best to be an upstanding citizen. Unfortunately, his less than classy behavior, which include telling really bad jokes in a loud, obnoxious manner (he finishes one with, "And I said, 'But warden, those aren't my pants!'"; um, what was that story about?) and his disgusting habit of swallowing fish whole, and his well-known crimes make it impossible for others to accept him as such and he doesn't realize how off-putting he is. At first, Veronica is just as disgusted by him as everyone else and is only going to keep him on the hook long enough for her party, but when he defends her from some thugs that attack them when they leave the restaurant, she begins to genuinely like him, despite his flaws. Her snooty friend, Pierce, however, is an example of the absolute worst aspect of high society. He's the one who gives Veronica the idea to make a joke out of the Penguin for her social status, snoddily refers to the Penguin as, "Not our kind," and later on, he acts very petulant towards Commissioner Gordon, saying that he sometimes wonders, "Why we pay you people." In any case, when the night of the party arrives, the Penguin does indeed socialize with the guests, trying to come off as witty and classy but he ends up horrifying the guests, particularly the president of one of the banks he's robbed before, to whom he suggests getting better locks for the safe ("Sir, you leave me at a loss for words!", "I certainly left you at a loss for funds!"). There's one moment I love when he spots Mayor Hill, who immediately tries to duck him as he follows after him, saying, "Hey, Hammy!" At the same time, though, he's preparing to give Veronica a golden penguin pin, which surprises Bruce Wayne, who's also attending the party, and says that the rumors about his reform apparently are true, to which the Penguin says, "Anything's possible when love's involved." However, he overhears Veronica and Pierce talking about why they invited him and, immediately becoming enraged, knocks them out with gas and takes Veronica hostage. He later has it arranged that Pierce bring him the ransom of $1 million and manages to trick him into leaving his police protection, which results in him being chained to the floor inside an opera theater. The Penguin has Veronica tied to a chandelier right above Pierce and when she tells him that she can get him more money, the Penguin angrily tells her that all he wanted from her was a little friendship. When he finds a bat-tracer within the money, he attempts to put both of them out of their misery at once by dropping the chandelier onto Pierce but Batman arrives and saves them, leading to a battle between him and the Penguin, with the latter riding a large, dragon marionette that's able to breath fire. However, Batman doesn't have much trouble in defeating him and the story ends with the Penguin being taken away by the police. Veronica tells him that she really was growing fond of him and that it's a shame that it turned out this way. The Penguin, however, tells her, "I guess it's true what they say: society is to blame. High society." Yeah, in this case, all the upper class managed to do was inspire someone to humiliate another person trying to turn their life around, prompting them to go back to crime, and what's more, to go through with it even though they were beginning to genuinely like the object of the prank. In short, the Penguin and the upper class are birds of a feather: they're both very ugly.

I Am The Night: It's the anniversary of his parents' deaths, and Batman is tired, both physically and mentally. His spirit, especially, is tired, and after reading that the latest conviction against the Penguin was overturned due to a technicality, he begins to wonder if he is making a difference in the war against crime, which just goes on and on. He heads out to his yearly visit with his family's old friend, Dr. Leslie Thompkins, at the spot where his parents were gunned down, while at the same time, Commissioner Gordon and the police force wait for his arrival at a raid on a building occupied by mob-boss Jimmy Peake (voiced by Brion George), aka the "Jazzman." Circumstances in Crime Alley cause Batman to be late for the raid, which turns out to have been a set up, and while the crooks, including the Jazzman, are eventually arrested, Gordon is revealed to have been severely wounded in the gunfight that happened in-between. He's taken to the hospital, where his life hangs by a thread, with Batman feeling extreme guilt over having not been there, causing him to sink further into the despair that he was already feeling. Unable to accept someone that he cares about getting hurt or killed as a result of what he does, Batman decides that it may be time to hang the cape up once and for all. However, he may have given up his life of crimefighting when Gordon needs him the most: the Jazzman manages to escape from Stonegate Penitentiary and is dead-set on settling the score with Gordon, who busted him years before. This is another episode that I don't hear many talk about and I don't know why. I will admit, the final confrontation between Batman and the Jazzman at the hospital is a bit anti-climactic because it's not much of a fight, Batman manages to stop him pretty easily (the lead up to him throwing the Batarang that stops the fatal bullet is done in slow-motion to make it feel more impactful but it comes across as melodramatic to me), and, due to the nature of the show's production, you know there's no way in hell that the Jazzman is going to succeed in killing Gordon, but everything else is done very well. I feel that Batman's situation here is one that would come up eventually. For all of the fighting that he's done and the criminals that he's put behind bars, Gotham City is still a very dangerous, crime-riddled place and, in fact, new, even more powerful and threatening villains have come along since he began his double-life, so it's not surprising that he would reach the point where he would wonder if he's really making a difference. In addition, he has been wondering for some time if maybe he should let go of what happened to his parents and move on and lead a normal life. However, most significantly, he knew that there was a high probability that he would die doing what he does and he had accepted it ("Sooner or later, I'll go down. It might be the Joker, or Two-Face, or just some punk that gets lucky. My decision. No regrets,"), but the idea of him being unable to protect someone that he cares about, like Alfred, Robin, or Dr. Thompkins, is something that he can't accept. Seeing him depressed at the beginning of the episode was already disheartening but, after he returns to the Batcave from the hospital, watching him destroy the equipment in his crime lab and then yell in hopeless despair is really gut-wrenching, as is the knowledge that he stayed in the Batcave for three days, wallowing in self-pity. He does indeed decide to give up on being Batman, taking his mask off and throwing it into an abyss in the Batcave, but the news of the Jazzman's escape does, eventually, snap him out of it and he goes to protect Gordon. The ending sees Batman getting his spirit back and reassured that he is important in two ways. After the Jazzman is apprehended, Gordon awakens and tells Batman that they have to keep fighting, adding that he wishes he were younger so he could have been a hero like him. Batman, however, assures Gordon that he is a hero. And at the very end of the episode, Batman runs into a young crook named Wizard (voiced by Seth Green), who he saved from a couple of vicious thugs he was working for in Crime Alley. At first, Wizard wasn't impressed by Batman, seeing him as a joke, particularly when he passed by a shop selling merchandise of him (something that Batman himself wasn't happy about), and was not at all grateful when he saved him and turned him over to Dr. Thompkins to the nearby Mission. However, when he meets up with him again, only to learn that Wizard has now reformed and is heading for home, mainly because of what Batman did for him. After Wizard leaves on a bus, Batman heads to a rooftop and looks out over Gotham as it's illuminated by the light of the full moon, his spirit totally renewed.

The Man Who Killed Batman: The title definitely got my attention the first time I saw this episode. On a rainy night in Gotham City, Sidney Debris (voiced by Matt Frewer), a meek shrimp of a crook goes to meet with Rupert Thorne, who already knows of him due to some notoriety he's recently acquired as, "The Man Who Killed Batman." In his sitting room/office, Thorne listens to Sidney's story. He was nothing more than a small-time crook who wanted to be big-shot in the underworld and, one night, he went on a drug run led by a friend of his to serve as a lookout, not knowing that the only reason he was brought along was to serve as a distraction for Batman should he show up. Sure enough, Batman did appear and confronted Sidney, who, despite being scared out of his mind, was so clumsy that, when he tripped over himself and fell into Batman, it looked to the other thugs that he was actually fighting him. Due to his clumsiness, Sidney fell over the side of the roof and Batman tried to save him, grabbing his hand, but Sidney was so panicked that he tried to climb up his arm, causing Batman to fall over the edge towards a fuel tank below. Following an enormous explosion, Sidney climbed down from his post, holding Batman's cape and cowl, which he pulled off during the struggle, and the thugs were absolutely stunned to realize that he had just killed Batman. Sidney finally had the notoriety he'd always wanted, as other criminals celebrated his victory at a bar, but it soon went south when a big, tough guy challenged him to a fight, noting that if he took down the guy who took down Batman, then he'd be Gotham's number one criminal. This led to a big brawl, with poor Sidney caught right in the middle, until the cops showed up to break it up, jailing everyone in the bar. At this point, Renee Montoya and Harvey Bullock learn of Batman's apparent death, which has really hit Gordon hard as well. It's touching to not only see Montoya grieve for Batman, going to comfort Gordon, but also Bullock, despite having never liked Batman at all really. Sidney was then bailed out by a blonde woman who claimed to be his lawyer, but when the two of them left in her car, she began putting on an awful lot of makeup, telling Sidney, "My boss likes for me to wear a smile to work." Sidney recognized her as Harley Quinn (this was the first episode I ever saw with her) and realized that meant he was being taken to see the Joker. When he met the Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime congratulated him but wasn't entirely convinced that Batman was dead since there was no body and decided to stage a robbery to see whether or not Batman would show up. Surprisingly, Batman never appeared and the Joker, who was both angry and depressed, began to believe that he really was dead, lamenting, "Without Batman, crime has no punchline." He then had a small funeral for the cape and cowl at a chemical factory (possibly the one where he became the Joker) and delivered eulogy that went from describing how he dreamed of the perfect way to do Batman in to angrily denouncing Sidney for doing so instead, deciding to then get rid of him by having slapped into the coffin with the cape and cowl, which was then rolled in a big vat of acid. However, Sidney was saved when the coffin was apparently sucked down a drainpipe leading to the outside. Knowing that he had to get out of Gotham as quick as possible, he went to Thorne. If there's a moral to this story, it's definitely be careful what you wish for. All Sidney wanted was some recognition from his underworld peers but he didn't expect the price-tag that would come with it: now, everybody thinks he's a tough guy or a criminal mastermind when he's really just a victim of circumstance and they want to beat him up to prove that they're tougher. Worse than that, now the psychotic Joker is after him for beating him to the punch of killing Batman himself. (That funeral scene is both funny and kind of touching, with the Joker shedding a genuine tear while Harley plays Amazing Grace on a kazoo.) Even Thorne doesn't believe Sidney's story, feeling that he's playing dumb so he can become a big part of his drug operation and possibly even replace him. Fortunately for Sidney, just as Thorne is about to shoot him, Batman arrives, alive and well, disarms Thorne and beats the crap out of him. He then explains Sidney that he managed to swing away before the fuel tank exploded and used the belief that he was dead to tail him and see who was behind the drug run, meaning that he was the one who saved Sidney from being dissolved by the acid. But, because Sidney is still an accomplice to Thorne's operation, Batman still has to take him in, although he feels that in prison, someone with his reputation would get a lot of respect. Sure enough, when Sidney arrives at prison, he's celebrated by the other inmates as someone who almost killed Batman, made a fool of the Joker, and "set up" Thorne. Finally, he's a big shot.

Mudslide: At Tarnower Financial, a security guard is surprised when an older security guard that he saw head up in the elevator appears on the monitor for a security camera outside. Hitting the alarm, he heads up to confront the imposter, only to find Mr. Tarnower himself in his office... except that he saw Tarnower leave for home earlier. He's then attacked by the imposter, who produces a nasty, clay appendage, right before Batman arrives to investigate the alarm. Batman is initially fooled when the shape-shifter disguises himself as the security guard and takes the opportunity, finally revealing himself to actually be Clayface. The shape-shifting monster jumps out the window and attempts to escape on foot, with Batman right behind him. When he rebuffs Batman's still standing offer to help him become human again, Batman then notices that something's wrong: Clayface is moving very sluggishly, is leaving behind glops of clay, and appears to be having trouble maintaining his physical integrity. He's just about to be caught when a woman he calls Stella helps him to escape, driving him away in the back of a car. She takes him to a laboratory and puts a plastic coating over him that seems to help him maintain himself. Meanwhile, Batman, having taken a sample of the clay left behind, discovers that Clayface's body is literally falling apart, and his only lead is the woman who helped him escape. Said woman, Stella, is an old friend who worked as a technical advisor on one of his movies, back when he was Matt Hagan. Clayface, however, is full of rage, not liking the constraints of being bound in a plastic suit, but Stella has found a way for him to not only increase his powers but to take the form of Hagan permanently: he has to absorb an isotope called Mp40, the only source of which is at Wayne Biomedical Labs. Deciding that it's worth the risk, Clayface heads out to steal the isotope. One of the great things about this episode is that it reminds us of the humanity that Hagan lost when he was turned into Clayface and that he now no longer considers himself to be that person, throwing a rage when he catches Stella watching one of his movies on TV. However, now he has a chance to not only save himself from dissolving but also to become Hagan again and spend the rest of his life with Stella, someone who loves him no matter what he's become and whom you can tell he also has genuine affection for. That said, though, because of his condition, Clayface is even more disgusting here than he was in Feat of Clay. Bits of clay are constantly dripping off of him in muddy chunks, an orange-yellow slime trail is often left behind when a part of his body is dragged across the floor, and he often looks like he's melting. When Stella saves him from Batman early on, he looks like nothing more than a big, nasty blob, and even more disgusting is when he imitates a female scientist at Wayne Biomedical in order to walk out with a canister of the Mp40 and boards a train. He tries to keep his disguise up but his body begins to fall apart again and he melts into a gooey mess in front of the passengers, disgusting them and scaring them out of the car. It is absolutely sick. However, the most controversial aspect of this episode and a daring move on the part of the producers is that Batman comes across like a cold-hearted bastard in the climax. Having returned back to the lab with the isotope, Clayface comes so close into becoming Matt Hagan again when Stella begins to inject into him with her machine... until Batman, who figured out who she was and then where she lived from her bank records, shows up and just shuts off the machine! This is why, decided it being one of my favorites, I don't like this as much as Feat of Clay, because it really makes me not like Batman. I get that Clayface is still a criminal who's hurt and terrorized innocent people and Batman is probably still willing to help in the legal way, but still, the guy came so close to getting his lost humanity back and Batman just very coldly ruined it for him. In short, everything that happens from here on with Clayface is basically his fault. Anyway, Clayface, understandably angry, attacks Batman and sucks him into his body, attempting to smother in. This is another disturbing scene, as you can see Batman struggling to punch his way out of Clayface's body but his movements gradually slow down, with Clayface saying that he can feel his heart beginning to give out... when the grappling gun shoots right through the top of his head, enabling Batman to escape. The battle heads outside into a rainstorm, which severely weakens Clayface even more. He's determined to kill Batman once and for all, though, and attempts to push him off the cliff overlooking the sea. Batman, however, pulls him off with him, forcing Clayface to grab ahold of his leg. Batman tries to pull him up with him but Clayface's body can no longer hold itself together and he falls into the water, where he apparently disintegrates, as Batman climbs back onto the cliff as Stella cries her eyes out. (Up until the Growing Pains episode of The New Batman Adventures, it seemed as if this was the series' one confirmed death.)

Harley and Ivy: During a chase through the streets of Gotham between the Batmobile and the Joker's car, Harley Quinn makes a couple of minor mistakes that stop them from arriving at the Gotham Museum of Natural History to steal the Harlequin Diamond, much to the Joker's irritation. Back at the hideout, the Joker angrily admonishes her for her mistakes and says that she doesn't contribute anything to the gang. When Harley makes the mistake of insinuating that she may actually be a better crook than him since she did manage to get them away from Batman, the Joker loses control and throws her out. Now on her own, Harley decides to steal the diamond herself, but while she's successful in getting her hands on it, she gets caught up with Poison Ivy when she accidentally sets off the security alarm while trying to steal plant specimens. It seems like both of them are going to spend the night in jail but, working together, they manage to escape and head back to Ivy's hideout: a housing development on top of a toxic waste dump (she has to inoculate Harley with an antitoxin so she can survive staying there). You can definitely see what makes this one a winner: two villains who have never met each other before, coming together to not only become a new powerful criminal force for the city but also bonding and becoming best friends. The relationship is made even more interesting by their polar opposite personalities: Harley is a doormat who's always let the Joker walk all over her, while Ivy is a strong, independent woman who wouldn't let any man do that to her and decides to take Harley under her wing and help her self-esteem. Fittingly, the first place they hit is a men's only club, and, like I said they soon become quite a force to be reckoned with: enough to get both Batman and the Joker's attentions. This is also the first time you really see how sick and unhealthy Harley's relationship with the Joker is, with how he treats her like complete garbage, throwing her out for making just a couple of simple mistakes, and only notices that she isn't back when the hideout has become a pig's sty. In fact, he's surprised that she hasn't come back already since she always has before, suggesting that this isn't the first time he's thrown out on the street. On the other hand, Harley, despite how absusive and psychotic he is, can't help missing her "puddin'," constantly thinking about him, much to Ivy's annoyance ("'Mr. J. Mr. J.' Ugh, change the channel, Harley!"; in fact, this is the episode where Ivy starts to show a more snarky, humorous side), insisting that he does love her, and making the mistake of calling him, allowing him to figure out where they are by tracing the call. Batman, having analyzed a bit of soil one of their tire tracks, manages to get their first but is quickly subdued by one of Ivy's plants, giving them to chance to strap him to a table and push him into a pit of chemical waste. That's when the Joker and his goons show up, making it perfectly clear that he only came for the Harlequin Diamond and that he couldn't care less about Harley. Despite her continuing blind loyalty, Ivy isn't about to give up her newfound best friend and attempts to escape with her. Meanwhile, Batman, having escaped the pit (how he survived those chemicals without a mask, I don't know) and has a short battle with the Joker and his goons, resulting in the whole dump getting blown up when the Joker stupidly fires a Tommy gun at Batman, despite his warnings about how volatile the chemicals are. Batman manages to save himself and the Joker with the aid of the Batmobile, while it seems like Harley and Ivy have gotten away. Ivy yells, "No man can take us prisoner!" and she's right... it's Officer Renee Montoya who ultimately stops them with a really good shot with her rifle. The two of them are sent to Arkham with the Joker, who declares that his next gang isn't going to involve any women, while Harley is still ignorantly confident that there's hope for them... and Ivy shows how she feels about it by throwing some mud in her face while they're working out in the prison yard.

The Demon's Quest: Here's another that's here mainly for nostalgia sakes. I'll admit, after rewatching it again with a critical eye, it's not among the elite episodes of the series, especially the first part, but I really like the art-style here, the global scope of the story, and it introduced me to a villain that I grew to really like, so I couldn't ignore it. Part I has Robin being abducted when he returns to Gotham University by a group of people led by a figure wearing an Anubis mask. After two days of searching every part of the city, Batman returns to the Batcave with no information on Robin's whereabouts, when Alfred hands him an envelope that came in the mail. It turns out to be a picture of Robin being held at knife-point, with a message that reads, "Dear Batman, save him, if you can!" Enraged by this, Batman is even less happy to learn that he has some unexpected visitors: Ra's al Ghul and Ubu step out of the shadows and the former introduces himself, with Batman recognizing him as the legendary "Demon's Head." Al Ghul tells him that they have a common problem: his daughter, Talia, whom Batman met in the previous episode Off-Balance, was abducted on the same night as Robin and suggests that they work together to find them. The rest of the episode consists of the group traveling across Asia, first traveling to Calcutta (which Batman deduced Robin and Talia had been taken due to the shape of the knife in the photographs), where they're jumped by some assassins who Batman easily defeats, forcing one of them to tell him where the abductees are, sending them to Malaysia, where Batman ends up locked inside a temple with a black panther that he has to fend off, and finally to the Himalayas, where al Ghul and Ubu are supposedly killed when their helicopter is destroyed by a missile after Batman jumps out via parachute. Throughout the journey, it's made obvious that al Ghul knows more than he's letting on (first seeing this episode, I knew he had to be a bad guy in actuality) and he often goes into these violent coughing fits, which he claims to be a result of old age, suggesting that he's older than Batman can imagine. When they arrive in Malaysia, he goes on a tirade about the destruction of the rain forests, saying that industrialists like Bruce Wayne have much to answer for, and that humanity must be forced to serve the planet, a hint of his ultimate plan to come. There's also a running gag of Ubu not liking it when Batman tries to walk ahead of al Ghul and shoving him, calling him an infidel. The first time he does it, al Ghul refers to it as overzealousness; Batman, however, says, "I think I'll call it 'strike one.'" When he does it again in Calcutta, shoving him into some clay pots, Batman growls, "Okay, that's two." In any case, the episode's conclusion has Batman finding a mountain cave in the Himalayas where he finds Robin tied up. After fending off some assassins and untying him, they come face to face with the man behind everything: Ra's al Ghul himself, not surprisingly. Batman had felt that he was behind this almost from the beginning, since there was no way he could have known that Robin and Talia had been abducted on the same night unless he was behind it. What raised his suspicious even further was how all those would-be assassins knew where they would be and when, and how Ubu didn't stop him from going into that temple in Malaysia before al Ghul. Both al Ghul, and Talia, who makes her presence known (wearing a very alluring outfit that I would think she'd have to be freezing in given that they're in the Himalayas), are impressed with Batman's detective skills, but he decides to just leave with Robin. Ubu tries to stop them, attempting to punch Batman, who catches his first, snarls, "And that's three," and twists his arm, forcing him to the ground. Al Ghul then reveals that the whole ordeal was a test to prove if Batman was worthy of assuming his position when he's gone, particularly important since Talia loves him, but Batman turns it down, much to al Ghul's fury. He says that they then must be enemies, only for al Ghul to go into another coughing fit, one that causes him to collapse to the floor and have trouble breathing. Batman is initially skeptical, thinking it to be a trick, but when he realizes that it's not, they take al Ghul to the Lazarus Pit, per Talia's instructions. Robin thinks it's crazy to put him in a bubbling, acid-looking pool like that, but Talia insists that the Lazarus Pit is what has kept al Ghul alive for centuries. Seeing no other choice, Batman lets them go through with it, lowering al Ghul's body down into the chemicals on a platform. At first, it seems like they've just killed the man, but then the place suddenly starts shaking like it's an earthquake and al Ghul erupts out of the pit, now very vigorous and muscular. He then starts laughing like a maniac and, when Talia runs to embrace him, he grabs her and holds her above his head, kicking away Batman when he tries to save her. The first part ends like that, which definitely made me anxious to see what happens next.

Part II, which I think is the better half, begins right there, with al Ghul about to throw Talia into the pit, which Ubu says is lethal to a healthy person. Batman uses his grappling line to tie up al Ghul's arms, pulling him backwards and causing him to drop Talia, whom Batman catches. Al Ghul, however, uses his newfound strength to pull the line apart and prepares to attack again, only for Talia to smack him across the face when he lunges at her. This actually succeeds in bringing her father to his senses, who then embraces his daughter for real. They then explain that the reason behind that little episode was because the Lazarus Pit's physical rejuvenation is so stressful on the body that it causes the user to go completely insane for the first few minutes after exposure (Talia is the one who explains this, making me wonder why she ran to her father's arms in the first place). And because no one can continue using it forever, al Ghul again asks Batman to become his heir, but when he again says no, he has his men turn their gones on him and Robin, saying, "You see, if you're not with me, Detective, you are against me." On their way out, al Ghul presses a button that causes the place to collapse in on itself, leaving Batman and Robin for dead. The Dynamic Duo, however, manage to escape by climbing up the rope that lowered the platform carrying al Ghul's body into the Lazarus Pit and out through a hole in the ceiling. Once they jump down from the collapsing mountaintop, they see al Ghul's plane as it flies off to his desert stronghold, a place that they heard him mention as he left with Talia. Robin also notes that during the time he was held prisoner, he overheard the name Orpheus mentioned several times, and when they get down the mountain and into the city of Nepal, which just happens to have a Wayne-Tech building, they discover that Orpheus is a privately-owned satellite launched over a year before. It also just happens to be orbiting over the Sahara Desert, which has to be the location of al Ghul's desert stronghold. Upon flying to the desert, Batman parachutes down into it and, that night, comes across a long line of men riding camels. Taking the place of one of them, Batman arrives at the stronghold, but when he attempts to sneak around to find out what al Ghul is up to, he's found and attacked by Ubu. The two of them have a small fight and Batman has the upperhand, until al Ghul's other men gang up on him and take him prisoner. Hearing the commotion, al Ghul shows himself and, probably already knowing who the intruder is, removes Batman's disguise, and, instead of being angry, can only reiterate how much he admires him. As Batman's utility belt is taken away and he's searched for anything else that might help him escape, resulting in the upper part of his suit being torn away, al Ghul explains to him his ultimate plan. Because Batman's refusal has left him without an heir, he must now enact his dream of "cleansing" the world in one, bold stroke rather than gradually over time as he had originally planned. There are various Lazarus Pits around the world and his people are placing bombs that are electronically linked to the satellite Orpheus into them. When the time is right, he'll send a signal to Orpheus beginning a countdown of five minutes, after which each bomb will be lowered down into the heart of each pit. The satellite will send out a signal that will blow up all the bombs at the same time, causing a chain reaction that will make the Lazarus Pits overflow, covering the Earth in their chemicals, after which the planet will be rid of the destruction and pollution brought about by humans and be restored to its pristine glory. Al Ghul even knows exactly how many will die as a result: 2,056,986,000. Batman now derides al Ghul as a complete lunatic, for which Ubu nearly kills him as punishment, but al Ghul instead has him imprisoned so he can see his dream come true. Before he's taken away, Talia kisses him very deeply, calling it something to remember her by. When he's shackled to the wall in the tower, you see that it had a double meaning since she placed a lock pick in his mouth, which he uses to unchain himself and escape. As the five minute countdown begins, Batman manages to knock out a guard and use one of the hand grenades he's equipped with to blow up a room full of weapons and explosives, causing massive chaos and destruction. Ubu tries to stop him when he attempts to stop the countdown, calling him an infidel once again, to which Batman responds, "If you only knew how sick I am of you calling me that!", and manages to knock him unconscious. Al Ghul then challenges Batman to a sword fight, telling him it's his only chance to stop the satellite. As the countdown gets close to zero, the two of them engage in a fierce duel that leads them up the side of the structure surrounding the Lazarus Pit the stronghold is built around. Batman tries to reason with al Ghul, telling him that he'll kill himself with his plan, but al Ghul has accepted his fate and tells him that they'll both die. Batman, however, spots an opportunity when he gets to the top of the structure and throws his sword right into the radar dish, shorting out its connection to Orpheus, which then falls out of orbit. Enraged at seeing his dream ruined, al Ghul charges at Batman, trying to slice him up, but falls over the edge of the opening to the Lazarus Pit, jamming his sword into its side. Batman attempts to help him, reaching for his hand, but al Ghul tells Batman, "Victory is yours, Detective. Perhaps it's time that I am finally one with the planet I so love." He then lets go of the sword and falls into the pit, apparently to his death, with both Batman and Talia mourning him. The episode ends with Talia telling Batman that she seeks the same ends as her father but does not choose to follow his destructive means to those ends. Batman understands and, instead of taking her in, gives her a kiss as the sun rises behind them and flies off with Robin. They agree that it seems like they've seen the last of Ra's al Ghul, but the episode ends on a shot of the edge of the structure around the Lazarus Pit, as a hand emerges and grabs ahold and al Ghul's maniacal laugh is heard.

His Silicon Soul: This serves as a follow-up to the two-part episode, Heart of Steel, which featured HARDAC (Holographic Analytical Reciprocating Digital Computer), a powerful AI that became sentient and decided that all mankind must be replaced with robots that he creates. In other words, the episode was like the Batman equivalent of The Terminator. It's not a bad episode at all but there's nothing really that special or thought-provoking about it, so I didn't list it among my favorites. This one, however, I can list as such because it expands upon the idea of artificial intelligence in its predecessor in a very interesting way. In fact, you could think of this story as Batman and The Terminator with a big helping of Blade Runner thrown into the mix! (Not only are the robots HARDAC creates called Duplicants, which is very similar to Replicants, but Karl Rossum, HARDAC's creator who also appears briefly in this episode, is voiced by William Sanderson, who was in Blade Runner.) The plot begins with a group of criminals breaking into a warehouse housing all of the surviving equipment from Cybertron, Karl Rossum's company whose factory was destroyed along with HARDAC. They're surprised when Batman bursts out of a large crate that they attempt to steal and easily fends them off, when one of the crooks pulls a gun and shoots him in the torso, exposing a robotic armature and circuitry underneath. The mechanical Batman manages to make it to Wayne Manor, where he recognizes a picture of Bruce Wayne's parents as well as Alfred, who quickly realizes he's one of the Duplicants HARDAC created. The robot, however, is confused and continues to say that he really is Batman, pulling off his mask to reveal a face that looks identical to Bruce's to emphasize the point, and pleads with Alfred for help, knowing that he's not going to last long in this condition. Alfred, however, believes that the robot has done something to the real Batman and retreats into the Batcave, where he tries to incapacitate the imposter with knockout gas, which, predictably, doesn't work. After taking Alfred's gas mask away, causing him to pass out from the gas, the robot searches the computer's records on the Duplicants, learns the fate of all of them and HARDAC, and asks it to tell him where Rossum is now. Meanwhile, the real Batman, who arrived at the crime scene just as Commissioner Gordon and the police were apprehending the crooks that the Duplicant left hanging on the side of the building and, as a result, heard the one's claims that he wasn't human and found a bit of circuitry attached to his clothes, locates Rossum in a farm near Gotham City and asks if it's possible that HARDAC could have created a Duplicant of himself. Rossum insists that it's not possible, that the police confiscated every part of the computer that wasn't destroyed, but after Batman leaves, the Duplicant arrives and pleads with Rossum for help. This is where we get into the interesting aspect of this story. This robot really does believe that he's the real Batman whose mind has been put into a robotic body and initially refuses to believe that he's simply a machine, saying that he knows everybody and everything that the real Batman would know. Rossum, however, tells him that what he knows is data and information, rather than memories. He asks, "Do you remember your first kiss? Your favorite song? The last time you had a really nice steak? Can you remember anything other than cold, hard fact?" This is when he starts to realize that he is indeed a robot and then demands to know where HARDAC is, possibly wanting to get revenge on the computer for confusin and torture that he's suffered. Fortunately, the real Batman shows up and battles his mechanical double, managing to put him out of commission for a bit and stops Rossum from destroying him, saying that if HARDAC has been reactivated somehow, the Duplicant could lead them to it. However, the robot itself reactivates and attacks Batman. The fight causes the greenhouse that they're in to begin collapsing and the Duplicant, seeing Rossum in danger, risks himself to save him before disappearing. He then goes to the police warehouse where HARDAC's intact remains are kept and finds a component that activates something within his program, as he's then forced against his will to remove both his mask and the fake skin and insert the chip into a slot in his skull. HARDAC's command and memory files are uploaded into his CPU, a self-repair function is activated, and he's then told by HARDAC himself that he's an advanced prototype that he created right before he was destroyed. In the explosion, the Duplicant's memory system was damaged and he was taken to the Cybertron warehouse. However, HARDAC had a back-up plan in case he was destroyed, which was for any surviving Duplicants to find the chip carrying the memory files, and now, the Batman Duplicant is full operational and programmed to resume HARDAC's plan of replacing all mankind with Duplicants. When Batman tracks him down to the warehouse, he's now no match for his mechanical double, who manages to overpower him and hurl him out the window and into a river below. Believing Batman to be dead, the Duplicant heads back to the Batcave, where he places his chip into the computer, beginning a countdown that will upload HARDAC to every computer on Earth as a result of the satellite uplink and the AI will then force humans to build the components he needs to realize his plan. Batman, however, arrives and once again battles the Duplicant, who tells him that he is HARDAC reborn and that he knows all of his moves. However, Batman then asks why he doesn't just finish him off, wondering if he's become so much like him that he can't bring himself to take another human life, using how he saved Rossum as an example and how he seems to be making moves that he can easily dodge. The Duplicant, however, insists that he only serves HARDAC, and he also tries to convince Batman that HARDAC's ultimate goal is identical to his own, to create a world free of crime, of pestilence, of suffering, to which Batman asks, "You mean free of choice? Free of compassion? Free of humanity?" The Duplicant emphatically says, "Yes!" but, when he corners Batman on a ledge overlooking a deep abyss, he hesitates rather than immediately push him off. Batman says, "You can't do it. HARDAC made you well. Perhaps better than he ever could have imagined." He then lunges at the robot, who hits him away but then, tries to save him from going over the edge. Despite his effort, Batman appears to fall to his death and the Duplicant is horrified, realizing that he just took another human life. Walking back to the computer, he sees that the countdown to the upload is almost at zero, realizes that countless human lives are about to perish, asks, "My city, my people, what have I done?!", and smashes the computer, stopping the countdown in an explosion that knocks him backwards. The fire sprinklers are then set off by the smoke and the Duplicant is permanently deactivated. Batman, of course, isn't dead, and when Alfred helps him climb out of the abyss, he tells him of the robot's noble sacrifice, which was like something he himself would. It makes Batman wonder if it's possible that the robot had a soul. "A soul of silicon, but a soul nonetheless."

A Bullet for Bullock: While on his way home one cold night after Christmas, Harvey Bullock is almost run down by a masked man who just manages to get away. It's the latest in a series of both threats and attempted killings and, out of desperation, Bullock turns to Batman for help. The list of suspects is a mile long since Bullock has put away a lot of criminals, and because of his often unorthodox methods and constant rule-bending, he's afraid to go to the department. Batman agrees to help Bullock, on one condition: he arrests whoever the would-be killer is legitimately. He then gives Batman a floppy disk with information on all of the people he's put away for the last five years and the Dark Knight heads back to the Batcave to see what he can find out. Obviously, what makes this episode noteworthy, aside from its awesome, smooth jazz main theme and overall score (which won an Emmy), is that, other than Vendetta, it's the only one that really focus on Bullock. Like Vendetta, not only does it go into the idea that Bullock may not be the cleanest cop on the force (he still denies ever having been on the take), it shows what his personal life is like, which is hardly enviable: he lives in a nasty, roach-infested apartment, spends holidays doing nothing other than his laundry, spends his spare time scarfing down food, and is generally just an unlikable dickhead, particularly to his landlord, Nivens. You also get a better sense of his opinion of Batman, which is more complex than you might think. While he still thinks he's a freak in a costume, because Commissioner Gordon feels he serves a purpose, he goes along with it, and he also doesn't think the two of them aren't that different due to the "rule-bending" they do, although Batman is quick to point out, "We may be on the same side, but we're not the same." And like I said when I talked about the character himself, you can see that he does have something of a grudging respect for Batman, commenting at the end of the episode that the two of them make a good team, and he is good enough to thank him for his help. Plus, it's fun to watch Bullock having to deal with Batman's habit of appearing and disappearing without a sound, drawing a gun on him when he comes home to find him in his apartment, saying, "Jeez! You take some chances, freak," and when he disappears, he asks, "I wonder how Gordon puts up with this?" It's also interesting to note that the episode reveals that he somehow knows Summer Gleason when he goes to her to ask about a story she did on South Gotham crackhouses that might help him. Exactly what the nature of their relationship was is never made clear (I really hope that it wasn't romantic; the thought of a good-looking woman like her getting it on with a slob like him is stomach-churning, to say the least) but it's clear that it soured because Gleason tells him that she trusts him about as far as she can throw him and that he's lucky she still talks to him at all. However, she does agree to help him, telling him to come back in an hour... and that's when he does something very stupid and dickish: he sneaks into her office and looks through her files, turning the office into a complete mess after a while. When she catches him, she's absolutely pissed and throws him out, telling him not to ever come to her again. When he tells her that someone has it in for him, she says, "Look on the bright side: you'll make the 6:00 News," and slams the door in his face. But the thing that beats it all is the identity of the person trying to kill Bullock. At first, he and Batman think it's Vinny "The Shark" Starky, a former drug lord who Bullock busted years before and has recently been released from prison. They track him down but, while he does seem eager to take Bullock out, after they take care of him and his goons and bring them in, Vinny denies sending Bullock the threatening notes or trying to kill him. Bullock doesn't believe him but when he arrives back at his apartment, he's confronted by the real culprit, who pulls a gun on him. Batman arrives just in time and disarms the man, revealing him to be Nivens, who wanted to get rid of Bullock simply because of his mean attitude and sloppy living habits. In fact, he wanted him gone so badly that he pretty much loses his mind here, laughing hysterically as Bullock takes him away. It ends with Bullock telling Batman, "I guess I owe you for this," to which Batman says, "Forget it, Bullock. You've got enough problems," and swings off into the night.

Trial: After her latest scheme, Poison Ivy is sent back to Arkham Asylum rather than prison because she was apprehended by Batman rather than an actual law enforcement officer. This infuriates Gotham City's current District Attorney, Janet Van Dorn (voiced by Stephanie Zimbalist), who feels that the city has become dependent on Batman rather than taking steps to actually suppress crime and also blames him for creating the many villains he often battles against. Meanwhile, when Ivy is returned to Arkham, Harley Quinn tells her that they're going to be throwing a little party soon, with the Mad Hatter ensuring this by planting his mind control cards on the staff. Back in Gotham, Van Dorn meets Bruce Wayne for dinner but is called away for a phonecall. When she doesn't return after a half-hour, Bruce sees the Bat Signal light up the sky outside and when he goes to see Commissioner Gordon about it as Batman, he's presented with a note that has a cryptic message about where to find Van Dorn. Batman goes to the rendezvous point, only to be attacked and knocked out by Harley and Ivy. Later, Van Dorn finds herself in an Arkham cell, where she meets Two-Face who tells her that they're going to have a trial and that she will be the defense attorney while he'll act as prosecutor. The defendant? Batman. His crime: creating all of them. If she succeeds in defending him, they'll both go free; if not, they both die. If I Am The Night questioned whether Batman was having any real impact on the war against crime, this episode asks a more troubling question: is he actually doing more harm than good? If you think about it, some of the villains did become who they are as a result of Batman, either directly, as in the case with the Joker getting knocked into a vat of chemicals that made him lose his mind, or indirectly, as in this show's interpretation of Two-Face's origin, where Batman rammed into the thug who was about to gun him down, causing his bullets to stray off and hit a fusebox that resulted in the exploside that scarred the left side of his body. So, it's an interesting idea that someone who agrees with this sentiment has to actually defend Batman on it but, as the trial proceeds, Van Dorn is able to poke holes in the various "witnesses'" stories. When the Mad Hatter tries to say that he was just a harmless scientist before Batman's interference and when Van Dorn brings up how he tried to brainwash the secretary Alice into loving him, he says that he had no choice because Batman was going to take her away from him. Van Dorn then says, "You could have respected her wishes and left her alone," to which the Hatter responds, "I'd have killed her first!" Harley Quinn credits Batman for creating her beloved, and "loyal," Joker (who's acting as the judge)... until Van Dorn mentions that the last time she escaped from Arkham, the Joker ratted on her in an attempt to reduce his own sentence. And Poison Ivy blows her case big time when she tries to say that, had it not been for Batman, her only crime would have been murdering Harvey Dent, but Van Dorn takes the flower that the Joker wears as a corsage and goes into detail about how it's been given a death sentence by being plucked from the warm earth. When she starts going on and on, while plucking the petals, Ivy's obsession with protecting plants builds and builds until she attacks Van Dorn and has to be restrained. After all of this, Van Dorn concludes that, even without Batman's existence, all of the criminals would have turned out the same way, albeit maybe with different gimmicks and disguises. In reality, they're the ones who created him. And, much to both her and Batman's surprise, the jury, which is made up of the Mad Hatter, Harley, Ivy, Killer Croc, the Scarecrow, and the Riddler, agrees and finds Batman not guilty. But, because they are as rotten as Van Dorn says they are, they're going to kill both of them anyway! In addition to the thought-provoking question it delves into, it's also once again nice to see the villains interacting with each other (in case you can't tell, I really like these kinds of stories), now on a bigger scale than ever since it's all of Arkham. You have some great moments, like when the Hatter and Croc have to restrain Ivy from attacking Van Dorn, when Harley is absolutely enraged when she finds out that the Joker ratted out her escape from Arkham (the one time where the Joker is actually scared of her), and when Ivy says Batman should have let her kill Harvey Dent because they all would have been better off and then says, "No offense, Harvey," with Two-Face simply grumbling. When they strap Batman to an electroshock machine to execute him, they first attempt to find out who he really is but Van Dorn, now firmly on Batman's side, uses a Batarang that she'd been carrying around this whole time to destroy the lights, giving Batman just enough time to free himself and use the darkness to attack the villains. Fortunately for them, Gordon and the other cops have followed the trail of clues to Arkham and storm the asylum, helping to get the inmates under control. After one last bout with the Joker on top of the building, they're both saved and, as the episode ends, they agree to work towards the same goal: a Gotham that won't need him.

House & Garden: God, this episode. Not only is this by and large the best episode to center on Poison Ivy but it's also a candidate for the most disturbing story the series ever tackled. It starts out routinely enough: a bizarre, plant-like creature breaks into a wealthy Gothamite's apartment (it's actually Daniel Mockridge, the Riddler's former employer) and steals some valuables while attacking Mockridge, poisoning him in the process. It's the latest in a series of similar attacks and, to Batman, it seems to have all the signs of Poison Ivy's MO. However, Commissioner Gordon gives Batman some surprising news: Ivy has completed her rehabilitation program and has been released from Arkham. What's more, she even married her psychiatrist, Steven Carlyle. When Batman and Gordon visit Ivy at her new home, she reassures them that she really has reformed, that she is very happy with her new family, which also includes Carlyle's children from a previous marriage, Chris and Kelly (she's unable to have children of her own, a side-effect of her natural immunity to toxins), and wouldn't do anything to jeopardize that happiness. As much as he wants to believe that her reform is true, Batman has his suspicions and asks Dick Grayson to find what he can be about Carlyle, who previously taught at Gotham University. However, as soon as he's given this task, Dick is attacked and kidnapped by the same plant creature that's been committing the robberies. What's more, Bruce is attacked in his car by the creature, who demands that he bring $5 million to the docks in exchange for Dick. After preparing the money, Batman spends the day following Ivy around as she goes about her routine in the suburban neighborhood she now lives in, but finds nothing to suggest that she's up to her usual tricks (some vines around her chimney grab Batman and hoist him down to the ground but he somehow does find that a little suspicious). That night, Bruce heads to the docks to confront the creature that took Dick hostage, revealing himself to be a hideous, hulking plant monster with a vaguely humanoid shape and long spines at the end of its thick arms that act like claws. After becoming Batman, he manages to force the creature to retreat by cutting off its claws, and as he and Robin drive off in the Batmobile, he tells Robin that Ivy is no longer a suspect since he believes that all she wants is to be left alone alone with her new husband and stepsons. That's when Robin reveals something that catches Batman's attention: Carlyle doesn't have custody of his kids. What's more, he's met Chris and Kelly: they're girls. Heading to the Carlyle household, Robin finds that everyone in the house asleep but Ivy is nowehere to be found. When they investigate the greenhouse, they discover that the plants inside are plastic and underneath it is a hidden laboratory, filled with bizarre equipment and weird objects that look like big seedpods. They find Carlyle in a testing tub filled with water and, even more horrific, they hear a child's voice call, "Mommy?", and when Batman traces the sound to its source, the seedpods open up to reveal human babies! Skin-crawling doesn't even begin to describe this scene, particularly due to the dark, blue lighting and it only gets creepier when Ivy shows up, subdues the three men with her vines, and explains that the babies are creatures that are a combination of plants and Carlyle's DNA. They have a very quick life-cycle that lasts only a few days: when they're first "born," they look like normal children, later on they look like Carlyle as an adult (which is what Batman and Gordon were talking to when they first visited the house), and right before they die, they become the big monsters that have been committing robberies. She also assures Batman that she meant what she said when she said she wanted a family; she just wanted it on her terms. Batman and Robin manage to cut themselves free of the vines and they fight the newborn creatures, whom Ivy fed a growth formula to turn them into the monsters in order to kill the Dynamic Duo. However, not only do they manage to get Carlyle out but Batman uses some weed-killer that he earlier put into the greenhouse's sprinkler system to easily destroy the monsters. It also reveals that the Poison Ivy they were talking to was another one of her creations, created from her own DNA, whereas the real Ivy has long since fled. Not only is this episode creepy and disturbing but it also ends on a sad note, with Batman saying that he believed Ivy when she said that she wanted a family and was really happy for the first time in her life. He also believes that she won't return for a long time since she basically lost everything, which is emphasized by the last scene, which is Ivy looking through a photo album as she takes a plane out of Gotham, shedding a tear when she comes to her wedding photo. She may be a very disturbed person but she does have a heart and she does want the same things others do, but her twisted ways of going about them only bring her heartache and tragedy.

Bane: Here we go another example of this show giving what I consider to be the definitive portrayal of one of the characters outside of the comics. The plot of this episode is simple but effective: the brutally powerful assassin Bane (voiced by Henry Silva) has come to Gotham City, hired by Rupert Thorne to do in Batman after the crime-boss becomes tired of the Dark Knight meddling in his business. After being paid his fee of $5 million in diamonds, Bane decides to first observe Batman and see how he fights before he confronts and "breaks" him. He also strikes up a friendship with Thorne's secretary, Candice, and the two of them plot to overthrow Thorne once Batman is out of the way, which Bane attempts to see to by abducting Robin and using him as bait. This may be the only episode to feature Bane but, good God, does he make an impression. Joel Schumacher and Akiva Goldsman really should have taken some notes from this because everything about Bane's portrayal here is perfect: the look, the mask, his origin (an experiment to create super soldiers that worked too well for the people behind the project), the venom he uses to pump himself up, Silva's vocal performance, and, best of all, his obsession with killing Batman, which he has been looking forward to ever since he was in prison in Cuba. On top of everything else, he's portrayed as an unstoppable beast, able to smash through stone walls and pound the Batmobile into junk with his bare hands. He beats Killer Croc, whom he was tailing since Batman was after him due to his recent escape from prison, senseless, putting him in traction when he's taken back to prison, and also shows how lethally smart he is as well by abducting Robin, leaving his shirt and cape hanging on a nearby rooftop to show that he's telling the truth, and telling Batman that he'd best come to the wharves if he wants a chance of saving him. The showdown between them takes place on a docked ship, appropriately named The Rose's Thorn, with Bane pumping himself up (the effect of his muscles bulging and those thick veins appearing on his body is really sick) and beginning the fight. Needless to say, Batman has his work cut out for him. His speed and agility prove to be his best weapons but Bane's incredible power allows him to easily beat the snot out of him. One moment I always remember is when Bane throws Batman into a bunch of crates on the ship's deck and yells, "I will break you!" Batman manages to knock him off the ship with a harpoon gun and then tends to Robin, who's chained to a crane, has weights tied around his feet, and has been lowered into the hold, which is filling up with water. Batman manages to free him but Bane shows back up and attacks again, shoving Robin back into the water. While Batman deals with Bane, Robin goads Candice, who's also there watching the battle, into the water, and she actually takes her shoes and jumps down in there after him. Meanwhile, Batman tries to fight as best as he can but Bane overpowers him and renders him helpless, grabbing him by the throat and demanding he beg for mercy, yelling, "Say my name!" When Batman defiantely says, "Never," Bane raises him up over his head, preparing to break him over his knee, when Batman jams a Batarang into the venom control on his wrist. The venom then begins pumping into Bane's body uncontrollably, causing his body to pump up until the shoulder-straps on his outfit snap, his eyes begin bulging out of his mask, and he screams in pain, actually yelling for help at one point, all of which makes for a scene that really horrified me when I saw it as a kid. Batman finally saves him by pulling out the tube in the back of his head, causing him to shrink down to his normal size. Candice, who was actually managing to beat up on Robin, escapes back to Thorne but Batman soon arrives at his office with the defeated Bane, as well as a recording of his and Candice's plot to murder him and take over his business, which makes Thorne very displeased with his teacherous secretary.

Baby Doll: At first glance, the premise of this episode seems like a complete joke: Mary Dahl, aka Baby Doll (voiced by Alison LaPlaca), a former TV actor with a rare disease that keeps her body from aging (she's actually 30 years old, even though she looks like a little child), kidnaps her former TV family and brings them to the studio where they used to shoot their show so they can be together again. I never saw this one until I bought the box-sets and when I saw a picture of her struggling with Batman holding her by her skirt on the back of Volume 3, I thought she was an actual doll. And when I first watched the episode, I wrote it off as not being one of the series' best. But, when I saw the Nostalgia Critic's list of the Top 11 Batman: The Animated Series episodes, where this was placed at number two, and listened to what he felt about it, I really paid attention when I watched it again and realized that this episode is actually quite well done. Yeah, the sight of this pint-sized, blonde girl in an old-fashioned dress and very visible panties underneath it doing all of this kidnapping and holding people with her doll that's actually a gun, all the while talking in a very childish manner, is silly, and, like Doug Walker said, the story doesn't ignore the absurdity of it all, especially with how Robin absolutely hates the show and would rather be tortured by Poison Ivy than watch it in order to find clues that could track Dahl down. But, underneath the silliness, they manage to paint Dahl as a confused, frightened, and, most importantly, lonely soul. She got her TV show cancelled when she tried to strike out on her own and have a dramatic career, which enraged her former costars, especially the man who played her father, who refers to her as a selfish, spoiled brat who constantly threw temper tantrums when she felt she wasn't getting enough attention. However, her dramatic acting career failed miserably, mainly because she was typecast due to her medical condition (sound familiar?), and now, she wants to recapture the warmth and feeling of family she felt when the show was in production. Like Beware the Gray Ghost, this is another episode that makes a comment on how actors can find themselves typecast as a result of certain roles, only here it's an interesting twist on how Simon Trent was trying to distance himself from his most famous. Dahl tried to break the typecasting but now that she's failed, she wants to go back to the role that gave her a sense of belonging. The scene where she drops the childish voice she used as her character and speaks normally as she talks about how tough it was on her out there is quite impactful, and Dahl's undeniable cuteness helps with the sympathy. However, things get serious when Dahl decides to settle the score with the actor who played Baby Doll's cousin, Spunky, a character introduced in the show's last season to try to freshen things up (an obvious nod to the infamous Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch) and upstaged her on a birthday episode of the show, which prompted her to quit the show. She and her assistant, a glasses-wearing woman named Miriam who is quite adept at martial arts (how the hell did she find her?), attempt to kidnap the guy and bring him back to the studio, where Dahl tries to get her revenge on him with a birthday with a stick of dynamite for a candle. When he manages to get rid of the dynamite, Dahl then tries to shoot him, but Batman arrives and subdues her. The guy turns out to have been Robin in disguise and, after a fight with Miriam, Robin helps the actors while Batman chases Dahl to a carnival. When he loses her in the crowds, especially all the kids, Batman comes up with a nice way to find her, which is by making his presence known, and as everybody runs up to look at him, Dahl's exposed and he resumes the chase. It ultimately leads into a funhouse, with Batman trying to make Dahl understand that he wants to help her, but Dahl refuses to listen, leading them into a hall of distorting mirrors and the very poignant ending. She comes up to a mirror that shows what she would have looked like by this point if she had been able to age, dropping the act once and for all as she laments, "Look. That's me in there. The real me. There I am." But, remembering that it's just a mirror, she says, "But it's not really real, is it? Just made up and pretend, like my family and my life and everything else." Seeing Batman's reflection in a mirror, she yells, "Why couldn't you just let me make believe?!" and attempts to shoot him, only to destroy all the mirrors in a rage, ending with the one in front of her. She shatters the glass and keeps clicking the gun, even though it's empty, with tears streaming out of her eyes, as Batman walks up and takes it away. Looking up at him, and finally realizing the horrible things she's done as well as the harsh reality of how things are, she sobs and hugs his leg, saying, "I didn't mean to," (her catchphrase from her show), as he puts his hand on her head to try to comfort her.

Second Chance: On a dark and stormy night, Two-Face is transferred to the hospital for an operation that is hoped will successfully wipe out his evil persona. With treatment, his bad side is now almost completely gone and it's believed that surgically removing the scars will wipe it out for good. However, just as the operation is about to begin, armed men burst into the room and kidnap Two-Face, saying that their boss wants to teach him some respect. Batman and Robin, who've been on the rooftop, watching everything, attempt to stop the thugs but they escape in two different vehicles and Robin fails to stop the one carrying Two-Face. After regrouping, Batman and Robin come up with two people who might have a personal vendetta against Two-Face: Rupert Thorne, for obvious reasons, and the Penguin, who lost a valuable, jewel encrusted statue to him recently. However, when both leads turn out to be duds, Batman finds a clue that leads him to the location where his troubled friend is... and where Harvey Dent's worst enemy is waiting for him. Being a fan of the character and his origin episode in particular, I was quite happy to learn that there was another episode that focused on Two-Face's internal struggle. This episode also marks the first time since the early episodes where we really get a sense of the friendship between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent, with Bruce paying for the operation, and how this particular case is really getting to Batman, who remembers the good times the two of them used to have. It's interesting to see that Harvey is still very much alive within Two-Face and values Bruce's friendship and how he's never given up on him. The moment where he reminisces about their friendship and how their favorite hangout is going to be torn down soon is quite touching, especially his line, "I guess nothing good last forever." But the best thing about the story is the mystery of his abductor, which turns out to be more complex than you could have imagined. Like I said, it's Harvey's worst enemy: Two-Face. He arranged to have himself kidnapped to keep the surgery from happening and, in effect, killing him, and came up with the idea of two decoys to throw everyone off the trail. When Batman tracks him down to the partially demolished Half-Moon Club (where Bruce and Harvey used to spend a lot of time together), Two-Face and his goons capture him and chain him to a crane that's connected to some dynamite. When he flips his coin to see whether or not he'll blow him up, Batman tells him to let it hit the ground so he can see for himself which side it lands on but when it does, it lands on its edge. Not expecting this, Two-Face flips it again and it lands on its edge a second time. Not knowing what to do, he keeps flipping it and it keeps landing on its edge, while Batman manages to escape his chains and deal with the thugs, one of whom accidentally activates the detonator for the dynamite. Two-Face keeps flipping and chasing the coin, eventually run out on a concrete beam sticking out the side of the building. He catches it but almost falls to his death, with Batman grabbing his hand just in time. He tells him that he needs to give him his other hand but Two-Face refuses to let go of the coin. Batman then tells him that it's a trick coin that'll always land on its side and that he switched it with his real one during their struggle earlier. The choice is now up to him. After some hesitation, Two-Face drops the coin and, becoming Harvey again for a split-second, asks for Batman's help. But the evil side comes back and takes a swing at Batman, causing him to drop him. Both him and Robin swing after him, as the crane blows up. The episode ends with Two-Face being sent back to Arkham to find Bruce waiting there for him. Harvey comes through again, saying, "Bruce. Good old Bruce. Always there. You never give up on me." Bruce pats his shoulder before he's taken in, while Dick Grayson tells him, "He's right. You're always there for him." Bruce then says, "Just like you're always there for me," acknowledging how he helped him out throughout the night, despite how he let his personal feelings blind him into trying to settle it himself when he really needed help.

Harley's Holiday: Harley Quinn has been declared sane and is released from Arkham Asylum. She fully intends to re-enter society and live her life the right way. However, trouble arises her first day out when she goes clothes shopping (with her pet hyenas) and her paranoia causes her to mistake a security guard's attempt to remove a security tag from a dress she bought as harrassment due to her criminal past. Enraged, she changes back into her harlequin outfit and face-paint and steals Veronica Vreeland's car to make a getaway... taking Veronica with her. Now, not only are the police and Batman and Robin after her, but so is Veronica's father, who just happens to be a general! This one is so damn crazy that it's entertaining as hell. It's basically the same story as Birds of a Feather and, although Doug Walker wrote it off in that Top 11 List he did on this show's best episodes due to Harley's reform not lasting nearly as long as the Penguin's in that episode, I think it's just as effective because it shows how paranoid and mistrusting a former criminal can be of society, especially authority figures, when everyone knows of their past mistakes. Granted, Harley's behavior upon release is questionable, like walking those hyenas of hers in public and taking them into the clothing store, going around in skimpy clothes and on rollerskates, and making ill-advised remarks about her part in the Joker's attack on a charity event Veronica threw (namely her holding Veronica at gunpoint), but she comes across as naive and not realizing that she's making a bad impression. What's more, knowing how abusive her relationship with the Joker is and how he made her into what she is now, it's kind of sad to see her finally get some semblance of stability and then lose it very quickly, becoming so paranoid that she doesn't think anybody will believe that what happened was just a misunderstanding. Plus, you see that she's still trying to leave her criminal past behind and doesn't want any part in hurting innocent people anymore when she goes to some mobster friends of hers for help in getting out of Gotham and they talk about holding Veronica for ransom. She makes it clear that the only reason she's with her is because she needed her car to get away and says that once she's out of the city, she's to be sent home. But, aside from that, this episode is just so fun to watch because it's simply the story of a bad day that just gets worse and worse for poor Harley. The chase scenes are hilarious. When she speeds away from the store in Veronica's car, with her stuck in the back with the hyenas, she swerves and causes Harvey Bullock to crash his car right into the front of the store, starting a chase that later involves not only him but the Batmobile as well. Harley jumps a big dip in the road while Bullock spins and hits a parked car when he does it, Batman and Robin pull up alongside her and try to reason with her when she has to swerve in order to miss an oncoming tanker truck (Veronica panics and about chokes one of the hyenas when she grabs his neck!), the tanker spins down the road horizontally, causing Bullocks car to get right underneath, sheering off the roof, and smash into a fire hydrant, with the air bag then popping right in his face. During a fight with the mobsters involving Batman and Robin while Harley tries to escape with Veronica, she sics her hyenas on the leader, Boxy Bennett (voiced by Dick Miller), who tear his pants up, revealing his drawers, and force him to take shelter in a truck outside. It all culminates in an even crazier chase at the end, when General Vreeland shows up in a freaking tank and starts chasing them on the Gotham Bridge, while shooting at them! (Veronica says, "What are you doing? That's my father," and Harley says, "No, that's your father in a tank!) As the chase continues, Boxy shows up and joins it in the fish truck he took refuge in, while Bullock manages to fix his smashed car to where it'll at least go and heads back into it as well. Harvey drives into Gotham City Square and all of her pursuers converge on her from all sides, all thinking the same thing: "I've got you now you screwy little, troublemaking clown." They all crash into each other, with General Vreeland running over Veronica's car with the tank, but it turns out that Harley used her own grappling gun to eject both her and Veronica from it just in time. After tossing Veronica into Robin's hands, Harley tries to flee but Batman, who's been trying to help her realize the mistake she's making, goes after her and, following some confrontations, he has to save her when she almost accidentally kills herself with a grenade. The episode ends with Harley being taken back to Arkham but things look hopeful, seeing as how Veronica dropped the kidnapping charges (as she promised she would) and she's told that she should be ready to re-enter society again with a little more work. When she asks Batman why he tried to help her when all she's ever done is cause him trouble, he tells her, "I know what it's like to try to rebuild a life. I had a bad day too, once." He then gives her the dress that she tried to buy and she says, "Nice guys like you shouldn't have bad days." She then gives him a very big kiss on the lips, causing Robin and Poison Ivy, whose cell is behind him, to exchange glances, and she even tells him to call her. When Batman and Robin leave, Harley looks at Ivy and says, "Aah, what are you lookin' at?" as she's led back to her cell.

Deep Freeze: Mr. Freeze is broken out of his Arkham cell by a large and very powerful robot that emerges from the ocean, although it apparently wasn't an escape of his own making given the genuine fear he showed. To find out who's really behind the escape, Batman and Robin go to Karl Rossum to see if he has any knowledge of the robot, which he identifies as looking very similar to a model he once built for Grant Walker, a well-known theme park mogul. Meanwhile, Freeze is taken to Oceania, Walker's (voiced by Dan O'Herlihy) latest theme park floating on the ocean near Gotham City, and is provided with a new cryogenic suit and freeze gun. Walker then reveals his purpose in abducting Freeze. He explains that the condition he's in has slowed his aging process down so much that he's practically immortal and Walker wants him to duplicate the accident so he too can become immortal to continue working towards his lifelong goal. Freeze initially refuses, assuring Walker his life is one no man should have to suffer through, but then Walker reveals something that proves to be a game-changer: Freeze's beloved wife, Nora, alive and still in suspended animation. Walker says that he was a major investor in GothCorp and his men managed to save Nora from the explosion. Freeze now agrees to go through with the bargain, not caring that Walker's ultimate goal is to freeze Gotham and the rest of the world, feeling that it is too corrupt and evil to allowed to continue. This is nowhere near as classic as Heart of Ice and the actual villain, Walker, despite being voiced by the awesome O'Herlihy, isn't the most interesting baddy (his plan reminds me of those of the villains in the Bond films, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker), but what makes me like it is how you get a continuation of Mr. Freeze's story. This time, instead of being out for revenge, he now has a chance to be with his wife again and has no qualms about letting Walker achieve his ultimate goal and killing billions of innocent people, saying that it's no concern of his. We get more of those awesome, poetic lines of Freeze's as he laments about his condition, how he is to live forever trapped in a frozen "shell," asking Walker if he really wants to have a life where he's abandoned and alone and unable to touch or feel anything around him. The best thing about it, though, is when Freeze becomes something of an anti-hero at the end, when Batman tells him that Nora would hate him if he helped Walker to destroy humanity and have her awaken in a barren, frozen world. Freeze, at first, doesn't want to listen, but when he realizes that Batman's right, he frees him and Robin and helps them destroy Walker's command center, resulting in a chain reaction that dooms Oceania. Freeze is good enough to warn the people that they must evacuate right then but, when Batman and Robin attempt to make him come with them, he refuses to leave, deciding to stay with Nora. He freezes Robin in order to force Batman to leave and they escape as the manmade island is destroyed by a chain reaction of ice. Walker ends up trapped in a block of ice at the bottom of the sea, his newfound immortality now proving to be a neverending prison sentence, while Freeze and Nora drift towards the Arctic, which leads into the film, Sub-Zero.

At this point, do I even need to do a conclusion summing up what made this series so great and still does? Regardless, Batman: The Animated Series, in case you haven't figured it out by now, is a show that I absolutely adore and think is one of the greatest cartoons ever created. There are some duds here and there but, overall, everything about this show is just perfect: the art style, the atmosphere, the voice-acting, the characterizations (some of them being the best outside of the comics), the gripping, complex storytelling, and the music. Many have tried to replicate what made it so awesome and entertaining for both kids and adults but not have been able to duplicate it completely and few have come close. While the creators would go on to do many other great projects, for many of them, is their greatest work in my opinion, and most importantly, this is and the Tim Burton movies are what defined my image of the character of Batman. When I think of them, all I can say to sum them up is, "It's fucking Batman!" and that's the way it'll always be.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Cody. Took me forever to finish it. But wow that was well done sir.

    ReplyDelete