Batman: The Animated Series Volume 2 Disk 3
Directors: Dick Sebast, Bruce Timm, Boyd Kirkland, Eric Radomski, Frank Paur
Writers: Len Wein, Steve Perry, Mark Saraceni, Paul Dini, Marty Isenberg, Robert N. Skir, Michael Reeves
Note: The following discussion concerns the Animated Series episodes Moon of the Wolf, Day of the Samurai, Terror in the Sky, Almost Got’im, Birds of a Feather, What is Reality?, I am the Night
James: This batch of episodes at first seem rather eclectic: we go from a werewolf story, to a samurai/ninja story in just the first two episodes. It certainly demonstrates the diversity of the show. However, the more I watched this batch, the more I think that what tied this batch of episodes together is that they build off past events from previous episodes. My question to you Edgar is did you like getting followup to previous episodes from TAS, or were you yearning for more episodes that start us off from scratch?
E: That’s a good one, James. It’s true that with each and every passing episode this time around it felt as though the writers wanted to call back to something that had come before. I will admit that I admire that sort of desire to offer astute and interested viewers a sense of continuity. It helps build this TAS version of the Dark Knight and his universe with some interconnective tissue, the sort that goes beyond just bringing back the Joker for another round for example. A neat little moment at the start of I am the Night is when Batman is reading a newspaper headline announcing The Penguin was not convicted of his crimes. The previous episode was a Penguin storyline, so it was a neat little tie-in. On the whole however I wasn’t always convinced that the sequelitis approach served a great deal. Day of the Samurai is a fairly decent episode mostly because the enemy is such a formidable challenge for Batman. But then we get Terror in the Sky which is boils down to a role reversal as far as who becomes a giant bat. So, to answer the question, I imagine I’m a little torn on the matter. James?
J: I certainly understand that sentiment. Starting up with Moon of the Wolf, when Professor Milo shows up, I groan, wondering why they would bring back such a lame villain. Part of what makes Batman strong is his great cast of villains, so I can get the disappointment of getting followups to some of the less impressive antagonists. However, on these second go arounds, I did find some traits to admire. For instance, I like how Moon of the Wolf did a good job of fixing a lot of my problems with Tyger, Tyger. We see how Anthony Romulus starts off wanting the strenght of a wolf and how taht power eventually gets used against him when he realizes he’s a slave to it to a certain extent. I found that a far more compelling and interesting transformation. Overall, these revisits did make some tweaks I enjoyed, but I can certainly agree that most of this batch is not top-tier quality in the grand scheme of TAS episodes. I am curious what you think of Moon of the Wolf since you didn’t mention that one in your response.
E: It was kind of odd watching Moon of the Wolf because it comes just a few episodes after Tyger, Tyger. It felt a bit early to revisit similar material. What the show does with the character of Romulus (great name by the way) is pretty neat and I appreciate the theme of becoming a slave to one’s desires and the very literal consequence that takes on in the episode. I must say however, like you, I do not care for the professor Milo fellow. His look, his voice, there’s little about him that gets me excited. I suppose there is some sort of irony in the fact that he really doesn’t sound much like a villain, what with his soft voice. I just don’t see much of interest in him unfortunately. I also felt of the puns were sort of lame. Calling the warewolf ‘Harry’ is not my idea of funny writing. All in all, I would this is is actually the weak link in this set, the silver lining of which being that it’s the first so it was out of the way early. A villain I do appreciate is Batman’s ninja/samurai nemesis from Japan who appear again in Day of the Samurai. Do you feel he is equally a foe of the mind as he is for his might or does the character not live up to expectations?
J: I do think he made for a solid antagonist. Unlike most of Batman’s villains, he’s more sinister and sneaky, as a Ninja should be. His plan is to get the upper hand through knowledge of a death touch technique instead of the usual elaborate, convoluted plans of Batman’s rogue’s gallery, so I thought it was a nice change of pace for a villain. However, when compared to the original, Night of the Ninja, I felt like this one didn’t do anything better than that episode did. I did like associating Batman more with the Samurai in terms of ideology, but otherwise, I think Night of the Ninja is the one to watch. To switch gears and talk Terror in the Sky briefly, a throwback to the very first TAS episode, I didn’t mind the role reversal. I do understand where you’re coming from. It doesn’t have quite the same elegance and iconicity as that first episode, but I thought it was an okay episode. You have any more thoughts to add on either of these episodes?
E: Well, to add just a wee bit on Day of the Samurai, I also liked that the villain’s plot is rather simple, in contrast to what a lot of the Caped Crusader’s opposites attempt. There were some pretty cool details to the episode that got my martial arts movie mojo going, like the idea of a super secretive, deadly touch that can instantly kill and the whole ninja vs samurai angle. Interesting topic about Batman being likened to a samurai. I actually think of him more as a ninja. Perhaps with regards to honour and following a strict code he is a samurai, but on a more physical and tactical sense he’s definitely a ninja. As for Terror in the Sky, I’ve been thinking about that one for a couple days now and I still can’t come to grips with what it brings to the table. For a brief moment I thought that it has something to say about the fact that the bat is a female this time, but it really doesn’t (at least I can’t think of any ideas pertaining to the sexes). What I take away from this episode is the action. There are some truly spectacular chases in this one, especially the part where the bat gives chase to Batman as he ride his Bat-bike in the snow, a hunt that climaxes atop a speeding train. There’s a great sense of speed and adrenaline to this episode, so that’s at least something. Moving along, one episode with a very clever premise if some less than stellar results is Almost Got’im. I’m dying to know what you made of this one.
J: Oh man, I love this episode. The setup is simple: Joker, Killer Crock, Penguin, Two-Face and Poison Ivy swap stories of the closest they came to beating Batman over a game of poker. Each story is filled with the story of absurd, elaborate traps you’d expect from these villains, but what makes it work so well is the commentary the villains have as they listen to each plan. They’re mocking each other’s plans, getting into little squabbles, threatening each other in hands, and I just love that dynamic between them all. The personalities of each villain shines through. Killer Croc’s bit makes me laugh every time. It’s the just right amount of dumb and paced perfectly. I’m curious what didn’t work for you in this episode, because honestly this would probably be in my top 5 episodes of the show.
E: Wow, top 5, out of all four seasons? That’s pretty darn high. Anyways, I really, really like the premise. It’s fantastic not just because it brings together a bunch of popular villains but because it’s a rare episode from their perspective. Before I start sounding like negative Nancy here, I should state that I like this one a fair bit. The Joker’s story, and his plan more specifically, is absolutely hysterical. When he asks ‘How’s Robin?’ and Batman doesn’t move a muscle or say a word I laughed out loud in my living room. My quibble is that I frankly didn’t really think all of the stories really shared some these villains’ ‘best’ attempts at doing away with Batman. When Poison Ivy’s story is mocked by her criminal coleagues, I have to say I pretty much agreed with the rest of the gang. That’s a terrible way to try to kill the Batman, not to mention that she’s undone with, let’s say, relative ease. Killer Croc is fantastic however. His comment about the large rock is pure gold. I also enjoyed the twist on the title we get in the very last few seconds involving Catwoman. What did you make of those last few moments?
J: It was a delightful way to playfully end the episode. That’s part of the wit of this episode that made this episode work so well for me. I also love the reveal that the entire conversation was Batman trying to get a piece of info while posing as one of the villains. It adds yet another layer to the proceedings and makes rewatching this episode a lot of fun knowing that information beforehand. It’s a shame that one didn’t work for you as much as it does for me, but moving on we get an episode from a classic villain we haven’t seen too much so far. What did you think of Penguin’s parade back into high society in Birds of a Feather?
E: See, I would place a vote as this one being a personal favourite. Much like the previous episode, we get a story that really is mostly from the perspective of the antagonist. What’s more, the version of the Penguin we get in the TAS is fantastic. The show runners draw a fine line between the character trying to exude some sort of sophistication and class all the way giving in to vice. The voice acting is also stellar. Best of all, the episode does a solid job at nearly making Penguin a sympathetic character, not for what made him (something the show has done many a time in the past, quite successfully too) but for how he just might transition from being a villain to an ordinary citizen. Just might. Maybe, But maybe not. What did you make of this one?
J: I thought this episode was a delightful play at the villainy of the citizens of Gotham. While it’s true that The Penguin is a criminal, this episode does show how the elite are willing to use the Penguin as the but end of a morbid joke. However, if that was all there was to the episode, it would be just okay. But by making it more complicated, showing how the Penguin is sympathetic, despite being a rather horrible person with bad eating habits, as well as showing that what started as a joke did show that The Penguin does have his merits, he is quite suave at times and certainly has top tastes when it comes to high art. It does what the best episodes in this show does: show the human side to characters that would be easy to marginalize or vilify. They’re still terrible, but the show is always quick to remind us there is good there as well. So I agree that it’s a fantastic episode. We also get another episode with a villain from Batman’s top tier: The Riddler in What is Reality? What did you think of this episode?
E: I started thinking about some weird stuff while watching this one. It’s an episode in which The Riddler TAS video game background comes into play as he forces the Dynamic Duo and Gordon to engage him inside a virtual reality setting. My mind instantly raced to an old movie call Lawnmower Man which was also about virtual reality and came out at around the same time as TAS. I also thought about how the characters seem to arrive at the a brilliant conclusion when they deduce that Edward Nygma must be back when they see a bunch of crazy riddles plastered all over Gotham. No, really? All that said I thought it was a solid episode, not the greatest but it offers some cool stuff when Batman and Robin have to contend with Nygma’s video game landscape. The animator go to town with the imagery they conjure up. There’s lots of eye candy to fans here which makes the episode pretty decent overall. I guess I’d like to know what you thought of the episode but maybe also share some of your thoughts on this version of Batman giving The Riddler a video game background. Does that suit the character?
J: I think once again I enjoyed this Riddler episode more for the imagery and setup than the character and the plot. The actual story does involve Batman missing some rather obvious hints. I do think the video game space does fit the Riddler’s penchant for games and puzzles. I do like that this time it actually looks like an actually impressive, futuristic game instead of a silly looking atariesque game. I do also like that idea of the virtual reality being so stressful that it has real-world effects on the people playing it. It’s a fun episode. I also like how these Riddler episodes show how Robin is able to get into that game and riddle mode that seems to baffle the more serious and stoic Batman. It gives Robin a more valuable role in the duo’s relationship as Robin’s better able to understand The Riddler’s mentality than Batman can. We’ve one last episode to dive into, a callback to the episode Appointment in Crime Alley. What did you think of I am the Night?
E: This is another one for which I had a strong sense of déjà vu so it must be an extra on one of those DVDs or blu-rays I have. I’m convinced I had seen this one previously. Regardless, I think this one’s pretty stellar notwithstanding a hiccup near the end. What makes this one so pertinent is, beyond having an episode in which Bruce Wayne has serious doubts about the value in continuing his crusade as a vigilante, one of the precious few things that holds a place in his heart, his annual visit to Crime Alley, results in an ally and friend (sort of) almost perishing. I liked that challenge to Bruce’s personal appointment with the location where his parents were killed. He’s made a promise to visit this very spot but it comes in conflict with a promise he’s made to Gordon to assist with a raid and Gordon pays a price for it. It’s a very well devised episode I think. James?
J: It’s a good reality-check for the Batman. He’s left to consider whether or not he’s making an impact. It’s easy to think of superheroes as these confident, unwavering heroes, but this episode shows us that Batman has his moments of doubt. And I do think he’s left to ponder whether or not he’s making a difference in the grand scheme of things. However, the episode reminds us that it’s the smaller acts, the ones that Batman doesn’t even realize he’s making an impact, that can have a life-altering effect on the people he comes into contact with. I love that notion. It’s an episode that I think might get just a bit too close to making Batman slightly too angsty, but I think it’s worth it to ponder the questions that are brought up this episode. Anymore thoughts on this set of episodes?
E: I don’t think calling this episodes really good or great is breaking news if you ask me. Granted, it didn’t start off swimmingly, which actually had me mildly concerned since the previous set was, relatively speaking, the lesser of all the ones we had reviewed. For a short while it crossed my mind that the show was going downhill but it quickly and effortlessly picked itself up and is now back on track with creativity, great designs, and great action. The only question that remains is, as a devout Batman fan, are you more a ninja or more a samurai?
J: I’m probably more ninja. Smuggling my Batman nerdiness and then unleashing it all in a quick flurry of blows.
E: And they’ll never see it coming either in true ninja fashion.