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Original Airdate: February 4, 2006
Writer: Steven Melching
Director: Anthony Chun
Where the hell am I?
I… wh… I was going to hawk it on eBay! Now get me down from here!
Uh… yeah, that’s nice and everything, but you’re not in this episode.
The guy in this episode is Toymaker. You show up in the Season 5 finale.
Confused? Good. Now we’re in the same boat.
This isn’t the first time a Batman show stole from another rogues gallery. Hell, it’s not even the first time this Batman show stole from another rogues gallery. But to this day, I’m still not sure why The Batman felt it needed an expy of a Superman villain regularly pilloried as an Arkham reject.**
But I have my theories. Most of which involve this guy.
I’ve never really been a Patton Oswalt fan, but I do know he was one of the earliest bridges between Geek and Mainstream, and still one of the most cherished. Throw in his history with Batman in particular, and it’s not that hard to imagine him lobbying to voice a Special Guest Villain. Hell, Disney Channel had already given him plenty of practice on that front.
Sure, by 2006 The Batman had already cast most of Arkham’s big guns, and it sucks that “Patton Oswalt IS the Joker” was never in the cards, but I suspect Oswalt would’ve been perfectly happy, if not happier, putting his stamp on some Z-lister like Crazy Quilt. Alas, whether by chance or design, The Batman split the difference between those two options, and Oswalt wound up with this.***
Alright, that’s enough lead-in. Let’s talk about the actual cartoon.
Oswalt’s character is Cosmo Krank, a toy manufacturer whose vision is matched only by the lack of fucks he gives about his customer base. No toy is too dangerous for his company, be it mini-hovercrafts, action figures with live artillery, or self-immolating Happy Tree Friends.
Since the actual authorities are useless as ever, Bruce uses the full might of Wayne Industries to shut Krank down. For the good of the children, you understand. Certainly not because Krank’s playing with tech that every Pentagon chief – and probably Bruce himself – would give both arms to confiscate.
(Look, I’m just saying, it’s a mighty big coinkydink that Batman rolls out a TIE Fighter two episodes after this one.)
But oh dear, it seems we have a conscientious objector!
So that’s our plot in a nutshell: Bruce pissed off a villain, villain tries to kill Bruce. There’s something almost admirable about how the script knocks it all out in the first 90 seconds instead of trying to stretch a mystery out of it, but you know what would make it even better? If said villain didn’t suck so badly at villaining.
I mean, this show’s timeslot was never going to let any of those missiles connect with something warm and squishy. I get that. But when your villain falls victim to an empty magazine, of all things? No one ends up looking good, and that’s not even the most embarrassing setback this episode has in store for Krank.
Granted, Oswalt seems to have realized this, and voices Krank as an appropriately dorky mix of
Hello… Newman and Ned Flanders. It’s ingenious, actually: he sounds scatterbrained and immature enough to make his failures believable (if still annoying to watch), but his successes do get a sort of psychotic menace across.
… except that one. That will never be anything close to menacing.
Anyways, Krank gets away clean, and Commissioner Gordon personally appoints a GCPD bodyguard to keep Bruce in one piece. Not exactly unexpected, since Bruce probably chips in half the police budget every year, but all the same, it’s sweet that Jim’s still trying his best to protect the littlest Wayne twenty years after That Night in the Alley.
Of course, not just any ol’ bluecoat gets to shadow Gotham’s favorite son. No, for this one, Jim’s pulling out the big guns.
Yes, folks, the Pat is back. And this time, it’s
personal with a writer actually interested in playing to his strengths. Granted, Melching’s record with successful comedy leaves much to be desired, but this is the kind of setup that writes itself. What wacky shenanigans await our heroes? Can Bruce collar Krank without blowing his secret? And will a mutual love of nachos allow Alfred and Cash to overcome their vast background, education, and personality gap?
(In fact, I believe this is the last episode to mention Alfred’s famous nachos. Coincidence? I think not.)
While Cash relives his Star Command glory days and Alfred contemplates the best spot to dump a body, Bruce sneaks away for an indescribably pointless suit-up (seriously, he changes back about five seconds later). And Krank? Krank’s whipped up another surprise for Gotham’s favorite son.
Ironically, despite the bigger focus on comedy, this episode gives Cash way more props than “JTV” ever did. He’s smart enough to see Krank coming – even if he focuses on the wrong part of Krank’s present – and he doesn’t do too badly against the Wolverine-Bot up there. Hell, the only reason Bruce takes it down is because Krank was too dumb to put a lock on its fusebox.
Still, a secret identity demands sacrifices, so Bruce puts on a little show for Cash’s benefit.
So Cash gets the “killing” blow in, but in a mildly pleasant surprise, he doesn’t really let it go to his head, instead taking the opportunity to try and befriend Bruce. The short-lived bromance between these two is the closest this episode ever gets to character work, and while it never amounts to anything insightful or laugh-out-loud funny, I find it oddly charming. What can I say? You really need to try to make me hate a Warburton character.
NO NO WAIT I WAS JUST KIDDING! CASH! DO SOMETHING!
Curse you, circadian cycle!
On the bright side, now that the good detective is dreaming of a White House career (and holy shit, Hollywood, how is Patrick Warburton: Secret Serviceman not a thing already?), Batman can finally come out and play. First order of business:
beg request the Commish to give him Cash’s job.
Jim’s logic is that Batman is “best used in the field”, which makes negligible amounts of sense – if Krank is personally targeting Bruce, doesn’t that mean guarding Bruce is fieldwork? I’m personally tempted to headcanon that Cash is some hoity-toity political appointment who can’t be removed without blowback, and Jim’s just too embarrassed to admit it.
Either way, it’s too bad Batman doesn’t have a sidekick or something.
While Cash and Alfred get up to more shenanigans back at the manor (it’s probably the only toilet joke on this show to actually work), Batman heads to Krank’s old factory to look for clues
and pick up that last Riddler trophy. All as Krank planned, since he’s rigged the whole place to blow.
How does Batman handle this one, you ask? Same way Bruce Wayne handles board meetings: show up fashionably late. The factory goes down before he takes a single step inside, so it’s time for Krank to roll out Plan B. And I bet you’ll never guess how he fucks up this time!
Yeah. All Batman has to do is jump a couple feet, and Krank’s little army blows itself to smithereens, taking the last scrap of Krank’s villain cred with them. Seriously, we’re barely past the halfway point and this episode’s stiffing him worse than Lazenby in a Bond retrospective.
But all that said, the above scene does contribute to some genuine menace. From Cash.
Yes, it’s another cheapo fakeout, and I envy anyone unjaded enough to think otherwise. And yet, it’s a helluva lot more threatening than any of the “real” dangers Krank whips up, even without Warburton’s pitch-perfect “You must think Cash is pretty dumb”. Like I said, this episode’s been pretty good about building Cash up from the ashes of “JTV”, enough that I can buy – if only for a split-second – the idea of him uncovering The Secret.
Cash’s actual deduction is that Bruce was out partying (Krank’s bomb had confetti packed inside; don’t ask me how the hell it got under the Batsuit), which sends him into a frothing rage. How could Bruce even think about running off to some dark, isolated, stranger-filled, cocaine-drenched orgy… without letting Cash have a taste?
Eh, whatever. A heartfelt sorry, a Jackie Chan marathon, he’ll be over it by morning.
Knowing the third act is drawing close, Bruce brokers peace by fixing Cash’s shades (I think… maybe he just bought a thousand-dollar replacement), and uses his newfound semi-freedom to attend a park dedication thingamajig. Seems some nutjob flooded the place with Agent Orange a couple weeks back. Can you imagine?
After the obligatory false alarm and some of the fakest child acting I’ve ever heard in my life, Krank gives the whole supervillain gig one more try. And whaddya know – third time’s the charm.
Make no mistake – this isn’t anything close to an unqualified victory for Krank, since the only reason he gets away alive is because the on-site cops keep shooting the top instead of the guy driving it (Cash doesn’t even try to draw his piece). And as far as Bruce is concerned, this is actually the best thing that could’ve happened, since Krank’s pretty much handed him a cast-iron changing room. Still, baby steps.
Fearless as ever, Cash pursues the blue-banged bandit and beleaguered billionaire with the first set of wheels he sees: an ice cream truck. The ensuing chase, I’m sorry to say, smacks of a joke Melching didn’t know how to develop but couldn’t bring himself to cut. It’s just kind of there, hovering in the general vicinity of funny but never making any actual effort
much like most of my reviews. Would it have been that hard to get Warburton to ad-lib something?
But if the journey is a disappointment, the destination isn’t.
Krank’s home turf is an appropriately twisted subterranean playground, all eye-searing colors and warped lines that make zero logistical sense and are better off for it (though admittedly, it might’ve packed a bigger punch had more of this episode taken place at night). Even better, the locale gives Oswalt some actual material to work with, and he comes through with a sadistic hiss that, for the first time, convinces me Krank has actual teeth as a villain:
“And now you get to join my collection.”
See all those groovy little rainbows? They’re rivers of molten plastic, and Krank’s looking to make his very own Bruce Wayne Non-Action Figure by dropping Bruce inside.
And then sell the mold to Mattel for a couple grand and cackling rights when yet another inane Batman variant clogs the shelves.
Okay, seriously – this would be an impressively brutal deathtrap from any villain, never mind an otherwise-forgettable Toyman ripoff. You simply can’t go wrong evoking the spirit of Vincent Price, and it even kinda gives weight to Krank’s last two attempts on Bruce’s life. Death by missiles? Messy but relatively painless. Death by mauling? Worse, but at least it’ll be over quick. Death by 500-degree plastic? The only reason you won’t pray for suffocation will be because all your nerve endings are already fried.
And the best part is, that’s a pretty good illustration of how an overgrown child’s mind might work. Kids are mean little buggers, and there’s nothing like a solid string of failures to get all kinds of revenge fantasies flowing, each uglier than the last. Krank’s only special in that he (somehow) has the means to bring them to life.
The worst part is that it lasts all of ten seconds. Then we’re back to this.
The big action setpiece starts with a whimper, in that it only starts at all because Cash distracts Batman long enough for Krank to activate his kill-bots. But never mind that, we’ve got a climax featuring Batman and two of the funniest men a TV budget can buy! Can it live up to even one percent of the inherent potential?
… not really, but at least all three players are free to move and quip, and that alone means it pisses all over Warburton’s last outing on The Batman. There’s also the inherent perks to fighting a giant robot army – S&P won’t give a single crap about brutality, and the Law of Ninjutsu will have your back like you personally bailed it out of jury duty, which means the episode can finally let Cash cut loose without worrying about overshadowing Batman.
So long as he doesn’t, y’know, try to fight the actual vill-aw, sonuvabitch.
Dedicated, fearless member of the GCPD he is, Cash immediately starts begging for his life and gets rescued by Batman seconds later. What a choice opportunity for two men, whose legal dynamic has done a 180 since their last encounter, to commiserate over all the radical upheavals in their respective lives!
Or they can just steal Krank’s remote and do this.
Epilogue: the Commish tears Cash a new asshole for letting the last third of this episode happen at all (because you do soooo well against supervillains, Jimbo). But Bruce, a bro till the end, puts in a good word for his new pal. Could this be the start of a wonderful, quirky new partnership for the Dark Knight?
Well, I retain my opinion that Cash could work as a recurring character, if not a full-blown regular, but this was a decent enough note for Warburton to bow out on. No, the script isn’t anything to write home about (I’d probably put it in the bottom half of Season 3, if not the bottom third). No, Oswalt doesn’t have any highlights aside from that one line. And yet, it’s oddly difficult to dislike; even the worst jokes are more forgettable than foul.
Am I giving it a free pass for having more Warburtony goodness in every bite? Quite possibly. Still, there’s worse criteria to judge by.
Next: Once upon a time in a city abandoned by God, a white sociopath with bad hair decided to seek out a pupil, a malleable young mind to mold in his own psychotic image. A living tool with which he would be unstoppable.
And somewhere, the Joker was taking notes.
* Sadly, being created by Jeph Loeb is not illegal. Yet.
** This character was called “Toymaker” in some promotional materials for the show – including a TV ad I can still remember ten years after the fact – but even a week of judicious Googling has failed to recover any hard evidence. In the episode itself, credits included, he’s only ever called “Cosmo Krank”.
*** Seriously – Patton Oswalt is short, Gotham-inclined, and has extensive experience with the words “I’m gonna fill your hoo-ha with goof juice”. Why didn’t anyone think to cast him as the Mad Hatter?