The Batman Review: The Apprentice (S3E10)

(DISCLAIMER: The author of this blog owns none of the properties depicted below. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.)

Original Airdate: February 11, 2006
Writer: Steven Melching
Director:
 Brandon Vietti

Well now, here’s a sight for sore eyes: a Joker episode that actually tries to be about the Joker.

I mean, whatever strengths “Brawn” or “The Laughing Cats” may have, I think we can all agree the Joker’s presence in them was unremarkable at best, outright deadweight at worst. All the more reason to appreciate this Joker outing, which happens to be Season 3’s last – making this, if I have my math right, our least Joker-y season thus far.

On top of that, we’re returning to the well of Joker-as-corrupter, which is not only one of my favorite aspects of the character but also something that’s almost mandatory for a successful take. The Joker may give off the vibes of a rabid animal, but consider this: would we be half as afraid of those if we didn’t know they could bring us to down to their level with one bite?

So it was with the Adam West show and its Bad Pennies. With That Other Show and Harley Quinn. With The Dark Knight and Harvey Dent. With Ethan Bennett on this very series. And of course, we mustn’t forget the most successful one of all, which corrupted me into never giving DC another cent of my money for as long as I live.

“Good ter have yeh back, matey.”

But the clearest precedent is probably “Be A Clown”, deemed by many to be That Other Show’s worst Joker episode. Personally, I feel that’s a little harsh – it’s no “Joker’s Favor” or “The Laughing Fish”, but it did touch quite a few interesting ideas before the big inevitable rollercoaster punch-up.

Can Steven Melching do one better? Let’s find out.

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The Batman Review: The Laughing Cats (S3E07)

(DISCLAIMER: The author of this blog owns none of the properties depicted below. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.)

(Again – sorry for the delay, folks. Wisdom teeth extraction isn’t terribly conductive to productivity, a half-gallon of tranquilizers even less so.)

Original Airdate: November 19, 2005
Writer: Joseph Kuhr
Director:
 Christopher Berkeley

I recently came across a review of The Batman by one of my older e-buddies, in which he cited pacing as one of the show’s two biggest problems. My first instinct was to disagree, then mail him a hive of killer bees (only I get to criticize The Batman, donchaknow). Then I remembered today’s episode is the last time Catwoman gets anything resembling a spotlight, and she’s considered one of the less-wasted villains.

I don’t even like Catwoman that much, but after the bum deal That Other Show gave her, she definitely deserved better from this one. Instead, she gets a permanent demotion two seasons before the finish line, and her going-away party gets hijacked by Batgirl and the Joker, to boot.

But wait, maybe our special guest gatecrashers will do more good than harm! Let’s see what history has to say.

Catwoman and Batgirl got off to a fairly rocky start, since the latter was introduced in the ’60s and DC’s cure for writer’s block back then often boiled down to “rip off whatever Archie’s up to”. The Superman books got the worst of it, no doubt, but Gotham’s women were far from spared.

detective369-19

Fortunately, this angle was dropped after a story or two, and as Catwoman moved into grey hat territory, Batgirl became another upstanding Debbie Do-Gooder who could be teased and teamed up with – though never seduced, like Batman might be. Instead, Catwoman-Batgirl stories tend to be unapologetic girl-power affairs, with “Batgirl Returns” from That Other Show undoubtedly the most famous of the lot.*

(Of course, the two of them are nowhere near contemporaries in this show, so we’ll see how that shakes out.)

Catwoman and the Joker, meanwhile, have a much longer, twistier history. From a certain perspective, they’re almost siblings – not only were they both introduced in Batman #1, but they’d cross paths in the very next issue, in the first-ever meeting between two big-name rogues. And just like siblings, they could rarely stand to be in the same room for five seconds; team-ups were rare, and when they did happen the results were seldom pretty.

Pictured: one of Cesar and Eartha’s happier outtakes.

As the years went on, this animosity got worse. Modern writers love emphasizing Catwoman’s (relative) sanity almost as much as they love playing up how screw-loose the Joker is, and ever since Frank Miller introduced “Batman. Darling.” into Joker’s personality, well… the Bat-Cat-Bat love triangle might be dead, but the Bat-Cat-Clown one is still kicking.

Miller (and other writers like Mike W. Barr) would use that dynamic to turn out some of the most disturbing moments in the Joker’s history, but I seriously doubt this episode’s going to be anything like that. Still, one never knows…

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The Batman Review: Brawn (S3E06)

(DISCLAIMER: The author of this blog owns none of the properties depicted below. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.)

Original Airdate: November 12, 2005
Writer: Alexx Van Dyne
Director:
 Brandon Vietti

People like the Joker, right? What if… we put him on steroids?

You think it’s stupid. I think it’s stupid. But apparently Rocksteady didn’t, and as of 2016, this is still probably the closest thing The Batman has to an actual legacy.

TITAN: NOT EVEN ONCE.

Anything else I can add to the history lesson? Well, the general idea of Venom falling into non-Bane hands is certainly older than this episode (hell, it’s older than Bane). That said, this episode was probably made around the same time Jose Canseco’s Juiced came out, so there may – may – have been a tiny seed of influence there.

This episode is also a Batgirl-centric one, so the choice of Joker for the main villain leads to some pretty inevitable parallels with a certain other work from DC’s past.

What’d you think I meant?

But we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of that later.

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The Batman Review: A Fistful of Felt (S3E04)

(DISCLAIMER: The author of this blog owns none of the properties depicted below. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.)

Original Airdate: October 8, 2005
Writer: Steven Melching
Director:
 Anthony Chun

So here we are – The Batman‘s second attempt at a reformation story, and its last Ventriloquist episode. Much as I love him/them, I have to admit that’s probably for the best, since there’s really only two stories you can do with the Ventriloquist: the debut (which may or may not double as an origin) and the rehabilitation attempt.

This is an accusation more commonly leveled at Two-Face, and while I disagree in that case, I can’t deny that Arnold Wesker is in many ways a poor man’s Harvey Dent. Like Harvey, he’s a fundamentally good man plagued by an evil split-personality, but there’s no rise-and-fall arc, and far less complexity. Arnold and Scarface have nothing in common – to the point of using different names and different bodies – so their story is less “man confronts his darker side, compromises with it through random chance” and more “man gets pushed around by douchebag he just happens to share a brain with”.

And that’s when Scarface isn’t being portrayed as a literal demon possessing poor Arnold.

ScarfaceDemon

Long story short, Ventriloquist reform stories tend to go through the same beats no matter who writes them – you read one, you’ve read ’em all. That Other Show’s take stands out with a somewhat unconventional ending, but that’s about it. Let’s see whether The Batman can rise to the occasion.

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The Batman Review: Night and the City (S2E13)

(DISCLAIMER: The author of this blog owns none of the properties depicted below. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.)

Original Airdate: September 10, 2005
Writer: Steven Melching
Director:
 Brandon Vietti

And once again, ladies and gents, we come to the end of an era. The end of a status quo. And the end of certain beloved cast members.

Just not funny
“Wait, what?

                                                 

Things Get Worse
“Didn’t ya hear? Accounting says this show’s waaay over budget.”

                                                   

JokerUhOh
“So we’re gonna have to lose ourselves some dead weight.”

                                              

Alfred Mistake
“Indeed? And who, might I ask, is on the proverbial chopping block?”

                                                

Final Riddle
“Ah, ah, ah. Ask yourselves not who in. Ask w-“  

Ah-pa-pap. Let’s leave that little surprise for later, Eddie.

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The Batman Review: The Laughing Bat (S2E12)

(DISCLAIMER: The author of this blog owns none of the properties depicted below. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.)

Original Airdate: June 4, 2005
Writer: Michael Jelenic
Director:
 Seung Eun Kim
Special Guest Villain Reviewer: Napoleon “OverMaster” de Cheese

So, just to reiterate…

Batman laughing: terrifying as balls.

Batman laughing

And he means hairy balls. Big, bulbous, hairy balls.

This is something that’s easy to recognize on both a superficial level – especially with today’s Batman growing more humorless by the year – and on more thematic levels. After all, almost from the moment of his debut, Batman was all about control – the man who could shake off Scarecrow’s hallucinogens, Poison Ivy’s seduction, and more to impose his own brand of order on a chaotic world. Even Adam West’s take would rarely give more than a single condescending chuckle as the villain got hauled off to jail.

But to laugh, a lot of people would contend, is the ultimate surrender of control. Fear and lust can be excused as instincts necessary for survival, but laughter is nothing more than distancing yourself from life and all its trials and tribulations. How callous. How pathetic.*

How utterly perfect for Batman’s archenemy.

But don’t take it from me. We’ve got a real Batman authority with us today:

Hello, I’m OverMaster, also known as Napoleon De Cheese, fellow uber-geek and fanfiction scribe. You’re probably well-acquainted with my award-winning megacrossover Unequally Rational and Emotional.

Joker cricket

… or perhaps Thirty-One Clown Princesses in Amber?

Joker cricket

Tales Calculated to Drive You Batty, then?

Joker cricket

… anyways, I choose my Internet names on whims of a moment and it shows. Saying I am the glass half empty type would be too generous to me. In short, I’m hardly a barrel of laughs (aren’t you glad yet you’re going to spend large chunks of this review with me?) and yet my second or third (depending on the day) most favorite character ever is the Joker. Go figure.

I’d like to start my participation in this review by begging you not to leave because of me. Just be strong, grind your teeth and bear through it, like most people involved in my life. You might even emerge a better person, although that hasn’t happened to anyone else involved in my life yet. But it might yet happen. Might.

Also, the following review is probably best read if you try and hear my bits through it in an Eeyore voice while you picture Rubber Lotus’ being said aloud in a… Tigger, voice, I guess? After all, the most wonderful thing about Rubber Lotuses is he’s the only one!

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The Batman Review: Strange Minds (S2E10)

(DISCLAIMER: The author of this blog owns none of the properties depicted below. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.)

Original Airdate: September 3, 2005
Writer: Greg Weisman
Director:
 Brandon Vietti

Good evening, mhm, scholars and faithful readers. Dr. Hugo Strange, PhD, speaking.

I am rather pleased to report that the owner and operator of this blog has been reacting, mm, quite well to Arkham Asylum’s latest psychotherapy techniques. Why, at this point, I am reasonably certain he will be fit to rejoin respectable society within as little as two years.

RL Straightjacket
“There are five lights! FIVE LIGHTS!”

Such are the wonders of isolation, electroshock, and their ilk, mm?

Mr. Lotus, however, remains stubbornly insistent on returning to the dreadful little reviews that keep this blog afloat, which no doubt stem from some narcissistic delusion that he is somehow irreplaceable. The Batman‘s one reviewer and champion in this day and age, he’d like to believe. Utter rubbish, of course, and the purpose of this review is to prove it so that I may break his spirit for once and all time complete his treatment and further his recovery. Anyone may review an episode of a cartoon as forgotten as this one, and better, I daresay.

Ah, I see that some of you are already prepared to bombard me with accusations of narcissism equal to or even greater than Mr. Lotus’s, for does this episode not mark my “true” debut on The Batman? Not at all, I contend – that moment is quite far off, and today’s episode largely focuses on the psyche of another of Gotham’s inhabitants. You may have heard of him from some little gossip rag or another.

Joker Delivery

The inner workings of Joker’s mind have been an endless source of fascination to amateurs and professionals around the globe, and the theories, I daresay, are as numerous as the graves he’s filled. Aheh.

In terms of motivation alone, it has been theorized that he was once an ordinary, law-abiding soul, driven to become one of society’s greatest monsters by a tragedy that was largely out of his control; that he was an unrepentant albeit mundane monster inspired to deeper depravity by his first encounter with Batman; that he is in fact perfectly aware of what he is doing and only uses the veneer of insanity to steer himself away from the electric chair; that his mental abnormalities are in fact a kind of “super-sanity” which mocks the very idea of a single consciousness, sane or otherwise. Even my considerable intellect has not solved this conundrum, though I admit that the one opportunity I had to interview him in person was hampered by rather… disagreeable circumstances.

(The man also happens to be an inveterate liar. But that is neither here nor there.)

Hrm. That’s quite enough with the preliminaries. Let us see whether this cartoon, brought to us by perhaps the only writer on this program who even attempted any intellectual sophistication, might shed some light after…

FOX Gotham
“Dr. Strange? I’m looking for a Dr. Strange?”

Who dares… I mean, yes? How may I help you?

FOX Gotham
“Hi, I’m from FOX, and we’re looking to shoehorn feature as many of Batman’s enemies as possible in our second season. Tell me, how do you feel about B.D. Wong?

Ah, say no more. There can be only one logical reply to a situation like this.

Hugo Strange
“When do I begin?”

                                                   

RL Straightjacket
“Wait, what?! Where are you going?!”

                                                 

Hugo Strange
“Please. Surely you did not think I would be content to function as a second-rate Horned King, for a third-rate blog that cannot even keep to a schedule?”

                                                                   

RL Straightjacket
“B-B-But-“

                                                             

Hugo Strange
“Farewell and best of luck, Mr. Lotus. Oh, and do read a book on how to convincingly wear  a straitjacket one day.”

No, wait, you were supposed to be my big comeback! The start of an epic metaplot that would’ve left Unshaved Mouse in the dust! Don’t… leave… me…

Goddammit.

Aw, what the hell. Just start the episode.

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