The Batman Review: The Apprentice (S3E10)

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Original Airdate: February 11, 2006
Writer: Steven Melching
 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)

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(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
 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 box of angry cobras (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 safe.


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 pretty straightforward 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 fellow ’80s stalwarts 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)

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

People like the Joker, right? What if… we gave him 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.


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)

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Original Airdate: October 8, 2005
Writer: Steven Melching
 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.


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)

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Original Airdate: September 10, 2005
Writer: Steven Melching
 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.”


“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)

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Original Airdate: June 4, 2005
Writer: Michael Jelenic
 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 baddie-of-the-week got hauled off to jail.

But to laugh, many 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
 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


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…


Aw, what the hell. Just start the episode.

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The Batman Review: Meltdown (S2E06)

(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 25, 2005
Writer: Greg Weisman
 Seung Eun Kim

And here we arrive at Season 2’s first undisputed masterpiece, which unfortunately has to stand in the shadow of a certain other Batman episode with the exact same title, not to mention similar themes. But honest to God, I think today’s episode may actually be a contender, if not outright superior, thanks to that fellow whose name comes after the Writer tag up there.

Greg Weisman is back, people, and he’s here to kick ass, take names, and sweep the Emmys. Tell us, Sir – what is your secret?

Greg Weisman
“Uh, I treat the viewership like they’ve got more than one brain cell to rub at any given time?”

Oh, Greg. You and your wacko radical theories. Good thing you’re handling the one villain this show allows a modicum of maturity and nuance, else we’d have to put you in the funbox!

Anyways, this is the first time The Batman‘s taken a stab at a villain reformation episode – something That Other Show absolutely loved, especially during its The Adventures of Batman & Robin season. How will the more simplistic, black-and-white world of The Batman handle the same theme? Let’s find out.

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The Batman Review: The Batman vs. Dracula

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Release Date: October 18, 2005
Writer: Duane Capizzi
Directors: Michael Goguen, Seung Eun Kim, Sam Liu, and Brandon Vietti

(Thank you for being so patient, everyone. Your wait has not been in vain.)

Welp. I’ve done it. Seventeen reviews, and I’m finally ready to rip off Mouse even more than I usually do for my first movie critique. Whoopee!

So… Batman versus Dracula. As a kid I bought it instantly, but as a full-grown geek I have to admit it’s a tougher sell. The purist in me can rarely stand Batman mixing it up with magic & monsters (okay, sure, he was doing just that literally five issues into his debut, but I like to think there’s a reason the Monk has gotten about three stories in seventy-five-odd years) and this particular monster is such a genre icon that he’s nigh-impossible to fudge into “our” history for the purposes of Like Reality Unless Noted. That’s not an instant dealbreaker, but it does leave a weird taste in my mouth, akin to the time Batman ran into a 120-year-old Sherlock Holmes.

Bee jelly was involved. Seriously.

In any case, DC only trots out the Count on very rare occasions, and pretty much never with fanfare. Which isn’t to say this movie has no lead to follow, because one of those occasions just happened to be…

Some number Red Rain among the best of Elseworlds – one that doesn’t just go “What if our hero grew up in X time and Y place?” but actively, permanently disrupts a status quo we all know and love, in this case making Batman fight and eventually replace the King of Vampires. Others call it a misguided, misshapen mess, crammed with cheap stakes, cheaper gore, and prose purple enough to make Anne Rice wince – all trying and utterly failing to hide all the goofiness in-between-

(Let’s not get started on the art. We’ll literally be here all day.)

-and I can’t really disagree with either. It’s always struck me as a very unbalanced comic, with just as many lows as highs and not much in the way of reread value. Still, there’s no arguing its legacy: sequels, toys, the all-important Lego game cameo

And maybe, just maybe, a flick that can boil it down for twelve-year-olds and still have something to be proud of.

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The Batman Review: JTV (S2E03)

(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: July 9, 2005
Writer: Michael Jelenic
 Seung Eun Kim
Special Guest Villain Hostage: Adam West as Mayor Grange
Extra Special Guest Villain Hostage: Patrick Warburton as Detective Cash

Y’know, getting hijacked by the Joker is probably a rite of passage for Gotham’s networks.

Good ol’ Mistah J forcing himself onto Gotham’s airwaves is, again, something that literally goes back to his first appearance, and they’ve never really given it a rest since. He’s done it on the Adam West show, he’s done it in both the Burton and Nolan movies, and he’s done it too many times to count in That Other Show and its offspring, all culminating in what’s probably my favorite episode of Justice League.

It makes a lot of sense – the Joker’s a real egotistical bastard, after all, and his whole gimmick works best with an audience – but after seventy-five years of this gag, finding a fresh angle can get really hard. There have been a couple attempts to use it as satiric commentary on the entertainment biz, but those were… underwhelming, to say the least. And in any case, I fear such things are still beyond this show’s scope.

Hell, even this episode’s name isn’t original, owing itself wholly to a story from That Other Show’s tie-in comic.*


But ah, enough with the doom and gloom and things that go boom. If nothing else, we’ve got two very special guest stars to look forward to, so here we goooooo!

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