The Batman Review: The Apprentice (S3E10)

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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: Cash for Toys (S3E09)

(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 4, 2006
Writer: Steven Melching
Director:
 Anthony Chun

“Hello, boys and girls. Are you ready for a story? Of course you are.”

                                                                     

“People tell such mean little lies about me and my colleagues, here in Metropolis. That we’re has-beens. That we’re cannon fodder. That we’re not fit to get coffee for those posers in Gotham-

                                                            

Ahem. Let’s begin.”

                                                          

“Once upon a time, there was a clever old man who made the best toys in the world. And like any clever man, he had a dream: to take that big blue spoilsport down a peg.”

                                                      

“This was easier said than done, of course, but the clever old man had time. More importantly, he could adapt.”

                                       

“And so it was that one Toyman became a few – became a slew – more. Some aimed big…”

                                                         

“… while others aimed small…”

                                                       

Hiro Okamura
“And others still broke no laws at all.”*

… ngh…

“That’s the real game, you see. Adapt. Adapt into a buffoon, a Norman Bates wannabe, a goodytwoshoes, whatever keeps people remembering. Adapt or get scrapped.”

… w-where…?

“And on one blustery September day, children across America saw the greatest, cleverest, bestest adaptation of-“

Where the hell am I?

“Ah, you’re awake. Did you enjoy your Brushable Princess Luna™ with Real Sleepytime Action?”

I… wh… I was going to hawk it on eBay! Now get me down from here!

“Oh no. No no no no no no noooooo. Not until every little boy and girl understands how badly this episode mangled Toyman’s name. My name!”

Uh… yeah, that’s nice and everything, but you’re not in this episode.

“… what?”

The guy in this episode is Toymaker. You show up in the Season 5 finale.

IMDBToy
Do you doubt the words of the almighty IMDB?

                                                       

“… well, screw this. I gotta Justice League movie to audition for. You’re on your own, chump.”

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The Batman Review: Fleurs du Mal (S3E08)

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Original Airdate: November 26, 2005
Writer: David Slack
Director:
 Anthony Chun

The year is 1857.

Hugo is seven years in exile, and the Bonapartes’ second wind is in full swing. Russia has been soundly whipped for its insolence in the Crimea, but who has the time to celebrate? The whole of France – the whole of the Continent – buzzes with news that America is headed for a split, and Victoria’s Empire may not be far behind. Into this harrowing pit strode a most unimpressive figure, an unreliable little dandy of a man by the name of Charles-

Okay, fuck it. I don’t know the first thing about Second Empire poetry, and neither do you. I’m really sorry, guys – I wanted this blog’s first anniversary to be marked by a review of Something Special, but my work ethic roughly matches that of M. Baudelaire’s, and you can see how that’s worked out.

In any case, the link between today’s episode and Baudelaire’s most (in)famous work are probably skin-deep at best. Still, it’s the classiest reference this show’s done so far, and a worthy welcome for David Slahominahominahomina…

David Slack
Fun fact: the “slack” is derived from the state of your jaw after Googling him.

Excepting Greg Weisman, Slack is the most high-powered writer this show’s tapped so far, having already masterminded five whole seasons of Teen Titans back when that name still brought cheers instead of retching from Cartoon Network’s faithful. Lest you still have any doubts, here’s just a small selection of what he can do in the writer’s seat.

So seeing his name on this episode is heartening, to say the least, but can his talents pull him through a show even Weisman couldn’t crack on the first try? We shall see.

David Slack
“We shall indeed. By the way, you losers still can’t use Robin. Just so you know.”

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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
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.

I didn’t say it was a good 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
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: A Dark Knight to Remember (S3E03)

(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.)

(This review dedicated to the late Darwyn Cooke.)

Original Airdate: October 1, 2005
Writer: Joseph Kuhr
Director:
 Brandon Vietti

Okay, everyone’s waited long enough for this, so let’s just get something out of the way. Fat, obnoxious villain? Batman getting amnesia? I think we all know where this is going.

I mean, if I had the slightest cause for hope, I’d be trying to link this episode’s inspiration to Puckett, Templeton, and Parobeck instead. But that part of my brain has been on life support ever since I found half my family are voting for The Donald, so let’s just dive in.

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