My Batman the Animated Series reviews continue with episodes 51-55! My reviews will use an A(Great), B(Good), C(Ok), and D(Bad) rating system as well as my thoughts on the episode.
51. The Man Who Killed Batman: A clever and humorous story that follows the hopeless criminal, Sid the Squid’s accidental defeat of the Batman! Told in flashback by Sid to Rupert Thorne seeking protection, Sid relays the tale of how he unintentionally killed Batman in an explosion, gained temporary glory, and was nearly killed by the Joker. Ultimately, Batman survived as was tailing Sid all along to find out who was behind the original operation. A really fun episode! Though Sid is a criminal, he is a lot of fun and really sympathetic. The storytelling through flashbacks through a minor character’s perspective was really intriguing. But of course, who shines the brightest is the Joker! The Joker’s reaction to Batman’s death is so fun, because although he spends all his time trying to kill Batman, he’s angry that he’s dead because he didn’t get to do it. The Animation was pretty good, no real complaints worth mentioning. Dini and Timm hit another home run! Overall, a really fun story in the world of Gotham City! Rating: A
52. Mudslide: Clayface returns in an attempt to save his own deterioration he has taken to stealing chemicals, causing Batman to get involved. The story line is a little one note, but the episode is really great! It has a mystery for Batman to solve but he ends up mostly just chasing around after Clayface with some digging into his past to the side. It does investigate the psychology of one of his foes, and how he deals with his current state and motivations, fleshing out his character. Clayface is one of my favorites in this series, because they treat him like a real character, not just a villain or a shape-shifting crook. Plus his powers are just so cool! The final battle between Batman and Clayface is dramatic and really well animated with a climactic death scene from Matt Hagen. I remember this episode significantly from my childhood, and it always scared me when Batman was trapped inside Clayface, I used to act out Batman’s escape under my blankets. I do stand by my theory that Clayface is bisexual, because the undertones in his first appearance were so strong and his relationship with Dr. Bates is so one sided. Overall, what this episode lacked in complicated plot it makes up for in character, drama, intrigue, and fun. Rating: B+
53. Paging the Crime Doctor: Crime Lord Rupert Thorne’s brother Matthew is the Crime Doctor, an out of license doctor who helps clean up Thorne’s men. When Matthew learns of Rupert’s severe heart condition, he is forced to operate on his brother but needs help. So, they kidnap Dr. Leslie Thompkins, an old friend, and together they save Thorne. Matthew and Batman help Leslie escape. The episode is low on thrills but has some heart. The concept of a “Crime Doctor” who treats criminals is actually a pretty cool concept, and fits nicely into the world of Gotham. Other than that, the episode also has some good moments dealing with the Waynes. Batman discovers that Matthew was a friend and colleague of his father, Thomas Wayne. Though the episode is pretty dry, the ending where Bruce Wayne offers to help Matthew Thorne in exchange to hear stories about his father. Overall, a rather bland episode but not a particularly bad one. Rating: C-
54. Zatanna: Introducing the mistress of magic, the enchanting Zatanna! Bruce Wayne attends a magic show performed by Zatanna Zatara, who it is revealed in flashback to be an old friend. Bruce trained with her father to learn escape art and Bruce, under the obvious guise of “John Smith” and Zatanna had a flirtation. Zatanna is framed for using her illusions to rob the mint and teams up with Batman to find and capture the man responsible. Zatanna proves to be a fun character, with spunk and wit so I really enjoyed her. I actually liked the fact that her magical abilities are downgraded to being just illusions and are only alluded to being actually mystical. In this series it takes out the supernatural and creates a pretty real world Gotham, and magic wouldn’t fit very neatly into the Mythology yet (but this episode is a good warm up for that). Batman and Zatanna’s relationship was definitely a highlight of the episode! The plot itself was disappointing, especially for Dini. It just seemed a little ho-hum and the villain and mystery were relatively low-thrill and low-interest. And the explanation of the illusion and the robbery was too confusing and I am still not entirely sure what happened. The animation was pretty weak but the fight scene on the plane was pretty good! Overall, a fun introduction to Zatanna with witty dialogue and a look into Batman’s past and present but with a rather bland plot. Rating: B
55. The Mechanic: After Batman takes the Batmobile to his personal mechanic, Earl is forced to sabotage the car by the Penguin. A surprisingly good episode I was assuming would be rather bland. We learn the origin of the Batmobile, meet Earl Cooper, and we get some car chases. I’ve never been a huge Penguin fan, but I thought he was well done in the episode. Though it’s still the Penguin so it can only get so good. The whole episode was well written, with good dialogue. They were able to make a slightly one note plot into an interesting story. I really liked Robin in this episode, he has a tendency to bring stories into the realm of cheesy, but he was funny and I liked him being here. The Penguin controlling the Batmobile plot is nothing new, but I didn’t mind the homage to Batman Forever. The animation wasn’t very good though. Overall, a decent episode that adds to the mythology of the Bat-universe but doesn’t bring a lot of excitement. Rating: C