My Batman the Animated Series reviews continue with episodes 81-85! My reviews will use an A(Great), B(Good), C(Ok), and D(Bad) rating system as well as my thoughts on the episode.
81. Harley’s Holiday: Harleen Quinzel has been psychologically rehabilitated and is a free woman. But her first day of freedom does awry quickly after she buys a dress and doesn’t remove the security tag. Chaos ensues as Harley steals Bruce Wayne’s car and kidnaps Veronica Vreeland, refusing to be sent back to Arkham. Harley is persued throughout Gotham by Vreeland’s military father, Boxy the gangster, Det. Bullock, and Batman. Eventually, Batman is able to save the fanatic Quinn and return her to Arkham. Wow! A crazy story that is genuinely funny and showcases how great Harley is without more than a mention of the Joker. The episode is a rollercoaster ride of insanity from the beginning, but the over the topness wasn’t too silly and was all genuinely funny. The episode is essentially one big joke, as all of this chaos and the return of Harley to Arkham comes from a small misunderstanding about security tags. Through all the humor, we also get a deeper look at Harley Quinn. Having been removed from society for so long, she’s pretty naiive about how the world works and she really does want to redeem herself. And her interactions with everyone from Vreeland, to Bruce Wayne, to Boxy, and to Batman were all excellent. Batman is great in this episode because he has faith in Quinn, and genuinely wants her to recover. The animation was pretty much perfect. I think everything in this episode worked. Overall, this is a classic Harley episode and a genuinely funny story. Rating:A
82. Lock-Up: Upon returning the Scarecrow to Arkham, Batman learns that there may be something wrong with the security staff at the asylum. After a review board panel decides Lyle Bolton is out of control, they fire him. On his insane quest for his twisted version of “justice,” Bolton becomes Lock-Up, and kidnaps those he blames for the problems with society. Batman catches on quick and confronts Bolton, taking him down. Eventually, Lock-Up is locked up in Arkham with those he tortured where he is pleased to be able to keep an eye on the lunatics he oppressed. Definitely an interesting episode, with a much more serious tone than the last story. Lock-Up is a great concept, as a parallel to Batman he shows the problems with vigilantism and provides a nice contrast with the Dark Knight. One of my favorite parts was when Harley, Scarecrow, and Scarface all confessed to how brutal Bolton was to them. And when Lock-Up genuinely thinks he and Batman are the same, and that he’s helping Batman it shows that Bolton is deluded and radical and that Batman is a hero. The best line in the episode is when Batman says “I was born to fight your brand of order.” The episode provides such an interesting concept that it’s almost disappointing we don’t get more of it. I think this would’ve been a good two-parter. The episode was totally enjoyable, but I was also disappointed that there wasn’t much of a mystery for the audience. The identity of Lock-Up was obvious to us, since we were following Bolton’s character, but it was pretty obvious to Batman as well. Overall, it’s a great new character that provides great contrast to the Dark Knight, but it left me wanting something more. Rating: B+
83. Make ‘em Laugh: When a spree of new bizarrely themed villains, The Condiment King and the Pack Rat, turn out to be brainwashed comedians, Batman and Robin go straight to the Mad Hatter! Only to discover that Jervis has been sedated by his own mind control tech. Thanks to some direction from Alfred, Batman and Robin identify a disgruntled ex-comedy competitor as the Joker, who must be out for revenge! After confronting the Clown Prince of Crime at the club, Batman and Robin are able to take him down. A hilarious episode from start to finish, this one had me laughing out loud several times! The use of the Condiment King was genius! They the most ridiculous concept for a super villain and made him work outside of the Adam West show. The plot itself was genius, the Joker wanting to be crowned the king of comedy may sound silly, but when he’s monologuing to Batman, we really see that he sees himself as an entertainer and thinks that the people of Gotham enjoy his antics. The mystery was really solid! If they had cut out or rearranged the scene in the middle where the comedienne was kidnapped, we would’ve been guessing until they figured it out. Everyone was genuinely funny, even Batman, who’s dry wit and approach to fighting the rookie villains was classic! An interesting thing to note that I didn’t pick up on right away was the inclusion of other plots in the background. We had Robin reading about Gordon’s rally (Shadow of the Bat) and the Riddler’s toy commercial (Riddler’s Reform) which gives us both a sense of strong mythology but a bit of question when it comes to continuity. I guess I had assumed the episodes were intended to go chronologically, but I guess that’s never really very important in a kids’ cartoon. Technically this episode could take place between parts 1 and 2 of Shadow of the Bat and during Riddler’s Reform. Or they’re just throwbacks to those episodes. The episode was really hilarious, I don’t want to explain the jokes or else they won’t be funny but wow, I didn’t expect to enjoy this one so much. Overall, we see what a Joker/Batman story should be: Dark, complex, psychological, and Funny! Rating: A
84. Deep Freeze: Wow. That title card is just perfect. Anyway…Mr. Freeze is sprung from Arkham against his will by a robot, which leads Batman and Robin to pay a visit to Karl Rossum. Rossum points the Dynamic Duo in the direction of Grant Walker, a theme park mogul, leading them to investigate the billionaire who is indeed behind the kidnapping of Victor Fries. Walker wants Freeze to help him recreate his accident to give him eternal life in exchange for the restoration of Nora Fries, who is catatonic but indeed alive. Mr. Freeze helps them stop Walker’s mad dream of a Utopian society and sinks deep into the sea with his beloved wife Nora where he may live forever. Heart of Ice is a difficult act to follow, but I really enjoyed this episode! Though far from the perfection of the first Freeze episode, this one mixes the tragedy of Mr. Freeze with a very strange but interesting Utopian dream of a mad man. The allusions to Walt Disney are NOT subtle. We have automatons, an obsession with immortality and a perfect world that are all reminiscent of the reality and myths that surrounded the famous animator. The parallels between Freeze and Walker are an interesting dynamic. One is cold but wants to be human and one is human who wants to be cold. I did like the idea of using Mr. Freeze’s immortal curse as the plot device, and I loved the return of Nora. The episode feels odd because there’s this giant city of Oceania right next to Gotham that we’ve never seen or heard of before? And this guy has been building these weapons and Batman doesn’t know about it? That felt too out of place. Walker’s plan is also pretty diabolical for a one-off villain who won’t even be remembered. Still, the elements with Freeze were compelling enough to ground the episode. The easter eggs in the Rossum scene were a lot of fun! I loved the Bat-Mite cameo, very clever! And we got a little glimpse of Krypto, Streaky, and Classic Mxyptlk (interestingly, none of whom appear in Superman TAS). The final scene with Freeze and Nora is very tragic and touching. The animation was great all around too. Overall, the episode is all around very cool as a story and as a sequel to Heart of Ice but the plot was a little too big to stuff into a short episode. Rating: B+
85. Batgirl Returns: Missing the thrill of being Batgirl, Barbara Gordon dons the cowl again after a mysterious tip leads her to investigate a stolen cat idol. At the scene of the crime, Catwoman convinces Batgirl she’s innocent, but Robin scares her away. After agreeing to meet, Batgirl and Catwoman team up to track down the stolen jade cat, leading them through a shady bar and straight into Roland Daggett’s trap. Robin saves the ladies in time and the three of them take Daggett down. After being breifly captured, Catwoman escapes in the police car. The final episode of the original animated series leaves us surprsingly Batman-less, but we get all three of his partners in crimefighting. As a huge fan of Batgirl, Catwoman, and Robin I really enjoyed the episode! I think it took a long time, but Catwoman is finally the feline fatale she was always meant to be. She’s independent and confident and a total bad ass. Batgirl is naiive and green at crime fighting, but she’s still capable of kicking serious butt and standing for justice. Robin is portrayed as a little oafish, which isn’t uncommon, but he’s still got his heroic moments. I really liked the team up of Batgirl and Catwoman, and I thought their investigation was fun. I loved the throwbacks to old episodes, which demonstrated Batgirl’s extensive knowledge of crime files and Catwoman’s history with Daggett. Though I was a little disappointed we didn’t get any Batman/Catwoman romance in the episode, it was nice to see Selina stand on her own without Batman. We did get Batgirl/Robin and Batgirl/Batman! Seeing this episode when I was young probably explains why I like the coupling of Dick and Babs so much, but have a serious guilty please “ship” for Bruce and Barbara. I think Batgirl having an idolization/crush on Batman makes sense to her character, but her playful romance with Dick/Robin that matures over time is a good character development and a smart romantic direction. The animation was superb, with all the character movements very fluid and exciting. They do struggle with Barbara/Batgirl’s face being so round, but it wasn’t as freakish as it was in Shadow of the Bat. I didn’t love that Catwoman was willing to kill Daggett, but I justify that with her being smart enough to know Batgirl would be able to save him. Though Batman didn’t have a place in the episode, and it was fine without him, I’m just upset the series is over. Overall, it’s a great and fun episode that spotlights Batman’s allies, but leaves me wanting for more Batman. Rating: B+