Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Batman The Animated Series: Season 3

The end of an era and technically the end of The Animated Series.

This is where the game changes a bit. Time for backstory! Originally Batman The Animated Series was 65 episodes, but Fox ordered twenty more episodes once they saw what a powerhouse show it was, so the show was only two seasons, and even technically the name was changed from Batman The Animated Series to The New Adventures Of Batman & Robin. But as I said I'm reviewing the show based off the volumed releases on DVD which not only splits it into 4 (we'll talk about that next time) seasons but it also plays the episodes in a different order from when they were broadcasted. I actually prefer it the way the DVD's present it which I will elaborate on when we get to the end. I feel though the animation style hasn't changed it's found it's sure footing and still looks really good, you can see subtle improvements throughout the show as you progress. Again, not really delving into productions aspects but discussing the best episodes that stuck out to me. We start off very very strong with the two parter Shadow Of The Bat that introduced Batgirl into the show and has a proper good story as to why she takes up her own secret identity. Another two parter that very much had me hooked is The Demon's Quest where we finally come face to face with Ra's al Ghul played splendidly by David Warner who has such a terrific voice and carries himself flawlessly as Ra's, as he enlists the help of Batman to find both Robin and Talia. You can tell they really did base the Arkham series first and foremost on this show and not just because of the voice cast, they introduce Ra's who is over 600 years old and the lazarus pits and the romance between Bruce and Talia. It's a great episode and hey I'm sure a shirtless Batman dueling with swords was a very eye opening (in more ways than one) experience for a lot of young folks out there. A Bullet For Bullock might be the best underrated gem of this season, not only did it nab the show another Emmy but it finally gives us some one on one time with Harvey, and I love how the show crafted his gruff demeanor and distaste of Batman without making him a completely unlikable jackass, you get so many character moments of him throughout the show but this episode really had a lot to appreciate from me. Right after that comes another big fan favorite episode Trial, where the new DA of Gotham is kidnapped along with the Caped Crusader and is forced to defend him in a kangaroo court of Arkham's finest, with the slight issue of the fact that our DA well she's not a big fan of bats by any stretch either. This is a terrific episode that brings up the question of does Batman really create the supervillains he fights, without being very pretentious in terms of writing and has fun with the idea of a madcap not even barely legal court trial with the Joker as judge, it's a wonderful time with our beloved maniacs. You know what I realized? We get more solo Ra's al Ghul stories in this season than we get solo Joker stories, a trilogy of the demon's head with The Demon's Quest, Avatar which I think is the first episode in this series that unequivocally introduces elements of the supernatural, and Showdown which is kind of a weird off story with Jonah Hex encountering Ra's in the late 1800s, still a good and actiony story in my opinion though it does make me wonder why they decided to introduce Jonah in the first place. Lord knows if I got David Warner on my project I would use him as much as possible too, but it's interesting to see how he stacks up in terms of episodes. I guess you could argue the same could be kinda said in the Dark Knight trilogy but I digress. Harlequinade is a bonkers story pretty much from the word go, somehow....I will never know how, some dipshit gangster gets his hands on an atomic with a capital A-Bomb which is then stolen by the Joker forcing Bats to enlist the help of Harley so Gotham isn't turned into the opening titles of Terminator 2. Granted I like the story and it is unashamedly comic book, which if there is anything I have learned in my entire life is, our lot loves the lavishly ludicrous. Comic books are weird and I wouldn't have them any other way. Top performances from Mark Hamill and Arleen Sorkin, who made me laugh to beat the band. Then we get an episode I don't surprisingly hear that much about with Bane, and I don't know why. This is proper intelligent, cunning, mercenary Bane hired to kill the Bat, and granted up front I haven't read Knightfall it is on my list, but this really really seems like Knightfall Bane in animated form. They get so much character info on him in 22 minutes that would please any hardcore Batman fan, his life sentence in prison, Project Gilgamesh, Bane's obsession with the Bat, his tactical thinking, Venom, he even almost does the back breaker move, and remember Bane wasn't even in the comics yet for 5 years. He was introduced in 1993, so it's impressive how much of an impact he made while the show was still being made to the point where they had to include him. And the hits keep coming with a surprisingly dark, psychological, and kinda depressing ending with Baby Doll where a television star who was born with a rare disease that stops her from aging kidnaps all her co-stars to essentially live the glory days of her career. It's like if you took Misery, Sunset Boulevard, and Orphan, mixed them all together and presented it as an episode of a children's animated show. I mean obviously it doesn't dig super deep in her psychosis or does anything graphic but you can read everything into it and it really is compelling and powerful storytelling. I genuinely get misty eyed at the end in the house of mirrors, it's just such an emotional climax and a f***ing downer to boot. I love it. Then we kinda get into a last hurrah, a victory circuit for some of the rogue's gallery as we reach the end which is probably why they did it in the first place. Riddler's Reform might honestly be my favorite of his episodes, where the Riddler goes straight but not yet he ain't as he is forcefully compelled to give clues and hints to his overall scheme with Batman giving him one puzzle he can't solve. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this episode over his other appearances, and I can't even really narrow it down as to why this is my favorite. I think because the riddles and puzzles are more subtle, and it weaves such an interesting story cause you almost believe Nygma is being legitimate but Batman is fully right when he says he can't stop and always will leave a clue behind. It just further compliments why the Riddler is one of my all time favorites. And right after that we get Second Chance which I almost feel is based off a Two-Face comic, where Harvey is about to have reconstructive surgery but is kidnapped during the operation and Batman takes the case very personally and close to the chest to find Harvey. I cannot fully express how much I love the relationship between Bruce and Harvey in this series, because Harvey is still Bruce's best friend even after what happened to him and Bruce never gives up on his friend and helps him pay for the surgery. I mean you can feel that bond, that care and respect between these two men which only bolsters the tragedy of Harvey Dent, it's some of the show's absolute best writing in my opinion. But we get a light and fun episode with Harley's Holiday where Harley is released from Arkham and through the smallest of misunderstandings kidnaps a young socialite, and then is proceeded to be chased by the Batmobile, the cops, and the socialite's father in a friggin' tank, yes I'm serious. It almost goes for a Smokey And The Bandit vibe with the car chase shenanigans which I greatly appreciate but this is an episode steeped in madness meant for nothing but unadulterated enjoyment which I feel it succeeds at. And then, we finally get the return of Mr. Freeze in Deep Freeze, an episode that while edging towards comic book outlandishness has some of the best animation cells in the show's history and still has the heart and emotion that made Heart Of Ice so damn good and a return of Victor Fries must be applauded, and for those who want the end to his story go read my Subzero review and watch it because it is a great movie and a terrific send off for his character. And now comes the last episode of the season but not the true last episode of The Animated Series, like I said the episodes are not watched in order of broadcast and this is where I get to talk about it. The real last episode of Batman The Animated Series debuted September 15th 1995 entitled The Lion And The Unicorn, a decent episode where Alfred is kidnapped by terrorist Red Claw and some light is shed on Alfred's service in the British Secret Service, and that was how the whole show ended. But the last episode on the last disc of volume 3 is Batgirl Returns, where Babs teams up with Catwoman to find a jewel thief while Robin is on their heels and Bruce isn't even in Gotham leaving the sidekicks to keep track of Selina and her possible double cross and the culprits who stole a jade statue. I think this is actually a terrific and much more appropriate end to the series, it almost reminds me of the Birds Of Prey show with a very similar ending, the sidekicks are looking after the city while Batman is gone and that there will always be another time when crimefighter and wrong doer will cross paths again. I think the dynamic between Barbara and Selina is a strong one and shows a capable but still young Batgirl in her crimefighting career, though I personally do not ship Bruce and Babs on any level as I've gotten older. Regardless, in my opinion the true final episode and a mighty good one to go out on if you ask me. Yet it's not really the end, years went by and a new Batman series came out that follows so closely in the footsteps of this show that I see zero reason why it can't also hold the title of Batman The Animated Series. 4 stars, 10/10, and one more season to cap it off.

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