Beware the Batman: “Secrets” review (spoilers)

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Written by Mitch Watson

Directed by Rick Morales

Batman is on the trail of Magpie, a deranged thief on a crime spree that could be related to her tragic past. Meanwhile, Lieutenant James Gordon is also hunting both the criminal and the vigilante.

After finally getting the introductions out of the way, we are treated to, well, yet more introductions.We are introduced to Bethany Ravencroft, who acts as a possible suspect in this episode’s case. We learn more about Tatsu and her past with Alfred, which yields  information that is important to both the overall plot of the series and the characters themselves. We also learn more about James Gordon and his opposition to Batman, particularly as it clashes against his daughter Barbara’s enthusiasm towards the vigilante. We’re even treated to a rare moment where we see Gordon do some detective work parallel to Batman to catch Magpie. Considering this show is pre-Gotham, where Gordon is portrayed as a young detective, it’s appreciated to see him being more active as a law enforcement figure.

The main introduction concerns Magpie, another revamped villain from Batman’s large Rogues Gallery. For the most part, she is unchanged from her comic book self, only given a modernized take on her 80’s glam costume and a very tragic twist to her condition. Switching between lust, innocence, and just plain viciousness, she proves to be a fascinating villain. This bird manages to carve herself her own place on Batman’s list of enemies.

Magpie’s duality not only adds to the overall plot of the episode, but also serves as a foil to Batman. The most memorable villains are the ones that contrast the heroes, and Magpie is an excellent example of that. The personality shifts between Magpie and “Cassie” are disturbing to watch, and they demonstrate what would happen if Batman did not keep his personalities in check. This conflict emphasizes just how different “Batman” and “Bruce Wayne” really are, as well as how this could be a problem in the future.

Anthony Ruivivar and Grey Griffin do a great job at differentiating the fluid personas of their characters. The voice acting in this series is one of its strongest points. The voice director is Andrea Romano, a veteran to not just Batman cartoons, but animation in general. JB Blanc gives a warm, fatherly touch to a tougher, rougher version of Alfred, Sumalee Montano brings humanity and wit to Tatsu, and Kurtwood Smith is an inspired choice for Gordon.

This episode is also more impressive in terms of visuals and setting. Miskatonic Psychiatric hospital has plenty of terrifying details that make it a memorable location. The advantages CGI has over traditional animation are shown in smaller touches, such as the effect of Magpie swinging from a lamp.

The only weak point in this episode is the amount of damage Magpie endures. She is mentioned to be incapable of feeling pain, and that would reflect in her taking more punches and enduring longer in fights. However, surviving drops from buildings or impacts from metal cylinders make her seem like a long-lost Kryptonian. Unless the experiments she took part in were supposed to giver her super strength, these feats seem too exaggerated from the information we’re given.

“Secrets” is an excellent continuation from the first episode. It showcases another one of the show’s villains in a fascinating story, while also developing Batman and his several allies. All of these aspects are juggled quite well and expand the universe set up in the premiere. There is no question as to why this was an award-nominated episode.

Additional Thoughts

  • Ravencroft’s desk contains a key with the Argus insignia. The mystery continues.
  • Miskatonic seemed like an appropriate substitute to Arkham Asylum before its closing. Besides the obvious Lovecraftian connection, it also brought to mind Miskatonic University’s appearance in Mitch Watson’s previous show, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. I wonder if Batman ever ran afoul of some meddling kids. Or Harlan Ellison.
  • Speaking of asylums, Arkham’s name can be spotted in Tatsu’s newspaper during the dining room scene. So at least it exists in this universe.
  • To the same effect, the mention of curare brings to mind producer Glen Murakami’s previous show Batman Beyond, even though the poison exists in real life.
  • Neat cameos by Daedalus and Junkyard Dog as the taggers Batman scares off. We’ll see plenty of them next time.
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