Beware the Batman “Allies” Review (spoilers)

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Written by Erin Maher and Kathryn Reindl

Directed by Rick Morales

Gordon continues to antagonize Batman, even after the vigilante brings Tobias Whale to justice. However, when Whale’s right hand man, Phosphorus Rex, takes Barbara hostage, he relies on Batman and his new partner, Katana, to save her.

After the last episode’s wild ride, the story arc takes a breather as the show develops something else: relationships and alliances. Whether they’re Batman and Katana’s newfound partnership, Gordon and Batman’s growing alliance, or even Phosphorus Rex’s respect towards Whale, relationships are a common theme in this episode and some of them even get their due.

Phosphorus Rex is this episode’s villain debut and another Grant Morrison creation. He gets a power upgrade as he is able to generate and control fire, instead of just serving as a distraction for Professor Pyg and his Circus of Strange. He fulfills his role of right-hand man well and his loyalty to Whale is surprising, especially when compared to Silver Monkey’s lack of it towards Lady Shiva. However, his sudden reveal as a metahuman should’ve raised a few eyebrows.

The Ghosts, a gang of criminals roaming The Cauldron, actually make a more notable impression. They are creepy, threatening, and their backstory and overall demeanor makes them more interesting mooks than the ninjas. The Cauldron in general, a decayed and lawless section of the city that evokes No Man’s Land, gives this universe’s Gotham City some flavor and adds to the show’s admirable efforts at worldbuilding.

Batman and Tatsu’s relationship takes a few steps forward as she takes on a domino mask and sword and once again takes the name Katana. This time, she uses the name fighting against the League of Assassins rather than with them. She does well for her first outing, but considering she was a former CIA operative, she acts a bit too reckless at first. Batman being overly condescending also seems off considering how he has fought alongside her plenty of times and has proven to have detective skills, loyalty, and initiative. If Batman found those skills in her and eventually considered her worthy  enough to learn his secret, then why does he expect her to just sit back and help out Alfred in the Batcave?

Batman and Gordon fare better in terms of development. After Barbara is kidnapped by Phosphorus Rex, Gordon swallows his pride and asks Batman for help. He insists it’s only this once, but deep down, he knows Batman is doing more good than harm, even if he bends the law to get results. His desperate attempt to arrest him at the beginning of the episode hints at this. Gordon hounding Batman makes for a new dynamic not usually seen in animation, but the fact that it slowly changes into their typical relationship turns it into a rewarding story. The satisfaction grows when it culminates in the creation of the iconic Bat-Signal. Barbara’s fascination with Batman is also highlighted, and Katana’s appearance only inspires her further to become a crime fighter herself.

All in all, “Allies” takes a break from the League of Assassins story arc to tell a small scale story about Gotham’s underworld. This move spaces out the arc and prevents it from becoming too repetitive or overwhelming. Instead, the episode spends time developing the roster of Batman’s allies. Some sketchy characterization aside, Batman’s support group is better defined by the time the story ends. This is definitely an advantage to him in case the League or any other problems he deals with later in the series start to get out of hand.

Additional Thoughts

  • I guess that one Whale henchman from “Broken” wised up and gave up entirely when faced with Batman. Good on him.
  • The Cauldron actually originates from Garth Ennis’s Hitman series. Considering just how run down and dangerous it is in the show, though, I wouldn’t expect to see Tommy Monaghan or the patrons of Noonan’s at all, particularly as its lawlessness is portrayed for drama rather than comedy.
  • In addition, it’s kind of funny how rundown and uninhabitable this version of the Cauldron is, since it was also portrayed in Batman: Arkham Knight as the location of the GCPD headquarters.
  • The use of Stagg’s weaponry is another building block in the show’s worldbuilding. It’s nice to see some consequences from the events in “Toxic”.
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