Beware the Batman: “Animal” Review (spoilers)

(This review was originally published on May 26, 2016)

Written by Mark Banker

Directed by Sam Liu

When The Key threatens to break out of Blackgate Penitentiary with some very important information with him, Batman becomes reckless and has himself busted by Harvey Dent to infiltrate the prison and get to him. However, he’s not the only one interested in what the Key possesses….

Batman’s deteriorating mental health hits a new low as he’s cornered by multiple forces. What starts out with a fairly mundane episode ends up becoming a turning point in the arc, and perhaps one of the show’s finest episodes overall.

All Hail King Croc!

First things first: Killer Croc makes his big debut!. Accompanying Ra’s al Ghul, Harvey Dent, and possibly The Penguin (more on that below), as one of the only notable members to appear, he makes a very strong impression. Just as Tobias Whale rules Gotham’s underworld, Croc has his own operation inside Blackgate. Considering how many interpretations of the villain are satisfied with making him a dumb brute or a savage monster, it’s refreshing to see something close to what Gerry Conway envisioned with Croc as a dangerous crime lord that is a threat physically and mentally. He proves to be a major menace to Batman, and is a foil to him as they both display their animalistic behavior. Wade Williams brings some Louisiana-flavored swag as Croc, who hides his true nature with affability.

Batman’s extreme behavior goes too far as he has himself thrown in prison to retrieve the Key, who could easily escape from Blackgate with some important codes. When Croc appears in the picture, Batman becomes too obsessed in defeating him, snaps, and nearly kills the villain. The fight with Croc is both thrilling and terrifying, particularly as Batman’s instability reaches its peak. Batman’s portrayal as extremely violent and unhinged has been done before, but what makes it work here is the build-up to it, and how much of a contrast it is to Batman pre-time skip. The ending reveals a brighter future for Bruce as Alfred returns to tend to his broken son.

Katana is left to clean up Batman’s mess as she has to rescue him from the riots at Blackgate. She initially has a more comedic role as she tries to get a good night’s sleep for once, only to be forced to bail him out. For once, she actually succeeds as Batman’s conscience, stopping him from killing Croc. It’s also revealed that Barbara Gordon now helps out Katana from time to time behind her computer. It’s nice seeing her take on the role of Oracle, even though she hasn’t take the codename officially.

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The tension between Gordon and Dent is another highlight. The two lawmen make for excellent opponents against each other. Gordon has shown how far he’s come from his first appearance, while Dent’s character takes a darker turn by being willing to let Batman die in the riot. Interestingly, the events of “Games” actually have some ramifications for the rest of the show, as Mayor Grange was affected by the incident. The opportunistic Dent is ecstatic to take advantage of that.

Rogues Gallery

We also have other villains participating in minor roles. Whale is once again on friendly terms with Batman as he provides some exposition about Blackgate and some of the inmates. The Key is a Living McGuffin that drives the plot and, after his scheme at the beginning of the episode, he ends up being victimized by the multiple players of the episode. Another one of Batman’s obscure foes from the comics, Matatoa, also has a memorable, but brief, fight against Batman.

The increasingly escalating plot is effective at taking a basic story and turning it into an important episode for Batman’s arc. The twists and turns help in keeping viewer intrigue up to the conclusion. Even the animation and character designs are improved, from the prisoner designs to the sparks lighting up the room in the opening scene.

“Animal” is a terrific episode that brings Batman’s character arc to its climax. Beyond that, it has an entertaining plot that plays with all of the supporting cast, debuts a mainstream Bat-foe in an impressive manner, and features the return of a main cast member. Every ingredient comes together to make this one of the all-time best episodes in the series.

Additional Thoughts

  • Attentive viewers would’ve noticed some foreshadowing leading up to this episode before. In “Nexus”, when Dent is taken by Batman, he tells him he couldn’t wait to escort him to Blackgate, where the “animals” would tear him apart. Dent gets his exact wish here, and I doubt it’s just a coincidence.
  • For all the censored guns, this series curiously features a version of Matatoa that has an even more violent history than the one in the comics.
  • The joke/reference regarding the Penguin is hilarious and even fitting with the “animal” theme. Though his wanted poster in the GCPD is just a police sketch, it made me wonder if that’s how he would’ve looked like had in person. It’s a pretty traditional design.
  • Also in that police room: a Gotham City map that has been previously used in No Man’s Land and a wanted poster for Professor Pyg and Mister Toad.
  • Killer Croc’s appearance here was somewhat of a surprise. Though he’s featured in the final issue of the comic tie-in, and thus spoiled like Oracle and Man-Bat, the plot synopsis didn’t even hint at his presence, which was an excellent move.
  • It’s a shame that Simon Stagg isn’t seen when the warden and Dent are discussing the Key’s special handcuffs, designed by Stagg Industries. It would’ve been a bit funny.
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Beware the Batman: “Games” Review (spoilers)

(This review was originally published on May 19, 2016)

Written by Adam Beechen

Directed by Curt Geda

Batman, Katana, Commissioner Gordon, Tobias Whale, and Mayor Grange are kidnapped by Humpty Dumpty. Accusing them of being guilty of a crime, he plans on revealing the culprit by subjecting them to his deadly games. They all must survive Humpty’s game while solving the mystery at the same time.

Another character from earlier in the season returns! Humpty is now stepping up his game and creating even deadlier challenges to test out his victims. His motivation to avenge Ernie Croskey is a natural extension of his motivation in the first appearance: to avenge his poor treatment by Gordon and Whale over their “war”. That being said, his change in personality is a bit off-putting. In “Broken”, while he was definitely sadistic and revenge-driven, he also had some shred of child-like innocence in him, as well as a sense of honor that he followed up on at the end of the episode. This time, Humpty is flat-out sadistic, willing to seek revenge when Croskey refuses, and even breaks his own rules to make sure Batman and the hostages die. It admittedly made him less interesting as a villain and his final confrontation against Batman wasn’t exciting.

Darkness Rising

Batman continues his slippery slope as he prioritizes solving Humpty’s game over finding a way out or keeping the civilians safe. Again, it’s a striking contrast from earlier in the season, perhaps best shown in his spiteful treatment of Humpty compared to his more sympathetic approach earlier on. In fact, one could argue that Humpty’s more malevolent attitude mirrors Batman’s own mental state. His claim to Katana that he’s not Bruce Wayne at the end was a chilling reminder of how seriously he takes his split personae and how absorbed he is into Batman.

Gordon doesn’t really do much in the episode beyond solving a couple of puzzles and being a key part of the mystery’s resolution. Mayor Grange admittedly seems like a possible culprit, considering she was the least likely suspect and the most nervous one. It’s a kind of rare to see a character played by CCH Pounder losing her cool, but between her run-in with Humpty in “Broken”, the blackout, her near-attempted murder by Anarky, and now this, the stress is definitely understandable.

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Tobias Whale is both an ally and an opponent to the heroes. Then again, that’s always been his role in the series. His role beyond how he fits in the resolution isn’t significant, but his callousness and complete lack of morals provide with some amusing humor.

Murder Mystery Dinner

The overall plot of the episode revolves around what initially appears like a murder mystery. Despite the shocking scene of the victims discovering the “body”, it turns out to be something else. The puzzles and the solutions vary, with some being clever (the caterpillar, the shooting gallery) and others too telegraphed from the script itself (the eclipse). While it’s obvious that it wouldn’t revolve around a murder, the actual mystery is still interesting, and seeing how everyone ties into it at the end is fun.

After some very hectic and action-based several episodes, “Games” takes it slow by offering a more detective-focused adventure. The mystery itself is entertaining and it continues to address Batman’s own descent into darkness, but Humpty’s character turn makes him less compelling as an antagonist. Still, it’s a nice calm before the storm, before the arc returns to place.

Additional Thoughts

  • I didn’t mention this before, but in “Broken”, when Batman inspects Humpty’s game board, you can see some neat drawings in the wall behind him. They’re a good window into Humpty’s childish view on Batman, Gordon, Whale, and himself.
  • I’m guessing the house in “Broken” is the same one in this episode, right?
  • I never noticed how tiny Whale’s feet are until he sat down with Grange.
  • For those wondering, the books with Braille writing in them just contain the Braille alphabet.

Beware the Batman: “Monsters” Review (spoilers)

(This review was originally published on May 13, 2016)

Written by Greg Weisman

Directed by Rick Morales

Batman and Katana investigate a new vigilante that is taking down a gang of armored thugs. When they discover that this crimefighter is Metamorpho, they must team up to take down the criminals, while also avoiding Harvey Dent’s Special Crime Unit forces.

After quite some time, we finally see the return of Metamorpho. After surviving the events of his last episode, he has been cleaning up Old Gotham, a neighborhod both the city’s wealthy and Batman himself have been neglecting. His powers are explored to a greater degree than in his last appearance, being able to conjure smoke and even turn himself into an explosive agent to ignite a car’s gas tank. The team-up aspect of the episode in general is a lot of fun, and Metamorpho’s character arc, which involves using his heroism to avoid becoming a monster, is a natural foil to Batman’s slow transformation into one.

Man or Monster?

Batman’s caped persona continues to consume him as he keeps going on patrol and barely has time to be Bruce Wayne. His condescending and flippant attitude towards Katana keeps getting worse, and again does something reckless when he confronts Metamorpho. Sure, he guesses correctly that the explosion and fall wouldn’t kill him, but not even Batman is infallible and could’ve easily killed him if it was someone else. An example of this is his reaction to Crime Alley. We see the show’s take on the Wayne Murders, which are tastefully handled considering the gun censorship. The scene also conveys well why Batman would try to avoid patrolling Old Gotham whenever possible.

Just as in the previous episode, Katana doesn’t have a big role beyond being Batman’s ignored conscience. She does, however, share some funny scenes with Metamorpho, including picking out his possible codename. It’s appropriate that the two get some time together, if only to evoke the proto-Outsiders.

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Witch Hunt

Harvey Dent continues to pester the heroes, and with the Special Crimes Unit now funded and operational, he has the muscle and firepower to give his threat some weight. Once again, he’s shown to be very foolish and short-tempered, even being second-guessed by his competent right-hand man, Dane Lisslow. The more interesting part takes place near the end of the episode, when Anarky makes a surprise appearance at Dent’s office and offers him an alliance to defeat Batman. This actually gives Anarky some greater relevance to the show as a whole, and it will be intriguing to see whether or not Dent is devoted to the law as he claims to be.

The armored thugs weren’t too special. They have a nice design and gimmick that makes them stand out from the other thugs in the series. But the true focus was on Batman, Katana, and Metamorpho basically having their team-up. The reveal of the true mastermind, Sapphire Stagg, is genuinely surprising. She’s never been depicted as a villain before, but once again, it’s consistent with the show’s tendency to twist well-known elements here and there. On one hand, it comes off a bit out-of-nowhere, as she never showed hints of being villainous, only a bit shallow. However, it does give her character more agency, and it adds an interesting wrinkle to Metamorpho’s story that can be continued if he becomes a recurring character in the show.

Balancing Act

The strongest aspect of this episode is how it manages to juggle the episode of the week with several plot threads, such as catching the audience up on Metamorpho and the Staggs, the Outsiders tease, Batman’s further descent, the introduction of Lisslow, and Dent’s scene with Anarky. The lack of a “Previously On” scene is effective in both preserving the mystery with the “Golem” and recounting Metamorpho’s origin without being bogged down by too much exposition.

The animation in general also seems to be improving. Metamorpho’s powers are excellently displayed, including the stint with the exploding car. Even Madison Randall seems more expressive compared to the first episode!

“Monsters” is an excellent sequel to “Toxic” that completes Rex’s transformation into a hero. While the villains aren’t too exciting, the superhero team-up of the episode is the true highlight. Add to that a healthy balance of the current storylines and action, and the result is an exciting and packed to the brim ride.

Additional Thoughts

  • Simon Stagg actually has a prison uniform! It seems that at Blackgate, only the rich and wealthy can afford to buy their own uniforms.
  • Also, you’d think whoever designed the battle suits would’ve noticed how the shoulder lamps were huge design flaws.
  • We also have the obligatory reference to Metropolis. It just makes me think of that proposed Batman/Superman series that was almost made. It would’ve been cool to see that, but I’m very satisfied with the show we got as well.
  • The flashback scene of the famous Wayne Murder is pretty messed up, and not just for the obvious reasons. Look closely where Martha Wayne is implied to get shot. Hint: It’s not in her in her chest, like Thomas was. Poor Bruce.
  • Considering Greg Weisman ended up working on Star Wars Rebels sometime after this episode was written, the line about Dent’s “stormtroopers” is a neat bit of unintentional foreshadowing. Before anyone says anything, yes, I’m familiar with the history of actual stormtroopers in World War I.

Beware the Batman: “Nexus” Review (spoilers)

(This review was originally published on May 10, 2016)

Written by Mark Banker

Directed by Sam Liu

Six months after Ra’s al Ghul’s siege on Gotham, Batman becomes increasingly unstable due to Alfred’s absence, with a weary Katana looking after him. This makes it difficult when Batman is framed for an attack on Mayor Marion Grange and District Attorney Harvey Dent goes after him.

This episode is tasked with setting up both a typical episodic plot and a new status quo for the remainder of the season. Opening with a time skip makes sense in order to show effectively how Alfred’s absence has affected the duo and to allow Gotham to heal from the blackout. Otherwise, it feels too sudden, particularly since there are no other noticeable changes with the characters and city. But hey, at least the time skip wasn’t five years long.

Darkest Knight

Batman has become too consumed in his costumed identity. Even though Batman could usually be a bit rough or obsessed at times, this has been amplified tenfold. While his plan to kidnap Harvey Dent to draw out the bomber worked, it was still based on a flimsy guess, and if anything, it increased the resentment Dent had towards him. This is an fascinating exploration of his psyche and a satisfying way to portray his time as Batman as unhealthy without making him simply just a loner. It’s a plotline that was brought up back in “Attraction” that is thankfully being explored further.

Katana has been trying her best to keep Batman from going too far. But without Alfred around to keep him check, she’s unsuccessful. Considering how Batman prevented her from killing enemies aimlessly and being reckless in general, this is a peculiar role reversal.

The bomber is revealed to be Anarky, whom we haven’t seen in a while. His scheme is nothing new, but what sells it is his personality and the smug, self-satisfied way he enjoys all the chaos around him . His chemistry with everyone in the episode is fun to watch. Even if Anarky isn’t really the Big Bad that was initially alluded to, or at least not as big as Ra’s, he’s a fun antagonist to see. His one-sided flirtation with Katana is especially amusing, though there’s the question of whether or not he has a genuine interest in her or he’s just messing around.

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Trust, But Verify

Just as Jim Gordon’s relationship with Batman has improved, to the point of evoking a classic scene of Gordon summoning Batman and Katana via Batsignal, Batman is framed by Anarky for Grange’s attempted murder, and he makes it worse by kidnapping Dent. It makes sense to see Gordon turn on Batman so fast. After all, their partnership is relatively young, and Batman didn’t do himself any favors by taking a huge risk. While we do see some reluctance in Gordon when trying to arrest Batman, he’s professional enough to keep doing his job until the evidence that clears him as the bomber comes through. He seems to have taken the credit for Barbara’s heroics in “Reckoning”, and has climbed up the rank to commissioner. It’s a tad quick considering his previous position, but it works fine all the same.

Harvey Dent is another iconic Batman character that has made his debut to the show, and probably the most changed of them all. Gone is Batman’s ally and friend that was just as driven as him to clean up and protect Gotham, who ultimately falls a victim to his own demons and becomes the tragic villain Two-Face. Instead, Dent is now an opportunistic, narcissistic, and antagonistic man who will rather risk everyone’s lives if it means catching Batman. This is perhaps the show’s biggest risk, as even the least-sympathetic versions of Dent, like in Batman: Earth One, have some redeeming traits. It’ll be interesting to see how this will pay off when Dent becomes Two-Face, but for now, he serves the role of being Batman’s own Kent Mansley. Appropriately, Christopher McDonald is his voice actor.

The plot itself is not too unique, but again, the character interactions are the real highlight. From Batman’s sanity-slippage, to Katana’s frustration, Dent’s antagonism, and Anarky’s enjoyment of it all. Batman comparing his relationship to Anarky as parasitic was on-point. Perhaps the best scene comes at the end, where Katana begs Alfred via phone to come back home, with Batman simultaneously pushing himself in the training room and breaking everything apart. It’s a very chilling scene and it sets the tone for the remaining episodes of the season, a stark contrast to last episode’s optimistic ending.

“Nexus” fittingly focuses on the connections between the characters to set up the stage for the remaining of the series. Past plot points and foreshadowing from the previous arc are built up to and used to create a new and intriguing one. Though some of the changes brought in can be unsettling, they’re not anything new at this point. It’s a testament to the series that it has gotten so far in terms of story and characters while sparingly using the usual suspects we see in other Batman media.

Additional Thoughts

  • No one should blame you for confusing Grange for Amanda Waller, particularly due to her no-nonsense attitude and her voice, provided by CCH Pounder.
  • Katana should really be more concerned about taking down helicopters.
  • Apparently a lot of people bought the fake-out when Dent tripped and was nearly caught in Anarky’s explosion. I didn’t make much of it since I thought it’d be too soon to disfigure Dent, but I guess I was alone on that.
  • Yes, Batman finally said his iconic phrase. If you haven’t seen it, I’m not spoiling it. But the context (or lack of) of the moment is pretty funny.

Beware the Batman: “Reckoning” Review (spoilers)

(This review was originally posted on May 6, 2016)

Written by Mitch Watson

Directed by Curt Geda

Batman makes a last attempt to confront Ra’s al Ghul, but he’s overwhelmed by a group of some of his most formidable foes, Tatsu considers revenge against Alfred, and James and Barbara try to shut down the Ion Cortex once and for all.

Batman has to survive an onslaught of several foes, such as Pyg and Toad, Magpie, Phosphorus Rex, etc. to get to Ra’s. He ends up making another alliance with a villain, this time Tobias Whale. However, Whale is more pragmatic and less honor-bound than Silver Monkey, so he turns on Batman when the odds aren’t on his favor. His best moment comes when he fights Ra’s for a second time. He sheds away some of his arrogance from “Fall” and acknowledges his limits. He stalls Ra’s in his fight so Barbara can hack the Ion Cortex, and even uses the villain’s own arrogance against him. It’s a great callback and it gives Batman some development, which is notable since this story focuses more on Tatsu and Alfred.

Inner Demons

Tatsu learns from Ra’s one last detail that feeds her rage: Edogawa’s soul was in the sword, and Alfred didn’t tell her. Ra’s tempts her to kill Alfred and get her revenge, but she ultimately states that she’s “not a killer” and denies the Demon’s Head his reckoning. Tatsu being too eager to do his bidding at first feels a bit off, even with her emotions out of control. But her renouncement of killing in cold blood is a neat way to close out her character arc set up a while back.

Alfred also goes through some changes. He reveals that Edogawa sacrificed himself to the Soultaker so he could escape. Alfred comes to terms with his shady past, and by the time this mess is over, he chooses to leave Bruce and Tatsu to settle some amends from his past. It’s a surprising decision, since Alfred is often portrayed as a mainstay in Bruce’s life as Batman. At the very least, he leaves in better terms with Bruce than he did in The Dark Knight Rises.

The Gordons are the MVPs of the episode as the former protects the latter as she hacks away and saves Gotham. Again, they add a lot of levity to an otherwise serious plot. Two of their best scenes involve a heartwarming moment where Jim reflects on how he’s learning more about Barbara’s hobbies and talents, and a very meta conversation where Barbara remarks she’s not worried about the ninjas since they’ll just take them hostage instead of killing them.

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The Gauntlet

Ra’s al Ghul finally meets his end when Batman uses the reversed chant on the Soultaker. He’s taken by surprise when the Soultaker releases the souls from the sword, and the vengeful spirits take him away to an unknown, but probably unpleasant fate. It wouldn’t make sense for a younger Batman to defeat someone like Ra’s, so outsmarting him is a great alternative. The villains he assembled together are also fun and have some good dialogue. The cliche of having the villains’ undoing being their in-fighting and conflict was even nicely sidestepped by making it clear they were in a free-for-all conflict for Batman. Lady Shiva, unfortunately, is reduced to a bit role and is very easily beaten by Katana. It’s a shame, considering her reputation as one of the best martial artists in the DC universe and having an impressive start in this show.

The strongest part of this episode, and the entire trilogy as a whole, iss how it manages to tie up every single episode of the series so far. These moments range from general plot points, to nearly every single character introduced, to the small character callbacks mentioned above. Even Batman’s clever use of the Soultaker is set up a couple of episodes back, so it doesn’t come off as some Deus ex Machina.

The End? 

In fact, these last few episodes wrap up the arc so well, the show could easily end right there. There are a couple of points that are developed later, but the show could end at that point and not much would go amiss. But there are still eleven episodes left, so seeing what direction the series could take could be interesting to a first-time viewer.

“Reckoning” provides a strong finish to the entire League of Assassins arc that has been present throughout the show so far. It manages to bring some closure to several elements brought to the show so far without losing focus on the characters and their conflicts. The stakes were raised quite nicely and they can only get higher from here.

Additional Thoughts

  • This episode’s casualty is Ra’s, maybe. It depends on what those ghosts did to him. Like with Silver Monkey, it’s one of those times where you can write the character back in since we never saw what happened to him.
  • Ra’s implies that his soul was in the Soultaker at some point. Is that why the League was obsessed with getting the sword? I appreciate it when stories don’t hold your hand too much, particularly on a children’s show, but I do think this was too vague and could’ve been explained more clearly.
  • Considering we saw Ra’s being frozen in “Sacrifice”, it also made me wonder if this is partly how he keeps himself alive as long as he is. I wonder if the Lazarus Pit is even around in this continuity.
  • I’m curious if Bethany and Jason were among the ghosts taking revenge on Ra’s.
  • I did appreciate that we did see some of Gotham in shambles and riots during the blackout. It’s not much, but it adds a bit more to the atmosphere when it’s shown, rather than just talked about.
  • What could half of those villains do with a piece of Gotham anyway?

Beware the Batman: “Darkness” Review (spoiler)

(This review was originally published on May 2, 2016)

Written by Mitch Watson

Directed by Rick Morales

Batman escapes from Ra’s al Ghul’s clutches with the help of an unlikely ally. Meanwhile, Katana distrusts Alfred as they try to rescue Batman, and Gordon tries to find a way to shut down the Ion Cortex.

Three-parters in television are not exactly rare, but not done often either. There is often the risk of having the middle part lagging and acting as a buffer between the first part, which sets up the overall plot, and the last part, which concludes it. Thankfully, this episode acts as a natural progression, organically setting the stage for the conclusion.

Breakout/Break-In!

Batman’s plot mainly has him breaking out and figuring out how to take down the Ion Cortex that has thrown Gotham in darkness. Again, there’s not a lot of character development at work with him. We see Ra’s offering him to join the League, but as a member instead of an heir, so the offer is unfortunately not as interesting. The best part of his story is Silver Monkey, who teams up with Batman to escape and actually risks his freedom, and possibly his life, to make sure Batman is out. It’s not a villain reform or anything, but it was a good payoff for the twisted sense of honor he was hinted to have.

Katana and Alfred share some tension as they try to break out Batman from the League of Assassins. Katana is disgusted that they had to leave Batman behind, afraid he’d suffer the same fate Jason did. She also suspects Alfred killed Edogawa after Ra’s said so. Normally, it wouldn’t make sense for her to turn on Alfred, who has been a father figure to her, that quick just because of the villain’s word. But considering she was already angry at him for leaving Batman and still shaken from Jason’s death, it makes sense. Her attack against him when Alfred confirms his guilt is understandable. It doesn’t feel like drama for the sake of drama and it makes sense considering the circumstances.

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Jim and Barbara Gordon take up the task to actually take down the Ion Cortex, only to be attacked by Ghosts. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the two together, and they have an endearing father-daughter dynamic that brings some levity to the otherwise serious episode. The inclusion of Oracle in Barbara’s life is also a natural way to set this show apart from other takes on Batman mythos. Though besides the Ghost-infested Cauldron, it’s a bit odd having Gordon talk about riots on the streets of Gotham when we don’t really see any.

Lying Demon

The League of Assassins, having achieved victory at the end of “Fall”, basically just rests on their laurels while the heroes try to stop their takeover. Besides his offer to Batman, Ra’s tries to twist Katana into killing Alfred by hinting the truth about his encounter with him and Edogawa years ago. He’s basically pushing Tatsu’s apparent murderous nature in a way that Lady Shiva failed to, which creates an interesting relationship between the three characters. What is bit disappointing, though, is that Ra’s and the League in general don’t aspire to be more than just “pajama-wearing gangsters” when they offer to put Gotham under their “protection”. His speech at the beginning made it seem like he was his old extremist self, only for it to be nothing more than an act.

While the overall structure of the episode is a little basic (Batman and Katana/Alfred switch situations), it does set up the League’s defeat via the Gordons. It also focuses more in advancing character arcs after the plot heavy last episode. This is also the first time we have an episode directly follow up on the previous one, rather than an episodic adventure, so the tense atmosphere in general is welcome.

Linking the previous episode to the upcoming conclusion, “Darkness” does well in advancing the plot and providing for more character moments without feeling like the overall story is dragging. There are a few missed opportunities with the villains, but otherwise, it’s an entertaining piece on its own, and the ending sets up a exciting premise for the grand finale.

Additional Thoughts

  • Another addition to the tally: Silver Monkey…maybe. Last time we see him, he’s duking it out with Lady Shiva, who is carrying the Soultaker Sword. We later see Shiva throwing his mask as a threat to Katana and Alfred. This is one of those situations where you could always write in a different explanation of what happened between them if you wanted to bring the character back, but considering the show has ended, I’ll just assume he’s dead.
  • Gotham’s police commissioner is a goner, though. Gordon still has a long way to get the job, but it’s a convenient start.
  • For that matter, all those people hooked on to machines and pacemakers likely didn’t survive the blackout either.
  • When this episode was first shown, I remember some complaints about how certain electronic artifacts were turned on when Gotham was supposed to be in blackout, like the TV Ra’s makes his announcements on. However, the Ion Cortex isn’t a EMP generator and is able to distribute electricity to any chosen device in the city. The science behind it isn’t 100% sound, but at least it was actually established in previous episodes.
  • When Barbara was discussed during the show’s airtime, one of my guesses was her being Oracle instead of Batgirl. I was happy to see the foreshadowing take place, but I probably would’ve enjoyed it more if the schedule for the show wasn’t messed up and the comic book tie-in hadn’t spoiled it as a result.
  • This sort of applies to Mayor Grange, who also finally appears. She first showed up in the first issue of the comic, but she wasn’t named at that time.
  • Seriously, what’s with Gordon and all the donut jokes?

Beware the Batman: “Fall” Review (spoilers)

(This review was originally published on April 26, 2016)

Written by Mark Banker

Directed by Sam Liu

The Ion Cortex is complete, but Batman, Katana, and Alfred must chase after a brainwashed Jason Burr, who intends to deliver it to the League of Assassins. Their chase leads to a fateful encounter with Ra’s al Ghul himself.

This is it! The League of Assassins arc comes to a head in this three-parter! Ra’s al Ghul has made his presence known, Tatsu finds out the truth about Jason, and the full power of the Ion Cortex is finally unleashed. Will all of these plot points meet successfully?

Demonic History 

After much hype, Ra’s is an intimidating force and Batman’s toughest foe yet. With his regal mannerisms, eloquent voice, and his brutal beatdown against Batman, he makes a strong impression as the first “well-known” Batman villain to appear. At the beginning of the episode his connection to Alfred is revealed, and by the end, he’s established as a fitting nemesis to our heroic trio. Lance Reddick effectively brings a regal, authoritative air to the Demon’s Head, while also providing a refreshing break from the British accents often heard with the character.

The last few episodes have barely featured Alfred, so not only is his return to prominence welcome, but this episode’s framing device, the glimpses into Alfred’s past, makes up for lost time in characterizing him and showing his early impact on Bruce and Tatsu’s lives. The first one in particular is a big one, as it introduces the audience to his relationship with Ra’s and sheds some light to the fate of Tatsu’s father, Edogawa. This is the first time the character’s MI6 history is really explored and it gives him a stronger connection to the overall plot. His scenes with young Bruce show some of his relationship as a mentor to Bruce, but they serve to characterize Bruce more.

 

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Childhood Lessons

Batman doesn’t have as much to do this time. Bruce Wayne’s arrogance was in full display as he ignored Tatsu’s instinct that Jason wasn’t acting like himself and thought he could outfight Ra’s al Ghul, only to fail miserably. We got get a taste of Bruce’s childhood and he is just as analytical and intellectual as a child, even before the trauma of his parents’ murder. The boy challenging a thug and even trying to fight is unsettling, and a fresh take on young Bruce that is not often seen, keeping in mind that this episode was made and available before Gotham explored post-shooting Bruce.

Katana finds out that Jason was brainwashed the entire time by Cypher. She tries to kiss him again to snap him out of it and it works! However, he becomes a victim of the Soultaker Sword, which is a bit sad considering he just started to come to his senses. She also learns that Alfred may have lied to her about her father’s death, which brings some decent conflict into their relationship. That being said, Tatsu’s longing for her father could’ve used some build-up, as it’s not really brought up in the show until now.

A trademark of Liu-directed episodes is the excellent pacing and this episode is no exception. The episode moves fast and doesn’t waste a moment, the highlight being Batman’s showdown against Ra’s. It’s not a shirtless swordfight, but it works. Add in a strong script by Mark Banker and this tale is filled to the brim with exciting action, plot development, and poignant moments.

“Fall” pieces together several of the show’s plot-points and prepares them for an endgame. With some exciting action, a couple of twists, and a haunting cliffhanger, this episode raises the stakes in a memorable manner.

Additional Thoughts

  • Add another one to the death toll with Jason. I wonder what his brother Jeffrey would think about this development.
  • Batman testing out his gliding system threw me out for a bit since I didn’t even notice he never had it until now. It’s just one of those iconic Batman trademarks that’s hard to notice when it’s gone.
  • This is something I’ve been wanting to bring up since “Safe”, but Bruce’s philanthropic tendencies are a subtle form of character development, at least in my eyes. Way back in “Hunted”, Bruce never noticed that his name came up in the corrupt Keystone deal. He lamented that he never paid attention to his company and how it could be involved in something like this. Then in “Safe”, we don’t only see Bruce take direct involvement in the company, but also makes sure to fund something that will improve the world.
  • How did Cypher’s control of Jason work? He was promised a private island and money. Was that supposed to be Cypher living vicariously through Jason’s body while he rotted in Blackgate? Or did his programming of Jason’s brain somehow corrupt the man?
  • I’m amused by the fact that no matter how outdated the concept of ninjas is, they’re modern enough to use vehicles and machine guns.