An unhinged ex-mob accountant named Humphrey Dumpler is sealing his victims inside life-size toy army men armed to explode and it’s up to Batman and Lt. James Gordon to end his rampage. Directed by Rick Morales. Written by Michael Ryan.
I first saw this episode at SDCC a few weeks back and I think that the energy of that room might have made me enjoy the episode more or perhaps it’s that I’ve seen better episodes of the series since then because while I still enjoyed “Broken” it wasn’t quite as good the second time around. That being said, it’s still the darkest episode so far and the villain Humpty Dumpty remains just as creepy as I remember from the pre-screening. I mean, come on! Having a villain encase living people inside of a time bomb is a rather horrifying concept whether it’s a children’s show or not! And then we even get a flashback to Silver Monkey where he is shown using the Soultaker sword! While the previous episode gave us a scene in which Lady Shiva instructed Silver Monkey to dispatch a henchman with a devastating kick, that unlucky ninja was dragged away and it could be argued that he was still alive (though I doubt it) but with the Soultaker Sword scene there can be little doubt that we witnessed a death on Beware the Batman.
Other than capturing a really dark tone, there were a number of other things that this episode did right and one of them is, surprisingly, humor! While there’s definitely a great many eerie things going on in this episode we also get Gordon at his most sarcastic (with every funny line from Kurtwood Smith hitting home) and one of the funniest lines in any episode yet (and it comes from the Bat Computer, also voiced by J.B. Blanc). The sound effects and music also seemed (to me) to be of a higher quality than usual. Until this point I have never really noticed the score of Beware the Batman whatsoever and still feel that it needs a defining theme that makes viewers stand at attention the way Zimmer or Elfman’s music did (and still does). But in “Broken” the music and sound was handled in such a way that created a terrific level of tension and a spooky atmosphere especially in the Dumpler household and the final set piece.
Another strong element was the action, which was showcased best in an opening scene in which Batman beats down gangster Tobias Whale’s thugs. The choreography was very fluid and illustrated how lightning quick Batman can be (although that display of speed is tossed out the window in the episode’s final moments).
But above all, the aspect of “Broken” that made it the most memorable was Humpty Dumpty himself, voiced by Matt L. Jones (Breaking Bad). I think he’s the best part even with my list of nitpicks about how he was portrayed. The writers got the rhyming dialogue down, they made sure that Dumpty builds things, Jones gave a really unsettling performance, and the writers even managed to hint at the mother (or maybe it was grandmother) he tore apart in the comics (I told you it was dark)! However, they didn’t go far enough with his backstory other than a brief clip explaining how he suffered the injury that caused him to lose his mind. How does an accountant know how to build all of these bombs and robots and where is he getting access to all of this equipment? And while they do show that Dumpty likes to build things, a big part of his character has always been more about the need to fix things. You know? Putting them back together the way that the characters from the nursery rhyme tried and failed to do to Humpty Dumpty. I understand that this is an all new interpretation of the character (well, sort of. There’s a hint of Abner from Dark Knight Returns who was very Humpty Dumpty-esque) and it’s really scary to see a mad bomber Humpty Dumpty, but I can’t help but miss the quality Humpty Dumpty had of wanting to do good but causing atrocities by accident each time. Still, by episode’s end we still see Dumpty as a very mentally ill character who isn’t really evil. He just needs help. And the last thing about Dumpty that I was iffy about was his character design. He’s simply too big. He doesn’t even really look human. And the rotund design didn’t play well in a closing chase scene at all.
The other baddie to make an appearance, Tobias Whale (another obscure villain), is voiced by Michael-Leon Wooley who does fine and the character design fits Whale well (even as an albino black man Whale can’t seem to look like anything other than a Kingpin knock-off). But is Whale memorable at all? Does he come off as a real threat? No. He’s quite forgettable.
As usual there are a long list of pros when it comes to Beware the Batman when it comes to writing
I found the episode pretty enjoyable despite these nitpicks and criticisms, which can all be pretty easily overlooked. Humpty Dumpty, like Magpie, is a villain who really feels like a bat rogue that belongs in Arkham! But I think I pinpointed what it is that made me like “Broken” a little bit less (I figured I’d give it an 8/10 for sure on the 2nd viewing). It’s how underwhelmed I was with the ending given the way many of the previous episodes I’ve reviewed have ended. I’ll discuss this in spoilers, of course:
Humpty Dumpty represents a classic Arkham rogue feel that many prior villains have lacked and the episode also represents just how dark the creators of this show can go with the evil plots. However, problems with the animation still remain and the ending is far too similar to the episodes that have come before it. Is this a strong episode? Yes. It has the right bad guy, great detective work, humor, and plenty of Alfred and Gordon moments mixed in as well. I think I’m just soured on seeing the same ending again and again.