Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad have returned just in time for Gotham’s Fashion Week, but they are none too happy about couture culture. Soon enough, the city’s most famous fashionistas are targets and the Batman must piece together bizarre clues relating to an old and seemingly unrelated nursery rhyme in order to rescue the victims in time. Katana learns to trust her instincts. Directed by Rick Morales. Written by John Matta & Matt Weinhold.

“Instinct” is quite similar to episode #5 “Broken” in that we have a villain who is targeting a specific group and those individual victims pop up in various spots around the city in overly elaborate death traps. However, while we did get an origin story for Humpty Dumpty back in “Broken” we’re now on the 2nd appearance of Pyg & Toad and still have no idea how they came to be. This is a mistake in my opinion since these are relatively unknown villains that need to be fleshed out more if they hope to become a household name (for more of my thoughts on Pyg & Toad, check out the review of episode #1 “Hunted“). But, while we’re missing out on any kind of back-story, the episode does have a plot with added surprises, better set-pieces, and it really illustrates how great the dynamic is between Batman and Katana.

The episode is a terrific showcase of Katana’s dry, sarcastic sense of humor and Batman’s amazing detective abilities and physicality. I’m really enjoying the mentor/student back-and-forth these two have and it says a lot about how well Katana’s character has been established on this show that when she swoops in to save Batman’s bacon I don’t harumph (Speaking of which, there was one scene that was a bit too close to the “Thanks for saving my bacon, Robin.” moment from Batman: The Animated Series’ “Night of the Ninja”).

Every scene with the Dark Knight makes it clear that he’s the smartest and toughest guy in the room and that’s precisely how it should be. Last week I compared a scene to something from BBC’s Sherlock and I got that same sense in a dinner scene at the beginning of “Instinct.” It’s a scene in which the camera zoomed in on the tiniest of details that Bruce noticed around him and Tatsu as they dined.

Spoiler
This camera work was overdone in the parking garage scene though. Teh quick cuts to incredibly obvious details and then Batman’s face actually made Batman look stupid, which I’m sure was the opposite effect that the director wanted.
However, when Batman described a purse theft happening outside of the restaurant about a second before it actually happened I furrowed my brow a bit. He’s the world’s greatest detective, sure, but that made him look like a Precog. There were many other great moments that exemplified Bruce’s brilliant mind, especially his quick thinking as to which gadget to use in freeing a certain someone from a deathtrap.

Spoiler
I was very pleased with Pyg and Toad’s plan of using the nursery rhyme clues as a diversion. At first it felt like these foes were ripping off The Riddler’s M.O. but seeing them use these ridiculous hints as a way of pointing Batman in a different direction was unique and quite smart on their part.

When it comes to the action, the show is still top notch. The fight choreography is brilliant and totally well-shot. It’s not quite as intricate or thrilling as the League of Assassins fights, but the nimble Mr. Toad (voiced by Udo Kier) made for some visually interesting battles, especially with his sonic-croak. Unfortunately, I do have a problem with somebody as rotund as Professor Pyg sneaking up on the Dark Knight. It’s time to give Pyg and Toad some henchmen and I suggest that the creators utilize the Dollotrons that Pyg is seen with in the comics.

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Sure, we’d have to find a kid-friendly way of melting doll masks onto people and lobotomizing them, but Pyg’s design definitely doesn’t suit the sneak attack angle and replacing such an act with a bunch of henchmen swarming the Batman would probably be much more effective.

Additional criticisms and comments will be placed in spoiler tags, but this was definitely a fun episode with great performances by Anthony Ruivivar and Sumalee Montano.

Spoiler

  • It’s odd that we’re not getting the full opening titles sequence again.
  • What happened to Cypher’s body? We see Jason Burr has been discharged from the hospital and he appears to be well, however it’s actually Cypher pretending to be Burr or both personalities have merged OR Cypher lies beneath the surface. So my question is: what was left inside of Cypher’s body at the end of the episode titled “Control”?
  • Alfred has been noticeably absent lately. I’m liking Tatsu more and more with each episode, but Alfred and J.B. Blanc’s performance was always a pleasure to see in each episode and I miss seeing the butler.
  • The butt-wiggle of the fashion designer was oddly hilarious. And judging by his purple attire I kind of had my fingers crossed that we were about to see a very ridiculous birth of The Flamingo.
  • Katana swooping in with the glider to grab Batman was a very cool moment.
  • I liked the defibrillator paddles that Pyg used as brass knuckles.
  • I wanted a shot of Pyg and Toad actually getting arrested. At the end of the  episode we see that the two villains have been knocked unconscious, but that was it. We never saw Batman and Katana handcuff them or the police arrive to take them away. How great would it have been to have seen them escorted into Arkham Asylum, marched past the cell of Magpie, and then ended the episode with a surprise cameo by an on-staff psychiatrist named Jonathan Crane?
  • @Mckflicus on twitter pointed out to me recently that Katana never wears gloves and now I can’t un-see that. Get Katana some gloves so she isn’t leaving prints everywhere! It’s bad enough that her vigilante get-up looks exactly like her everyday wear, but she’s not even wearing gloves? Give her some purple ones and have it be a nod to the original Bob Kane/Bill Finger Batman. Everyone loved it when Snyder and Capullo brought those back in Zero Year.
  • I’m loving how serialized this series has become. Even this episode ended with a tease at more League of Assassins business. It’s really great that they can make such a strong, stand-alone episode yet still weave it into the larger, over-arcing story.

Overall

“Instinct” is a nice return for Pyg & Toad but an even better showcase of Batman & Katana. Nothing about the episode sent me over the moon and some aspects were a bit similar to what we’ve seen previously, but it was thoroughly entertaining.

SCORE: 7/10