No, you didn’t miss it! Cartoon Network never aired episodes 12 and 13 of Beware the Batman, but they are available now on the Beware the Batman: Season 1 Part 1: Shadows of Gotham Blu-ray/DVD and if you want the show to survive in any way then I suggest you go out and buy that immediately. I’ll talk more about the Blu-ray and the series in general when I review “Shadows of Gotham” but for now I’m just going to treat this review like all the episode reviews before it. And here… we… go!
A brief showing of pity reignites an inmate’s obsession with Batman and puts Katana’s life in danger. Directed by Curt Geda. Written by Len Wein.
Right off the bat with that simple description there is something that should stick out to comic book fans: written by Len Wein. Who is Len Wein? He’s only the editor of a little book called Watchmen and the co-creator of Swamp Thing, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, etc. etc. But rather than develop something wholly new or bring a more recognizable villain from the Batman mythology to the show, we get a follow-up to the episode “Secrets” that even brings back Lunkhead (also voiced by JB Blanc, the actor who portrays Alfred) who made a cameo in that chapter as well.
The episode starts with Lunkhead stealing a car, but not in the traditional way you would imagine. An incredibly strong figure, Lunkhead picks up the car and carries it over his head (it’s a bit much, but he adds some much needed levity to a rather dark episode). He’s not entirely evil and really belongs in Arkham or perhaps a mental institution that actually provides help. To him the vehicle is a toy that he just wants to bring home and play with, but the moment Batman and Katana intervene he forgets all wholesome intent and uses the automobile as a missile. The fight scene is brief, but a pleasure to watch. One thing that Beware the Batman has done better than any other Batman show is its fight choreography and the scrap with Lunkhead is a pleasant appetizer before our main course of Katana vs. Magpie.
Once Lunkhead is incarcerated the real story regarding fellow inmate Magpie begins. We see him ushered into Blackgate prison by Batman, Katana, the GCPD, and the warden. These characters all seemed a bit too chummy when compared with how slowly the vigilante’s relationship with authorities has progressed over the season, but this is again only a minor nitpick. Another would be that the prison itself is far too vacant. As we walk past cell after cell and later see a full-fledged prison break it almost feels like Magpie and Lunkhead are the only inmates within the complex. Making the environments feel lived-in has been something Beware the Batman has struggled with from the start. Either it’s a lack of detail on the flat textures (it’s more believable in urban environments, but settings like the climactic graveyard look foreign when the grass is as smooth as glass) or it’s an absence of Gothamites.
We’re quickly introduced to Margaret Sorrow, who is wearing the same costume from episode 2 and even has the white wig back. This raises a lot of questions that each seem to have the same answer of “laziness.” Why is she locked up side-by-side with male inmates? Why is she still wearing the Magpie uniform? Were the animators so limited that there was no other character design for her while she was in prison? Speaking of which, her boobs are too big and her whole outfit is too revealing and cheesecake in general. It’s distracting. Thankfully, even Katana acknowledges the ridiculousness of our villain’s attire later in the episode and picks apart the costume piece by piece from the feathered choke-collar to the bustier.
Magpie is far more obsessive than before, still says her catchphrase “shiny, shiny” and truly becomes a very formidable villain by the conclusion of the episode. It turns out Batman has been visiting her frequently (you dog, you!) because he knows she belongs in a hospital, not a prison. Bruce also empathizes with her duality and secretly fears that he may lose himself in Batman in the same way Margaret Sorrow has been consumed by Magpie, a theme that builds throughout the next 20 minutes. The Batman’s visitations may have been a combination of sympathy and curiosity for the Batman, but to the insane Margaret Sorrow they meant the world and symbolized the only human connection she had left. So when Katana shows up at Batman’s side as Lunkhead is led in chains through the prison, Magpie gets jealous and “Attraction” becomes a superhero play on “Fatal Attraction.”
Naturally, Magpie finds a way to escape and goes on a series of heists to attract the attention of the man she loves and the woman she wants to murder and replace. The plot grows dark, the fight scenes become even more spectacular than before, and the episode showcases a level of suspense unseen in any previous episode. This may sound surprising, but the cartoon’s climax shares quite a bit in common with the 2010 film Buried and is executed so well that I even started to think that the creators might kill off Katana–
This was certainly one of the most dark and nerve-wracking episodes of the series and one that really made great progress in making one of the lesser known villains interesting and elaborating on the psychological aspects of Bruce Wayne. The entire voice cast did a superb job and while the backgrounds can be lifeless at times the expressive characters are anything but and that goes along way toward enriching the performances of our actors. Grey DeLisle (voice of Catwoman & Vicki Vale in the Arkham games) certainly brought the crazy, JB Blanc was given more to do as Alfred took on a bigger role after being downplayed throughout much of the season (he really shines in episodes 12 and especially 13), Sumalee Monano was given some of the best lines of the episode, and Anothony Ruivivar continues to excel as The Batman.
I have a few more comments about the ending, but I’ll place those in spoiler tags.
- The way Magpie is ultimately defeated was awfully heavy-handed. She should be dead. I mean REALLY dead. I know she has some sort of super-strength, but the mix of animation and sound effects for the tombstone falling on top of her carried a tremendous amount of weight. When the grave marker fell, I felt it. I probably even gasped a little because I thought for sure that there was zero chance of the character surviving something like that, but it appears that the show runners were unwilling to off characters until the next episode
- I loved the ending and think that if more Batman fans saw moments like that instead of the silly clips of Pyg and Toad then the show would’ve earned more viewers. The final scene illustrates the importance of allies in Batman’s life, emphasizing that it’s not so much that he needs them in the war against crime, but because without them he may never find a way to be Bruce Wayne again.
It’s one of the most intense and psychological episodes of the series with great fight scenes and an edge-of-your seat final confrontation. I highly recommend you track down a copy of the Blu-ray and check out this and the following un-aired episode as they are two of the best.