As we’ve gone through the first 16 episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, the results have been surprising. The show holds up extraordinarily well as a whole work, but many episodes aren’t quite as good as I remember them being. Our next two installments of Remastered and Rewatched will cover two that have actually improved with age. We’ll start with Batman’s first good “original villain” storyline, “See No Evil.”
“See No Evil”
Original villains made up for one-shot appearances on Batman: The Animated Series have not fared well thus far. They’ve been high-concept, out of place, out of time, and out of style. Lloyd Ventrix is anything but that. This is the kind of complexity we come to this show for. This is an episode about a broken family and a desperate man. The only thing implausible about this episode is the technology at play.
Kimmy Ventrix sits in her room talking to her imaginary friend, Mojo. Only, Mojo puts an expensive-looking necklace around the child’s neck. Mojo is actually Kimmy’s ex-convict father, Lloyd Ventrix, enrobed in a light-bending suit that renders him invisible. This villain isn’t the leader of a world-spanning criminal organization, or a bizarre Dickensian sewer dweller – he’s a guy who wants to see his daughter but who has lost all perspective of right and wrong. Meanwhile, Kimmy’s mother Helen knows that kids will be kids, and thinks Mojo is truly imaginary.
Let’s pause for a moment to look at the voice cast of this episode, since we’ve mentioned each of them. Kimmy is voiced by Elisabeth Moss, who would’ve been about 9 years old at the time, but has since gone on to star in shows like Mad Men and The Handmaid’s Tale. Her mother is played by Jean Smart, who is known for shows like Designing Women and Legion. Lloyd is played by Michael Gross, best known for Family Ties and the Tremors films. Each one brings great voice work to the episode, but Gross is my absolute favorite. As Lloyd, he delivers the right mix of love and unhinged desperation to make him believable.
You’d have this look on your face if Batman was getting beat up by an invisible guy, too.
Batman gets involved when his alter ego Bruce Wayne happens to be at a jewelry convention that Lloyd decides to upend. There’s a good recurring bit here where a guard keeps trying to make a bathroom stop, only to be interrupted by a costumed nut using the bathroom to change in.
We get some quintessential, classic Batman in this episode. As he and Lloyd first clash, Batman is out of his element. This Batman is a pretty street-level crime fighter. He has lots of cool tech, but he’s not a supernaturally good warrior who can just close his eyes and sense his foe. At first, Lloyd has a clear advantage over him, and that forces Batman to stop and look at what he’s doing. We get to see detective Batman, searching for an explanation for Lloyd’s incredible tech. Then we see protector Batman, working to keep a family safe and to give the little girl a secure life with her mother.
This is a visually impressive episode, too. The animation, in general, is better quality than we often see, but there are a couple things that stand out, all stemming from the invisibility suit. One is the bright light that emanates from the suit when activated, casting a rainbow of blinding light. Batman’s world is one of often muted colors. Though characters like Harley and Joker can brighten it up, the iridescent look is rare in the show, so it really stands out.
The other interesting thing is the kinetic feel of the fight sequences. This is especially notable because it’s hard enough to deliver on making animation feel impactful when you can show the characters punching and the characters getting punched. Here, the animation team does a great job of making Lloyd’s Batman Beatdown feel hard and mean, and the invisible car chase fast and dangerous.
In the end, Lloyd is a gangster with a gimmick, and no match for the world’s greatest detective, but even as Batman takes him down and ships him off to jail, it’s not hard to see the tragedy of the whole situation. This is a case where even justice is tragic. Kimmy and her mom can start a new life with hope, while her father has to live with knowing that his attempts to get closer to his daughter only pushed him away.
If you need more BTAS commentary now, we have every episode of the series ranked from the worst to the best!
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