One of the things I find fascinating going back to the shows I watched as a child is how downright scary many of them were, and how I often didn’t know it at the time. Sid’s toys in Toy Story come to mind, as does literally every second of Return to Oz. While Batman is often mature, and often twisted, it’s rare that it finds truly chilling moments. This week is an exception, as the show offers up some proper nightmare fuel to consider. As a kid, I don’t think it scared me. As an adult, I find it utterly horrifying. This week on Batman: The Animated Series Remastered and Rewatched, we’re looking back at the episode titled “Eternal Youth.”
We get a great cold open: a woman running through the woods, terrified. Someone chases her. They’re slow, calm, and inevitable. The pursuer catches up. It’s Poison Ivy, back at it after a stint in Arkham, the world’s least-secure asylum. She sprays the woman down with a green mist that seems to freeze the woman in place. She’s wide-eyed and terrified as Ivy picks a twig from her hair. There’s no mystery this week. Poison Ivy is up to something, and it’s particularly screwed up.
Back at Wayne Manor, we find out that Bruce Wayne is Extremely Environmental as he yells – I think a first for Bruce in the animated series – at someone for making a deal that involves tearing through the rainforest. Meanwhile, Alfred is sorting Master Bruce’s mail and finds a videotape inviting him to an “Eternal Youth” spa from Demetechnics (you know, like Demeter?) with some awesome Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous/Love Boat-style music and beautiful women hanging out by pools. If only Bruce weren’t arguably the peak of human fitness.
Alfred deserves a day off
Against his will, Alfred ends up being spirited away to the spa at the insistent urging of Maggie Page – who also acts as the first sign that Alfred has a life outside of answering Bruce’s calls and stitching up Batman’s wounds. At the spa, an initially skeptical Alfred is quickly converted by refreshing water and delicious food.
Back in Gotham, Batman is investigating the disappearance of the woman we met at the beginning of the movie, an executive responsible for strip-mining operations. In what might be the most absurd smoke-bomb moment yet, Batman disappears from in front of Commissioner Gordon while Gordon is adjusting his glasses. He doesn’t even look away.
The weekend at the spa is a success. Maggie is making noises that I’m not sure are safe for a kid’s show and Alfred is hanging plants all over the Batcave. He does know how sunlight works, right? But Alfred’s good spirits falter just moments later as he collapses – though not before he can show Bruce the regenerative serum provided by the good doctor at the spa.
Bruce studies the serum while Alfred recovers, but Alfred is back on his feet quickly. And while the Caped Crusader is in his cave, Alfred is already off and back to the spa.
It’s not a mystery, but instead a rescue mission. Poison Ivy decides to punish Alfred for Bruce Wayne’s perceived transgressions, though and uses her green mist to lock Alfred and Maggie in a terrified embrace.
This show is for kids
Batman comes up on the spa real stealth-like on his glider, but then just goes right up to the door and cuts a man-sized hole in it. So much for stealth. He’s captured in short order to make sure the shocker moment sets in just right. Poison Ivy pulls a huge curtain back to reveal a small forest of human-shaped saplings. She explains that they’re just covered in bark, but that given time, they’ll be completely subsumed by the plant matter already growing inside them. There’s no indication given that these people are unconscious or in any kind of suspended state – they’re just frozen in place. It’s haunting.
Of course, this is a children’s show, so this episode doesn’t feature the slow, painful death of Alfred Pennyworth. Batman has put together a cure and soon all of the monstrous business owners who tore down forests to make mini-malls, who operated strip-mines, and whatever else, are all in the hospital, healing. Man, maybe Poison Ivy was on the right track with this one.
The episode, in general, isn’t terribly interesting or memorable, overall. It’s Poison Ivy doing characteristic things. It’s not particularly good-looking or visually interesting. There’s not a whole lot of music.
Looking back on the episode’s most shocking moment, I wish the show had ridden the horror wave a bit more, though I also understand that that’s a hard line to walk for a kids’ show. If it sounds like I harp on that a lot, it’s because the Batman we have nowadays is so mature that it’s hard to remember that this show was intended for kids.
Next week, we go back to the dreamworld for “Perchance to Dream,” an episode I remember really liking.
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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