We’re coming in on the final stretch of Batman Unburied, and finally starting to get a clear picture of what’s going on. There are just a few dangling questions left before the heroes can wrap things up and save the day. Obviously, it’s time to start answering those questions and bringing things to a close, right? Well, yes and no.
With the big twist of last episode being the brutal murder of Hugo Strange (presumably) at the hands of Stirk, Batman now needs to figure out what happened. I’m always a fan of detective work in stories about the world’s greatest detective. Unfortunately, Agatha Christie this is not. The initial clue that Stirk is acting against his usual MO, so therefore he must be being controlled is not a bad hook, even if it requires some dubitable leaps of logic. However that immediately goes away as soon as Batman starts questioning the Arkham inmates. The investigation quickly devolves into him walking down the line, yelling “tell me what you know!”, and then moving to the next cell. That initial clue/deduction does end up being right, but it plays no role in him figuring out what happened.
The entire time Batman is trying to intimidate the suspects, it’s so hard to take him seriously because of his voice. I already talked about this in my last review, but it really does break all tension in a scene. It’s so over-the-top gravelly and deep I can’t help but envision the people around him just laughing because he’s clearly trying so hard to come off as scary. There are other audio issues as well during the investigation scenes, though none quite so egregious. There are a few instances where the musical stings feel out of place and the volume mixing feels off. For example, the background music is sometimes too loud compared to the character’s dialogue. Not so much that you can’t hear them speak, but enough to be distracting. Additionally, sound effects like Batman’s cape billowing will be used as scene transitions and they never quite feel authentic. It just sounds like a standard effect played over the audio track as opposed to creating the illusion that we’re hearing Batman move from one place to another.
It’s a real shame that Hugo Strange died at the end of episode 6. There are a couple of reasons why I feel that way. Firstly, The sections which focus on the psychological struggle between Strange and his patients are easily the most entertaining parts of the series. I talked a lot during my review of episode 5 about how exciting that sort of conflict is to listen to. Thankfully, Strange was a man who kept plenty of audio recordings, so we still get some of John Rhys-Davies’ wonderful performance post-mortem. The logs of Strange calmly manipulating a scared and confused Stirk into becoming his pawn almost makes you feel bad for the deranged serial killer. He keeps a soothing, comforting tone throughout as he convinces his victims that he’s trying to help them, but all the while you can sense the menace lying beneath it all.
The second reason why Strange’s death is unfortunate is because it means that the story introduces an entirely new main antagonist in the story’s eleventh hour. Sometimes this can work as the payoff to some twist, but here it just feels entirely out of left field. At the end of his investigation, Bruce discovers that Professor Strange had been talking extensively with Poison Ivy (whom Bruce has apparently never heard of despite the fact she’s a criminal with super powers being held at Arkham.) Questionable world-building aside, the revelation itself is well done. We slowly get more information about the mysterious woman until it becomes clear who it is before she says her name. I also particularly like the siren-like theme music that plays when she speaks. What I didn’t like was that the show then spends an entire episode outlining her origin story.
There are only 2 episodes left after this. We should be spending episode 8 wrapping up plot threads and working towards a conclusion. To spend 30 minutes devoted to a character that until now has never even been mentioned or alluded to kills all narrative momentum. The origin story itself is fairly well done, and in a vacuum I might even praise it. It offers some twists on Ivy’s traditional origin yet still maintains her portrayal as a sympathetic villain. The somewhat graphic depictions of child abuse feels excessive at times, but it fits within the tone of the show.
However, to make all of that build to the idea that the entire plot of the show is part of Ivy’s plan to steal a tree we’ve never heard of feels totally unearned. If you want to have a big reveal of the master plan like that, there needs to be more setup. I’m fine with Ivy being the big bad behind everything, (even if I was really enjoying Strange in that role) but you can’t drop her motivation, plan, and even existence on the listener out of nowhere 80% of the way through the story.
- You want to hear more of Strange’s mind games and manipulation
- You thought this series needed some last minute twists
- Poison Ivy is one of your favorite characters
At a time when it should be working towards the story’s conclusions, Batman Unburied spends its time revealing an entirely new main antagonist hitherto unmentioned. The investigation that leads Batman to this revelation is not a particularly interesting one, but is redeemed by getting one last look at Rhys-Davies’ manipulative and controlling Hugo Strange. Ivy’s origin story is competently told, but it did not need to have an entire episode devoted to it. Its place in the story feels obtrusive and harms the overall narrative more than anything else.
Episode 7 Score: 6/10
Episode 8 Score: 5/10
You can listen to the first eight episodes now, only on Spotify. New episodes drop every Tuesday.