"The Underdwellers" is the twenty-seventh episode of the first season of Batman: The Animated Series. A series of crimes perpetrated by "leprechauns" starts plaguing Gotham City. However, as time goes on, Batman discovers that the real perpetrators of the crimes are children, kept in the sewers and ruled by a "King" who forces them to remain fully silent.
A couple of young boys stand atop a train and play chicken with the oncoming tunnel. Batman is right behind them and shakes his head seeing what they're doing. One of the boys sees him and jumps, but the "winner" gets his foot caught in cables and Batman has to save him. He then warns the two boys to play it safe.
Elsewhere, a rather rich-looking woman has her purse snatched by a young boy wearing a green cloak. She calls the police and claims that a leprechaun robbed her. The police don't believe her, but Batman goes after the thief only to lose him in an alley.
Back in the Batcave, Bruce talks to Alfred, uncertain with what he saw. However, knowing that there's more to the crime than first meets the eye, Bruce decides to head out to the theater district.
Underneath the theater district, a large group of children silently sew clothing, farm, and stow stolen items. However, one of the farming boys hits his leg with a hoe and cries out in pain. One of his friends tries to quiet him but it's too late. A bell rings and the children file into a room lit by a single candle. They come before a man who calls himself their king and he gives them their first lesson: strictly no talking whatsoever. As punishment, he takes the offending boy and pushes him into a room lit by phosphorescent lights for a few hours. The rest of the children are sent out to commit more robberies.
While the green-cloaked children roam the streets, Batman searches the alley and finds a hidden doorway. Going into the door, he finds his way into the sewers and a message saying "Beware the Sewer King". Batman continues on his search and eventually trips an alarm made of cans connected to a string. A single boy hears this and runs right into Batman. He then backs away and falls onto the subway track and right in front of an oncoming train. Fortunately, Batman manages to save him, and they head to the Batcave, where the boy is left in Alfred's care.
Alfred puts the boy to bed and eventually tries to wake him but the boy refuses to get up. Alfred forces him to get up and tries to take him in for a bath but the boy is still uncooperative.
Back in the underground, the Sewer King enjoys a meal of turkey and asks "Frog" for the rolls. While he gets the rolls, it isn't Frog who gives them to him. The Sewer King realizes that Frog is gone and becomes enraged. He demands that the children find Frog and that they will not eat until they do.
Frog on the other hand, is being served a breakfast of sausage and eggs with toast. Alfred insists that Frog use his silverware, but Frog simply hides the utensils away under his shirt and eats with his hands. Alfred still doesn't give up and tries to have Frog help with the dishes, but Frog simply steals the silverware and a tray and tries to run. Frog then uses the tray to slide down the stairs. Things take a turn for the worse when Frog grabs an antique blunderbuss and starts pointing it around. Batman now intervenes, and realizing just how serious this is, he asks Frog for help.
Frog takes Batman down to the sewers and his home. Batman is enraged when he sees the children and takes pictures for evidence. He and Frog find the calling bell and Batman rings it so hard it breaks. He then tells the children that their poor treatment is over, but the Sewer King arrives with a couple pet alligators and releases them onto the intruder. Batman easily manages to disable the alligators but the Sewer King threatens to kill a child. Fortunately, Frog swings in and saves the child.
The Sewer King runs and Batman gives chase, but it's a trap. Batman falls towards a pool filled with alligators, managing to save himself by grabbing a pipe. The Sewer King tries to push Batman in but is grabbed and pulled down. Though Batman offers his hand to his enemy it's refused, and the Sewer King falls into the pool where his alligators dive in after him. Batman believes him to be dead, but the Sewer King simply laughs pointing out that the alligators would never hurt him. Batman continues to pursue him and the chase finally ends in the subway when Batman and the Sewer King both fall onto the track. Batman manages to pull the Sewer King out of the way before a train passes. Bewildered, the Sewer King asks why he saved him. Batman, though expressing a desire to kill the man, claims that he does not pass judgement and will instead hand him over to the authorities.
Later, the children are removed from the sewers and Frog embraces his newfound freedom and begin to like light. Watching from afar, Batman watches as the children are taken in by social workers.
Home video releases
- Batman: Tales of the Dark Knight (VHS)
- Batman: Tales of the Dark Knight (DVD)
- Batman: The Animated Series, Volume One (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (DVD)
- Batman and Friends (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (Blu-ray)
- Alfred claims that he knows nothing about children which seems inconsistent with him knowing Bruce since he was a baby, as well as taking care of Dick Grayson when he was young,
- Though the Sewer King punishes Jack for hitting his leg with a hoe and crying out in pain, the boy that actually did it looks completely different.
- One of the children is seen wearing glasses, which is odd since he would need a prescription, that of which he could not get in the sewers. They might have been stolen however.
- When Alfred forcefully picks Frog up to be cleaned, he laughs, but his mouth doesn't move.
- A scene depicts the children under Sewer King's charge performing various agricultural work (plowing, watering, pulling roots.) underground; strictly speaking, unless they're cultivating mushrooms (which are fungi not plants), they cannot grow anything underground without sunlight.
- Batman seemingly kills one of the Sewer King's alligators by forcing its mouth open too far.
- Strictly speaking, the pressure of an alligator's jaws is such that a man keeping one's mouth from closing is quite impossible, or, at the very least, attempting to do so is unwise. It is far easier to keep an alligator's mouth closed and tie it shut.
- This episode has the smallest credited cast of the entire DCAU, with only four names listed.
- The Sewer King's line "A few hours in the light will make Jack a bright boy" echoes the proverb "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy".
- This is the first episode of the series to show Batman's soft spot for children, displayed when he expresses a desire to kill the Sewer King for his abusive treatment of them.
- Batman's line "I think this is a job for Batman" is a likely homage to Bud Collyer, who credited the phrase "This looks like a job for Superman".
|Kevin Conroy|| Batman|
|Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.||Alfred|
|Michael Pataki||Sewer King|
Batman: You play chicken long enough, you fry.
Bruce: I think this is a job for Batman.
Sewer King: I took you in when nobody else would have you! It is I who care for you, I who provide for you, and it is only I who knows what's good for you!
Sewer King: Lesson number one is: NO TALKING! Children are to be seen and not heard. We are the Underdwellers. We are the silent ones. We follow the invisible creed.
Alfred: Rise and shine, Master Leprechaun.
Batman: Grab my hand!
Batman: (to the gators) Later.
Batman: Children and guns do not mix. Ever.
Sewer King: (After Batman saves him) Why? Why? Why?
Frog: The light. The light!