So... the second part of my project to design a custom, more "arc-driven" order for the whole of the DCAU went a bit quicker than the first. For one, I now had a bit of methodology under my belt, and had also gotten into the narrative rhythm of the show (bear in mind it's been over four years since the last time I've watched any of this). But, secondly - and more importantly - I was a lot less beholden to the original order I had set out to follow, deciding instead to just let the story itself dictate where to go next.
For part one, I had based my initial approach to BTAS on a similar thing done years ago by a poster on another website. I had originally intended on posting his order in these blog posts, as well, by way of a side-by-side comparison. But, that said, by this point I've actually gone pretty far afield of his order, so I don't think there's much value. For reference, though, I did track down his original post, if you'd like to check it out here.
But... that was then and this is now. How do I think a "Season 2" of the DCAU should look?
Glad you asked!
As much as I enjoyed the first "season" of this project, I actually think this second is much tighter. I feel that both thematically and tonally it flows very nicely and - amazingly to me - is actually able to follow something resembling a consistent internal timeline. Whereas the first season was showing key events from over a series of years, this part seems to cover a solid block about of 16 months or so.
Since I had excised the introduction of Robin completely from the first part, I felt I should focus a bit on that initially. Next, I wanted to wrap up some of the Gotham City threads from the first part - seeing the comeuppance of two of the city's plainclothes baddies, Rupert Thorne and Roland Daggett. At the same time, I had to revisit the costumed baddies "Season 1" introduced - Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, and Scarecrow - and maybe throw a couple other weirdies into the mix.
Above all, I wanted the "universe" itself to feel as though it was growing organically, the way it would if this were being broadcast in this order. You be the judge.
So, we kick things off with the two-parter, Robin's Reckoning, dropping the viewer into the narrative deep end. We're familiar with Batman, of course, but who is this kid? Fear not... the flashback story, almost immediately gives you all the info you need, as well as providing a nice touchpoint to the history we've already seen with the inclusion of Arnold Stromwell. Dick's dialogue about missing the action since he's been in college provides a good explanation of his absence, and also helps us place this in a timeline (perhaps home on summer break?)
We stay with the Robin thread in the next episode, Night of the Ninja, expanding on the nature of Bruce and Dick's relationship, while also drawing a nice parallel between their respective training with the flashback story in Japan.
Having established Robin's role, we can now take a break from the character assuming he's headed back to college - early autumn or so (Harvey Bullock calls Batman "Mr. Trick or Treat... maybe October is coming up?) - as we revisit the first of the Season 1 baddies, the Penguin in Blind as a Bat. This episode also reconnects with Leslie Thompkins and establishes a plot point of Bruce Wayne being uncomfortable with some of the projects Wayne Enterprises is involved in, a theme which returns later.
From here, we move to Vendetta, with the return of Rupert Thorne, the intro of Killer Croc, and nice focus on Harvey Bullock which will provide a good lead in to his role in the next episode. Additionally, it's super cool that Batman's red-eye lenses seen in "Blind as a Bat" are almost immediately again in use here!
Speaking of returns, we see "season 1" creep Milo in the next ep, Moon of the Wolf, continuing a "monster" theme - perfect for October - as well as James Gordon prominently assigning the case to Bullock - likely by way of making up for his treatment in the previous ep.
...and then cap off this four-part "mini-arc" with the dramatic return of Two-Face (in an episode explicitly stated as taking place in November) as he has his final show-down with Thorne in Two-Face Part II.
Having been narratively carried through a Robin-less period while Batman fought monsters, we now check back in with Dick in college in early December (college-football season) with Fear of Victory. This ep also provides a great touchpoint for our Arkham Asylum residents, with lead villain Scarecrow, as well as cameos from Joker and Ivy (not seen since last season) and - as of last ep - newly-incarcerated Harvey Dent.
It's also Arkham that provides the launching point for Christmas With the Joker, as we see the Clown Prince escape to battle Batman and Robin over Christmas break. This ep provides a perfect halfway point for "season 2".
We now head into the back half of the season, revisiting both Catwoman and the whole "genetic-splicing" theme in the very odd Tyger, Tyger. Given the "bundled-up" coat look everyone is sporting, this can easily take place in the early months of a new year. Nice call back to season 1, as well, with the appearance of Kirk Langstrom.
Callbacks continue as we close out the Kyodai Ken saga, continuing a somber mood with Day of the Samurai, before shifting radically into a more "zany" feel with Joker's Favor. This ep serves as a wonderful intro for Harley Quinn, who will play a much larger role going forward but, for now, is a perfect, albeit visible subservient, addition to Joker's brand of mayhem. I particularly like how she is unmasked for almost the entirety of her appearance here.
Almost subtly suggesting a connection, we go from the intro of Harley in the last ep, to the return of Ivy in this with Eternal Youth. The setting of this episode with foliage and such makes it clear that we're now into spring (let's say April). Again we see Bruce getting mad about Wayne Enterprises activities... gotta lock that down, buddy.
The whole "health spa" thing continues with The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne, as new weirdo Hugo Strange, is the architect of the very first villain crossover, bringing together Arkham neighbors, Joker and Two-Face along with the Penguin. This acts as a great bit of world-building, as does the return of Robin (so maybe summer vaycay again). Also name-dropped is "seeason 1" baddie, Roland Daggett, which now has much greater import as we head into... bump, bump, baaaa...
Feat of Clay! A two-part tour de-force intro-ing the tragic villain, Clayface - who sharp-eyed watchers would have seen subtly referenced way back in Beware the Gray Ghost. This two-parter is great as its own thing, but also resonates later in the order, and puts a button on all things Daggett. Nice all around.
Finally, we wrap up the season with Dreams in Darkness, a perfect encapsulation - revisiting Arkham, ending the "fear" trilogy of the Scarecrow (who, in this order, remember, was the very first costumed baddie we met), featuring hallucinogenic cameos from the whole main rogues gallery to this point: Joker, Penguin, Ivy, Two-Face, and... if you look at the morphing of the villains in a certain way... maybe Clayface, as well. All this, plus Robin, too? Mike drop.
So, that brings the Exnihil custom order to 2 seasons thus far, looking like this:
I dig it!
Part Three soon...