Another week, another "season" down of the all-now, all-wow, custom order for rewatching the DCAU in a more intuitive, arc-driven way.
By this time - assuming that anyone is even reading this series of blog entries - one will have already been acquainted with the history and intent behind this experiment or, if not, figured enough to go back to my blog landing page and start from post one.
So, that said, assuming that no further explantation is required, let's dig right in:
Having spent last season exploring the more monstrous corners of Gotham City, the Batman now spends this season on more of a Sci-Fi bent. There might still be a monster or two lurking around the corner but, for the most part, I think this has a fairly different feel. We meet a few new villains, each with arcs of their own; delve a bit deeper into Bruce's psyche; and get the intro of a couple important supporting characters, as well.
We begin the season with The Man Who Killed Batman. Starting off with a twist beginning has a nice hook, dropping the viewer in medias res into a story that gradually unravels. We have touchpoint with familiar characters Rupert Thorne, Commissioner Gordon, Harvey Bullock and Renee Montoya providing continuity with previous seasons, as does kicking off with fan-favorite villains, Joker and Harley Quinn. A particularly nice nod to continuity is Harvey's having a feeling that he recognizes the unmasked Harley - a callback to Joker's Favor. Note that Joker is still on the loose at the end of this episode.
Next, we transition into an early "mini-arc" centered on characters in tragic, doomed loves. This kicks off with the intro of the Mad Hatter in, fittingly enough, Mad as a Hatter. Hatter will be a major recurring villain this season, filling a similar role to that of the Scarecrow in earlier seasons. But for now, Jervis Tech's tragic love transitions nicely into the next episode...
Heart of Ice, in which we meet Mister Freeze, another victim of his own broken heart. This episode is, in my opinion, as near to perfection as we've seen in this series, so I won't go into a ton of detail, except to say that Freeze does not recur often, but when he does... look out!
The next ep continues our mini-arc with another doomed love, this time with the recurrence of Clayface in Mudslide. I debated putting this later, but I feel that, thematically, it has a nice resonance with the Mr. Freeze story and, this way, it remains in fairly close proximity to Clayface's previous appearance. The watery end of this episode transitions beautifully as well into the watery beginning of the next...
The Laughing Fish, which sees the still-at large Joker ("He's made his move," says Bats) returning for a weird scheme with his own unrequited lover, Harley Quinn. This episode introduces a theme that will recur over and over this season (eventually paying off down the line) of Joker being reprehensibly abusive to Harley.
Our 4-ep mini arc concluded, we now meet our next recurring Season 3 villain, Riddler, in If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich?. This continues the season-long focus (started in ep two) on tech and fantastical computers. Nice return of Robin and a perfect set up for the dreamlike theme of the next episode with its closing line, "How much is a goodnight sleep worth? Now there's a riddle for you."
That line presages the wonderful ep, Perchance to Dream. This is another classic in my opinion, being a nice second volley for the Mad Hatter, as well as providing a good echo of all of Bruce's inner turmoil: his parents, a call-back to his mother figure, Leslie Thompkins, and his apparently unresolved feelings for Selina Kyle. A great ending to the first "movement" of Season 3.
Next up is a bit of a breather, with the lighter toned, Almost Got 'Im, perfectly placed here as the rouges reference Batman putting away the Mad Hatter the previous week. This ep serves as a good reminder of some of the now lesser-seen baddies, Penguin, Croc, and Two-Face, as well as setting up a clear animosity between Joker and Poison Ivy which will continue throughout this season. As in...
Joker's Wild, a good follow-on episode which has some great touches of continuity: Joker vs Ivy continuing, Joker's aptitude with cards (ooh... major foreshadowing), and Scarecrow and Hatter both in Arkham Asylum.
Having touched base with our Arkhamites, we now pay a return visit to our non-Arkham freshman villain, Riddler, in What Is Reality? The 5 - 6 episode gap between appearances for both Hatter and Riddler seems to provide a nice cadence, keeping the viewer interested in their stories but not overstaying their welcome. This episode also sees Robin back in the fray, likely home from college on break, as is reinforced in the next pair of episodes:
Heart of Steel Parts I and II. We have now crossed the halfway point as the sci-fi vibe reaches its peak with the Bladerunner-esque introduction of H.A.R.D.A.C. and the duplicants. Indeed, Batman says this is the most advanced technology he's ever seen. Perhaps I'm looking for connections where there are none, but I like to think the duplicants seen here - in both their design and movement - resemble to a certain extent the Z-8 robots used by Project Cadmus, which later were the prototype for Zeta. Perhaps not but, then again... shrug... perhaps. I mentioned that Robin being home last ep was reinforced here and, indeed it is, as we are introduced to the heretofore never-mentioned Barbara Gordon, also home from college. Yay!
After the sci-fi tour de force, we go a bit more street level with Paging the Crime Doctor, a middling story about the connection between Lelise Thompson, Rupert Thorne's brother, and Thomas Wayne. A bit of an outlier tale, but does reinforce Bruce's ongoing struggle with his past, and has a bit of a sci-fi touch with the high-tech laser guns wielded by Thorne's goons.
Also a with a touch of sci-fi is Fire From Olympus - which has a cold open with Jim Gordon (absent last ep, so this is a nice bit of a parallel storytelling). The sci-fi comes in with the "electron discharge cannon" and, though we never see Maxie Zeus again, the Arkham sequence with Joker, Two-Face, and Ivy, is very tight.
The exotic foreign mood established with the Grecian elements of Maxie Zeus' tale continue in spirit - albeit this time with a South American bent - in The Worry Men, which both provides a conclusion to this season's "Hatter Trilogy" as well as intro-ing another supporting character (also a redhead... hmmm...), Veronica Vreeland. Ronnie plays an important part as we head into our final movement of season 3 beginning with...
Birds of a Feather. A bit wonky from a timeline perspective (when exactly was the Penguin captured last?) but nevertheless fits nicely here as it looks both backward (to "Almost Got 'Im" with Penguin seeking out his poker buddies, Joker, Two-Face and Croc) and forward, establishing Veronica Vreeland as a semi-regular and setting up Penguin's arrest as an event which will inform the season finale.
We continue tieing up themes with Harley and Ivy, as Joker's season-long abuse of both women comes home to roost as they find kindred spirits in each other (and will continue to do so for years hence).
Also perfect for a season-ending theme tier-upper is His Silicon Soul, as the epic H.A.R.D.A.C. story has a coda. So many neat bits of continuity. Karl Rossum speaks of his lab being destroyed "months ago," but the hoods raiding the place speak of "defense systems, robotics, laser weaponry," - all elements that we've seen throughout the episodes of this season.
And all this comes to a head in the season wrapper, I Am the Night, an absolute classic if ever an absolute classic there was. Penguin, just captured a few episodes back, is released on a technicality, sparking - or perhaps stoking - all the doubts and fears inherent in Bruce about the work he's been doing. And the cherry on top? Commissioner Gordon gets shot. This season has been tough on old Brucie's psyche. He's been computer-brainwashed to think his whole life was a fantasy, he's been forced to fight in a VR world, he's seen his very persona assumed by a robot duplicate. All these things - on top of the pressures of his never-ending daily struggle to protect his city - have pushed his very sense of identity to the brink. Oh, and guess what time of year it is? Time to plant those memorial roses again back in Crime Alley. Thankfully, his extended support network of Alfred, Leslie Thompkins, Robin, and new kid on the block, Barbara Gordon, are there to help our hero find himself again and swing off into the moonlight.
Awesome end to an ep, and awesome end to a season.
So where did we land? Let's go to the big board...
Sweet...will be wrapping up the rest of BTAS in short order, as well as a couple movies thrown into the mix. Should be a fun week!