Going Through The DCAU Part Twenty-Two

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It’s time for Tom and Jimmy to go back to what they do best…discussing cartoons.

Yes, it’s time for another installment of Batman the Animated Series discussions, this time focusing on “The Terrible Trio,” “Harlinquinade,” and “Time Out of Joint”.

“The Terrible Trio”

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Three rich young men–self-styled masters of land, sea, and air–start committing crimes to relieve their own boredom. Can Batman and Robin bring in the Fox, the Vulture, and the Shark before they go too far?

tomk:  What a perfectly unremarkable episode.

jimmy:  With surprisingly poor animation.

tomk:  I mean, I watched this one, and the thing that hit me was…there was really nothing special one way or the other about this one. The Terrible Trio are some of the more forgettable Batman foes out there, having been occasional menaces in the comics since 1958 or so, but they aren’t particularly interesting here, or anywhere else near as I can make out.

It isn’t a bad episode or a good episode. It’s just…there.

jimmy:  I can agree with that. Though I did find Fox’s constant looking in the “camera” a tad annoying. Especially after his girlfriend saunters away and he gives “us” an “oh yeah, I’m tapping that” look.

tomk:  Hadn’t noticed. I did notice the writers went out of their way to make Fox as odious as possible. Calling Bruce Wayne “the dumbest man in Gotham” was probably supposed to be partly ironic given Bruce is also Batman, but also because the statement comes after Bruce discusses the need to help the less fortunate. All Fox needed was a mustache to twirl.

A bit of a surprise when you consider Fox was voiced by Bill Mumy, Will Robinson from the old Lost in Space TV show.

jimmy:  One of the other guys had the Errol Flynn mustache down pat.

tomk:  Ah, yes, Shark. The only other one played by an actor whose name I recognized. Sitcom actor Peter Scolari.

jimmy:  But not Snidely Whiplash levels.

tomk:  He would have been spotted sooner if it was.

jimmy:  Haha. True. Yes, couple of “big”…at least recognizable guest stars.

tomk:  Considering the only other role I know Mumy for was as an alien monk/assistant on Babylon 5, he got to stretch his acting chops a bit, but the other two guys might as well not even be there. Fox was clearly the main villain. Heck, the other two had consciences.

jimmy:  Mumy appeared on the 1990’s Flash TV show and in the ’90’s Captain America movie, so his geek cred is stellar.

tomk:  Who was he on the Flash show? I don’t remember off-hand.

jimmy:  Roger Braintree? I’m just going by Wikipedia. If it’s not John Wesley Shipp, Amanda Pays or Mark Hamill I couldn’t tell.

tomk:  Not one of the other Rogues that appeared on the show either, but I knew David Cassady was the Mirror Master and I was pretty sure Mumy wasn’t Captain Cold.

He also wasn’t the radio show host that popped up a lot because that was Richard Beltzer.

jimmy:  You remember it a lot better than me.

tomk:  I can remember Detective Munch appearing on a show as a character other than Detective Munch, you mean?

jimmy:  Yes.

tomk:  OK then.

jimmy:  Just the show in general.

tomk:  I really enjoyed that show.

More than I enjoyed the Terrible Trio.

jimmy:  Haha, nice segue back.

How could you not at least be intrigued by the Terrible Trio? They were worse than the Joker…according to Batman.

tomk:  He was doing that so Robin wouldn’t feel bad that a couple of frat boys in animal masks had hurt him.

jimmy:  Heh. Fair enough. The whole opening fight scene I just kept waiting for Batman to yell out “Robin, no!” Waited and waited and it never came and just when I thought they might not do it, whammo! there it is!

tomk:  This was about the point the Fox network insisted Robin be in almost every episode for some reason. And I like this Robin.

Though Robin wasn’t needed to beat the Trio. Batman made it look easy. When has the Joker ever made it look easy? These guys were on par with Sewer King when it came to fighting Batman, and Sewer King was the suckiest suck who ever sucked.

jimmy:  He might appear, but like that episode with Ra’s, he just hangs out in the plane when the going really gets tough.

tomk:  At least this time he admits it was because he was hurt.

jimmy:  Pfft! Robin with a broken arm could have taken down these jokers.

tomk:  Yeah, exactly.

I’m actually surprised I had that much to say for this episode. It wasn’t a bad episode I could more or less laugh at, and it wasn’t a good episode I could admire for its craftsmanship. The villains aren’t particularly memorable one way or the other, aside from how Fox can maybe perceive the fourth wall. Really, this episode was a whole lot of not much. Just a way to fill 22 minutes or something.

jimmy:  We revel in its mediocrity.

tomk:  That’s the best I think anyone can say about the Terribl(ly Forgettable) Trio.

Oh, and Fox is so getting prison raped judging by that last scene.

jimmy:  For sure. Not sure that kids would catch on to that besides his cell mate being scary, but all the adults watching are like “oh damn, you in for a world of hurt boy.”

tomk:  And no one would feel bad for the guy who tried to bribe Batman and then claimed to own every judge in Gotham.

jimmy:  That’s a lot of Batarangs.

tomk:  Anything else to add, Jimmy? I am still surprised we managed this much.

jimmy:  Not really. Just that it was another example of Bruce’s socialite “friends” only showing up when convenient to the plot.

tomk:  Yes. At least this time it wasn’t the socialites falling for a bad guy’s con. And it wasn’t Veronica Vreeland.

Let’s check in on the Joker then.

“Harlequinade” 

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The Joker has gotten his hands on an atomic bomb! Batman turns to the one person he knows of who can help him find the Clown Prince of Crime before the bomb goes off…Harley Quinn!

tomk:  So..the Terrible Trio are supposed to be worse than the Joker? Remind me when those clowns got themselves an atomic warhead.

jimmy:  They would have gave it back.

tomk:  Only after Batman spanked them like the little punks they were.

But an a-bomb? That’s a fairly useless weapon when you think about it for any criminal that isn’t the Joker.

jimmy:  I don’t know much about a-bombs except they have a giant “A” on them, but could Joker possibly get far enough away in his little plane in 10 minutes if the bomb had gone off?

tomk:  Probably not. Do you think he cared?

jimmy:  Then why set the timer? Why get on the plane at all?

tomk:  Well, his henchmen still want to live, and he needs them to pilot the thing.

jimmy:  It almost seems to “big” for the Joker. He’s usually much more subtle, like poisoning the water supply.

tomk:  Well, let’s be fair…does anyone actually say it’s an atomic weapon? Batman mentions a mushroom cloud, but that’s about it.

jimmy:  IT’S GOT AN “A” ON IT!!!

tomk:  Oh, that “A” could stand for “anything”. Maybe it shoots out confetti when it explodes.

That would be a real Joker bomb.

Besides, I never could figure out why all those mobsters wanted one of them. How exactly does that work? You try to blackmail the city, but a rational person would never use it since that would end the possible income and whatnot of the person with the bomb. You’d have to be the Joker to even think of setting it off for real.

jimmy:  Those mob types ain’t too bright in Gotham.

tomk:  Well, yes. Why didn’t they all just run the instant they heard the Joker’s voice?

jimmy:  Maybe his voice is not that distinctive in Gotham. “Hey, did you hear that?” “Could be the Joker.” “Nah, probably just Sal The Laugher He’s working with Louie’s crew now.”

tomk:  Well, the purple suit should have been a giveaway. Like how we saw the sleeve the first time we saw a shot of Mayor Hill.

jimmy:  We’re making some interesting observations. I guess next we’ll discuss how Harley is crazy.

tomk:  She is. Did you hear that song she sang?

Or did you get up to grab a beer then?

jimmy:  Damn. I could have done without the musical interlude, even though the lyrics were quite telling.

tomk:  Well, Harley isn’t known for her singing for a very good reason.

Though that mob boss voiced by character actor Dick Miller once sold guns to the Terminator, which was dumb, and let Gremlins steal his snowplow, which was even dumber.

jimmy:  Haha, really? Awesome.

tomk:  Dick Miller has a very distinctive voice. And I know you love your Terminator connections.

jimmy:  True. I probably never would have noticed that though.

tomk:  I like a lot of director Joe Dante’s movies. He did the two Gremlins and a few others, and he likes to pop Miller into his work.

Point is, Miller often plays characters distracted by bad things to his own detriment.

jimmy:  One thing that confused me about that scene, why did Harley knock Batman out in the first place?

tomk:  Well, they were spotted, and Harley’s attack worked as something of a distraction that allowed them to take the mobsters down a little later…but it wasn’t as if Harley was aware Robin was waiting outside.

jimmy:  I just found it odd since then she spent the rest of the time trying to distract the mobsters and give Robin time to free Batman. And then end up in the same situation and firefight anyway. Unless she somehow thought they had no chance unless they also had Robin. And didn’t she know he was on his way, didn’t he say as much when they talked in the Batmobile?

tomk:  Well, it was weird. Besides, Harley’s basically an unpredictable and unreliable ally. That’s more or less how Robin ends up coming up with the plan to save the day. Remember, Robin was the first to point out all the other people the bomb would kill, like everyone in Arkham where Harley was before Batman sprung her.

jimmy:  That was a nice touch. Having her turn on the Joker because of that. That he wasn’t planning to rescue her or her “babies”. But in the end, it made me think of what your friend said. After all that and Harley essentially shooting the Joker’s plane down, she turns around and jumps in his arms in love and the show ends with a heart shaped fade to black transition.

tomk:  Well, yes, but the thing that struck me was this time she really was maybe trying to kill him and that endeared her to him in ways most Harley episodes don’t end. It was a weird ending, with the Honeymooners‘ quote and all.

jimmy:  Yeah. Seems like we’re complaining about it a lot, but it was a fun episode.

tomk:  It was!

But Harley is an increasingly problematic character in many ways, so we end up balancing the “fun” with the “wait, that subtext is nasty” stuff that keeps coming up for good reason.

jimmy:  I don’t recall, was this the first mention of her life prior to becoming Harley?

tomk:  It came up in “Trial” actually.

jimmy:  Ah. Hard to keep all these versions of Harley straight.

tomk:  That’s what she said.

jimmy:  I liked when she was naming her “friends” from Arkham too. Ivy, Two-Face, Lizard Guy…

tomk:  She loves her friends so much, she knows all their names.

jimmy:  Well Tom, anything else to add here? You don’t want to see the Joker get overused like early in the series, but his episodes are usually more hits than misses.

tomk:  Oh, I agree. By this point, the show has a good grasp on the Joker and, unsettling subtexts aside, Paul Dini knows how to craft a good episode for Joker and has Harley’s voice down perfectly.

But since we’re done with Mr. J, I think Jimmy we need to move on to one of those guys you didn’t like the first time we saw him. Yes, it’s the dramatic return of the Clock King.

jimmy:  Oy vey!

“Time Out Of Joint”

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Clock King is back, and now he can actually manipulate time by slowing it up or down! Can Batman and Robin stop him from getting his revenge on Mayor Hill?

tomk:  Question for ya, Jimmy: when I mentioned the return of a villain you didn’t care for much, you immediately assumed Maxie Zeus. Now, as I recall, you didn’t much like the Clock King the first time around, so has Maxie eclipsed the Clock King in your mind?

jimmy:  They are pretty close. I guess Zeus was the most recent one and came to mind first. My problem with the Clock King was that Batman should have beaten him in 30 seconds. At least this go around CK has something to make him at least somewhat formidable.

tomk:  And yet, somehow he’s less formidable! A random woman clerk slows him down, and Robin takes him down by episode’s end.

jimmy:  Because Batman is busy…ugh…running on water and throwing a bomb away.

tomk:  The Flash was not available.

jimmy:  Now that you say that, CK seems more like. Flash villain than Batman’s.

tomk:  He was a Green Arrow villain, actually. But I think I said that last time.

jimmy:  Yeah. He still sucks.

tomk:  Yeah, but once you step away from Batman, Flash, and Spider-Man, most superheroes don’t have huge swaths of memorable enemies. They get one or two prominent ones, and then you get guys like the Clock King.

jimmy:  You say he was less formidable. I see your point. He doesn’t even make good use of his new toy. Why not attack Batman when he freezes time instead of fleeing and tripping over that filing clerk?

tomk:  Well, at the speeds he was moving, attacking Batman then probably would have turned Batman’s insides to mush.

So, wait, why not hit the Mayor that way?

jimmy:  The whole thing was a neat trick, especially for stealing the clock and getting close to Hill, etc., almost a precursor to the Quicksilver X-Men movie scenes, but outside of that it just seemed ridiculous. Especially when the Batmobile is trapped in the time bubble and when the dynamic duo are spreading to Hill’s rescue.

tomk:  Yeah, those guys were lucky no one missed Bruce Wayne for the day or so he was trapped in that bubble.

jimmy:  And they were in the bubble like 2 days…with Bats spouting Einstein and worried about something hitting them…in the middle of a road…for 2 DAYS!

tomk:  No one took that road for two days. Or they went around them.

jimmy:  It made no sense.

tomk:  Look, Batman never even gets stuck in traffic, so that car already causes confusion.

jimmy:  So, this was the first episode for me that featured the new Adventures of Batman and Robin intro. I already miss the original.

tomk:  Yeah, that one looks just thrown together with various weird clips.

jimmy:  Yeah, it is awful. The theme is nowhere as good either.

tomk:  Well, they were ordered to add more Robin and this is what happened.

jimmy:  Were they also ordered to make the show more “childlike”? This reeked of typical Saturday morning fare whereas previously (granted with some exceptions) it was much more groundbreaking.

tomk:  My recollection says the network wanted Robin to be in the show more.

How juvenile that is may be a coincidence.

jimmy:  Hopefully more coincidence then sign of things to come.

tomk:  Well, we’ll see. I like this version of Robin, but he still cramps Batman’s style at this point.

jimmy:  I’m also curious how many seizures this episode was responsible for? The strobe effect at times is quite intense.

tomk:  Well, probably not as bad that one episode of Pokemon.

jimmy:  Which we know nothing about, since we no Pokemon.

That’s strike two for the Clock King for me. Does he get a chance at the strikeout?

tomk:  Sort of. Wait for Justice League.

jimmy:  If he gives Superman trouble I give up.

tomk:  Well, wait and see. I can almost guarantee his final appearance will not be how you think it will go.

jimmy:  <sarcasm>I can’t wait.</sarcasm>

tomk:  Actually, the episode in question is quite good and his role is minimal. To say more would be to give things away.

jimmy:  I can’t wait?

tomk:  Well, you’ll have to. Anything else you want to add to this one, Jimmy?

jimmy:  No, I think the Clock King has run out of time.

tomk:  Well, we should move on. Time for another batch of episodes. We should check in with Catwoman, see the inspiration for Jenny’s best impression, and then a brand new villain.

NEXT TIME:  Jimmy and Tom move on to discuss the episodes “Catwalk,” “Bane,” and “Baby-Doll.”

tomk74

Defender of the faith, contributing writer, debonair man-about-town.

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