The 10 Worst Episodes of Batman: The Animated Series

By Matt Wilson in Cartoons, Comics, Daily Lists
Friday, March 30, 2012 at 8:01 am
batman is wistful.jpg
There has never been a better superhero cartoon show than Batman: The Animated Series. The show was so far ahead of its peers on TV at the time (and really, since) that to say that there were bad episodes seems almost sacrilege.

But let's face it, people: There are some sub-par installments in the show's 109-episode run (especially if you include The New Batman Adventures, which I do). We may not agree on which ones are the worst -- for instance, many people don't like the monster-movie-like "Critters" episode, which I think is a barrel of fun -- but we can all probably agree that the good significantly outweighs the bad. Still, it's worth remembering that the show was not always perfect -- and here are 10 episodes that prove it.

(P.S. -- Please note the above image comes from "The Last Laugh," which is not one of the episodes listed here. However, it was too fantastic not to use. Carry on.)

10) On Leather Wings

The first-ever episode of B:TAS is by no means terrible. It's got a lot of weight to bear, in establishing a look and feel for the series (and boy, does it establish. The first shot of the Batmobile has to be 15 seconds long. I mean, admittedly, it is a car worth lingering over). The animation's often beautiful, we get a good sense of the key recurring characters -- Commissioner Gordon and Detective Bullock, especially -- and the maturity of the show's content is there right from the get-go (there's even blood!).

But it's got some pilot-episode problems. Alfred doesn't sound right (the voice actor here, Clive Revill, was quickly replaced by the familiar Efrem Zembalist Jr.), Kevin Conroy's all-too-noticeable voice comes out of a cop before it comes out of Bruce Wayne, and the mystery gets wrapped up a little too quickly. Most troublingly, Batman, the first time we ever see him, gets it wrong. He pegs the too-obvious Dr. March as Man-Bat, when anyone with a basic familiarity of the villain knows it's the cheery Dr. Kirk Langstrom. This after Batman spends half the episode trying to analyze hairs and sounds that ultimately don't matter. The bad guys just happen to be the scientists he visits at the zoo. Also: Man-Bat is kind of a terrible villain.

9) Torch Song

With Batman: The Animated Series' not-all-that-specific time setting -- art-deco style mixed with computers and other gadgets -- the creators could mostly slide by without having to make Gotham's culture seem too contemporary or hip. That changed a bit when the show transitioned into being The New Batman Adventures, and that was never clearer that in this episode, which focused on a pop star named Cassidy, whose Blondie-mixed-with-Rocky-Horror singing early on in the episode was hip exactly never.

On top of that, this episode introduces Firefly, who here is not much more than a scorned celebrity boyfriend out for revenge. Not exactly a high-stakes villain, though he was used to better effect in the "Legends of the Dark Knight" episode. Plus, this episode has Bruce Wayne dating, like, a 19-year-old, which is not so cool.

8) The Mechanic

Of all of Batman's villains, the one who probably got the worst shake on B:TAS was the Penguin. Having debuted on the heels of Batman Returns, the animated Oswald Cobblepot was a weird mishmash of the upper-cruster from the comics and the sewer dweller from the movie. Trying to make the Penguin both things ended up making him nothing at all, a character with no real discernible reason for doing anything. The series managed to do a couple decent Penguin episodes in spite of this (and fixed the character to a large degree in The New Batman Adventures), but "The Mechanic" was certainly not one of them.

Why does the Penguin want a remote control for the Batmobile? You'd think it'd be to kill Batman, but the Penguin skirts every opportunity to ram it into the wall and end it. If anything, he seems to just want to get a laugh out of it, which makes him more Joker-ly than Penguin-y. The mechanic of the title himself, Earl Cooper, is an interesting character with a decent backstory, but he's also the answer to a question that is somewhere near the end of the Batman fan's question list, "How does the Batmobile get fixed?" Add some sub-standard animation to the mix -- a car chase at the beginning makes the Batmobile look like a bumper car -- and you have a not-very-good episode.

7) Prophecy of Doom

Speaking of less-than-high-stakes bad guys, this episode's villain, a created-for-the-series scam artist named Nostromo, never resembles anything close to a threat. Batman's got him figured out the second he sees him -- he's telling rich people bad stuff will happen to them, then causing those things to happen so they'll give him money -- and Bruce Wayne's girlfriend of the week, the daughter of one of Nostromo's patrons, does too. For some reason, Bruce plays along with the guy's plan for a while instead of shutting him down immediately, and as a result his girlfriend and her dad almost get killed in a planetarium. This only seems to happen because the show's got to be half an hour.

6) Tyger Tyger

So then there was that episode where Catwoman turned into an actual, humanoid cat. (She gets better.)
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