Going Through The DCAU Part Five

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Continuing Tom and Jimmy’s rewatch of the DCAU.

This week, we’re covering “Heart of Ice,” “The Cat and the Claw Parts 1 and 2,” and “See No Evil.”

“Heart of Ice”

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Batman comes face to face with the mysterious Mr. Freeze, who is carrying out a vendetta against the CEO of GothCorp, the People’s Company.

tomk:  Wow. Where to start with this one…It’s just so darn good from beginning to end, so let’s try a history lesson. Mr. Freeze started off as an almost forgotten bad guy, originally named “Mr. Zero”. The Adam West TV series used him at least three times, during which I believe he was never played by the same actor twice. Beyond that, he was just some guy with a freeze ray. Then this episode came along, made him highly sympathetic and gave him a backstory that, last I checked, was at least still being used in some form to this day.

It’s also, I think, the first episode of the show I actually got to see.

jimmy:  I was going to ask you about his origins prior to this. From what I gathered he was really just a throw away joke with the freeze gimmick like you said.

tomk:  Yeah, there was nothing on the guy. Batman’s enemies didn’t often have elaborate backstories, mostly just going for some guy with a gimmick, and Freeze was probably the best example of that. He was just some guy with a cold thing.

jimmy:  In the audio commentary…one of them commented on how lame Batman’s rouges gallery was when they were writing the show bible. They really went a long way to change that.

tomk:  They did an excellent job. I think Freeze is, once again, the best example of that. To make things even better, Freeze of all the villains has a definite character arc if you follow him through all his appearances, including Sub-Zero and Batman Beyond.

jimmy:  Has (had? Stupid New 52) the comics adopted this slant on his origin?

tomk:  I think they did. From what I heard, he was delusional and Nora wasn’t really his wife. It really ruined his tragic backstory.

jimmy:  Yeah. That is the whole point and power of the story.

tomk:  Everything about Freeze is just, pardon the unintended pun, really cool in this story. Michael Ansara’s voice work is fantastic. The Mike Mignola-inspired look is great. The action is great. The script really pops. Batman dismissing Ferris Boyle with the contemptuous “humanitarian” line really underlines who the real villain of the story was, and it wasn’t the guy freezing everything.

jimmy:  Speaking of Boyle, he was voiced by Mark Hamill and his secretary sounds an awful lot like Harley Quinn. Quite the undercover scam the Joker has got going there.

tomk:  Actually, funny you should mention it. Boyle was originally the only part Hamill was cast for, but he let the producers know he could play a villain. Then the actor originally cast as the Joker dropped out and Hamill got the gig. That actor who dropped out? Known Clue quote Tim Curry.

jimmy:  Hey you took my story! Though I didn’t know the Curry part.

tomk:  As much as Hamill rocks the part, a part of me does wonder what kind of creepy vocal inflections Curry could have given it.

jimmy:  Curry would be a good choice, I’d say. He was awesome in It.

tomk:  Well, he certainly had evil clowns on his resume.

jimmy:  I think this is the first time the title card had animation and actually tied into the episode.

tomk:  The title cards actually do tend to tie in a somehow, at least thematically, but I think you’re right about the animation behind it.

jimmy:  Well, that is what I mean. It is snowing and we pan down from the title card to start the episode. Not a static card with title and then cut to the action.

tomk:  Oh, yes. That is almost certainly a first, if not the only time it happens.

jimmy:  We also see Freeze watching one of the rare color TVs in the series.

tomk:  Well, rare now. The color TVs were fairly common in the early episodes. But that color thing must have freaked him out. No wonder he froze the TV.

jimmy:  Maybe he thought the story didn’t have enough camera angles…like the footage from his security cameras…

tomk:  You know, as good as this episode is, and it did win a Daytime Emmy, I did find myself nitpicking like the Honest Trailers guys did over Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

jimmy:  They are silly nitpicks mostly though. Like the two scenes where Batman’s symbol gets inverted and is yellow on black.

tomk:  Or the way the security guard struts out of the video room when undercover Bruce tells him he can go enjoy the party.

jimmy:  Haha, yes. I noted that too. Pretty lax security protocols there.

tomk:  Should we say something more about Mr. Freeze? Besides the fact Batman stops him with a callback to something Alfred did earlier that was almost a side note?

jimmy:  Which was great and I hated it at the same time. How long could that soup stay piping hot in that Thermos? And where was it concealed?

tomk:  The concealment is what I wondered about. That was a big honking (apparently fragile) thermos. Where was it when Batman lost his belt?

jimmy:  Hmmm…maybe we don’t wanna know where it was…

tomk:  Good point.

We’ll leave that line of inquiry to Watson.

jimmy:  To your point, what is there to say about Freeze? Strong backstory and motivation. Excellent visuals with the suit, off tint skin and the dome over his head. Fantastic effects-laden voice. And not horribly pun-y like Ah-nuld.

tomk:  I just find it impressive they made such a nothing into probably the best villain on the series, and they didn’t even use him all that often (which helped keep him the best villain on the series).

jimmy:  Just another thing that points to how much of a failure Batman & Robin was.

tomk:  That movie was bound to be a failure. Arnold said he was shown footage of Otto Preminger playing Freeze on the Adam West show to give him an idea of what his character would be like.

When you move away from the dark Batman of the Burton films and head in the general direction of Adam West, something like Freeze’s tragic backstory won’t resonate the same way.

jimmy:  You mean Batman shouldn’t have had skate blades in his boots when fighting Freeze?

tomk:  I mean Freeze should not speak solely in puns when he isn’t conducting a bunch of hoodlums dressed in parkas…though this episode did feature some hoodlums dressed in parkas now that I think about it.

jimmy:  I wonder if it was intentional or not that all his henchmen looked like Captain Cold.

tomk:  I suspect not. The parka colors looked fairly typical for a cartoon character.

jimmy:  BTW, those skate blades in his boots would have come in handy during the Empire Strikes Back homage scene.

tomk:  Oh yes! An episode with Mark Hamill’s voice and an Empire Strikes Back-ish scene.

Too bad Freeze didn’t have a yeti or something to stand guard.

jimmy:  Freeze does have one of the smarter awesome visuals of the series when he kicks open the hydrant, shoots it with his freeze ray, and uses it to propel him to the upper levels of the building.

tomk:  That was cool, and apparently came about when the writers realized he’d frozen all the doors shut and had to get in somehow.

jimmy:  I haven’t got much more to add. Excellent episode. I’m sure there will be more clunkers along the way but this really builds upon the Two-Face episodes to take this from a passable way to spend 30 minutes on a Saturday morning to something really special.

tomk:  I agree. The episode is just so darn good, there really isn’t that much to say. Anyone who’s seen the episode in question probably remembers it as one of the best and it probably is one of the best, bottom line.

“The Cat and the Claw”

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Batman has women trouble when dealing with a new burglar in town, Catwoman, and the mysterious terrorist Red Claw.

tomk:  Jimmy, I don’t know what to make of these two episodes. Batman and Catwoman’s flirtatious chatting was kind of cool, but Red Claw is kind of a bust of a character. She’s a terrorist the same way Cobra Commander is a terrorist…she commits acts of violence for no clear political reason like real world terrorists do.

So, let’s praise the casting. Adrienne Barbeau is an excellent choice for Catwoman. She was a sex symbol in the early 80s, and while the animation never meets the standards of her work, she puts a good purr into her voice. Meanwhile, even though Red Claw isn’t particularly interesting, Kate Mulgrew at least gets to practice that vaguely foreign accent she uses in Orange Is The New Black.

jimmy:  Agreed about Red Claw.

The casting is truly geektastic. Barbeau was married to John Carpenter and in movies like Escape From New York and The Fog. She was even in the Swamp Thing movie.

Mulgrew of course played Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager.

tomk:  Oh yeah, lots of Geek Cred on display here.

I saw Barbeau once on one of my favorite 90s sci-fi shows, Babylon 5. She wasn’t the only Batman actor to be there. Richard Moll and Paul Williams each did an episode.

jimmy:  Babylon 5 is one of my geek blind spots.

tomk:  Its actually a lot of people’s geek blind spots near as I can make out. Don’t feel bad.

jimmy:  It does seem like something I’d like and I generally like Straczynski, just never found the time to watch it.

tomk:  I only found it on reruns on the Sci-Fi channel. Incredibly ambitious show. Straczynski wrote most of the episodes himself and used five years to tell one big story.

But the first season is rather rough and turns a lot of people off.

jimmy:  Back to these episodes, sounds like I liked them more than you, but agreed about Red Claw. She was horrible. I liked all the Catwoman/Selina/Batman/Bruce stuff though.

tomk:  Oh, the Bruce/Batman/Selina/Catwoman stuff was fine. It reminded me a little of the Bruce/Lois/Clark stuff from the Batman/Superman team-up episodes “World’s Finest” where Lois liked Superman and Bruce but didn’t care for Clark or Batman.

jimmy:  Speaking of relationships, Gordon’s and Batman’s takes a huge jump here. They are gabbing by alleyways and meeting in Gordon’s office. Gordon has a secret phone in his office that Batman has the number too. (And who else has the number I wonder? He answers and is glad it is Batman.)

The whole dynamic is great, but we’ve seen none of it before and it seems to come out of no where. Felt like I had missed an episode where they became buddies.

tomk:  I think they were building that way, seeing as how Batman trades some words with Gordon at the end of “Two-Face”, but this is a big step. We knew it had to happen, and this show isn’t as strong in the serialization as, say, Justice League will be, but its nice. Now if only the Batphone was a bright red…

jimmy:  I thought the same.

But you are right, there’s not a really strong continuity to the episodes. For example, where’s Robin been for the last dozen?

tomk:  Robin doesn’t appear much until near the end of the original run of the series. He’s off in college.

jimmy:  That makes sense.

tomk:  I’ll say more about Robin when we get to the two part “Robin’s Reckoning”. I really like this version of Robin.

jimmy:  I think this is the first episode that had a blatant “To be continued” card. Even “Two-Face” didn’t.

tomk:  I thought “Two-Face” did, though they timed it better. The lightning flash revealing his face, his fiancee passing out in horror, his sad goodbye, and then…to be continued.

jimmy:  I don’t think “Two-Face” did. Though it obviously did when you saw the next episode. Might have had to do with the fact that Part 1 was the first episode they aired on a Saturday. Then a week of episodes then Part 2 the following Saturday. That must have flowed weird when watching originally.

tomk:  Well, it doesn’t matter much. Flirting aside, did this two parter seem good to you, Jimmy? The dialogue was cracking between Bats and Cats, but Red Claw was a bust, the animation was shoddy in places (like the face of that gunman shooting at Selina in the vents at one point), and I wasn’t sure why they added Red Claw to a promising Catwoman episode.

Unless they just didn’t want Batman to hit Red Claw.

jimmy:  Possible. They needed a protagonist that was against Bats and Cats since they really weren’t against each other, especially in part 2. Did you find it surprising he arrested her at the end?

tomk:  Not really. She wasn’t the antihero she is today.

jimmy:  Batman was very surprised that the new cat burglar was a woman and that Red Claw was a woman. This ain’t an equal rights Batman.

tomk:  But he says he’s an equal opportunity crime fighter. I took it more as a mild musing than being outright shocked.

jimmy:  To your comment about the animation, I thought the first episode was strong but the second had some weak points. Probably done by different studios.

tomk:  The opening chase between Bats and Cats was good, but the date later was, I thought, weak.

jimmy:  Was the second date in part two? I don’t recall.

tomk:  That was the car chase. And yes.

jimmy:  I thought so. Like I said, I thought the animation in part 1 was good, 2 faltered.

tomk:  Part two also had convenient mountain lion attacks.

jimmy:  I assumed Catwoman could control them a la Aquaman.

tomk:  News to me.

jimmy:  I’m kidding.

tomk:  Ugh. Stupid text conversations lacking nuance.

Anything else to add here, Jimmy?

jimmy:  Nope. Ready to move on.

tomk:  Then we shall!

“See No Evil”

Ventrix_and_Kimmy

Batman gets involved in a child custody dispute, only one of the parents is a thief with an invisibility suit.

tomk:  Jimmy, this may be the last of the Batman-and-a-kid episodes, and I think it is hands down the best of the bunch.

jimmy:  It’s a good episode. I didn’t make many notes on it. There were no highs to praise, no lows to pick on. Just solid from start to finish.

tomk:  I picked up a couple things.

First appearance by Lucius Fox.

And a surprisingly good cast of supporting actors.

jimmy:  Always nice to see Lucius make an appearance. The cast was good here, I agree. Though I didn’t even recognize Michael Gross.

tomk:  Considering Michael Gross is best known for being gentle hippie father Steven Keaton on Family Ties, I’d say they cast way against type.

jimmy:  And for Tremors. 🙂

tomk:  And…as Terry McGuiness’ father.

But I always make it a point to pause on the cast list, and there was one much, much bigger name there.

Mad Men actress Elizabeth Moss is the little girl, Kimmy. Her career these days is really taking off.

Yes, this is Elizabeth Moss.
Yes, this is Elizabeth Moss.

jimmy:  I always do too. I would have no idea who Elizabeth Moss was. I do recognize Jean Smart as well.

tomk:  Well, Moss is super-talented and let’s just leave it at that. And character actor Brock Peters voiced Lucius. He’s best remembered probably for To Kill A Mockingbird.

jimmy:  And Ben Sisko’s father.

tomk:  Must have been a Star Trek theme for this week’s series of episodes.

jimmy:  They did a good job with handling the invisibility in this episode.

tomk:  That they did. Really solid animation and writing this time around. A bit of comedy, especially involving that poor guard trying to use the men’s room.

jimmy:  Yes, that was priceless.

tomk:  But my favorite line was probably when Ventrix shouted, “Look at me!” to his ex-wife. The one time he wants to be seen, no one’s interested.

jimmy:  Yes. Well written. And Kimmy’s reaction when she finds out who he is is spot on as well.

tomk:  I’m having a hard time finding stuff even to nitpick on this one. It’s not a top ten, but its clearly a rock solid episode.

jimmy:  That’s how I felt too. Just one of those episodes that gets it right, even if it wouldn’t make anyone’s best of list. And would never make a “worst of” list.

tomk:  You know, Jimmy, I think we lucked out. Aside from some spotty animation and a mediocre villain for the Catwoman two-parter, we had three really solid stories to cover this week.

jimmy:  Hopefully it stays that way going forward. Seems they are getting their stride.

tomk:  Well, remember how I said we hadn’t gotten to my least favorite? There’s still a few weak episodes, but not as many.

jimmy:  There’s bound to be a couple.

tomk:  Sad but true. Anything else to add, Jimmy?

jimmy:  No. I don’t feel like we said much about this one, but not much needs to be said.

tomk:  True enough. Of course, next week we have the Gray Ghost, Clayface, AND my least favorite episode.

NEXT TIME:  Jimmy and Tom discuss “Beware the Gray Ghost,” “Prophecy of Doom,” and the two part “Feat of Clay.”

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