CREDITS: Written by Tom Ruegger (a Hannah-Barbara and later-day WB veteran), Paul Dini (his first DCAU credit, he would become one of the universe's most influential writers and go on to an equally influential comics writing career at DC) and Michael Reaves (has written tons of cartoons, as well as an episode of Star Trek TNG, and several Star Wars novels); directed by Boyd Kirkland.
REVIEW: Femme fatales are a perfect trop for this Film Noir take on Batman, and Poison Ivy is definitely one of these, the first of Bruce Timm's dead sexy female character designs. This is Pamela Isley the insane ecoterrorist, the woman who talks to plants and would rather be in their company than icky humans, though she's not revolted enough not to pass the time lethally kissing men. And somehow, she's not the only winning visual in what I would call the series' first truly stand-out episode. It starts with a sepia-toned flashback from five years ago, creates vertigo with zooms when Batman is in his usual vertiginous positions, offers up a monstrous Venus fly-trap that dies screaming like a Lovecraftian monstrosity, and uses editing to comical and exciting effect. We're well on our way to the classic we remember, I think.
Pretty Poison is all about irony. A sense of it motivates Ivy, as she derives a poison from an extinct flower to kill the men who paved over the last remaining specimens of that flower. And her fate is ironic too, landing in the cinder block of a prison that motivated her crimes in the first place. But irony is everywhere. In the flashback, Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne (literally) pave the way for a "better, safer Gotham" by building Stonegate Prison. Flash forward to a subtitle that say: "A better, safer Gotham, 5 years later". The transition is darkly comic and dripping with sarcasm. Cut to Ivy having dinner with Dent, and each of his lines discussing Bruce Wayne and his lateness is intercut with a chase between Batman and a prison escapee, each one a visual pun based on Harvey's remarks. It's all very well written. I love that Ivy's new fragrance is "Rose From the Dead", and that, in prison, she sees herself as a seed planted in the ground. Great stuff.
And it's looking to the future too, by tying Ivy to the future Two-Face, it gives two seminal Batman villains a connection, and in another bit of irony, Batman races to save a man who will one day become one of his greatest enemies. When Ivy calls him a murderer, she's talking about plant life, but Harvey will destroy human lives too, in the long run. Would Bruce Wayne have been next on her hit list? Presumably. And the animation subtly makes Bruce avoid a kiss from her when she hugs him for comfort as "Harvey's fiancée". A rematch seems inevitable, the seeds have indeed been sown. And I'd talk more about officer Montoya, who makes her first appearance here, but it's a small role, almost as if they wanted her to be a red herring, what with the first act never showing the evil woman's face. We'll have occasion to talk more about her in due time (and In the Comics).
IN THE COMICS: Poison Ivy first appeared in Batman #181 (1966), at which time she was a temptress-type villain; she would only become an ecoterrorist later (when that term fell into popular usage). In the comics, Poison Ivy can secrete all types of poisons through her skin, which she does deliver in kisses; in this episode, she has to put on special lipstick. She and Harvey Dent have no special relationship. As for Renée Montoya, this WOULD have been her first appearance, if they hadn't preemptively introduced her in the mainstream DCU some months before (in Batman #475). But she was definitely designed for BTAS. She became a popular character both on and off the show, and in the comics, was prominently outed as a lesbian, had a relationship with Batwoman, and became the Question. In the New52, she is Bullock's partner. A version of her even appears on the Gotham show. Stonegate Prison is called Blackgate Prison in the comics.
SOUNDS LIKE: Diane Pershing plays Poison Ivy; a well-established voice actress, her most famous role before Ivy was that of Isis. Nicaraguan actress Ingrid Oliu is only Renée Montoya FIRST voice, though she will be featured in a half-dozen more episodes.
REWATCHABILITY: High - Oh, definitely my favorite episode yet! Clever and sexy, just like the antagonist.