CREDITS: Written by Jules Dennis (The Real Ghostbusters), Richard Mueller (also of The Real Ghostbusters, and later Robocop: Alpha Commando), and Tom Ruegger; directed by Frank Paur (who worked on Gargoyles and lots of superhero cartoons after this).
REVIEW: There was always something Dickensian about Gotham City and Batman's world, I suppose, not something merely Victorian, and this episode essentially offers a twist on, well, OLIVER Twist. With a Fagin-like villain in the Sewer King, who even dresses in cod Victorian attire. I'm not a big fan of his, mostly because his madcap vernacular and deliveries annoy me, but showing Batman interacting with children, in particular orphaned children, is worthy subject matter. While the older Robin (who has appeared only once at this point) denies us a young Robin gallivanting about (for now anyway), the character of Frog in this episode serves the same function. Batman takes him under his wing, has Alfred teach him manners - and not to use guns (what the hell are all those guns doing at Bruce Wayne's?) and then brings him out to play/make an arrest. It's the Robin story, and it was his, too. That Frog is a silent character means there's relatively little to this relationship, but it does suggest those past "Frogs".
A Gotham with orphan kids is a Gotham perpetuating the cycle of poverty and crime too. These kids are taught how to steal and obey a harsh master. What will they be when they grow up? The episode opens with Batman chasing some teenagers whose shenanigans are putting them in danger; who are they ABOUT to become? I don't think we have to look too far for the answer. Unless something is done, they'll become some of the many crooks and henchmen we consistently see on the series. Even if they ARE rescued, there's something depressing about kids walking into sunlight for the first time in Gotham. I'm always surprised that bright ball in the sky IS the sun. It's all so dark regardless! This is an episode where the Batmobile is hidden in a garbage bin. Can anyone really get out unsoiled?
There's some nice direction in the episode, like the use of Sewer King's lair as a sort of mirror of Wayne Manor, and the Bat symbol appearing in the eyes of a policewoman in a car about to hit Batman. There are lots of shadows, and Batman is often posed dramatically. The moment where the Sewer King seems to become a victim of his monstrous alligators is swift and slightly shocking, but he's unharmed as per the series' moral constraints. Similarly, I expect the gator who's jaw Batman snapped to make a full recovery. Batman's get more comfortable with Bondian "death puns" lately, I've noticed, but I love his restraint when he tells the "dead" alligator a simple "later". Went for it, but didn't do it the clichéd way. Nice job.
IN THE COMICS: The Sewer King was an invention of the series, but did manage a brief appearance in 52 #25 where appeared as one of Gotham's crime lords for all of one panel before he is killed by Intergang's Bruno Manheim.
SOUNDS LIKE: Michael Pataki is the Sewer King; to me he is Korax from The Trouble with Tribbles, but he's had small parts in many, many things since the 1950s.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Ultimately underwhelming, I chalk it up to the one-shot villain, not to the themes explored.