DCAU #22: Fear of Victory

IN THIS ONE... The Scarecrow returns with a sports-fixing scheme.

CREDITS: Written by Samuel Warren Joseph (Dennis the Menace's head writer in the mid-80s); directed by Dick Sebast.

REVIEW: It's the Scarecrow's second appearance, and already he's undergone a major redesign, a rather good one. So it's a little surprising that they shy away from showing his pumpkin-like noggin for most of the episode, instead choosing to show him in awkward disguises. But while the new look is quite cool, his motivations are disappointing. I mean, really?! Fixing sports games with fear dust to cheat his bookies? It's not a bad crime angle, but if the Scarecrow is doing stuff like this, does he really belong in an asylum for the criminally insane? Not that I mind seeing Arkham cameos from other people Batman's apprehended - including Poison Ivy, now where she belongs - even if leaving them their costumes is a bit of a cheat; and Crane leaving an actual scarecrow in his cell is a great gag, as is Batman making use of his own "fear aura" on the crooked guard. But you know what I mean. It's all a little... mundane.

The moment that really bugs me though is Batman experimenting on animals. That is has a NUMBER of cats on hand is creepy enough, and sure, it's just meant to be an amusing gag with a cat afraid of a mouse, but the cat's distressed yowls are too real for the gag. And he's basically dosing animals with an unknown chemical that could conceivably have lasting repercussions, one from which Robin, at that point, had yet to recover. Does Catwoman know about this?!

For me, the sports element was actually the most interesting, especially the gags in the news report. I kind of love that Gotham exist in a retro universe where football players wear what they did in the '40s too. The hook requires Robin's college roommate to be a quarterback, which is a good way to get fear dust on Dick's exposed skin by accident, and give Robin a fear of heights to overcome (as much through willpower as instinct), as the sportscaster seems to comment his tribulations. Later, a guy is affected even though he's wearing gloves, so the episode doesn't always play by its own rules. And please, does Robin's presence in an episode means there MUST be a lame joke at the end? Batman and jokey banter... not a great mix.

IN THE COMICS: The Gotham Knights is another name for the Batman Family, but HAS been used for the city's sports teams - baseball, basketball, hockey... and yes, at one point football, though it probably wasn't this college level team. The comics haven't been coherent about this, with the Goliaths, the Giants, and the Wildcats all playing pro level in Gotham. There is a real Gotham Knights team, in New York, but they play rugby.

SOUNDS LIKE: Tim Curry somehow ends up playing Leon the Bookie's henchman and additional voices in this.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Cool new design and a couple of neat gags, but the episode makes some very weird decisions for its characters I just can't agree with.


Andrew Gilbertson said...

This was the one I meant- I do think that this is a better introduction for Robin/Dick Grayson than Christmas with the Joker. It gives both his costumed and civilian identities a little room to breathe.

Siskoid said...

Certainly explains where Robin is and why he isn't on constant patrol with Batman.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

I can't decide whether that's annoyingly inconsistent, or a nice touch in this series... but having suffered through the 'permanent liability making lame jokes' phase of 'the Adventures of Batman and Robin,' I think I'm glad for it. This Robin is best in small doses. :-)

LiamKav said...

It's a deliberate part of the writer's bible, so it's intentional. Dick's at college but pops back from time to time, so if the story requires him they can use him, but they don't HAVE to.

I also quite like the "partner" dynamic Bruce and Dick have as well. Certainly one of the healthiest portrayls of their relationship that there's been. Pity TNBA goes down the "dark and moody Batman pisses everyone off route". You can see this Dick just naturally becoming Nightwing after college because it's something he wanted to do, rather than because Batman pushed him away. But we'll get there eventually...

Siskoid said...

Yes, I like the partnership here. Dick and Alfred both humanize Batman, and kind of act as three generations in a similar helper/mentor configuration.


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