CREDITS: Written by Paul Dini; directed by Bruce Timm.
REVIEW: When Dong Yang Animation Co. are involved, it's always a gorgeous looking episode, with attention to detail, atmospheric lighting, and fluid action. The studio elevates every episode it touches, and takes it up a notch, even a somewhat ropey story like this one. Like most Joker stories to date, there's an element of the random to his schemes that can be delightful, but also silly and forgettable. The Laughing Fish is something of a Frankenstein's Monster, but one that, I think, works fairly well. See In the Comics for more, but Dini has taken elements from different Joker stories that might well have been part of the same one to create a coherent whole. Only Harley's thread fits awkwardly and feels tacked on.
Because yes, this is the episode where we learn that Harley is in love with the Joker (although his ability to reciprocate is in question), but it only happens at the end of the episode when she thinks him dead, puts a big black kiss on a card and throws it in the water, and calls him her puddin'. It doesn't play like an epiphany; it's like it's always been their relationship. But it doesn't jibe with the rest of the episode where she treats him as a boss, and one that's asking a bit much. (Harley is forced to eat fish and wear a fish mascot costume, but it could be worse - one of the other goons dresses as a little girl, hope this pays well.) Dini redefines the relationship a little late in the game.
Otherwise, one wonders of the kids really got the copywriting scheme, though once the plot turns to taking revenge on those who won't let him patent his "Joker fish", things get more lively. (Sometimes too lively; Batman's disguises made me think we were in Mission: Impossible 2 for a while there.) Bullock gets a good role, figuring out where the Joker is hiding just ahead of Batman (didn't think he had it in him), though he of course gets chumped when he walks into the aquarium. Batman driving a shark into walls to break out of a water tank is the keystone of the climax and very effective. For once, a villain "dies" at the end of an episode, though of course, there's no body to confirm it. It's a classic comic book "escape". Presumably, his inflatable duck-tube saved him. ;-)
IN THE COMICS: While taking some of its cues from the 1989 Batman movie (the Smile-X that requires a combination of products and the pirated TV signal), the story is obviously adapted from Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers' "The Laughing Fish" from Detective Comics #475, 1978, but also contains elements from #476 (the cat, the Joker's "demise") and Denny O'Neil and Neil Adams' "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge" in Batman #251, 1973, (the Joker's aquarium lair and the whole sequence with the shark).
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A fun episode pulling strong elements from the comics, but if the animation weren't so good, its flaws wouldn't get it higher than a Medium.