CREDITS: Written by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens and David Wise; directed by Frank Paur.
REVIEW: If I were a Gothamite, I wouldn't be going to any resort in the area. And yes, Yucca Springs has to be around there somewhere despite the Arizonan look of it because it's the GCPD who shows up at the end. But yeah, buy yourself some rest and relaxation, and the next thing you know, you're getting turned into a tree, or in this case, being blackmailed for secrets that live only in your mind, but can be put on tape by Hugo Strange. For Bruce Wayne, that means his connection to Batman, in yet another sequence that fails to clearly show his parents' murder, but still resonates strongly. I love the floating gun idea. This is a world without a Joe Chill, a world where anyone might be the killer and where no definitive revenge is ever possible.
Of course, the technique is unreliable so Batman can abuse it to create false memories, which is how he keeps Strange from revealing his identity, and how he can discredit it later. Still, it's a nice way to get several rogues into this episode. I love the Joker's terrifying answering machine message, and how Two-Face finds it impossible to believe Bruce Wayne is Batman because of the personal connection they share. The Penguin, as usual, is just there, and Roland Daggett is name-dropped as Strange's financier, but nothing comes of it. Together, the villains can come up with 53 million bucks and change, which speaks to both their success as criminals and their mad motivations that are quite beyond the concept of money. The episode also makes good use of Alfred and Robin, putting on hold the latter's rebellious subplot for now and letting him be the fun-loving helper Batman needs. The solution to Bruce's secret identity woes requires Robin to be a master impersonator and is a bit of a cheap trick though. Needs must, as they say.
But again, there are some important issues with Akom's animation, though the first act does feature some excellent work with shadows, Batman shockingly appearing out of dark patches, and the action lit very effectively by key lights. It's in the action that things fall apart. Akom routinely skimps on frames, leading to slow, juddery sequences that completely lack fluidity, and sap the energy from the episode.
IN THE COMICS: The story is very loosely based on Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers' Detective Comics #471-472 (1977) in which Hugo Strange learns of Batman's identity. The character was one of Batman's very first villains, from way back in Detective Comics #36 (1940).
SOUNDS LIKE: Hugo Strange is played by Ray Buktenica, whose best known roles were on Rhoda and Life Goes On. Judge Vargas (who will appear again) is voiced by Carmen Zapata, who soap fans will remember from Santa Barbara.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Hampered by perhaps too big a cast, Hugo Strange doesn't quite graduate to the big leagues, and though there are some good visuals, the animation gets progressively worse as the episode proceeds.