DCAU #44: What Is Reality?

IN THIS ONE... The Riddler creates a deadly virtual reality program.

CREDITS: Written by Marty Isenberg and Robert N. Skir (together they've worked on X-Men, Ben: 10, Spider-Man, Beetlejuice, Beast Machines and Transformers); directed by Dick Sebast.

REVIEW: This episode suffers from the same problems as the previous Riddler appearance. Namely, that it trades on an interest in video game challenges more than it does riddles. In the comics, the Riddler had a compulsion to send Batman or the police riddles in advance of his crimes, which they would try to foil. In What Is Reality, he does that too, but supplements it with a collection of weird threats inside virtual reality - doors with puns on them, a deadly chess board, a Rubik's Cube by any other name, etc.  - which is the laziest plotting possible. Not that presenting and solving riddles is particularly engaging either, at least, not here.

The VR world nevertheless had every opportunity to dazzle with surreal imagery, but it is AKOM's last episode, and though the animation studio is actually quite good at lighting effects (just check out Batman flashing a light into the wrecked car, for example), the jerky and awkward character animation always spells disaster. And what's with the car's transparent explosion? Still, some stand-outs: The Riddler turning into the setting sun. The armies of Riddlers and Batmen dividing. The snake-like question marks. Batman's knight armor. And during the DMV fight, a goon flinging license plates.

The ending is problematic because it leaves the Riddler catatonic, which feels out of measure with his crime. Though he hacked some people out of their money, his big scheme was about erasing himself from the records. He didn't earn his ghastly fate. Also have to give a failing grade to the GCPD, not because they let themselves be infiltrated, but because at one point they all point guns at a bomb. Yes, that'll teach it.

IN THE COMICS: The reference to "Knightfall" is coincidental. The comics storyline by that name (in which Batman falls and is replaced by Azrael) wouldn't be published for some months yet. Robin is shown to be a computer expert, which is another detail the animated Dick Grayson shares with the comics' Tim Drake.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Even if it's got some cool bits, the episode has some massive plot holes and substandard animation.

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