DCAU #45: I Am the Night

IN THIS ONE... Batman battles depression on the anniversary of his parents' death as Gordon is grievously wounded by the Jazzman.

CREDITS: Written by Michael Reaves; directed by Boyd Kirkland.

REVIEW: Everything is making Batman question his resolve and make no mistake, it really is depression he's battling with. It's the Anniversary of his parents' death. His bad habits are catching up with him, namely not eating or sleeping. He feels like his war against crime is essentially pointless and can never be won. Batman has become a tourist attraction, a reason to sell t-shirts. Where is the fear he means to instill? He can't be everywhere at once, and either from lack of focus or just circumstance, the cops are drawn into a mobster's trap and Gordon is wounded. That makes Bullock shake his fist at him, a relationship that symbolizes his one step forward, two steps back reality. The Penguin's sentence was overturned, a subtle cue for adults that maybe Batman's methods don't always hold up in court. And we're told the episode's villain, the Jazzman, is involved in a drug war, truly one of those "wars" that can never be won.

A lot of angst, then, for the Caped Crusader. Fatigue. Despair. Rage. Tantrums. He's burnt out. So we've got a relatively silent Batman this episode, one who gets the job done and quickly moves on to the next thing. If he's the night, he's a silent one. Badass through and through. And the animation supports this well with exciting action, from a simple back alley mugging, to a truck chase, to the complicated fight sequence in the hospital. It's dynamic. It's well "acted". And it's full of interesting elements (how the window washer is used, for example, and the way Jazzman's gun is put out of commission).

Batman is surrounded by friends, all telling him the same thing. Leslie, Alfred, Robin, Barbara Gordon (it wouldn't do not to have her in this), and Gordon himself whom we discover Bruce sees as a father figure. That's a lot of people to juggle, and if I have a complaint - and I do have a tiny one - it's that neither Batman, nor Wizard, the kid who eventually gives him his smile back, don't have room to breathe and so their psychological shifts don't track as I would want them to. Batman both complains he hasn't done enough AND mopes in the Batcave doing nothing while Gordon's would-be killer is at large, and then suddenly realizes he can't give up. But what is the crucial moment that brings him back to the fold exactly? And with Wizard, the kid is a street-level con man probably on the path of criminality, and after a night in a shelter, decides to leave Gotham (because plainly, you can't live there and not get dirty) and forge a better, cleaner life elsewhere. We needed a scene between him and Leslie in there somewhere, or otherwise see what made him see the light. He gives Batman hope, so his story deserved to be told more clearly.

IN THE COMICS: Gordon is shot and in a coma in the storyline "Officer Down" which ran through the Batman books in 2001.

SOUNDS LIKE: Jazzman is voiced by Brian George who will play many DCAU characters, including the Parasite and Morgan Edge; he's been in everything, but I suppose everyone remembers him as Babu Bhatt on Seinfeld. Wizard is played by Seth Green, who needs no further introduction. The character of Monk is Sal Viscuso, the never-seen P.A. announcer on M*A*S*H.

REWATCHABILITY: Almost High - Top notch animation and a powerful psychological story. If I don't give it the highest possible recommendation, it's that some of that psychology doesn't track, probably because the running time won't allow it.


LiamKav said...

The final lines of this episode make me tear up a little and also really capture the "Gordon is daytime Batman" idea:

"Got to keep fighting. Never stop. What I try to live by. Maybe if I'd been younger, I could've been like you. Always wanted to be a hero."

"You are a hero, Jim."

LiamKav said...

According to Michael Reaves, the original plan was for Robin to be the one who was shot. BS&P said no, but they then surprised everyone by saying that they could shoot Gordon as long as they didn't show the actual shooting.


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