CREDITS: Written by Randy Rogel, Laren Bright and Steve Perry; directed by Kevin Altieri.
REVIEW: Haven't you ever wondered where he gets those wonderful toys? BTAS creates Earl Cooper as a partial answer to this, a brilliant engineer whose morals turned him whistle blower and hunted man and who, having been saved from assassination by Batman, became one of the Bat's most trusted employees. Are there other Earls out there who make Batarangs and Batwings and Bat-computers? Possibly! This is the story of how one clerk in a car parts company figures out he's shipping custom Batmobile parts and sells the information to the Penguin, who then uses it to find Earl, kidnap his daughter, and force him to turn the Batmobile into a death trap. And Earl isn't just a great mechanic - even a smashed Batmobile can be driven - he's a hero in his own right, finding a way to give Batman the means to escape without the Penguin getting wise, and bravely fighting one of Cobblepot's goons armed with nothing but lube and tires. His daughter doesn't want to play damsel in distress either, giving as good as she gets. So a great idea supported by worthy characters.
I'd give the episode bonus points anyway for simply feeling a little different, with all the car action, but it's got lots of nice touches in addition to that. Seeing an older Batmobile is a hoot. The grind of metal as the emergency gliders hit the ground. "Gotham City - America's Playground" (that explains all the fairgrounds then). And as an amateur DCU geographer, I love the hint, shown on a license plate, that Gotham City is in Gotham State! "Gotham - The Dark Deco State", a reference to the show's style as described by Timm.
Of course, though they use the Penguin, the plot could have been any villain's. I might never TRULY enjoy a Penguin appearance. At his best, he's sending a guy "out to sea" with a dummy check for his help (the show can't kill people, but it's a lot more chilling if you believe that guy died). At his worst, he's throwing yet another tantrum, punching the ground, and getting a trite "ironic fate" where he's hammering at license plates. It's really kind of lame.
IN THE COMICS: Earl Cooper is a character original to the animated series, but he may have been inspired by Harold Allnut, the mute, hunchbacked technician Batman saved and put to work repairing equipment in the Batcave during the 90s. The old Batmobile seen in this episode has a bat "face" different from, but certainly inspired by, the original Golden Age Batmobile. The shtick with the remote Batmobile is, of course, from Batman Returns.
SOUNDS LIKE: Paul Winfield plays Earl Cooper; I best remember him for his Star Trek work, as the Reliant's Captain in Star Trek II, and the alien Captain in TNG's "Darmok". His daughter Marva is played by Lynn Moody who has done a lot of film and television work, most prominently, the role of Irene Harvey in Roots. The Penguin's henchman Eagleton is played by John De Lancie, forever famous as Star Trek's Q. The other henchman, Sheldrake, shares a voice with Mutant Turtle Donatello, that of Barry Gordon.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Despite its lackluster use of the Penguin, the episode explores a question we might all have asked, and answers it well.