CREDITS: Written by Dennis O'Neil (not only Ra's al Ghul's creator, but one of Batman's most seminal and celebrated comics writers) and Len Wein; directed by Kevin Altieri.
REVIEW: In the 70s, Denny O'Neil had Batman leave Gotham and become an International Man of Adventure, and the Bat's reason for doing so was Ra's al Ghul, the "Demon's Head". That's the story that's been adapted here, and the production goes all out, taking its cues not from the superhero noir the show has promoted 'til now (though Robin sneaking into his room and getting captured has some FANTASTIC lighting cues in that style), but from James Bond films - the mad villain who wants to bring about a New World Order using a lethal satellite, the deadly female spy, the hella strong henchman, aerial stunts, the countdown clock - and Indiana Jones - cultists, booby traps inside temples, that gorgeous caravan shot, that sweeping music - and of course, from both, the idea that our hero should hop around the globe to exotic locations. The Demon's Quest is a feast for the eyes and the imagination.
The Bondian feeling is right out of the original comics story, with definite inspiration taken from On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Draco wanted Bond to marry his daughter Tracy much in the way Ra's does with Talia. And so yes, much of the first episode is a runaround in which Ra's tests the "Detective" to see if he is worthy of his daughter's love and of taking over his empire. The script captures well Ra's megalomania, not only because his genocidal plan is mad - and dramatically illustrated in black and white stills too - but because he thinks nothing is important but his world (the one he has, i.e. Talia, and the one he wants to make). And seeing as being reborn from the Lazarus Pit seems to make one go temporarily insane, we can infer that repeated use is definitely dangerous to one's sanity. He may not rant and rave, but Batman is still right in his evaluation. Of all the eco-warriors Batman has had to face, Ra's is the most drastic by far.
It's an extended duel of minds, with Batman definitely earning the "Detective" moniker, but with a lot of action beats too. The martial arts sequences are well animated, but almost feel too brief because so much is packed into the episodes. We still have the clever way Batman beats the panther, the dangerous escape from the Himalayas (Wayne Tech Nepal?! Haha!), and a truly epic scope. The romance between Batman and Talia gets short shrift when all's said and done, at its most romantic when she kisses a key into his mouth so he can escape, but he rejects her at every turn, then leaves her with a kiss... Mixed signals, there, Bruce. They're making sure they get all the comic's famous beats in, but can't follow through in this format. And that's me struggling to find something to complain about.
IN THE COMICS: Closely based on Dennis O'Neil's "Daughter of the Demon" (Batman #232, June 1971) and "The Demon Lives Again" (Batman #244, September 1972), the episode nevertheless adds the Lazarus Pit apocalypse via Ra's satellite. And of course, Batman only kisses Talia, he doesn't father Damian in the process. Batman fights a leopard, not a panther, in the comics, as well (and doesn't resort to snapping its neck!).
SOUNDS LIKE: Helen Slater and David Wagner reprise their roles as the al Ghul family.
REWATCHABILITY: High - A gorgeous sweeping adventure filled with thrills. Top notch.