CREDITS: Written by Brynne Stephens, Garin Wolf, Tom Ruegger, and Dennis O'Flaherty; directed by Frank Paur.
REVIEW: Barbara Gordon is now Batgirl, and it was worth the wait. Competent without being over-competent, the smart and lithe Batgirl clearly gets in over her head, and yet manages to make a positive difference. She's believable as the rookie hero Batman eventually accepts into his crimefighting family. Her motivation comes from clearing her father of bogus charges, and it gets even more personal for her when a potential romantic entanglement is revealed to be in cahoots with the villains, but even that case done, Batgirl should remain. Barbara has been tested and has passed. There can be no going back. She's not accepted immediately, of course, especially not by the slightly useless Robin who underestimates Batgirl. A romantic relationship is foreshadowed in a farcical way, but really, these guys need to stop exclaiming "a GIRL????" whenever a female character shows physical prowess or gumption. And for that reason alone, it's about time they added a recurring heroine to the show.
While some of the expressions in Part I are a little goofy, both parts have good "acting", brilliant lighting effects, strong action choreography, and Part II's extended flooded subway system sequence is a highlight of the entire series. All three heroes need to be smart and resourceful to survive, whether alone or working as a team. And the water animation is complex and extremely well executed too. Wow.
Two-Face as the mystery villain in this could have been anyone, and is pretty secondary. He doesn't flip many coins - though there is an amusing gag where a coin flips HIM - and could have been any gangster type. His presence gives the story more gravitas, and that's something you want for a new hero's introduction. I don't begrudge him the role, but perhaps wish it were a little more Two-Facey. Gil Mason becomes the main antagonist, and his connection to both Gordons is key. I like that Barbara figures out Mason's connection independently of Batman and Robin, and that very personal betrayal gives the climax greater relevance. Once he unmasks her, you know he has to die, or on this show, fall into an eternal coma.
IN THE COMICS: "Shadow of the Bat" was the fourth ongoing Batman title, premiering a year before this episode aired, after Batman, Detective Comics, and Legends of the Dark Knight. The origin of Batgirl in the comics has Babs going to a costume party dressed as a female Batman and rescuing a kidnapped Bruce Wayne from the clutches of Killer Moth. Batman's used many disguises to date, but this is the first time he's become Matches Malone, a recurring, match-chewing, undercover identity he's used since Batman #242 (1972). Neither Gil Mason nor D.A. Janet Van Dorn appear in the comics.
SOUNDS LIKE: Tim Matheson who plays Gil Mason was the voice of Johnny Quest and is also known as Animal House's Otter, and The West Wing's scuzzy VP John Hoynes. Lynette Mettey, Nurse Able on M*A*S*H, plays Janet Van Dorn here, but someone else will voice her in her next appearance. And the good Mad Dog is voiced by Greg Burson, who has played a number of high profile Hannah-Barbara stars, such as Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw and Snagglepuss, in the footsteps of Daws Butler.
REWATCHABILITY: High - An exciting and beautiful-looking introduction for Batgirl. I hope she shows up relatively frequently.