CREDITS: Written by Michael Reaves and Brynne Stephens; directed by Boyd Kirkland.
REVIEW: With many villains getting episodes that make them seem more sympathetic - perhaps based on the award-winning Mr. Freeze episode - Sideshow at first looks like it's going to allow Killer Croc to arc from user-liar-cheat (and killer) to provider, perhaps turning a prison exchange escape into a bid at a new life. There's just no time. He doesn't live on the farm long enough to effect a change, and though we get an inkling that it could have gone that way over time, Batman shows up and Croc reveals his true colors. The moral is that when told he could be "himself", that self turned out to be a monster after all, and no amount of kindness could have made this scorpion fight his nature. And that's fine. Some villains should be irredeemable. But if Croc were really this dangerous and unrepentant, why did Batman let him go with a nod and a silent understanding the last time we saw him in... oh that was the comics series! Wow, I actually mixed up the two, good job comics creators!
But Croc's inability to change does mean the episode doesn't really go anywhere. Oh the location is novel (wait, is upstate Gotham in the Pacific Northwest?), with trains, canyons, giant forests, waterfalls and mill wheels providing unusual battlegrounds and plenty of opportunities for slips and falls. Perhaps more than any show outside of Road Runner should have. But no, the action is quite fun and even if it gets to be a bit much after a while, that initial pursuit through the woods is well paced and a silent showcase of what the animation can do with a simple-on-paper sequence. Though Batman was the proactive one, securing a place on the train to keep an eye on Croc, the latter is also smartly used, doing his best to gain and keep the advantage during the chase and the later fight. Batman pulling stunts like rolling the cage he's in towards Croc and into the river was pretty cool too; he gives as good as he gets.
An unusual location, but unusual guest stars too. The freak show community has a hunchback called Richard who shares Richard III's affliction and is a Shakespeare nut, conjoined twin sisters with the perfect names May & June, Goliath the strongman who is a match for Croc physically but far superior morally, and the sweet deformed Seal Boy Billy. Together they act as a collecting conscience for Croc, but ultimately turn against him when he insists on killing Batman. Now if only they didn't insist on wearing their circus uniforms while living the civilian life...
IN THE COMICS: The episode is loosely based on Detective Comics #410 (1971) "A View from the Grave!", which featured Batman tracking an altogether different escaped killer who found sanctuary in the countryside with former sideshow freaks including a Goliath and a boy with flippers. The other characters were a human skeleton and a fat lady instead of a hunchback and conjoined twins. The prison Croc is being sent to is called Levitz Prison, named after DC editor and writer Paul Levitz.
SOUNDS LIKE: Goliath is played by Brad Garrett who will later lend his voice to Bibbo and Lobo on the Superman show, but who you know from Everybody Loves Raymond. Richard is played by Kenneth Mars, who was the voice of King Triton in The Little Mermaid. And JoeBeth Williams (Poltergeist, The Big Chill, Dexter) plays May and June.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - I almost want to give the episode a higher rating just based on the setting's novelty, but some inconsistencies and the sum zero finale don't quite warrant it.