DCAU #185: Never Fear

IN THIS ONE... The Scarecrow removes people's fears and turns them into maniacs.

CREDITS: Written by Stan Berkowitz; directed by Kenji Hachizaki.

REVIEW: The Scarecrow suffers such an extreme redesign, he might as well be a new character. He even has a new voice. If Batman didn't say something about knowing him, I'd even say this wasn't Jonathan Crane. Thing is, he has such a terrifying aspect - at odds with the simplification and cartoonyness of the rest of the revamp - he really needed a new introduction. And a plot about REMOVING fear instead of doling it out, no matter what dangers it creates, is not that introduction. Not that I want to see a retread of the old plots, but it does seem like this story goes out of its way to avoid using the Scarecrow's terrifying new visage.

As a late-game Scarecrow plot, I'll give it its due. We quickly realize that fear is useful, even vital, and that people who are not only fearless but have the impulse to face their fears, are a danger to themselves and others. One goes swinging around the city, falling from great heights. Another tells his boss (Bruce Wayne) to shove it, and then sexually harasses Wayne's personal assistant (there's an unfortunate sexist vibe to these cartoons that I'm rediscovering, I must admit). And finally, there's Batman himself, who goes from courageous to reckless after getting hit by reverse-fear gas. The episode doesn't articulate it verbally, but it's interesting that a fearless Batman is one that's willing to kill. In other words. HIS greatest fear is that he might become as bad as the people he's sworn to stop.

This all provides a good role for the new Robin, who sees what's happening and intervenes. He's in way over his head, of course, but perseveres, and in the end, is the agent through which Bruce is cured. That's a well played moment too, with the Scarecrow gasping for air and the camera going to an inhaler. You think asthma, but the gasp is fight-induced, and the inhaler the villain's delivery method to keep himself safe.

IN THE COMICS: The Scarecrow hasn't just been redesigned, he's way off-model compared to any comics version.

SOUNDS LIKE: The new voice of the Scarecrow is Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, The Frighteners) who played various recurring Star Trek aliens, among then Weyoun, Brunt and Shran. Ken Berry (F Troup, Herbie Rides Again) is Seymour Grey the disgruntled employee. Scarecrow's motivational speaker is recognizable Charles Rocket, perhaps best known now as the villain in Dumb and Dumber.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Not a bad story, and one that subtly reveals something about the Bat, but the Scarecrow's redesign isn't well-used, and at this point in history, I'm well tired of "darker" takes on Batman.


American Hawkman said...

Probably worth mentioning that this is an adaptation of a comics story, one of the best of the Jason Todd Robin's run.

Siskoid said...

Which issue? I've completely forgotten it.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

Wow. Harsh, man. I would put this in the top 5 of the redesign-season's BTAS episodes. New Scarecrow looks great, sounds great (Jeffrey Combs is always amazing), and Batman's getting out of hand feels like a legitimate and dangerous challenge that one is left wondering if Robin can cope with. I think this works a lot better than you apparently do.

Siskoid said...

It was fine, but I think maybe the New Adventures aren't doing it for me the way the original and even Superman were. Fatigue? The jarring disconnect caused by the revamp? I'm not sure. It's something I'm struggling with as a reviewer.

American Hawkman said...

Siskoid - Detective Comics #571. It's in the Batman in the Eighties trade.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

Oh, I definitely agree. The tone has changed; they've dematured. STAS is raising the bar, while BTAS is lowering the much-higher bar it already established, and the comparison- either to STAS, or its pre-reboot self- isn't helping it at all. It is, at times, painful to watch... and we haven't even got to 'Critters' yet. The visual disconnect, magnified intensely by the tonal alteration and kidification until the two are near-impossible to distinguish in one's mind; they are linked one with the other, so the new appearances conjure up cringing remembrances of the 'humor' they've ushered in or the sheer Tiny-Toons-ness of it all sometimes; and every time one of those painful moments hits, you're reminded of how things used to be better, and look better... the two feed each other in a vicious cycle of bitter remembrance, of how things 'used to be.' As I said, the redesign- good for the DCU overall, terrible for BTAS. this show has taken the bullet in order for the overall animated universe to break its bounds and grow to become what it is over on STAS; what it will grow to become in future programs.

But, grading on the curve of what BTAS has become (I feel so foolish for having held this up as the gold standard, in my ignorance of the past seasons!), I think this is one of their better efforts, personally. Maybe after another 10 episodes or so, you'll look back on this one fondly, as I do. ;-)

LiamKav said...

The Scarecrow should work really well in cartoons, but he tends to produce middling episodes. This one is better than "Fear of Victory", but it's no-where near the level of "Dreams in Darkness". Probably on the level of "Nothing to Fear"... some good moments, but nothing stand out.

The thing, even in the original series Crane wasn't the most consistent character. His look changed drastically between NTD and FOV, and then again (although more subtly) for DID. His voice wavered a fair bit too... he sounds like a manic college professor in his first appearance, but in DID he's got a much softer, calmer voice.) And then in "Harley's Holiday" he's essentially a joke. So to go from that to this... it's inconsistent, but that is somehow actually consistent with the character, if that makes sense. (I can't remember if we see him unmasked in TNBA. I'm curious if he looks different

Other stuff:

1. This is the first time we see that Batman has abandoned his "Bruce Wayne" voice. I wonder who's decision that was. Also, is it me, or does TNBA Bruce Wayne look about 5 years younger than BTAS Bruce Wayne?

2. The Scarecrow has also had his signature theme music replaced. It now sounds like the Emperor's Theme from Star Wars.

3. The new Batwing doesn't make that screaming noise the old one did. I am sad.

4. Bruce Wayne's disguise for going undercover is a tiny moustache and sunglasses? Really, Bruce You didn't even change your suit, for Pete's sake!

5. Bruce and Tim get jumped from behind repeatedly in this episode. You'd think they'd be better trained than that.

6. Did Bruce kill those crocodiles? With his bare hands? Holy crap! That's impressive and a little terrifying


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