CREDITS: Written by Paul Dini; directed by Dan Riba.
REVIEW: Dini hasn't written a Batman story since New Adventures' opener, and even that was a remake of his comics work. It feels like an event, bringing in the Joker, giving the episode's opening credits an animated title card, and adding appearances by Harley Quinn, the Penguin and Poison Ivy (and rather gratuitously, Nightwing). Unfortunately, it's also a good example of the tonally awkward cartoonyness of this particular series.
There's cartoon logic everywhere. I understand the Joker is bribing everybody with his inherited millions, but it seems too easy for him to erase his entire criminal record. And even before then, his landlady or superintendent doesn't bat an eye despite being the Clown Prince of Crime. His plan to steal a fleet of armored trucks doesn't withstand scrutiny, at least by adult eyes, and the episode misses a trick by not making the money have Batman's face on it (putting the Bat one step ahead). Instead, there's a sequence where Batman allows legal tender to get shredded while the Joker cries about the money he's losing, when it's clear he never had that money at all. Harley's escape from Arkham, with her spinning in a washing machine is likewise silly and more for kids than most of the original series' output. Dini's sexist jokes with the fake Harley are what's meant to be the "adult" component, but these haven't aged well, if they were ever funny (or adult, for that matter).
The plot, cribbed from the comics, isn't bad however. A mobster gets the last laugh on the Joker in a clever way, and forces him back into crime (let's be fair, once he paid for his freedom, he may have been a chaotic influence, he wasn't committing crimes). I do wish this were a mobster who had some history with the Joker, or at least, with the series. If they'd let Rupert Thorne die, for example, I think that would have lent the story more relevance, and made the cool moment where the Joker shoots the TV more personal. Ah well.
IN THE COMICS: The episode is based on the story of the same title from Detective Comics #180 (1952). Obviously it didn't have Harley Quinn, but did include King Barlowe. The details of the plot are much different. The Penguin's look has return to a more classic configuration, one without Danny DeVito's flippers. The Iceberg Lounge first appeared in the comics, Detective Comics #683 (1995) specifically, and has been a mainstay of Penguin stories every since. The (would-be) male Harley is based on writer Paul Dini, who is quite fond of including his fetishes in his shows and comics (I'm not saying cross-dressing is one though).
SOUNDS LIKE: King Barlowe, the dead mobster, was played by veteran character actor Allan Rich (relevant name); he was a recurring judge on Hill Street Blues, among many many credits. Fake Harley is voiced by Maggie Wheeler, the annoying Janice on Friends.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - It's fine, but the cartoon nonsense and lack of personal relationship between the Joker and his dead antagonist sap its relevance.