DCAU #279: A Touch of Curaré

IN THIS ONE... An assassin called Curaré tries to kill Barbara Gordon's husband.

CREDITS: Written by Hilary J. Bader; directed by Dan Riba.

REVIEW: Yay! A big Barbara Gordon episode! For Batman fans, I suppose the shocker is that she more or less reveals that, in the years between New Adventures and Beyond, she and Bruce were romantically linked. I've never liked that idea, and I still don't, but the revelation is  played so well, and left dangling, that I can hardly get irritated by it. For some reason, Barbara's non-verbal acting is a notch above any and all other animated characters on this show; probably my favorite character in the cast. More subtle is the hint that her career as Batgirl ended in a spray of bullets (Bruce repaired the uniform and she equates that other era of crime as that of tommyguns). And though she came to it late, she expresses the same bitterness Nightwing did at having been manipulated by Batman. Terry proclaims it was his choice to become a vigilante, she retorts "That's what we all thought". Are we heading for a similar conflict?

In the present, Barbara is married to a D.A. and seems very much in love no matter how tame Hamlet says her blood should be by this point. It's a mixed race marriage, which I suppose is meant to speak to some modernity, and it's still kind of rare outside of Brit TV and indie films. He's under threat, of course, and Barb has to reluctantly rely on the Bats for help. It's just that you don't easily deal with the League of Shadows--sorry, Society of Assassins' top killer. She nevertheless gets a cool batarang moment and helps save the day. Maybe the CGPD could take a few accuracy lessons from her, because this episode more than any other shows Stormtrooper-level marksmanship in action.

The assassin, Curaré, is an enigma. Blue-skinned, wearing Middle Eastern garb, her face potentially mutilated, armed with a monofilament sword... So why is she called Curaré? That's a reference to a paralyzing poison used by South American tribes armed with blowpipes, isn't it? And despite the two regions of the world she evokes, she comes with anime direction that made me think of Samurai Jack several times. Despite the lack of focus, Curaré is one badass lady, with some stand-out action sequences like her stopping a train and the climax in the meat plant. The episode looks quite good generally, with some of the most dramatic lighting Beyond has yet put on display (including the sequence where she's scolded by assassin masters on giant screens) and some nice details added in (the characters' breath inside the meat freezer). Curaré gets the final punchline as the Society now mark her for death. Fun bit, and I hope to find out more about her in a later appearance.

IN THE COMICS: Sam Young (like Curaré) is an invention of the show, but the New52 used the name for its version of Anarky, a corrupt congressman who used his alter ego to advance his own agenda.

SOUNDS LIKE: Sam Young is played by Paul Winfield (Star Trek II, Terminator). As the Master Assassin, that's Victor Rivers, who was Zorro's brother in The Mask of Zorro.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Love the focus on Barbara, and the episode looks great, but the new villain is all over the map.

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