DCAU #8: P.O.V.

IN THIS ONE... The GCPD have to Rashomon events for Internal Affairs, and Montoya helps Batman stop a crime ring on the docks.

CREDITS: Written by Sean Catherine Derek, Laren Bright (whose other credits include A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and Captain Planet and the Planeteers) and Mitch Brian; directed by Kevin Altieri.

REVIEW: Pulling a Rashomon is by now something of a cliché, but if done well, can nevertheless prove to be a good character-building exercise. Unfortunately, P.O.V. doesn't really go for it and undermines its own structure in a couple ways. First, it doesn't REALLY show us the story the way it's told, so for example, when Bat-antagonistic Bullock paints himself as a hero and Batman as an interfering incompetent, we actually see him making all the mistakes. Sure, okay, it paints him as a self-serving liar, and that carried a certain ironic weight, but it feels like the show doesn't respect its audience enough to know that Bullock wasn't the hero of this story and his POV is thus an obvious fake. Similarly, the rookie Wilkes who thinks Batman has supernatural abilities could have had his story presented as such, and the audience would have seen it for the fantasy it was. And then Montoya's straighter narrative would have served well as the more balanced view. Instead, the structure is used to show us different moments in the story, which isn't really the best use of it.

And in any case, once that initial interrogation happens, we're back into a more normal structure, with an action climax on the docks, which at least gives the newest member of the Batman Family, officer Montoya, a chance to shine. In P.O.V., she's a straight arrow nevertheless unafraid to play rogue cop once on suspension, she runs towards danger and drives like a demon. Good show. Gordon doesn't do too bad either, showing absolute trust and loyalty for his people (even the obviously lying Bullock), though it does mean the Internal Affairs guy is weak and too easily bullied. Gordon just undoes the suspensions and looks the other way when Montoya goes rogue; let's just say it's not a realistic police procedural.

Since Montoya and the GCPD are the stars, Batman gets short shrift - not that there's anything wrong with that - and the villains are distinctive, but not memorable one-timers. Driller, the guy who looks like John Arcudi's The Creep and wields a big drill/jackhammer is perhaps the exception, but neither he, nor Scarface (not the Ventriloquist's puppet), nor The Boss are worth investing in. So they're perhaps TOO distinctive for their function here. It seems like they SHOULD appear again, but don't, so who cares? Their fight has quite a few gags, including the amusing bit where Driller falls into the drink a second time when another thug is thrown off the pier, but a proper gag would have had him fall a third time. As with the rest of the episode, they just don't push it far enough. So while there are touches I love - the red lighting from the police cars, for example - this otherwise falls one draft short.

IN THE COMICS: Wilkes's account plays Batman as almost supernatural, or at least, definitely super-powered, evoking Detective Flass' perception of the Batman in Batman: Year One.

SOUNDS LIKE: Wilkes is played by Robby Benson who just so happens to also voice the Beast in Beauty and the Beast. The voice of Driller is ALSO voiced by someone who's played the Beast, one Ron Perlman! The more famous of the two, surely.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - A good showcase for Renee Montoya, but the unusual structure isn't really completely embraced.


LiamKav said...

When I first saw this episode at about 11 years of age, I remember coming away with the impression that Bullock was a "bad guy". Bullock is never actually punished for lying, and I don't think my brain was ready to deal with subtleties in a children's cartoon. I'm still not 100% clear why he didn't wait for back-up though. Was he trying to get the glory? I don't mind the decision to show us what "really" happened, rather than the imagined version. We're still less than 10 episodes in to the show, and they're already playing with the structure. I think having Batman appear to be magic (or whatever) might have been a bit too confusing for younger viewers.

There's great animation in this episode too. I dunno if that's just the animation studio, the director, or both. I wonder at what point episodes are being made after the writers and producers had seen finished ones?

Ron Perlman will be back soon enough, voicing one of Batman's more common rogue's... Clayface.

Siskoid said...

I guess my point is that you either go for it 100% or you don't do it at all.

If it was too early to do Rashomon, then you keep that one in your pocket for a future season, you don't waste the idea with something that falls so short of it.

But totally right that the episode never really explains itself in the end.

Anonymous said...

I think the type of Rashomon they did here worked out nicely, because it shows exactly why Batman works. We're used to seeing Batman's adventures from third person obnoxious perspective or whatever they call it, this episode lets us contrast what we're used to seeing against what in-universe characters perceive.

Somewhere in the Superman / Batman hour long series, there will be an episode where kids tell Batman tales (one of whom is apparently Joel Schumacher) and their tales are so distorted it's hard to say what "really" happened. It's not multiple views of the same story, granted, so you can't triangulate towards a true scenario ... but Batman does show up at the end and we do see that at least some elements of Batman's M.O. track with the different tales told. (Just as, in "Rashomon", turns out there was an objective observer who says what really happened at the very end.)

There are weaknesses to this episode, though, as the series is finding what works. I didn't like the ending, and this episode was way too invested in painting Bullock as a terrible cop rather than one who doesn't trust Batman. Early days, though.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

To me, going full-on 'Rashamon' would ruin this episode. The entire point (to me) is to give insight into how Batman is seen, as well as the mindsets of the characters. Thus, we can get a traditional Batman episode, with the voiceover providing a filter of context as to how the things we're seeing objectively are seen subjectively by the average in-universe person who only catches glimpses. If you straight-up played an altered version of reality, dramatizing their stories, you'd lose that aspect.

Take the highlight for me- 'and then lightning shot out of his fingers!' If they'd portrayed that as he spoke it, not only would the narration be redundant, but it would be bizarre. It would seem more like the story an 8-year-old would concoct, and you'd be left wondering how this man with the mind of a child got onto the police force, and why we were bothering with such an obvious fiction (having no context to 'set it straight' later). Instead, by showing us what really happened in juxtaposition with the officer's perspective, we can understand how he reached what would otherwise seem a fanciful conclusion. Likewise, with Bullock, if we saw Batman doing the things he lied, and Bullock as well, we'd know that Bullock was lying- but like the kid's story, we'd have no reason to believe that ANY of it was true; Montoya's parts wouldn't be enough to make sense of the story because she doesn't have perspective on different parts of the scenario.

To my mind, Rashamoning it up would make the episode far LESS clever and coherent. I don't think they were necessarily trying to *be* Rashamon (he says, bluffing, having never seen Rashamon but picking up the gist from context...). It was just trying to be a Batman story told in a slightly Moffat-esque, non-linear manner (but still told straight, so that you get an actual Batman adventure and can piece together the true events, instead of wondering what 2 out of 3 officers were smoking and what, if anything, about the actual events you can infer from their nonsense), while simultaneously giving us insight on their characters AND how the public views Batman's actions when he's operating as he wants to be- as a mythological, theatrical figure of mystery. To me, this episode accomplishes far more than it could if it were the straight-up Rashamon being proposed here. It wasn't that they 'weren't ready/established enough to do the Rashamon show properly yet'- that's just not the story they were trying to tell in the first place. They went for 100%... of the kind of story they wanted to tell. It just wasn't 100% Rashamon, nor was it ever meant to be. (Now, maybe you feel that any use of the basic structure fails to achieve it's full potential if it *doesn't* go 100% Rashamon, in which case we're at an impasse, and I defer to your preference while respectfully disagreeing; I just think they were trying to do something other with the general tropes and structure than the 'most iconic' usage of it in Rashamon did.)

That's my two cents- and along with them, I would DEFINITELY flip the ratings for this and the last review; POV trumps the Sewer King any day. ;-) (But yes, still only a medium episode).

Then again, I write all of this without having any idea what the heck Rashamon actually is (again, I can guess from context), so this might all just be a bunch of hot air. :-)

Siskoid said...

Rashomon is Akira Kurosawa's most imitated film, but I think you got it.

The episode Anon mentions is great, as is the comic book story it's based on, and I definitely prefer it to this.

Anonymous said...

Andrew - Rashomon is a classic black-and-white Japanese movie whee poeple are discussing the trial of a thief who allegedly killed a samurai and raped his wife. It's raining and there's a priest who's a selfish jerk, and the farmer is a real cool dude who doesn't mind raising another baby, and shows through his actions that he's probably a better man than the priest. Also, ninjas fight a Godzilla.

LiamKav said...

I was imagining that it was like "Matters of Perspective", except without Riker hitting on a married woman (come on, you know he was.)


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