CREDITS: Written by Mitch Brian; directed by Kevin Altieri.
REVIEW: Before getting into the review - and I'm not going to hold the episode responsible for this - can we just take a minute to fondly remember the series' original opening and bemoan the new Batman & Robin sequence, with its boring old montage of previously aired footage, and more tepid theme? Okay, let's get on with it...
I may have been heard to say lately that Doomsday is a character that was created for a single purpose (killing Superman), so that every time he is used, that single story will play out again. Bane is in the same boat, but just as in the comics he found a new calling as a member of the Secret Six, in the animated series, the show's inability to let Bane break Batman's spine and complete his arc gives him the lease on a better life as a sort of Kraven the Hunter type. And the luchadore look, an adaptation no doubt based on his South American heritage, actually pitches him better as one of Croc's cohorts and does away with an origin that would be much too dark for the cartoon show.
I have the same resistance to Bane the showrunners did - he's a gimmicky trope I don't like, the big bad you've never heard of who manages what better villains never have without earning it - but in their hands, he's a pretty good character. A physical threat, yes, but a mental and charismatic one as well. Consider mob boss Rupert Thorne's position in this story, getting his secretary stolen away and almost his empire. There's something magnetic about Bane, much as there is about Batman, a link made by almost jokingly showing his baby face under his mask, the mask a symbol of both men's power. And even if he can't cut loose like he did in the comics, or at least, not on screen, there's still something extreme with his violence. Seeing a shirtless Robin hung over his watery grave with a weight tied to his feet is just a notch more intense than the show's usual fare.
And can I just say? The sexy Candice returns after too long a respite (last seen all the way back in the original Two-Face two-parter), and gives as good as she gets. That fight between her and Robin in the water shows her winning most of the time. She's savage! But in that scene lies the seeds of my own complaint. These intense moments are interrupted, I feel, with comedy bits that don't fit the story's tone. Batman is having a big climactic fight with Bane, one that for comics fans might well end very badly indeed, and we keep cutting to what sometimes looks like kids dunking each other in a swimming pool. There's also the matter of Batman bouncing off a guard railing as if it were a rubber band, while playing with the luchadore motif, is pretty absurd. And Bane's defeat, brought on by an out-of-control Venom delivery system, has him pop his eyes out and send his lenses careening... Had this been Japanese anime, he would have exploded in a gory mess. Such as it is, it's like a cross between THAT scene in Total Recall and Ren & Stimpy.
IN THE COMICS: Bane first appeared in Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1 (January 1993) and was created by Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, and Graham Nolan specifically for the Knightfall storyline which would see Batman maimed to be replaced by Azrael. Bane's origin is similar to, but much more involved than, the one glossed over here. His defear of Killer Croc, capture of Robin, and attempt to break Batman's back over his knee (in the comics, he succeeds), are all echoed from Knightfall. The Venom compound he uses to artificially bulk up had been introduced in Legends of the Dark Knight #16-20, two years prior (though from Batman's point of view, that story occurred early in his career). One notable difference in the comics is that he wears a full mask, not one with holes in the luchadore style.
SOUNDS LIKE: The first of two voices for Bane, Henry Silva's notable credits include Ocean's 11, The Manchurian Candidate, Dick Tracy and Ghost Dog.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A couple of ill-judged moments can't take away from the intense introduction of a key Batman villain.