Friday, February 24, 2012

Batman: 06 The Underdwellers

Batman is a DC Comics character, and Batman: The Animated Series is owned by Warner Home Video. If you'd like to purchase this episode, you may do so here; if you'd like to buy the DVD box set, you may do so here. The story is by Tom Ruegger; the teleplay is by Jules Dennis and Richard Mueller; and the episode was directed by Frank Paur.

Big brass instruments give us a skittering score, like shapes sneaking up behind you when you're not looking. Light is sliced into single servings by a sewer grate, and a cloaked figure hurries into the dark.

Ah, fair Gotham, where two towheaded children are driven to playing chicken on the roof of a train for amusement. Do they not have arcades? Batman lands behind them, shaking his head – he's a guy who beats up lunatics in their pajamas, and even he thinks this is stupid.

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  1. Batman: "I don't pass sentence. That's for the courts. But this time - THIS TIME - I am sorely tempted to do the job myself."

    One of my favorite lines of the series.

    The line Batman says after catching the Sewer King. Consider it. Did Batman ever say that about anybody else? Even the Joker? This is pretty extreme. I don't remember an episode where Batman was as pissed off as he was in this episode.

    This episode is one of my favorites. It makes use of a one shot villain who is undeniably evil, who uses children as slaves (something no other Batman villain does), and we get to see several examples of why you shouldn't make Bruce Wayne angry. He might just beat the shit out of all your alligators and seriously consider killing you.

  2. Originally, I had a line about how the Sewer King provoked Batman to a point that only The Joker had managed, at least in the comics. In the corpus of The Animated Series, you might be right. I'll look for that in future episodes.

    This episode terrified me as a child. It seemed like it would be the easiest thing in the world to slip between the cracks and end up in the court of the Sewer King. After all, they were children just like me - what did they do that was so different from what I did every day?

    While I'm still disturbed as an adult, I'm (slightly) removed from childhood nightmares. However, the Sewer King is more reprehensible from a mature viewpoint, not less. At the end, he seems genuinely unable to understand why Batman would break up his child slavery ring; if anything, he thinks Batman is being a bully, which is a powerfully skewed worldview.

    Thankfully for the children, and Gotham, the force of Bruce Wayne's delusion/conviction - I can end ALL crime, if I work hard enough - is stronger.

  3. The thing I remember about this episode is how quiet it was. Especially when the kid is running around Wayne Manor. Was there even any music during that part?

    1. I don't think so, now that you mention it. This episode really made use of silence to drive the dramatic tension. It wasn't entirely free from the score, but it was less compared to other episodes.

      That's one of my favorite things, when auditory negative space is used well. Other examples that come to mind are the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode The Body and Chronicle, which I still can't get out of my head.

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