The Matt Signal – Episode 8: The Forgotten

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Plot summary: While investigating a spate of missing transients, Bruce winds up in a forced labour camp with no memory of his identity.

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Each Saturday and Sunday Matt Waters recaps an episode of the legendary Batman: The Animated Series, building an overall ranking along the way. Plus best performances, the ever-popular Villain Watch and more!

Notes

Episode: ‘The Forgotten’

Directed: Boyd Kirkland (3)

Written: Jules Dennis (2), Richard Mueller (2) & Sean Catherine Derek (3)

Original Air Date: October 8th, 1992

To keep with the running theme of the producers not liking Sean Catherine Derek’s ideas, Bruce Timm said he didn’t like how she tried to tackle social issues in her scripts, feeling a twenty minute cartoon would never be able to adequately tackle such big topics.

Making matters worse, our good friends at business standards and practices forced them to remove most of the homeless people from Bruce’s undercover investigation, in particular forbidding women, children and families from being depicted as living on the street.

The first episode to feature Batman get captured (P.O.V. strongly implies he allowed himself to be as part of his plan), as well as Alfred’s first appearance away from Wayne Manor. Eat the rich.

Gaff

Recap

While helping out at a local soup kitchen, Bruce is troubled to hear that a number of homeless people have been going missing lately. Dismayed by the fact the cops don’t care what happens to transients, he later dons not the cape and cowl, but one of his civilian disguises: Gaff Morgan. There’s make-up, there’s spray-on grey hair dye, there’s fake five o’clock shadow. It’s a whole thing.

Driving and wandering around aimlessly, Bruce is eventually approached by a suspicious pair of goons who basically beat themselves up. Distracted by a cat (for what won’t be the last time) Bruce is whacked and taken to some sort of… slave labour camp.??? His new chain gang bunkmates introduce themselves as Dan and Salvo, but Bruce has no idea who he is! That’s right, we’re doing an amnesia episode. Strap in.

Chain Gang

The head of the operation, Boss Biggis, is dissatisfied with their work (mining for gold), having a random prisoner put into solitary to send a message.

Bruce’s instinct is to help, but he’s held back by his new friends, who try to help with his amnesia, swapping stories about their lives before being kidnapped. They’re cut short by a small cave-in, and Bruce is horrified to hear this happens a lot. Sheltered billionaires.

Biggis 3

Meanwhile Alfred ponders Bruce’s absence, looking around the garage to identify which of his nearly 20(!) cars is missing so he can track it. This legitimately takes him seconds.

Bruce is plagued by nightmares about bats and a billionaire who transforms into the Joker. Then he dreams of too many people asking him for money, which causes him to awaken in a cold sweat.

Nightmare

Wow. This was a Bruce Timm addition after objecting to Sean Catherine Derek’s attempt to tackle a social issue and I have NO clue what he was going for here, but it’s not great, Bob.

When Biggis attempts to toss Salvo in the box, Bruce and Dan come to his aid and despite beating up many of the guards and fellow prisoners, they’re eventually mobbed and locked up themselves. Dan talks about losing his family, which causes Bruce to remember everything.

Remember

Immediately breaking free despite being no stronger physically than he was 10 seconds ago, Bruce evades guard dogs and climbs out of the mysterious canyon, spotting the batplane flying overhead.

Alfred had been comically attempting to pilot it, following the trail of the guys that captured Bruce earlier.

Batman Stealth

Returning as Batman, our hero shuts Biggis’ operation down and beating up most of his men. Biggis himself takes a tumble into a river, with Batman fishing him out while delivering a zinger about prison food.

Dan and Salvo thank Bruce for getting them back to Gotham and he offers to help them find jobs. Salvo makes a joke about hoping to lose his memory and wake up a millionaire. It’s uncomfortable.

Joke

Best Performance

Kevin Conroy shines once again, getting to do a great deal of Bruce Wayne and in a variety of emotional states. There’s a too-brief bit of his Gaff Morgan alias, which I really enjoyed.

Perhaps most notably though, he performed his own interpretation of the Joker’s laugh during the nightmare sequence for a neat bit of duality (and the only time in history the same actor has taken on Batman and the Joker in the same project). He caps the whole thing off with some Batman for good measure.

Dorian Harewood and Lorin Dreyfuss as Dan and Salvo are a fun little pair of guest stars who might have won their way into joint honours if not for the fact this is one of Conroy’s strongest acting showcases.

Joker Nightmare

Ranking

This might be my least favourite episode. Comparing it to the Underdwellers (also written by two of this episodes’ writers) feels redundant as they’re both terrible, but this one has always stuck out in my memory and the prospect of having to watch it again for this series made me shiver.

The intent is noble, seeing how Bruce would solve a problem without any of his gadgets or costume, but it’s incredibly dull in execution. The villain is a generic slob, the action scenes are boring, and Alfred’s big day out isn’t anywhere near as fun as it might sound.

I don’t know if Bruce Timm is right that they should stay away from big social issues because they’re incapable of giving them the time and nuance they need. But this was an exceptionally poor attempt, with an awkward ending and a bananas ‘nightmare’ sequence where a lot of people are asking Bruce for money.

Shirley Walker probably had a good time composing so much harmonica music though!

  1. On Leather Wings
  2. Pretty Poison
  3. O.V.
  4. Christmas with the Joker
  5. Nothing to Fear
  6. The Last Laugh
  7. The Under-Dwellers
  8. The Forgotten

Villain Watch

Biggis

Boss Biggis (George Murdock) (first appearance)

Another episode without a famous villain. Bruce Timm talked about how difficult it is to make the one-time antagonists memorable. His solution for Boss Biggis? Make him an obese, sweaty man covered in food stains who is constantly fanning himself, eating and calling his workers lazy. Yikes.

George Murdock voices him exactly as you’d imagine, and even ate while reading his lines for added authenticity.

It takes a real effort to lose to the Sewer King, but this character is just gross in every conceivable meaning of the word.

  1. Joker
  2. Poison Ivy
  3. Scarecrow
  4. Man-Bat
  5. Sewer King
  6. Boss Biggis

Poster

Plugs

Eager for more long-form coverage of Batman? Why not check out my podcast with Mike Thomas, The Tape Crusaders, which reviewed every Batman movie and delved a tiny bit into the animated series.

Speaking of my podcasts, There Will Be Movies continues tomorrow with a look at Drive.

Kevin Ford’s Flooping the Pig, our Adventure Time podcast, uploads new episodes every Thursday.

Jerome & Brian’s Pantheon Plus moves on to a new trilogy starting with Beverly Hills Cop

Speaking of Jerome, he will be bringing you his 100 favourite movies of all time, posting between 3 and 4 per week.

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Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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