Plot summary: Scarecrow resurfaces to commit his most heinous crime yet: rigging the outcome of sporting contests!
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!
Episode Title: ‘Fear of Victory’
Original Air Date: September 29th, 1992
Directed: Dick Sebast (3)
Written: Samuel Warren Joseph (1)
As mentioned previously, Henry Polic II changed his Scarecrow voice because of throat issues that made the original version too difficult for him.
The debut of the Gotham Knights football team. Not to be confused with the Gotham Rogues seen in The Dark Knight Rises or the various other Gotham sports teams. Maybe they just keep rebranding?
Robin’s first appearance if you go by the air-dates rather than the intended production order.
Dick Grayson is hanging out in his Gotham State University dorm room with his roommate, Brian Rogers, star of the college football team. After some TV highlights of Brian’s exploits they’re treated to a blooper reel of famous athletes exhibiting strange behaviour in recent days.
Right on cue there’s a knock on the door and Brian is handed a telegram by a face that will only look familiar if you’ve been recapping Batman: The Animated Series for 12 weeks…
… also, Brian tips him. I know America’s tipping culture is wild, but would one really be expected to tip someone for an unsolicited delivery? And is it true that in America when somebody calls you it uses YOUR minutes as well?!? We need to get to the bottom of all of this right now.
Oh, right, Batman. Brian shows Dick the letter wishing him luck in an upcoming game. There’s specific mention of FEAR. See where this is going?
At the aforementioned big game (not THE Big Game), Brian has the worst game of his life, sweating profusely and hallucinating the opposing team are monsters. The NCAA has failed another young man.
Robin tries to tell Batman all about it but is dismissed outright because. Spotting a jewel heist in progress, the pair swing into action, but Dick begins to sweat profusely, suddenly terrified of heights.
The thieves dislodge bricks and even a gargoyle to drop on the dynamic duo, with Batman barely dodging, sliding through the open window of the horniest housewife this show can get away with.
Bats returns to the crime scene to foil the thieves and rescue Robin who can’t explain what happened. Now believing Dick’s story about Brian, Batman searches for clues in their dorm room. In full costume. He finds traces of a pale powder that are visible against his dark gloves.
In one of the wildest scenes in the show so far, Batman exposes one of a half dozen lab-cats to the powder and then puts a rat in its cage, observing that it showed no effects until a rush of adrenaline kicked in, suddenly rendering it terrified.
Why does Batman have six cats in glass boxes in the Batcave??? Did he acquire these just for this? Are they always just chilling in case he needs to conduct experiments on animals???
Anyway, off we go to Arkham to interview Scarecrow. Only he’s not there anymore. Obviously. Joker, Poison Ivy and Two-Face are though in a fun series of cameos. I particularly like how different their reactions to Batman are.
Elsewhere an incredibly strange looking individual collects his winnings from the latest in a string of successful bets much to his bookie’s annoyance. Seriously he looks like Dr. Robotnik went on a crash diet. Or a thumb in a hat and trench coat.
Leon the Bookie sends a heavy to follow “Lucky” who is of course revealed to be Scarecrow. Dr. Crane hands the goon one of his drug-laced letters, causing him to hallucinate his already scary mask as utterly terrifying.
Jim Gordon and Batman discuss the string of spooked athletes, with Batman deducing Scarecrow is drugging athletes and then betting against them to get rich quick.
Returning to the Batcave, Bruce stops Robin from falling to his death in a failed attempt to defy his new fear of heights. Batman essentially tells him to get over it (the unspoken subtext being that as he did so in ‘Nothing to Fear’ why can’t others?) and then drags him to a Gotham Knights football game. Faux-Father of the Year.
The pair split up and Robin realises Scarecrow has filled the QB’s helmet with Fear Toxin. 400 passing yards and a rushing touchdown later, and Scarecrow BEGINS to suspect his plot has been thwarted. Batman confronts him up on a lighting gantry, with Scarecrow threatening to drop a vial of toxin into the crowd.
They wrestle a little with the vial ultimately falling, but Robin swings into action and intercepts, with the football commentary loosely matching up with his actions. Batman congratulates him for getting over his fear and the Knights win the game.
Speaking of the Knights, they later sign Dick’s roommate and Bruce makes a distasteful joke about sending him a telegram to congratulate him. Wow.
Mark Hamill is in this episode for about 60 seconds playing an orderly (and of course The Joker) and he miiiight still be the best performer in it? He’s able to sufficiently disguise his voice enough that I didn’t realise it was him until I looked it up. Plus even a 10 second Joker appearance is delightful.
Henry Polic II’s Scarecrow voice doesn’t change as dramatically as some make out, but while he has my sympathies 30 years too late, I actually think it’s a change for the better as it takes the snooty edge off. But it’s still only okay.
I quite like the sports commentator/personality ‘Boseman’, voiced by Chuck Moshontz, who also plays one of the jewel thieves. Tim Curry even sneaks in here as Leon the Bookie’s muscle. It’s fine.
But I suppose I’d ultimately give it up for Loren Lester as Robin. There was nothing wrong with his appearance in ‘Christmas with the Joker’, but he gets a little more to do here, suffering from the effects of the Fear Toxin. Where Batman overcame the gas through sheer force of will, Robin is able to temporarily step up and is quick to downplay the permanence of the gesture. It’s that human touch that makes Dick more likeable than his mentor when he’s written well.
Well, I like this better than ‘Nothing to Fear’, as Scarecrow’s machinations are more coherent, but probably a little less than the previous Robin episode, ‘Christmas with the Joker’ which is propelled forward by a towering vocal performance from Mark Hamill.
There’s some solid animation work, from the black and white sports highlights (continuing to make Gotham feel dislodged from time) to the infinitely improved hallucinations, and Batman emerging from the shadows always scores points. I would say the show in general looks noticeably better than it did through the first 10 or so episode.
Robin is going to pull a disproportionate amount of focus in the future, to the show’s detriment, so it’s nice to be able to enjoy an episode that gives him the spotlight. And the brief visit to Arkham is good for continuity.
But overall this is missing that certain something to push it into the top half of episodes. I don’t have outright criticisms of it as it’s more about what’s not on the screen than what is. It’s a bit of a filler episode and there’s nothing wrong with that.
- Heart of Ice
- Two-Face Part 1
- Joker’s Favor
- Feat of Clay Part 2
- Beware the Gray Ghost
- Feat of Clay Part 1
- On Leather Wings
- Pretty Poison
- Two-Face Part 2
- It’s Never Too Late
- See No Evil
- The Cat and the Claw Part 1
- Christmas with the Joker
- Fear of Victory
- Be a Clown
- The Cat and the Claw Part 2
- Nothing to Fear
- Prophecy of Doom
- The Last Laugh
- The Under-Dwellers
- The Forgotten
- I’ve Got Batman in My Basement
Scarecrow (Henry Polic II) (second appearance)
This was a much better outing for Scarecrow who gets a new mask and a tweaked voice. I mentioned how much I hate the borderline sock puppet appearance of the character in ‘Nothing to Fear’, and this more monstrous version is on the right track, but they’ll keep tinkering with it as they go.
He’s also moved on from blimps, biplanes and petty revenge for getting (justifiably) fired, to using his Fear Toxin to sway the outcome of sporting events to win bets. Personally, I have no objection to Batman villains that are looking to make a quick buck rather than !EMBODYING CHAOS! And I actually think it’s nice to see a criminal gradually setting their sights higher with each outing.
But there’s still only barely enough to squeeze him into the top 10 for me. He’ll probably get there, and he’s certainly more iconic than about half of the people above him, but it’s been middling so far.
- Mr. Freeze
- Poison Ivy
- Killer Croc
- Rupert Thorne
- Lloyd Ventrix
- Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
- Red Claw
- Arnold Stromwell
- Mad Bomber
- Nostromos (and Lucas!)
- Harley Quinn
- Sewer King
- Boss Biggis
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 Creed.
Kevin Ford’s Flooping the Pig, our Adventure Time podcast, uploads new episodes every Thursday.
Jerome & Brian’s Pantheon Plus continues its run of road trip movies with The Goofy Movie!
Speaking of Jerome, he will be bringing you his 100 favourite movies of all time, posting between 3 and 4 per week.