The Matt Signal – Episode 26: Appointment In Crime Alley

Plot summary: Batman engages in a frantic race against time to save a dear old friend on the 30th anniversary of his parents’ death.

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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 Title: ‘Appointment In Crime Alley’

Original Air Date: September 17th, 1992

Directed: Boyd Kirkland (7)

Written: Gerry Conway (1)

This episode is similar to Dennis O’Neil’s story ‘There Is No Hope in Crime Alley’, which makes sense as O’Neil’s Batman run is one of the show’s largest influences.

One of Bruce’s chain gang buddies from ‘The Forgotten’ appears as a Park Row resident. This kind of thing frequently happens to save time, but I actually think it makes canonical sense give his circumstances.

Bill Finger is referenced via a street name. You may have seen Bob Kane’s name in the credits of Batman media because for decades he was credited as the sole creator of Batman. Not to rant, but Bill Finger’s contributions were FAR greater, and Kane and his estate infamously denied him any credit until after his passing, going so far as to have Kane’s tombstone specifically call him the sole creator. Fuck Bob Kane.

Recap

Keeping with the theme of our last episode, we open with Roland Daggett watching a clock ahead of a massive explosion in Gotham…

Except it was neither massive, nor was it Gotham but rather a replica. Why? To demonstrate the expertise of Mr. Nitro, who has been hired to set off an explosion that looks like a ruptured gas pipe. They agree the plan will go down at 9pm while Daggett is giving a speech.

Summer Gleeson (remember her?) gives a TV report about Daggett’s proposal to demolish some apartment buildings on Park Row being denied. Park Row was once a glamorous neighbourhood but thirty years on is known as Crime Alley.

Bruce Wayne furiously works out while watching the report. More so than usual, I mean. Daggett tells the press about how the development work is necessary to eliminate the criminal element in the area. Yep, we’re doing a gentrification story, baby!

Batman races off to an appointment of some kind but gets distracted along the way saving a woman from a trio of thugs who have been trying to forcibly evict the building’s residents. Gee, I wonder who they work for…

Dr. Leslie Tompkins grows worried when “he” is late for a meeting at the Park Row Community Center and heads off to look for “him”. She instead stumbles on Mr. Nitro and Crocker rigging a condemned building to explode. Panicking, they tie her up in the basement and depart for their next location.

Batman is of course revealed as “him”, apologising for being late and racing off to try and find Leslie when he learns she’s missing. Unfortunately he gets distracted yet again, this time resolving a hostage situation.

Letting himself into Leslie’s apartment, Batman starts looking through her scrapbook in order to convey the exposition that she comforted the orphaned Bruce in the aftermath of his parents’ murder 30 years ago.

Thankfully Batman isn’t the only creepy man lurking around Tompkins’ house though, as a rando who saw her get kidnapped is peering through the window.

Batman gets him to talk and then heads off to save Leslie, only you guessed it: he’s distracted yet again! This time by a runaway tram.

One Batmobile chase later and Bats is able to get in front of the tram and then slam on the breaks and bring it to a gentle stop, disintegrating two of his tires in the process, but saving everybody on board. He locks the Batmobile down as he’s forced to temporarily abandon it.

Descending on Nitro and Crocker, Batman grills them about their activities and then locks them in their van after learning of Leslie’s location. He rescues her, diffusing the basement bomb in the process, but she insists he go do the same with the other explosives in the area.

Daggett concludes his speech at precisely 9pm and while several explosions go off, levelling much of Park Row, Batman was able to save an inhabited hotel. He tries to pull a “gotcha” on Daggett, tossing his captured cronies at his feet, but Daggett is able to deny all involvement and leaves with a smirk on his face.

Batman and Leslie take a stroll together, discussing Daggett and the residents of the area. Bruce stops to lay a rose down on the pavement, telling her that good people still live here as she embraces him. Aww.

Best Performance

This one is a real toss-up, but Kevin Conroy is on top form, exhibiting rage, emotional pain, swagger, and general heroism. His voice changes depending on who he’s talking to, and without that this all falls apart, given the problematic aspects of the character.

Edward Asner gets more time to talk, and I always enjoy hearing him do so. Daggett is in the same wheelhouse as Rupert Thorne, but more ruthless dodgy businessman than out and out mobster, and I think Asner delivers on that brief.

Once upon a time I also greatly enjoyed hearing Jeffrey Tambor talk, but that’s not really true anymore. I’m not disqualifying him just because of that though, I sincerely don’t think his dual role as Crocker and a SWAT dude is best in show.

David Lander’s Nitro is fun, and Diana Muldaur manages to be sufficiently generic sweet old lady without robbing the final scene of its gravitas.

Ranking

I really like following up an episode about a villain obsessed with time with one about Batman racing against a ticking clock. We learn in the first minute that bad stuff is going down at 9pm and are then frequently updated on the current time as new obstacles continually pop up, each wasting valuable minutes even if we remain sure Batman will save the day in the end.

But that’s the thing: He only partially saves the day in the end. Sure, he prevents all loss of life, but Daggett’s plan succeeds and he gets away with it while Batman can only scowl. It’s more win than loss, but any loss whatsoever is kind of a wild outcome for this show. Props.

That’s before we even get into what this episode does in terms of simultaneously humanising and mythologizing Batman, as he tirelessly runs a gauntlet of random crimes on the way towards rescuing somebody who we learn has been one of his only friends for thirty years. From memory the show never gets into the specifics of his past – and lord knows we’ve seen that scene enough over the years – so this is a nice little half-measure.

Beyond that, they deployed three of their most effective little tactics;

Playing with darkness: It may be brief, but the tussle in the apartment building is gorgeous, with the vigilante overcoming the numbers disadvantage by blending into the shadows.

Ordinary people’s reactions to Batman: First there’s a neat little character moment as a SWAT officer gawps at Bats walking past him, unaware of who he was talking to so brazenly a moment ago. Then there’s the crowds gathering open-mouthed after Batman stops the tram.

Batman knows all: During the final confrontation Batman puts all his focus on Crocker, who he knows works for Daggett. But he then immediately pivots towards Nitro as he tries to slink away, fully aware of his history of arson. It’s such a small touch, but it always goes down a storm when Bats is a step ahead of everyone.

This episode also proves you can tell compelling Batman stories without leaning on The Rogues Gallery; the villain in this episode was time, and it turns out Batman can beat that too (again, for the most part).

Honestly, I don’t really have any complaints, to the point I’m willing to make it our new number 7.

  1. Heart of Ice
  2. Two-Face Part 1
  3. Joker’s Favor
  4. Feat of Clay Part 2
  5. Beware the Gray Ghost
  6. Vendetta
  7. Appointment In Crime Alley
  8. Feat of Clay Part 1
  9. On Leather Wings
  10. Pretty Poison
  11. Two-Face Part 2
  12. It’s Never Too Late
  13. See No Evil
  14. The Clock King
  15. The Cat and the Claw Part 1
  16. P.O.V.
  17. Christmas with the Joker
  18. Fear of Victory
  19. Be a Clown
  20. The Cat and the Claw Part 2
  21. Nothing to Fear
  22. Prophecy of Doom
  23. The Last Laugh
  24. The Under-Dwellers
  25. The Forgotten
  26. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

Roland Daggett (Edward Asner) (third appearance)

Unfortunately Germs & Bell are nowhere to be seen, but that’s offset by Asner getting more lines and thus more opportunities for Acting. He doesn’t set the world on fire, because again, the actual villain of this episode is time itself, but it’s enough to ensure he doesn’t drop down the rankings now he isn’t flanked by his quirky, charismatic henchmen.

Nitro and Crocker don’t really talk enough to fill the void. They’re fine enough, but don’t merit discussion.

  1. Joker
  2. Mr. Freeze
  3. Two-Face
  4. Clayface
  5. Poison Ivy
  6. Catwoman
  7. Clock King
  8. Killer Croc
  9. Rupert Thorne
  10. Lloyd Ventrix
  11. Scarecrow
  12. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  13. Red Claw
  14. Arnold Stromwell
  15. Mad Bomber
  16. Man-Bat
  17. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  18. Harley Quinn
  19. Penguin
  20. Sewer King
  21. Boss Biggis

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 with Arrival.

Kevin Ford’s Flooping the Pig, our Adventure Time podcast, uploads new episodes every Thursday… though there aren’t many episodes left to cover!

Jerome & Brian’s Pantheon Plus continues next week with the start of their Apocalyptic Autumn, which kicks off with Escape From New York

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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