The Matt Signal – Episode 33: Robin’s Reckoning Part II

Plot summary: The race is on as Batman and Robin each try to make it to Tony Zucco first, recalling a near miss with the crook nine years earlier.

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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: ‘Robin’s Reckoning Part II’

Original Air Date: February 14th, 1993

Directed: Dick Sebast (6)

Written: Randy Rogel (4)

Even more flashbacks were planned but were cut for time, including Dick swearing a candlelit oath and donning his Robin costume for the first time.

Obvious Akira homage is obvious.

A lot of the footage from both parts were used for the new opening titles when the show was renamed The Adventures of Batman & Robin.

Blink and you’ll miss it, but Batman’s suit is drawn differently in flashback to more closely resemble some of his older comic book costumes.

Recap

After a highlight reel of episode 1’s big beats, we re-join the Dynamic Duo and their separate vehicles. Robin attempts to track the Batmobile, but Bruce will have none of it and kills the signal remotely. Frustrated, Robin declares he’ll find Zucco alone just like before…

Taking us back to the flashback timeline, young Dick learns fencing from Bruce who critiques his lack of control. The lesson devolves into some horseplay because they’re pals now that he took Alfred’s advice.

The frivolity is interrupted by the arrival of Jim Gordon who reports that Zucco has been spotted and may be trying to leave town as soon as tonight due to pressure applied by Batman.

Dick eavesdrops on the conversation and makes his way downtown, showing Zucco’s picture to various small business owners to no avail. He bumps into an intimidating stranger, but the Batplane hovers overhead, scaring the man away.

Continuing his little nighttime adventure, Dick stumbles on what is strongly implied to be a pimp named Lennie and his… ‘good friend’, Chi Chi.

Dick demands he leave her alone, kicking him in the shin and then scurrying up a fire escape. Lennie climbs after him but Dick bides his time and then kicks him into a dumpster, echoing a move he used in part 1 as Robin. Neat.

Chi Chi buys Dick some pie and points out how unlikely he is to find his “uncle” at this time of night (3am if the clock outside the diner is functional), but she’s immediately proven wrong by a waitress who recognises Zucco’s picture and points toward his hideout.

Dick spots Zucco packing a suitcase and tries to call for help using some kind of ancient relic called a… pay… phone(???) but Zucco grabs him, recognising him as the material witness from the circus murders.

Batman arrives to save the day… but Zucco tosses Dick into the harbour! Abandoning the crook, Bruce dives in after the boy. A little night swim later and he grapple-hooks them to safety. Dick is furious that Zucco got away, flailing at the hulking Caped Crusader who shrugs it off.

Taking Dick back to the Batcave, Bruce asks how badly he wants Tony Zucco and then unmasks. Alfred makes a dry comment about Dick’s stay being permanent (Gordon had suggested Bruce could give him back if they got Zucco).

Back in the present, Robin breaks into the apartment of Ferris Doyle (the guy that Batman dangled off a half-finished building in Part 1), searching for clues to Zucco’s whereabouts. He plants a tracing device on the phone and then presses redial. The device literally says ‘tracing’, and gets a location in 10 seconds. The CIA could never.

Spooked by the cold call, Zucco lectures his men about Batman never giving up, but claims he has no clue why he has been targeted so doggedly for nine years. Hearing a creaky floorboard above, Zucco opens fire for a comically long time, emptying a full tommy gun into the ceiling. It kind of rules.

Sure enough, the roof collapses and Batman falls through, visibly injured. Zucco declares vengeance is his, but of course has no bullets left. Using the opening, Batman tosses a smoke bomb and bails, improvising a splint for his leg with a piece of wood and his own torn cape.

Zucco’s men begin hunting him but quickly become prey themselves as the Dark Knight uses the abandoned waterfront amusement park setting to his advantage, picking them off one at a time. It definitely rules.

The action spills onto a carousel, which of course accidentally gets switched on. Bats takes down the last of the goons, but Zucco arrives with a reloaded gun, undeterred by the extremely high odds of hitting his own men.

Robin flies in from out of nowhere and snatches Zucco, dragging him away. I say out of nowhere, the fight scene was inter-spliced with footage of Dick jumping over bridges and sliding under trucks and whatnot. It’s rad, but hard to recap.

Dropping Zucco near the end of a pier and screeching to a halt in an obvious Akira homage, Robin kicks the crap out of his nemesis, threatening to drop him to his implied death.

Batman tells him enough is enough and to not let his emotions consume him. Dick tells him to go to hell, claiming he couldn’t possibly know how he feels. Yikes. Kind of his whole deal, my guy.

Snapping out of it, Dick apologies and walks away. The GCPD arrest Zucco while the two heroes talk it over. Bruce claims he didn’t ask Dick to stay out of it because of a personal vendetta, but because he was afraid of Zucco killing him and couldn’t stand losing him.

Dick smiles and the pair walk away as the sun starts rising.

Best Performance

Kevin Conroy was superlative in Part I, and while he’s still excellent (because of COURSE he is), he’s already had his emotional high, and takes a step back to let the story be more about Robin and Zucco.

I had hoped Loren Lester would step up after a shaky focal vocal last time, and while he was much better here, he’s still the weak link in the whole affair. He’s perfectly fine at the happy-go-lucky sidekick stuff, with a voice full of carefree enthusiasm, but he doesn’t seem to have the acting chops for emotional stories, unfortunately.

Luckily, Tom F. Wilson shines in Part II, expertly bringing Zucco to life in two different time periods. Young Tony is a little annoyed at having to leave Gotham, but maintains a sense of youthful exuberance, channelling Biff as he threatens the child he orphaned. Present Tony is a paranoid mess, jumping at shadows, screaming at his hired help and completely nonplussed about the prospect of killing them by accident. Wilson pours himself into both with great aplomb.

We even got great little bit parts from a bus driver to Lennie & Chi Chi, to Zucco’s goons, and even the child version of Dick. This two-parter has been stellar for voice acting, Lester notwithstanding.

Ranking

The rules of the Emmys demand only a single episode be submitted for consideration, and I can see why the producers opted for Part I, which has a stronger vocal performance from Conroy and some top tier emotional dialogue. It was one of the very best episodes of the series.

None of that is to say Part II is bad, and I think if I weren’t being strict about treating multi-parters as isolated episodes, I’d actually argue that the two together reach higher heights than ‘Heart of Ice’. But I made my bed so here we are laying in it together. Cozy.

This is easily Robin’s best outing, as from memory he won’t come close to matching this in the future. From his wise-beyond-his-years antics as a child in flashbacks, to his solid detective work finding Zucco without Batman’s help, to his breakneck bike scene, THIS is a Robin I’d like to see more.

The flashbacks remained strong, but I wish the planned scenes with Dick becoming Robin for the first time had found their way in as some kind of extended cut, because despite two episodes of run-time, the story still feels slightly unfinished. Batman’s reasoned pleas in the climax don’t have a patch on his comforting monologue from Part I. The writing was most of the way there, but failed to push things to the loftiest heights.

Still, it’s an action-packed episode (the fairground scene might be the best of its type to date?) that still makes room for detective work and an emotional hook, so it’s still a no brainer for the top 10.

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

Villain Watch

Tony Zucco (Tom F. Wilson) (second appearance)

I somewhat ate my own lunch in the performance section where it comes to Wilson’s work, so I’ll instead highlight the character is far better written this time. He continues to be difficult to track down, but this time takes a more physical role, escaping Batman by throwing a damn child into a river and firing his gun off like a lunatic.

It’s a tall order to make a generic mobster compelling given the murder clowns and mutants that make up the Rogues Gallery, and while Zucco is dwarfed by Carmine Falcone and Sal Maroni, he’s held in relatively high esteem as part of a secondary tier, with this episode justifying that much better.

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

Kevin & Jerome’s Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul podcast, Reel Bad, drops new episodes the first Tuesday of each month… that means this week! BCS Season 3!

Jerome & Brian’s Pantheon Plus returns in two weeks

Speaking of Jerome (twice), he continues to bring 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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