Plot summary: On another anniversary of his parents’ death, Batman contemplates hanging up his cape and cowl for good when his inaction leaves Jim Gordon fighting for his life.
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!
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Episode Title: ‘I Am the Night’
Original Air Date: November 9th, 1992
Directed: Boyd Kirkland (12)
Written: Michael Reaves (7)
Jazzman is potentially based on Jack Palance, who of course featured in Tim Burton’s first live-action Batman movie as Carl Grissom.
The police dispatch mentions the corner of Adams and O’Neil, a reference to Neal Adams and Dennis O’Neil, the team responsible for the run of Batman to which the show is most indebted.
Batman’s line to Leslie about having promises to keep may be a reference to Frost’s poem ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’.
Batman is sulking in the Batcave, telling Alfred he’s tired, not just physically, but emotionally. Right on cue, the Gotham Times front page story is that Penguin’s most recent conviction has been overturned on a technicality.
Going full emo, Bruce asks if he’s actually doing any real good in Gotham, feeling that all he’s doing is putting out fires. He turns his attention to a yellow box Alfred brought him, heading out.
Turns out it’s another anniversary of his parents’ death, and the box contains more roses to lay down in crime alley with Leslie Thompkins, much as he did at the end of ‘Appointment in Crime Alley’ one year previously.
His old friend tries to cheer him up with wise words from Santayana, but Bruce is too well read and fires back with a quote of his own to justify his melancholy.
Luckily trouble breaks out across the street, allowing Batman to spring into action. He beats down two of the men and then hands the would-be victim, a cheeky small-time hustler named ‘Wizard’, over to Leslie, who of course works with troubled youth.
Unfortunately while all of this has been going down, Bruce has missed a GCPD stakeout he promised to attend. While Gordon wants to wait for the Caped Crusader, Harvey Bullock gets his way and the raid begins.
Things… do not go overly well, with Jimmy ‘The Jazzman’ Peake clearly ready for the assault, resulting in a huge shootout. Batman arrives amidst the chaos and makes short work of the mobsters, frustrating Bullock.
The Jazzman makes his getaway in a semi-truck but Bats forces him to a halt with his grapple-gun. Our hero steps into the shadows to oversee Bullock put the cuffs on Jazzman… but Jim Gordon was shot in the chaos!
Summer Gleeson (remember her?) reports on the shooting while Gordon clings to life in the hospital. Batman circumvents security to apologise for being late, but Barbara (yay!) tells him not to blame himself.
Bullock does not feel the same way unfortunately, claiming Bats is responsible for the events by failing to anticipate Jazzman being ready for them. Bruce is too sad to respond, swooping away as Harvey yells after him that they’ll settle up later.
Back in the cave, Bruce smashes anything not nailed down and then screams to the heavens… or rather the cave roof, disturbing some bats.
Jazzman is sent to Stone Gate Penitentiary to await a trial. You may remember Stone Gate from ‘Pretty Poison’. Peake fears his all but certain death sentence, but a fellow inmate claims ‘Southside Eddy’ can get anyone out of the prison. How handy!
Dick Grayson returns from college to check on Bruce, with Alfred claiming he’s never seen him so despondent. Sure enough, Bats continues to torture himself, pointing out Gordon is the same age his father would have been by now.
Bruce admits that he chose this path and that when his time comes he’ll have no regrets, but he can’t live with others getting hurt because of his mistakes, feeling he’s better for tourism than justice, tossing his cowl into the depths of the cave! Jeeeeeez.
Sure enough, Jazzman goes full Shawshank and makes his daring escape through a storm drain, making front page news. Barbara fears the worst for her father given Peake’s longstanding grudge against him.
Dick keeps trying to get through to Bruce, who has moved his moping up to the main house. Frustrated, Robin suits up to head out and catch Jazzman himself, but Bats of course won’t allow this either, and snaps out of his funk, declaring this is his hunt.
Bullock arrives at the hospital a little too late as Jazzman, posing as a window cleaner, has Gordon in his sights. Luckily a Batarang knocks his gun away and Bruce wrestles him on the hanging platform. Unfortunately Peake gets the upper hand, smashing through the window, with Gordon seemingly dead to rights.
We move to slow motion as Batman barely manages to toss another Batarang at the gun JUST as Jazzman pulls the trigger, causing him to drop the gun in agony. Bullock bursts in and arrests Peake as Gordon at last regains consciousness. Jim tells Batman how he wishes he were younger so he could be a hero like Batman, who chokes up and tells him he IS a hero.
Bats returns to patrolling Gotham, swooping in on the kid from earlier, thinking he’s caught him in the act of stealing a suitcase. Turns out it does in fact belong to Wizard who is leaving Gotham to return home after Bruce and Leslie’s help. He thanks Batman for steering him in the right direction.
Batman looks out over the city and… SMILES!!!
I don’t know if this is the best episode for voice acting in the show so far, but it’s damn close. Everybody brought it. In any other episode Robert Costanzo would handily take this given how well he plays the scene where Gordon gets shot. Speaking of Gordon, this is Bob Hastings’ best work to date as well, but no dice for him either. Heck, Seth Green and Brian George are both excellent in their smaller roles as Wizard and Jazzman. But it’s not them either.
Kevin Conroy crushes this into a fine powder. There’s no other way to put it. It’s a difficult thing to take material that essentially amounts to one of fiction’s mopiest characters sulking for 20 minutes and performing it in such a way that is emotionally engaging and devastatingly human. But here we are, with a toss up for Conroy’s best performance between this and ‘Robin’s Reckoning’.
All of this is supported by nice little continuity-serving cameos from Diana Muldaur and Melissa Gilbert, as well as Loren Lester and Efrem Zimbalist getting their stuff in to boot.
This episode feels reasonably essential viewing for the show’s general pitch for Batman as a character. It’s nothing incredibly revolutionary, and you may even feel like you’ve seen/read this story dozens of times, but every aspect of the execution is sublime.
It’s a phenomenal follow-up to ‘Appointment in Crime Alley’, with both demonstrating Bruce’s unwavering resolve by offering a rare look into his more vulnerable human side. His dead parents are an eye-rolling plot device at this point, so it’s hard to tell stories that lean so heavily into that, but I have zero gripes here. It’s not that Bruce needs to ‘just get over’ his dead parents; it’s that there is a crushing accumulated emotional toll bubbling beneath the surface that he does a good job of covering up for the other 364 days of the year… and then his surrogate father figure is shot on his watch. There’s no world in which that isn’t compelling.
This would have made for an outstanding finale for the whole series given the existential question of how long Bruce can keep this up for, with Batman redoubling his resolve at the end and smiling as he looks out at his city, reaffirmed that he is making a difference.
- The Laughing Fish
- Almost Got ‘Im
- Heart of Ice
- I Am the Night
- Robin’s Reckoning Part I
- Perchance to Dream
- Two-Face Part I
- Joker’s Favor
- Feat of Clay Part II
- Robin’s Reckoning Part II
- Beware the Gray Ghost
- Mad as a Hatter
- Heart of Steel Part II
- Appointment In Crime Alley
- Two-Face Part II
- Birds of a Feather
- Heart of Steel Part I
- On Leather Wings
- Pretty Poison
- Feat of Clay Part I
- It’s Never Too Late
- See No Evil
- The Clock King
- Joker’s Wild
- The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
- Eternal Youth
- The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
- The Cat and the Claw Part I
- Day of the Samurai
- Terror in the Sky
- Christmas with the Joker
- Fear of Victory
- Be a Clown
- What is Reality?
- Night of the Ninja
- The Cat and the Claw Part II
- Nothing to Fear
- Prophecy of Doom
- Tyger, Tyger
- If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
- Dreams In Darkness
- The Last Laugh
- Cat Scratch Fever
- Moon of the Wolf
- The Under-Dwellers
- The Forgotten
- I’ve Got Batman in My Basement
Jimmy ‘Jazzman Peake (Brian George) (first appearance)
In a lot of ways this could have been absolutely any Batman villain and the episode still would have worked. And while Jazzman is just a generic mobster, there’s something nice about giving Gordon a nemesis of his own rather than having Joker or Two-Face decide they’ve had enough of him.
Brian George does an awful lot with very few lines, and his dialogue sings, with a few nice little puns. Heck, he comes pretty close to murdering Jim Gordon, and Batman struggles to take him down, so that’s got to be worth something.
- The Joker
- Mr. Freeze
- Mad Hatter
- Poison Ivy
- The Riddler
- Clock King
- Killer Croc
- HARDAC (and Ronda Duane)
- Rupert Thorne
- Lloyd Ventrix
- Harley Quinn
- Josiah Wormwood
- Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
- Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
- Tony Zucco
- Hugo Strange
- Red Claw
- Arnold Stromwell
- Mad Bomber
- Tygrus (and Dr. Dorian)
- Kyodai Ken
- Nostromos (and Lucas!)
- Cameron Kaiser
- Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
- Professor Milo
- Sewer King
- Boss Biggis
Christmas may be over, but me and Mike’s fourth annual Christmas Special is timeless! This year: Lethal Weapon & Happiest Season!
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 concludes its second volume on Monday with Parasite.
Kevin & Jerome’s Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul podcast, Reel Bad, will be dropping its final episode on Tuesday.