The Matt Signal – Episode 58: Shadow of the Bat Part II

Plot summary: Batgirl officially joins the family, as she, Batman and Robin race to take down Two-Face and rescue Jim Gordon.

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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!

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Notes

Episode Title: ‘Shadow of the Bat Part II’

Original Air Date: September 14th, 1993

Directed: Frank Paur (13)

Written: Brynne Chandler (5)

… Robin’s motorcycle helmet disappears in one scene? I dunno, I’ve got nothing.

Recap

After our ‘previously on’ recap, Robin heads off to investigate Gil Mason, adamant that he ducked before any gunfire at the Jim Gordon rally. Great minds think alike though, as Batgirl arrives and the two trade barbs, with Dick doing his best to flirt, while Barbara resents not being taken seriously.

Gil receives a phone call, which Robin listens in on via some of his gadgetry, leaving Batgirl to do things the old fashioned way, using binoculars to read the address Mason scribbles on a notepad. She lets Dick think she’s heading home but both depart for the rendezvous.

Infiltrating the abandoned subway station, they both overhear Gil failing to identify ‘Matches Malone’, and Two-Face kindly spells out for us that he got Mason his job working with Gordon in the first place, giving him a man on the inside.

The rescue attempt goes south when Batgirl trips, leading to a full scale shootout. Actually I guess you can’t call it that when only one side are shooting… Two-Face, Gil and Mad Dog escape and detonate some remote explosives.

Bruce suits up (Robin brought his costume) and lectures Batgirl to stay out of it, but she ends up helping rescue Dick after water brought in by the explosion floods the subway.

Batman lets Barbara escape first, with Robin handing her some batarangs for protection. Unfortunately more water washes the Dynamic Duo away before they can follow suit!

Jim Gordon struggles through dinner in his cell while Harvey Bullock chows down on a slice of pizza. Their meal is interrupted when a pair of masked criminals blow a hole in the wall and kidnap the commissioner.

Back in the subway, Batman & Robin take refuge in a train carriage, which Bruce is able to decouple, sending them hurtling into a wall with enough force to smash through to safety.

Batgirl arrives at the sight of Jim’s would-be execution first, disarming Gil with one of the loaned batarangs, and then getting Jim to safety after distracting the villains with a smoke bomb. Batman arrives and makes short work of Two-Face’s men.

Mason makes a break for it on a speedboat while Bruce takes down Harvey (with another giant penny!), leaving Barbara to give chase. Gil unmasks her, but she still kicks his ass, reluctantly saving him before the boat crashes into the Statue of Liberty a big torch-wielding statue.

Summer Gleeson (remember her?) interviews Jim Gordon now that his name has been cleared. He gives his approval for Batgirl to operate in Gotham. Bruce and Dick do the same as father and daughter are reunited.

(An important thing to note throughout this two-parter: Barbara may know Bruce’s identity, but he and Dick are oblivious to hers. Furthermore she doesn’t know who Robin is and the two are headed down a romantic path. Their final lines in the episode revolve around this premise.)

Best Performance

Our cast is trimmed down a smidge, but the key players remain the same. Loren Lester is much better than in Part I, but Kevin Conroy, Greg Burson, Tim Matheson and Richard Moll all have fewer lines, which they don’t do an awful lot with this time.

Luckily our leading lady, Melissa Gilbert, remains excellent. Barbara is determined, defiant and frustrated in the face of Batman & Robin’s rejections of her help, but maintains a feisty sense of playfulness, such as when she lies to Dick about heading home. I also loved her self-critically talking to herself to help convey that she’s having to learn the job on the fly. Finally, like Conroy, she plays the ‘I know something you don’t know’ beats in game fashion.

Ranking

As is tradition with two-parters, more time is devoted to action in the conclusion than atmospheric scene-setting. It’s logical; you set your dominos up and then you knock them down. But it’s a pretty straight-forward wrap of the excellent story once Batman has been rescued. Still fun though.

Much like the direction made Batman look like a force of nature in Part I, this episode did a fantastic job with his two sidekicks. I particularly loved a scene where a guard is distracted by a shadow-covered Batgirl, leaving him easy pickings for Robin to take down. In fact this is the most competent Robin has looked outside of his quick takedown of Tony Zucco, and for the first time it seems believable that Dick could fly solo.

They also had to walk a fine line telling a story of how Barbara lacked Bruce and Dick’s experience without making it look like the typical ‘women can’t do anything right’ nonsense that you’d expect from the era. There were a couple of moments the scales threatened to tip the wrong way, but for the most part it worked. I’m not thrilled about the teased romance though, as Dick is basically… well… a dick to Babs, but she still has a little swoon over him. She also blushes when Bruce takes his shirt off, which is charming in a bubble, but reminded me of the animated version of The Killing Joke, which in this context is not a good thing.

  1. The Laughing Fish
  2. Almost Got ‘Im
  3. Heart of Ice
  4. Shadow of the Bat Part I
  5. I Am the Night
  6. Robin’s Reckoning Part I
  7. The Man Who Killed Batman
  8. Perchance to Dream
  9. Two-Face Part I
  10. Joker’s Favor
  11. Feat of Clay Part II
  12. Harley and Ivy
  13. Robin’s Reckoning Part II
  14. Beware the Gray Ghost
  15. Mad as a Hatter
  16. Heart of Steel Part II
  17. Appointment In Crime Alley
  18. Two-Face Part II
  19. Pretty Poison
  20. Shadow of the Bat Part II
  21. Feat of Clay Part I
  22. Off Balance
  23. Vendetta
  24. Birds of a Feather
  25. Heart of Steel Part I
  26. On Leather Wings
  27. See No Evil
  28. The Clock King
  29. It’s Never Too Late
  30. Joker’s Wild
  31. Eternal Youth
  32. The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
  33. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  34. Zatanna
  35. Day of the Samurai
  36. The Mechanic
  37. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  38. Terror in the Sky
  39. P.O.V.
  40. Christmas with the Joker
  41. Fear of Victory
  42. Be a Clown
  43. What is Reality?
  44. Night of the Ninja
  45. Mudslide
  46. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  47. Nothing to Fear
  48. Prophecy of Doom
  49. Tyger, Tyger
  50. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  51. Dreams In Darkness
  52. The Last Laugh
  53. Cat Scratch Fever
  54. Moon of the Wolf
  55. Paging the Crime Doctor
  56. The Under-Dwellers
  57. The Forgotten
  58. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

Two-Face (Richard Moll) (sixth appearance)

I suppose it’s fitting that Two-Face has been taken down by a giant penny twice, but he did come across as a little more of a bumbling nobody here than he has in the past. I’ll give him kudos for not buying Bruce’s ‘Matches Malone’ disguise, and Moll does a good job of keeping him feeling dangerous when addressing his own men.

But once things got to the final confrontation, while he didn’t get KO’d in one hit or anything, he was made to look a bit of a dolt. We’ve got two (lol) more major appearances to go, which need to be strong for him to maintain his top 5 ranking.

Mad Dog (Greg Burson) (second appearance)

I don’t want to demote Mad Dog, because he’s not the outright idiot Professor Milo comes across as, or the laughably bad Sewer King or Boss Biggis, but there’s reaaaaally not much happening for him in Part II, even with a reduced cast to compete for screen time with. He’s there. Robin takes him down in the end. Yawn.

Gil Mason (Tim Matheseon) (second* appearance)

Listen, it was pretty obvious Gil was crooked after the first episode, but technically he was not put forth as a villain until now, hence listing this as a second appearance but not counting him last time. Admittedly, I put Two-Face as a villain before he actually did anything villainous in his debut, but this felt different. Whatever, sue me.

Anyway, it’s a nice little role that could have been even richer if he’d appeared a few episodes earlier (like how Harvey Dent got some face time before his accident), rather than the rules of Scooby-Doo making his deception obvious. Real nice of him to not reveal Barbara’s identity after his arrest!

  1. The Joker
  2. Mr. Freeze
  3. Poison Ivy
  4. Harley Quinn
  5. Two-Face
  6. Mad Hatter
  7. Catwoman
  8. Clayface
  9. Penguin
  10. The Riddler
  11. Clock King
  12. Killer Croc
  13. HARDAC (and Randa Duane)
  14. Lloyd Ventrix
  15. Count Vertigo
  16. Josiah Wormwood
  17. Scarecrow
  18. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  19. Rupert Thorne
  20. Sid the Squid
  21. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  22. Tony Zucco
  23. Man-Bat
  24. Hugo Strange
  25. Red Claw
  26. Arnold Stromwell
  27. Mad Bomber
  28. Tygrus (and Dr. Dorian)
  29. Kyodai Ken
  30. Gil Mason
  31. Talia al Ghul
  32. Ra’s al Ghul
  33. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  34. Cameron Kaiser
  35. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  36. Mad Dog
  37. Professor Milo
  38. Romulus
  39. Sewer King
  40. Boss Biggis
  41. Montague Kane

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.

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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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