The Matt Signal – Episode 59: Blind as a Bat

Plot summary: A stolen state-of-the-art stealth helicopter is the least of Batman’s problems, as he finds himself temporarily blinded!

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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: ‘Blind as a Bat’

Original Air Date: February 22nd, 1993

Directed: Dan Riba (3)

Written: Mike Underwood (story) (1) & Len Wein (3)

BATS ARE NOT BLIND. Sorry for the all-caps, but I loathe that expression. They see very well and only use echolocation in caves etc.

The Penguin’s last outing as a main villain.

Loosely based on ‘Blind Man’s Bluff’, written by Batman’s actual creator, Bill Finger, in 1947. In this house we cannot stand Bob Kane.

Recap

Oh goodie! We’re starting with a demonstration of the Raven X1-11, a Wayne Industries stealth helicopter for the military. It’s quick, it’s quiet, it’s invisible to both the naked eye and radar, and it blows stuff up good.

Bruce is in two minds about becoming Tony Stark, an instinct that is immediately proven right when the helicopter opens fire on the assembled military personnel. Penguin and his crew are behind the incident, and Bruce is blinded by an explosion!

Leslie Thompkins treats Bruce, as he doesn’t want word getting out by going to a hospital. The good doctor orders him to keep his eyes fully covered for 36 hours or risk permanent blindness.

He reluctantly accepts, forcing him to miss a Bat Signal summons, leaving Mayor Hill and the GCPD to negotiate with Penguin, who wants $100m to end his terror in the sky. And just to show he’s serious, Cobblepot blows up a bridge.

Fed up with waiting on the sidelines, Bruce enlists Leslie to help build a special helmet based on the same tech as the stealth chopper that essentially gives him Daredevil’s radar vision. He expertly completes a little assault course to test it out and heads out into the field.

On Bats’ orders, Hill publicly agrees to pay up, but Batman of course ambushes the villain at the rendezvous, leading to some Batwing vs Raven aerial warfare. It’s not as exciting as you’d hope, and while Bruce designed both aircraft, he somehow loses the exchange.

It’s out of the frying pan and into the fire, as his sonar-vision system begins failing, forcing him to fumble for cover inside a factory while the villains give chase.

With his vision cutting in and out, he narrowly bests one of Penguin’s henchmen in clumsy fashion, but Oswald quickly deduces the Caped Crusader can’t see and begins to take advantage.

Cornered in a smelting chamber, Bruce realises he’s clinging onto a water pipe and opens a valve, creating a massive updraft of steam. Following his ears to Penguin’s coughing fit, he takes Cobblepot down and hogties him.

Once the 36 hours are up, Leslie removes Bruce’s bandages, and after a brief fake-out, he demonstrates his restored sight by reading the newspaper reporting on Penguin’s capture.

Best Performance

I don’t know if I want to give it to anybody for this episode. Kevin Conroy wins by default, I guess? Paul Williams was solid, but it’s probably his worst vocal outing since the character got good, and nobody else had enough lines to qualify. Conroy was on complete cruise control, trying to make Bruce’s temporary blindness dramatic, but coming up a little short.

Fun fact: this episode featured two Star Trek: The Next Generation actors, though they never shared a scene. Diana Muldaur (who briefly replaced Gates McFadden as the ship’s doctor) returned as Leslie Thompkins and was… fine. She browbeats Bruce, which is nice, but not particularly mind-blowing. Meanwhile John de Lancie (aka Q) barely registers as one of Penguin’s henchmen.

Ranking

If ever there was a throwaway episode, it’s this one. It’s by no means the worst of those, with nothing actively bad or cringey about it. In fact the premise is solid, with Bruce adapting his stealth helicopter tech to overcome his inability to see, which in itself feels like a logical problem-of-the-week.

The problem is that so much was riding on two things: The helicopter being exciting, and Batman’s impossible skill overcoming a literal handicap. Neither really delivered in my opinion. The chopper has a cool design, but after it blew a couple of things up I quickly got over it, and the protracted dogfight sequence outstayed its welcome. For kids this may have been a great advertisement for a sick helicopter toy, though.

Similarly, Bruce is only functionally blind for a few minutes, quickly gaining Radar Vision, which even when it begins to fail, continues working well enough for him to navigate the factory. The best moment was probably Penguin puzzling it out and Bruce desperately tossing Batarangs at anything that makes a sound, but that was all too brief. I really expected his reliance on quick thinking and his other senses to result in something a bit more elaborate than conveniently ending up hanging from a water pipe, though I’ll admit using it to create steam was clever.

  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. Blind as a Bat
  51. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  52. Dreams In Darkness
  53. The Last Laugh
  54. Cat Scratch Fever
  55. Moon of the Wolf
  56. Paging the Crime Doctor
  57. The Under-Dwellers
  58. The Forgotten
  59. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

The Penguin (Paul Williams) (sixth appearance)

While it’s another Penguin episode near the bottom of the pile, this one is in no way a fault on the character’s part. He’s settled rather nicely into this niche as both a tech expert and perhaps Batman’s smartest villain, despite Riddler being a polymath.

He stole The Raven, used it to great aplomb, out-duelled its creator, and was able to deduce Batman’s blindness. Unfortunately he caught a beatdown regardless, but it was a fun little scene before that. I’m moving him up to just below his fellow top-hatted criminal, Mad Hatter.

  1. The Joker
  2. Mr. Freeze
  3. Poison Ivy
  4. Harley Quinn
  5. Two-Face
  6. Mad Hatter
  7. Penguin
  8. Catwoman
  9. Clayface
  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.

Published by

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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