The Matt Signal – Episode 60: The Demon’s Question Part I

Plot summary: Batman is forced to join forces with Ra’s al Ghul and go on a globetrotting adventure to rescue Robin and Talia.

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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: ‘The Demon’s Quest Part I’

Original Air Date: May 3rd, 1993

Directed: Kevin Altieri (15)

Written: Dennis O’Neil (1)

This part is a direct adaptation of ‘Daughter of the Demon’, also written by Dennis O’Neil in 1971.

Another of the handful of episodes that do not feature a traditional pre-episode title card, after ‘Heart of Ice’ and ‘The Laughing Fish.’

We learn of the exact address of Wayne Manor: 1007 Mountain Drive, Gotham. Neat!

Recap

We open with Robin sneaking back into his college dorm room. In a wild turn of events, he is immediately shot by a tranquilliser gun on orders of a man in a cloak and some kind of Anubis mask. Now THAT is how you open an episode of BTAS!

Two days later, Batman returns from his latest fruitless search for Dick. Alfred hands him an envelope (addressed specifically to Bruce) containing a photo of an imprisoned Robin, encouraging Batman to save him if he can. That’s right, the kidnapper knows both of their identities!

Things go from wild to bananas though, as freakin’ Ra’s al Ghul emerges from the shadows of the Batcave, flanked by a bodyguard, Ubu. He hands Bruce a second photograph, showing his daughter, Talia, tied up next to Robin.

Batman reluctantly agrees to a truce, deducing that the kidnappers are from Calcutta based on small items in the photograph. Thus they depart, but not before some awkward tension between Batman and Ubu.

On the flight, Bruce asks how Ra’s discovered his identity. Ra’s attributes it to a combination of his vast global surveillance network… and Talia seeing his face when they were imprisoned together in ‘Off Balance.’

Landing in Calcutta, the three intensely normally dressed individuals are attacked by a group of masked men. Batman kicks their asses while Ra’s smiles and Ubu… stands.

One of their attackers claims the kidnappers are now in Malaysia, so we’re off again. Ra’s and Batman debate climate change, with Bats referring to Bruce Wayne as a separate person again like the wonderful maniac he is.

Entering a mysterious template alone, Batman is immediately locked in with a black leopard (black panthers aren’t actually a thing, look it up!) He wrestles the beast, wraps it in his cape and then drops some kind of sleeping gas capsule in with it.

Ra’s struts in moments later, and the two analyse a map of the Himalayas, with Bruce detecting a scratch mark from tracing a route. Off we go again!

Batman parachutes into the mountains solo while Ra’s continues in a helicopter… which is immediately shot down!!! Bruce barely evades the intense gunfire and takes out his attackers after hiding in the snow.

Reaching a mysterious cave entrance, Batman finds Robin tied up within, besting a guard troupe. Dick claims to not know who kidnapped him, but Batman has figured out that the person behind all this is… Ra’s.

Yes, he was the Anubis-masked gentleman at the start and faked his death (two minutes ago). Batman knew the whole time, given Ra’s was always ahead of the curve, but went along with it in order to find Robin.

One beat-down of Ubu later, and Ra’s reveals he did all of this to test if Bruce was worthy of being his successor. Talia loves him, by the way. Surprise! Batman refuses and Ra’s collapses (he’s been violently coughing all episode.)

On Talia’s instructions they take Ra’s to a Lazarus Pit, which despite looking like it will kill him, rejuvenates him to such a degree that he’s able to mop the floor with Batman. He raises Talia in the air and laughs maniacally.

To be continued…

Best Performance

David Warner’s sense of theatricality dominates the entire episode, fitting Ra’s grandiose design like a glove. It’s a voice that sounds like it doesn’t belong in this time, which makes sense as The Demon is centuries old. He tackles the slightly silly material admirably and makes sure the character sticks in one’s memory.

Kevin Conroy is the only other person who gets any real lines, and while it’s not his best work, he’s still pretty good, particularly when it comes to communicating that Batman is keeping his cards close to his chest and going along with Ra’s machinations until the time is right.

Ranking

This is our final two-parter of the series, and one that is renowned for its quality, with some even calling it the best episode in the whole show. Aaand much like previous multi-part affairs, I think reviewing it in a bubble hurts it. From memory Part II is much stronger, but I don’t have overwhelmingly positive things to say about this one.

At no point is it not painfully obvious that Ra’s is behind the whole caper. That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, especially as Bruce knows the whole time too, but it does undercut the drama. Likewise the pacing is incredibly frantic as they have to show Robin’s kidnapping, introduce Ra’s, travel to three different countries, reveal the non-mystery, and then close on the cliff-hanger ending. That’s a lot to try and achieve in 22 minutes, and leads to things like them landing in Calcutta, walking down a single empty street, getting attacked, and then immediately departing for Malaysia. I just think the whole thing would have been better served as a film to give more breathing room to each locale.

Still, it’s Batman being a detective, getting into scraps in exotic locations and wrestling wild animals, which is a nice bombastic break from the show’s regular formula. Ra’s is fun, too. Those things elevate it above being a failure, but aren’t enough to push it past other globetrotting fare such as Day of the Samurai, which also struggled with pacing, but at least paid off with an exciting action set-piece.

  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 Demon’s Quest Part I
  37. The Mechanic
  38. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  39. Terror in the Sky
  40. P.O.V.
  41. Christmas with the Joker
  42. Fear of Victory
  43. Be a Clown
  44. What is Reality?
  45. Night of the Ninja
  46. Mudslide
  47. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  48. Nothing to Fear
  49. Prophecy of Doom
  50. Tyger, Tyger
  51. Blind as a Bat
  52. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  53. Dreams In Darkness
  54. The Last Laugh
  55. Cat Scratch Fever
  56. Moon of the Wolf
  57. Paging the Crime Doctor
  58. The Under-Dwellers
  59. The Forgotten
  60. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

Ra’s al Ghul (David Warner) (second appearance)

Despite laying the world’s most transparent test as our protagonist’s feet, Ra’s is a cool character who is well drawn with a distinctive voice. We are still barely scratching the surface of what he can be, such as the brief conversation about cleansing the world, but his army of loyal assassins lurking in the shadows gives him a sense of gravitas. Plus everyone loves his gimmick of exclusively referring to Batman as “Detective.”

Perhaps the most impactful aspect of the character is him deducing Batman’s identity and rocking up in the Batcave, which I don’t want to undersell conceptually. It’s always effective when you break unwritten rules of a world, and bad guys entering Bruce’s secret headquarters is one of the strongest of those ever.

Ubu (Manu Tupou) (first appearance)

I originally was just going to fold Ubu in with Ra’s, but he makes three appearances, and I’ve ranked villains with less screen time, so fair’s fair.

He’s an aggressive henchmen who engages Batman in a fun little mini-feud. He does his job effectively. Nothing too thrilling, but solid.

Talia al Ghul (Helen Slater) (second appearance)

She’s here. She’s in a skimpy outfit. She loves Batman despite betraying him. She’s been rejected as her father’s successor and is apparently fine with that. She may now be his murder victim. Not great, Bob!

  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. Ra’s al Ghul
  17. Josiah Wormwood
  18. Scarecrow
  19. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  20. Rupert Thorne
  21. Sid the Squid
  22. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  23. Tony Zucco
  24. Man-Bat
  25. Hugo Strange
  26. Red Claw
  27. Arnold Stromwell
  28. Mad Bomber
  29. Tygrus
  30. Kyodai Ken
  31. Gil Mason
  32. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  33. Cameron Kaiser
  34. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  35. Talia al Ghul
  36. Mad Dog
  37. Ubu
  38. Professor Milo
  39. Romulus
  40. Sewer King
  41. Boss Biggis
  42. 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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