The Matt Signal – Episode 65: The Worry Men

Plot summary: Season One concludes with some good old fashioned cultural appropriation, as Mad Hatter manipulates Gotham’s wealthy elite with some Central American figurines.

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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 Worry Men’

Original Air Date: September 16th, 1993

Directed: Frank Paur (14)

Written: Paul Dini (11)

There is some animation slowdown during Mad Hatter’s monologue, which whether intentional or not, makes it look smoother. A nice preview of what the show could have looked like if they’d spent a lot of money on it. Hey, maybe dat HBOMax cash…

Hayden Sloane’s company name is erroneously given as Sloan Securities, one of several signage problems in the series.

Mad Hatter once again quotes from the Lewis Carroll poem, Jabberwocky.

Recap

Veronica Vreeland (remember her?) returns from an expedition to the rainforest and throws herself a welcome home party attended by Gotham’s wealthy elite. As you’d expect, the theme is Central and South American cultural appropriation.

Despite her vapid nature, Veronica uses the party to convince her friends to pledge money to protecting the rainforest. Bruce and a friend, Hayden Sloane, discuss her motives, with Sloane expressing worries about his company.

Veronica has the perfect cure for what ails Hayden, opening a pouch full of ‘Worry Men’, little wooden figures that you’re meant to tell your problems to, place under your pillow, and your troubles will disappear overnight.

Bruce is sceptical, but his concerns shift when he spots a man that will later be labelled a ‘Mayan Witchdoctor’ on the roof spying through the glass ceiling, excusing himself to go do Batman things.

The two battle, with Batman easily evading a throwing weapon and blocking a blow-dart. Thinking fast, the man hurls a throwing axe through the glass ceiling, requiring Bruce to think even faster to stop a giant tiki mask from crushing the party guests, allowing the spy to escape.

Taking one of the discarded weapons with him, Bruce reports back to Alfred who balks at the Worry Man, but places it under Bruce’s pillow without his knowledge anyway.

The next morning a suspiciously chipper Bruce collects a briefcase containing $20million from his never before seen secretary, Dana. He proceeds to open his office window and leave the case on the ledge.

Dana questions his behaviour, but he has already forgotten the entire turn of events. Before they can discuss it further, another mysteriously costumed man swoops onto the ledge, grabs the case, and escapes!

Across town, Hayden Sloane is arrested for embezzlement, joining Bruce and multiple other business owners who have stolen a combined $100m from their companies. Batman quickly deduces all of the individuals were guests at Veronica’s party.

If that wasn’t subtle enough, we zoom right in on Vreeland’s Worry Men hair-pin as she attempts to drop a briefcase full of jewels off a pier. Bats intervenes, angering a boat full of the ‘tribal’ men.

Veronica is able to distract the attackers long enough for Batman to regain the upper hand and chase them off. She reveals to Bruce that she acquired the Worry Men from a funny little English man in a small village in Central America.

Batman opens one up, revealing a computer chip. Examining the chip back at the Batcave, Bruce determines the Worry Men are the work of Jervis Tetch.

Speaking of the Mad Hatter, we see him celebrating his new wealth in an unknown location adorned with crude life-sized figures of the Rogues Gallery. His good mood subsides when his goons return from Veronica empty handed.

Using a torn piece of the henchmen’s attire, Batman tracks Tetch to the Great Eastern Costume Company, yet another closed Gotham business. Maybe Bruce should just buy up all these vacant buildings if for no other reason than to root out criminals.

Running a gauntlet of machine-gun wielding statues, knife toting puppets and a giant Joker-in-a-box, Batman is eventually overwhelmed by Hatter’s four henchmen.

Bruce essentially scolds Tetch for being a basic bitch, but Hatter claims he was planning to retire to a private island and leave crime behind, but needed money to buy one, hence scamming Veronica Vreeland with his Worry Men.

It gets better! The head henchmen from the start of the episode with the more elaborate outfit is a legitimate native of the unspecified village, who Tetch has brainwashed into leading a group of Gotham randoms, all costumed by Tetch. Woof.

Hatter orders Batman beheaded, but our hero is instead able to trigger a small device from his utility belt that emits a high pitch frequency that breaks the hypnotic control.

Thus Hatter’s four loyal soldiers turn on him, sending him scurrying into the aisles of statues, opening fire on a faux-Batman in paranoia, allowing the genuine article to easily take him out.

Bruce wraps a bow on the whole affair by stating the stolen money will be returned, minus the cost of a plane ticket home for the doll maker (not to be confused with The Dollmaker), who left a little Worry (Bat)Man under Tetch’s pillow, haunting his dreams.

Best Performance

I’m once again forced to tip my top hat to Roddy McDowall, who understands his job is to come in, ham it up to 11, and tackle the Lewis Carroll-isms with as much enthusiasm as possible. He certainly succeeds at all of that, even if he’s not being asked to do big boy acting this time. The voice goes a long way to making this character equal parts memorable and deplorable.

Elsewhere we’re spoiled with all-too-brief cameos; Vernee Watson-Johnson was a nice surprise as Bruce’s secretary, Dana, and I wish this wasn’t a one-off appearance. Levar Burton must have had a nephew who loves Batman or something, because he’s barely even in the episode. Merilu Henner continues to excel as socialite Verona Vreeland, and I’m glad she’s back a couple more times in the future.

The show has done a surprisingly good job of having ethnically appropriate actors voicing characters, but Roger Rose as ‘Jaguar Shaman’ falls short of that low bar… unless Mr. Rose has some origins I’m unaware of, in which case, another good job?

Ranking

Before we can talk about anything else, we have to address the icky layer of cultural appropriation and treating real people like exotic wonders. This isn’t the worst example you’ll ever see, but there is still the part where every non-American in the show has been some degree of anachronistic stereotype. Mad Hatter brainwashing and dressing ‘Jaguar’ takes a slight bit of edge off it, as it transfers how problematic it is to the villain (and an Englishman no less!) but even with that, it’s a bit gross. I won’t dock the episode any ranking points for this, but just wanted to acknowledge it.

With that being said, this is only a so-so little caper, obviously weaker than the previous two Mad Hatter episodes. The opening fight scene was fun, with yet more of the good stuff (Batman appearing almost supernatural in his abilities). The second act revolving around rich people giving away their money is some good old fashioned comic book ‘WTF is going on here?’ They also got a lot of mileage out of Tetch’s hideout locale, and I enjoyed the different styles of villain facsimiles.

Two final notes: this is Paul Dini’s weakest script so far, and concludes the show’s first production season.

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

Villain Watch

Mad Hatter (Roddy McDowall) (third appearance)

English man goes to poorer country, exploits their local produce and appropriates their culture for his own titillation. Sounds. About. Right.

As mentioned before, this is the weakest Tetch appearance, as it lacks the same emotional backdrop as ‘Mad as a Hatter’ and ‘Perchance to Dream’, reverting him to a more generic villain. I don’t think this undoes the previous work, but it certainly soften his grip on the number 7 spot.

  1. The Joker
  2. Mr. Freeze
  3. Poison Ivy
  4. Harley Quinn
  5. Two-Face
  6. The Ventriloquist
  7. Mad Hatter
  8. Penguin
  9. Catwoman
  10. HARDAC (and Randa Duane)
  11. Clayface
  12. Ra’s al Ghul
  13. The Riddler
  14. Clock King
  15. Killer Croc
  16. Lloyd Ventrix
  17. Count Vertigo
  18. Josiah Wormwood
  19. Scarecrow
  20. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  21. Rupert Thorne
  22. Sid the Squid
  23. Maxie Zeus
  24. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  25. Tony Zucco
  26. Man-Bat
  27. Hugo Strange
  28. Red Claw
  29. Arnold Stromwell
  30. Mad Bomber
  31. Tygrus
  32. Rhino, Mugsy and Ratso
  33. Kyodai Ken
  34. Gil Mason
  35. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  36. Cameron Kaiser
  37. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  38. Talia al Ghul
  39. Mad Dog
  40. Ubu
  41. Professor Milo
  42. Romulus
  43. Sewer King
  44. Boss Biggis
  45. 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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