The Matt Signal – Episode 66: Sideshow

Plot summary: Killer Croc escapes to the wilderness, and with Batman on his trail, seeks refuge with a group of runaway circus freaks.

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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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This marks the beginning of the second broadcast season of the show and some big Fox-mandated changes are coming, most notably a huge increase in appearance by Robin. In fact, about half the episodes were titled ‘The Adventures of Batman & Robin’ and given some atrocious new opening titles.

Fox’s meddling didn’t stop there though, as they switched from daily to weekly episodes after the first five, and then went back to daily re-runs (rebranded with the new title), not airing the final five new episodes for almost a year.

Notes

Episode Title: ‘Sideshow’

Original Air Date: May 3rd, 1994

Directed: Boyd Kirkland (16)

Written: Michael Reaves (10) and Brynne Chandler (6)

Loosely based on Dennis O’Neil’s ‘A Vow from the Grave’ from 1971, albeit with Killer Croc inserted instead of a random runaway criminal.

One of only two episodes to take place entirely outside Gotham. ‘The Demon’s Quest Part II’ is the other.

Croc is transferred to “Levitz Prison”, a reference to former DC executive vice-president Paul Levitz.

Recap

We begin aboard a prison transport train, with Killer Croc the star attraction. While his bumbling guards thought to find shackles he can’t break by hand, he’s easily able to bite through them and proceeds to cut through his captors like butter.

Thankfully, Batman is aboard, disguised as one of the guards and springs into action. The two battle and ultimately tumble over the edge and into the forest below. Croc nearly murders an unconscious Batman, but the effects of a tranquilliser dart finally catch up to him and he groggily flees.

Bats wakes up and immediately begins tracking the enormous bipedal crocodile, but they again get separated with Batman falling down a ravine, and Croc over the edge of a waterfall!

Waking up in the care of a group of former circus freaks, Croc is taken in by the eccentric ensemble, which include Billy the Seal Boy, Siamese twins  May and June, and Goliath, a hulking gentle giant, led by Richard, a hunchbacked ringmaster.

Croc reluctantly gets to work helping on their farm, claiming that he is a fellow former sideshow attraction. Croc takes a shine to the group, having second thoughts about stealing their $50,000 retirement fund.

Batman arrives, spooking Goliath to the point things get physical, with Croc joining the fray. The Caped Crusader is quickly overpowered, stripped of his utility belt and tossed into a caged wagon.

Bruce tells the group about Croc’s true past, and while they initially take their new friend’s side, his insistence on violently disposing of the vigilante shows his true colours. Croc attacks and imprisons them all in another wagon and then goes back for the cash.

Batman and Goliath each break free and chase Croc into the mill, where he holes up with a rifle. With help from Billy, Batman sneaks inside using an underwater passage and disarms Croc, leading to a clunky fight on a waterwheel.

Our hero emerges victorious, dragging Croc out of the water. The guards from the train arrive and lock their escapee back up ready to resume transport.

Billy asks Croc why he turned on them, to which the villain replies that he was simply being what they told him he could be out here: himself.

Best Performance

Hey, kids! It’s Brad Garrett! He’s perfectly fine as Goliath, who is barely a character and only has a few lines. Ditto the rest of the troupe. Honestly, I liked whoever was voicing one of the weary feds on the train, but I can’t award people who have one line.

That only really leaves Kevin Conroy and Aron Kincaid, and I guess I’ll go with the latter. Croc has a distinctive voice, and despite the episode around him being so inferior to his debut in ‘Vendetta’, Kincaid does a decent job trying to give the character some emotional range, from his frustration with Batman, to crankiness when taken in by his new pals, to perking up at the sound of money, to having second thoughts, to his murderous rage when Batman returns.

Ranking

You know how a long layoff between seasons can lead to renewed passion and creativity? This wasn’t that. At all. In fact, it’s downright awful.

I’ll check off the things I liked first: Batman stalking Croc through the forest… That’s about it. Croc getting increasingly frustrated after thinking he was home free only for Bruce to keep reappearing on his trail was a tonne of fun, and I wish they could have found a way to make that a full episode. Bruce created Batman to try and cultivate a sense of otherworldly mystique, and the idea that there’s nowhere to run and he’ll just keep coming is right out of a horror movie playbook. Good stuff.

The rest? Garbage. Croc hiding out with some former circus attractions and finding kinship seems like a good story on paper, but in practice it just boils down to a series of dull action scenes, with the clumsy, almost visually confusing final set-piece really taking the cake. We don’t learn anything about the villain, as he barely commits to their life of solitude in the first place, so it doesn’t mean much when he turns on them. We don’t learn anything about anyone else either and nothing changes, making the whole endeavour largely a waste of time.

  1. The Laughing Fish
  2. Mask of the Phantasm
  3. Almost Got ‘Im
  4. Heart of Ice
  5. Shadow of the Bat Part I
  6. I Am the Night
  7. Robin’s Reckoning Part I
  8. The Man Who Killed Batman
  9. Perchance to Dream
  10. Two-Face Part I
  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. Shadow of the Bat Part II
  24. Feat of Clay Part I
  25. His Silicon Soul
  26. Off Balance
  27. Vendetta
  28. Birds of a Feather
  29. Heart of Steel Part I
  30. On Leather Wings
  31. See No Evil
  32. The Clock King
  33. It’s Never Too Late
  34. Joker’s Wild
  35. Eternal Youth
  36. The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
  37. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  38. Zatanna
  39. Day of the Samurai
  40. The Demon’s Quest Part I
  41. The Mechanic
  42. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  43. Terror in the Sky
  44. P.O.V.
  45. Christmas with the Joker
  46. Fear of Victory
  47. Be a Clown
  48. The Worry Men
  49. What is Reality?
  50. Fire From Olympus
  51. Night of the Ninja
  52. Mudslide
  53. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  54. Nothing to Fear
  55. Prophecy of Doom
  56. Tyger, Tyger
  57. Blind as a Bat
  58. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  59. Dreams In Darkness
  60. The Last Laugh
  61. Cat Scratch Fever
  62. Moon of the Wolf
  63. Paging the Crime Doctor
  64. Sideshow (NEW ENTRY)
  65. The Under-Dwellers
  66. The Forgotten
  67. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

Killer Croc (Aron Kincaid) (third appearance)

‘Vendetta’ is one of the more slept-on villain showcase episodes, and it did so much to establish the giant crocodile man as more than just a monster, as he hatched an elaborate plan, did some undercover work, and even had a dope underwater lair.

What we get here by contrast, is the mostly bumbling oaf that Batman did an impression of in ‘Almost Got ‘Im.’ For as good as Kincaid is voicing him, the writing is just nowhere near as good this time, and I can’t even really give him bonus points for almost killing Batman if not for a tranquiliser dart. Down he goes.

  1. The Joker
  2. Mr. Freeze
  3. Poison Ivy
  4. Harley Quinn
  5. Two-Face
  6. The Ventriloquist
  7. The Phantasm
  8. Mad Hatter
  9. Penguin
  10. Catwoman
  11. HARDAC (and Randa Duane)
  12. Clayface
  13. Ra’s al Ghul
  14. The Riddler
  15. Clock King
  16. Lloyd Ventrix
  17. Count Vertigo
  18. Killer Croc
  19. Josiah Wormwood
  20. Scarecrow
  21. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  22. Rupert Thorne
  23. Sid the Squid
  24. Maxie Zeus
  25. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  26. Tony Zucco
  27. Man-Bat
  28. Hugo Strange
  29. Red Claw
  30. Arnold Stromwell
  31. Mad Bomber
  32. Tygrus (and Dr. Dorian)
  33. Rhino, Mugsy and Ratso
  34. Kyodai Ken
  35. Gil Mason
  36. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  37. Cameron Kaiser
  38. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  39. Talia al Ghul
  40. Mad Dog
  41. Ubu
  42. Professor Milo
  43. Romulus
  44. Sewer King
  45. Boss Biggis
  46. 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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