The Matt Signal – Episode 75: Bane

Plot summary: Sick of Batman always foiling his schemes, Rupert Thorne hires the enormous assassin, Bane, to dispose of the vigilante once and for all.

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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: ‘Bane’

Original Air Date: September 10th, 1994

Directed: Kevin Altieri (19)

Written: Mitch Brian (3)

This is obviously heavily borrowing from Bane’s huge debut comic, ‘Knightfall’, albeit with toned down violence.

Despite the aforementioned comic’s popularity, the producers were hesitant to use Bane as they felt he was a little gimmicky. Didn’t stop Joel Schumacher…

Oh hey, Mitch Brian. It’s been a while! After writing the first and seventh episodes of the series he took a lengthy break to work on… Presence of Mind… or something.

Recap

Candice, Rupert Thorne’s right-hand woman not seen since ‘Two-Face’, eagerly awaits a plane at Gotham airport. The reason for her excitement? An enormous passenger wearing a suit and a luchador mask (an eternally dope look).

Rupert Thorne works up a sweat on a punching bag, KO-ing one of his smart-mouthed employees for making a crack about Batman. Speaking of which, Bane arrives and collects his advance payment, a suitcase full of diamonds.

Bane hatches his plan, unleashing Killer Croc in order to lure Batman out where he can be studied. Ever the good vigilantes, Batman & Robin swing into action and take down Croc’s accomplices before chasing the enormous reptile-man into the sewers.

Having seen enough, Bane mercilessly beats the piss out of Croc (with assistance from Venom). The Dynamic Duo drag his unconscious body back to the surface where they find the Batmobile a smoking wreck!

Interrogating the heavily-bandaged Croc in prison, Batman learns of the Venom and Bane’s accent, which is apparently all that’s needed to bring up some files on super-solider experiments in the Peña Dura prison. Hey guess who the subject was?

Candice and Bane conspire to take out Rupert Thorne after the job is complete and seal the deal with a kiss before Rupes arrives. Robin spies on the meeting but gets noticed and easily captured.

Batman follows Candice home and confronts her, but Bane telephones to gloat about capturing The Boy Wonder, whose costume flaps in the breeze across the street with rendezvous instructions pinned to it.

Arriving at the destination, Batman goes toe to toe with Bane, who shrugs off his strikes and counters his throws. He even survives being launched into the harbour with an enormous harpoon gun and crushes a Batarang like a toy.

But before the behemoth can break him in half, Batman wises up and slashes at his Venom-injection device, causing him to violently overdose on the super-steroid and pass out.

Bruce escorts the defeated Bane to Rupert Thorne’s office and unmasks him. Adding insult to injury, he plays a tape of Candice & Bane’s planned betrayal and then struts out, victorious. (Oh, and he also rescued Dick, who engaged Candice in a ridiculous water-fight during the dramatic climax.)

Best Performance

Tom Hardy obliviously left an indelible mark on Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, but for as good of an overall acting performance as it is… the voice is bad. Yet here is Henry Silva eighteen years earlier, perfectly capturing the essence of the character.

I assume most producers prefer Hardy impressions to try and cash in on a billion dollar movie, but before that Bane tended to be a generic shouty man. Heck, does he even have lines in Batman & Robin? Silva instead makes him Latino & Proud without sacrificing any of his sense of danger. He’s just an enormous, suave, slab of beef. There are even hints at the more intelligent persona that he tended to be missing in most non-TDKR adaptations.

John Vernon continues to be a great supporting actor, and Diane Michelle once again imbues Candice with such chaotic, traitorous energy. I wish she appeared more, to be honest.

Ranking

I remembered liking this one a lot less a few years ago than I did this time around. It’s as good of a villain-centric episode as you’ll find in the whole series, with a tantalising set-up, solid raising of the stakes, and a surprisingly satisfying payoff.

The visuals, particularly the cityscape scenes, are a notable step backwards. I’m not sure if it was in production for a long time or the exact opposite, but it was bothersome to me at first. It’s not a total loss though, with an excellent shot where Candice opens a mirrored door, with Batman appearing in the reflection when she closes it again. But the writing and voice acting do most of the heavy lifting here.

The fight scene was shockingly good for how obviously rushed it was, with Batman giving up on strikes and moving to lucha-takedowns, only for Bane to get wise and counter him. That kind of silent trial and error progression, telling a story through physicality, is all I’m looking for in a fight scene to be honest.

The only thing keeping it from going higher is that it’s basically pure-action, while almost every episode above it has a strong emotional backdrop. The few that don’t are superlative Paul Dini masterpieces.

  1. The Laughing Fish
  2. Mask of the Phantasm
  3. Almost Got ‘im
  4. Heart of Ice
  5. Harlequinade
  6. The Trial
  7. Shadow of the Bat Part I
  8. I Am the Night
  9. Robin’s Reckoning Part I
  10. The Man Who Killed Batman
  11. Perchance to Dream
  12. Two-Face Part I
  13. Bane
  14. A Bullet For Bullock
  15. Joker’s Favor
  16. Read My Lips
  17. Feat of Clay Part II
  18. Catwalk
  19. The Demon’s Quest Part II
  20. Harley and Ivy
  21. Robin’s Reckoning Part II
  22. House & Garden
  23. Beware the Gray Ghost
  24. Mad as a Hatter
  25. Heart of Steel Part II
  26. Appointment In Crime Alley
  27. Two-Face Part II
  28. Pretty Poison
  29. Shadow of the Bat Part II
  30. Feat of Clay Part I
  31. His Silicon Soul
  32. Off Balance
  33. Vendetta
  34. Birds of a Feather
  35. Heart of Steel Part I
  36. On Leather Wings
  37. See No Evil
  38. The Clock King
  39. It’s Never Too Late
  40. Joker’s Wild
  41. Eternal Youth
  42. The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
  43. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  44. Zatanna
  45. Day of the Samurai
  46. Avatar
  47. The Demon’s Quest Part I
  48. The Mechanic
  49. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  50. Terror in the Sky
  51. P.O.V.
  52. Christmas with the Joker
  53. Fear of Victory
  54. Be a Clown
  55. The Worry Men
  56. What is Reality?
  57. Fire From Olympus
  58. Night of the Ninja
  59. Mudslide
  60. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  61. Nothing to Fear
  62. Prophecy of Doom
  63. Tyger, Tyger
  64. Blind as a Bat
  65. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  66. Dreams In Darkness
  67. The Last Laugh
  68. Cat Scratch Fever
  69. Moon of the Wolf
  70. Paging the Crime Doctor
  71. Time Out of Joint
  72. Sideshow
  73. The Under-Dwellers
  74. The Forgotten
  75. The Terrible Trio
  76. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

Bane (Henry Silva) (first appearance)

Say what you want about the pale blue tights, the suited version at the start of the episode absolutely rules, threading the needle by going neither full wacky Luchador nor Hulk-rip-off. That’s helped by little touches like him ducking to get off the plane, Candice’s car sagging when he gets in it, a flunky struggling to lift his suitcase (which he carried with ease), and hitting a punching bag so hard it flies off its chain. These things go a long way.

They also do a great job of establishing he’s more than a big dumb meathead, deploying a plan to study his opponent and spotting Robin from across the street and then hunting him down with ease. Plus he kicks Croc’s ass off-camera, which is doubly-effective as he establishes himself as the new upper echelon for physical challenges to Batman. Of course he ultimately loses to our hero at the end of the episode, but only when Bruce exploits a weakness.

He’s going to debut very high, just below the show’s true elite. I look forward to him not being used this well again outside of comic books for eighteen years!

Rupert Thorne (John Vernon) (eighth appearance)

As has been his role throughout the series, Thorne comes in tremendously handy when trying to facilitate certain plots. He’s Batman’s richest ‘normal’ villain (no clue if he’s meant to be wealthier than Penguin), which makes him perfect for an episode about a ruthless mercenary.

I’ll give him a generous bump back into the top 20.

Killer Croc (Aron Kincaid) (fifth appearance)

Despite only appearing for a couple of minutes, this is easily Croc’s second best outing. Bane selects him because he’s the only villain who approximates his own size (making Bane look smarter, and ensuring Croc is plot-essential). He pulls off a brazen robbery while wearing an enormous trench coat, presumably a reference to his disguise in ‘Vendetta’, and then gets his reward for a job well done: a savage beating from Bane and some torture from Batman.

Thanks for playing, Croc, and welcome back to the top twenty as well!

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

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… and The Snyder Cut!

Apparently doing this twice a week wasn’t enough for me as I’ve just launched Marvel Mondays which will recap the most recent episode of the various MCU TV Shows, starting with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

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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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