The Matt Signal – Episode 80: Second Chance

Plot summary: Batman races to discover who kidnapped Harvey Dent moments before he was to undergo surgery to reverse his physical condition.

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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: ‘Second Chance’

Original Air Date: September 17th, 1994

Directed: Boyd Kirkland (20)

Written: Paul Dini (20) & Michael Reaves (14) (story) and Gerry Conway (2)

Some feel this episode is laying the groundwork for Dick Grayson’s split from Batman and breaking out as Nightwing.

Two-Face being undone by his coin landing on its edge was a key component to his debut comic appearance, only that was a happy accident rather than a deliberate deception by Batman.

The final appearances for Two-Face, Penguin and Rupert Thorne in the series.

Recap

Batman & Robin watch over a hospital where Harvey Dent is taken for surgery to fix his face. I’m not saying doctors should postpone surgeries on supervillains when there’s an ominous thunderstorm raging outside, but I’m not not saying it either.

After a brief flashback to the events of Dent’s disfigurement (which I believe is actually a recreation rather than a re-use of old footage), Harvey is put under while babbling about Bruce Wayne being his best friend. Brucey of course paid for the surgery.

Suddenly a masked crew burst in with tommy guns and kidnap the unconscious Two-Face. The Dynamic Duo give chase, splitting up to go after the two getaway vehicles. Robin’s gets away from him.

Batman fares better, running the second vehicle off the road thanks to some insane motorcycle stunts. Unfortunately, Harvey was in Robin’s car, leading to some minor tension between our heroes.

Dick looks into a lead to Rupert Thorne and is quickly captured. The mobster laughs off the notion he was behind it (despite the getaway van being in his name) and has his men dump Robin in the river. Thankfully the Boy Wonder is able to free himself and kicks their asses.

Meanwhile Batman investigates Stonegate Prison, as Two-Face undercut Penguin in the recent past. Cobblepot also denies his involvement and then sets some pigeons on Bruce, who nearly falls to his death.

Returning to the hospital, Batman discovers a suspicious footprint and then dumps Robin in order to close the case alone. Dick ain’t too pleased.

Batman heads for the derelict remains of a swanky club he and Harvey used to frequent, and sure enough it’s revealed Two-Face himself was behind the job. Bruce is quickly captured by Harv’s men.

Two-Face plans to leave Bruce in the dynamite-laden building, but of course flips a coin to decide. Batman insists he let it hit the floor to ensure no tricky, but when Harvey does just that it lands on its side! He repeats the toss twice to the same result.

This provides Batman the time he needs to escape bondage and begin taking down Dent’s men while the villain continues frantically flipping the coin and chasing it around the remains of the building, even chasing it over the edge!

Bruce grabs Harvey’s hand and reveals he switched the coin for a trick one during their tussle and demands he choose life or death for himself. While he seems to choose the former, Two-Face regains control and punches Batman, accepting his fatal fall!

Luckily Robin swoops in and saves him (after first saving his thugs as the building is about to explode). Bruce sees Harvey back to Arkham and they exchange some sombre words. Bats thanks his sidekick for always being there for him.

Best Performance

Richard Moll usually waltzes calmly into this honour given how well he characterises Harvey’s two personalities, but I’m actually going to go with Kevin Conroy. Ya know, for a change.

The Two-Face persona is in control for almost the entire episode, and even when Harvey has his little moments, Moll only slightly softens the voice. Conversely, Conroy deftly handles Batman’s tense bickering with Robin, making sure to pull back on the blame and offer a heartfelt apology, only to later sternly declare he’s going it alone the rest of the way. It’s a performance that hits every note of the script’s intentions for Bruce’s emotional journey.

Loren Lester is pretty good here too, pouting about Bruce’s attitude, yet managing to not come across as obnoxious.

Ranking

This might as well have been called ‘Two-Face Part III’, as it heavily invokes his debut two-parter. I would say it’s better than part two but not as good as part one. There’s plenty to like, but it somehow ends up being less than the sum of its parts.

In theory this is a compelling story about Bruce watching the redemption of his best friend slip through his fingers, only to realise Dick has filled the void left by Harvey. In practice it feels like it doesn’t quite stick the landing, devoting a lot of time to the red herrings, which aren’t all that fun despite seeming it on paper.

I like the idea of Dent leaving two fake-outs to fit his obsession with duality, and they split Batman & Robin up to further the B-plot of trust issues. But the Penguin one in particular is bad, and neither of our heroes came away looking tremendously capable. Dick immediately gets captured only to dramatically escape, and Bruce nearly suffers death via pigeon. It felt like a missed opportunity to try and demonstrate the difference between the two, but perhaps the opposite was the point; they are more successful together than apart.

The final showdown is powerful, and had the rest of the episode matched its level of quality, this would land many spots higher, but ultimately it ends up being the least interesting version of a compelling idea.

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

Villain Watch

Two-Face (Richard Moll) (eighth appearance)

It’s a shame that despite having so many appearances, Two-Face has rarely taken centre-stage, though some of this may have been part of Bruce Timm’s philosophy about holding off on over-using villains with emotionally impactful spotlight episodes.

The reveal that Dent himself was responsible for his kidnapping was a little obvious, but it’s still good character work, selling the split personality, and re-enforced by his quieter moments of reflection where Harvey is in control.

Completely ignoring Batman’s escape and battle against his henchmen, and then wandering over the edge of a building because he can’t make a decision without his coin is A-Tier character work. I’m half tempted to give him a bump over Mr. Freeze, who has another appearance coming up. We’ll see how that goes.

Rupert Thorne (John Vernon) (ninth appearance)

I’m glad Rupes made an appearance given how strongly this episode was tied into Two-Face’s initial transformation, for which Thorne was responsible. He didn’t really do anything of great merit, but it felt like a necessary check-in, and his men did capture and almost murder Robin. Let’s give him one last bump, more because I feel he’s been a little too low, rather than on the strength of the cameo.

Penguin (Paul Williams) (seventh appearance)

Not the strongest of cameos for Oswald, unless you get a kick out of him training a bunch of pigeons to do his bidding. He babbles on about the code of honour between villains and tries to get Batman captured by the prison security guards and that’s about it.

I won’t penalise him, given the brevity of the appearance, but it’s not good!

  1. The Joker
  2. Poison Ivy
  3. Harley Quinn
  4. Mr. Freeze
  5. Two-Face
  6. The Ventriloquist
  7. Catwoman
  8. The Riddler
  9. The Phantasm
  10. Baby-Doll
  11. Bane
  12. Mad Hatter
  13. Penguin
  14. HARDAC (and Randa Duane)
  15. Clayface
  16. Ra’s al Ghul
  17. Lloyd Ventrix
  18. Killer Croc
  19. Rupert Thorne
  20. Count Vertigo
  21. Clock King
  22. Nivens
  23. Josiah Wormwood
  24. Scarecrow
  25. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  26. Talia al Ghul
  27. Sid the Squid
  28. Queen Thoth Khepera
  29. Maxie Zeus
  30. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  31. Tony Zucco
  32. Man-Bat
  33. Hugo Strange
  34. Red Claw
  35. Arnold Stromwell
  36. Mad Bomber
  37. Tygrus
  38. Rhino, Mugsy and Ratso
  39. Kyodai Ken
  40. Gil Mason
  41. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  42. Cameron Kaiser
  43. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  44. Mad Dog
  45. Ubu
  46. Professor Milo
  47. Romulus
  48. Arkady Duvall
  49. Sewer King
  50. Boss Biggis
  51. Montague Kane
  52. 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.

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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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