The Matt Signal – Episode 82: Lock-Up

Plot summary: Arkham’s disgraced chief of security is frustrated by Gotham’s ineffectual criminal justice system so takes matters into his own hands.

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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: ‘Lock-Up’

Original Air Date: November 19th, 1994

Directed: Dan Riba (9)

Written: Paul Dini (22) (story) and Marty Isenberg ( ) & Robert N. Skir (3)

This marks the second episode in a row to open with Batman & Robin escorting Scarecrow back to Arkham. The script originally called for it to be Mad Hatter this time, but points were made about fear as a theme, which overruled continuity.

Isenberg & Skir wanted to call the character Deadbolt, but because Dini had used Lock-Up in his outline, it could not be changed. The fun of WGA rules, eh?

The original title of the episode was ‘Locked Without a Key’, a line of dialogue spoken by Bolton.

Recap

Just like last episode, we start off with Scarecrow being taken back to Arkham. This time, Crane pleads with the Dynamic Duo that he only escaped to try and get away with new chief of security, Lyle Bolton, an absolute unit of a man.

Talk of the devil, Bruce attends a hearing about Bolton’s conduct, with Harley Quinn, The Ventriloquist and Scarecrow declining to give testimony. Yet when they propose extending Bolton’s contract, the trio plead with them to reconsider, claiming he tortures them.

Bolton is furious, fighting off his fellow guards and threatening the inmates before being subtly tripped by Bruce. After being fired, he rants about Arkham’s revolving door and Gotham’s systemic issues, of which the criminals are a symptom, not a cause. Who is this guy, Mike Thomas?

Three weeks later, Summer Gleeson (remember her?) reports on Poison Ivy like a celebrity, further angering Bolton as he watches on TV.

Six months later, Bolton suits up as Lock-Up and abducts Gleeson moments after a dinner/interview with Bruce, who springs into action as Batman. Bolton gets the better of their exchange and injures Harvey Bullock and some cops during his escape. What a guy.

Bruce easily deduces Lock-Up’s identity thanks to the high-tech security equipment he used during the abduction and then sends Dick to check out his apartment in a scene that accomplishes nothing other than Fox’s insistence that Robin do more in season two.

Lock-Up kidnaps Dr. Bartholomew (remember him?), Jim Gordon and Hamilton Hill despite Batman personally help guard the Mayor and takes them all to his private prison to join Summer.

After analysing some rust samples left at crime scenes, Bruce discovers the location of said prison, a decommissioned ship that temporarily housed inmates intended for Stonegate. Guess who was chief of security on said ship…

Sneaking aboard, the pair are immediately discovered and targeted by Bolton and his security system. Robin frees the prisoners while Batman battles Lock-Up, with the ship sinking all the while. Bruce ends up handcuffed but wins the fight by hurling himself and Bolton into the sea, escaping his cuffs and emerging from the water victorious ‘cos Batman.

The episode ends with Bolton escorted to a cell in Arkham while the Rogues Gallery howl with laughter. Bolton is unbothered, feeling this only allows him to keep a closer eye on the criminals…

Best Performance

While it’s the kind of voice we hear pretty often on the show, Bruce Weitz’s gruff Lyle Bolton is perfect. He sounds exactly like he looks like he should; massive, grumpy and quick to anger. His smug, sinister behaviour before the truth comes out is great, especially his briefly successful attempt to hold back his rage at the hearing. I also enjoyed his conservative grumblings at the TV. Post-transformation it’s a little more one-note, but he’s still good.

Arleen Sorkin, George Dzundza and Henry Polic II make excellent cameos as the trio of witnesses at Bolton’s hearing, wildly changing their tune from being intimidated out of testifying to pleading with the board to free them from his savage treatment.

Ranking

It’s pretty surprising to see a Villain Spotlight on a debuting character so late into the run of the show, and it’s a pretty decent one at that. I’ll save discourse on Lock-Up himself for the next section, but the script made excellent use of continuity and its large cast, with Bolton’s hearing being the best scene, including Bruce’s attempts to operate in public without giving the game away.

The condemned ship set-piece in the climax felt like something they had been kicking around for a while and attached to this episode, and while it didn’t feel like it came out of nowhere, it is lacking a little atmospherically. Lock-Up just kind of kicks Batman’s ass all over the ship in relative silence, while Robin’s attempts to rescue the hostages goes worse and worse until it suddenly doesn’t. Livening up the music or trimming the action down to the highlights might have helped.

That, combined with some of Bolton’s draw-backs (see below), make it feel like an inferior version of ‘Bane’, which also concluded on a boat, funnily enough.

  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. Harley’s Holiday
  33. Lock-Up (New Entry)
  34. Shadow of the Bat Part II
  35. Feat of Clay Part I
  36. His Silicon Soul
  37. Off Balance
  38. Vendetta
  39. Birds of a Feather
  40. Heart of Steel Part I
  41. On Leather Wings
  42. See No Evil
  43. The Clock King
  44. It’s Never Too Late
  45. Joker’s Wild
  46. Eternal Youth
  47. The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
  48. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  49. Zatanna
  50. Day of the Samurai
  51. Avatar
  52. The Demon’s Quest Part I
  53. The Mechanic
  54. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  55. Terror in the Sky
  56. P.O.V.
  57. Christmas with the Joker
  58. Fear of Victory
  59. Be a Clown
  60. The Worry Men
  61. What is Reality?
  62. Fire From Olympus
  63. Night of the Ninja
  64. Mudslide
  65. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  66. Nothing to Fear
  67. The Lion and the Unicorn
  68. Prophecy of Doom
  69. Tyger, Tyger
  70. Blind as a Bat
  71. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  72. Dreams In Darkness
  73. The Last Laugh
  74. Cat Scratch Fever
  75. Moon of the Wolf
  76. Paging the Crime Doctor
  77. Time Out of Joint
  78. Sideshow
  79. The Under-Dwellers
  80. The Forgotten
  81. Showdown
  82. The Terrible Trio
  83. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

Lock-Up (Bruce Weitz) (first appearance)

This is a heck of a good character concept for the show to attempt after 80 episodes. It’s just one that needed a little fine tuning to become truly special. Inside him are two wolves: One has a legitimate political angle, criticising the media’s glamorisation of the Rogues Gallery and Gotham’s very true to life problems with putting greater emphasis on punishment than root causes of crime. The other has a raging hard-on for abuse of his own power. The former is shockingly interesting for a children’s cartoon, but in my opinion they undermine each other. He’s either too socially conscious to truly rob the inmates of their basic human dignity, or he’s too torture-happy to speak truth to power in the first place.

I’m being hard on the character because of how much potential it had, reflected by DC transplanting him over to the comics like Harley Quinn and Renee Montoya. And I do love how he’s such a physical beast who kicks Batman’s ass, and exploits his background in security for his supervillain arsenal.

My favourite little touch was him taking offence to Gordon’s offer of a more lenient sentence if he surrenders. Never compromise!

  1. The Joker
  2. Harley Quinn
  3. Poison Ivy
  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. Lock-Up (New Entry)
  18. Lloyd Ventrix
  19. Killer Croc
  20. Rupert Thorne
  21. Count Vertigo
  22. Clock King
  23. Nivens
  24. Josiah Wormwood
  25. Scarecrow
  26. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  27. Talia al Ghul
  28. Sid the Squid
  29. Queen Thoth Khepera
  30. Maxie Zeus
  31. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  32. Tony Zucco
  33. Man-Bat
  34. Hugo Strange
  35. Red Claw
  36. Arnold Stromwell
  37. Mad Bomber
  38. Tygrus
  39. Rhino, Mugsy and Ratso
  40. Kyodai Ken
  41. Gil Mason
  42. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  43. Cameron Kaiser
  44. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  45. Mad Dog
  46. Ubu
  47. Professor Milo
  48. Romulus
  49. Arkady Duvall
  50. Sewer King
  51. Boss Biggis
  52. Montague Kane
  53. 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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