The Matt Signal – Episode 85: Batgirl Returns

Plot summary: Season 2 concludes with an unlikely team-up between Batgirl and Catwoman investigating a stolen cat statue.

Site Banner

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!

Follow The Matt Signal on Twitter!

Notes

Episode Title: ‘Batgirl Returns’

Original Air Date: November 12th, 1994

Directed: Dan Riba (10)

Written: Michael Reaves (15) & Brynne Chandler (7)

Being the last episode in the series, this is the final appearance of a lot of characters, but most notably it’s Melissa Gilbert’s last time voicing Batgirl, who will be recast… twice.

The Chemist is modelled on Doctor Sivana, who you may only know from Mark Strong’s portrayal in Shazam!

Recap

Batman attempts to fight off Joker, Penguin AND Two-Face. It doesn’t go well for him until Batgirl arrives to clean house. He leans in to thank her with a kiss and… oh, this is a dream!

Barbara Gordon wakes up to Dick Grayson shouting through her dorm window asking her to go get pizza with him. She declines on account of having to study… but when she reads that a Jade Cat Statue was stolen the previous night, she decides to take a break after all.

Suiting up as Batgirl, Babs investigates the scene of the crime (her own university, conveniently enough!) and immediately encounters the obvious prime suspect: Catwoman. Selina professes her innocence, pointing out the evidence doesn’t fit her renowned methodology.

Naturally, Batgirl is suspicious, but before anything more can come of it Robin arrives and Selina immediately escapes. Dick gives Babs a hard time for no good reason, ignoring her claims that Catwoman is innocent. She gets the last laugh though, calling him a dork. Daaaaaamn.

The next day, Barbara finds a note pinned to a board addressed to ‘The Winged Mouse’, inviting her to meet at a pier. Surprisingly, Selina gushes with praise and offers an alliance to find the real thief. Babs reluctantly agrees.

They start at The Stacked Deck, Gotham’s premiere criminal hangout, where Selina immediately pinpoints a goof called The Chemist, demanding his assessment of the acid used in the robbery. He runs, leaving the ladies to a bar room brawl.

Fleeing the scene (and the police) on a stolen motorcycle, Selina and Barbara head for the factory where Roland Daggett developed the chemicals that created Clayface, and sure enough discover the Jade Cat Statue in a safe.

Daggett confronts the pair, confirming he took the statue to frame Selina as revenge for the events of ‘Cat Scratch Fever’. Before his men can execute them, Robin intervenes and the trio take out all the henchmen.

Selina pursues Daggett solo, disarms him and takes the statue for herself. Not content to leave it there, she attempts to drop him into a vat of chemicals, but Batgirl & Robin make the save.

Babs chases Selina down, correctly deducing this was her intention all along. Catwoman agrees to go quietly… but the cop car barely gets fifty feet before she seizes control of the vehicle, tosses the police out, and drives off into the sunset.

Best Performance

When I say there can only be two candidates, I don’t mean that as a comment on the fact Adrienne Barbeau and Melissa Gilbert have most of the dialogue, but rather a nod to how damn good they both are. They make for a great double act, playing off each other effectively, and the two actors do a great job of selling the experience difference between them. Gilbert has been fantastic at playing a teenager who is trying to sound like a confident woman, and it’s even more pronounced when she’s paired with Barbeau, who makes Selina own every room.

Ed Asner really was a great get for the series, and I wish he’d been given more meaty material to show off his talents. Loren Lester is a laughable stick in the mud, with ‘Robin’s Reckoning’ feeling like another lifetime.

Ranking

In some ways this was a proof of concept for The New Batman Adventures, pushing Batman aside to let the supporting cast take the lead, while simultaneously assassinating Robin’s already middling character. I’m not overly mad at them for that, as he’s been lame more often than not in the series, but there is something funny about casting one of comic books’ most popular characters as a grouchy know-it-all who impedes the progress of two badass women. He even calls Bruce in Paris (oh, he was in Paris by the way) to snitch on them.

Anyway, this is yet another excellently written Batgirl story from Brynne Chandler and her then-husband. Chandler has a deft handle on the character, and it turns out she writes a great Catwoman too, with the pair making natural frenemies. It all makes me wish that she gotten a chance to write more episodes of the show… although ‘Sideshow’ was really bad.

The animation more than pulled its weight, and I particularly enjoyed the dream sequence and how it warped back to reality, as well as Selina tricking Daggett with shadows during the final standoff. The various fights and chases scenes were exciting too.

It’s not the most exciting series finale you’ll ever see, but given the show was not written to be serial, and the network aired episodes in a wildly different order than they were produced, you can’t hold that against it.

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

Villain Watch

Catwoman (Adrienne Barbeaux) (seventh appearance)

It’s such a shame that we wasted so much time with Selina as a quasi-hero given how much more fun she is as an anti-hero/villain. Paul Dini proved that with ‘Catwalk’, and Brynne Chandler bolstered the argument here by giving us the best of both worlds. This episode underlines that she’s a god damn professional, judging the shoddy theft of the statue, cutting to the chase in the dive bar, and casually escaping police custody at the end. But it also highlighted the warmer side of her personality, with her soft spot for Batgirl seeming genuine to the end.

I think the most refreshing aspect to this final appearance is that by removing Batman from the equation, it proved she can be a fun character without being wildly flirtatious. Or rather, it proves that the character herself is good, not just the general enemies-to lovers-to-enemies dynamic that Bruce also has with Andrea Beaumont and Talia al Ghul. Her playful banter with Babs is still great, though. Again, best of both worlds.

I just don’t know if two strong appearances on the back end are enough to overcome things like ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ and ‘Tyger Tyger’ which harmed her character. I think I will leave her below Ventriloquist, but may regret it later.

Roland Daggett (Ed Asner) (fifth appearance)

It’s a nice continuity touch that Daggett held a grudge against Selina and was broke following the various legal expenses from his past appearances. It would have been nice to have had a line about Bruce Wayne being the one who was applying the legal pressure that ruined him, but you can’t have it all.

Asner continues to elevate what at times has threatened to be a middling villain into the top 25 (I’m bumping him up a couple of spots), but it is funny to think that he’s ended up being one of the larger recurring villains behind the usual suspects.

  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
  18. Lloyd Ventrix
  19. Killer Croc
  20. Rupert Thorne
  21. Count Vertigo
  22. Clock King
  23. Nivens
  24. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  25. Josiah Wormwood
  26. Scarecrow
  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. Condiment King/Pack Rat/Mighty Mom
  42. Grant Walker
  43. Gil Mason
  44. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  45. Cameron Kaiser
  46. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  47. Mad Dog
  48. Ubu
  49. Professor Milo
  50. Romulus
  51. Arkady Duvall
  52. Sewer King
  53. Boss Biggis
  54. Montague Kane
  55. 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.

My other recap column, Marvel Mondays, just finished coverage of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. To fill the time before Loki begins, I’ll be going back to WandaVision, with two episodes per week. Injustice corrected!

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s