The Matt Signal – Episode 87: Sins of the Father

Plot summary: Batman saves a young Tim Drake from Two-Face, but inadvertently reveals his secret identity to the boy in the process.

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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: ‘Sins of the Father’

Original Air Date: September 20th, 1997

Directed: Curt Geda (1)

Written: Rich Fogel (1)

Tim Drake’s origin was dramatically changed because the producers preferred the idea of the Bat Family living together (minus Babs of course), making Tim’s nice, alive parents an inconvenience. They were apparently unaware that they accidentally turned him into Jason Todd, who wouldn’t be acknowledged in this continuity until Batman: The Adventures Continue in 2020.

This is Curt Geda’s first time in the director’s chair after working on the original series as a storyboard artist. He’s also the first new director on the show since Dan Riba all the way back in episode 17!!!

Elements of this episode were adapted for The Batman Adventures: The Lost Years miniseries, which attempted to bridge the gap between the two eras of the show. These issues did pretty well in my ranking of the comics.

Recap

Tim Drake steals a cop’s donuts, escaping him with the assistance of a Batarang he scavenged. Returning to his apartment, he finds a pair of heavies looking for his father, Steven ‘Shifty’ Drake, an acquaintance of Two-Face.

Dent captures the boy and demands to know his father’s whereabouts. Timmy holds up to interrogation, but they find a key and accompanying letter in his pocket that confirms Shifty skipped town.

Two-Face orders Tim killed, but Batman arrives and starts punching people. Dent evens the odds by triggering a huge explosion, with Bats scooping Tim up to get him to safety.

Unfortunately, Bruce is injured in the process, and can do no more than tell the Bat-Boat’s autopilot to take them home. Alfred is naturally surprised to find a small boy in the cockpit.

Tim pokes around the Batcave excitedly, querying what happened to Robin. Alfred is too distracted dealing with Bruce’s injuries and doesn’t notice the boy head upstairs to the main house where he quickly discovers his idol’s secret identity.

Batgirl escorts him back downstairs where Bruce has recovered enough to be filled in on Tim’s connection to Two-Face.

Following Shifty’s note, Batman & Batgirl confront Two-Face and his cronies at Gotham Airport, where Harvey has retrieved his stolen goods from a storage locker. Bruce does not fare too well due to his injuries from earlier, allowing the villains to get away.

Back at the cave, the team learn Shifty’s body was found in a river in Metropolis. Ever the pragmatist, Bruce continues to grill the boy about what exactly his father stole from Two-Face rather than offering him any comfort whatsoever.

Luckily, Harv fills everybody in by issuing a ransom demand: $22m by 2am or he unleashes a deadly compound that will kill everybody in Gotham. Tim suggests Two-Face is hiding out in the abandoned Janus Theater and asks to accompany the heroes, but Bruce refuses.

Naturally, he steals one of Dick’s old costumes and joins the fray, where Bruce and Babs have already beaten up all of Harvey’s henchmen.

Tim is taken hostage almost immediately, but tosses his Batarang to cause a lighting rig to fall on Dent. Batman takes out Two-Face and Batgirl disables the gas.

Later, Bruce begins Tim’s training while Barbara and Alfred look on. He lays down the rules for the new Robin… just as the old one, Dick Grayson, makes his dramatic return!

Best Performance

Child actors are generally terrible, so the decision to bring in Mathew Valencia at around 15 years old to play Tim Drake is one I was dreading when it came to this category. Therefore nobody is more surprised than me to be tipping my cap to him in his first proper outing as the new Robin. I’m stunned that he managed to perform Tim’s smart-ass, ‘streetwise’ dialogue in a way that wasn’t annoying.

It wasn’t a towering piece of acting by any stretch, but given the entire episode hinged on his ability to pull it off, he easily exceeded expectations. Honestly, he was probably better than Loren Lester, who was over 30 when he portrayed a college-aged Dick Grayson in the original series (presumably to try and avoid the nightmarish Fox censorship rules around children in dangerous situations).

Kevin Conroy is now playing Bruce and Batman as essentially 1:1, and was asked to make both sterner due to the emphasis on him as a mentor to Tim and Barbara, and to contrast him with the more playful Dick (lolol). As you’d expect, he more than rises to that challenge, but this is the Tim Drake show.

Ranking

This should very clearly have been the first episode of the season as it has such massive ramifications on the general status quo, with a new Robin, changes to Batman’s demeanour, Batgirl stepping up to become the main sidekick, and a tease of Nightwing at the end, all of which were good to great.

Robin was one of the weaker links in the original series, and his (Fox-mandated) increased presence in the second season got pretty bothersome. Conversely, this is a nicely done story, largely thanks to Tim being both likeable and sympathetic as a Batman Stan who crosses paths with his hero organically thanks to his tragic family situation. His prized possession, a reclaimed Batarang, is set up in the opening scene, revisited in second act and then pays off in the climax. Solid fundamental storytelling.

The unintended reveal of Bruce’s secret identity to a civilian is executed pretty well too, with him injuring himself saving a child from certain death and having no choice but to either leave them both there to die, or take him to his inner sanctum, where Tim’s precocious nature leads him to the truth.

Bruce’s motivations for agreeing to take him in are left as subtext, but my read is he is trying to fill a void left by his long-time stepson as well as an irrational attempt to fix the past by correcting the mistakes that drove Dick away.

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

Villain Watch

Two-Face (Richard Moll) (ninth appearance)

Dent’s design is pretty much the same, though there may have been some subtle retouching of his facial features. He certainly moves differently, thanks to the new animation style.

Either way, he remains effective as a villain thanks to Moll getting to play him as straight-up intimidating as hell again. The teases of Harvey’s lingering humanity are narratively engaging, but every so often we need a good old fashioned menacing appearance from him that adheres to his gimmick. I enjoyed the little touches like the Janus hideout, the $22m by 2am and that his chemical compound required combing two separate agents.

  1. The Joker
  2. Harley Quinn
  3. Mr. Freeze
  4. Poison Ivy
  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!

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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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