The Matt Signal – Episode 89: Double Talk

Plot summary: Arnold Wesker attempts to lead a normal life with help from Bruce Wayne, but quickly begins to hear and see Scarface wherever he goes.

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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: ‘Double Talk’

Original Air Date: November 22nd, 1997

Directed: Curt Geda (2)

Written: Robert Goodman (1)

Clark Kent and Lois Lane are laying on the grass in the background of the scene where Wesker strolls through the park.

The scene at the docks is reused from ‘Sins of the Father’, with Two-Face briefly visible. Likewise, the scene where Scarface blows up the little bridge was later re-used in an episode of Superman: The Animated Series.

First episode written by Robert Goodman who would write for a tonne of animated DC shows and movies (including The Dark Knight Returns) as well as Elementary and Warehouse 13.

Recap

Arnold Wesker experiences a trippy nightmare wherein no matter how fast he runs he can’t escape the trunk containing Scarface. A demonic version of Batman joins the fray, leading to a shootout with some goons, and ultimately Scarface himself breaks free. Intense.

Wesker expresses apprehension about leaving Arkham Asylum despite being declared rehabilitated six months ago. His doctor puts him straight and he moves into a halfway house before beginning a job at Wayne Enterprises.

Speaking of Wayne, he and Lucius oversee the addition of two million dollars to a vault with a voice-activation lock. Spotting Wesker sorting mail, Bruce introduces himself and makes nice.

Mugsy and Rhino (remember them?) accost Wesker on his way home from work, demanding to know when Scarface is coming back. Batman rescues Wesker, who is spooked by the scene’s similarity to his nightmare.

Sure enough, Wesker begins hearing Scarface’s voice in his head and seeing his face wherever he goes. Bruce notices his erratic behaviour and spies on him, overhearing a telephone call between the two. Crazier still, he sees Scarface sitting in a phone booth but before he can get to it, he vanishes!

Chasing a very much alive ‘Scarface’ through some alleys and into a museum, Batman is almost buried under some enormous statues and the dummy gets away.

Batgirl analyses a recording of the phone call at the Batcave and confirms that while it sounds like Scarface, it isn’t. Bruce one-ups her by producing a hidden speaker he found in Wesker’s apartment.

Speaking of poor Arnold, he returns home from work the next day, bolts the door and unplugs the phone, but finds Scarface sitting on his sofa and finally gives in to temptation.

Batman interrogates a little person by the name of… Hips McManus… who confesses to wearing a Scarface costume on orders of Rhino & Mugsy, seeking to restore their old operation.

And restore it they did, forcing a captive Lucius Fox to open the vault so they can steal the $2million in untraceable bearer bonds. The heroes try to intervene but Scarface forces them into the vault with a bomb by threatening Lucius’ life.

Bruce ties the bomb to his grapple gun and launches it into a grate while Babs hacks the door open. By the time they reach the roof, Scarface has already turned on his henchmen as punishment for trying to think for themselves.

Batman knocks Scarface out of Wesker’s hand and after a tense standoff, Wesker opts to fire his gun at the dummy rather than our hero, destroying it once again. Mugsy and Rhino are carted off to prison and Wesker resumes his attempt at a normal life.

Best Performance

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but George Dzundza is spectacular, both as the skittish Wesker slowly descending into paranoid delusions, and the brutish Scarface, who seemed even chattier this time than in ‘Read My Lips’. A natural evolution from his appearances in previous episodes, this is Dzundza’s finest work.

Beyond that, we have two re-castings in this episode, as Mel Winkler takes over from Brock Peters as Lucius Fox, and Townsend Coleman replaces Joe Piscopo as Mugsy. They’re both okay.

The pair of little people in the episode are actually voiced by little people, which is a nice touch. Every time they do something like this I’m surprised due to how these things usually go.

Ranking

There are only so many Ventriloquist stories you can tell before the character begins to lose its impact, and this is sort of the last one you can do, with Wesker attempting to leave Scarface behind him, but being haunted by his old demons. They absolutely nailed it though, employing a series of fun little narrative devices to sell Wesker’s declining mental state. Honestly, this is as psychologically interesting as an episode has ever been.

I’m a sucker for a good dream sequence, and the one at the start allowed the animation team to get really weird with the art style. It paired really nicely with the Batman vs Rhino & Mugsy fight, driving home how traumatising Wesker finds violence.

I know ventriloquism isn’t the same as impersonation, but I do feel they left a plot point on the table with the voice-activated vault. I assumed Wesker was going to end up doing a perfect Lucius Fox voice, or perhaps even Hips McManus, given he fools everyone with his Scarface impression. Neither happening makes me wonder why the bothered with the voice-lock gimmick at all. But that’s a minor quibble.

It’s also nice to see evidence of Bruce using his money to help the city in the way obnoxious people insist he should do instead of being Batman. It also potentially plays into the subtle idea that while he talks the talk about trying to rehabilitate his foes, operating a halfway house and securing a job for Wesker, he also can’t help but spy on him as Batman because he’s the most paranoid, pessimistic man in the world.

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

Villain Watch

The Ventriloquist (George Dzundza) (fourth appearance)

Wesker has gone bald and his glasses are now transparent, while Scarface has had a full redesign. I don’t mind the latter, but I dug Wesker’s opaque glasses as they made him even harder to read. I assume that change was so we could see the full extent of his turmoil in this episode, but still.

The dynamic between Wesker and Scarface is sublime here, progressing from dreams to hallucinations and even a threat from Scarface to burst a blood vessel, acknowledging that Wesker DOES know it’s all in his head… but he still can’t resist. And that’s before we find out the whole thing is a frame-up, and Scarface ends up squaring the whole thing away by revealing he knew Mugsy & Rhino were behind the whole thing, and had simply been laying low, but felt a need to intervene as they’d gotten too big for their boots, which only makes him look better.

There seems to be a greater effort to show that Scarface is definitely just a puppet, with Wesker visibly manipulating his arm to throw a bomb near the end, and several shots of him sitting motionless while we hear his voice. That’s all fine, but it is charming when they find ways to blur the lines.

Regardless, this episode proves ‘Read My Lips’ wasn’t lightning in a bottle, along with Wesker’s little Arkham cameos here and there since his debut, and I’m moving him above Two-Face.

Rhino & Mugsy (Earl Boen/Townsend Coleman) (second appearance)

It was nice to see a return of the show’s best-executed henchmen, albeit with Ratso missing. Rhino is still the huge one who can give Batman more of a fight than 90% of his enemies, while Mugsy gets laid out twice without Bruce even looking when he does it. Yes. Yes to this.

I find it interesting that these two can’t make it work for themselves and go to insane lengths to gaslight their favourite former boss, but that it all blows up in their face and he almost murders them.

  1. The Joker
  2. Harley Quinn
  3. Mr. Freeze
  4. Poison Ivy
  5. The Ventriloquist
  6. Two-Face
  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. Rhino, Mugsy and Ratso
  35. Hugo Strange
  36. Red Claw
  37. Arnold Stromwell
  38. Mad Bomber
  39. Tygrus
  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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