The Matt Signal – Episode 96: The Ultimate Thrill

Plot summary: Adrenaline junky Roxy Rocket turns to a life of crime for the rush, believing she’s met a kindred spirit in Batman.

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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: ‘The Ultimate Thrill’

Original Air Date: September 14th, 1998

Directed: Dan Riba (14)

Written: Hilary J. Bader (3)

Roxy Rocket was an original creation by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm for the very strong The Batman Adventures Annual #1, designed with the intention of adding more women to the Rogues Gallery. She made a couple of cameos in other DC cartoons and a few main continuity comics, but never caught on.

The relaxed censorship rules of New Batman Adventures allowed for a tremendous amount of innuendo, culminating in Roxy simulating orgasm as she tells Bruce she “never knew it could be this way.”

Batman crashes through a truck labelled ‘Farmer Brown’, which will come up again in the forthcoming episode ‘Critters’.

Recap

Roxy Rocket robs a bunch of rich people on a blimp and then makes a dramatic escape by leaping out of an exit hatch and landing on her personal rocket 3,000 feet below, taking out a GCPD helicopter pursuing her. What a gal.

Batman tries his luck, but after an exciting aerial chase, Roxy wins a game of chicken that damages the Batwing, forcing him into a barely-controlled landing, utilising some nifty emergency stoppage devices in the entrance tunnel to the Batcave.

Bruce provides Alfred with exposition on Roxy from his files; she was a prolific stuntwoman who pulled a Tom Cruise and become uninsurable due to her constantly upping the danger levels of her scenes.

Theorising she’d need a fence to offload her stolen goods, Bruce is immediately proven right as we see Roxy meet with The Penguin. She attempts to double her earnings via a game of high card draw, but Oswald declines and scolds her for her reckless attitude.

Lucius Fox unveils a work of art Bruce spent a great deal of money acquiring, which naturally leads to Roxy crashing through the window and stealing it. She fires a flare into the Gotham skyline that illuminates a Bat Symbol, inviting the Caped Crusader to chase her yet again.

This time Bats uses a jetpack, hoping for greater manoeuvrability, and this time it’s Roxy who is forced into an emergency landing after he disables her rocket. Undeterred, she tosses the artwork off a ledge, which Bruce naturally almost dies trying to save, allowing her to escape.

Batgirl reports Roxy’s ties to Penguin, just as Oswald ends their partnership and even tries to kill her, but she makes yet another daring escape.

Bruce breaks into Penguin’s penthouse and interrogates him about Roxy. Oz trashes his own apartment trying to shoot the vigilante, but ultimately finds himself dangling over the balcony.

At an airfield, Roxy takes out a trio of Penguin’s henchwomen and once again takes to the skies on a new rocket just as Batman arrives. Seeing no other option, Bruce boards a second rocket (thank goodness she built two spares!) and gives chase.

Ending up on the same rocket, Batman and Roxy again play chicken, with Roxy threatening to crash into a canyon wall. Bruce does his best to call her bluff, but is forced to drag her off at the last second, safely parachuting down to the gathering police below.

Best Performance

Roxy Rocket lives and dies by Charity James’ ability to pull of some pretty ridiculous lines, and she more than rises to the occasion, even doing her best to stick the landing of the orgasm she’s asked to fake at the end of the episode. I feel looking at just that moment in a bubble would sour you on the entire thing, but that would be unfair to James, who tackled 20 minutes of zingers and banter with great aplomb. She’s playing in the same lane as Adrienne Barbeau, Dana Delaney and even a little Diane Pershing, and while she’s clearly not the actor those three are, it’s still a strong debut.

Paul Williams remains a great deal of fun as Penguin, and Tara Strong works well with her limited dialogue, particularly teasing Bruce about Roxy taking a shine to him.

Ranking

Another villain debut, another strong spotlight episode. In many ways it’s a shame that New Batman Adventures only lasted a single season, because they’ve really got their formula down pat at this point.

The pacing and structure are excellent, with Roxy getting three separate chase scenes with Batman, broken up by two tense meetings with Penguin, and Bruce doing his exposition and detective work in between all of that. Bats does a little better against Roxy with each encounter, both in terms of preparedness for the physicality, and because he gains a greater understanding of her psyche each time.

The only thing stopping it from cracking the top 20 is there’s perhaps a little too much focus on Roxy, to the point one can tell how hard they’re trying to make her a thing. She deserved to be one, but they could have dialled it back 10%, and perhaps addressed Bruce’s own flare for danger more directly than a joke by Batgirl that he stone-faces.

Also they lose at least one ranking position for the insanity of the orgasm scene.

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

Villain Watch

Roxy Rocket (Charity James) (first appearance)

It’s funny what does and doesn’t catch on when it comes to comics. There are MUCH worse characters than Roxy out there that appear over and over again, but perhaps debuting so late into the run of the show before it moved on to the timeline of Batman Beyond hurt her legacy.

She’s feisty, funny, has an organic sense of physicality and two gimmicks; her old-timey pilot outfit and portable rocket, and her insatiable thirst for danger. The latter seems the kind of thing writers could get some mileage out of, while I imagine the former to be plenty of fun for artists.

I enjoyed all of her one-liners and flirtatious banter with Batman, even if it did get a little ridiculous at the very end. Heck, she took on three attackers at once and basically bested Bruce two and a half times, depending on how you want to analyse the… climax.

With repeated appearances, she had a real chance to become a top flight villain, with her daredevil shtick having a world of potential, both for bombastic action scenes and to dig into her tragic mental state, but alas.

Penguin (Paul Williams) (ninth appearance)

Again, I much prefer this version of Penguin, doing juuuuust good enough of a job at pretending to be a legitimate businessman to not get arrested. His stiff upper lip has been dialled way up and is never more apparent than when he declines Roxy’s offer of double-or-nothing. His irritation towards her is great, as is his preening around his apartment before Batman breaks in to accost him.

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

There Will Be Movies returns soon with Ben & Matt taking a look back at the 90s. If you can’t wait, why not check out the brand new honourable mentions episodes for the first two volumes?

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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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