The Matt Signal – Episode 97: Over the Edge

Plot summary: Following the death of his daughter, Jim Gordon unleashes the full fury of the GCPD on the Bat Family, now fully aware of their identities!

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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: ‘Over the Edge’

Original Air Date: May 23rd, 1998

Directed: Yuchiro Yano (1)

Written: Paul Dini (28)

One of only three episodes to feature the entire Bat Family, though never all in the same place. It is also the only time James Gordon and Alfred appear in a scene together.

While the censors at WB Kids were far more relaxed than those at Fox, they did draw the line at Barbara’s ‘death’ scene, which was originally an even more violent head-on collision.

Paul Dini took the idea from an episode of The Simpsons. I can’t find anything on which specific episode it was, but for some reason the first that came to mind for me was ‘The Telltale Head’.

Some of the plot synopses for the episode spoil the reveal. Not mine, though!

Recap

We join as ‘in-media-res’ as any episode of anything has ever been, as Batman & Robin run for their lives into the depths of the Batcave while Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock lead a heavily armed SWAT team after them with permission to fire at will!!!

The cops blow up the damn Batmobile, forcing Batman & Robin to escape in the Batboat, with Alfred giving himself up to buy them more time. But heck, there are police boats too! Luckily, Nightwing saves them. Goodness.

Regrouping in a hidden cave, Batman fills Dick in on the details of Batgirl’s DEATH after an encounter with the Scarecrow, who knocked her off a skyscraper. Wilder still, she slammed down onto the hood of Jim Gordon’s police cruiser and died moments later in his arms.

Bruce and Tim escaped Harvey Bullock, and later that night Jim used Barbara’s computer to discover their identities, unleashing the full fury of the GCPD, enraged that his daughter was put in the line of fire. Thus he ordered the raid on Wayne Manor that began the episode.

Nightwing offers to gather supplies from his bachelor pad, but Renee Montoya and the cops are waiting for him. He fights his way out, but can’t evade police choppers and is led away in cuffs on live TV.

Bruce tells Tim to give himself up now as Gordon won’t give up his crusade… which is made all the more personal as the District Attorney’s office puts pressure on the Commissioner to step down due to his daughter’s vigilantism.

Desperate, Jim uses his dwindling power to have Bane released from prison to take down Batman, and even uses Barbara’s funeral as a trap, with snipers directing Bruce into the enormous mercenary’s path.

The two brawl across the rooftops, with Bane ultimately tossing Bats at Gordon’s feet. Jim tells Bane that he wants Bruce to rot away in Arkham, but the mercenary reneges on their deal and seemingly hurls them both to their death!!!

… until Barbara wakes up in the Batcave. Turns out she dreamt the entire episode, with her being exposed to Fear Toxin during their encounter with Scarecrow.

Riddled with guilt, Barbara tries to tell her father everything, but Jim stops her in her tracks and tells her she’s capable of making her own decisions, doesn’t need his approval and he loves her, HEAVILY implying he knows already and is cool with it.

Best Performance

Bob Hastings has rarely gotten any love from me in this category, which is a real shame. He’s done some terrific work as Jim Gordon, it’s just that he never gets a focus episode, and thus even his best work has fallen a little short of the heavier hitters. But I’m prepared to at last tip my hat to him on the strength of how he plays Barbara’s death. The quiet rage of his telephone call to Bruce ahead of the raid is chilling, and you can feel every ounce of his anger before it ultimately morphs into despair as his job hangs in the balance and he finds himself siding with Bane. Finally, he absolutely crushes the final lines of the episodes, expressing the full extent of his love and trust in his daughter.

Speaking of the phone conversation, Kevin Conroy is REALLY good here as well. His sorrow over what happened to Barbara, his pleas to Jim, his heart-wrenching decision to banish Tim and his general despondence at the situation are all dynamite.

Heck, this is potentially Tara Strong’s best work to date and she’s only in the final two minutes!

Ranking

This episode more of an impression on The Reel World’s founder, Mike Thomas, than any other during our brief dip into BTAS as part of The Tape Crusaders several years ago. And for good reason. Superlative scripting from the master, Paul Dini goes hand in hand with what’s arguably the most intense action in the entire animated Batman oeuvre.

The decision to hit the ground running by breaking one of the unwritten rules of Batman mythos, with Jim Gordon raiding the Batcave, fully aware of Bruce’s secret identity and ordering his officers to shoot to kill was an absolute masterstroke. Not only is it thrilling to watch, as our hero feels in more danger than at any time in the show, and it’s utterly impossible to not be reeled in on Dini’s intended hook of “how on earth did we get here???”

And how we got there is pretty wild too! Batgirl’s shockingly violent murder is undeniably effective, and the follow-up is sublime, with Bob Hastings and Kevin Conroy putting on a voice acting clinic. All of this makes the first half of the episode FLY by.

Aside from Mask of the Phantasm and a couple of very early scenes in season one, the GCPD have almost never directed their focus to Batman, but the relentlessness of their pursuit is quite something, thwarting our heroes at every turn and coming close to taking them out. Nightwing’s arrest owns, too.

That leads us to the desperate gambit to set Bane on Bruce, and the series goes two for two in exciting fight scenes between the two before our big ‘it was all a dream’ reveal. While that may be the biggest cliché in storytelling, they achieve so much that I couldn’t possibly be mad about it.

Heck, it’s not like it was for nothing, as it leads to the heart to heart between the Gordons at the end, which is equal parts touching and compelling, as they get to have their cake and eat it, as you can interpret how much Jim knows however you like.

In fact, having their cake and eating it summarises this entire episode pretty succinctly. As good of a ‘What If?’ story as you could hope to see, and if not for the wide-reaching ambition of Mask of the Phantasm and my belief that ‘The Laughing Fish’ is the perfect 22-minute distillation of Batman, this would be number one in my eyes.

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

Villain Watch

Scarecrow (Jeff Bennett) (fifth appearance)

I wasn’t going to rank him because he doesn’t even speak (with Jeff Bennett providing his laugh rather than Jeffrey Combs), but murdering a member of the Bat Family gets you some serious cred, even if it was just a dream. I’ve also robbed him of a couple of write-ups in previous episodes as he was basically just making a cameo, so let’s combine those with this, too.

Go on, scamper into the top 20, you little weirdo!

Bane (Henry Silva) (second appearance)

Sigh. Surely there is a middle ground between the baby blue wrestling tights and this borderline bondage costume. Adjusting the colour scheme is nice, but I miss the original mask and hate the studded collar and cuffs.

That aside, he continues to own as Batman’s ultimate physical challenge, which was the only thing Killer Croc really had going for him before he was reduced to mostly comic relief. It’s a brief appearance, with him only arriving in the final act, but that Gordon chose him of all the potential candidates speaks volumes, and they manage to squeeze in a pretty solid fight scene between the rivals considering the time restraints.

Not only does he kick Batman’s ass a little, he condemns him as a killer of children, a nice little touch for a character with a vague code of conduct… of course he has no problem breaking his deal with Gordon, but still!

Again, dream or not, he basically murders Batman and Jim Gordon, albeit with his possible dying breaths, and that’s huge. I would love to bump him even higher up the list, but the emotionally gripping spotlight episodes of the top 7 are basically impossible for him to top.

  1. The Joker
  2. Harley Quinn
  3. Mr. Freeze
  4. Poison Ivy
  5. The Ventriloquist
  6. Catwoman
  7. Two-Face
  8. Bane
  9. The Riddler
  10. The Phantasm
  11. Baby-Doll
  12. Mad Hatter
  13. Clayface
  14. HARDAC (and Randa Duane)
  15. Ra’s al Ghul
  16. Roxy Rocket
  17. Killer Croc
  18. Firefly
  19. Penguin
  20. Scarecrow
  21. Lock-Up
  22. Lloyd Ventrix
  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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