The Matt Signal – Episode 100: Cult of the Cat

Plot summary: Selina Kyle pleads with Batman to keep her safe after stealing from a cat-obsessed cult.

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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: ‘Cult of the Cat’

Original Air Date: September 18th, 1998

Directed: Butch Lukic (3)

Written: Paul Dini (29) (story) & Stan Berkowitz (2)

Catwoman’s final appearance on the show.

Thomas Blake is the real name of comic villain Catman.

Despite relaxed censorship compared to Fox, Bruce’s costume getting shredded results in zero physical damage underneath.

Recap

Catwoman, cat statue in hand, flees from a group of… cat ninjas?… through a hedge maze. An enormous jaguar threatens her but she of course charms it and escapes. An insufferably wealthy man watches all this from his mansion balcony and orders more cat ninjas to capture the thief.

The guards continue chasing Selina through Gotham, so she seeks out Batman for protection, letting herself into the Batmobile while he’s dealing with some jewel thieves.

Bruce does some evasive driving, but uses the situation to strong-arm Catwoman, insisting she return everything she’s EVER stolen, going as far as to turn the engine off until she agrees.

Knowing exactly what gets women off, Bats does some research on Selina’s pursuers, a cult of cat worshippers that date back to ancient Egypt, currently led by Thomas Blake. The cultists trigger an explosion and take Selina hostage in the chaos.

Selina awakens chained to a ritual altar but despite some hostility from Blake’s right-hand woman, she’s able to trick the gullible leader into thinking she has interest in joining them.

Blake shows her to a lavish bedroom, giving her an hour to prepare for her initiation. She declines his advances and immediately begins filling a pillowcase with swag once he leaves.

Batman infiltrates the mansion and scolds her for the theft. She fakes remorse, including crocodile tears and even plants a kiss on him… and then knocks him out!

Blake catches her trying to drag him to safety, but she passes it off as disarming the would-be intruder. He congratulates her, telling her she no longer needs to pass any trials.

Instead, Batman awakens in some sort of underground fighting pit without his utility belt. Blake unleashes the cult’s prized creation: a sabretooth freakin’ tiger, which immediately starts mauling the Caped Crusader.

Selina voluntarily leaps in to help, able to charm the beast exactly as she did the jaguar. It licks her face and everything, and then attacks Blake and his men on her orders.

Bruce initially refuses to give Selina a leg-up out of the pit, suspecting she’ll scram and leave him behind, but as they have no other options, he boosts her anyway. His trust is rewarded in the form of a rope.

Blake and his unnamed ladyfriend attack, but both end up in the pit along with the tiger. The GCPD have the cat shipped off to Gotham Zoo and round everybody up… except Selina, who absconds to Paris with her stolen loot.

Best Performance

Let’s keep things straightforward and just say Adrienne Barbeau, shall we? It’s far from her best work, but she’s got no real competition as there’s a very small cast. Scott Cleverdon had promise as Thomas Blake but his grand villain monologue never really came. His henchwoman, Tasia Valenza, barely had any lines. Kevin Conroy is… fine, but again, doesn’t do a huge amount of talking and is far from his best when he does.

Barbeau can do Catwoman in her sleep at this point, and is the only person in this half-baked episode to make anything resembling an impact. Selina is generally always having fun, and Barbeau is great at manipulating all the dumb men that surround the character.

Ranking

File under boring, more than bad… which can sometimes be worse. It’s a perfectly fine idea executed in painfully generic fashion, which makes sense given Paul Dini has only a story credit, but the main script came from Stan Berkowitz. The idea of Selina Kyle getting tangled up with a cat cult and seeking protection from Batman is fertile ground for a juicy little Bat/Cat team-up full of sexy intrigue and double-crossing. To make the end result this dull seems like it would take a concerted effort.

They certainly hit the ground running, and I liked Bruce’s gambit to try and force Selina to make amends for her crimes, but basically everything that came after that was a snooze fest. The cult and their goals aren’t explored in a remotely meaningful manner (what was the deal with the statue?), everybody but Catwoman is written like a moron, and Batman vs a sabretooth tiger isn’t as fun as it should be, especially as Selina basically charms it and sets it on the villains who drop like flies, depriving of us of a satisfying final fight.

  1. The Laughing Fish
  2. Mask of the Phantasm
  3. Over the Edge
  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. Mean Seasons
  35. Growing Pains
  36. Holiday Knights
  37. Second Chance
  38. Mad as a Hatter
  39. Heart of Steel Part II
  40. Appointment In Crime Alley
  41. Two-Face Part II
  42. Pretty Poison
  43. Deep Freeze
  44. Harley’s Holiday
  45. Lock-Up
  46. Shadow of the Bat Part II
  47. Feat of Clay Part I
  48. Cold Comfort
  49. His Silicon Soul
  50. Off Balance
  51. Vendetta
  52. Birds of a Feather
  53. Joker’s Millions
  54. Heart of Steel Part I
  55. Never Fear
  56. On Leather Wings
  57. Love is a Croc
  58. See No Evil
  59. The Clock King
  60. It’s Never Too Late
  61. Make ‘Em Laugh
  62. Joker’s Wild
  63. Eternal Youth
  64. The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
  65. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  66. Zatanna
  67. Day of the Samurai
  68. Avatar
  69. The Demon’s Quest Part I
  70. The Mechanic
  71. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  72. Terror in the Sky
  73. P.O.V.
  74. Christmas with the Joker
  75. Fear of Victory
  76. Be a Clown
  77. The Worry Men
  78. What is Reality?
  79. Fire From Olympus
  80. Night of the Ninja
  81. Mudslide
  82. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  83. Nothing to Fear
  84. The Lion and the Unicorn
  85. Prophecy of Doom
  86. Cult of the Cat (NEW ENTRY)
  87. Tyger, Tyger
  88. Blind as a Bat
  89. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  90. Dreams In Darkness
  91. The Last Laugh
  92. Cat Scratch Fever
  93. Moon of the Wolf
  94. Paging the Crime Doctor
  95. Time Out of Joint
  96. Sideshow
  97. The Under-Dwellers
  98. The Forgotten
  99. Showdown
  100. Critters
  101. The Terrible Trio
  102. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

Thomas Blake (Scott Cleverdon) (first appearance)

It’s literally like they forgot to finish writing this guy. Wealthy leader of a mysterious cult with an army of ninjas at his disposal, and a deadly female second-in-command is a heck of a start, but you’ve got to do SOMETHING with all of that.

Luckily for him, I dig the aesthetic of the foot soldiers, with their Wolverine claws and liberal use of firearms and motorbikes. But that’s really about it.

  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. Calendar Girl
  17. Roxy Rocket
  18. Killer Croc
  19. Firefly
  20. Penguin
  21. Scarecrow
  22. Lock-Up
  23. Lloyd Ventrix
  24. Rupert Thorne
  25. Count Vertigo
  26. Clock King
  27. Nivens
  28. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  29. Enrique el Gancho
  30. Josiah Wormwood
  31. Talia al Ghul
  32. Sid the Squid
  33. Queen Thoth Khepera
  34. Maxie Zeus
  35. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  36. Tony Zucco
  37. Man-Bat
  38. Rhino, Mugsy and Ratso
  39. Hugo Strange
  40. Red Claw
  41. Arnold Stromwell
  42. Mad Bomber
  43. Tygrus
  44. Kyodai Ken
  45. Condiment King/Pack Rat/Mighty Mom
  46. Farmer Brown (and Emmylou!)
  47. Grant Walker
  48. Gil Mason
  49. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  50. Cameron Kaiser
  51. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  52. Mad Dog
  53. Ubu
  54. Thomas Blake (NEW ENTRY)
  55. Professor Milo
  56. Romulus
  57. Arkady Duvall
  58. Sewer King
  59. Boss Biggis
  60. Montague Kane
  61. 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, will have a review of the season finale of Loki this week.

There Will Be Movies continues its journey through the 90s on Wednesday with The Silence of the Lambs.

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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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