The Matt Signal – Episode 105: Girls’ Night Out

Plot summary: When Livewire comes to Gotham and teams up with Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, Supergirl joins forces with Batgirl to take them down.

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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: ‘Girls’ Night Out’

Original Air Date: October 17th, 1998

Directed: Curt Geda (6)

Written: Hilary J. Bader (6)

While Batman has appeared in every other DC Animated Universe show, this is the first and only time any of the other shows’ characters has appeared in BTAS/TNBA.

Livewire and Penguin quote lines from A Few Good Men and It’s a Wonderful Life respectively.

A rare episode featuring none of Robin, Nightwing, Alfred or Commissioner Gordon. Heck, Batman is only in it for a few seconds on a video screen.

Recap

Livewire is being driven from Metropolis to Gotham in the hopes of her condition being reversed. Unfortunately the prison truck drives right by some electrical works which she immediately absorbs power from and escapes.

Making matters worse, Batman is out of the city and won’t make it back for another 48 hours, so promises to call in some help for Batgirl, who gets to drive the Batmobile while he’s away, so that’s pretty sweet.

Babs attempts to tackle Livewire solo but gets thoroughly electrocuted (despite the Batmobile explicitly being shock-proof). Luckily, Bruce’s back-up arrives in the form of Supergirl, house-sitting for her cousin.

Kara doesn’t fare all that much better, but Livewire runs out of charge and has to bail. Harvey Bullock mocks the two heroes and wonders where Batman is, because the patriarchy.

Elsewhere, Harley Quinn is once again complaining how bored she is hiding out with her ‘just good friend’, Poison Ivy. Harlz wants to go out on the town, but Ivy warns against it given how much police attention they draw.

Enter Livewire! The trio get straight to robbing a shopping mall, with Harley ending up a bit of a third wheel to her two super-powered cohorts.

Their antics attract Supergirl and Batgirl who fight smart not hard this time, covering Livewire in silicate dust, which is completely electrical-resistant.

Harley and Ivy (but mostly Ivy) take out the heroes and escape with Livewire, who is wiped out after Quinn douses her in water to wash off the dust…

Barbara and Kara regroup and express envy for each other’s lives before heading to the Iceberg Lounge, where the villains caused another scene. Penguin wishes their male counterparts were there, because the patriarchy.

Oswald accepts they’re his only option and tips them off to the location of Poison Ivy’s hideout. They try to stealthily infiltrate the compound, but Ivy’s plants tip her off and chaos erupts.

Ivy brings topiary animals to life and sets them on Supergirl while Babs desperately avoids Livewire’s bolts. Luckily, a stray spark ignites one of Ivy’s “babies”, causing her to use water to put it out… which takes out Livewire… which electrocutes Ivy.

Kara and Barbara have a girls’ night in and are appalled at Harvey Bullock labelling them rookies on a news broadcast… but then he says they have potential so they high five.

Best Performance

Lori Petty absolutely sings as Livewire, making it abundantly clear why she’s such a memorable character despite making so few appearances. Petty imbues her with as much sass as any of Gotham’s regulars, playfully insulting literally every character she encounters. I particularly liked the affectation of calling Harley & Ivy “babies”. But it’s not pure attitude, she also has a dangerous, matter-of-fact edge, with the vocal performance making it believable that she could and would murder the heroes.

Nicholle Tom and Tara Strong make for quite the double act too, making the Supergirl/Batgirl friendship enjoyable enough that I was left wishing for more team-ups.

Arleen Sorkin is owed an apology for basically being asked to make sex noises as Harley repeatedly tries to break things open with her hammer.

Ranking

Most of this series has been about proving the power of the ensemble after Batman as a solo series went about as far as it could. This episode pushed that premise to the limit by telling another rare story with basically no Batman, and it was mostly successful. More importantly, for such a macho-dominated genre, it gave five female characters the spotlight, and in that respect it was… also mostly successful.

To be fair to the show, it’s actually surprisingly good when it comes to things like sexism and racism, especially considering it’s a superhero property made in the 90s. There have definitely been some icky moments, but fewer than you’d expect. Fittingly, this episode showcases strong female characters in a way that doesn’t feel overly forced but has a slightly disappointing ending. I can live with Harvey Bullock and Penguin’s blatant chauvinism as they’re written as scummy, and the latter gets an immediate comeuppance, but for it to end with Barbara and Kara celebrating the tiniest modicum of praise felt a bit patronising.

For as much as I hated ‘Showdown’ for basically being a Jonah Hex show with 2 minutes of Batman, this episode maintained everything BUT its protagonist, demonstrating what a strong world they’ve built over 100+ episodes. Batgirl has been a breakout star, and the Harley & Ivy combo are the best villains not named Joker, so these were about the safest hands we could be left in without Bruce around, and throwing some strong fan favourites into the mix as guests was the cherry on top.

The fight scenes were a lot of fun, with creative uses of powers and everybody getting the spotlight, including a powerless Batgirl twice getting the better of an extremely powerful Livewire, and Supergirl not completely dominating the action. Kara made for a fun addition in general, and the scene where she and Barbara compared lives featured excellent character development for both.

Overall, it was basically a better version of ‘Batgirl Returns’, with stronger villains and supporting characters. There was potentially a smidge too much to try and do in the runtime, with Harley left out in the cold a bit, but it was 90% of the way to being a great episode.

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

Villain Watch

Livewire (Lori Petty) (first appearance)

It’s hard to believe Livewire only appeared in two episodes of Superman: The Animated Series, as she feels so iconic, perhaps due to this episode being so popular. I covered a lot of her personality in the voice section, but she’s also has a killer design, paired with her incredibly fun electrical powers. She seems borderline unstoppable… but has three major weaknesses (water, strong insulation and her need to recharge), letting her completely wreck shop without outright murdering all the heroes. Simple, effective stuff.

I suppose there’s an argument that she should not be ranked as she’s being borrowed from another show, but that’s dumb.

Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin) (eleventh appearance)

It seemed at first that they going to tell a story of Harley being jealous of Livewire and Ivy’s burgeoning friendship, but that was quickly dropped in favour of Livewire just being abrasive to everybody. As a result, Harley fades into the background during the closing stretch, literally knocking herself out to leave it a 2-on-2 battle. Weaaaak.

Still, very fun when Kara uses x-ray vision to look through the wall where Harley is pulling faces at her.

Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing) (eighth appearance)

Ivy on the other hand looked as strong, if not stronger than ever, thanks to tying Supergirl up in vines, nearly murdering Babs by tricking Kara into releasing deadly spores, and her enormous plant creatures stomping the heroes at the end. Powerful AND smart!

She also inadvertently takes out Livewire by trying to save her plant children, staying true to her character to the end.

The Penguin (Paul Williams) (tenth appearance)

I look at the below ranked list of villains, and I instinctively feel Penguin is too low… and yet he has more middling-to-bad appearances than good and I feel more strongly about every single character ahead of him on the list.

This was kind of nothing, with him yet again playing at going straight, but still being a scumbag. At least the ladies trashed his club and the heroes pointed out how stupid he was being?

  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. Livewire (NEW ENTRY)
  17. Calendar Girl
  18. Roxy Rocket
  19. Killer Croc
  20. Firefly
  21. Penguin
  22. Scarecrow
  23. Lock-Up
  24. Lloyd Ventrix
  25. Rupert Thorne
  26. Mutant Leader
  27. Count Vertigo
  28. Clock King
  29. Klarion (and Teekl!)
  30. Nivens
  31. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  32. Enrique el Gancho
  33. Josiah Wormwood
  34. Talia al Ghul
  35. Sid the Squid
  36. Queen Thoth Khepera
  37. Maxie Zeus
  38. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  39. Tony Zucco
  40. Man-Bat
  41. Rhino, Mugsy and Ratso
  42. Hugo Strange
  43. Red Claw
  44. Arnold Stromwell
  45. Mad Bomber
  46. Tygrus
  47. Kyodai Ken
  48. Condiment King/Pack Rat/Mighty Mom
  49. Farmer Brown (and Emmylou!)
  50. Grant Walker
  51. Gil Mason
  52. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  53. Cameron Kaiser
  54. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  55. Mad Dog
  56. Ubu
  57. Thomas Blake
  58. Professor Milo
  59. Romulus
  60. Arkady Duvall
  61. Sewer King
  62. Boss Biggis
  63. Montague Kane
  64. 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 present some quick thoughts on Black Widow, as Ben & Matt’s Marvellous Journey won’t be covering it for quite some time.

There Will Be Movies continues Ben & Matt’s look back at the 90s each Wednesday. This week catch some surf with Point Break.

Published by

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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