The Matt Signal – Episode 107: Chemistry

Plot summary: Bruce meets the woman of his dreams and quickly proposes, but naturally all is not as perfect as it seems with his new beau…

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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: ‘Chemistry’

Original Air Date: October 24th, 1998

Directed: Butch Lukic (5)

Written: Stan Berkowitz (4)

When Bruce announces his intention to give up being Batman you can hear elements of the score of Mask of the Phantasm. You know the scene.

Bruce’s wedding guests include Leslie Thompkins, Dr. Leland, Kirk & Francine Langstrom, Jack Ryder, Zatanna, Jason Blood, Lucius Fox, Jim Gordon, Mayor Hill and Summer Gleeson (remember her?… actually to be fair, she’s only appeared once in TNBA before this episode, so it would be fair to have forgotten her.)

One of only two instances of the entire Bat Family gathered in the same location, along with the end of ‘Sins of the Father.’ In ‘Over the Edge’ they all appeared but not together, for obvious reasons.

This is the last time Loren Lester voiced Dick Grayson for almost 20 years, returning to the role for 2017’s Batman and Harley Quinn.

Recap

Veronica Vreeland just got married! A woman named Susan catches the bouquet, so the wedding photographer insists she take a picture with the man who caught the garter… Bruce Wayne. Is tossing a garter a thing??

Susan flirts with Bruce a little before the newly-weds come over to chat. The groom looks almost exactly like Bruce. It’s also Ronny’s fourth marriage, and she’s only known the guy for two weeks, so this is definitely going to end well.

Hours later, Batman and Robin foil a robbery, but Tim expresses some concern about Bruce seeming distracted. Naturally, he’s too busy thinking about Susan… who he stalks with powerful binoculars. YEESH.

The new couple spend some time together on a yacht, where Bruce proposes!!! And he later tells the Bat Family that he’s going to leave Batman behind him!!!

At the wedding, Susan laments the absence of their matchmaker, Veronica, who telephones, balling her eyes out in fear of her new husband until the phone goes dead.

Veronica is in fact so scared she locks herself in a panic room with laser beams to keep Michael out… but he simply walks through it, causing some superficial damage, revealing green skin…

Bruce leaves the wedding with Susan’s blessing and rescues Veronica from her house before it burns down. Michael claims ignorance at the hospital, with Bruce stating the police suspect arson.

He tells Michael to take good care of Veronica, leaves private security guards to watch over her and instructs Tim and Babs to follow Michael around for good measure.

They do just that, and he leads them straight to – you guessed it – Poison Ivy. She chastises him for trying to kill Veronica, but he states he had no choice, revealing leaves on his chest! Ivy one-ups him, tearing all of his skin off!!!

Sentient vines attack Batgirl and Robin, but they manage to trick them into coming into contact with an unknown orange chemical, harmless to humans but instantly killing the plants.

On his honeymoon cruise, Bruce and some other newly-married Gothamites talk about their lovely new brides… all of who have green eyes, are perfect for them and showed up out of the blue…

Finally suspicious, Bruce interrogates Susan about her past. She begins to sweat a green substance, and then unleashes vines from under her dress. She confirms Ivy created her and then makes fun of Bruce for not realising sooner.

Yet more vines (or “seaweed”) grab the ship under the water, bringing it to a halt. Bruce uses the distraction to electrocute Susan with a lamp and then runs away to witness Ivy and Michael board via speedboat.

The plant people prepare to leave with their creator, who will pool their vast inherited wealth after killing all the humans.

Batgirl and Robin arrive via the Batwing and hand Bruce a spare suit. Tim unleashes the orange chemical on Michael, violently murdering him!

All the plant people get the melty treatment, their widows are loaded onto the boat, and Batman grabs onto the Batwing before the ship sinks, looking back long enough to callously toss his wedding ring into the ocean.

Best Performance

Bruce angrily exclaiming “Whatever it is, I like it” after he discovers happiness for the first time is tier one Batman. Kevin Conroy manages to make chicken salad out of the ridiculous moment of this robot man coming to terms with strange human emotions. He also gets to change his voice up a little in this one, a rarity in TNBA compared to BTAS, and I’ve missed that. He truly sounds different when under Susan’s spell, but snaps out of it and becomes his normal self when Veronica is in danger, only to slip back into a slightly off-kilter version of himself again.

I was mildly disappointed by Linda Hamilton as Susan. It’s a Very Okay performance from a celebrity guest star, but I was expecting something truly noteworthy.

Ranking

In many ways this was an amalgamation of every previous Poison Ivy episode, a fitting send-off for one of the more underrated villains in the show. Combining her sentient plant creatures from ‘House & Garden’ and her desire to lure wealthy industrialists to their death from ‘Eternal Youth’, we get a scheme that probably would have been better suited as a two-parter, with the first ending with Bruce getting engaged and Michael revealing his true nature.

Instead, it felt like they were trying to cram a little too much into the run-time, and as a result you get Bruce suiting back up in what is meant to feel like a dramatic moment… only to barely do anything as Batman. Seriously, Tim killed all the plant people and saved Bruce from Ivy. All Bats did was keep Ivy at bay long enough for everybody to escape. It’s not that he always has to be the big hero, and I actually like when one of the sidekicks gets to save the day, but the conclusion was surely written with the idea of Batman making his dramatic, re-focused return to tilt the scales. Especially after he was off his game during the robbery scene that Tim had to snap him out of. It would have been far more effective to show him to be back to his hyper-aware self in the conclusion, picking up on a detail nobody else could. Alas.

The first 18 minutes are pretty good, though, picking up a number of seemingly discarded toys for the wedding scenes, and adding nice character details like Veronica getting married four times. It also played off Mask of the Phantasm nicely, with Bruce only willing to abandon his crusade for the love of a good woman, hence the re-use of the score.

I also appreciated their restraint with drawing the mystery out a little. If this were done in live action they’d need to do a not-at-all subtle CGI green glow for the infected, ruining all suspense. Instead, you only really notice the green eyes if you’re looking for them, but when you notice them, you really notice them.

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

Villain Watch

Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing) (ninth appearance)

While the episode mimicked a lot of Poison Ivy’s previous schemes, her character was a touch lacking in her send-off episode in my opinion. Sure, she is targeting industrialists for their crimes against nature, but a get-rich-quick scheme feels out of sorts to me.

Luckily, it’s such a fantastic character in general that even when acting a smidge inauthentically, she’s still pretty entertaining thanks to her powers and various plant monster friends.

Speaking of which, I much preferred the design of Michael to the previous plant monsters, and he was a pretty menacing little henchmen in his own right. Plus it was gnarly when she ripped his skin off. Susan sprouting vines from under her dress was haunting.

  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
  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, is taking a week off and then 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 special effects are pushed to their limit in Death Becomes Her.

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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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