The Matt Signal – Episode 109: Judgment Day

Plot summary: The New Batman Adventures comes to a close as The Judge, a mysterious new vigilante, begins attacking Gotham’s criminals.

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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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Yes, this is the final episode of The New Batman Adventures, but we’ve got a few more stops before this train reaches the end of the line. Crossovers, movies, comics, oh my!

Notes

Episode Title: ‘Judgment Day’

Original Air Date: October 31st, 1998

Directed: Curt Geda (7)

Written: Rich Fogel (6) & Alan Burnett (8)

Huge fan of Alan Burnett sliding in right before closing time to get one last script credit.

Two-Face’s ‘Judge’ persona returned in an excellent issue of Batman: Gotham Adventures, which you can read all about soon!

For some bizarre reason there is a male take on Lady Justice seen, depicted wearing sunglasses instead of a blindfold.

Paul Williams’ final outing as The Penguin, who will be re-cast for Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (coming soon!)

Recap

Killer Croc tries to fence a diamond to The Penguin, who low-balls him, citing heightened risks due to him going legit. Two-Face gets a better offer for his “items”, though Penguin conceals how much he really makes off them.

A mysterious figure clad all in black with a judge’s wig confronts Cobblepot once the other villains have left, accusing him of being worse than a thief, swinging a freakin’ sword at him wildly until a giant model penguin falls on Ozzy.

The news reports on the incident, with Councilman J. Carroll Corcoran condoning the actions given the open secret Penguin was still engaged in illicit activities.

Killer Croc commandeers an armoured truck but immediately gets attacked by The Judge, now wielding an enormous gavel. The alliterative vigilante accuses him of murder, mayhem and manslaughter, with Batman ultimately having to save Croc’s life.

Corcoran hands The Judge some GCPD files in a backroom deal, citing his boosted polling results since endorsing the mystery man’s actions. They shake hands as ominous music plays.

Another news report shows The Riddler being taken out by The Judge during an attempted robbery. Corcoran admits on camera he knew it was coming and advises Two-Face to skip town. Harv responds by shooting a television. Excellent.

Bruce agrees with Corcoran’s assessment of Dent’s impending danger, following him to his hideout, which immediately gets locked down as The Judge appears on a screen and sentences him to death.

Gas floods the room, with the most secret exit locked off. Bats uses an explosive Batarang to make them a new way out, but Dent manages to escape in the chaos.

The Judge complains to Corcoran about Batman, but the Councilman cautions him against action. Bats visits the Councilman demanding to know his rival’s whereabouts. Corcoran criticises Arkham’s revolving door and states people want closure. Bruce ghosts.

Two-Face kidnaps Corcoran demanding to know the same thing, but he swears that The Judge always contacts him, never the other way around. He offers Harvey $100k of government kick-backs, but Dent already flipped his coin…

Batman analyses the oversized gavel, noting some holes that indicate it previous had a plaque attached. This information leads him to an award presented by the Bar Association, and one of the previous winners shocks Alfred…

The Judge attacks Two-Face’s henchmen before they can execute Corcoran, but then turns his blade to the Councilman for embezzling funds. Batman intervenes.

The two fascists battle, with Bruce ending up with both his hands and feet bound, but grapple-hooks to the ceiling, dragging The Judge with him and then kicking him off onto a giant Lady Justice statue.

Batman frees himself and reveals Harvey Dent himself as The Judge! He leaves Corcoran to face the press, ruining his campaign. Harvey is later seen in Arkham pleading guilty to his own internal monologue.

Best Performance

Basically everybody nails it here, making this a difficult decision. Richard Moll and Brooks Gardner provide very different snarling villain voices, while Paul Williams is delightfully obnoxious as a fence, screwing over his fellow crooks. Let’s give each a nod but eliminate them for brevity.

Malachi Throne plays The Judge as an almost ghostly figure, condemning Gotham’s criminals in a detached, emotionless manner, which really fits the character design and his written motivations. It stops juuuust short of being ridiculous.

But Steven Weber is a perfect slimeball politician, making J. Carroll Corcoran perfectly believable as he exploits The Judge to improve his ratings, and using his clout to obtain police files. His voice changes subtly depending on who he’s talking to, portraying the character as a cocky abuser of power and a snivelling worm accordingly. We’ve seen characters defiant in the face of Batman’s interrogation before, but Weber pulls it off better than anyone. Honestly, I wish this character had debuted earlier and been able to recur.

Ranking

This is an exemplary detective story, letting Bruce crack one last case by himself to round out this incarnation of the franchise. The Judge’s design is great, and the mystery of his identity works incredibly well thanks to one of the best-written scripts in the entire show. Every single element is deployed with the core premise in mind, creating an intricate puzzle box that is simultaneously easily guessable, and holds up to scrutiny.

I like the touch of showing the reactions of both Killer Croc and Two-Face to Penguin’s attack, alongside the Councilman who comes across as the obvious early candidate for The Judge; it hides the truth in plain sight. Likewise The Judge attacking Penguin and Croc in person, but using gas against Two-Face to justify appearing via video instead, and Harvey’s secret exit only he knows about being compromised. Heck, there’s even Dent’s slavishness to his coin in the face of a bribe attempt, a subtle nod at the extremity of his moral compass. Want to get even more tenuous? The attack on Two-Face is the only one that doesn’t use a judge-related weapon.

Even the ridiculous way Batman uncovers the truth is decent, with Harvey re-purposing a giant gavel he already owned rather than crafting a new one, a nod to his past as the District Attorney.

I’m glad that the series went out on a high after how shaky this season got towards the end… but ‘Mad Love’ still would have been a more logical ending, hence the network airing it last. However it is interesting to note that Mask of the Phantasm was intended as the end of the series and started out life as an episode about a masked mystery villain. This episode has a lot of Phantasm’s DNA, so in some ways they got to finish as originally planned after all.

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

Villain Watch

Two-Face (Richard Moll/Malachi Throne) (tenth appearance)

Harvey’s new persona is so distinct from Two-Face there’s an argument to be made for ranking him as a separate villain. But that would be madness. Instead, it refreshes a character that we’d already gotten some decent mileage out of, taking the premise of ‘Second Chance’ to an extreme, with Dent scheming against himself. Remember, he had schizophrenia before his physical transformation, repressing his rage until it created the Big Bad Harv personality, and one could speculate that the opposite happened here, with what remains of the altruistic lawyer struggling beneath the surface of the openly villainous Two-Face until The Judge was born.

On top of that, it’s just a really nice character design, wielding a variety of fun weapons that all fit his theme: a sword, a giant gavel and some magnetic handcuffs. Each of his attacks has a different feel to it as a result. Not to mention the fact he has that supernatural feel, appearing from nowhere and stalking the villains, much like The Phantasm.

Also, Dent getting a better price than Croc – to his face! – is a nice little touch, demonstrating the fear and respect he commands despite not being the physical force that Croc is. Plus him shooting the TV is fantastic.

The Penguin (Paul Williams) (eleventh appearance)

Cobblepot’s appearances this season have mostly been relegated to brief scenes in the Iceberg Lounge, with it clear he’ still actively engaging in criminal enterprises, but not really showing us any of it. This brief showing capitalised on that premise in effective fashion, with him offering his fellow crooks far less than he should to traffic their goods, even going so far as to pick and choose prices based on how much he fears them. Better still, he hides behind the letter of the law by being able to plead ignorance about the items being stolen.

Batman spends most of The Batman Adventures Vol. 2 trying to prove Oswald is still crooked, with this scene acting as a great natural bridge towards that. Up he goes.

Killer Croc (Brooks Gardner) (seventh appearance)

Poor Croc. Not clever or intimidating enough to get one of Penguin’s better prices for his stolen diamond. It’s interesting how often he’s been used as large villain who gets beaten up by another villain as a plot device. The writers clearly didn’t think he had a huge amount of potential for featured outings, but whenever they need a big dumb brute to get humiliated, he’s there.

Poor Croc. Down he goes.

The Riddler (John Glover) (fourth appearance)

So, this shouldn’t really count as an appearance, but as he didn’t speak in ‘Over the Edge’, this is my only chance to talk about his re-design. I hate it. It moves him back towards the more Batman ’66, bald, jump-suit attired aesthetic that to me can’t hold a candle to his sharp green suits. Alas.

It’s frustrating how little Nygma has appeared in the show (it’s a few more than four times but I don’t count cameos), because he’s consistently been one of the better written villains who seemingly lends himself to feature episodes. And yet here he is in the season finale, an afterthought getting taken out by The Judge in ten seconds. I suppose they made it him to give him a final nod before the show ended.

I have no choice but to lower him slightly too.

  1. The Joker
  2. Harley Quinn
  3. Mr. Freeze
  4. Poison Ivy
  5. The Ventriloquist
  6. Catwoman
  7. Two-Face
  8. Bane
  9. The Phantasm
  10. The Riddler
  11. Baby-Doll
  12. Mad Hatter
  13. Clayface
  14. HARDAC (and Randa Duane)
  15. Ra’s al Ghul
  16. The Penguin
  17. Livewire
  18. Calendar Girl
  19. Roxy Rocket
  20. Firefly
  21. Killer Croc
  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 in fact not be presenting thoughts on Black Widow as Life Happened. Full steam ahead for What If…?

There Will Be Movies continues Ben & Matt’s look back at the 90s each Wednesday. This week we find out if we can handle the truth with A Few Good Men.

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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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