Batmonth Begins: Almost Got 'Im
The Ladies of Comicazi are pleased to present Bat-Month: a four week event in which we discuss our favorite episodes of the amazing Batman: The Animated Series, culminating in an in-store Batman event at Comicazi. In this week's post, The Red Menace talks about her favorite episode: Almost Got 'Im.
Okay, to be fair, almost everyone's favorite episode of Batman: TAS is Almost Got 'Im, but since I'm a loudmouth who is not afraid to say so, I get the honor of talking about this episode! A word to the wise before we begin - thar be spoilers ahead, mateys. Granted, we're talking about a show that aired in 1992, so it's likely anyone reading this has already seen it, but in case you've never seen it and this is your first exposure, I can't really talk about why it's so great without giving away the ending. If you've not seen but would like to (and you live in the greater Boston area), we can help!
On May 10th, we will be hosting an in-store Batman event at Comicazi. We will be serving Batman themed snacks and showing our four favorite episodes, plus one additional episode chosen by YOU! Just pick your favorite episode of the six below. If you need a refresher on the episodes in contention, check out the entries for each episode in The DC Animated Universe Wiki. The polls will close on May 9th. Cast your vote, then come to our Batman event to see the winner!
With all of that out of the way, let's talk about what makes this episode so great!
Briefly, Almost Got 'Im is primarily told in flashbacks as each of five of Batman's major villains - Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Killer Croc, The Penguin, and The Joker - recounts the tale of the time she or he almost killed Batman. It's an example of what TV Tropes refers to as "And Now for Something Completely Different", in which the general format a show follows is drastically changed for an episode - another example is Doctor Who's "Doctor-Lite" episodes in the new series. By letting the main character take a background role, Almost Got 'Im helps the viewer understand more about Batman and what he means to the villains. Before the flashbacks begin, they muse on what makes Batman tick. Two-Face thinks he's more than one person, while Killer Croc believes he's a robot. Penguin speculates that he's suffered from some crime-related trauma, which is of course true. Our understanding of Batman and his mythos in Gotham is enhanced by this view of him.
Even more so, the episode establishes the inner workings of Gotham and its crime scene - there are underground poker dens! The villains all know each other and gossip about their colleagues! The Joker cheats at poker! (Okay, we probably could have guessed that last one.) Almost Got 'Im lets us into the world of Gotham that Batman normally can't access. It's also a showcase of some of Batman's most important villains (other than Killer Croc, but the reason for that is revealed in time). Batman has one of the greatest rogue's galleries in comics - and the group assembled around the card table are the best of it. By telling the stories of their best Bat-traps, we get to learn more about who they are and what makes them tick, too. We know Harvey's obsessed with the number two, for example, but who knew he was clever enough to rig a giant coin toss on the fly? The Penguin is quite possibly smarter than the rest - he fails to kill Batman, but does manage to escape capture himself.
It's also a very funny episode,from Killer Croc's entire trap, to the very large, very familiar penny at the heart of Two-Face's:
The writers get a lot of humorous mileage from the multiple ways to "get" someone as well, from Joker's somewhat gruesome plans for Catwoman, to her own failed attempt at romance.
I was particularly amused by The Penguin's story, which I'd totally forgotten - he traps Batman in his "Aviary of Doom" and proceeds to attempt to kill him with both poisonous hummingbirds and some very aggressive cassowaries. This should be extremely silly, but the writers work a kind of magic and it seems totally plausible that not only did The Penguin set all of this up, but Batman is able to turn it against him. Similar magic is at work with the twist ending to the episode - it strains all belief, but manages to be a moment that makes the viewer stand up and cheer instead. The big reveal - that poor, stupid Croc isn't Croc at all but Batman in disguise - is genuinely surprising the first time around, and is partly achieved by a nice bit of animation that, while even the show's creators admit is unrealistic, has significant impact:
All of these elements add up to an amazing episode, but I also think Almost Got 'Im is so iconic for people because it is a pure example of what makes every Batman:TAS episode great -stunning animation, a tightly written story, and top-notch voice acting. You have all of the heavy-hitters in this episode - Mark Hamill's Joker and Paul Williams' Penguin being two particular favorites of mine - coming together to make a little jewel box of a story. Sure, Batman still foils the criminals, saves the day and rescues the girl, just as he always does - but it's nearly the platonic ideal of that story, and told through the dark mirror of those very criminals. It's the story that makes you realize that in their own way, the villains respect Batman, too.
Tune in next week to find out what episodes the other Ladies love!
Special thanks to Cartoon Sara, who provided all of the pictures for this post.