Thursday, November 28, 2013

Recap: The Batman, "Riddled"

What am I thankful for? Many things, including the many awesome Batman cartoons.

So, let’s look at what many Bat-fans don’t want to talk about. The WB’s The Batman. 

It was the first Batman cartoon in decades to be created independently of the wildly popular "DC Animated Universe," which included Batman: the Animated Series, Superman: the Animated Series, Justice League, Batman Beyond, and more.

Batman had been “kiddified” for the first time. Joker was turned into a yelling, shouting, buffoon (as opposed to the sly, suave Joker from the DCAU), Bruce Wayne didn’t really brood as much (even taking some time away from crime fighting to watch TV), Batgirl became his first sidekick instead of Robin (kind of foreshadowing Beware the Batman, in a way), they introduced characters/vehicles/gadgets that they could easily make toys of (Gearhead, a new Batmobile, one-time-use special Batsuits, etc.), and more.

We had the Penguin being overused as comic relief, “RPM” trying to get all the little boys who loved vehicles to watch, villains teaming up all the time, and the later seasons had Batman teaming up with another superhero to the point that the final episodes were pretty much a prequel to a Justice League series that never happened.

This was the show that made Bat-fans wary of any new Batman series in general, and lighter-and-softer ones in particular. I’m here to say that this show that disappointed numerous fans, sold out to the need to sell toys, and was created by people who wanted to change seemingly random elements to the mythos…

...was pretty good.

Weren’t expecting that, were you?

Seriously, back when I was in high school, I’d turn on Boomerang late at night and watch Justice League Unlimited and The Batman while doing my homework. I quickly grew to love this show.

Today, I hope to show you why as I take a look at the second episode of the second season, “Riddled.”

Three guesses as to the villain.
Before we begin, a little backstory. 
  • Bruce Wayne is Batman, to the shock of no one.
  • Police chief Rojas does not approve of vigilantism.  
  • Commissioner Gordon has not been introduced yet.  
  • Batman is instead working with a cop named “Ellen Yin,” (voiced by Ming-Na Wen, aka Mulan, aka Melinda May from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) probably the only non-incompetent cop in Gotham (Gotham police aren’t so much corrupt as ineffectual in this series). 
And so, let’s begin!

We open all artsy-like with a zooming in shot of Gotham that fades to a shadowy Batman on a building, as sirens blare. We see Batman’s face in profile as his leitmotif plays, and we cut to what he’s looking at: Gotham cops parked in front of a building. Down on the ground, Chief Rojas fiddles with a stress ball.

Rojas:  “What’s bomb-squad doing in there?  We can’t have much time left!”

Bomb-squad is looking over the weirdest time bomb I’ve ever seen. Multiple canisters of green goo hooked up to a small keyboard and screen. Where’s the timer? It’s a 15’ tall hourglass. Weird.

Ellen Yin (who I guess is on the bomb-squad now?) prods the bomb guy for his analysis. Bomb-guy says he has no idea what the green stuff is, but the detonator’s for real. Ellen asks about the “word game” and they look at the screen on the device. 
It reads:

Bomb-guy has no clue, and Yin looks out the window and catches a glimpse of Batman’s cape as his leitmotif plays. What, does he have it playing on speakers, or something? Rojas radios Yin to get everyone out of there, and the bomb-guy leaves quickly, as Yin turns away.

Yin: “You know we can’t let them see us like this together.”
Batman: “If they do, just tell them I’m your prisoner.”

Batman comes down from the ceiling and analyzes the riddle on the screen as time runs out. Yin pressures him to get out of there, but he types his answer “A RIDDLE” just as the last of the sand falls. The bomb deactivates.

Huh, the answer to the riddle was “a riddle.” How very Zen.
Yin takes off her bombsuit helmet, grateful that she gets to stay alive and keep her badge.

Dang, she makes even a bombsuit look good.
Voice: “Ohhh!”

Anarky? Is that you? Suddenly, inside the hourglass, a hologram of a lipstick-wearing man in a strange, green outfit appears as a camera shines a light in front of the bomb.

Voice:  “Someone is very bright! Step into the light, so the Riddler can see you….”

After this, the intro goes. I have to admit, I love the season 1-2 opening to this show. It’s played on an electric guitar, which is not the instrument you’d expect, but it’s dark, and mysterious, and sounds a bit James Bond-ish, while still sounding like the theme to a horror movie, especially the piano intro. The guy whispering “The Batmaaaaaaaan” over the title card is pure awesome, too. And I love how the end of the theme fades into what almost sounds like a bat shrieking. In fact, I think this might be my favorite theme to any Batman cartoon. A James Bond/horror theme. Quite appropriate for Batman, if you think about it.

Anyway, the episode resumes at the activation of the hologram, oddly enough, probably to remind the ADHD-ridden audience what happened before the last commercial break. This time, we see Batman duck and hide as the light activates. Officer Yin steps into the light. the Riddler can see her.

Riddler: “I was expecting my worthy opponent to be… taller.”

Yeah, and I’m sure she was expecting the criminal mastermind responsible to be… not an emo wearing a question mark. Although, the design of Riddler seems familiar, where have I seen this before…?

To drive up the creepy factor of this version of the Riddler, he’s also voiced by Robert “Freddy Kreuger” Eglund, who I mentioned previously in the premiere of Spectacular Spider-Man. Yes, I know you want me to talk about the Riddler's appearance in detail, so see the accompanying post.
So, Marilyn “Riddler” Manson asks for her name, and she introduces herself. Meanwhile, outside, Rojas is confused.

Rojas: “Where’s the boom?”

Suddenly, every police radio activates, and Riddler greets the police and tells them that Officer Yin has qualified to “play.” Back inside, Riddler exposits about his planned battle of wits, a night of riddles scattered throughout Gotham. As the police, listening in on the conversation, still, listen in, Riddler tells them that if Yin doesn’t do this alone, Gotham loses. Yin questions this madman as to why he’s doing this, and he corrects her.

Riddler: I'm the one posing the riddles, here. And I have another, just for you. Ready to play?”

Yin rushes out of the building as we hear the next riddle:
"To cross the water, I’m the way,
The water, I’m above.
I touch it not, in truth to say,
I neither swim nor move."

Bridge. You’re not even making this hard, Riddler. Yin takes off her bomb suit, gets in her car, and pulls out her Bat-Earpiece. As she drives away, Rojas yells that he hates riddles, and he doesn’t play games with madmen. He orders another officer to follow her. Okay, Yin, stay on the lookout for glowing green question marks. Go find Catwoman, she can pick up the red ones.

Yin drives to the Gotham Bridge.

Yin: “Gotham Bridge. A two-year-old could’ve figured that one out.”

I agree. She looks up, and Batman follows her on his jetpack. She tells him over the comlink in her earpiece that they can’t let Riddler see them together, and he agrees. He’ll stay out of sight, and he’s positive that Riddler can’t crack his frequency, “Bat-Wave.” Yin comes upon a green van with a question mark on the side. It opens for her, and she climbs inside. The inside has a screen and a camera. Riddler appears on the screen and congratulates her.

Riddler: “Ah, you made it, detective. Pity about your hard drive over here, but the bridge is set to blow… and only you can prevent it. Good luck.”

The Riddler’s face dissolves into a grid of flashing squares that all darken. Yin yells and asks him where the riddle is, and Batman tells her to touch the screen, center square. She does, and a plus-shape appears. Oh, God, it’s “Light’s Out.” I could never figure that game out.

Batman begins to guide her through it from above, as Riddler watches her from his lair. On his screen, he spots Chief Rojas sneaking up behind her, so he activates the van, which drives off as Riddler tells the cops to leave before he blows up the bridge anyway. Batman manages to follow the van on his jetpack and guides Yin through the rest of it. She solves it, and the bombs on the bridge deactivate. Riddler congratulates her before steering her van off the edge of the bridge. Well, do you want her to keep solving riddles, or not, Riddler? Batman swoops down and rescues her at the last second, and the van crashes on the shore. Yin goes back to the van, and the Riddler appears on the screen.

Riddler: “You must have a… guardian angel watching over you. Ready for your next riddle?”
Yin: “No! What do you want, you maniac?”
Riddler: “I prefer ‘Brainiac!’”

Well, I like Mr. Mxyzptlk, myself, but... oh, sorry, continue.

Riddler: “As you’ve been learning, knowledge is POWER.”

We then cut to Yin off to her next location, where an organ rigged to blow is set up. She presses a key, then dodges the piano that tries to fall on her head. Batman tells her “your other left.” She presses a new key, and the canisters of goo deactivate.

We then cut forward who-knows-how-many riddles later, as she rides a runaway railway car, telling Batman that the riddle refers to “riddles Past.” Batman tells her a piano has 88 keys, so she speeds up the train car to 88 miles per hour. The canisters on the train deactivate, presumably right as the train heads back to the future before the bridge gave out. Now, all that remains is to fix the gas line to the DeLorean and go get Doc Brown. No, instead of the coolest crossover ever, we head back to Chief Rojas looking over a report of one of the Riddler’s riddles.

Rojas: “’Everything in me in ancient?’ These riddles hurt my brain!”
Officer: “Chief, we located Yin heading for the museum!”
Rojas: “’Everything in me is ancient?’ Agh, how did she get ‘museum’ out of that?”

Presumably, she’s not a complete moron. At the museum, the Neanderthal exhibit is filled with green go and a monitor with the Riddler’s face starts talking.

Riddler: “You’re getting warm, detective. And yet, you’re ice-cold.”

As Riddler makes his threat, Batman analyzes the Riddler’s speech and spots a weird sound in the background.

Yin: “…I’m going to take you down!”
Riddler: “You couldn’t be FURTHER from the truth, detective. Now you’re BORING me.”

He gives her the riddle.
“A man builds a house with all sides facing north. 
A bear walks past the house. 
What color is the bear?”

Batman remembers various things that the Riddler said, and puts his scheme together.

Batman: “’Boring.’ Like a drill. Riddler can’t resist leaving riddles, even ones he shouldn’t be.”

Riddler, when it comes to clues, you are no Steven Moffat. And even Steven Moffat struggles to be Steven Moffat sometimes.

Yin, meanwhile, figures the riddle out. The house is at the South Pole, so it’s a polar bear! Except, the South Pole is in Antarctica, from the Latin Anti Arktos, which literally means “No Bears.”  Penguins, yeah. Bears, no. I learned that from Deception Point. Yeah, Dan Brown put an actual fact in one of his books, go figure. Anyway, Batman swoops in and prevents her from entering her answer.

Batman: “There are no bears at the South Pole; this riddle has no answer.”
Yin: “Riddler cheated.”
Batman: “Riddler quit. He’s through playing.”

Batman rips the wires out of the device, and the green goo all spills out. Turns out, it’s lime Jell-O.  Batman deduces that Riddler’s been distracting them the whole time. Riddler’s real goal is at the first place they were tonight.

Batman: “Beneath the last place we’d think to look… again.”

We then cut to the location of Riddler’s first “bomb,” the City Hall. Riddler and his goons are busy downloading information from a mainframe that they drilled into. Yin shows up to rain on their parade as Riddler outlines his plan.

Riddler: “If I need money, boom. Instant access to Gotham’s bank account numbers! If I want to shut down Gotham’s transportation grid, boom. Instant access to the technical specs. In-for-MATION! It’s all here, in the city’s mainframe! Soon to be uploaded into mine!”

Ah, Hollywood hacking at its finest. Let me just say this: If none of these systems are hooked into the internet (and quite a few of them probably aren’t), Riddler has no way to hack them, even with the easily-changed codes he just stole.
He compliments Yin on deciphering his hidden riddles.

Yin: “We can trade IQ scores when you’re behind bars, Riddler.”
Riddler: “Would that be your IQ… or the Batman’s?”
Yin: “I don’t know what you’re ta….”
Riddler: “Please! Do you think I went to all the trouble to distract Gotham PD from my real crime? It was the Batman who concerned me. Isn’t that right, Batman?”

On cue, Batman walks in and tells him that the game’s over. Riddler agrees, and takes them both down with sleeping gas.

Riddler: “Tell me, Batman. What question can you never answer ‘yes’ to? …Are you asleep?”

Or "Are you dead?"
Or "Is 'no' all you can say?"
Those are all technically valid answers as well.

Batman comes to inside his high-tech bonds across from officer Yin. Riddler tells them that they’re about to figure out the most valuable riddle in Gotham: Who is the Batman? He’s tempted to rip the mask off, but stops himself. Instead, they’re going to play 20 Questions! For every wrong answer Batman gives, Yin gets a shock. Too many wrong answers (as determined by a lie detector), and the voltage reaches lethal levels.

Like a Japanese game show, really.
Riddler: “Question 1: Do you have blond hair?”
Yin: “He has pink hair! He’s from the moon!”

Zurr-En-Arrh, actually.

Batman: “Yes.”

Yin gets a shock.

Riddler: “Question 2, Bat-Brunettte: Were you born here in Gotham City?”
Batman: “…yes.”

Meanwhile, at police headquarters, Rojas is still going at that stress ball as he goes over the situation. Suddenly, a report comes in that the entire city’s database has been stolen. Stolen? Unlikely. Copied and pasted? Sure. “Stolen?” That would require taking time out to delete the original data, which would then be replaced and make the Riddler’s own data fairly useless.

"Make sure you delete the originals, too! By God, if I can actually use any info I get today, you'll all get it in the neck!"
Rojas fumes as Riddler continues.

Riddler: "So, you do have a day job. I’m beginning to get a sense of the real you, Batman. Are you… a policeman?”

Suddenly, Yin yells out that Batman’s real name is…  but Riddler tries to put his hand over her mouth before she can finish. “Ethan Bennett,” she says. Wow, way to take advantage of your former partner’s identity, Yin. If you don’t know, don’t ask, I’ll get to those episodes. Anyway, Riddler puts his fingers in his ears as Batman continues.

Batman: “The answer to ‘Am I a policeman’... ‘yes.’”

"Lalala I am not listening!"
Riddler, standing in front of Yin’s electrocutor gets the full zap, and drops his cane before falling to the ground. Batman controls a Batarang with his belt to hit the button releasing him, and gets out, but Riddler quickly escapes. Batman blows a hole in the floor, and Yin and Batman jump down after him. Batman deduces that Riddler must be uploading the stolen data, and they split up. Batman goes after Riddler as Yin goes after his tech goons. Yin crawls through a vent into the computer room, and jumps in. She beats up the goons easily and Batman and the Riddler fight. Riddler’s mind seems to be… going.

Riddler: “Are you single? Are you a celebrity?  Are you wealthy!? ARE YOU WISE!?!

Technically, the answer to all four is "yes." Man, he’d’ve had it figured out.

As he rants, he zaps Batman with a gigantic power cord before hitting him some more. Just as he’s about to deliver the final blow, Batman has a riddle for him.

Batman: “What’s black and blue and green all over?”

One of the Third Doctor's velvet outfits? Batman punches the Riddler in the face before he can answer (Oh, I get it now!). As Riddler opens the door to his reinforcements, it looks like Yin already took them out.

Yin: “And here I thought this was going to be a battle of wits.”

Riddler’s taken into custody, and Rojas congratulates Yin.

Riddler: “Chief! You may be interested to know, someone on your payroll works hand-in-hand with the Batman.”
Rojas: “Oh, yeah? Who?”
Riddler: “Ask not ‘Who in’ your force works with the Bat, ask ‘Y in.’”
Rojas: “…Yin! Answer it.”
Yin: "Why in, chief. Y-in."

Rojas just stares blankly.

Yin: “My name. Yin. Riddler says it’s me.”

Then she drinks her coffee, like a boss. Rojas demands the “lunatic” taken away.

Rojas: “Batman wasn’t anywhere in sight tonight!”

Yin agrees, and the episode ends.
Ready to review Riddled?
Or would you rather read up on Riddler's redesigned raiments?


  1. Huzzah, another comics nerd that likes The Batman! Fun fact (Flash Fact?): the original theme song was done by Bono and The Edge from U2.

  2. Oh, that makes sense. I always wondered why the subtitles said "The Edge" was saying "The Bat... maaaaannnnnnnn...." I thought it was the name of the band.

  3. Just wonder, does anyone know how the piano key one was solved? All I can think of is at last from Riddle's past, so the last riddle, and key so you know it was the piano? I was really confused by this one.

  4. I agree with you that "The Batman" WAS a pretty good show, and in fact I vehemently disagree with some of the criticisms. I did not find Joker to be a "yelling buffoon" at all. I actually regard KMR's Joker as one of the finest performances of the character outside of Hamill, Ledger, and Nicholson. The Rubberface of Comedy, Strange Minds, and Joker's second Season 1 appearance all had him as sufficiently cunning and sinister, and he did not strike me as "buffoonish" in the slightest. I also enjoyed the episode RPM greatly, finding it to be a nice re-imagining of an obscure and lame Batman villain from the comics and a good showing of the Batmobile overall.

    As to it's marketing toys, this is true, did JLU. Justice League Unlimited got an insane number of toys and action figures, including for stuff that was never in the show. Does that make it a bad cartoon? Of course not. That "The Batman" sold toys does not make it a poor cartoon. I love this show and regard it as the most underrated DC cartoon ever made (as most of DC's other good stuff gets the praise and respect it deserves). Glad to see I'm not the only one who likes this cartoon though.

    1. Heh, you beat me to it.

      I've got a half-finished "The Batman" Recap in the works where I re-address the points I made here on selling toys.

      Guess that's what I get for taking an impromptu break!