Monday, February 10, 2014

Review: The Batman "Gotham's Ultimate Criminal Mastermind"

After watching this episode again, I got a weird Dark Knight Rises vibe from it. Super-smart, super-strong villain with a cool coat? Who commits a robbery that Batman is utterly unable to stop? Whose goal is to defeat and humiliate Batman? And leaves Bruce Wayne penniless due to stock fraud? And has a secret mastermind behind him who pretends to be an ally of Bruce Wayne? I reading too much into this?

I’m just going to say it: DAVE may very well be the most effective villain Batman’s ever faced. (That may be a bit hyperbolic... let's narrow that down to the villains in this show.) Unlike villains like, say, the Riddler who boast about their crimes-to-be and then get defeated because of the announcement, DAVE did the same thing because he can. He said to Gotham, “I’m going to win this one” and he does.

This episode basically serves as a deconstruction and a reconstruction of the villain clichés. The clichés are identified and then pulled off with spectacular success before Batman turns the tables. Writing a villain who can anticipate any outcome is tricky to do. I myself created a villain in my last Dungeons and Dragons campaign who was one of the PC’s from the future, and would therefore know exactly what the PCs would do to overcome every obstacle. To accomplish this, I had to do what DAVE did and put the heroes in situations that had solutions like this:

Solution 1-> Outcome 1
Solution 2-> Outcome 2
Solution 3-> Outcome 3
Bypass the situation entirely -> Outcome 4
And then you have 4 plans to get each outcome to further your overall goal.

Now, the audience will either respond positively or negatively to a villain who prepares for everything that happens. When you do it right, you get episodes like this. When you do it wrong, one of your players will ragequit the D&D campaign, as I discovered.

This episode had to be carefully written in order to work, and it was. The animation and voice acting were as strong as ever (including Richard Green, in his first appearance as Hugo Strange, taking over for the late Frank Gorshin).

Hugo Strange has appeared before, but this episode marks his transition into villainy. Unfortunately, it goes downhill from here. Of most note after this point are the time he rips off the Scarecrow, and the time that aliens betrayed him. But those are stories for another time.

This episode was a real treat, and I would go so far as to say that it’s one of my favorites from the series.

I hope to return to this series soon.
See you then!


  1. I don't care for original characters in any superhero adaptation (looking at you, Agents of SHIELD!), but when it's done right, you get great characters like Harley Quinn, Agent Coulson, and DAVE.

    Man, DAVE is awesome. The design (dat coat), the writing (dat plan), the dialogue (dat condescending wit), the voice (dat Jeff Bennett)... I love this show. Especially this episode.

    I wanna watch The Batman again.

    - That One Anon

    1. Thinking about the episode some more, I realize that I neglected to mention HARDAC, the evil computer (with the same voice actor as DAVE, no less) from Batman: TAS.

      I wonder if this episode drew from that, if this was a remake, or what. Hmmm....