Friday, October 24, 2014

Recap: Beware the Batman "Family"

Because Batman's quite the family man. No, wait, that's the last thing that describes him. What's with the title? Are his parents back from the dead? Is Aunt Harriet coming for a visit? Did he knock up Catwoman? Again?  Did Talia al Ghul steal his sperm? Again?

Boy, Batman should just not trust women. Nah, that's an unfair generalization. I mean, it's not like a long-standing female character will betray our hero in this episode, right? ...right?

Let's recap.

Bat-Family Begins.
We get our customary “Previously on…” segment, as per usual. Apparently, Bruce Wayne’s been getting letters from the “Argus Club,” which he’s been ignoring, a ninja named “Silver Monkey” is after Tatsu and her soul-sucking super-sword, and Silver Monkey lied to his boss about Tatsu still being alive. 

After that, the episode proper opens on a swinging chandelier. Beneath it, Batman and Tatsu (finally wielding the Soultaker Sword) stare down a hoard of ninjas surrounding them.

Nice to see her where she belongs: about to kick some butt.
Not sure where they are, but it looks like the inside of STATELY WAYNE MANOR. After a nice staredown, the ninjas rush the two heroes. Taking advantage of this attack of opportunity, the two heroes begin taking down ninjas left and right, but are quickly surrounded again and end up in the same position that they started in. Uh oh, the ninjas must be respawning!

Silver Monkey walks out of the crowd of ninjas, and says that he’ll kill them quickly if they surrender. Batman and Tatsu politely decline the offer, and Silver Monkey throws smoke capsules into the air, blanketing the area in a thick smoke. He nods, and the ninjas rush into the smoke to subdue the heroes. We then fade from a shot of Silver Monkey’s face to a shot of the Gotham rooftops, with a caption that reads “SIX HOURS EARLIER.”

Yeah, you were wondering why Batman was actually partnering up with his partner, weren’t you? There were probably a few other questions in your head, too. All in good time.

So six hours earlier, Bruce Wayne and the lovely Miss Bethany Ravencroft are sitting at a table in what is presumably fancy, and presumably a restaurant. There’s no food, wine, water, silverware, or anything on the table, but the tablecloth makes me think “restaurant.”

Ravencroft: “How is it that Bruce Wayne has never set foot inside the Argus Club?”
Bruce: “It’s not due to a lack of effort on their part.”

No, it’s due to the writers advancing the subplots as slowly as possible. I mean, if I may pause the episode for a second, let’s look at all the mentions of the Argus Club:

"Hunted": Bruce throws out an invitation to join.
"Secrets": Bruce finds a key with the Argus Club logo in Dr. Ravencroft’s desk.

That’s it up to this point, which is five episodes later..

In fact, the key that Bruce found in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene? It was foreshadowing that was actually abandoned until this episode. This episode does not benefit from the decompressed storytelling, or the gap between episodes. This is a show made to be watched on DVD, not weekly.

Anyway, the good doctor keeps trying to convince Bruce to visit the Argus Club.

Bruce: “If I wanna unwind, I’ll get out of Gotham.”
Ravencroft: “The Argus Club is getting out of Gotham. And the best part is, you don’t have to leave Gotham to get there.”

I’d like to remind you all that the person who said that stupid line is supposed to have a PhD. Finally, she demands that he’s going, next week, as her guest. Well, when we couple that with the text she sent at the end of the last episode, it looks like the Argus Club is somehow evil, and she’s working to hand Bruce Wayne over to them. Bruce still tries to deflect her increasingly unsubtle demands.

Bruce: “Let’s go to Bora Bora instead.”
Ravencroft: “Bora Bora? That’s a pretty serious trip for a guy who’s not known for getting serious, Mr. Wayne.”

No, if it were serious, he’d buy Bora Bora. He probably just needs an excuse to go team up with Aquaman.

He tells her that maybe he’s more serious than she thinks, and she gets a look of  “Aw, he’s sweet, I kind of don’t want to betray him now” on her face. Then we cut to Bruce’s limo, parked in the alleyway outside the building, and we hear Tatsu warn someone not to mess with her. We then cut to her inside the limo, playing an off-brand GameBoy. Probably Wayne-Tech. Let’s call it a “WayneBoy Color.”

She accuses the game of being rigged, before Silver Monkey greets her from the back seat. She responds by throwing the WayneBoy Color at him. Aw, now she’ll never save Princess Silkysoft from Professor Heinz von Frankendracumummystein. (Note to self, why haven't I drawn that yet?) Anyway, they have a surprisingly nimble fight inside the limo, and Silver Monkey ends up pinning her to the seat, after they’ve smashed most of the windows. He tells her to give him the sword, and they fight again. This time, Silver Monkey pressure-points her hand and kicks her out of the limo. He demands the sword, throws a grenade in the car, and smokebombs off after it blows up.

We then cut back to STATELY WAYNE MANOR, where Alfred’s cleaning his laser in the dining room.  Either that, or he’s trying to turn it back into a sandwich. Tatsu walks in with an ice pack.

Tatsu: "We need to talk."

We don’t see them actually talk because we cut to Bruce Wayne on his computer. Tatsu and Alfred enter the room.

Bruce: “If you’re here to apologize about the limo again, don’t worry; the damage those vandals did when you went to grab a bite is completely covered by insurance. No harm done.”

That was… oddly worded and quite specific. It doesn’t sound genuine; it was said with the same tone of voice that you’d use if you and a friend pulled a prank on an old man, and he died of a heart attack, and you said, “Are you okay? Stumbling across a dead body that was already here when we were innocently walking by can come as quite a shock to the system!” Not that I’m familiar with such situations.

Anyway, Tatsu tells Bruce that it wasn’t vandals, it was Silver Monkey. She spills the beans about the League of Assassins, the sword, her past as a CIA operative infiltrating the League of Assassins, and what she’s done to hide it.

"I faked the destruction of an item that should be destroyed, and now I'm hiding its existence instead of actually destroying it. This was a good plan!"
Bruce: “Why am I just hearing about this now?”

Because the writers wanted to put this subplot on hold in order to do the Humphry Dumpler and Metamorpho episodes? Because they're using decompressed storytelling? To dangle this plot thread as much as they can?

Alfred tells Bruce that he’s known for a while, and because he’s betrayed Bruce’s trust by keeping Tatsu’s secret, he tenders his resignation. Not one to be outdone, Bruce fires them both on the spot and demands they be gone by the time he gets back.

You said it.
Well, we all know that this won’t last. The question is: Is this all part of the plan? Or is Bruce a little whiner who doesn’t like secrets? Both?

We cut to Bruce and Dr. Ravencroft in her office, as she pours them both some water. He’s apparently told her that he feels betrayed by those he trusted, and he says that he’s done with trust for a while. Dr. Ravencroft decides to take him to a place where “trust isn’t an issue.” The Argus Club.

They pull up to STATELY W…  oh, that’s the Argus Club. I was confused, because they’re both giant mansions behind giant gates with letters on them. This one has an “A” in a circle. Hmmm…. Where have we seen that before?

Looks like we’re going to meet Anarky for real. Unless there are two sets of villains using big letter A's as their calling card. And that's just laughable.

The two walk down the halls of the mansion, and Dr. Ravencroft starts getting kind of… culty. They enter a large ballroom-looking place with the giant chandelier from the beginning of the episode.

Ravencroft: “The Argus Club ritual room!”

Oh no, I’ve read The Da Vinci Code, lady! I know what kinds of “rituals” secret societies have. She goes on about the history of the club, how they’ve had a hand in so many historical whatevers, and Bruce is knocked down by a ninja so fast that I never saw him until rewinding that part for the third time. Then Dr. Ravencroft kicks him in the face and points a crossbow at him as Silver Monkey comes out of the shadows.

Sigh of disappointment.

Well, the episode just took a neat subplot that they could’ve built up more to add to the mystery add any mystery at all, and they’re revealing their hand too soon. Way to not build up tension, writers.

Dr. Ravencroft: "Trust is overrated."

I agree. I'll stop trusting the writers right away.

Anyway, back at STATELY WAYNE MANOR, Tatsu zips up her suitcase and puts away her sword as she gets a message on her phone from SM.

Silver Monkey: “I have Wayne. Bring the sword to the Argus Club in one hour.”

She drives off on her motorcycle straight away. Um, he said you have an hour, Tatsu. You’ve got a bit of time. I mean, you can’t be that loyal to the jerk who just fired you today. At least stop at Starbucks, get a Double-double whipless Mochachino half-caff. Venti. 

Back at the Argus club, Bruce is trying to use his “idiot Bruce Wayne” persona to gather info from his captors.

Bruce: “Does the Argus Club control the League of Assassins, or is it the other way around?”

No dice, so he starts his other tactic of using underhanded insults.

Bruce: "You know, I've always argued no one needs therapy more than therapists. And now you're proving my theory."

Exhibit B: Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel, criminal psychologist
Silver Monkey tells him to shut his mouth as Tatsu runs through the halls of the Argus Club, bursting into the room where they’re keeping Bruce. SM demands the sword, and backs up his demand with ninjas. Tatsu says she might take the matter up with Lady Shiva, Silver Monkey’s boss. SM says that Lady Shiva won’t be as understanding as he is. As the guy dressed like a monkey.

Right as the big battle looks like it’s about to begin, Bruce pipes up that they don’t actually need him right now, and he’d like to leave. Silver Monkey agrees, and shoots Bruce with the crossbow, knocking him out the window.

You know, for assassins, they haven't assassinated a single person. Why is everyone afraid of them, again?
Well, that just sharpens Tatsu's sword, and she engages SM and his ninjas. She easily takes down a few mooks before getting surrounded. Dr. Ravencroft looks down at Bruce’s body, and tells SM that he didn’t have to kill him. Silver Monkey suggests that she can join him, and she hushes right up like a good patsy. I mean, stooge. I mean, accomplice.

Bruce, having stopped the arrow with his awesome body armor, gets up as soon as she looks away and meets up with a suddenly arriving Alfred, who provides him with the Batmobile and the Batsuit. Good thing Silver Monkey didn’t make a headshot, huh?

Bruce: "Hey, didn't I fire you?"

"Well, the agency just sent me over. I'm what's-his-face's replacement. My name is O'Malley the Irish Butler."
Meanwhile, Tatsu keeps fighting ninjas as Batman joins in, and we soon find ourselves in the same position as the beginning of the episode. In the heavy smoke, the ninjas lasso up Tatsu and Batman and tie up/subdue them. As the smoke clears, one of the ninjas presents the Soultaker Sword to Silver Monkey. He brags about its great history and powers, and Batman and Tatsu ask him what will happen if Lady Shiva finds out he’s working on his own.

Wrong Shiva.
Silver Monkey says that Lady Shiva’s no longer a concern… right as she enters the room. For some reason, she’s dressed in a sexy Queen Amidala Halloween costume, bare midriff and everything. I’m not complaining.

Your Princess Jasmine cosplay's the wrong color, lady.
Lady Shiva says some stuff about his betrayal, and his failure, and how she knows everything, while Batman fiddles with his utility belt. Silver Monkey orders the ninjas to attack her, but they don’t. Why?

Lady Shiva: “I’m afraid they fear me more than they fear you.”

Um… why? Silver Monkey’s been shown to be one of the deadliest ninjas in the world. He has great skills, and a sword that can suck out souls. What do you have, lady? A dumb outfit, as far as I can see. Yeah, sure, in the comics, Lady Shiva’s one of the best assassins in the world. But that doesn't count.

Now, let me tell y'all a story. My dad is a science teacher. As such, he has to grade reports and tests and other assorted school-type whatevers. Some students don't do so well on their assignments, which is where the excuses come into the equation. They'll often use the excuse "I didn't put that information in my essay, but I still knew it!" or "I know I got the answer wrong, but I meant to fill in the other answer bubble!" But that's no excuse at all. A teacher can't grade what's in the student's head (unless the student's at the Xavier Institute), and they can't grade what the student meant. If you wrote down that Ben Franklin led the D-Day troops to victory, than that's what you're getting graded on.

Along those same lines, I can't judge this show based on how the characters are portrayed in the comics. So I’m not going to take Lady Shiva’s threats seriously when the show never presents her as a serious threat. If it's not onscreen, it doesn't count.

As such, Lady Shiva, having never presented herself as a threat, and her assassins (having never actually assassinated anyone) get 0% on this. But I will let them make it up with extra credit; if they can turn this around and show these characters acting like threats, then I'll be able to take them seriously. We'll see how that goes.

Silver Monkey gets tranq-darted by ninjas, but he manages to take a few mooks down before he succumbs to the effects. Meanwhile, Batman pours some convenient acid from his belt onto his bindings. Lady Shiva takes the sword, and proceeds to suck out Dr. Ravencroft’s soul and....
Well. My pants may or may not have changed color after seeing that. I'm not at liberty to say.
After that bit of terror, she tells Silver Monkey that she has something worse in store for him. Um, why? Suck out his soul! He’s the greatest ninja in the world! If you take him away to be tortured, he will escape and team up with the heroes! I’m calling it now. If Silver Monkey shows up again, he’ll be working with Batman and Tatsu.

She monologues about how Silver Monkey did one good thing by subduing Batman and Tatsu, and Batman tells her that she forgot something. The rocket.

Lady Shiva: “What rocket?”

Then a rocket crashes through the window and blows up the chandelier. We then cut to Alfred with a bazooka.

Alfred: “That rocket.”

Batman breaks his acid-weakened bonds and cuts Tatsu free. They fight Lady Shiva’s ninjas, taking each one down easily, but end up surrounded by ninja archers.

Why can’t the ninjas use guns? They’re much more subtle, which was something that I thought ninjas tried to be. That's my problem with the idea of "modern ninjas." Ninjas, historically, dressed like peasants in order to blend in. Modern ninjas should wear street clothes and carry guns, logically. Why do they wear conspicuous and often brightly-colored pajamas in fiction?

Anyway, the archers fire, and Lady Shiva escapes through the newly-formed hole in the ceiling by grabbing hold of a helicopter’s ladder. Batman throws down a smoke capsule, and he and Tatsu escape the building and drive away in the Batmobile.

Tatsu: “You’re not going to tell me where we’re going? …And you’re holding me against my will.”
Batman: “If you want out, just say so.”

Yeah, Tatsu. You’re just lucky that he brought you along. If you were kidnapped by Professor Pyg, he’d’ve left you outside the building. He takes her to the Batcave, and reveals to her that he knows about her past. The League of Assassins, faking her death, coming to Gotham, he knows it all. So, wait, you’re using information that she gave to Bruce Wayne, and claiming that you dug it up as Batman? You magnificent bastard. He also outlines how he knew about Dr. Ravencroft’s plan to work with Silver Monkey from the start. Tatsu raises a good question.

Tatsu: “If you knew all that, why didn’t you do something about it?”

He says he did; he used her to turn the League against itself. Again, Tatsu points out three flaws.

Tatsu: “Bruce Wayne is dead. Bethanie Ravencroft is an empty shell, and Lady Shiva has the Soultaker Sword.”

She has a point. Even considering that Bruce Wayne is alive, how are you winning again, Batman?

Batman: "It didn't work perfectly."

Tatsu begins to storm out of the cave, and he unmasks.

"I see your outfit's shinier than mine."
He vows to get back the sword, and Alfred shows up.

Bruce: “Tonight was your final test. And you aced it.”
Alfred: “Welcome to the family.”

Wait, we're actually getting to the status quo that's been advertised since before the show began!?

What a twist!
And as I’m left wondering why Batman could have planned this whole thing out and still let himself lose the way he did, the episode ends. Now let's do some reviewing; I need to vent about a few things.

1 comment:

  1. Ugh, don't even remind me of Talia incident. Few thing reboot done well was making whole thing consensual.

    Sadly, League are probably least interesting villains in this cartoon to me. OK, Silver Monkey was cool, but Shiva and even Ra were less than impressive.