Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Recap: The Batman "The Man Who Would Be Bat"

Today, somebody tries to fulfill that oldest of adages in the most literal way.

"Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman."

Always be Batman.
It's yet another technicolor night sky over Gotham City. Tonight, as the sky glows red, the Batmobile is involved in a high speed chase. But he's not the one doing the chasing. There's a cop car fast on his tail, recklessly weaving through the streets, following his glowy blue trail.

The reckless driver: Detective Ellen Yin.

The reluctant passenger: Detective Ethan Bennett.

The guy refusing to make a "women drivers" joke: Me.

Batman manages to give them the slip by deploying some kind of flash/smoke bomb, and they exit the car, apparently to confirm that yes, the Batmobile is nowhere in sight. But what they do find are bats. A big ol' flock of them. And to them, this can only mean one thing.

Ellen Yin: "If you were the Batman, what kind of pets would you have?"
"I dunno. Like... a Bat-Hound?"
They decide to follow the bats all the way through the city until they find their destination.

Ellen Yin: "Wayne Industries. Looks like your buddy Wayne has some explaining to do."

"Yin, I'm sure there's another explanation. Maybe Dracula's in Gotham."
"Okay, that's just silly."
The next day, Bruce Wayne arrives at his cushy day job for the first time in the series. But because he owns the company, he can get away with that sort of thing.

Bruce Wayne: "Morning, Marlene. Any messages for Gotham's most eligible?"

I stand by what I said in "Call of the Cobblepot" about how I think this version of Bruce oversells his horndog tendencies to make people think he's secretly gay in a "Methinks thou doth protest too much" situation. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being gay, of course. Being Batman is much more controversial. Which is why he'd rather have people suspecting he's gay over suspecting he's Batman.

But speaking of people suspecting Bruce Wayne of being Batman, Ethan and Ellen arrive to talk to the billionaire bachelor.

Ethan Bennett: "Drop the act, buddy. We know you're the Batman."

"It was the chin, wasn't it? I knew I should never have left my distinctive chin exposed."
Ethan Bennett: "Psych!"

Yep, it was a joke all along.

Ethan Bennett: "You the Batman?"

"What was that bit about your distinctive chin being exposed?"
"...I shaved my beard off today. Exposing my chin. And now my face is cold."
"That's a bit of a non-sequitur."
"Yes. It is."
"When did you grow this beard, by the way?
You didn't have it a few nights ago during your party at Wayne Manor."
"...I grow beards very quickly."
"That reminds me, how's Kiki?"
"Her? We broke up."
"Sounds like you lose beards pretty quickly too."
But Yin quickly cuts to the chase as she tells Bruce that they're investigating a lead on the Batman and a possible connection to Wayne Industries.

Ellen Yin: "We'd like to have a look in this building, Mr. Wayne."

"I don't know if you can shrink us down, or what, but make it happen."
Bruce is more than accommodating as he shows them around the building, but he still makes veiled confessions.

Bruce Wayne: "If anyone here had anything to do with the Batman, I'd be the first to know."

He takes them inside darkened room filled with bats as he says this, as if tempting fate. The lab belongs to Dr. Kirk Langstrom, an audiometrist, a term which Bruce incorrectly explains means he's an expert in the science of hearing. The word he's looking for, though, is "audiologist"; an "audiometrist" is merely authorized to conduct hearing tests with an audiometer, although there seems to be some debate over the "proper" terminology. Either way, Langstrom keeps bats around, since hearing is kind of their thing.

Dr. Langstrom (Peter MacNicol) himself emerges from a freezer with some sort of sample of some kind of science, so introductions can be made.

Bruce Wayne: "Dr. Langstrom. These are Detectives Yin..."

And these are Detectives Bennett.

Langstrom gets a little nervous at the mention of "detectives," for some reason.

Ellen Yin: "Dark in here. You aren't trying to hide anything, are you, Doctor?"
Bruce Wayne: "Bats are nocturnal. They prefer the dark."

Hm. Sounds like Mr. Wayne knows a lot about bats....

Bruce Wayne: "That's common knowledge."

Nice recovery.

Yin asks where Langstrom was between 4 and 5 AM and he tells her that he was waiting for his bats to return.

Dr. Langstrom: "I suppose I don't have much of a social life."
Ethan Bennett: "What do you know about the Batman?"
Dr. Langstrom: "I've never paid much attention. But if he likes bats, he can't be all bad."

The conversation seems to be going nowhere, so the detectives leave, allowing Bruce to ask why Dr. Langstrom hasn't updated anyone on the progress of his research. Langstrom stammers a bit about being bad at paperwork, but Bruce ends up uttering that dangerous phrase that pushes scientists down the path of super villainy.

Bruce Wayne: "And I'm afraid I'm gonna have to shut down your project."

Langstrom is upset by the news, and he responds by showing Bruce a picture of his niece, Carly. Apparently, she lost her hearing at the age of 3 due to complications with measles. Langstrom has devoted his life to finding a cure for deafness. And he's convinced that he's on the verge of a breakthrough.

Well, Bruce might pretend to be a self-absorbed playboy, but he really does want to help make the world a better place. So he continues funding Langstrom's experiments on bats, a decision which Alfred tries to make him rethink back at STATELY WAYNE MANOR.

Alfred: "Giving Detective Yin a reason to sniff around Wayne Industries could spell disaster."

Bruce is optimistic about Langstrom being on the verge of his breakthrough, but Alfred's more of a realist.

Alfred: "In scientific terms, sir, 'on the verge' could mean 'years.'"

Got that right. I remember reading about "gecko tape" in school, shortly after the release of the first Spider-Man film. Basically, it's a strip of material that mimics gecko feet, allowing it to stick to surfaces without any sort of glue or adhesive. I read that scientists were "on the verge" of being able to mass produce it for commercial use, and the article ended with a joke about how the next Spider-Man movie would probably opt to use special effects instead of gecko tape. ...And it did, but that's beside the point.

That was in 2003. Commercially-available gecko tape products finally became widely available in 2015. Science takes a long time to happen. I mean, jetpacks. 'Nuff said.

So Bruce suggests that he might be able to help Langstrom in a different way....

That night, Bruce rings the doorbell of a house in the city, finding little Carly herself answering the door. Bruce kneels down and greets her by speaking and by signing, allowing her to understand him in whatever way she finds easiest, lip-reading or sign language.

Bruce Wayne: "Hi, Carly. I brought you. This hearing. Aid. Until. Your. Uncle. Can...."
Carly: "Mom! There's some total weirdo at the door!"

"Stranger danger!"
Bruce Wayne: "...You can hear?"

She can hear. Meaning that one faux pas (depending on the type of damage to her hearing, a hearing aid might have been useless) has been traded for another.

So Bruce leaves the scene before he has to explain anything to the cops, and returns to Wayne Industries to confront Langstrom. He's not in at the moment, so Bruce takes the opportunity to rifle through his papers to see just what in the heck he's been doing with all that funding. The first thing he discovers is a cut-out newspaper clipping of the Batman. And another. And police reports. And amateur photos.

When Langstorm emerges from the freezer, Bruce confronts him over his little scrapbook. So Langstrom turns the tables by calling Bruce "a pompous pretty-boy" and insulting his intelligence. Langstrom, as it turns out, is not just a typical scientist. He's a mad scientist. ...On second thought, that makes him a typical scientist, going by comic book standards.

Dr. Langstrom: "I want to be like the Batman."

Yes, Langstrom has himself a little obsession with the defender of Gotham.

"He is Batman! You are like the buzzing of flies to him!"
Bruce Wayne: "You wanna be a crime fighter?"

Wayne Industries technology and funds being used for crime fighting? That'll never happen.

Dr. Langstrom: "No, Mr. Wayne. I want to be feared."

Well, keep up that Judge Doom look, and you'll be on your way.

Bruce's interference has forced Dr. Langstrom to accelerate his schedule, so he whips out what appears to be a vial of Ooze. You know, from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? The stuff that turns things into half-human, half-animal hybrids? But I digress. Langstrom drinks his pink goo, revealing that what the pink slime actually does is...

Turn things into half-human, half-animal hybrids. Huh.
The last thing he does before gruesomely transforming is christen himself "Man-Bat," shortly after lamenting that Batman himself couldn't be here to witness the transformation. Oh, the irony.

The first thing Bruce does is try to appeal to Man-Bat's humanity. It's a no go. But Bruce narrowly escapes the rampaging monster by tricking it into the freezer and barring the door shut with a lead pipe.

Batman: "Chill."

You call that an ice pun? Let's get Mr. Freeze to drop by in the next episode to show you how it's done.

But Man-Bat crashes through the ceiling and escapes the building. Bruce rushes outside and remotely activates the Batmobile. He runs outside to meet it... only to find Yin and Bennett.

Ethan Bennett: "Check it out, even billionaires put in overtime."

Bruce quickly excuses himself to check his "phone," secretly directing the Batmobile to a hidden location.

Ethan Bennett: "Email from a cutie?"
Bruce Wayne: "Spam."

Yin says she's here to talk to "Dr. Bat" again, not knowing how right she is.

Ellen Yin: "That dork act didn't sit right with me."

No wonder they transferred Yin from Metropolis. Dan Turpin was probably sick of her wild accusations that some reporter guy was Superman.

But Bruce tells her that Langstrom left, making yet another joke that only he'll appreciate.

Bruce Wayne: "Flew right out of here just minutes ago."

He tries to leave, but Yin came prepared with a search warrant. They are going to that lab, no matter what Bruce says. What the Chief says, however, is another matter. Yin gets a call from GCPD telling her that some kind of bat-winged thing is assaulting people downtown. So the detectives leave, allowing Bruce to join the chase himself, after a quick change in the car.

As Man-Bat steals a goat from the zoo for a little snack, Alfred informs Batman that several mammals have been found completely drained of blood.

"Sir, might Dracula be on the loose?"
"Dracula? Come on, Alfred. Vampires aren't real."
Batman chases Man-Bat through the city before jumping out of his car and leaping across rooftops. From there, he leaps onto Man-Bat's back, saving some poor schmo from being Man-Bat's first human victim. Man-Bat manages to shake off Batman by crashing through a brick wall in a construction zone, and despite some fancy maneuvers on both sides, the fight ends in an alleyway as Man-Bat reverts to his human form.

Dr. Langstrom: "I knew you'd come calling, Batman. So tell me. Who's the better bat?"

Michael Keaton, end of story.

Batman tells him to stop this madness before he starts attacking humans, but Langstrom declares that all it will take is two more doses of Ooze for the effect to be permanent. Batman knocks the first dose out of his hand with a batarang, so the mad doctor runs off while sirens approach. Soon enough, Yin and Batman are once again staring each other down.

Ellen Yin: "Give it up, Langstrom!"

Batman decides that there's not enough time in the world to explain how the 5-foot-4 skinny guy is not the 6-foot muscleman and smoke bombs away instead. Yin and Bennett split up to find him, and Yin manages to tackle and cuff the real Dr. Langstrom as he drinks a dose of Ooze.

Ellen Yin: "Okay, Batman. Where'd you ditch the muscle suit?"

The real Batman shows up to try and warn Yin, but he soon turns back into Man-Bat. Or as Ethan calls him when he shows up to help, "Bat-Thing."

Man-Bat fires some sticky saliva at Ethan and decides to fly of with him to raise the stakes a bit. Thinking quickly, Batman launches a tracer and leaps away as Yin calls in for a copter to track Man-Bat.

Ellen Yin: "No, no, not Batman. Man-Bat."

Huh. What are the odds that she would just happen to arrive at the same name that Langstrom chose for himself?

As she does, Bruce calls Alfred from his car, w... No. Just... no.

I refuse to believe that Man-Bat is traveling at 185 mph.
Peregrine falcons, the fastest bird, can only accomplish speeds like that while diving. The fastest animal in the air is the homing pigeon, with a horizontal speed of only 110 mph. And those things are built to fly, unlike the bulky, non-aerodynamic Man-Bat.

Anyway, Batman wakes his slumbering butler. He tells the groggy Alfred to prepare a few things, and we cut to Batman running across the rooftops in a few shots that feature prominently in the opening sequence.

He manages to track the tracer as the sun comes up, reasoning that Man-Bat must have gone to the closest thing to a guano-filled cave, the Gotham sewers. Luckily, neither Killer Croc nor the Penguin is there to kick the newcomer out. Man-Bat hears Batman coming and ambushes him after he cuts down Detective Bennett.

And so, the fight is on as Batman activates his jetpack. The two fly and fight and grapple through the sewers of Gotham, and the Batman gains the upper hand by using a sonic device to screw with Man-Bat's echolocation. He tricks Man-Bat into running into some pipes, causing a bit of an explosion that forces the reverted Dr. Langstrom out into... a river. A gross, poop-colored river.

Gotham's sewer system is apparently less modern than London's was in 1870.
Anyway, Bennett is there to deliver some handcuffs and a one-liner.

Ethan Bennett: "I'm not sure what's creepier. A big rat with wings or a drowned rat without 'em."

"Oh, and I guess you have the right to remain silent."
Sometime later, Yin, Bennett, and Bruce arrive at Langstrom's lab, where she plans on being as thorough as possible in her search for evidence. But everything seems to have been moved out.

Bruce Wayne: "Maybe Langstrom didn't want anyone analyzing his work."
Ellen Yin: "And you don't know anything about this, Wayne."

Bennett vouches for his buddy, so Bruce makes another veiled joke to himself.

Bruce Wayne: "I like to think I help law enforcement whenever I can."
Ethan Bennett: "Personally, I'm just glad we're back down to one bat-guy."
Ellen Yin: "Well, if Langstrom isn't the Batman, who is?"

But that's a mystery for another day. Right now, I'm just wondering how Bruce managed to repair and clear out Langstrom's lab without anybody noticing. Maybe Alfred's just that good at cleaning. Or maybe Lucius Fox is doing stuff behind the scenes before his official introduction into the show. Or maybe Bruce put on some Journey, picked up a broom, and started cleaning himself.

But no matter the method, it seems as though the Man-Bat formula is locked up inside Kirk Langstrom's head. The good news is that no competent prison facility would give him an opportunity to recreate his formula. The bad news is that Kirk Langstrom is locked up in Arkham Asylum, where the inmates are apparently allowed to etch chemical formulae into the walls with a fork. By their feet. To be fair, his hands are bound.

Dr. Langstrom: "In time, in time. The night will belong to Man-Bat."


  1. You know, I think this is the one time I've ever seen Batman working in the daytime. Outside of crossovers, that is.

    1. Good point, this is an oddity, although I think he does it a few more times in this show. And I'm not sure later episodes justify it by having Batman stay up all night like he does here.

      You know, you'd think that more Gotham criminals would do daytime robberies to avoid Batman.

  2. I have to say, your allusions to it just make me want to ask; are you ever going to review The Batman vs. Dracula?

    1. Absolutely. I don't have any plans for it in the near future, but it's definitely in the pipeline.