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Worst BTAS Episodes

The Lesser Chapters of Batman the Animated Series

The overall incredibly high quality of the series is well documented . A maturely written artistically constructed heavily influential piece of Western animation—it's still not error-free. 

Few of these episodes are objectively bad and their inclusion is based exclusively on personal opinion. Spoilers of varying detail will be included, mainly at the lower end of list. This shouldn't be an issue though; the aim's highlighting episodes worth missing. My original choice for second place was the episode "Prophecy of Doom," and my tenth would be removed. This wasn't done because the problems with "Prophecy of Doom" were already highlighted better in this article :

 https://www.cbr.com/worst-episodes-batman-the-animated-series/

 

No.10

You'll side with the driver. Trust me.

GCPD Detective Harvey Bullock is the subject of attempted murder and requires Batman’s assistance finding the culprit. This premise allows opportunity for solid storytelling but the focus is misplaced. Rather than cleverly displaying Bullock’s desperation for safety, the episode instead showcases him unnecessarily insulting everyone he encounters—including Batman who’s helping him despite having no urgent need to. His abrasive actions are never even attributed to his stress. Also, when he is given potential additional assistance he squanders this mindlessly by ignoring basic reasonable instructions that he’s agreed to follow.

Heroic or sympathetic characters may not need to be traditionally likable or polite but being courteous towards the genius combatant vigilante trying to save you from murder is simply a practical decision. A given episode is usually judged by the quality of its villain, which is another reason this episode is below average for BTAS fare.

The villain, perfectly generic and barely present mobster Vinnie the Shark, has no individuality to make him threatening or even entertaining. The scene where he encounters Batman and Bullock is somewhat enjoyable and would’ve been of much higher caliber if a more recognisable or better-written character took his place. A story like this really is wasted on a one-shot figure who the writers made no attempt to develop. The story ends on a twist that was subtly and effectively foreshadowed—but the motivation of the culprit is poor. It would've been easily redeemed with an extra line of dialogue.

The biggest issue with the story is unlikable or undeveloped characters, which was almost never an issue when BTAS lent the spotlight to supporting players. The fact ‘bull’ appears twice in the title was probably a subliminal warning.

Redeeming Features: Focus on supporting players. Well foreshadowed (if unsatisfactory) surprise ending. Well-paced warehouse scene. Accurate description of Bullock resembling ‘an unmade bed’ courtesy of Alfred.



No.9

Neither animal pictured- trade description violation?

As far as experimental world building in a superhero cartoon goes, this is relatively successful. However, there are clear issues with this episode. It marks the return of Red Claw—a painfully uninteresting terrorist with no real motive story or personality who can’t decide where she comes from. Her accent is best described vaguely as ‘Not American/British’ and it's obvious falsity reduces any credibility the character’s has. Luckily, there wasn’t much to begin with.


This is Red Claw

Morticia and Cruella were both unavailable due to scheduling conflicts.

In "The Lion & The Unicorn," Alfred’s sent to London by British Government ally, Frederick. On arrival at their meeting place Alfred's approached by 2 cockney kidnappers under Red Claw's employ. He becomes suspicious when the kidnappers use nicknames the pair never use. Why, by complete chance would these 2 goons just happen to abbreviate both the names in way that made Alfred suspicious?

Granted Alfie and Freddie are easy abbreviations but why would they feel the need to abbreviate at all. A more pressing question is how Red Claw ever discovered and kidnapped Alfred’s ally to begin with. Unexplained actions are the downfall of certain episodes (more on that later). Red Claw needs a password to release a missile with which she’ll blow up London unless she’s paid £5,000,000,000. 

Under truth serum, Alfred masks the password as gibberish. This is a genuinely clever detail but Red Claw’s discovery of it is somewhat implausible- going from confusion to adamant certainty without any developed thinking in between. It’s essentially ‘Why does he keep saying tha-AH IT’S THE PASSWORD!’ 

After inexplicably appearing inside the batwing, Red Claw is also defeated very quickly and casually. This is after she removes Batman’s mask, an opportunity a minor and uninteresting villain with no desire to discover Batman’s identity shouldn’t be given. Viewers are left wondering if she ever saw Batman's face or even survived. A slightly annoying extra detail is how some minor characters speak in either changeable accents or using stereotypical colloquialisms, as if the performers had no way of imitating the British otherwise. This coupled with the fact Alfred and his friend un-ironically say ‘old chap’ and ‘dear boy’. Red Claw’s theorises that ‘No one takes Britain seriously anymore,’ the writers are part of that issue. This was a long time ago—Red Claw couldn't have predicted Brexit. 

Redeeming Features: Shows world Outside Gotham. Fairly Fast Paced. Clever piece of narrative subversion. Gives Alfred a role beyond saying ‘Golly Master Bruce’ or variations thereof. 

No.8

Not brushing teeth causes them to become luminous. But only if one's featured in a title card for a cartoon-fact.

This instalment is vastly inferior to most Joker Episodes. Joker’s actions lack logic; He escapes the Asylum on a Christmas tree disguised rocket that just happens to be in the main hall. There’s no explanation of how it was placed in the Asylum. Then joker kidnaps Commissioner Gordon, Detective Bullock and  journalist Summer Gleeson. The hostage situation is broadcast over every channel—again, with no indication how he was so quickly able to gain control of the airwaves or even successfully perform the kidnapping. The most irritating feature is these impressive/intriguing feats that would allow for an exciting and developed episode happen off screen without explanation. Showing the execution of these acts wouldn’t make them any less impressive and could benefit the episode. There’s one reason he’s somehow able to do all this: the plot.

A minor detail that adds to the frustration of the episode is his hostages are gagged using candy canes—which are seemingly edible. None think to bite them in half. They aren’t restrained to their faces in any way, they could even be spat out allowing time to reveal their location to the viewers. They begin to struggle and loudly mutter when the candy canes are placed comfortably in their mouths. 

This becomes more frustrating; When the journalist DOES attempt to reveal their whereabouts, Joker removes her candy cane gag but he just places it back and she continues to struggle as if she doesn’t have the ability to open her mouth and let it drop. It’s understandable that they’d be frightened of being attacked by Joker if they tried but he’s already held them hostage with murderous intent and he’s too theatrical to kill one of them ahead of schedule. They don’t even seem to keep quiet about their whereabouts for wellbeing’s sake. The 2 policemen insult joker and seem unworried that he may retaliate (he doesn't really—spoilers).

Joker's defeat is brief and anticlimactic. It also isn’t explicitly influenced by any of Batman’s actions or skills- making Batman feel almost pointless. Joker simply runs off and gets stuck on a roller skate. He then hurtles towards a chemical vat before being caught by the leg. Apparently, this absurdly prepared planner left a solitary roller-skate directly in the way of a potential escape route. There is no foreshadowing of this mistake or even a justification. Even a casual line of Batman Robin or even Joker himself theorising Joker was so obsessed with the grander plan he ignored minor details could’ve strengthened this casual defeat.

In short, the story is anticlimactic and illogical, poor qualities in a series that usually celebrates its textured storytelling.

Redeeming Features: One slightly suspenseful sequence. Occasional inventive Joker paraphernalia. Subtle reference to Joker’s creation (Acid Vat). Alleged originator of ‘Jingle Bells Batman Smells’ parody.


No.7

He may be laughing at the episode overall- but not the jokes. 

Joker releases laughing gas on Gotham so he can steal. That’s the whole plot. Simple stories aren’t automatically poor, but the episode offers very little overall. When butler Alfred becomes victim to the laughing gas it isn’t treated as an intense turning point to an otherwise lighter episode. 

It feels more like a basic attempt at basic comedy with no true consequence. What should be a high stake situation feels almost incidental due to its presentation. The major problems with this episode is the overall reduction of stakes and absentmindedness of characters in favour of the plot advancing. For example, Joker wears a glass helmet to protect himself from the laughing gas, that Batman at no point attempts to break. Even after removing Joker’s thugs' gasmasks—he still doesn’t try it with Joker. Admittedly if this worked this would have made the episode shorter but it makes no sense that a master of deduction with combat skills and batarangs wouldn’t even so much as attempt it—or at least explain why not. 

During the climax, Batman almost falls into a pit of fire but swings out, however, he is shown to quite clearly be within the fire during his escape. Flames and his suit come into direct contact and he suffers no injuries of any kind. Stunts like that eliminate any kind of tension or fear for a character’s wellbeing, which in superhero media tends to make the story pointless. 

The skype angle everyone avoids. Not that i skype dangling above fire...anymore.

Once again the Joker’s defeat is anticlimactic. As with so many other details of early Joker episodes it’s also totally illogical: He trips over a conveniently placed, completely loose piece of rope which miraculously ties around his leg as he falls toward a fiery pit, leaving Batman to save him.

Joker tripping over a misplaced item atop a balcony resulting in him dangling upside down over a body of fire is also the exact same conclusion as "Christmas with the Joker."

Redeeming Features: Intense near-drowning scene. Satisfyingly casual final scene. Fight scenes were fine (just fine). Batman showers a few times - hygiene is important. 

No.6

The title card artist should really branch out. God I'm sorry. Well, a bit. 

Poison Ivy’s second and most unwelcome visit to this series. Ivy’s plan here involves inviting rich people to a free resort and converting them into trees for their environmental crimes. Bruce is distantly involved with a potentially eco-unfriendly project that he severs ties with early in the episode, but since Ivy isn’t aware he’s invited to the free resort. 

Despite being a genius master of deduction, Bruce’s suspicions aren’t aroused by a free resort ran by a Doctor with the surname of a plant goddess. Unable to attend himself, Bruce coerce Alfred into attending with help from Maggie. ‘Who the hell is Maggie?’ I hear it asked—and it’s being asked by the episode’s writers as much as the audience. She’s a previously (and subsequently) unseen/unmentioned potential love interest for Alfred who also seems to know Bruce well. 

She’s underdeveloped and unnecessary—being only there so Alfred isn’t delivering sarcastic quips to fresh air. Her safety in the climax is of little consequence to viewers. Speaking of Alfred’s quips some make little sense: for example he at one point grumbles that Poison Ivy doesn’t ‘look a day over 90’ even though she clearly looks like a young, attractive woman. This raises another issue: Alfred had knowledge of Poison Ivy’s appearance in her previous episode, but fails to recognise her disguise (aka glasses). 

No, really. Look

First signs of a crossover: Did Clark Kent give Ivy disguise tips?

The possible explanation that Batman has so many elaborate foes Alfred may forget some isn’t sufficient; very few are female adversaries and all sport a distinctive look/ gimmick. 


Also, look at the lass.

He wouldn't just forget a woman who looked like that.

Poor disguises are common in superhero fiction but in a series that revolutionises the genre and avoids from familiar plot flaws, this is unwelcome. Alfred is also fairly useless in this episode despite being resourceful elsewhere in the Batman mythos- a key issue.

The final battle is short-lived (but not wholly anticlimactic) and above all the pacing seems poor. If scenes were slightly altered or reordered so that Ivy’s involvement was a surprise and the opening chase scene was used as a flashback could’ve allowed for a gripping mystery story.

Redeeming Features: Interesting defeat. Ironic final line. Uma Thurman isn’t playing Ivy (though- was she ever really?).



No.5

Episode doesn't take own advice.

Making a comedy episode shouldn’t be an excuse to ignore the rules of an established universe, coherent storyline or previous characterisation. In this episode Joker uses Mad Hatter’s mind control devices to brainwash famous comedians into eccentric small-time crooks.

They are....

Condiment King (Who Uses Mustard and Ketchup Guns)

Need I comment?








The Pack Rat (Who Steals Useless Items)

Here he actually looks vaguely sinister. A real testament to the artists.






And finally....

Mighty Mom (Who's Equipped with Cleaning Items and Spanks Robin. Yes.)

Knew I hadn't dreamt that happening. Well, might have dreamt it too but that's none of anyone's business.

These personas aren’t the issue, their ludicrousness is entertaining and it’s plausible that Joker would use eccentric concepts like these ones.

What isn’t effective is his motive: The Joker, in civilian form, once interrupted a talent show after the winner was announced stole a microphone and began telling jokes. When he didn’t win he vowed revenge on the judges. 

This is How He Once Apparently Looked

Joker as a normal person. That's a few people's days ruined.

Because he failed to apply, and forced his way on stage last minute after a legitimate winner was chosen—the judges were apparently at fault. It’s loosely implied this was his start of darkness but it’s an incredibly poor origin story . 

It’s also entirely unneeded & contradicted by "The Mask of the Phantasm" which is clearly set in this series’ continuity. After all the elaborate planning  Joker’s intends to steal one single Trophee. By this point in the series Joker's bought a nuclear bomb he has near-suicidal intentions to use, stalked a man for years after a traffic incident and planted explosives in a children’s party. The fact that these extreme actions are followed by trophy theft is irritating and not comical enough to be excused. The one redeemable feature of this plan it it’s consistency with Joker’s complexity addiction, but it's never stated.

There are additionally uninvesting details e.g. Condiment King attempts to rob a restaurant using ketchup and mustard guns and actually succeeds. Not one patron of the restaurant decides to leave despite the fact he’s clearly alone and unarmed. He also carries hot sauce but even if people are attacked with that (one is) it’s easily treatable with milk—which could never be found IN A RESTAURANT. Additionally Robin only recognises the Pack Rat as a favourite comedian of his after he’s defeated, despite his undisguised face being in plain sight up until this point. Detective skills haven’t been transposed onto the Boy Wonder apparently.

Joker loses all previously solidified mystery and menace. As with other list entries, his defeat is incredibly brief and unremarkable. Had this been an early episode the problems could’ve been excusable. However, As a Nerdist review points out this was the final episode to feature this depiction of Joker- an ill-fitting finale for an iconic depiction of an iconic character.

Redeeming Features: Creative side-villain personas. Actual Detective work. Brief clever narrative subversion. Technically better than Jared Leto. 

No.4

Oh yeah, Tiger's are famously associated with moon howling.

Catwoman/Selina Kyle is kidnapped by a mad scientist intent on splicing animals with humans. Why's he intent on this? He just is.


As a result, Catwoman becomes an actual cat woman...

Furries get blamed for everything- but this is genuinely their fault. 

The scientist’s gorilla-man minion is the one who conducts her kidnapping. The in-story rules of the episode are heartlessly abandoned when a security guard not only stands still after attempting to reach for his gun, giving himself a chance to be attacked, but still believes the gorilla is a human boyfriend of Selina’s even after witnessing an unambiguous abduction and almost himself being killed.

At the risk of repetition, the villain hurts the quality of this episode. Dr Emile Dorian’s voice is un-intimidating and unintentionally forced, reducing any potential chance of being an actual character. He also complies religiously with a limited number of mad scientist stereotypes and fails at capturing all of them. He offers little no threat and when there’s potential, the character’s reactions would give you no indication. 

He sends one of his previous creations (a cat man) to chase after Batman when the Dark Knight comes to rescue Catwoman. A monotonous scene that provides absolutely no sense of threat or suspense occurs. There is also ignorance of Batman’s capability, he uses a full body net on the cat man that comes near the cat man’s mouth and believes himself to be free of his pursuer—despite the fact the cat has sharp teeth and- courtesy of Batman—a net within biting reach. The episode is monotonous, Batman and Catwoman almost seem pointless for a number of scenes and the character development given to a one-shot character (Tygrus the cat fella- unofficial title) is overshadowed by the aforementioned problems.

Redeeming Features: Attempt to develop minor characters. Ambitious genre experimentation. I’m actually struggling for a third – even a funny one isn’t happening. OH – shows some detective work.

No.3

Look at that title. Even the writers had no faith.

An appropriate title. Bruce Wayne is investigating the disappearance of Gotham’s homeless in disguise when he’s knocked unconscious. He awakens, with severe memory loss, in a labour camp where many of the missing homeless are kept. 

The idea of hampering Batman with memory loss and forcing him to use his natural skills rather than gadgets is strong. However, these details are arguably inconsequential since an amnesiac Bruce, alongside an ordinary Gotham civilian are able to effortlessly beat an army of the villain’s underlings. 

Additionally, Bruce’s memory is quickly returned when said Gotham civilian says the word ‘family’ and Bruce is able to effortlessly kick his way out of a solid secured metal box. When his strength reaches superhuman levels without gadgets, can he ever feel endangered? Also in spite of this superhuman strength, he does nothing to save the aforementioned Gotham civilian from his metal box, apparently preferring to wait till he’s released the next day.

An additionally puzzling detail is before his memory returns Bruce has a melodramatic guilt fuelled dream where he’s depicted in his typical 3 piece suit and black hair (he’s disguised as a much older person during the kidnapping). He doesn’t question why he’s a rich younger man in his guilt dream. It’s also puzzling how the Gotham civilian (and another prisoner also native to Gotham) fail to recognise Bruce even after he’s returned to his more recognisable appearance.

Now for the Villain

Get him a solo series for cliff-hanger resolution e.g does he eat the chicken leg? oh he does, nevermind.

Boss Biggis (big boss - I've genuinely just noticed that) is incredibly two-dimensional with his only traits being generic evil and extreme gluttony. He’s also incompetent enough to trip over himself and cause an explosive chain reaction. If the heroes under no threat, how can the audience feel any level of suspense? 

Also, the music is sometimes irritatingly misplaced and overbearing.

Redeeming Features: Intriguing Premise. Satisfying ending. Music isn’t as out of place as Disney’s "Hi-Ho It's off to Work We Go" would be (that song would actually be perfect).


No.2

Bruce’s rival from his martial arts days kidnaps their old Sensei’s new star pupil wishing to exchange her for a secret fatal special move. The star pupil has never appeared before and isn’t given any character to allow investment in her story. A similar issue with the villain—his only trait is he likes martial arts and wants to be good at them. 

Bruce’s former sensei is equally bland as a character with no discernible traits and no opportunity to display his skills. The Sensei and villain have appeared before. While the other episode was similarly unappealing, it’s more noticeable in this case since a poor villain is reused despite previous failure. The episode is poorly paced and uninvesting in a lot of places. Another issue with the narrative is that the villain asks to battle with Batman on a volcano. 

It makes sense in context. If the episode was just this still for 20 minutes it'd be less boring.

Even if he was unaware it was active (spoilers) this is still a questionable venue . Batman even addresses this—but only after it’s become fully evident and pointing this out in story doesn’t make it less poor as an in-story decision. Another issue with the episode is little is shown of Bruce’s history despite the episode heavily involving it. There’s also the slightly contrived sequence in which Kyodai Ken kidnaps Alfred. This is a justified plot development since Kyodai discovers Batman's identity through his familiar fighting style—but has no specified knowledge of who Alfred is, or where to find him at the specific moment that he happens to. The unremarkable aesthetics along with basic storyline dialogue and characterisation make a potentially strong idea seem incredibly unfinished.

Redeeming Features: Suspenseful end to fight scene. Clever method of defeat. Is over before you’ve lost complete faith in humanity (not guaranteed).


No.1

Honestly, you've seen the best bit now.

The same problems, just more overt. Poor pacing, weak villain,  uninspiring premise. The villain in question is one shot character Sewer King, owner of two pet crocodiles, inexplicably dressed like an 18th Century Dandy despite living in the sewer. Like Fagin from Oliver Twist, he teachers children to steal. His performance is forced and overly dramatic, his unbelievably ham-fisted cries completely deflate any tension of his fight scene. 

Most of the story is spent on Batman taking in one of his underlings. These sequences reduce any chance of development or solid plotting by showing Alfred incompetently chasing the erratic child who repeats the same 3 painfully unfunny actions throughout. The artwork is slightly weaker and a painfully forced lecture about how children shouldn’t use guns is done with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer that plays Peter Gabriel. 

During the scene in concern, Batman finds the child carrying an unloaded gun around his mansion and begins an hour-long growl about gun danger to then reveal the gun isn’t loaded (why you worried then Bruce?) but then specifies that it could’ve been (but it wasn’t though?). This also raises the unanswered question of why the famously anti-gun superhero would display guns in his mansion. 

If there’s a reason maybe some statement of it is required. As mature as this show could be it was ostensibly targeted at children who wouldn’t be able to answer these questions unassisted. 

An example of Sewer King's unnecessary hamminess.

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