This is 500 words about a Batman episode. This is the BATMAN 500.
The Scarecrow is a B-list villain that wishes he was an A-list villain. No matter how hard he tries, he’s not smart enough or theatrical enough to join the ranks of Joker or Catwoman, so he’s forced to join Killer Croc and Mad Hatter on the JV team. This doesn’t make him any less interesting, as Batman: The Animated Series, with a few exceptions, would end up making every villain at least watchable. But Scarecrow’s status, like the character himself, is inadequate. It’s why he uses fear gas. No one can push you in a locker or leave you out of their hang out sessions when they’re writhing on the ground in agonizing fear.
“Nothing To Fear” is an improvement from “Christmas With The Joker,” but not because it does anything especially spectacular. It just never reaches the previous episode’s lows. As an introduction to Scarecrow, it mostly works, though. He’s a goofy-looking skinny guy with straw coming out of his sleeves, and if his toxin hits you, you’d rather be dead than experience what comes next. He’d go on to have a costume overhaul a few episodes from now, which would make his appearance much creepier, but I kind of like him here. I dig the idea that you’d laugh at the fact that he exists until he suddenly made you think that you had spiders crawling out of your eyelids.
One weird thing about Scarecrow is that, despite the fact that he’s obviously affected by some mental disorder, he never gets the sympathetic treatment that Mad Hatter or Mr. Freeze get in their debut episodes. Mr. Freeze, his heart locked in a cold, remorseless body, just wants to have his wife back, because getting his wife back would mean feeling something again. Mad Hatter is lonely to the point of lashing out at the world around him. He craves companionship, but years of neglect have warped him so much that he only knows how to acquire friends through vengeful manipulation. Scarecrow doesn’t get this layered treatment. He wants revenge on the university that (very justly) fired him.
This is also the episode that introduces what might be Batman’s most famous quote in this whole series. Doused in Scarecrow’s fear gas, and hanging off the edge of a blimp, Batman is haunted by a giant vision of his father. His vision daddy tells him “You are a disgrace!”, to which Batman counters with “No! You are not my father. I am not a disgrace. I am vengeance. I am the night. I AM BATMAN!” It’s awesome, and it makes me wish that DC would do a comic where Batman has to fight a Godzilla-sized version of his father in the streets of Gotham. If a huge specter of my father insulted me while I hung, paralyzed with fear, from a blimp, I doubt that I’d handle it that awesomely. “No! I am not a disgrace! I am confident. I am partially motivated. I WILL NOT FINISH MY GUITAR LESSONS.”