This is 500 words about a Batman episode. This is the BATMAN 500.
If you asked a random stranger, ignoring all typical rules of polite behavior, to come up with a plot for a “stereotypical cartoon Joker episode” on the spot, they’d probably sputter something like the plot of “The Last Laugh.” The Joker spreads a bunch of laughing gas, and uses the ensuing chaos as a distraction while he goes on a crime spree. Like I mentioned in the “Christmas With The Joker” review, it took a little while for the Joker to transform into the iconic portrayal that would become a main staple of the show, and “The Last Laugh” is probably the worst example of the character that you’ll find in Batman: The Animated Series. Aside from one minor thing, it really feels squandered.
Joker’s laughing gas is used mainly because it’s hard to have an eternally-grinning clown murder most of Gotham with a machine gun and still claim that the show is for all ages. And it may just be the fact that the animation in this episode is the clunkiest that we’ve seen so far, so the manic chuckling of the Joker’s victim’s is never quite as effective as it’s intended to be. This clunkiness also takes some of the stakes away from the action scenes, as characters seem to be moving between half speed and full speed at random intervals. “The Last Laugh” may not excel in any areas, but it does give viewers a chance to know what their favorite super characters look like as they wade through invisible pudding.
The saving grace in the episode is a giant robot named “Captain Clown,” or, to be more specific, what the Joker says when Batman is finally able to knock Captain Clown into a trash compactor. “You killed Captain Clown. You KILLED CAPTAIN CLOWN!” the Joker bellows at him, switching between amusement and anger in a way the indicates that if they could just find a better script for Mark Hamill, he’d really be doing something special. This is the closest that the Joker will get to having a sidekick until Harley Quinn shows up in “Joker’s Favor,” and while Harley Quinn is the one of the best comic book-related creations in the last fifty years, I shed a single tear for the fact that Captain Clown never went on to become a major player in the DC Universe.
R.I.P. Captain Clown. You were really good at picking Batman up over your head and spinning him around.
“The Last Laugh” is also notable for the fact that it has zero detective work in it. Batman hears about the Joker’s crimes on the radio, and 90% of Batman’s plan to stop him involves running right up to the Joker and punching in his general area. He uses the BatBoat at one point, but that’s less “detective work” and more “Benefits of being a bat-themed millionaire.” Not all cases need a magnifying glass, but still. It’s called tact, Batman. And it goes a long way in the Not-Getting-Your-Ass-Kicked-By-Circus-Robots Department.