This is 500 words about a Batman episode. This is the BATMAN 500.
Once a cartoon universe feels a little “lived in,” you can afford to have some fun with it. And by “lived in,” I mean “Viewers aren’t subjected to exposition every time a new character walks onscreen.” A lived in universe means not having to have someone say “Look, it’s Harvey Dent. Harvey Dent is the District Attorney of Gotham City and he’s the BEST District Attorney, because he’s Harvey Dent!” when Dent shows up. “Pretty Poison” is the first episode that doesn’t feel like it could be a pilot episode, so you get to see a Gotham that has gone through some growing pains. You get the idea that this is a Gotham with history, and that’s not just because the show opens with newsreel footage from five years prior.
Harvey Dent is dating a woman named Pamela Isley, and after knowing her for a week, wants to marry her. Dent was introduced in “On Leather Wings,” and while saying that his cameos in two episodes help to make him sympathetic before his Two Face two-parter is a little bit of an over exaggeration, it is nice that we get to see him in a non-work setting. It’s also nice that they paired him with Pamela Isley, who seems shady from the moment we meet her. It lets us know that he’s a good District Attorney, but he’s also slightly erratic. Again, it doesn’t make his later appearances that much more meaningful, but it does lay decent groundwork to build from.
Pamela Isley is not too unlike the Scarecrow in that you don’t feel really bad for her. However, unlike “Nothing To Fear,” which was way more concerned with how cool a blimp looks when it’s about to crash, “Pretty Poison” gives us a finale that does make us care about the villain. Trapped by walls of fire and desperately trying to save a single plant, Poison Ivy is not defeated by Batman, but by her own compulsions. She gives up an antidote for her poison because Batman is willing to exchange her only non-burnt plant for it. I would actually say that, despite the fact that Batman “saves the day,” everyone, including Batman, was kind of defeated by Batman here. He’s the idiot that tried to grapple up to some lights, and ended up pulling the whole thing down and setting the greenhouse on fire. If there’s one running theme in this show, I hope it’s Batman learning what will hold his weight and what won’t. Gargoyles? Check. Helicopter parts? Check. Flimsy light fixtures? Nope, nope, nope. Memo: In order to prevent future infernos, do not use grapple gun on any electrical products unless you installed them yourself, Batman.
“Pretty Poison” isn’t as good or interesting as some of Poison Ivy’s later stories, but it never makes you feel like you wasted money on your Batman: The Animated Series Volume 1 boxset. It’s biggest contribution to the series is that it makes you want to watch the next episode.