This is 500 words about a Batman episode. This is the BATMAN 500.
Batman: The Animated Series did a lot of good with a lot of villains, with the exception of one: The Penguin. He’s not an inherently bad character. Well, not any worse than when he was originally conceived as a bird-shaped man with a penchant for losing fights. But Batman: The Animated Series seems to place him in any episode that has a villain-sized hole in it, regardless of how good of an actual fit he would be. And the episodes that he’s been crammed into usually aren’t very good. In fact, they’re often some of the worst. “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement,” episode 13 of the greatest cartoon of all time, is one of the most terrible things that this show would ever accomplish.
In my “Be A Clown” review, I said that kids in Batman rarely work because they’re grating and don’t fit in with the tone that’s been previously established. Unless you give them an interesting role, they fulfill some kind of pseudo-Robin position. But we’ve already got a perfectly good Robin for that. In “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement,” an episode where the two children constantly act like they’re auditioning for a separate show about themselves, you find yourself wondering if this was a script from a time period when people were still trying to work out what kind of show Batman would actually be. I understand that it’s a kids show, and demanding MATURE, GRITTY, DARK FOREVERS from a kids show is like asking a cat to prescribe your depression medication, but weren’t network executives already pressing the crew of Batman to add more Robin in order to appeal to children? That would’ve been cool. Robin’s forced to face one of Batman’s arch foes by himself while Batman is knocked out. But no, we get “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement.”
After getting taken down by Penguin, these two kids put Batman in their basement (which has a Joker poster in it. Man, this episode has so many ways where it could’ve gone right), and defend him against Penguin’s two idiot thugs, a giant vulture, and Penguin himself, who seems really uninterested in this particular crime. You know when you watch a movie, and you can kind of tell that an actor is half-assing it? That’s the case here. You can’t go 100% in every crime. You’d burn yourself out. When he’s investigating the house that Batman is hiding in, Penguin spends most of the time commenting on the “bourgeois” furniture.
Batman eventually wakes up to fight the Penguin with a screwdriver and after a duel that lasts way too long, defeats him. That’s got to be rough for Penguin, though. He sees that Joker poster and realizes that all of his plans to market to Gotham’s youth have failed. It’s hard to gather the motivation to fight when you realize that you’ve lost a prime demographic. When children are buying Joker posters, your chances of being Batman’s greatest enemy are all but shot.