This is 500 words about a Batman episode. This is the BATMAN 500.
At a certain point in “Beware The Gray Ghost,” we see the main character, a washed-up actor named Simon Trent, most famous for playing an old action hero named “The Gray Ghost,” in his dim apartment, surrounded by memorabilia from his show. It reminds me of someone named Batman. Chill guy with a dark mask. You’d like him. See, Batman mostly sits around in a dim room, surrounded by memorabilia from his own adventures. Sure, his adventures are “real” while Trent’s were just on a TV serial, but it begs the question “How much of this is real to Batman?” Is he acting out some kind of fantasy as well? Is he playing a part, too? Why else would he keep treasures from his past encounters with notable murderous villains? Just like we see a young Bruce Wayne in his little hat and makeshift cape, enraptured by “The Gray Ghost,” Batman also is Bruce Wayne engaging in a fantasy life. There’s a part of it that is unhinged from reality. A part that is pure entertainment.
“Beware The Gray Ghost,” like “Heart Of Ice,” is one of those must-see Batman episodes, mainly because it’s so damn comforting to hear Adam West interact with Kevin Conroy. West was pretty pissed when he got passed over for Tim Burton’s Batman movies, so part of this feels like an olive branch. Fans of the ‘60s Batman show ensuring West that his spot in the Batman legacy is solid and necessary. And while West doesn’t knock anyone’s socks off with this role, he gives a warm, likable performance that makes me wish we could see a whole episode of “Beware the Gray Ghost.”
A huge part of the appeal of Batman: The Animated Series is that it really doesn’t make you choose whether or not you will like its interpretation of Batman, since it finds a way to effortlessly mix every interpretation of Batman. Like him gritty and street crime-based? Watch “P.O.V.” Like him fighting on a massive stage with classic foes? Watch “The Laughing Fish.” Are you awful? Watch “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement,” you heinous ass. There are parts of the ‘60s Batman series that bleed into Batman: The Animated Series, and that’s why West’s role, despite it being a pat on the back and a “Thank you for your service,” never seems forced. It’s both great casting and an appraisal of Batman lore.
This is the middle part in another trilogy of episodes without any mega villains, but at this point, Batman feels like a much more confident series. The mood has been set. We don’t have to deal with the uneven tone of something like “The Underdwellers” anymore. From now on, it’s rare to find a Batman episode that is bad because it didn’t know what it wanted to be. After this, weak Batman episodes are just weak Batman episodes. “Beware The Gray Ghost” isn’t weak, but it isn’t great either. However, it is just too charming to dismiss.