This is 500 words about a Batman episode. This is the BATMAN 500.
A big part of most superhero origin stories is the “Oh, man, look at what I can do!” scene, where they come to terms with their radioactive puberty and figure out how to work their limbs again. And after seeing “Feat of Clay Part 2,” I think it should be a big part of supervillain origin stories as well, because watching Matt Hagen have breakdowns and revelations about his new clay powers is awesome. He goes through a process of denial and anger and then reaches what can best be described as This-Isn’t-So-Bad-I-Can-Work-With-Thisness. It’s a phase that all Gotham villains go through. “Well, I dress like a fairy tale character now and I laugh uncontrollably, but I can use it to my advantage, probably.”
In “Feat of Clay Part 2,” Clayface wants revenge on Roland Daggett, and Batman stops him. That’s about it. There isn’t a ton of twists and turns in this one. That doesn’t mean that it lacks pathos, but unlike the Two-Face two-parter, the pathos isn’t directed towards the main villain. It’s directed towards some of the people around him. Batman, and poor, abused Teddy just want Matt to calm down and try to figure out a way to not become an oozing criminal. And it’s not that Matt is too far gone to consider their pleas, it’s just that taking the time to figure out a “better” way is too much work. Being Clayface makes things easier. He has every terrible option available to him as Clayface, whereas he was urged to abide by the laws of decency as Matt Hagen.
The animation in this episode is top notch, and it had to be. You’re dealing with Clayface, who is constantly dripping and shifting and changing. Poor animation would render him a joyless talking turd. But whether he’s turning his hands into claws or hammers, or turning his face into an old woman’s or a cop’s, it’s all done so smoothly that you can’t take your eyes off of it. And it’s a blast to watch. I think modern cartoon audiences are used to watching superhero fight scenes that are broadly influenced by anime, which can be a bit faster, but sometimes less hard-hitting. The fight scenes in Batman: The Animated Series are very deliberate, and they’re paced differently from what you’d usually find today. If Batman fights someone, he’s rarely going to have an extended wirework-esque sequence. Every blow is meant to knock the other person out. And Batman isn’t going to take a thousand hits from Clayface. He barely survives a handful.
“Feat of Clay Part 2” is my favorite episode of the series so far, because it’s so fun to view and dissect. Clayface is a character that started deep and went surface level. He doesn’t have to deal with normal human problems, or the specific ones that come from being an instantly identifiable, mortal supervillain. He can be anyone. If he has a problem, he just moves on to the next face.