This is 500 words about a Batman episode. This is the BATMAN 500.
It’s cool to see the Joker launch massive schemes against Gotham and humanity. A giant Joker robot, and a bunch of parade balloons filled with gas, and a TV show that hypnotizes people are all fun, but Joker is at his best when he goes small. When he takes it upon himself to torment or just interact with a single person, and thus force a normal, non-Batman human to comprehend what he wants and why he wants it, is when he really shines. At a certain point in this episode, The Joker tells Charlie Collins, the man he’s manipulating, “You’ve become my hobby.” To the Joker of Batman: The Animated Series, the average people of Gotham exist in a little terrarium, and Joker exists to poke on the glass and, when he feels like it, pick one out and hoist them, wriggling, into the open air.
After cutting the Joker off in traffic and promising to do the Joker a favor in exchange for not being murdered by the clown, Charlie Collins moves to Ohio and changes his name. However, Joker has been keeping track of Charlie and chooses him to be the guy who opens the door. That’s it. At a banquet celebrating Commissioner Gordon’s career, Charlie will open the door that allows Harley Quinn to roll in a novelty cake. And by “novelty cake,” I mean “a giant, fake cake that Joker is hiding in.” Jeez, I shouldn’t even have to explain that at this point. Luckily, Batman is there to stop him, but not before Charlie makes the statement, just as Batman is about to haul Joker away: “You know he’ll just escape again.” A normal person watching Batman and Joker’s bizarre relationship first hand is bound to be confused by it. To an everyday Gotham citizen, killing Joker seems like the only logical thing to do.
HARLEY QUINN’S FIRST APPEARANCE. This episode is famous for marking the debut of Harleen Quinzel, and while her best stories remain ahead of her, they nail down a few key points early. First, one of her main roles is to be the Joker’s cheerleading section. At one point, the Joker, making a grand speech as he’s prone to do, pauses for applause, and Harley gives him that, while Joker’s henchmen remain dumbly aloof in the background. Joker couldn’t rely on humorless thugs and simple crooks to support him forever. Eventually, he would need someone beside him to stroke his ego and tell him that he was especially brilliant, rather than fearfully say “Sure, boss. Yeah, boss.”
This has very little to do with anything but how the episodes have been allocated on the DVDs, but the disc that I just started, which opens with “Joker’s Favor” and ends with “Dreams In Darkness,” is a great one. There’s only one episode on it that I don’t really like, and about four of my favorites. So thank you, whoever designed these Batman: The Animated Series box sets. You’re the real hero here.