It’s been a while! I probably shouldn’t make promises to post super often right as my IRL job ends up getting super busy. Sorry! This’ll hopefully get much more regular after this week. In the meantime:
Nothing to Fear
Directed by Boyd Kirkland Written by Henry T. Gilroy and Sean Catherine Derek Original Air Date September 15, 1992
This is the one where…
Scarecrow goes after Gotham University and Batman gets a face full of fear gas.
I legitimately adore this title card. It’s in my top ten favorites. So simple. So perfect. It’s honestly far better than this episode deserves.
Holy Plot, Batman!
Bruce Wayne attends a charity event at Gotham University – apparently the school has been a victim of robbery and vandalism recently so they are hitting up Gotham’s idle rich for some funding. He ends up in an elevator with Summer Gleason and Dr. Long (one of the professors at the University). Dr. Long however doesn’t really care for Bruce’s party boy persona, and rips him a new one, saying that his father would be ashamed of him. Before Bruce can get too mired in self pity, he notices a helicopter spiraling towards the ground. Inside are two goons and the Scarecrow, who blow open a hole into the university. Scarecrow hits a guard with his fear gas and the trio go to rob the campus bank. (Do most universities have campus banks with vaults full of cash?) Batman arrives on the scene, but in a scuffle with the trio, has his gas mask knocked off and inhales the fear gas. Almost immediately he begins seeing visions of Thomas Wayne telling him that he’s a disgrace (thanks for the trigger, Dr. Long!) Meanwhile Scarecrow gives his associates his backstory. Dr. Jonathan Crane was once a professor of psychology at the University who used to have a sick penchant for torturing people with their phobias. Dr. Long had him kicked out of the school for being a psychotic nutso and so Crane is out to ruin the school and Long for revenge. Bruce is still struggling with the gas at home – his hallucinations now include Summer Gleason reporting his failures. Scarecrow takes advantage of yet another charity event to gas the guests and steal not only their money, but kidnap Dr. Long. Batman arrives on the scene just in time for Scarecrow’s gas to cause the guests to see Batman as a scary figure and they attack him. Scarecrow uses the pandemonium to make his escape, but Batman is able to keep on his heels. Bats manages to hang on to and climb on their escape blimp (seriously an escape BLIMP), where he once again sees a menacing and disproving hallucination of Thomas Wayne. He manages to convince himself that his father isn’t really there by declaring his own name: basically reclaiming his own power once again. Having broken through the Scarecrow’s spell, Batman takes out his goons and rescues Dr Long before the blimp crashes into a nearby building. Batman runs a final trace on a piece of Scarecrow’s mask and is able to uncover his identity. He sneaks into Crane’s lab (terrible idea to hideout in a building with your name on it dude) and gives Crane a taste of his own toxin. He dumps Crane off at GCPD, and makes a last stop to lay a flower on his parents’ graves.
Bat Family Feelings?
This episode is awash in daddy issues. While it’s actually too melodramatic for my tastes, Bruce’s fear that he’s let down his father stings something fierce. Alfred gets to trot out his surrogate father skills in this episode, saying that he knows Thomas would be proud of Bruce because he is as well. So you know that made my heart have feelings. The final shot of Bruce at the Wayne plot is moving as well: it is easily the most affecting moment in the episode thanks to its simplicity.
Easter Eggs and Other Minutiae
This is the first of three costume designs for Scarecrow over the Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures. In fact, he is the only villain to get two designs in the original run. It’s a good thing he does too because this weird skinny mask, over Crane’s very angular face, makes him look sillier than the Scarecrow ever should look.
When Bruce is alone in the elevator at the start of the episode, he pushes the button for the lobby, and it’s in the middle of the panel. That’s not really an easter egg, it just bothers me every damn time.
There’s a security guard reading a Tiny Toon Adventures comic book: EARLY 90s SYNERGY AT ITS FINEST.
“I Am Vengeance! I Am the Night!”
Scarecrow: “I am fear incarnate. I am the terror of Gotham. I am the Scarecrow!” This quote becomes mildly hysterical when you think that Batman was either envious or throwing shade when he used it as inspiration for the next quote.
Batman: “I am vengeance. I am the night. I am Batman!” HE SAID THE THING! I always forget that this line is from an actual episode and isn’t just something that Kevin Conroy likes to trot out at cons and cocktail parties. And also now you know why I title my quotes section the way that I do.
Alfred: “Imagine that sir. Someone dressed up in a frightening costume running around scaring people. What will they think of next?” I don’t know if there is a single episode that features Alfred where is isn’t sassy. But if there is, I don’t want to watch it.
It’s hard to pick a moment since I’m not really a fan of this episode and it’s fairly standard in terms of action scenes. But if I have to go with one thing, it’s got to be Scarecrow doing a little jig when he thinks he escaped.
Jonathan Crane: master of adorable dances.
I love good Scarecrow stories: “Never Fear”, “Over the Edge”, everything in the Arkham Knight video game, a good chunk of my favorite BatFics. “Nothing to Fear” unfortunately does not quite do it for me. If this were any other cartoon I would cut it some slack. But this is B:TAS. I hold every episode to an insanely high standard. It’s main issue, one you’ll see in the next few episodes as well, is there is something genuine missing from this episode. Bruce’s fear of his father’s disappointment seems more the power of suggestion than an actual fear he has, and I think that lends a dishonesty to the episode. The Scarecrow’s plot is too simple to be truly chilling, it’s made lamer since his costume is still in its silly phase. Batman doesn’t get to do a lot of detective work to take down the baddie – it’s mainly just waiting for the computer analysis to finish. There are still some fun moments, I love Henry Polic’s voice as the Scarecrow, and it’s the first episode to tackle how broken the man beneath the cowl really is. So while I can’t label this a complete wash, there’s a reason it’s one that I don’t revisit as often as others.