Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Batman: TAS - Episode 5 - Pretty Poison

Yay! Another new villain is introduced. New as in we haven't seen them in the previous four episodes, not new as in newly created for this show. That honor's reserved for Harley Quinn and Livewire (later in the Superman series). Bet you can't guess who the new arrival is! What? You guessed? Cheater, you probably looked it up on Google, didn't you? Damn them. Yes, it's Poison Ivy, the sometimes sultry, sometimes strangely suited, seductress of Springtime and Summer. Hey, I alliterated! Sorry, won't do it again.

The episode begins in a sepia toned flashback. We see a pair of hands dig a rose out of the ground and put it in a pot, then the camera pans up to show Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne given the honors of breaking ground for the new Gotham Penitentiary, the dream of Gotham's new District Attorney (Dent) and funded by the Wayne Foundation. The sepia tone ends as Bruce and Harvey shake hands, and the scene becomes a picture in the newspaper that is torn out by the same gloved hands that dug up the flower, and we see them pin the newspaper clip above a little box of roses. Then we see the field of wild roses get dug up and replaced with the State Penitentiary, 5 years later.

We see a prison break, which serves two small purposes: we see the cops in their offices alerted of the break, running out of their room, just as Detective Bullock is about to stuff his face with a donut. He drops it and follows the rest of the cops out of the room, but then comes running back for his donut. The second reason is so that when the escapee is caught and asks Batman who he is, he can say, "I'm Batman".

I guess there was actually a third (and most important) benefit to this part, we get our first look at Lieutenant Renee Montoya, who is one of the characters that was created for the Animated Series and moved to the comics. In fact, she was adopted by the comics before her first animated appearance. We could go on about her future as the current The Question, or about her being a lesbian (her partner is the modern Batwoman that appeared during 52) or the twisted relationship she has with Harvey Dent/Two-Face (all these are from the comics anyway), but we won't. Suffice it (for now) to say she's Harvey Bullock's partner, and a much more reasonable and likeable person than he is.

Anyway, intercut with the prison break arc we find Harvey Dent at a very fancy restaurant with a hot redhead, they're waiting for Dent's friend Bruce Wayne, who's running late (of course, he's chasing an escaped convict). Dent talks about Bruce always being late, probably working on business with a high-class crowd (cut to Batman chasing down the con), he's really busy but always able to get his kicks (cut to Batman kicking the crap out of the convict), there's nothing we don't know about each other ("Who are you?" the con asks quivering in fear. "I'm your worst nightmare!"). Ha ha very funny, or not, but somewhat amusing. I thought it was good to know that Harvey and Bruce are close friends, but the whole prison break seemed rather pointless, mostly an excuse to have some action at the beginning of the episode.

Bruce eventually joins Harvey and the as-yet unnamed redhead with the low cut red dress for dinner, and he tells funny stories about Dent. After a while the redhead says she needs to go, and she gives Dent a very long goodnight kiss, so long that Bruce becomes slightly uncomfortable and looks away, and the kiss goes on and on and on. Seriously. For like 20 seconds. Dent is quite pleased by it and promises to call her. As she walks away her hips swap enticingly and everyone in the restaurant turns to watch her go. They've obviously gone to great lengths to let us know she's perfectly desirable,therefore we can draw the conclusion that she's completely evil.

Bruce asks Harvey if she has a sister, and we finally get her name (unless I just didn't notice it before, which is possible), he calls her Pam, and tells Bruce he asked her to marry him. Then he pulls on his collar saying it's hot in here. Bruce is surprised and sprays his coffee all over the table, "Harvey, you can't be serious, you just met her last week!" (Boy, those words will come back to haunt him in The New Batman Adventures). Harvey protests that he knows he's found the right woman and why wait, all the while mopping his face with a napkin, sweating and obviously uncomfortable. Harvey says, "The moment I laid eyes on Pam, love hit me right in the face." His eyes roll around in his head, he gets a funny look on his face, and he face plants into his dessert.

Bruce finally realizes that something's wrong with Harvey (World's Greatest Detective, indeed!) and he is rushed to the hospital. What a surprise. Somebody calls Commissioner Gordon about Dent, and he rushes out of his office yelling, "Harvey Dent's in a coma at the city hospital!" And again, cops run out of the room, and again Bullock comes back to grab a donut. Heh heh, what a fat slob.

A doctor tells everyone that Dent was poisoned, and Wayne tells the cops the cafe they ate at was The Rose Cafe. But Bruce doesn't think it was food poisoning. He sneaks into the hospital lab and steals a sample of Harvey's blood. After analyzing it back at the cave (there's that phrase again) he learns it's a poison derived from a wild thorny rose, which Alfred tells him is extinct. Now they can't synthesize an antidote, oh no!

Bruce returns to the hospital and Pam shows up to cry about Harvey. When Bruce walks her to her car he's suddenly suspicions, remembering the kiss earlier. He heads for home and calls Alfred to find out anything he can about Pamela Isely. Again, I think this is the first time her full name has been mentioned, but maybe I'm not paying close enough attention. They discover that she's a research chemist with a cosmetic firm, and she has PhD in Botany, and she gives lectures on endangered and extinct plants. "I think Harvey's engagement is off," Batman says, before leaving to investigate.

Isley has quite the impressive greenhouse, full of plants of all shapes and sizes. The cosmetic fragrance business must pay really well, because in a city that's supposed to be a dark, corrupted version of New York, a home that size with greenhouse that big in the middle of the city must cost a small fortune. Batman enters, and as he runs through the place a section of floor falls out beneath him, dropping him into a pit filled with large, very spiky cacti. He manages to grab a flowered vine nearby and hangs precariously over thorny death, then swings out of the pit. As he lands on the floor, the vine suddenly wraps itself around his arm, and the flower opens its toothy maw(!) and chomps at him. More vines entangle him, squeezing him and finally dragging him towards a giant plant, with a large, even more toothy maw.

Batman manages to put his feet on the thing's mouth and keep from getting eaten, Pamela stands in the shadows wondering what her "sweet little flytrap caught this time", then commenting that Batman's a little big for a fly. We can just vaguely see that she's now in her Poison Ivy costume, a green corset with green tights, and slightly finned gloves and boots. She seems to have a thing for bare shoulders.

Batman struggles with the man-eating flytrap, and kicks out several teeth. Poison Ivy reveals herself and she and Batman talk about Harvey Dent, "Poor Harvey Dent, I hear he's not expected to live." She says sadly, and cries into her hands which quickly turns into evil, scary laughter. We can see she has a mini crossbow mounted on a gauntlet on her right hand. Ivy explains to Batman that Harvey had to pay for his crimes, Murder! She throws a bit of a tantrum getting a crazed look on her face, explaining that he plowed up a field of innocent wild flowers, with those awful bulldozers and other evil machinery. Honestly, she's a scary woman at this part, and just confirms my suspicions that all tree-huggers are evil people plotting to murder the rest of us (mostly) normal people.

She puts her poison lipstick on and tries to kiss Batman. Now, in the comics he would have head-butted her the face when she got close enough, but here he gets kissed and starts getting fuzzy vision. She taunts him with the antidote, and then he finally kicks her in the stomach, swings himself up to the sprinkler lines and frees himself from the tentacled flytrap, with a knife. He stands in front of Ivy with the flytrap behind him, and in her freaked out anger at his hurting her giant man-eating plant she makes the funniest sound I have ever heard and fires her (presumably poisoned) darts at him. He ducks and it rips a surprisingly large hole in her precious plant, which screams and thrashes in agony.

She continues to shoot darts at him, and when he tries to escape he accidentally pulls down a large light fixture, which lands in a pool of water; sparks fly everywhere, predictablly (but cool nonetheless) the plants catch fire, and we get a vision of Ivy in the place where all sociopathic greenies will go when they die.

Plants go up in flames all around, Ivy grabs the potted wild rose and tries to escape, but the fire flares up everywhere. Batman rescues her from being crushed by falling trees, and ends up on the edge of the pit from earlier. His vision is blurred, he's weak from the poison, but he's able to make out Ivy approaching him with her crossbow leveled at him, and murder on her face. "Enjoy extinction, Batman!" She screams at him, but he shakes his head, "I'm not going alone," and he holds the potted rose over the pit.

He offers to trade the weed for the bottle (his words), and she acquices to save her precious, almost extinct roses, and then he saves them both from the burning building. Batman takes the antidote to the hospital where it is given to Dent, who wakes up not really remembering what happened. Bruce tells him he's going to be fine, then talks to him about Pam. "I think she's wrong for you." is how he puts it, and we are shown the prison we saw back at the beginning of the episode, a fun sequence starting with the outside of the building, moving to the large front gate, down twisting staircases, to a barred cell where a redheaded woman sits on the bed mounted in the wall, rocking back and forth slowly, "...I'll grow back, we always grow back..."

Directed by our friend Boyd Kirkland, who directs several episodes of this series, a few I recognize - such as Perchance to Dream one of my favorite episodes, and many I don't. Recently we discussed him in Nothing to Fear, and once again I will mention that he directed the Batman & Mr Freeze: Sub-Zero movie

This is the first episode in the series that features Paul Dini as one of the writers. He becomes very closely associated with the show as time goes on, writing and producing for most of the Timm animated series though he left Warner Brothers in 2004 so he didn't work as much on Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. Speaking of Mr Freeze, Paul Dini is one of the writers on the upcoming episode Heart of Ice which gave the character of Freeze new and more interesting life. He writes so many of these episodes I'm not going to bother mentioning any more here.

Poison Ivy is voiced by Diane Pershing, who appears to have voiced Poison Ivy in every appearance of that character that wasn't a live action film or tv series. She voiced her in episodes of Justice League, Static Shock, several video games, the web series Gotham Girls. She also has done a bunch of other stuff not worth mentioning, like the Smurfs (see, I shouldn't have mentioned it). I believe I mentioned in passing for On Leather Wings that Harvey Dent was voiced by Richard Moll, famous for his Night Court roll. He's done a ton of stuff, so we won't go into it here, check out IMDB.com if you're interested.

Renee Montoya did have a single line speaking part, so she gets a voice and a credit, played by Ingrid Oliu, whoever that she is. I'm not really sure why, but I really like Montoya. She's a great contrast to Bullock, with whom she is paired up often (can't wait till we get to episode 7, P.O.V.), she's a tough, honest cop, and she could kick me ten ways to Sunday.

I quite enjoyed this episode, I've seen the entire first disc now (two more episodes to blog about) and this is tied with On Leather Wings as the second best episode so far (yeah, it's only out of seven so far, but so what?). I didn't really mention it much, but there was a lot of focus on the wild rose, and several times the image of a rose appeared in the show (like the front door of The Rose Cafe where they had dinner), or there were quick scenes where we saw Pam caring for the wild rose, pruning it's leaves, or cutting one rose off it for the poison, talking to it. It made everything feel cohesive and related. I noticed some interesting details in a few places, like Ivy's cell walls have scratchings in them, we can tell she's not the first occupant of that particular room. Ivy herself was interesting, a lot of work was put in to making her sultry and attractive, and then when she would flip out over harm done to the plants she became frightening looking, excessive lines in her face, really she became ugly, and I found it fascinating.

I also liked the blurring and repeated vision effect they gave Batman when he was poisoned, the best example is when he was holding the roses over the pit trying to get Ivy to give him the antidote, the way Ivy went in and out of focus, and had her face swirling around the main image was fun. The style of the animation jumps out at me occasionally, just the way that it doesn't feel like a cartoon (and I enjoy cartoons, I've seen a lot), it feels like a movie, that just happens to be animated.

And the best indicators that I liked this episode a bunch are, I wrote too much about it, took too many screenshots, and I made 4 video clips from it (as opposed to The Last Laugh which got none). The software I have to capture video isn't quite difficult to use, but it's not terribly convenient necessarily either. While watching the episode I write down the start and end times of what clips I'd like to get, then in the capturing software I can capture that sequence. However, the times don't match up between the playback program and the capturing one. Sometimes it's off in one direction, sometimes in another, so I have to grab more than just the part I want, then open the clip in yet a third piece of software to trim the excess video off the beginning and end of the clip. All that to say that getting clips is time consuming and yet I really wanted to show those sections, so it was worth it.

Tune in Friday morning for Episode 6, The Underdwellers.

And remember kids: The Spice must flow. He who controls the Spice, controls the universe!

Episode Listing

1 comment:

Sean Akizuki said...

Basically Pretty Poison is one of my favorite Batman episodes as it introduces the most gorgeous villain of all time during the first season- Poison Ivy! And I loved the way she kissed him here!