With Batman celebrating his 75th anniversary this year, I thought it’d be a good idea to remember Bruce Timm’s classic animated series about the Dark Knight. No animated series since has gained such acclaim and love from fans of all kinds. Whether you’re a nineties kid, a Batman fan, or an animation buff, there’s no denying “Batman the Animated Series” set the bar high. It was a masterpiece of storytelling, characterization, and mythology, all the while giving Batman a new dimension. It didn’t pander to kids, and often provided mature, complex, and morally gray tales of evil, crime fighting, and Bruce Wayne’s struggle to maintain his humanity under the cape and cowl.
These are our top five favorite episodes of “Batman: The Animated Series,” what are some of your favorites?
5. Over the Edge
I’m surprised this episode was ever really developed and aired on television. As a part of the series, it’s one of the more violent and intense episodes ever created. In it, Batgirl is murdered by Scarecrow after a botched confrontation on a roof. Gordon loses his mind and tracks down Batman and his group of crime fighters, ensuring him that he knows he’s Bruce Wayne. This prompts a man hunt that’s both exciting and soul crushing, especially when you see Nightwing being hauled in to a police van broken, and battered. It’s a very dark episode with a fantastic insight in to Barbara Gordon’s psyche.
4. Robin’s Reckoning: Part 1, 2
Bruce Wayne and Batman are willing to go places that Robin and Dick Grayson never should. “Robin’s Reckoning” is one in many confrontations between the dynamic duo that would eventually tear them apart, prompting the formation of Nightwing in later episodes. This time, the man that murdered Robin’s family is out from jail, and Batman is intent on tracking him down, all the while keeping Robin in the dark. Through this, we learn the DCAU iteration of how Dick Grayson became Bruce’s ward, and eventually took on the mantle of Robin. It’s a tense, and gripping episode about revenge and the limits we’ll reach for it.
3. Almost Got ‘Im
It’s refreshing and funny to see that Batman’s rogues actually do get together to trade stories about their exploits. Particularly they get together to mock and bash Batman, Gotham’s hero that they simply can not pin down. The Joker, the Penguin, Two-Face, and Killer Croc get together in a villains’ club to tell how they almost defeated the Batman with their elaborate plans and schemes. This prompts mockery and rivalry among one another as they play a nice game of poker. The ultimate victory belongs to the Joker though, as Batman finds it hard to foil his plan involving the ultimate bait: Catwoman. The surprise ending is room for a hearty laugh, but the episode itself is a fun look at how Batman is constantly the target for vicious criminals in Gotham. Eventually someone will get him.
2. Two-Face: Part 1, 2
Richard Moll pulled off a fantastic job as the tragic Harvey Dent who, unlike Bruce Wayne, could never really keep his alter egos separate. The series pulls off a wonderful job of establishing Dent early on in the series, ultimately tackling his descent in to pure insanity. Dent’s fits of violent anger reveal a darker psychological problem, and for better or worse his alter ego Big Bad Harv comes boiling to the surface. Mob boss Rupert Thorn attempts to blackmail Harvey about his mental illness, and an explosion renders him disfigured, prompting Harvey to finally embrace his role as Two Face, a monster with a dual personality who embraces his dark side. It’s a brilliant two parter that treats Two Face as a vicious if sad rogue in the Batman lore.
1. Heart of Ice
Michael Ansara really was the quintessential Mr. Freeze, even though he was mainly just the voice actor for the villain. “Heart of Ice” is a brilliant introduction of the Bruce Timm version of Mr. Freeze, as the series paints him as a merciless and murderous man slighted by society. His ability to freeze objects and murder those with extreme cold becomes a thorn in Batman’s side, especially as he stops at nothing to wreak pure revenge on the man that turned him in to Mr. Freeze, and hopefully look for a cure for his wife Nora. The only link in Freeze’s life that can restore his humanity, she’s lifeless and frigid much like Victor Fries’ humanity, displaying his inability to really reach down and be human again. With Ansara’s top notch voice work, and the brutal parallels to Batman’s own life, “Heart of Ice” is a flawless installment in the series.