Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Matt Signal Advent Calendar 2015 Day 2: Batman: The Brave and the Bold "Chill of the Night"

Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Season 2, Episode 11: “Chill of the Night” 2010

Matt Says:

After the monumental success of Batman: The Animated Series, the next attempt at a Batman cartoon was the commercially successful, but critically less popular, The Batman. Moving from network to cable, Cartoon Network's Batman was Batman: The Brave and the Bold, a bright, fun animated Batman who is a superhero and less a brooding crusader. Wild adventures, cosmic threats, and a guest star every episode sets it apart from most other modern takes on Batman, giving the show a lighter feel. I, though, am writing about the series most serious episode today because I have to be contrary.

"Chill of the Night," written by none other than Paul Dini, starts off like any other Brave and the Bold. A teaser with a special guest star, in this case Dini favorite Zatanna, gets the viewer into the spirit of adventure. But quickly, the episode takes a turn. It opens with the death of the Waynes, and gives a quick visual recap of Bruce's training and origins, before pulling out to reveal the Phantom Stranger and the Spectre. The two need to settle an argument over vengeance versus justice, and so set a wager in Batman, who is about to learn the identity of the man who killed his parents. If he gives in and takes his life, he will forever be like the Spectre, an agent of vengeance, but if he chooses justice, he may go his own way.

From there, we see Batman at the deathbed of mobster Lew Moxon, who confesses to putting a hit out on the Waynes, and Batman cutting a swath through the underworld to find out who he hired. The Phantom Stranger sends him back in time to the night that his father, in a proto-Batman costume, stopped a robbery Moxon was perpetrating, and the Spectre shows him the man who pulled the trigger, Joe Chill. At an auction for a high tech weapon Chill is running, Batman confronts him, and even though he is tempted, chooses justice over vengeance. But it's at the hands of the super criminals who blame Chill for Batman's existence, plus a little karma (probably aided by the Spectre) that Chill meets his end. The episode ends with Batman putting his father's costume in a trophy case in the Batcave with a satisfied, "Case closed."

What I love about this episode is that it stands Batman firmly on the side of justice, not vengeance, a stand I always take in the discussion of exactly what Batman stands for. It also lifts liberally from two classic Batman stories: Batman #47, "The Origin of Batman," and Detective Comics #235, "The First Batman." Some of the shots are straight out of those classic comics, and it works so well. The guest cast is also a treasure trove of classic Batman voices. Adam West and Julie Newmar of the classic Batman TV series voice Thomas and Martha Wayne. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, the classic Batman and Joker duo of Batman: The Animated Series, voice Phantom Stranger and Spectre, respectively. Even Richard Moll, Two-Face from B:TAS, pops up as Lew Moxon and reprises Two-Face for a line or two. It's a little bit of Batman history, and a highlight of the excellent Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

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