Batman: 12 It's Never Too Late

Batman is a DC Comics character, and Batman: The Animated Series is owned by Warner Home Video. If you'd like to purchase this episode, you may do so here; if you'd like to buy the DVD box set, you may do so here. The story was written by Tom Ruegger; the teleplay by Garin Wolf; and directed by Boyd Kirkland.

A lonely bullet train glides down the rail, its beacon like a glowing eye. A full orchestra gives the scene an undertone of loss.

In what must be the only quiet suburb of Gotham, a girl loses her ball near a gated mansion. Inside the house/fortress there's a newscast about a gang war. That’s the town we know!

Crime bosses Rupert Thorne and Arnold Stromwell are at war, and it’s the latter’s home that we’re in. The newscaster cuts to Commissioner Gordon, who’s of the opinion that Stromwell - the younger looking, yet older boss - is losing the fight. (I guess he moisturizes.)

However, the stakes are considerably upped for the man, as his son has gone missing. He’s genuinely concerned about the boy, but probably not surprised. How many children have been missing, lost, or kidnapped since this series began?

Meanwhile, Thorne sits with his gang in a corner booth at Pete’s Diner, Corleone style. The crime boss has a bum evicted from a nearby table, a bum who sounds familiar and places something under the table.

In the Batmobile, the “bum” listens to Thorne’s plan to lure Stromwell into the diner and moider him. He peels tires.

Stromwell is on his way to the meeting. His car is held up at a railroad crossing, and the flashing lights trigger his sepia toned PTSD. We’re in the Gotham of yesteryear, with two adorable kids vying for “who looks most like a newsboy.”

They are lil’ Arnie Stromwell and his buddy Mike. Mike’s got a conscience, and Arnie has Scarface level ambition. They're walking on the tracks, and suddenly there's a train rushing at them out of the darkness! Arnie’s foot is stuck, because railroad tracks in Gotham are flypaper for children.

Arnie leaps out of the way at the last second…only to end up on the adjacent set of tracks, which also have a train steaming down them. Take home lesson: trains hate little boys.

The ringing of the railroad crossing segues into church bells. We pan up edifice to find Batman watching the car below. Off Stromwell’s desolate expression at the cathedral, we follow our hero as he meets with the resident priest.

Batman tells the Father that his friend Arnold needs him. The priest is weary, but our hero's words haunt him.

Stromwell et. mooks meets Thorne et. mooks at Pete’s. Thorne asks for a meeting mano a mano, and the assembled mooks head outside. Stromwell turns vicious when they're alone, throwing Thorne around. Like Liam Neeson in all his recent films, he wants his family back.

Thorne denies he knows anything about this particular kidnapping. He gets the agitated man to sit down, and shuffles into the back kitchen. Just as Stromwell realizes something's up, the lights go out and he bumps into Batman.

Pete's Diner busts like a pinata full of napalm.

Commercial break!

Batman rushes into the alley behind the diner with an unconscious Stromwell over his shoulders. He bat grapples away before a secondary explosion floods the area with angry flame.

Our hero races over the tops of buildings, holding Stromwell like a shouting version of the Olympic torch. One guy fulfills a dream of mine by looking up and seeing Batman leaping from rooftop to rooftop.

Commissioner Gordon and GCPD's hangnail, Harvey Bullock, show up at the scene. The fire chief tells them it's arson, no bodies. However, the guy who saw Batman starts babbling about the caped crusader like a beat poet hopped up on mescaline.

One of Thorne's mooks rushes to his boss to let him know Stromwell survived. The news is greeted with all the enthusiasm of a parent finding a dirty diaper.

On a rooftop, Batman tries to talk Stromwell into giving up crime. The gang boss is none too cooperative, so our hero accuses him of making and distributing drugs. The man points his finger at Batman and tells him to prove it. Playing the Ghost of Christmas Present, our hero leads the man to the Sunrise Foundation.

Rather than, a secret organization devoted to killing vampires, it's a drug rehab center. The crime boss tries to leave. Batman suggests with his fists that he stay, and Stromwell finds his wife and son in one of the rooms. His boy writhes on a bed as he suffers through withdrawal.

Stromwell promises revenge for whoever got the boy hooked, but surprise! it's him.

Batman offers him a way out – shut his operation down and cooperate with the DA, who's probably required to have weekly anger management classes. The man folds, and we cut to his office. Batman has the file in hand, but then the crime boss sneakily pulls a rifle off the wall.

Our hero realizes the papers are fakes, but Stromwell already has the gun pointed at him. Thorne shows up outside. Every one of his henchmen has a Tommy gun. (They were buy one get one free for anyone wearing a fedora.)

Stromwell and Batman go around the desk in the small office. Batman tries to appeal to him, but he's high on a concentrated dose of ego and wounded pride. Just as their words are winding down to action, a tear gas grenade flies in the room!

Commercial break!

The Dark Knight straps on his ever present gas mask and throws a chair through the window at Thorne and his mooks.

Two of the men charge up the stairs, but they're quickly dispatched. The rest pile in, but they balk when they find their buddies hanging upside down from the ceiling.

Stromwell runs off. Batman takes out another mook, and the remaining guy chases him. One brutal kick later, the big cheese stands alone.

The priest appears just as Stromwell trips over some railroad tracks. (Old habits die hard.) The crime boss refuses help, stumbling around like a drunk. His PTSD kicks in, and it's time for another trip to the sepia toned past.

This time, we see what happens after lil' Arnie jumps onto the second set of tracks – his buddy Mike pushes him out of the way, disappearing beneath the train's wheels.

Back in the present, Stromwell makes a strong case for being elected the Secretary of Being an Ass. The priest lists all the things wrong in the guy's life – business failing, a marriage falling apart, a drug addicted son – and ends it with a sardonic, “Sure, you're doing fine.”

Two heretofore unseen mooks show up with guns, ready to end the tender scene. Batman drops from above and cracks their tender skulls together.

Stromwell reminds Michael that the cost of helping him was a leg, and the Father knocks on it like it ain't no thang. He makes a plea for the man to do the right thing for everyone involved, capping it by revealing he's Stromwell's younger brother.

Stromwell finally breaks down in tears. He embraces his brother.

Thorne emerges with a Gotham city wake up call, aka a Tommy gun. Before he can do anything with it, the gun is bataranged out of his hands. Batman gives the crime boss two boots to the face and he's out cold.

Our hero flees as the cops arrive. He hears Stromwell tell Commissioner Gordon he'd like to make a statement, his arm on his brother's shoulder for support. Batman smiles, looking towards the church. We hear a single bell.

End credits. Batman is awesome.