Batman 03: Nothing to Fear

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. This episode was written by Henry T. Gilroy and Sean Catherine Derek, and directed by Boyd Kirkland.

The ghostly shadow of a scarecrow is projected onto a whiskey colored backdrop, its smile equal parts mocking and conniving. The instrumental evokes images of the thing's too thin fingers creeping slowly along a wall.

A helicopter flies through Gotham at twilight, carrying a mysterious figure and a man with a Tommy gun. (I think they hand those out at Gotham city limits.) There's an event to save the university, which has been beset by robberies and vandalism. In other words, it's your usual college campus.

Summer Gleeson, who will be playing the role of Vicki Vale, tries to interview a Dr. Long about the trouble. 

However, Bruce Wayne and his brown suit, yellow shirt combo interrupts her by hopping in the elevator with them. Ole’ Brucie tries to make a pal, but Dr. Long takes one look at the outstretched hand of the most powerful man in Gotham and rips into him about what a disappointment he'd be to his father.

In response, we get the saddest Bruce:

Mystery helicopter lands at the University Bank with a bang, surprising a guard all wrapped up in his Tiny Toon Adventures comic book and Twinkie.

A rope ladder drops from the ceiling, and down it climb two mooks and the world's angriest Q-tip. Security guard tries to redeem himself by apprehending them – this one uses a gun, there's hope yet! - but the angry Q-tip sprays him with red gas that gives him a bad trip.

“Spiders! No, get them off me!” he screams in genuine agony, Babs and Buster Bunny all but forgotten.

Q-tip has to explain his gimmick to his own henchmen, who consist of Beanpole and Quasimodo’s slightly better looking cousin. Their willingness to follow just any lunatic confirms my suspicion that he found them wandering at city limits, listlessly holding their newly issued Tommy Guns.

Our hero swoops onto the scene in time to see an explosion. Inside the bank vault, Quasimodo's cousin is distraught to learn they're only taking some money. They rest they must burn...for revenge!

Batman handily thrashes Beanpole, causing Q-tip to toss some red gas his way. This isn't Batman's first rodeo, however – he's got a gas mask on. Batman interrogates Q-tip, only to learn he's fear incarnate, the terror of Gotham, the Scarecrow!

Quasimodo's cousin then leaps at Batman from behind some boxes so Scarecrow can shoot him with a dart. The now date raped Batman struggles with the villain, but the money is set aflame by the dropped flare anyway.

Scarecrow escapes, his only loss a small scrap of fabric from his natty Q-tip suit.

Tripping balls, Batman collapses before the flames. Thomas Wayne appears to his son in them as a floating, disembodied head, like other great spectral fathers before him. However, it's not wisdom he wishes to impart – it's shame!

Commercial break!

The sprinkler system finally comes on, and Batman wilts in on himself like a piece of paper curling in a fire. Harvey Bullock bursts onto the scene, on slightly better terms with Batman after he watched him beat the spittle out of a hideous bat mutant in midair.

Batman tells him it was the Scarecrow, shoves Bullock when he gets too uppity, and vanishes.

Meanwhile, in Scarecrow's hideout, the TV informs us the arson attempt was foiled by Batman. (Or whoever installed the sprinklers. Who's counting?) The mooks set us up for a ride down backstory alley, where we learn Scarecrow would be much scarier without the mask.

Aaaand the backstory is that he's a creepy kid who grew up to be a creepy adult who tortured people using “subliminal psychology.” Dr. Long kicked Scarecrow out of the university to stop him from torturing even more people. For that crime, he must pay!

Beanpole is pretending he can read, holding up the “Gotham City” paper. (What happened to the Glazer?) The cover story is “University Museum Benefit Tonight”, and the scene fades to an identical paper in the Batcave.

A stubble faced and hungover Bruce Wayne is doing some red science on Scarecrow's mask.

The fear gas has everyone accusing Bruce of failure, from the picture of his parents to Summer Gleeson. Alfred alone is immune to the reality warping effects - he tells Bruce that his father would be proud of him, because he is so proud of him.

At the museum, the fanciest citizens of Gotham are throwing wads of cash and checks into a box. Green smoke invades the room, followed by Scarecrow and his henchmen. They dose Dr. Long with fear gas and carry him off. Scarecrow starts up the steps, but he's bataranged!

He taunts our hero about the time release fear gas, and Batman makes a face like his tights have a hole in the back. Judging by the expressions of the other people, it's possible that's what happened.

But no, it's that the presence of something actually scary in a room full of people dosed with fear toxin is how riots start. They dogpile him, but he hurls six people back like they're children. 

He then uses his grapple gun to swing over three more, and storms onto the roof with an expression that indicates shit. Is. On.

Scarecrow's zeppelin unmoors itself, pulling free a cable that spews green fear toxin. Batman determinedly hurls himself onto the cable, his theme music playing as he dangles precariously above the streets of Gotham.

The zeppelin rises and the Dark Knight climbs. Scarecrow gloats until Quasimodo's cousin points our hero out, and then he dispatches the mook to deal with our hero. The two struggle atop the dirigible.

The mook fires his Tommy gun wily-nily, damaging the controls.

They crash into a building!

Commercial break!

Using his grapple gun, Batman saves himself but barely misses the mook. Luckily, Quasimodo's cousin lands on the awning of a building. However, our hero faces another attack of fear gas.

Batman fends off vertigo while clutching the ring that suspends him a skyscraper's height above the ground. Thomas Wayne appears to him, a monstrous giant with glowing red eyes. He distorts further, becoming a demonic Grim Reaper that taunts his son with shame, disgrace, and failure.

Batman weakly denies the accusations at first, but finds himself about halfway through. What follows still gives me chills, even as an adult: “I am not a disgrace. I am vengeance! I am the night! I am BATMAN!

The phantom vanishes, because even the devil knows not to f##k with Batman (or Kevin Conroy) when he’s angry.  

Reinvigorated, Batman smashes through the glass of the gondola and right into Scarecrow. Beanpole gets him in a headlock, and Scarecrow draws his dart gun as the two fight. Batman uses the other man as a shield. Mad with fear, Beanpole leaps out the window, and lands in a decorative tree on someone's rooftop. 

Idiocy is apparently like a magic force field in Gotham.

Scarecrow escapes in a detachable glider, leaving Batman and Dr. Long in the Hindenburg Mk. 2. The two barely make it out in time, debris falling around them like burning snow.

In the Batmobile, a press of an unlabeled button reveals that the analysis of Scarecrow's mask is complete. Batman uses his detective skills to come up with the name Jonathan Crane, of Crane Chemicals. The Batmobile roars off for a meeting.

At his lab (why do they always have labs?), Scarecrow pulls off his Q-tip mask. Bad move, since his tanks are leaking. Then, the lights cut out. From the darkness, phantom bats menace him.

Crane backs into the man himself, and we see that through fear-o-vision Batman looks like Chernobog from Fantasia.

In Harvey Bullock's office, he accuses Batman of being in cahoots with Scarecrow. Cahoots, I tells ya! Gordon doesn't buy it, probably because Crane is slowly rotating from an incredibly well installed ceiling fan with a Batman symbol taped to his chest.

At the windswept grave of his parents, Bruce wordlessly leaves two long stem red roses. Sunglasses hide his eyes, but his expression is one of sorrow and determination. As he turns and walks away, the shadow that trails after him is in the shape of the cowl he wears.

End credits. Batman is awesome.