Friday, December 7, 2012

Yuletide TV Day 7: Batman: The Animated Series

Oh, don't worry, it's going to be good
Series: Batman: The Animated Series

Episode: S1E2 "Christmas with the Joker"

Original airdate: November 13, 1992

Santa? Yes

Other holidays mentioned: None

Availability: YouTube (in several parts)

Unique Christmas Story:
Where to begin on this one? First, this is how you do a Christmas episode right. This episode starts with the Joker in jail singing "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells," only to hop onto a Christmas tree (because they put those prisons right?) and then FLY OUT THROUGH THE ROOF ON THE CHRISTMAS TREE THAT TURNS INTO A ROCKET!!!

That's the first 30 seconds of the second ever episode of what has become, to many, the best interpretation of Batman to be put on film. This is how the writers decided to introduce the Joker to an audience that had only seen one other episode of this version of Batman, and it could not be more perfect.

I have presented a handful of good Christmas episodes so far, but this may be the first truly great one. It's an absolute standout from start to finish, nailing the essential traits that make up the Batman and the Joker, while placing it in a Christmas context.

Dick Grayson tries to convince Bruce to stay home and watch "It's a Wonderful Life," instead of going out on patrol. But Bruce has never been able to get past the movie's title, and Batman doesn't stop being Batman just because it's Christmas. 

On Wednesday, I talked about how we like to try and wrap things up in our lives and set them aside to enjoy the holidays. "Christmas with the Joker" shows what happens when someone's work is never done. Batman isn't upset the holidays are here, he just has bigger fish to fry.

After patrolling a quiet city, Batman and Robin return to the manor to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" only to find the Joker broadcasting his very own Christmas special to all of Gotham. He's brought along three hostages to accompany him as well: Commissioner  Jim Gordon, reporter Vicki Vale, and Harvey Bullock. 

What does the Joker want?

We never find out, and in all honesty, it's most likely nothing. It's a simpler form of the "some men just like to see the world burn" idea Christopher Nolan presents in The Dark Knight, only 15 years earlier! The Joker and Batman have a special relationship and the Joker, more than anything, is curious to see what Batman will do. Later in the episode when Batman and Robin are under attack they run a maneuver dubbed "Cause and Effect," which is really good alternate title for this episode. 

The episode hits all right notes: humor, action, trains, giant robotic nutcrackers, Batman and the Joker. I don't know what more anyone could possibly ask for from a Christmas episode.

Watch the first part of the episode below and then share your thoughts in the comments.

Unique Christmas Message:
It may not always be a wonderful life, but it has its moments.

I explore the constraints of the Christmas episode with some sewer people.

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