Once again faithful patrons of the Batcave, we return to the small screen for a look at the third episode of Batman: The Animated Series; "Nothing to Fear".
Gotham University finds itself the victim of a rash of crimes that threaten its future. These crimes are seemingly perpetrated by a man dressed up as Scarecrow, leaving all in his path paralyzed with fear. We learn that under the burlap sack, The Scarecrow is one Jonathan Crane. Crane was the leading professor of psychology at Gotham U, until he was kicked out when he took his experiments in fear too far. Batman must stop him from exacting his revenge, and battle his own personal demons, let loose by Crane's fear toxin.
This episode feels much more like the first one, in tone. Last episode ("Christmas with the Joker") felt out of place in between these two. This episode returns things to the level of darkness and mystery that should be present in the series.
The Scarecrow can often be very one-dimensional, and gimmicky, with his only motivation being that he wants to scare people. Here he is not after money, or creating mass fear, his only desire is revenge. His dialogue is also written well, he actually sounds like a professor; very smart. It's true that Crane is not a physical threat to Batman in anyway, so it works very well here to have him face Batman on a psychological battlefield, pitting the Dark Knight against his own worst fears. This also allows us into Batman's head. We see that, because Bruce Wayne has to pretend to be an airhead playboy, he is afraid that his parents would be ashamed of him. This makes sense, since his fight for justice began because of them.
I also appreciated some of the more mature or violent moments, particularly during the fight on the blimp. One of Scarecrow's thugs gets exposed to the fear toxin, and becomes so afraid he actually tries to commit suicide by jumping out of the blimp. Of course they couldn't actually depict this man killing himself on a "cartoon", so he very luckily lands in a tree, avoiding becoming a smear on the sidewalk by only a few feet. Something that also stood out to me; after Batman has dealt with Scarecrow's thugs, Crane abandons ship, hoping to leave Batman and Dr. Long to a fiery death. Batman and Long escape in time, as the blimp crashes into a building and explodes in a shower of flames. This isn't extreme, but it certainly reminded me of the events of 911. Obviously that had no significance when this was made, but watching it now, it draws a very interesting parallel.
On a lighter note, I thought Alfred shined in this episode. Though I can't wait for next time, when Efrem Zimbalist Jr. takes over the voicing duties, Bruce's faithful butler was excellent in this one. He provides a small source of comic relief with a couple of his lines (Bruce: "Why would Scarecrow hate the University?" Alfred: Perhaps he flunked Phys. Ed."). For first time, we also get to see him play the role of Bruce's father figure, reassuring him that his parents would be very proud of him.
Shirley Walker's score for this episode is fantastic. I wish it had been included on the 2-CD release a couple years ago.
Not too much to mention here. But it does really bother me that Bruce's fear of disappointing his parents is only associated with his father. Thomas is the only one he sees in his visions; Martha's name isn't even mentioned. It's like someone forgot that Bruce had a mother. Now to be fair, this isn't just a problem with this episode, it's a problem in Batman mythos in general. In the Batman Encyclopedia, Martha has an entry about one third of a page long, Thomas's entry is over a full page. This seems to be a problem with superheroes in general though. Superman is always the son of Jor-El. Nobody knows anything about Lara. But since it's always been that way, I can't really hold it against this episode.
Where did Scarecrow get a blimp?! Why does he need a blimp? In the beginning we see he has a helicopter, could he not have used that at the end? It seems silly that he just has all these different aircrafts.
Why does everyone seem buddy-buddy with Batman? In the first episode, he is still just an urban legend. Now, 2 episodes later, cops are running up to him asking him what happened and if he's ok. It doesn't make much sense. But we will see inconsistencies like these many times throughout the series, only because of the many different writers.
Trivia/Random Points of Interest:
The ending here reminded me of Batman Begins. In Begins, Crane gets dosed with his own toxin, Batman says "taste of your own medicine doctor?", and Crane sees Batman as a horrifying creature. In the ending of this episode, Crane gets dosed with his own fear toxin, Batman says "Can't handle your own medicine?", and Crane sees Batman as a horrifying creature.
This is a very good episode. It feels much more like the first, and much more in line with the series as a whole. It serves as an excellent introduction to The Scarecrow, and I think it should have been the second episode, as it's much better than Christmas with the Joker.
BTAS: Nothing to Fear:
Next time, The Joker returns. Will he have The Last Laugh? Be here and find out!
Reviewed by Caleb