Episode 05: Pretty Poison
Written By: Tom Ruegger
Directed By: Boyd Kirkland
Original Air Date: 09/14/92
Poison Ivy holds the title of being the first female villain to appear in Batman: The Animated Series, and she makes her debut in the fifth episode of the series titled, "Pretty Poison." Poison Ivy has never really been one of my favorite Batman villains, nor has she been one that I hate. She falls somewhere in the middle between the great Batman villains, and the lame Batman villains. Poison Ivy’s gimmick is based on plants and her seductive abilities, which can make for a mix of good, and forgettable stories. But of course, the crew behind the animated series does a great job of adapting the character for their show. They portray her as someone who is obviously psychotic about plants, valuing their lives way more than humans, and they also portray her as a seductive woman who can pretty much take control, or get rid of any man she chooses. "Pretty Poison" does a good job of introducing the character, and showing all of her abilities, but the best thing I think this episode does, is that it creates a relationship between Poison Ivy and Harvey Dent. Its a relationship that would last and be brought up throughout the entire run of the series, and was a great way to show continuity throughout all the episodes, which has always been something that not only makes Batman: The Animated Series great to watch, but the entire DCAU as well.
The episode begins in a way that's different than usual, as it starts by showing an event that happened five years in the past. But as we will see later on in the series, it is something that the show has done a few times throughout its run. The scene starts with Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent being the first to shovel dirt at a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of Stonegate penitentiary, in which Bruce is funding, and as Gotham’s new District Attorney, Harvey is spearheading the project. Harvey promises it will bring forth a better and safer Gotham, but as the bulldozers start to go to work, a woman is seen pulling out a lone flower from the construction site, saving it from being destroyed, and is already planing her revenge for the ones responsible for this land’s destruction.
The episode now jumps to the present time, where we see that Stonegate penitentiary is now complete, but Gotham City is still not a safer, or a better place to live. This is made evident as we next see one of the inmates escaping from the prison in a helicopter. But before the escaped criminal can make it too far out of Gotham, Batman is waiting for the helicopter on a building, ready to take this criminal back to Stonegate. Meanwhile, Harvey Dent is out to dinner with his new girlfriend Pamela Isley at a conveniently named restaurant, The Rose Cafe, where Bruce is supposed to be meeting them. This is a cool sequence as the scenes cut back and forth with Batman chasing the crook, to Harvey telling Pam about Bruce. What I liked about this sequence, was that whatever Harvey was telling Pam about Bruce, it mirrored exactly what Batman was doing as he chased after the criminal. It was a great job of directing, and a good piece of editing that I thought worked really well for this sequence. Batman eventually catches the escaped criminal, and we see that the criminal is now terrified with what he just encountered. There is a cool moment here when he asks Batman in a terrified voice, “What are you?” And Batman just scares him even more with his great response, “I’m your worst nightmare.” I love how the series plays on the fact that common criminals really don’t know who, or what Batman is, but are just terrified whenever they encounter him.
Bruce is finally able to meet up with Harvey and Pam at The Rose Cafe, which is a nice scene because we get to know more about Bruce and Harvey’s friendship. Getting more insight on how close the two of them are, just makes Harvey’s fall that much more tragic when we eventually see him transform into Two-Face. As the night goes on, Pam says she has to leave, but not before giving Harvey a long and passionate kiss, which is so long it starts to make Bruce feel uncomfortable. But now that Pam has left, Harvey drops a bombshell on Bruce, saying he’s going to ask Pam to marry him. Bruce is shocked to hear this, as they have just met each other a week ago. And as a cautious friend, Bruce wants to make sure that Harvey knows what he’s doing. But before they can finish their conversation, Harvey starts to feel funny, and ends up collapsing face first into his desert. At first Bruce thinks Harvey is just joking, but when he doesn’t wake up, he realizes something is wrong, and rushes Harvey to the hospital.
With Harvey now in a coma at the hospital, Bruce and Jim Gordon learn that Harvey was poisoned. Gordon then sends Bullock and other officers back to the restaurant to see if it could have been something in his food, and we get to see a great scene with Bullock interrogating the chef and a dish washer, where he really let's them have it, and was pretty funny to watch. Bruce later learns from the doctor that it wasn’t the food that poisoned Harvey, but also that the doctor still doesn’t know what exactly it was that poisoned him. Bruce then takes a blood sample of Harvey, and decides to analyze it back at the Batcave. I always like it when we see Batman use his detective skills, and it was great to see both him and Alfred in this episode try to solve the mystery of what poisoned Harvey. After the analysis, they learn that the poison comes from a plant called the Wild Thorny Rose, but of course there is one problem. The rose is now extinct.
After Bruce learns of the rose, he goes back to the hospital to check on Harvey, and is now joined by Pamela Isley, who just looks devastated when she sees him. Bruce gives her some comfort, and escorts her back to her car, but as she is about to kiss him goodbye, Bruce turns that kiss into hug instead, and starts to feel suspicious about her, as he remembers the long kiss she gave Harvey at the restaurant. On his way back to the Batcave, Bruce has Alfred dig up some info on Pamela Isley, where they learn that she has a Ph.D. in botany, is a chemist who works on perfumes for a cosmetics company, and that she also gives lectures on rare plants at the Gotham University. As the pieces start to fall into place, Bruce is now back in his Batman costume, and tells Alfred that “Harvey’s engagement is off.”
Batman now goes out to confront Pamela Isley, and to hopefully get the antidote to the poison. He is able to track her down at a greenhouse that is also one of her laboratories, but as Batman quickly finds out, this is no ordinary greenhouse. The final action sequence is a little different from the first four episodes so far, where it's not just Batman beating up a bunch of guys, but instead it shows him trying to escape from the various traps set in the greenhouse by Poison Ivy. First he triggers a trap door on the floor that has a bunch of spiked plants at the bottom, and then he is captured by a monster Venus fly-trap, which looks very hungry. It also seemed to be kind of an off night for Batman, as he was caught by surprise twice in this sequence, which rarely happens to him once, let alone two times. As Pamela Isley sees that her pet Venus fly-trap has caught an intruder, she decides to introduce her self as Poison Ivy, now in her full costume. Diane Pershing (who voices Poison Ivy) did a great job of voicing the character throughout the whole series, but I thought she was a little off in this episode. Understanding that this was the first episode she recorded as Poison Ivy, it seemed like at certain parts that she hadn’t nailed the character just yet. In particular when she does her diabolical laugh, which to me, just sounded a little weak.
Poison Ivy revels her whole plan to Batman, saying that Harvey Dent had to pay for the murder of all the rare plants that were plowed to make Stonegate prison. Though she also reveled that she was able to save one of those rare plants from the construction site, the Wild Thorny Rose. She then goes in to give Batman the same kiss she gave Harvey, and since Batman is held captive by the Venus fly-trap, there's no way he can get out of it. After the Kiss, he tries to spit out the poison, but he quickly starts to feel its effects. When Poison Ivy reveals that she has the antidote, Batman has to take action. He kicks Ivy out of the way, and starts cutting up the Venus Fly-trap with his pocket knife, and kicks out its teeth. This was a pretty cool moment, as Batman doesn’t care who is opponent is, as it's now a matter of life and death, and he needs to take them out without hesitation. Upset that her plant has been hurt, Poison Ivy tries to shoot Batman with her crossbow, but instead shoots the Venus fly-trap, killing it. Furious, Ivy is determined to hit Batman with her crossbow, but Batman is able to dodge her shots, and uses his grapple on some lamps to get out of the way, which then get pulled down and starts a fire inside the greenhouse. Ivy now just absolutely looses it, as she sees that all her plants are about to get burned. She goes for the Wild Thorny Rose and tries to escape, but is almost crushed by a falling tree if Batman didn’t push her out of the way. Batman is now hanging on the edge of the trapped door, and is really starting to feel the effects of the poison. Ivy goes over to him, ready to shoot him with her crossbow, but before she does, Batman reveals that he’s holding onto the Wild Thorny Rose. He convinces Ivy to give him the antidote for the plant, and they are both able to escape the burning greenhouse. This sequence featured some great animation, especially during the fire, and I liked how they played up Ivy's insanity as someone who is just obsessed with plants. When Batman gives her the plant for the antidote, the way she acts like a mother who just had her baby rescued from a fire, was a bit disturbing.
Batman is able to get the antidote to Harvey in time at the hospital, and tells Harvey that as his friend, he doesn’t think Pam is right for him. We then see that Poison Ivy is locked up in Stonegate, and is talking to her plant in a real creepy way, saying she wont be kept buried underground, and will grow back to get revenge. I’m sure that writer Tom Ruegger put her in Stongate prison for the irony and to tie the story up with the beginning, but I did think that it was a little strange that they just didn’t put her in Arkham right away, since she obviously showed that she was criminally insane.
“Pretty Poison” is a good episode that I enjoy watching, but just don’t think its one of the great episodes of the series. It served it's purpose though as a good introduction to Poison Ivy, and I thought it was a great decision to tie her origin story to Harvey Dent. This episode also featured some great animation throughout the whole episode, but especially during the fire sequence. In the introduction of this review, I said Poison Ivy is a character that can make for some good stories, and for some forgettable stories. “Pretty Poison” is definitely one of the good Poison Ivy stories.
Batman: The Animated Series: Pretty Poison:
Reviewed by Tim Geraci