Episode 04: The Last Laugh
Written by: Carl Swenson
Directed by: Kevin Altieri
Original Air Date: 09/22/92
After what was in my opinion a lackluster way to introduce an iconic character like the Joker in the episode “Christmas With The Joker", he actually makes his second appearance in "Batman: The Animated Series" rather quickly, in the fourth episode titled “The Last Laugh.” To me, this is a much stronger episode than “Christmas With The Joker.” It is an episode that has a lot of action, and has a plot that better suits the Joker than his previous episode did. His plan in this episode just feels like a classic Joker scheme.
With these first two episodes with the Joker, it seems that the writers were fixated on the idea of putting him in Holiday themed episodes. First it was Christmas, now its April Fool's Day. Out of all the holidays, April Fool's Day makes for a perfect story setting with the Joker. It gives him the chance to play the ultimate joke on Gotham City, and that’s exactly what he does in this episode. His plan in this episode is to cause the citizens of Gotham to go crazy with laughter by means of his Joker toxin, which also will cause permanent insanity with long exposure to it. To do this, the Joker is using a boat filled with garbage to float down Gotham’s river to dispense the gas all over the city. As the boat travels through the Gotham, many people start taking in the gas, and Gotham City starts to fall into insanity.
So far, Wayne Manor has not come into contact with the gas, and Bruce is about to start his day with a shower and shave. But in what was one of the more funnier moments of the episode, Bruce has a little trouble with the blade, and accidentally cuts himself while shaving. I guess even Batman can’t be perfect at everything! This scene also has some good interaction with Alfred and Bruce, as we get to see a more humorous side of their father/son like relationship. Alfred tries to play a small April Fool's joke on Bruce, but of course Bruce doesn’t find it so funny. Alfred describes Bruce’s sense of humor best when says, “There’s not a funny bone in that man’s body.” It should be noted that Efrem Zimbalist Jr. makes his debut as the voice of Alfred in this episode. Clive Revill voiced Alfred in the previous three episodes, and did a good job. But Efrem Zimbalist Jr. brings a sense of warmth to the character’s voice, while also keeping his charm and wit as well. He is the perfect voice for Alfred, and has voiced him from this episode, all the way up until the Justice League episode “Starcrossed,” which was over a ten year span.
Unfortunately, Wayne Manor doesn’t stay out of the reach of Joker’s gas for long, and soon Alfred starts to come under its effects. As Batman is studying the effects of the of the gas in the Batcave, he asks Alfred for some help, but instead hears him laughing like crazy, and finds him destroying priceless items in Wayne Manor. Meanwhile, the Joker is taking advantage of a city filled with insane laughing people, by going on a shopping spree. Of course a shopping spree for the Joker means him stealing from jewelry stores, and his henchmen literally lifting up people from the streets, and emptying their pockets into shopping carts. I loved how the Joker just casually walks around the streets of Gotham in this scene. With all the commotion and laughing people he was passing by, it was like this was his idea of a perfect day out on the town.
As Joker and his men return to the boat, they are visited by Batman, who has now dragged them out further into the river by the Bat-boat. I really liked how Batman was animated in this episode with his gas mask on. The look of Batman is one of the coolest looking designs ever made, but for me personally, when his whole face is covered with a gas mask, or something else, it just makes him look even cooler. I thought the fight sequences in this episode were good as well. When you see Joker’s henchmen, you know that these guys shouldn’t be able to lay a finger on Batman, and that’s exactly what happens. Batman takes these guys out without even throwing a punch, he just dodges their attacks, and lets them take themselves out. But while Batman can handle Joker’s henchmen easily, he wasn’t prepared for the powerful Captain Clown! Joker’s robotic henchmen and boat driver, who takes Batman out by spinning him over his head at rapid speed, and slamming him into a canister. But being the kind person that he is, after he seals the canister up, Joker graciously pokes some air holes into it so Batman can breath. But as he later realizes, those air holes turn into water holes, and as Captain Clown throws the canister into the river, it starts to sink.
Batman is able to escape from the sealed canister by having the Bat-boat come to him remotely and blast it open, as he then catches up with the Joker and his men. We get another good fight scene here, as Batman takes out Joker’s men easily again, and is able to get the best of Captain Clown. Batman is able to finally beat the robot by bashing his head with a pipe, and then knocking him over into a car crusher, where he is then turned into a cube. Joker is very upset with the death of Captain Clown, and I just love Mark Hamill’s delivery when he says, “You’ve killed Captain Clown… You’ve Killed Captain Clown!” He makes you believe that Joker actually cared about that robot, more so than any human he's worked with.
Joker then dumps a pile of trash on top of Batman as he makes his escape into a vat of molten metal. Batman makes his way out of the garbage, and then follows the Joker in. In this sequence, Batman gets to show off his acrobatic skills, as he makes a bunch of incredible flips on to some gears as he tries to catch up with the Joker. Batman then follows Joker down a shoot that leads to the incinerator. While a rope is waiting at the end of the shoot for the Joker to swing onto the catwalk with, Batman is left to hang at the edge of the shoot, with burning flames right beneath him. Joker then drops some trash down the shoot which pushes Batman off, but he is able to use his Batarang to make it onto the catwalk. Joker then tries to use his blades of playing cards as his last trick to stop Batman, but Batman dodges the first one with ease, and then catches the next one with his hand, which was a pretty cool moment. This sends the Joker off running scared, and he is then captured by Batman in a lame way, that to me was too similar to how he was captured in “Christmas With The Joker.” Which I wasn't a fan of. Instead of tripping on a roller skate like he did in “Christmas With The Joker,” he instead trips on a piece of rope, and is left hanging over the flames, begging Batman to pull him up. This is probably my biggest complaint with the episode, as they pretty much just recycled the same ending as “Christmas With The Joker,” which was something that wasn’t even good in that episode.
Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred is back to normal, but we are never told how he got back that way, as well as how Gotham City returns to normal. It would have been nice to get an explanation as to how that happened, but we are left to assume that the effects of the gas just wear off over time. There usually is a line said at the end of certain episodes that wrap up all the loose ends of a story, but with this episode, it just ends with Bruce playing a little joke on Alfred. Bruce jokingly tells Alfred that he’ll take out all the damage he did to the house from his salary. It was definitely a good and fitting way to end the episode, but I just think something should have been mentioned about how the effects of the gas goes away.
“The Last Laugh” is a fun and enjoyable episode, but there is nothing in it that really makes it stand out as one of the best episodes in the series. It had a decent plot, with a classic Joker scheme, funny humor, and some good action, but there wasn’t that one great moment that stood out in this episode. “The Last Laugh” did have some pretty cool music though, it was different from the normal orchestral score that they use. It had a theme with a fast tempo drum beat, which I guarantee will be in your head for a while after you watch this episode. So while "The Last Laugh" won't be an episode that is remembered for being the greatest Joker story every told, there's definitely a lot of entertaining things about it, that still makes it fun to watch.
Batman: The Animated Series-The Last Laugh:
Reviewed by Tim Geraci