Episode 12: It’s Never Too Late
Story By: Tom Ruegger
Teleplay By: Garin Wolf
Directed By: Boyd Kirkland
Original Air Date: 09/10/92
“It’s Never Too Late” is an episode that puts us right in the middle of a gang war that’s raging in Gotham City between two rival mob bosses. Rupert Thorne, and Arnold Stromwell. While it’s nice to get episodes that focus on the mob element of crime in Gotham city, instead of every episode featuring a super villain or costumed criminal, this was one episode that I never really could get into as much as other ones.
“It’s Never Too Late” is an episode that I know is a favorite amongst some fans, and is also a favorite amongst those who worked on the series due to it’s mature subject matter. But whenever I think of my favorite and most memorable episodes, this one never really comes to mind. It’s mainly due to the fact that I found the pacing to be a little slow, and also because I couldn’t get invested into the story of the two main characters this episode focuses on, Thorne and Stromwell.
The main plot for this episode revolves around Batman trying to show Stromwell how his life of crime, and now his gang war with Thorne, has brought him nothing but misery, and how it’s now time for him to give it all up. While having Batman trying to get Stromwell to end this gang war is a good concept, I kind of wished that they had Batman do this in a more intimidating fashion, like he does to most criminals he encounters. But in this episode, he just escorts Stromwell around Gotham City, showing him examples of why he needs to give up his life of crime. It felt more like something Superman would do instead of Batman. But a cool thing about “It’s Never Too Late” though, is that it brings up some heavy subject matters that you normally wouldn’t see in a kids TV show. The issue of drug overdose, drug manufacturing and divorce, are all things that we see Stromwell and his family deal with here, and this episode handles these issues in a mature way that didn’t try to tone it down for younger viewers, which was nice.
The episode begins with Stromwell watching a news report about his war with Thorne, and he’s not too pleased with what they’re saying about him in this report. The reporter is saying how it looks like Thorne is gaining the upper hand over Stromwell, due to Thorne being the more youthful and up and coming gangster. I found it kind of funny that they felt they had to mentioned that Thorne is the more youthful gangster, when he actually looks to be the same age, if not older than Stromwell. I thought that was an unnecessary point to mention, and it probably would have been better if they didn’t mention anything about their ages at all, since it really didn’t add anything to the overall story, and it didn’t seem to make sense. But what really makes Stromwell upset, is the fact that the reporter mentioned that his son Joey is still missing. Stromwell believes that Thorne has his son, and he wants to set up a meeting with him so he can put an end to this feud, and get his son back.
As Stromwell and his boys are about to meet Thorne at an Italian restaurant (a meeting place that’s a must for all gangsters) Stromwell has a flashback of a traumatic experience he had as a kid while his car is stopped at a railroad crossing. We’re taken back to Stromwell’s youth, as we see him and his younger brother talking at the railroad tracks. But things quickly go wrong, when suddenly Stromwell’s foot gets stuck in the tracks as a train is coming right towards him. We don’t see what happens to him just yet, as we’re taking back to the present, where we see that Stromwell is shaken up just by remembering this experience. The animation was good for the most part throughout this episode, but I really liked how the flashback scenes were done. It made you feel like you watching an old movie from the 1940's. With the way both kids were designed, and especially how the whole scene wasn’t in color, it really gave you that old movie feel, which I thought worked really well for that sequence.
While Thorne is waiting for Stromwell to arrive at the restaurant, he want’s everybody who’s not part of his gang out of there. So that means the bum sleeping on one of the tables has to be escorted out. But we quickly realize that this person is not really a bum once we see the car he goes to. As he steps into the Batmobile, Bruce takes off his fake beard and wig, and listens in on the conversation through the radio he left on one of the tables. I always like it when we see Bruce use his different disguises to blend in and get the information he wants, and this one in particular worked really well, because all he had to do this time was to pretend to be asleep at a restaurant, and he got everything he needed. Stromwell eventually meets Thorne at the restaurant, and quickly gets aggressive with Thorne, as he demands him to return his son. Thorne is able to convince Stromwell that he doesn’t have his son, and eventually gets him to calm down. But Thorne’s plan all along was to kill Stromwell at this meeting, and as he gets Stromwell to relax at a table, he makes his way out of the restaurant through the back entrance, as the whole place then goes dark. Stromwell realizes whats going on a little too late, but fortunately for him, Batman made his way inside the restaurant, and was able to get him out of there before the whole building went up in flames. Thorne soon finds out though that Stromwell survived the explosion with Batman’s help, as one of his men overheard a witness tell the police that he saw Batman carry someone out of the burning building. I liked how the witness described what he saw to the police, describing Batman as a “dark angel, carrying someone out from the fire of Hades.” I thought that was a nice touch, as it showed that even regular citizens might not be too sure of what Batman actually is, further growing the mystery of Batman.
The rest of the episode moves rather slowly, as we see Batman take Stromwell around Gotham, trying to convince him to give up his life of crime, and to put an end to this gang war. This part of the episode felt like it was taken from the Charles Dickens story, “A Christmas Carol,” as we see Batman take Stromwell to some familiar places that has effected his life, showing him how the empire he built has brought him nothing but misery. No where is this more evident then when Batman takes him to the Sunrise Foundation, where Stromwell sees his estranged wife, and his son Joey laying in a bed, suffering from the drugs that he’s been hooked on, which were provided through Stromwell’s organization. This hits Stromwell really hard, and it appears that Batman has made his point, as Stromwell agrees to give Batman the files that would incriminate both him and Thorne. But Stromwell doesn’t make a complete turnaround that quickly. As he hands Batman some dummy files, he then grabs a gun and tells Batman that he wont go down this easily, and that he will get his son out that foundation so he can take care of him himself. Batman tries to talk some more sense into Stromwell, but their conversation is quickly interrupted by Rupert Thorne, who smokes them out of the building with tear gas.
The Final sequence for this episode was a little lackluster I thought, as the action wasn’t really too exciting, as we basically just see Batman kick a few of Thorne’s men, and the rest of it is with Stromwell being reunited with his younger brother Michael, who is now a priest. What I didn’t like about this part, was that during this reunion, Stromwell gets another flashback of the incident at the train tracks when he and his brother were kids. We get to see the outcome of the incident this time, but we have to sit through the entire flashback sequence again that we saw in the opening. I thought it made this part drag on a bit too long before we saw what happened to Stromwell when the train is about to hit him, where it’s revealed that his younger brother pushed Stromwell out of the way of the oncoming train, costing him his leg. Stromwell collapses to the ground sobbing after he has this flashback, feeling guilty for what happened to his brother. Michael then implores Stromwell to give up his life of crime, asking him to do it for himself, his son, and for his brother. Michael ‘s words finally reach
Stromwell’s heart, as he starts to cry and gives his brother a hug. This part of the final act was really well done, as you really got to feel the emotion Stromwell was showing during his conversation with his brother, where you believed that this is what would finally make him do the right thing. The episode ends rather abruptly after this though, as it seemed liked they just ran out time, and had to place the ending right here. Thorne is about to shoot Stromwell and his brother, but Batman quickly takes him down just before the police arrive, where Stromwell then tells the Commissioner that he would like to give a statement, and the episode quickly ends showing Batman standing on a roof top.
“It’s Never Too Late” is an episode that really doesn’t have a lot of things wrong with it, but it’s always been an episode that I just couldn’t get into for one reason or another. I can see why a lot of people like this episode, with the mature story it was telling, but for me, even with it’s mature story and subject matter, there are a lot more lighter toned episodes that I enjoy watching more than “It’s Never Too Late.”
Batman: The Animated Series-It's Never Too Late:
Reviewed by Tim Geraci