Home > B, Batman: The Animated Series > Batman: The Animated Series, Episode 28 – “Dreams in Darkness”

Batman: The Animated Series, Episode 28 – “Dreams in Darkness”

December 12, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

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Written by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens
Directed by Dick Sebast
Original Airdate: November 3, 1992
DVD: Batman, The Animated Series, Volume One

Summary: After inhaling a large dose of Scarecrow’s fear toxin, Batman begins suffering nightmarish visions and is committed to Arkham Asylum.

Background:

The villain of this episode, the Scarecrow, is often thought of as a silver age villain, but he actually first showed up very early in Batman history, as far back as World’s Finest #3 in 1941. The character balances several aspects of the Batman mythos, with a psychological background in his real identity as Dr. Johnathan Crane, psychiatrist, on top of a super-villain look and weaponry. However, after his initial appearance in the 40s, the character was only used once more before being mothballed until the Silver Age. At that point, Scarecrow became a far more regular Batman villain, and although he’s another one that was passed over for the 1966 TV series (a move which I’ve always felt was somewhat odd, as that series practically used gas on a weekly basis), he would eventually show up as a member of the Legion of Doom in Superfriends and stick in that role as the series moved forwards.

Of course, Scarecrow’s best known these days for a pair of obscure theatrical features he’s appeared in.

Thoughts on the Episode:

Arguably at the bottom of the list of Batman’s front-line rogues(it’s hard to think of a truly memorable Scarecrow storyline in the comics), Scarecrow is a nevertheless a personal favourite for a number of reasons. Firstly, he’s a great visual character – as noted in Batman: Animated, he had the largest number of visual looks during the tenure of BTAS, from a very simplistic first appearance to the interim stage seen here to the downright terrifying “hanged corpse” look in his New Adventures incarnation. Secondly, he’s got a built in psychological twist, as Johnathan Crane is a psychologist himself. Lastly, fear gas allows for all kinds of trippy storylines, as shown in this episode.

The unique thing about this one is that Batman narrating his own adventures is rarely, if ever, used in BTAS, and although the device inexplicably gets dropped later in the episode, it gives the first half of the episode a pulpt, film noir kind of feel. Although Alfred does show up for his usual supporting role, the narration helps to increase Batman’s sense of isolation as it really does feel as though it’s entirely possible that the gas will cause him to go insane.

Once the action enters Arkham, we’re left dealing with one of the common themes of Batman, namely that to a normal person, dressing up like a giant bat and waging an extremely expensive one-man war against the criminal element isn’t the most sane thing in the world. While the animated version of Bruce Wayne doesn’t quite tilt to obvious signs of mental problems in the same way his comic incarnation occasionally does, in this episode Batman is fighting against his own perception within the general populace, which is good twist.

Of course, once rule #1 of the DCAU is invoked (say it with me, folks: Batman is always right) and Batman makes a getaway – after an initial failed attempt, which was a nice bit of playing on the viewer’s expectations – it’s time for the big set-piece to conclude the episode, complete with appearances from most of the top tier of villains. It’s effective largely because Scarecrow isn’t the most physically imposing combatant, and therefore makes Batman work a bit to wrap up the case while emphasizing that he’s hallucinating so much that his brain is frying within his skull. Although ripping out a wire isn’t the most tense of climaxes, Batman being forced to fight through the hallucination is a good finish.

On the production front, Kevin Conroy delivers his usual solid performance in perhaps one of his busiest performances as Batman, and really gets across the sense that Batman is a little more desperate than usual due to the ticking clock in his head. The animation here is more detailed than the average BTAS episode – just check out that great explosion shot above – and while I’m not the biggest fan of this Scarecrow costume, they at least managed to keep it looking menacing throughout the episode, which is no easy task.

Although the narration was something of a missed opportunity, this is a solid Batman ep that manages to be off-model enough to keep the viewer guessing for most of it. Not especially shocking that it’s the product of two of the most accomplished writers in science fiction television.

Grade: B. Nice, trippy episode with a healthy helping of cameos. Too bad the narration didn’t stick for the entire episode.

Random Thoughts:

  • Almost goes without saying, but the idea of Scarecrow poisoning the water supply is quite precognitive.
  • The basis of the story is probably Batman : The Last Arkham, where Batman was also tossed into Arkham and declared insane, but there’s no “based on” credit that I could see as appeared for other comic-inspired storylines such as Demon’s Quest.
  • The bit with Joker, amongst other rogues, appearing as a result of fear gas was an oft-rumoured feature of the scuttled Batman Triumphant that would have followed the disastrous Batman and Robin.
  • If you want to know all you need to know about the competence of the people running Arkham, one moment in this episode should settle it: trying to escape, Batman finds a fire axe hanging on the wall. This in a facility that attempts to contain The Joker. There’s not enough words to describe this stupidity.
  • I know this is retroactive nitpicking, but… Batman needs an axe to get out of a straight jacket after being trained by Zatara?

Line of the Episode: “An entire city, screaming in fear. I wonder if we’ll be able to hear it?” Scarecrow needed to be this creepy more often.

Next Justice League: A really subtle, yet great hint about the season finale in “Only A Dream.”

Next Time: Another dream-based Scarecrow episode, via “Over the Edge”

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