Batman: The Animated Series, “P.O.V.”

07Jan11

“P.O.V.” is the kind of bread and butter episode that Batman: TAS built its fame on.

But let’s step back a little and look at television series in general. With any TV series, there are episodes fans can point to as an example of how good a series can be. How high the series can go depends on a lot of factors, but I’d say it’s almost impossible to find a TV series that did not have at least on episode that was head and shoulders above the rest. Going through the entire series to find such an episode might not be the most productive use of time, but I’d wager it’s true.

However, those are not the best episodes to judge a series on. Yes, it’s nice to know that a show can hit a height above its usual fare, but that’s also a trap. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the pilot for a show is, if the rest of its first season is boring or offensive. A good TV show will have highs and lows like any other, but its “average” episodes will be better than most series. You won’t have to hide the lesser ones for people to take it seriously. And that’s where “P.O.V.” fits in (obviously). It’s not an amazing episode, and it doesn’t feature any of Batman’s great villains. But it’s strongly written, performed, and directed, and we get a well done focus on characters outside of Batman and his enemies.

We start with Officer Montoya and her rookie partner on the way to a sting, to coordinate with Detective Bullock. But when they arrive, the place is on fire, and Bullock is lying behind a dumpster outside. Before they can get any firm answers on what happened, several suspects leave through a broken window, and Bullock tells them that others are inside. Bullock sees Batman on the roof before passing out.

Rather than following the action directly, the episode cuts to the three officers in an office, being interrogated by one of their superiors while Commissioner Gordon watches. It’s quickly established that Bullock claims Montoya and her partner were late, while Montoya and the rookie say they were on time. And then we get into the story of what happened.

Fortunately, we get something a little more innovative than the expected Rashomon rehash. While Bullock’s narration talks trash about how Batman screwed things up and he had to save Batman, the visuals show what actually happened-such as Bullock making a loud noise that alerts the criminals they were trying to bust. Bullock isn’t incompetent or cowardly in the story; he’s brave enough to try arresting the gang after being discovered and losing his gun, and he puts up a credible fight against them when he’s cornered. But an accident during the fight sets the warehouse ablaze, forcing Batman (whose presence is hinted at from the beginning of the story) to save Bullock before he’s overtaken by the smoke.

The unnamed rookie then details his experience chasing the two criminals out of the warehouse, with his own embellishment on what happened. Unlike Bullock, though, his mistakes are about what Batman does-we get to see how Batman throws caltrops to stop a car and a Batarang to drop a runner, but in the rookie’s words, Batman throws “sparks” to take out the car, and he doesn’t even see the batarang that knocks down the criminal. Montoya’s version of events is the most straightforward of the three, though it also means there’s less for her to say in the narration. The interrogation ends with the lieutenant in charge taking all three of their weapons and badges.

The final third of the episode is still entertaining, but not quite as entertaining as the first two thirds-Montoya tracks down where the criminals are hiding based on snippets of dialogue, in a way that’s never adequately explained. Working out that they might be in the Gotham harbor district makes sense, but considering how large that has to be, it’s a bit of a stretch that she finds the right warehouse before it’s too late. But leaving that aside, it’s a solid finish-Batman is found, escapes, and then Montoya aids him in defeating the whole gang. There are a number of good setpieces in this, such as Montoya’s use of a crane to capture the boss himself, and Batman driving a forklift into a boat to sink it (and almost certainly drowning two crewman who we see playing cards in that room.). At the episode coda, Commissioner Gordon grabs the badges from the lieutenant and returns them to all three officers.

One thing I haven’t mentioned before is the animation, and this is probably the best animation of the series to date-nicely detailed, highly consistent, and without any extended issues. After the issues that have popped up in almost every episode before this, it’s a nice change. As I said, the episode does suffer a bit in the second half, as Montoya goes off alone instead of calling anyone to help her, including her own partner. But it’s not enough to seriously drag it down-it’s still enjoyable to see Montoya helping Batman, and the fight strikes a nice balance of letting her really help without making Batman seem like a spectator in his own show. Building the universe of the series in episodes like these paid off later, as we get to see recognizable characters even in minor roles. It’s easy to see why Montoya became one of the characters created for the Animated series that crossed over into the actual comics. Of course, actually giving the rookie a name would have been nice too.

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One Response to “Batman: The Animated Series, “P.O.V.””

  1. Montoya is awesome in the series, I only wish she’d had even more to do. There are long stretches without her, although I understand that with so many villains and stories it’s not possible to have every character show up every episode, I feel like they didn’t use her as much as they could have. On the other hand, perhaps it’s not a great idea to have too many Batman supporters on the police force, since he is a vigilante and they can’t officially condone what he does.


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