Batman: The Animated Series, “The Cat and the Claw, Parts I+II”

15Feb11

So far, there’s been a sharp divide in quality between the original Batman villains, and those created for the Animated Series. While characters like the Joker and Two-Face more than lived up to expectations (even the Penguin came out okay from his debut), characters like the Pirate King and Fat Cannibal Mining Boss did not. “The Cat and the Claw” is the first time we get to see an old and a new villain in the same story. I didn’t expect that both of them would come off badly, but considering the issues with the episode, it’s not hard to see why.

To be fair, Catwoman is still a good character here, just clumsily used and executed. Adrienne Barbeau’s voice work manages to make her into a very watchable character, especially when she’s flirting with Batman. Between her voice and both Catwoman and Selina Kyle’s good design, it’s easy to buy her attractiveness. However, both she and her cat (more her cat) act in some very odd ways in these episodes.

And then there’s Red Claw, who is a good idea in theory. But both she and her henchmen come off as lazy European stereotypes, especially all we know about her goals is that she’s a terrorist. And she wants to blackmail people for a cause that’s never described. It’s not helped by the show telling us she’s dangerous and evil, rather than really showing us.

In general, both parts of “The Cat and the Claw” are just listless. Most of the time the plot lays there and hopes you’ll like it, and the animation seems to reflect that lack of energy. There’s something about how Red Claw wants a piece of land Selina intended to set up as a mountain lion reserve, but it’s mostly a waste of time. It would be unkind to say there’s not enough story for one episode, let alone two, but I did get a clear idea that splitting these stories into two separate episodes would have made both more interesting. And there’s a distinct lack of sense, too-at one point Catwoman is crawling through the ventilation shafts, and she tries to foil her pursuers by…leaving tiny metal cat figures on the floor, so they can get stuck by them. Leaving aside the question of where she’d even keep them, it’s not the best of plans.

Oddly enough, the first part of “The Cat and the Claw” was actually the first episode of the Animated Series I ever saw. Looking back, I’m not sure why I decided to stay with the show because of that. I suppose I had a lower standard then, but even as a kid it wasn’t particularly good.

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