Batman: The Animated Series, “Moon of the Wolf”

05Jun11

Man. This was a rough one.

“Moon of the Wolf” isn’t the worst episode of the series, but it’s down in the depths with the worst. It’s got a one-time villain that’s just terrible, some internal logic that makes no goddamn sense, and a callback to “Cat Scratch Fever” that doesn’t work on any level. It even includes one character telling another a story they would already know, just to catch us up. There is no excusing some of the narrative mistakes here, even if the animation had been sublime. And trust me, it’s not.

The episode starts off with a man in a uniform with a dog. He’s walking the dog when it starts to growl about something-but hey, it’s just a jogger! And then the dog growls about a werewolf, snarling constantly, but it somehow manages to get right behind this guy before he realizes it’s there. We’re then treated to a hilarious animation error, as the man gets half the frames of the werewolf, and yet they are running at the same speed. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around this. I’m also wondering why Batman suddenly appears to save the man. I mean, if there were previous reports of a werewolf attacking people in the park, this would make sense. But instead, it feels like he was just looking for some muggers to mess with. This is even confirmed in the next scene, where Batman asks Commissioner Gordon if he’d heard of any crimes involving wolves, and the closest thing is the theft of some wolves from the zoo.

Meanwhile, the werewolf is reporting back to his “boss,” Dr. Milo. If you were foolish enough to watch “Cat Scratch Fever” (or like me, watched whatever Batman you could get as a kid), you would recognize this guy as the evil doctor from that episode. Apparently he was better at it than we thought, since he’s gone from making a virus that’s spread by stray dogs and cats to humans to making werewolves. Does Gotham U have a robust Godless Science Department? Perhaps biology majors can minor in this. It turns out that the attack wasn’t random-he was trying to kill the zoo employee, to keep him from revealing they were behind the theft. Except later, we find out it was all done by courier, so he doesn’t know who hired him! Why would you need to kill him to keep this hidden? Murder tends to draw MORE attention than theft, not less!

I’ll give the episode this much credit. When Batman wants to find out more about wildlife this time, he does it by watching the documentary in the cave, instead of trying to sneak out to a museum. No one will be pointing to Bruce Wayne and wondering why he’s staring intently at the wolf exhibit. This comes right after the werewolf (who turns out to be a wealthy athlete) says he’ll double a donation to a charity, if Batman shows up to pick up the check. Batman decides to play along with this, then is shocked that he’s gassed while he’s in a spot where people could predict he would appear.

Now, again, I will give the episode a little credit. The backstory for the werewolf is that the athlete (whose name is Romulus, a somewhat clever reference, if one that is very unlikely) wanted some new kind of steroid, that wouldn’t be detected. And it just happened to give him lycanthropy. This does not make sense, of course, but his desire to get away by breaking the rules? Works just fine. Hell, as a kid I thought this seemed silly. Now, it’s a far more plausible idea for me. Having noted that, this comes from Milo telling Romulus his own backstory, while taunting him about having the antidote, but not sharing it. And then he’s shocked as hell that once Romulus transforms into the werewolf again, he tries to kill Milo, instead of politely following orders. Meanwhile, they have Batman chained up in a construction site, completely unconscious…and he’s still alive! They didn’t just take off his mask and shoot him in the head! I can buy that the Joker doesn’t want to beat Batman in such a pedestrian manner, but he’s already helpless, and you don’t take the easiest route to beating him?

After the werewolf knocks out Milo, he comes for Batman, who has woken up and freed himself. Meanwhile, in a completely unnecessary subplot, Bullock has been investigating the case, and thus manages to pull up with a bunch of cop cars, to witness Batman fighting this thing. Most of them are willing to shoot the giant creature, but Bullock makes them wait and watch the fight instead. And I’ll admit, it’s a bit strange they would listen to him, but it makes perfect sense that Bullock would want to watch something beat Batman up before trying to help. In the end, Batman wins in a terribly implausible fashion, and the werewolf disappears….or does he?? Yes, he does, because he never appears in an episode again.

I tried to go into this episode with an open mind. I had some vague memories it wasn’t good…but I had those about “Tyger, Tyger” as well, and that turned out to be better than I expected, even if it wasn’t among the high points of the series. There’s no such redeeming qualities here. In addition to all the story issues, we also have an episode that’s badly animated the entire time. And the werewolf’s theme is a 80s electric guitar riff, so every time he appears on screen, I feel like Poison or Van Halen should appear behind him. It’s rare that the score for one of the episodes isn’t at least fitting, but we have one of those exceptions here. I’m just going to say it right out: don’t watch “Moon of the Wolf.” It will add nothing to your enjoyment of the series.

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