Batman: The Animated Series, “I Am The Night”

06Jul11

This will be a fine improvement over “What is Reality!” This is a classic! This is a bravura performance on every level! A triumph of the animation form that dwarfs all other things! Except….not quite. “I Am The Night” is a very good episode of the animated series, and rightly deserves to be remembered fondly, for a number of reasons. But it’s not perfect, and shouldn’t be seen as such.

The episode starts with Batman sitting on a throne of stone, looking for all the world like a villain, brooding on his latest defeat. It’s a great visual, but it’s still weird to see him sitting there. Especially since he ends up being full of ennui about his efforts, bemoaning to Alfred that there’s no real victory in his war on crime, or a lasting peace. Of course, you could argue that he should have known that going in, and it’s crazy to expect that even the most dedicated efforts would stop crime for good. (You could argue the same thing about the real life “war on crime” and “war on drugs” efforts, but thankfully this episode doesn’t make those kinds of explicit comparisons. I say thankfully because their analysis would probably just be “Drugs are bad! Don’t do them, kids!”) But he’s not complaining that things are hard, or no one appreciates him. He just feels that nothing he’s done has had a lasting impact. He’s wrong, but it’s hard to fight that creeping sense of futility.

Batman cuts the conversation short to go out and honor his parents, which would also fit in with his gloom. Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon is waiting with a police force for Batman for a raid on a gangster’s meeting. Batman and Leslie Tompkins meet up for a far too short scene about his feelings of uselessness, interrupted by Batman saving a con artist from two low level criminals. This apparently takes 7 hours, causing him to be late to the raid, which Gordon initiates early so they don’t lose their chance at catching all the gangsters in one fell swoop. Now, they don’t actually say it takes 7 hours, but in the episode that establishes this tradition with Batman and his parents, the time he arrives is at 8 PM. When he leaves Leslie Tompkins, she says it’s nearly 3 AM. So there’s a major time discrepancy there that never gets address. And no, that’s not the reason this isn’t the best episode ever, but it’s something that bugs me now that I’ve noticed it.

Batman helps to take down the mobsters so the police can actually catch them, but in the confusion, Gordon got shot and is in critical condition. Naturally, Batman takes this very hard, and no matter who tries to console him (including Barbara Gordon), he blames himself. He even briefly says he’s done being Batman, until Robin tells him that the man who shot Gordon has escaped from prison, and is probably going to finish the job. I’m not going to spoil exactly what happens next, but let’s just say Batman wins.

As far as stories go, this is…well, not a cliche, exactly, but a lot of superheroes have moments where they say they’re giving it up, for one reason or another, often involving protecting the people they love. There are two smart moves they make with this episode. The first is that they take time to establish that Batman is already feeling low. This isn’t something that just engulfs him when Commissioner Gordon is shot, and it works better because of it. The other is Batman’s subsequent conversation with Robin, where we get to hear the other side of it. Batman talks about how he chose his life, and that he knows someone will eventually kill him. But while he can let that happen to himself, he can’t allow anyone else to die because of him. Of course, it’s a bit egotistical for him to think he’s directly responsible for Gordon being shot, considering he’s a cop, and probably didn’t need to be at the bust that night to begin with. Thankfully, Robin is on hand to make that same argument. He’s often the character intended to bring some lightness to the whole Batman franchise, so it’s nice to see him doing the same here, even if it’s not through wisecracks and a colorful costume.

The one substantial issue I had with the episode was the animation, and I’ll freely admit that I’m nitpicking here, because it’s not a huge issue; it’s certainly a big step up from the last episode. But there was still a hint of strange movement to the characters that threw things off, and pulled me out a little. You could also argue that things resolve too neatly at the end, with Batman being convinced too easily to put the suit back on, but I don’t think that’s a real problem; it’s inevitable that he’d go back to being Batman, so it’s better to do it in one episode than try to stretch it out into a two parter. Besides, as much as I like the show’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne, that doesn’t mean I want to watch a whole episode of Sad Bruce Wayne over Batman.

The ending thought is pretty simple: go watch this. It’s a great standalone episode (well, for the most part-the Leslie Thompkins part might be confusing if you didn’t see her first appearance), and makes for a great examination of Batman and his thought process, even if it doesn’t dig too deeply. Then again, it was a kid’s cartoon. Scratching the surface was a better idea than plumbing the depths of Bruce Wayne’s psychology.

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One Response to “Batman: The Animated Series, “I Am The Night””

  1. 1 Carlos

    I watched all these episodes all day and night and i felt so tired and then i see this episode and i see him all tired and it hit me that this guy has been going and going without a stop and yet the crime still hasnt lost its momentum


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