Batman: The Animated Series

Episode two- Christmas with the Joker
harkovast at 8:27AM, June 11, 2009
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Summary
Joker escapes from Arkham and sets up a radio transmission in the style of a Christmas special TV show.
He reveals he has captured Summer Gleeson, Commissioner Gordon and Detective Bullock and intends to kill them at midnight.
Batman has to stop Jokers various insane plans while trying to rescue the hostages.

Highlights

Villians
The Joker is the most famous Batman villain of them all and he provides a wonderfully insane nemesis for our hero.
I've always liked the fact that Batman is quiet, dark and shadowy, while the Joker is loud, brightly coloured and screaming for attention at all times!
The fact that Joker combines cheerful, comedy themes with acts of violence and sadism makes him seem remarkably twisted.
In Batman: TAS he is voiced by Mark Hamil, who you probably know as Luke Skywalker from the original (ie the ones that weren't crap) Star Wars films.
Well that not what I know him as! To me he will always be the Joker! For me he eclipses Jack Nicholson from the original Batman and only Heath Ledgers blow away performance in The Dark Knight puts him into second place for portrayals of this villain.
Interestingly, the initial introduction to the Joker is actually one of the things I like least in the episode, but I will get to that later…

Batcrap Crazy
Joker, obviously, wins the insanity award hands down. His whole plan here serves no purpose other then mayhem for its own sake and to dare Batman to come and catch him. Later on, after leading Batman to a dead end he deliberately gives the detective the clues to find his secret base in a toy factory.
We also see some great extremes in Jokers behaviour, with his ‘jokes’ varying from harmless and juvenile (the pie in Batman's face, which always makes me smile) to the sequence where he has destroyed a bridge, which is going to cause a train crash and Summer Gleeson says her mother is on the train. Joker pretends to show some concern before mocking her using his hand puppet while she cries. It is really quite a twisted scene!
I also loved the final scene of the episode where we see Joker in a straight jacket back in Arkham, laughing insanely to himself and singing christmas carols!
Mind you, Batman himself shows some of his own weird tendencies, refusing Robins advice to take it easy since the city is quiet. Batman is an obsessive personality and shows he is almost incapable of relaxing or ‘switching off’.
Also he saves Joker from death after defeating him, even though Joker had put himself in danger while trying to escape. In the animated series Batman's code against killing is absolute, he wont even allow others to be killed by those around him or by their own actions! He can no more allow them to die then Riddler could decide not to leave a clue or Two Face could choose not to flip that coin.


Robin
The boy wonder makes his first appearance in this episode.
Now I know he is part of canon and firmly implanted in the show…but I dont like Robin. I never have, I doubt I ever will.
He seems unnecessary, if Batman needs someone to banter with, he has the infinitely cooler Alfred.
While the take on his here is cooler then many, hes lightening of the mood just seems to detract from the drama.
I never liked that Robin seems a bit part time in his crime fighting, like it is more of a hobby then a full time obsession. He is batman light, and personally I would just leave him out of the franchise.

Musical Momments
I really like that at one point Joker plays “Dance of the Sugar Plumb fairies” and then unleashes giant nutcracker toy robots. I especially like that they don't have anyone explain the significance of the music, they just throw it in there and let us spot it ourselves.

Holy shitty moments, Batman!
Nothing in this world is perfect, and that applies even to Batman the animated series.
This category is for things I didn't like. Some of these may seem niggling, but when a show sets such a high standard, minor faults stand out.
A lot of the animation in this episode is weaker then we see in many of the other episodes, especially during the opening sequence of the Jokers escape. Another thing I didn't like in this bit was that Jokers plan is just too silly. This might sound odd when I am talking about the Joker, but clinging on to a rocket would seem more likely to kill him then anything else, especially when he goes through the glass ceiling, or when the damn thing crashes! While I enjoyed the Jokers singing the ‘Batman Smells’ version of Jingle Bells, how can he keep singing while flying through the air? He should be clinging on for dear life!
At one point Batman says “Robin, operation cause and effect!” which results in Robin throwing a bomb at Jokers cannon. Couldn't Batman have just said “throw a bomb at it!” Does Batman say “Operation:Mobile assault” when he means “get in the car” It just comes across as unnecessary.
Another strange feature of this episode is the Jokers use of candy canes as gags. Why don't they just spit the things out? If there is something special of sticky about those things it is never stated.
And the sheer scale and number of giant robots, tanks and cannons involved in Joker's plans seems a little hard to believe. How the hell does he build all these things without anyone noticing?

Summary
This episode is okay, it has some fun moments, and the Christmas setting juxtaposed with the darkness of Batman and the sinister nature of Jokers plans is fun (reminding me of the similar use of the Christmas season in Batman:Returns).
However a few unbelievable elements let the plot down and the animation is rather sub par.

Final Bat Score
2 out of 5

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last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM
zaymac at 6:38AM, June 12, 2009
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I remember this episode. It was good, almost bordering on the campy 60's show though in this particular episode.

Mark Hamill is great as The Joker, however I believe Tim Curry voiced him for a few episodes of the series as well.

Do you get cartoon network across the pond? They've started running a new Batman cartoon, Batman Brave and the Bold where he teams up with a different hero each week.

It's not as good as Batman TAS, because it is more campy like the old TV Show (But not quite as bad). At first I really hated it, but after watching a few more episodes It's started to grow on me.

It's a Grizzly Bear battling Zombies. Do you need to know more?
DOLLAR STORE HAIRCUTA daily webcomic of unfunny.
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM
harkovast at 12:08PM, June 12, 2009
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I'm aware of it, and it did look fun.
I enjoyed the campy 60's version, I think they provide a very different experience to the more serious takes on things. It is sort of like asking which is better- Life of Brian or Terminator 2? They are so different that comparisson is meaningless.

Tim Curry was the first choice for the role, but he pulled out so they got Mark Hamil. Tim Curry didn't actually end up voicing any episodes.
As much as I like Tim Curry, I think Mark Hamil is so awesome that I am glad they ended up with him.

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last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM
Wordweaver_three at 8:24PM, June 22, 2009
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This episode has come up in discussions with my friends on several occasions, usually as an attempt to explain the term “chaotic” as depicted in DnD. When you boil it down, every single crazy, outlandish, and potentially lethal thing that the Joker does is simply to accomplish one simple goal: To hit Batman in the face with a cream pie. That's it! That was his grand plan! From the Joker's perspective, he came out on top in this episode because he accomplished what he set out to do. While the Joker may have been sent back to Arkham, he was still victorious.
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM
harkovast at 9:00AM, June 23, 2009
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Wordweaver that is a really interesting interpretation on the episode, I rather like it.
Though Joker does not get exactly what he wants as he ends up at Batman's mercy, but that was simply during his escape attempt, rather then his actual plan, which basically went off pretty flawlessly (asside from those pesky hostages surviving of course!)

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last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM
Wordweaver_three at 8:34PM, June 23, 2009
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I don't know. As far as the Joker is concerned, getting beat up and captured by Batman is just part of the game. I mean, if the Joker had any intention of actually killing Batman he could have just as easily just placed a bomb or even a spring-loaded poisoned cream pie in that box. In The Dark Knight the Joker even went so far as to say he couldn't kill Batman because he was “Just too much fun”. This is what makes the Joker so unique as a villain, he doesn't want to kill Batman, if he did the fun would end. Everyone else, however, is fair game.
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM
harkovast at 3:57AM, June 24, 2009
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Well I assume he didn't want to end up captured or hanging over the boiling pit mainly because he looks annoyed and states “bar humbug” suggesting the situation no longer amuses him.

The Joker is, generally speaking, only amused by jokes he sets up and engineers himself, but is annoyed by anything happening that is outside of his plans.

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last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM
Wordweaver_three at 5:00PM, June 24, 2009
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Oh yeah:

“Operation orbiting waste elimination.”

(Flush the toilet)

“Operation podiatry concussion.”

(Kick him in the head)

“Operation multi-directional sensory distribution”

(Let's split up and look around)


Of course, “Operation cause and effect” could really apply to anything. How exactly Robin knew that meant throw a grenade is beyond me. The fact that they had thought of a code phrase beforehand that meant throw a grenade at the cannons is pretty weird.
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM
harkovast at 4:58AM, June 25, 2009
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Oh man, I am going to start refering to Operation Orbiting waste elimination from now on!

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last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM
Phillby at 4:43PM, Sept. 30, 2009
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There's an interesting story of why this episode seems so out of place compared to the rest of the series. The Joker's escape from the asylum on a flying Christmas tree is out-there even considering his antics in later episodes.

During pre-production the network and BTAS's producers had a disagreement over the direction the series was going to take, the Network wanted a childrens show and the production team wanted to make something Darker and more Mature. They eventually agreed to produce 2 pilot episodes, the Serious ‘on Leather Wings’ and this abominable chrismas special.

Obviously Leather wings was met with critical acclaim and set the tone for the rest of the series.
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM
harkovast at 5:00PM, Sept. 30, 2009
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Ooooh thanks for the background info Philby!
That would explain why some of this episode is a bit-“Operation orbiting waste elimination.”

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last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM

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