To begin with, this episode is completely hilarious. It totally embraces its po-faced charm, and, when Batman briefly considers the unhappy possibility that Dick Grayson, undercover, might have to smoke a cigarette, and, for all-too-brief a second, winces, it’s sheer gold. There are a few examples that I recall from later episodes of Adam West completely stealing the scene by underplaying it, but this is one of the best.
But enough of that. Let’s go back to 1983 or so, and twelve year-old me, middle school metal maniac, angrily insisting to people who’d outgrown funnybooks – “They’re not funny!!!” – and suffering through fifteen days of repeats of Batman betraying me on WGNX 46. (Might’ve still been WANX then.) I couldn’t understand how the show that thrilled me so much at age six, seven, eight, was being revealed, in the cold light of middle school ultra-seriousness, to be so absolutely ridiculous and silly.
Then there’s the resolution to this cliffhanger, which as a kid is a last-minute “whew,” and as an adult is the funniest thing ever, but for a middle school kid… well, I’m pretty sure that I started screaming “STUPID!” at the top of my lungs, and when, three or four years later, somebody asked me whether I’d picked up this new Frank Miller Batman book called The Dark Knight Returns, I continued screaming in his face about how stupid Batman was, and of course didn’t buy any such stupid thing, stupid, because Batman is stupid.
The great thing is that the dodge is clearly telegraphed in part one. Some civic somebody is asking Bruce Wayne to stand for mayor because, if nothing else, he can do something about these power failures. And part two opens with Batman and Robin saved from electrocution by a power outage. Twelve year-old me took everything so seriously – be fair, we all did at that age – and I ranted and raved and screamed and cussed and asked why didn’t the Joker just SHOOT them and went and read something sensible and serious and intelligent like Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. (/irony)
After that repeat in ’83-ish, I’m pretty sure I didn’t watch this fool program again until I was seventeen and WXIA started running it in the afternoons when the Tim Burton movie, Batman, was released and then I got it. What a ridiculous middle-schooler I was. This show’s the greatest.
But while this episode infuriated me at twelve, the next episode unnerved the living daylights out of me at seven. I wonder how Daniel will respond to False Face….?