Batman 2.9 – The Greatest Mother of Them All

Poor Daniel. He’s just absolutely baffled by this one.

If the list of villains in the Minstrel episode truly reflects the production order of season two, then this might have been made seventh but shown fifth. Interestingly, the first eight stories of the season have only two returning villains, and those two, King Tut and Catwoman, had only appeared once in season one. It really appears as though, initially, the producers were not relying on the big name baddies like crutches. They were making a concerted effort to come up with new characters.

Except that all these characters were played by really huge stars at the time, who each wanted to be part of the hot new TV show that everybody was watching, but only for the ten days or so it took to make the story and not necessarily a lasting part of Batman mythology. Shelley Winters already had two Academy Awards before she took the role of Ma Parker. She was in huge demand, and probably took a big pay cut for the week she was on Batman.

Ma Parker’s scheme requires a massive change to the show’s formula. She has three sons and a daughter helping her in her crime spree, and one at a time, each of the boys (Mad Dog, Machine Gun, and Pretty Boy) gets caught, before Ma and her daughter Legs are finally apprehended at Gotham City’s Old Folks Home. The city once had three umbrella factories open in a single week, but only a single retirement home!

And yes, the daughter’s name is Legs. She’s played by Tisha Campbell, who was in quite a few TV shows in the sixties and seventies, and when the narrative jumps forward after Ma’s arrest to Gotham State Pen “some time later,” we see that Legs is wearing a prison uniform with the number 35-23-34. I spotted that about one second before Marie did and started to guffaw just as she bellowed “That is the most offensive–!”

But poor Daniel. See, Ma wanted to get everybody arrested and sent to prison because, for many months, she’s been replacing all the prison guards with criminals on her payroll. She’s wanted to take over the prison to use as a base and also to get good supervillain advice from the baddies who are in jail. That’s far too cerebral a plan for Daniel to understand. All little kids have periods of asking “Why?” repeatedly, but this time, we had to understand that he really didn’t grasp the concept of prison takeovers.

Oh, and the cliffhanger has a prison “Trusty” planting a dynamite bomb in the Batmobile’s engine which will explode when it hits sixty mph. The director staged this so amazingly awfully, with the guy just dropping it under the hood – so how’s it to know the car’s speed? – and Batman actually seeing the guy close his car’s hood and not suspect that something’s amiss. Earlier, the director staged a hilarious and surprisingly effective bit with Ma Parker attempting to escape in a rocket-powered wheelchair – “Holy Werner von Braun!” – so I’m not sure why that scene was such a botch job.

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