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Batman 2.48 – The Joker’s Epitaph

My heart sinks just a little when I see that an episode is written by Lorenzo Semple Jr. His gags and his planning don’t seem to pay any attention to how the world works, and are just there in the hopes of a guffaw. I really prefer the episodes by Stanley Ralph Ross, who seems to have thought things through with logic, consistency, and backstory. They don’t always work – the Archer story is his most notable turkey so far – but they’re never as dopey as Semple’s.

In part one, Gordon’s office is “haunted” by the booming laughter of the Joker, coming from nowhere. Batman uses a device to track the sound to a false cuff link on Gordon’s jacket. Clearly, the Joker bumped against the commissioner on the street and switched them. Never mind that for the better part of half an hour, he and O’Hara can’t find the speaker, Batman also sees that during the bump, Joker wrapped the other half of the device around the commissioner’s waist and down his trouser leg. We accept a certain level of helplessness on the part of the police for this show to work, but there’s helplessness and then there’s body-and-brain-dead.

Another example: Batman and Robin suspect that the Joker is running his counterfeit printer from a defunct comic book company recently purchased by a “W.C. Whiteface.” They know that’s likely a pseudonym, but just in case it is a real guy with an unlikely name, they can’t rush in and arrest him, leading to Bruce Wayne’s bozo “pretending to be bankrupt” scam. But… they know what the Joker looks like! They’ve sent him to jail at least five times by now! They don’t have to lead with a blind sock to the unknown man’s jaw, and further, look, we’re two-thirds of the way through the series at this point. Batman must know that: a) the Joker will have at least two henchmen, and b) Robin, on his own, is incapable of winning a fight against three men. He will get locked in a medieval torture rack with eggs on his head and shoved in an airplane’s engine.

In his scripts, Ross treated the characters as real, albeit square, silly, or ridiculous. Semple didn’t care; he was in it for the pop art gags, but they aren’t funny and induce eye-rolling, not giggles. Oscar Beregi plays this wacky German psychiatrist in part two, brought in because, well there’s no simple way to explain this. The Joker recorded Bruce Wayne’s story about embezzling foundation money, and now he’s blackmailing him into marrying his babe-of-the-week, who’s played by Phyllis Douglas.

When word of the engagement appears in the society pages, Commissioner Gordon has this doctor brought to his office, and the doctor – who’s about as believably German as Peter Sellers was French – diagnoses Bruce, whom he’s never met, as having lost his marbles two or three months ago, and so Gordon sends O’Hara and two men from the – get this – Anti-Lunatic Squad – to put Bruce in a straitjacket and send him to “Happy Acres.” And Gordon claims to be Bruce’s friend? I’d love to have heard the apology. “I heard you appointed the Joker to be vice-president of one of your banks and were going to marry the Joker’s babe-of-the-week, but it never occurred to me that you might have been threatened. I just figured you’d lost your mind, so I had you committed!”

At least the Joker’s dragster gets a few more seconds of screen time. Seconds.

Daniel was disinterested until Phyllis Douglas started smooching Adam West. Then he covered his head with a blanket. “That was horrible,” he concluded.

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Batman 2.47 – The Joker’s Last Laugh

Can we get a round of applause for that car? Holy anna, what a car! It has a Rolls-Royce grill and ornament! The car was originally built by George Barris for the 1966 Elvis movie Easy Come, Easy Go, and modified for use here. It will make at least one more appearance in this series, in a season three episode. The car has since been de-Jokerified and returned to its original construction for the Elvis movie, and you can see some museum photos of it at Driving Line.

We have no real idea what the Joker’s plan in this episode is so far. Apparently he wants to use robots and counterfeit money to find the Batcave, but this plan gets derailed when his first effort to find it fumbles, and then Bruce Wayne, acting as though he’s bankrupt and about to be jailed for embezzling from his foundation, stumbles into the Joker’s hideout, desperate to use his printing press. So whatever the Joker was going to do next, it’s on hold.

There’s a really cute moment here when Batman knows that the Joker is following him back to the Batcave – Batman has one of the deactivated robots in the trunk – and he activates a fake beacon that instead leads the Joker to a small scale model of the Batcave entrance, labeled and everything. Underneath the model is a note reading “Laugh, criminals, laugh!”

Daniel hated the cliffhanger to this episode. He never likes it when Robin’s in danger, but this time, Robin has to fight alone, because Bruce Wayne is pretending to be on the Joker’s side. This was an amazingly poor plan. Bruce tries to reason with the Joker, saying he was willing to become a counterfeiter, but not a murderer, to no avail. Daniel did a really good job sitting still tonight, but he knew those robots were dangerous and did not like the idea of Robin fighting without help from Batman!

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