Batman: The Animated Series – P.O.V.

P.O.V

When I’m done with you clowns, you won’t qualify as security guards! The department works months to nail that drug lord. We lay out two million in cash for the sting. And in five stinking minutes, you idiots blow it!

Air Date: 18/9/92

Director: Kevin Altieri

Writer: Mitch Brian, Sean Catherine Derek (Teleplay), Laren Bright (Teleplay)

Themes: Police Corruption, Memory Interpretation, Teamwork

Villain: “The Boss”

Synopsis: After a sting operation goes awry, with Batman involved, three members of the GCPD are questioned over their role in the affair, with very different recollections about what happened.

Review:

“P.O.V.” is an interesting one alright. The B:TAS take on the Rashomon plot structure – multiple and contrasting perspectives on a singular event – this episode gives us the proper introduction to one of the key GCPD members, more information on another, and wraps it around a story thread that isn’t afraid to get a little bit complex and multi-layered, even for the primary target audience. I do like the Rashomon idea and I do think it is executed really well here, managing to give some good characterisation to each of the three individual story tellers as well as advance the overall plot in each re-telling.

Renee Montoya appeared briefly in “Pretty Poison”, but this is the first episode where she takes centre stage as one of the most note-worthy cast members outside of the Batman “family”. Montoya really was one of the B:TAS success stories: a human character with no powers or costumes, representing a minority onscreen and making the leap from animated to comic continuity – where her role has been expanded to that of an outed lesbian character who was, prior to the company wide re-boot, the new incarnation of the Question.

That all seems a long way away in this episode. Montoya is the main focus and real hero of “P.O.V.”, a piece of television where Batman takes a back-step, barely appearing in the first ten minutes and playing second fiddle to Montoya for the rest. Montoya is a more hard-hitting, straightforward character than her two compatriots under scrutiny. She’s brave and selfless, a good team player when part of one, but more than capable of acting under her own authority as well. Nursing a tiny bit of a reckless streak and demonstrating some true intelligence throughout “P.O.V.” Montoya gets the bulk of screentime and characterisation in this episode, from her peppy spirit when she’s with the rookie Wilkes at the very start, through her interaction in the first encounter with Batman, to her singular focus in the subsequent investigation, as she refuses to buckle in the face of the prejudice she endures. While this is also a Bullock episode, it’s Montoya that’s stealing the show from beginning to end.

The episode is split into two sections, the three-way recollection of a GCPD mess-up and a subsequent foray of Montoya which solves matter. The first part has as its focal point a classic police story scene: an interrogation room, bare, stark, a light shining down on the accused. Following on from a traditional theme in Batman media, the suspicion is that the accused are corrupt cops who are taking cuts of a sting payment for themselves. Internal corrupting within the GCPD pops up all over the place in Batman, so it only makes sense that it be approached somehow.

That being said, from the obnoxious manner and overbearing attitude, we are left in no doubt that Hackle is the bad guy in this scenario, an IA stooge just out to find  scapegoat for a disaster the GCPD is having huge trouble justifying. Internal politics are on display for all to see, with Gordon taking the role of a loyal protector, refusing to countenance any wrong doing by any of his people, not even Bullock. That only makes sense for the Gordon character I suppose, but it should be noted that the Commissioner has been pitifully underdeveloped as a three dimensional character thus far in the show’s production run.

Bullock is the first one up, and his story sets the scene for how the rest of the first half will go down. Everything you see visually is the truth, its what’s coming out of Bullock’s mouth that is, mostly, a lie. We know right from the off that Bullock’s recounting is going to be a bit of BS from the off.

That being said, the overly-negative portrayal of Bullock here isn’t quite fair. His clumsiness and impatience is the reason for the sting’s failure, but aside from that Bullock didn’t do anything wrong during the operation. In fact, in handling three goons on his own, lacking a weapon, he comes off as a bit of a bad-ass really, more than capable of defending himself and going toe-to-toe with the criminal element, showing off moves like Batman. That was certainly something I didn’t expect.

In the end, Bullock is looking out for number one. He’s not a great team player, and he only wants to get his own ass out of trouble in this investigation. He deflects, lies and uses Batman as a scapegoat when he appears, hiding the fact that Wayne saved his life in dangerous circumstances. These are not great traits for a detective to have, but Bullock strikes me as the kind of man whose heart is in the right place but his follow-through needs serious work. In the end, Bullock might be willing to let one of his fellow officers take the fall for what happened, but he does try and pin most of the blame on a figure outside the investigations remit. He’s the veteran, and this is hardly the first IA investigation he’s faced.

The rookie, Wilkes, is next. While Bullock’s tale shows all the hallmarks of a guy who’s been there and done it all, Wilkes is the one who is on his first day in the job practically, and can’t believe the things he’s seeing. He makes numerous beginner mistakes during his pursuit of the goon he’s been sent after, a similar sort of thing to Bullock and his noisy entrance to the sting. When Batman turns up, the effect of the caped crusader is exactly as Wayne would want it – if Wilkes was a criminal. All the rookie see’s is supernatural magic happening in Batman’s actions, an otherworldly presence, though, as with Bullock’s tale, the audience can see what really happened. Wilkes is actually wide eyed and stunned, hardly a reliable witness.

So then it goes to Montoya. Bullock is the veteran, Wilkes the rookie and Montoya is the balance between the two. Brave and resourceful like Bullock, but, like Wilkes, lacking calm and experience. Through her we see Batman’s fight with the remaining goons, including the menacing “Driller”. B:TAS goes out of its way to show Montoya in a heroic light here, to an extent that just crosses the bounds of believability. Montoya is, for lack of a better word, sassy, pouring scorn on Bullock’s account and praising Batman. It’s like Commissioner Gordon is talking, in a way, and she is going to be seen more and more as an understudy to him as we go along in this series.

Montoya helps Batman as much as she can before he’s lost underneath the “unclear peril” trope of falling debris. It’s god to note that Montoya, beyond reason, attempts to excuse Bullock’s inconsistencies by claiming he may have had “good reason” to go in early. That’s the kind of person she is. Unlike Bullock, she’s trying to get them all off the hook. Which is the point that brings us right back to the start.

Hackle refuses to take Montoya’s evidence on board, or anyone’s for that matter, obsessed with his pre-determined conclusion of corruption. Te following suspension scene is surprisingly tense and emotional as the three police officers give up their badges and guns, each one is a different manner. Wilkes does so sadly, distraught, Bullock with an unrestrained anger, and Montoya with a disgusted air of someone who knows full well that the system is crewing them over. That‘s good characterisation, another great example of “show, don’t tell”.

So we move onto the second part of the episode. Montoya, with what little clues she has to work with, figures out the goons hiding place, using her own initiative to track them down. Of course, what Montoya is doing here is actually illegal (and inadmissible in court), under the circumstances, but in a show about a vigilante, that doesn’t seem to matter. Montoya is brave, but also too gung-ho – she charges into a dangerous situation with armed thugs without even thinking about potential back-up. “P.O.V.” is her episode after all, but it might have been better if all three of the suspended cops had been involved in some capacity. A redemption angle for Bullock wouldn’t have been a bad choice, in my opinion.

The finale is a long fight scene, that lasts close to eight minutes overall. It gets very repetitive – both Batman and Montoya use the same thrust kick from below several times over – and is an exercise in the two characters just dumping mob goons around the place for a while, West and Ward style. There are a few decent set-pieces, like Batman with the pallet truck, but it does go way over time. The very end, where Batman apparently sinks a ship to get to “the Boss” before Montoya snaps him up in the crane is very unrealistic, like the writers just weren’t sure how much of an outrageous finale they wanted. One thing is for sure, Montoya had to be the one who caught him, which makes since given what we’ve watched so far.

Speaking of the villain, we don’t know who he is and he won’t be back. “P.O.V.” isn’t an episode about the bad guy, so it can be forgiven, but the story lacks a little something in such an absence. It’s the kind of role Two-Face, Penguin or Black Mask might have been perfect for.

The ending wraps up the two main threads. Hackle’s investigation is dumped quickly by an angered Gordon, apparently wielding dictatorial powers within the GCPD now, while the three cops, formerly set against each other, get their badges back. Bullock is uniquely complimentary to Montoya, a nice way to see off the episode, showing that even he can be brought to admit he was wrong. Montoya is the hero of the moment, and we end on a nice feeling of camaraderie.

Tidbits/Quotes:

-The factory on fire in the opening shots looks very impressive, with the billowing smoke animated really well. The backdrop to that whole scene is lousy though.

-Comedy Bullock is never far away, but more characterisation is done by a look at the rubbish-strewn state of his squad car. The man’s a slob, but B:TAS does well in showing, not telling, that point.

-Nice use of xylophones to create an air of tension and sneaky around in dark places with the score.

-I had to look it up to be sure, but that is indeed the voice of Ron Pearlman as “Driller”. Bit of a nothing part for him, I guess he just wasn’t that well known of an actor at the time?

-Which is a shame because there is potential here for some interesting villains, from “Driller to “Scarface” to a mysterious “Boss”.

-One effect I have consistently loved in animation is the “shadow fighting” effect, where two characters fighting in p[portrayed by their interacting shadows on a wall. That is something this series will do a lot, but it is always good at it.

-Montoya is, as you might expect, Hispanic. I’m not sure if her exclaiming in Spanish is that great a thing to show that off, but then again how else could they showcase it?

-Hackle is angry and worked up, and what better way to show case that than with a wide variety of crazy arm movements and gesticulations? Basically comical at points, a step too far.

-That is a strange looking interrogation room, really wide, with a single circular light over head. Yes, I know that whole bit is meant to showcase the isolated and pinned down nature of the cops predicaments, but it is a case of symbolism being pushed too far in my opinion.

-It’s a nice design for the Gotham Police Badge, with a kind of a sun beam effect, simple, but not unnoticeable either.

-We get a brief look at Montoya sketching some pictures in a pad while she’s on a train, including some doodles of a Doctor. That’s an interesting little quirk to give her character, showing her off as someone with a slightly more artistic streak than her compatriots.

-Like the example in “Christmas With The Joker”, Montoya demonstrates crazy strength in parts of this episode, flinging a guy twice her size all the ay across a room without much difficulty.

-Another “glare of death” from Batman in this episode. Love that thing.

-Commissioner Gordon gets surprisingly pushy with Hackle at the very end. It’s always a bit jarring to see that happening, like it did in “Nothing To Fear”.

-A few inconsistencies to report back on. The cops just seem to observe the gangsters emerge from the burning warehouse without doing anything for a few crucial moments. How does Batman electric grappling hook work? And why, if they have captured him, do the bad guys not unmask Batman when they have the chance?

Overall, a good episode with an interesting structure, though with some missed opportunities regards effective conclusions.

To see the rest of the entries in this series, click here to go to the index.

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4 Responses to Batman: The Animated Series – P.O.V.

  1. Pingback: Batman: The Animated Series – Index | Never Felt Better

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  3. Pingback: Batman: The Animated Series – Two-Face, Part One | Never Felt Better

  4. Pingback: Batman: The Animated Series – Heart Of Ice | Never Felt Better

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