Batman: The Animated Series – The Cat And The Claw, Part Two

The Cat and the Claw, Part Two

catc2

 I’m an equal opportunity crime-fighter!

 Air Date: 12/9/92

Director: Dick Sebast

Writer: Sean Catherine Derek, Laren Bright, Jules Dennis (Teleplay), Richard Mueller (Teleplay)

Themes: Crime, Animal Conservation, Romance, Terrorism

Villain: Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Red Claw

Synopsis: Batman must intervene when Catwoman becomes the target of ruthless terrorist leader Red Claw, who also has designs on a chemicals weapons shipment.

Review:

We’re back from Part One. The apparent cliff-hanger of that episode isn’t going to be addressed for a good while, and in the meantime the focus is squarely back on the caped crusader.

Batman is undertaking a rather simple investigation of the Red Claw, but it still works. No need for sudden revelations or inane computer-babble here, just good old fashioned police work. The conversation with the mob boss is great at establishing just who Batman is to these people. The criminal leader hesitantly lays out some demands, and Batman just throws them back in his face with an added threat. His words to this lot during the first part – “You’re still scum” – are with us still. Batman doesn’t deal with these people and he gets the information he needs very easily during this scene.

We move from there to a very slick action sequence as Red Claw and her goons carry off their train heist. Robbing a train is practically a trope in many genres, especially westerns, so this whole section had a bit of a homage scent to it. It had good music, decent action and a nice showdown. Both sides get to show off some gadgets, and Batman swooping down from above was pretty cool. I’m reminded of Batman’s stealth takedowns in “The Forgotten”. This is somewhat similar, descending on the bad guys from a hidden point, but is much more actiony. Both are notable in their own ways, and this is the sort of action sequence that is a good fit for Batman, taking down goons in a tension-filled environment.

The showdown is with Red Claw, who gets to reveal her gender to Batman. Batman is at first surprised by this, but then rushes to state that he doesn’t actually care that much. I thought that line was a little shoe-horned in. I think there could be a story here where, confronted by two female villains of very different types, Batman has to reconcile some misogynistic feelings with his crimefighting career. That path isn’t taken. Instead, Batman just seems to shrug off the Red Claw’s identity as something to be mildly surprised about and gets on with it. Red Claw insists that Batman has “met his match”. Well, I wouldn’t say she’s the worst villain he’s ever faced. In fact, the lack of time and care put into her character development has made her rather disappointing as a main villain, even if she is the centre-point of one of B:TAS’ better action sequences to date.

We’re back on the episodes main focus after that, as Bruce Wayne collects Selina Kyle for their second attempt at a date. There is a nice bit of good natured machismo and flirting here, and its clear that Kyle has warmed up to Wayne considerably. I like how they had that evolution of their relationship.

But Kyle is targeted soon after, and we’re treated to another great set-piece, as a car chase ensues while Wayne pulls some theatrics of his own, maintaining the playboy persona while efficiently dealing with the pursuers. That was a really good sequence, illustrated by the hardened glances of Batman while Wayne continued to play the befuddled socialite with his words. And, naturally, there is a definite bit of showing off in the whole thing, as Wayne exults in throwing off and defeating their pursuers in front of the girl he is so desperate to impress. His all too casual words as they drive off drip with this kind of sentiment. Wayne is typically unable to ingratiate himself with women using his typical skills, but this one time he is able to pull it off, and it feels good.

As they say goodbye, the whole thing turns slightly more serious. Wayne is clearly head over heels when it comes to Kyle, genuinely worried for her safety in the way only a man in love would be. There is a certain frustration evident in what is the final parting of Kyle and Wayne. He knows she is in trouble and he has the means to protect her – but not as billionaire Bruce Wayne.

His previous declaration aside, Wayne is also showing off a protective streak that doesn’t quite match how he acted in front of Red Claw. Wayne’s human, and a powerful male figure, so I suppose it fits that he thinks Kyle needs “saving”. It’s hard to ignore what seems like a damsel in distress moment and I think most men would admit to finding themselves, consciously or not, following that train of thought for a women at some point in their lives. It doesn’t have to be moral or right, but it is a nice trait to make Wayne a better character. He’s inexperienced with women and his first thought when confronted with what is a loved one is a somewhat overbearing protective attitude.

The revelation comes afterwards, and it is s very simple one, a cat hair that Alfed finds on Wayne’s clothes. I suppose this could have been more dramatic, but it fits with the more low-key investigations that Wayne had been carrying out earlier in the two-parter. I actually loved the way Batman Returns covered this – the two coming to the realisation while dancing together at a party, followed by Michell Pfeiffer’s desperate “Do we have to start fighting now?” – and B:TAS doesn’t quite measure up.

If we’re talking feminism, one of the worse scenes follows, as the Maven character comes under attack from Red Claw’s assassins and has to be saved by the tall, dark handsome stranger. In a story like this, I wouldn’t quite buy into the idea that every female character has to be a strong, capable one – that’s a generalisation too, no matter how positive it might be – so I suppose this can be seen as injecting more reality into the situation: sometimes women, just as with men, need rescuing too and showing Batman doing that doesn’t have to be seen as a negative. But, in keeping with the overall theme of showing women in a stronger light, this scene may rankle with some. Maven is pitifully weak and close to being snuffed, and Batman has to defeat the goons, console her and make plans for her escape from Gotham. She even loses her glasses, making her more helpless. I’m not even sure just what the overall point of the Maven character was, aside from being someone for Kyle to bounce dialogue off of.

There’s also the following of course, as Maven tells Batman that Catwoman is in love with him. That’s a painful moment as Batman walks away, obviously distressed by this statement, considering what he has to do next. Catwoman was an alluring figure for Batman, but the revelation that she is Kyle – someone of a far more pronounced and important romantic interest to Wayne – has clearly left the hero in an even deeper muddle.

From there it’s on to the extended final sequence. This episode does have a load of action in it actually. The lab/warehouse is a nice location of contrasts. Catwoman gets to show off her own martial skills first, easily besting a nameless goon and infiltrating the lab. The situation is pretty desperate for her, trying to track down those trying to kill her. Batman is there, primarily, to save her and everything else comes second.

Perhaps it’s the emotions clouding their thinking, but both heroes are easily captured. This is sort of like “Heart of Ice” all over again, where Batman was also easily caught and restrained, seemingly just for the opportunity of a confab with the villain . No identities revealed, no ransoming. That takes some of the reality out of the situation. Red Claw pretty much changes into generic supervillain here, wanting only money in exchange for her deadly weapons and her part in the episode as any sort of character is pretty much done. The rest is all about Batman and Catwoman. The dialogue between them is quite good, a nice back and forth dynamic, as they weasel out of the death-trap Red Claw has left them in.

With deadly chemicals about to be released, Batman plays the heroic sacrifice card, managing to convince Catwoman to get out of the building without him. You might be worried about the Batman-focused turn the episode has taken at this point, but Catwoman does have a little bit more to do yet. Batman’s solution to the chemical problem is ingenious. The resulting flames and explosion are a visual feast, and the creators do manage to create some effective tension of the “race against time” variety.

All that’s left is the final fight. Red Claw easily bests Catwoman when it comes to strength, but the feline hero has her athleticism, her guile and her allies. In the end, it is she that manages to defeat the vicious terrorist leader and bring her to heel, doing so as Batman just watches on. That, at least, is a nice way to end that part of the plot, with the two “villains” facing off with each other, one of the few times you will see two female characters arraigned against each other in such a scenario.

Red Claw in general was a pretty flat villain, especially in the second episode. She won’t be returning, and the whole set-up with her is a bit of a waste. There is an intriguing character there somewhere, if the creators were willing to look into it a bit, talk about why this woman became who she is, but she is sidelined by a much more enthralling and important romantic plot here. Aside from the commitment to having a two-parter based around stronger female character, Red Claw could have been replaced with anyone really, and that says volumes about her.

The final ending is the heartbreaker. Batman confronts Catwoman at her home. It would seem at first that this is your traditional romantic ending, as the cat cuddles up to him and the two seem close to an embrace. But that’s not Batman. He has his code, that unending commitment to fighting crime – in all of its forms. It’s easy to forget that Catwoman is a criminal. She steals, and is no Robin Hood archetype, not really.

So, Batman has to bring her in. Desire, allure, need, love, even the looming reality of a lonely future just does not matter. Batman can’t give in to any of those things if it means that the crime goes unpunished, even condoned. Catwoman will remain that most sensitive of enigmas for Wayne, the villain he has trained himself to fight and the women he can’t bring himself to condemn. Even here, the private arrest is to spare Kyle humiliation, which is all that Wayne can do. When Kyle asks “So you do care?” and Batman, as he arrests her, replies “More than you will ever know” we know that he’s telling the truth.

Tidbits/Quotes:

-I really liked the opening set-up for Batman’s clandestine meeting, with the solitude, the circling winds, the shading. Very atmospheric.

-Just as good is Batman’s bargaining tactics with the mob, of the very blunt and threatening variety.

-Red Claw’s little rocket train was fairly ridiculous.

-The jokey soldiers inside the train are pretty dumb, but sufficient filler I suppose.

-Batman’s glider was slightly less ridiculous, but man could that thing go fast.

-Numerous henchmen are just flung from the side of the speeding train into the hard ground below. Gotta be some fatalities there.

-Red Claw gets into the plague containers by shooting the locks off them. Nothing risky about that, I’m sure.

“Bruce and Selina go to lunch. Take two”. I don’t know why, but I just love that opening from Selina. The emphasis on her legs as she tucks herself into the car is rather interesting too.

-It’s rather brilliant how Bruce Wayne maintains his billionaire playboy act, while holding off attackers in other cars and continuing to dig into Selina’s activities.

-“I’ve been going to the Paris Grand Prix for years. You know, one of these days I think I’ll enter it.” Nice.

-The animation for Maven is especially bad in this one. She just doesn’t meld into the environment at all.

-It’s the slightest little thing, but the facial animation as Batman hears the words “She’s in love with you” is very well done. Subtle stuff like that impresses me greatly.

-I suppose Red Claw’s plan is devious enough, but it’s just treated as so secondary throughout both episodes.

-Nice fire and explosion animation in the latter part of the episode.

-The same can be said for the cougar/mountain lion that serves as Catwoman’s personal bodyguard towards the conclusion. Though, you wonder how much control she has over the thing.

-Heartbreaking ending, but those are some big-ass handcuffs Batman is carrying around.

Overall, an excellent action episode and a decent romantic story, but this one suffers from the lack of attention given to the nominally main plot.

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

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One Response to Batman: The Animated Series – The Cat And The Claw, Part Two

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

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