Batman: The Animated Series – See No Evil

See No Evil

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 See you around, Batman! Too bad you can’t say the same!

Air Date: 24/02/93

Director: Dan Riba

Writer: Martin Pasko

Themes: Invisibility, Child Endangerment, Parental Rights

Villain: Lloyd Ventrix

Synopsis: Batman becomes involved in a family drama while investigating the crime spree of an invisible man.

Review:

Ah, an invisible man story. You won’t see this type of plot that much, but when you do they all hit the same beats – using the power for crime, letting it go to your head, becoming isolated from the human race, etc. Lloyd Ventrix is an original B:TAS villain with almost no relatable traits to endear him in anyway, and it is his “superpower” that makes him stand out. “See No Evil” wraps that around  half-decent family-orientated plot, that uses child characters in a far more intelligent way that “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement”.

The creepy introductory scene sets us up nicely, as young Kimmy is greeted in the night by a ghost, who is quickly established to be some human conning her, and none too pleased about her mother’s plans to move far away. “See No Evil” dispenses with any mystery about the indentity of the invisible man pretty fast, as we can put two and two together here.

What follows is the other side of this invisible skill, as an odd heist erupts at a gathering of Gotham’s rich, including one Bruce Wayne. This opening sequence is simple, designed to make Ventrix a dangerous foe in the mind of the audience, much like the opening sequence of “Nothing to Fear”. Batman is actually intelligent enough when it comes to facing down this threat, backing him onto cement and taking advantage of the environment to nullify his unseen advantage. But yet, Ventrix still wins this opening encounter, leaving the detective beaten and covered in cement. It isn’t the most original way to “up” a villain in the mind’s eye of the audience, but it is effective.

As with so many episodes over the past while, Batman then takes a backseat to all that is going on in front of him. Ventrix’ motivations are laid clearly. He’s the deadbeat dad his former wife wants nothing to do with, and that covers their daughter as well. You could argue that a more sympathetic Ventrix would have made this a classic, toning down the clear anger issues and the homicidal intent late on, in favour of a more nuanced look at a man desperate to regain any sort of life with his daughter, even if that means taking on the Bat. “See No Evil” doesn’t go that way though, and in the cafeteria scene we are left in no doubt as to his antagonistic status. He’s a crook, he’s overbearing, and he seems to have a condescending and unhealthy attitude towards women. He’ s looking for the quick fix when it comes to his former family, spying from afar before simply trying to kidnap Kimmy. As for as motivations go, this is perfectly acceptable for your more run-of-the-mill villain – in fact, it’s rare a cartoon would show a broken family in such stark terms, so there is that – but Ventrix lacks that little something to make him truly standout.

Batman takes up most of the ¾’s segment of the show in his investigation, cleverly tying the invisible man to a product that his own company had a hand in inventing. This was a good sequence for simple, effective detective work, as Batman just follows the trail back as far as it goes, from person to person until he finds the man responsible. It isn’t all good, and the conversation between Giddell and Batman seems a little stinted and odd as an exposition scene, but I prefer this sort of “connecting the dots” style investigation to anything else the creators could come up with. Ventrix is no master criminal, that much is clear, and he’s left behind a very easy trail for Batman to follow. The revelation that the suit is toxic and will eventually kill its wearer falls flat in the end, for while it might be a half decent tension raiser at that point in the episode, the lack of reference to this fact later on makes it somewhat irrelevant. Perhaps it would have been better if the effect of the suit was what made Ventrix so unstable in the first place, but the B:TAS team aren’t taking that step with this episode.

The stakes of the plot get raised substantially with the kidnap of Kimmy. This sort of thing, a child endangerment angle, is actually the sort of thing that animation of the time struggled to get away with, and even B:TAS can’t take it too far. But the kidnap scene is suitably unnerving and the emotional collapse of Kimmy’s mother while Batman watches on in silent contemplation is enough to set us up nicely for the final showdown.

That showdown is both bad and good in different parts. Ventrix has to deal with the utter rejection he receives from his daughter, who wants nothing to do with him once his identity is revealed. That has to hurt, but it is simply a measure of the kind of unfit parent Ventrix must be. His anger overtakes him and any positive emotional reason he had to pull off the kidnapping goes out the window.

At that point Batman intervenes and it gets a little silly. The invisible man people can buy, it’s a suit that goes around him. But the invisible car? A bit much. Batman has an original enough time dodging out of the way of the ghost automobile, before we go into pure zany territory with him clinging on to what looks like space, going for a joyride around Gotham. The intention is obviously terror and excitement here, but I couldn’t help but titter a little at the sight. I’m not sure having the invisible car really adds anything to this scene at all, since Batman is able to dodge it and hanging onto it is just to provide a really cheaply made visual shot. The animation does get a bit better as the car is slowly revealed and the train collision looked nice, but this really seemed like a throwaway action scene.

The final fight is much better though, as Ventrix continues where he left off earlier by savagely beating Batman all over the rooftop. Only some quick thinking saves the detective, and the suits simple weakness is easily exploited in the end. Ventrix, as well as being no criminal genius, is no martial expert, and having lost his one advantage is easily taken down. The final scene is of a happier Kimmy, content with a new larger than life friend that she has made, Batman ever watchful. It’s a good, if already done, conclusion and Ventrix’s fate isn’t even mentioned, presumably out of the reach of his family for a long time to come.

Tidbits/Quotes:

-I liked the simple set-up of Kimmy’s neighbourhood as a little rundown with the rubbish, the howling dog and the somewhat dilapidated houses.

-The musical cues in this episode, with the shrill whistles and xylophones, reminded me a lot of the Batman Returns soundtrack.

-Ventrix does look very creepy and noticeable from the off, with the glaring red eyes, the dimples, the tall frame. His model bears a lot of resemblance to Harvey Dent actually, albeit without the monstrous chin.

-In fact, eyes are an important visual metaphor in this episode, with Ventrix’s angry red ones contrasting to his daughter’s pale blue ones. Kimmy’s eyes also match her mothers, which is a simple way of establishing the stronger bond between them.

-I liked how, when everyone at the jewellery soiree was freaking out over ghosts or what have you, Bruce Wayne just calmly took it in and reacted like someone with no superstitious leanings would have.

-Bit overdone, but I liked the bat shadow that appears under Batman as he repels over the cement.

-Bit of a silly blooper, as “construction” is misspelled as “constrution” on one of the site signs.

-If you want to make your villain out as crazy with minimum effort, just have him talk to himself in menacing tones.

-Oh, and there’s Lucius Fox in his production debut. An important character to the Batman mythos, though he doesn’t get much time here.

-The casual chat Batman has with Giddell really is strange, considering he was physically threatening him moments before.

-That scene where Kimmy’s mother breaks down really is heart-breaking, and is probably the best moment in this episode for genuine emotional resonance.

-“Not in this lifetime, pal!” Pretty odd sounding threat to be coming out of Batman’s mouth.

-I’m not going to get too much into the science of the invisibility suit or how it can’t actually work as they describe, but it is pretty much nonsense. Especially when applied to the car. Why can’t we see the inside of it?

-Pretty good, thumping chase music for the final showdown.

-I suppose I shouldn’t have to point out that Batman hanging out on Kimmy’s roof and talking to her without her mothers knowledge is rather creepy…

Overall, a decent effort, though it suffers from the under-development of the villain and lacklustre final confrontation.

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

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2 Responses to Batman: The Animated Series – See No Evil

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

  2. Pingback: Batman: The Animated Series – “Prophecy Of Doom” | Never Felt Better

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