A Touch of Curare
An assassin stalks Barbara Gordon's husband.
Written by Hilary J. Bader
Directed by Dan Riba
Music by Shirley Walker
Animation by Koko/Dong Yang
Will Friedle as Terry McGinnis
Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne
Stockard Channing as Barbara Gordon
Paul Winfield as Sam Young
Melissa Disney as Curare
Larry Cedar as Manor Cop
Mark Jonathan Davis as Virtual Anchor
Brian George as Lieutenant
Victor Rivers as Master Assassin
A contest for three professionals (Wayne, Gordon and Curare) and an amateur (McGinnis), with the life of Gotham's D.A. hanging as prize for the winner. Pride, hurt feelings, and more than a little of the old competitive spirit make this episode, from an analytical perspective, one of the more interesting attempted.
Gordon gave up being Batgirl to join the police force and eventually became commissioner of policea fairly decisive endorsement of the uniform over the cape. Her relationship with Wayne did not end happily (apparently they were having an affair), so there seems both a personal and a professional edge to her repeated insistence that Batman butt out of the present case. Busybody that he is, Wayne can't resist the implicit challenge, to prove himself still necessary and still superior to the Gordons. That the target to be protected is also Gordon's husband makes the criss-crossing undercurrents of motivation all the more vexed.
Slicing neatly through this intriguing Gordion knot is Curare's finely honed scimitar. Her actions are the motor that drive the plot, and her repeated attempts on Sam keep the episode from degenerating into a therapy session. Still, her presence doesn't cast any light on the drama; she is a MacGuffin from the tip of her sword to the tip of her toes, and is given no personality, no development, and virtually no background. (This is not a complaint, I hasten to add. In the present context any of these would be a sore distraction; and even by itself, the conception of such a villainous blank is fiendishly audacious.) The problem is point-of-view. Since Curare has no character, there is little to be gained from watching her in action, and much that is lost from not watching Barbara and Bruce. The story should have focused, not on the actual fights, but on their preparations and reactions: on the traps they lay for Curare, and the traps they lay for each other.
Fundamentally, this is not a story about a competition between McGinnis and Curare, or Gordon and Curare, but about the competition between Gordon and Wayne. They are like big-game hunters awaiting the approach of the man-eating cat, afraid both that the stalker will win by catching the prey, and that the competition will win by catching the stalker. That the story survives the misplacing of its attentions is testament to Riba's continuing skill with a fight scene, and to Bader's continuing skill with ambiguous female characters.
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