P.O.V.

   A collar gone wrong sparks a police investigation.
  Original Airdate: September 18, 1992
  Episode # 7
  Rating: * 1/2




Credits Cast

Story by Mitch Brian
Teleplay by Sean Catherine Derek  & Lauren Bright
Directed by Kevin Altieri
Animation by Spectrum
Music by Shirley Walker

Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne
Bob Hastings as Commissioner Gordon
Robert Constanzo as Bullock
Ingrid Oliu as Renee Montoya
Robbie Benson as Wilkes

John Considine as Hackle
Ingrid Oliu as Renee Montoya
Ron Perlman as Driller
Marc Tubert as Scarface

Sometimes you can only look at an episode and, as the end credits roll, mutter to yourself, "What the fuck? I mean, what the fuck?!"

So, let's see. A good chunk of "P.O.V." is told in flashback by three narrators of varying reliability. Once it starts up you think to yourself, Ah yes: Rashomon. The idea that narrative is inherently subjective and therefore prey to conflicting interpretation is not a new one, but it can still be interesting and rewarding if well-told. The essential insight is that the same set of facts and events can (or will, if the thesis is put strongly enough) be colored by the different tellers' idiosyncratic perspectives. At its most subtle, the technique of "conflicting subjectivities" can suggest that experience is at best only an unreliable window onto reality and can thereby caution us to be skeptical of our own certitudes and receptive to the claims of others. Even at a less subtle level, it will leave us looking less at the events described and more at the idiosyncratic personalities who interpret the common experience in strikingly different ways, and it will do so by making us identify with and sympathize with the tellers and their conflicting agendas. Either way, it is a technique that probes the interior of the characters, but does so by measuring them against a putatively objective standard.

But as Bullock, Montoya, and Wilkes describe their conflicting versions of a sting operation gone wrong, we ourselves only see "P.O.V." going completely off its rails. First we get Bullock describing the intial fight that knocked the collar off its intended plan. The Rashomon technique requires that its storytellers be honest by their own lights: Either they describe events faithfully as they experienced them, which means that the dramatization must parallel their account exactly; or, if it shows them fudging their testimony, it must clearly indicate that they are altering their story in the service of what they honestly perceive to be a bigger or higher truth. But what it cannot countenance is a flashback that is plainly deceptive and recounted in bad fatih, for then we are not dealing with "conflicting subjectivities" but with a liar. And that is exactly what Bullock shows himself to be. Nor, might I add, do we see him punished for it, which is a significant flaw in the drama.

The story then goes completely to pieces when it shifts to Wilkes and Montoya. They are witness neither to the events of Bullock's story nor to each other's, so that even before they have finished we realize that we have not, in fact, been watching a story about the irreconcilable nature of individual experiences, but merely a very long and flat-footed exercise in incompetent cross-cutting. Where a standard story would have dramatized the warehouse scuffle in linear fashion by cutting from one participant to the next and polishing off this very boring fight in only a few minutes, "P.O.V." complicates it to no good purpose and drags it out to more than half of the episode's alloted running time.

Not all is instantly lost, however. Once we realize that Bullock is a liar, Montoya a straight-shooter, and Wilkes a staggering naif, we begin to suspect that there is a reason the story's not playing straight with us. Hackle's curiously shrill insistence that one of the three is crooked primes us to wonder if those flashbacks have told us the entire story and if the pieces aren't about to be rearranged in a surprising way within an unlooked-for frame. Is Wilkes really the wet rookie he pretends to be? Are we going to get a fourth and strikingly different story from Batman? Just who is this mysterious boss that the director is so keen to keep in the shadows? We begin to hope: Perhaps the p.o.v. trick is just that—a trick—and the episode will snap about smartly and give us the real and much nastier truth about what we've just seen.

Or so you can still dream, even after it vaporizes before your incredulous eyes. No, Wilkes really is a goofball; Batman has nothing to say; and the shadowy boss never steps out into the light. There's some weird fooferaw about "teamwork" that comes out of nowhere, but when all is said and done, the story turns out to be just a thin little anecdote about a dockside scuffle, connected to nothing and signifying nothing. You realize that you should have changed your own point of view on the episode long before by simply changing the channel.


Production Notes
Kevin Altieri on script changes: "We cut out flashbacks to Montoya's youth when she was called a liar. And flashbacks to Bullock's youth when he was playing high school football when his dad yells at him because he was using teamwork."

Bruce Timm:
Broadcast Standards and Practices "had us make a number of changes. Originally, the scene where the driller is going after Montoya with the drill went on a lot longer. The guy chased her on top of a big pile of crates and he was ramming the drill into the crates. We got into a lot of trouble with that. Avery Coburn said it was the most horrible rape fantasy sequence she'd ever seen. We agreed immediately to take that whole sequence out .... "

Related Episodes
   * Vendetta
   * A Bullet for Bullock

What Others Are Saying ...
" … cold, pointless, and insulting to the significant characters it incorporates. … [A] trainwreck of an episode. "Alex Weitzman, The Big Cartoon Database


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