Pretty Poison

   Pamela Isley seduces and poisons Harvey Dent.
  Original Airdate: September 14, 1992
  Episode # 5
  Rating: * *




Credits Cast

Story by Paul Dini & Michael Reaves
Teleplay by Tom Ruegger
Directed by Boyd Kirkland
Music by Shirley Walker, Lolita Ritmanis
      & Michael McCuistion
Animation by Sunrise

Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. as Alfred
Bob Hastings as Commissioner Gordon
Robert Constanzo as Bullock
Lloyd Bochner as Mayor Hill

Ingrid Oliu as Renee Montoya
Richard Moll as Harvey Dent
Diane Pershing as Pamela Isely
Additional Voices:
   Melissa Manchester
   Neil Ross

The city spends millions of Wayne dollars, drives an endangered plant species to extinction, and destroys a verdant field on prime riverfront property to build a new penitentiary, all to make Gotham City a better, safer place to live. Five better, safer years later—ha, like we're going to believe that— the new prison is a hulking fortress incapable of keeping helicopters from landing in its courtyard and rescuing convicts. So much effort for such a small payoff.

Turning her back on the prison groundbreaking, twenty-three-year-old Pamela Isley spirits the last remaining bush of the "wild thorny rose"away from the construction site and plots her revenge. She earns a Ph.D., gains employment at a tony cosmetics company, builds an enormous greenhouse, grows a monstrous man-eating flytrap, concocts a virulent toxin from her precious surviving rosebush, fashions herself a supervillain identity ("Call me 'Poison Ivy'," she coos), and ensnares the affections of the district attorney who pushed for the construction of the prison. So much ingenuity and hard work, all simply to kill one man. Bullets must be expensive in her neighborhood.

Three very good writers have their names on this episode. Tom Ruegger worked on the deeply affecting "Beware the Gray Ghost" (though he is best known for his work on Tiny Toons and other comedic Warners properties); novelist and animation writer Michael Reaves has such worthy BTAS projects as "Avatar," "Perchance to Dream," "Feat of Clay," and "Vendetta" to his credit. And Paul Dini ... well, he's got his name on a couple of things you might have heard of. Handling director's duties is Boyd Kirkland, whose sure hand has steered such classic BTAS noir studies as "Catwalk," "Joker's Favor," "Read My Lips," and "Second Chance," and who also helmed the best of the Poison Ivy episodes, "House and Garden." It even took a trio of composers to work on the score.

So much talent for what is, in the end, a three-sentence story: Pamela poisons Harvey over dinner; Bruce suspects and then confirms her culpability; Batman fights and captures Ivy and grabs the antidote. Have I left out nuance, motivation, subtleties of theme and conception? Well, there is a stylish, sepia-tinged prologue and that uproariously suggestive flytrap. Also, Harvey pratfalls into his dessert only moments after Bruce does an old-fashioned spit take. (For a few moments there, "Pretty Poison" seems to be channeling Your Show of Shows.) But for the most part, it's cheaply padded out with some of the most languorous action sequences in the series, along with a twice-told joke about Detective Bullock going back for another doughnut.

I certainly don't mean to belittle the authors of this drooping lily—that's why I've emphasized their verdant resumes above. Vexatious it may be, but not every investment pays off. Dump a lot of fertilizer on the garden, and sometimes the only thing you get out of it is … a big pile of fertilizer. Here, as in so much else in life, we can only helplessly reflect: Plant food happens.


Production Notes
Bruce Timm: "It wasn't intentional, but the Venus Fly-trap creature looks like a vagina with teeth. Originally, it looked like Audrey II, and I said 'Naww, let's not do that, what other kind of plant can we do? What if it's like a big snow-pea pod?' I started sketching it out, and stopped when I realized what it looked like, but it worked. In a way, it's a very good visual metaphor for what she is, a man-killer."


Related Episodes
   * Eternal Youth
   * House and Garden
   * Chemistry

What Others Are Saying ...
" ... minor and essentially meaningless story of revenge, about as structurally hollow as Ivy's plants. "Alex Weitzman, The Big Cartoon Database


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