A mysterious figure, the Judge, tries to knock off the Rogue's Gallery.
Written by Rich Fogel & Alan Burnett
Directed by Curt Geda
Music by Michael McCuistion
Animation by Koko/Dong Yang
Kevin Conroy as Batman
Brooks Gardner as Killer Croc
John Glover as The Riddler
Richard Moll as Two Face
Malachi Throne as The Judge
Paul Williams as The Penguin
Jodi Baskerville as Anchorwoman
Peter Jason as Manny
Loren Lester as Mo
Steven Weber as Corcoran
It's a mark of BTAS's tremendous success that the biggest controversy attending it has nothing to do with its treatment of the iconic characters or stories or their relation to the original comics. Instead it's a purely internal matter having to do with the show's design and style: When it shifted from the BTAS to the TNBA look, was it a step up or a step down?
There is something to be said for each conclusion. The visuals are so well-integrated with the narratives they convey that style and story cannot be divorced from each other. Monkey with the look and it will have a possibly perverse effect on the stories.
So the old style emphasized the fleshiness of the characters. Not only Bullock and Rupert Thorne, but Gordon and Hill and even Bruce Wayne (in that baggy and ill-fitting suit) bulged and sagged. These were true Gothamites, lump of humanity who looked puffy and corrupt and compromised before theyd even opened their mouths. And thats where the physical gravity of the BTAS designs contributed to its moral gravity: to look at these characters was to see at once how flawed they were. But TNBA adopted a more slick and stylized look, emphasizing the surface value of well-tailored athleticism; it stood like James Bond to BTAS's Sam Spade. And if the flattened surface let the action flow more fluidly, it also subtly flattened the characters themselves, so that they and their dilemmas never again quite achieved the same solidity and heft.
"Judgment Day" well-illustrates the nature of the trade-off. Bruce Wayne, Batman, the Penguin and his lovely ladies: these have never looked more sleek or elegant. The story's peculiar villain, the Judge, is an uncluttered contrast of black & white shadow and line-work, the severe realization of justice in the abstract. And the lack of ornament in places actually accentuates the animated performances; with only a slight furrow of the brow, Wayne here communicates more displeasure than he ever did with even the fiercest glower in BTAS. Even an anonymous henchman has personality in the upturned flip of his bangs.
Though the action is busy rather than bravura, the figures glide quickly and easily across the screen without seeming any less real, giving it a quicksilver energy. Though TNBA's suppleness of movement is on better display in other episodes ("Over the Edge," "Mean Seasons," "The Ultimate Thrill") even in makework like this the style confers a professional luster that cannot be denied.
But it cannot be denied, either, that some of the characters suffer for the changes. Killer Croc has had his rough edges sanded off, leaving him lean, mean and hungry, but this doesn't make him appreciably more scary. He is more reptilian, but he is also less human and thus less interesting. (Compare "Vendetta" or even "Sideshow" to "Love is a Croc.") Two Face, who here proves the central character, also suffers. He remains mottled, scarred and brutalized, but like Bruce Wayne he's been slicked back, and the ruined side of his face now looks more like a mask and less like the livid, living proof of fate's cruel caprice.
The plot borrows heavily from "Lock Up," Mask of the Phantasm, and "Second Chance" (and, with its mysterious, masked vigilante, also echoes "Mean Seasons"), but it keeps things moving so fast that you're unlikely to either care or notice. It also doesn't stint on some nice throwaway dialogue. But paradoxes continue to the very end. The baroque conclusion ties up everything very neatly and satisfactorily, but only at a cost to Two Face's character. The addition of a third personality does not render him either more complicated or interesting, but (ironically) flattens further him by reducing the iconic force of the old good/bad duality.
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