Written by Jules Dennis & Richard Mueller and Sean Catherine Derek
Directed by Boyd Kirkland
“The Forgotten” is another terrific showcase for Batman: The Animated Series. Sharp and thoughtful writing aside, the team behind the program were not content with just having any other animated series. Instead, Batman: The Animated Series was offered as a nearly 30 minute short film. “The Forgotten”, the eighth episode produced, feels more like a prestige animated short film than your average, run-of-the-mill cartoon. If there is one aspect that I’d like to emphasize, Batman is a series welcome to be enjoyed by all.
This current episode of Batman, similar to “P.O.V.”, hardly features The Dark Knight. Instead, the story focuses more on Bruce Wayne as he investigates the disappearance of the homeless in Gotham City. He goes undercover and it’s the first time that we see Bruce’s knack for makeup, costuming, and acting skills. He comes across a few ruffians who wish to do him harm, but he manages to beat them, all while his hands are tucked in his pockets! One man catches him off guard and does manage to knock him unconscious. When Bruce wakes up, he has no memory, and his foot is chained to a wooden bed. It appears as if he’s a prisoner in some sort of forgotten prison community out west.
The direction of “The Forgotten” soon takes a turn for a story more closely to that of Cool Hand Luke than Batman. The score by Shirley Walker also plays this up, especially with its heavy usage of harmonicas. The tone of the episode, not unlike “P.O.V.” and “The Underdwellers”, offers the writers a chance to reflect more on the idea of Batman than to actually show him. Bruce, suffering from memory loss after hit with a blackjack, soon makes friends with Riley and Salvo. Both men, down on their luck, are written in a cliché and contrived way, but ultimately don’t offer a disservice to the overall episode. Their role within “The Forgotten” almost serves as a means to helping understand more about Bruce Wayne. After Riley and Bruce are forced into a roasting box, Bruce begins to regain his memories in the episode’s best scene. He remembers his family after imagining a room of windows where the Joker pulls him through. They eventually fall to an alleyway where he sees his mother and father walking. As Bruce follows them, the homeless come out and extend their hands in hope that he will provide for them. He hands out many, but soon there are far too many for him to provide for. We see Bruce grow teary eyed as he realizes he cannot help everyone. After he recalls who he is, voice actor Kevin Conroy perfectly changes his voice from Bruce to Batman. Kevin Conroy is largely regarded as the Batman for the 90’s, and even today, as his voice work is featured in the Arkham series. His work within “The Forgotten” serves as a great reminder that he was one of the first actors to differentiate his voice between Bruce Wayne and The Caped Crusader.
Bruce escapes into the canyons and meets up with Alfred. His loyal butler tracked him, using his very own detective skills, and brought the batplane with him. After an extended chase and fight through one of the mines, Batman is able to rescue the prisoners; most notably Riley and Salvo. Back in Gotham, while all three men are at the Dock Street Rescue Mission, Riley offers Bruce and Salvo a place to stay at his home. Bruce declines the offer, in turn, to offer Riley and Salvo a job at Wayne Tech Enterprises.
“The Forgotten” was an interesting episode of Batman: The Animated Series as it was the third episode to not feature an original member of Batman’s rogues gallery. While we have already seen Man-Bat, The Joker, Scarecrow, and Poison Ivy, the past three episodes have all focused on newly (and mainly one-shot) villains. Yet the idea to pit Batman against people not originally portrayed in the comics is massively refreshing as it helps keep the story and viewer focused on the hero. Without the distraction of seeing one of your favorite villains, the usage of a newly created one gives us more of a reason to support Batman and root for the iconic vigilante. “The Forgotten” happens to be an episode that many overlook and it’s unfairly so. The depiction of Bruce Wayne so fully committed to his fellow person and driven by his very promise to his parents is wonderfully depicted within this episode. While we’ve seen this before, it’s the eighth episode that fully reminds us of how great a character Bruce Wayne is.
Stay tuned for more Batman: The Animated Series. And, until next time, please enjoy the following video which contains musical samples of the score for “The Forgotten.”