“Shadow of the Bat” Part 1 & 2 – ***** stars!
Written by Brynne Stephens
Directed by Frank Paur
At 97 days left until Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I’ve taken to viewing more of Batman: The Animated Series. Picking up at season three with the episode “Shadow of the Bat”, we see that Batman and Robin have progressed more in their careers and are more so the Dynamic Duo than ever before. We also get the first introduction to fan-favorite hero Batgirl.
“Shadow of the Bat” was originally aired and is presented as a two-part episode on the DVD box-set. For the sake of the story, I’ve chosen both episodes to watch and write as one. “Shadow of the Bat” was always one of my favorite episodes as you get an episode filled with everything that makes Batman such a fun character. The Brynne Stephens written episode gives us the definitive origin of Batgirl in animated form; in any form for that matter. Interestingly for those that grew up watching Batman: The Animated Series, this show served as the introduction and education of all things the Bat. For myself, Melissa Gilbert’s portrayal of Batgirl left more of an impression than of the late Yvonne Craig. That sentiment, very much my own, is what perfectly illustrates Bruce Timm and Paul Dini’s masterwork that is Batman: The Animated Series.
“Shadow of the Bat” follows Barbara Gordon’s path to becoming Batgirl after her father, the commissioner, is arrested after being suspected of accepting bribes. The agile and gymnastically trained Barbara Gordon turns to Batman for help and asks him to make an appearance at a rally the deputy mayor Gil Mason is hosting for Commissioner Gordon. He turns her down as he reasons there’s more to the situation and his appearance won’t help. After Batman sneaks into the GCPD evidence room, he notices forgeries and mentions that a “new syndicate” is forming. Barbara decided to dress as Batman and make an appearance at the rally as she believes that’ll be just the push the public officials and press will need to support her father. She does appear, keeping to the shadows, and Robin notices her. There happens to be a shoot-out and it provides the perfect opportunity for Barbara as Batman to intervene and save the day. During the attack, Robin tries to stop her and pulls off the back of her mask revealing her red hair. She manages to escape and chases down a thug getting away to an alley, but he gets away.
Barbara Gordon’s introduction as Batgirl is done in a fun way and while the character is much lighter than Batman, “Shadow of the Bat” never comes off as a parody. The episode actually becomes much darker as we realize that Jim Gordon’s friend and ally, Gil Mason, is actually in league with Two-Face. As the audience, we first learn that Gil may not be the good guy we believe him to be after Dick Grayson notices that he ducks before the shoot-out happens as if he were expecting it. Later on when Barbara shows up at Gil’s house, she finds him with the same thug she chased down earlier.
“Shadow of the Bat” Part One concludes with Bruce in disguise as Matches Malone being captured by Two-Face and Barbara’s realization that her stint as Batman isn’t over. “Let’s see what Batgirl could do.”
- For more on Batman: The Animated Series Two-Face, check out our previous reviews of “Two-Face” Part One and Part Two.
Part Two is significantly more heavy on the action and the tone shifts more towards a classic Batman: The Animated Series episode as we get Batman and Robin fighting thugs, foiling the villain, and saving the day. The majority of the episode takes place at the South Gotham Subway and Bayshore Wharf. A big sequence, the subway flood escape, from “Shadow of the Bat” is actually used in one of the later openings of Batman: The Animated Series when the show transitioned into The Adventures of Batman and Robin (which the third and final season of B:TAS consisted of).
Batman, Robin, and Batgirl save the day and clear Commissioner Gordon’s name after the Dynamic Duo stop Two-Face with a giant silver dollar, and Batgirl stops Gil before he can escape via speed boat. “A coin flips Two-Face.”
“Shadow of the Bat”, at least for me, is remembered fondly as one of the showcased Two-Face episodes featured on a Batman: The Animated Series Two-Face VHS released around the time of 1995’s Batman Forever. It’s one of the episodes that I’ve seen more than others and also the basis of how I critiqued 1997’s Batman & Robin‘s portrayal of Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone). While I didn’t have any problems with her as much as some other people did, Batman: The Animated Series is quite possibly the best version of Batgirl and Barbara Gordon we’ve gotten outside the comics to date. We’ll see if going forward with Batman v Superman and the DCEU if they eventually reincorporate her into the Bat-family. I’m positive they will.