“Bane” (season 2, episode 10; originally aired 9/10/1994)
The turnaround from Bane’s first appearance in 1993’s Batman: Vengeance Of Bane #1 to his debut episode of Batman: The Animated Series is remarkably short, but “Bane” writer Mitch Brian should have taken more time to create a better story. Like “Time Out Of Joint,” this episode falls under the Adventures Of Batman & Robin banner, and has a similarly juvenile plot and tone. Batman smiles and quips when he interrogates Killer Croc, the suspense relies on a deathtrap that could have come straight out of Adam West’s Batman, and Bane is never anything more than a super-strong goon in a luchador mask.
Bane has never been one of my favorite Batman villains, and the only time I was ever really excited to read about him was in Gail Simone’s Secret Six, which emphasized Bane as a tactician rather than a strongman. Bane is essentially Batman’s Kraven the Hunter, a foreign assassin with a brilliant predatory mind, but this episode primarily emphasizes Bane’s ability to punch things very, very hard. Like Catwoman and Penguin, Bane is denied an origin episode, and while Batman briefly details the events that led to Bane’s transformation, we never see Bane’s emotional connection to those events. I always forget that Bane has a South American accent, and Henry Silva’s voice doesn’t seem aggressive or gruff enough for the character. Bane’s mask has also been changed from covering his entire face to exposing his nose and mouth, which makes him look less threatening.
Mitch Brian has to change Bane to make him fit into the animated universe, and the darkness of the character is toned down to make him more appropriate for young viewers. It’s in episodes like “Bane” that interference from Fox executives becomes especially apparent, and I wonder if the producers even wanted to tell Bane’s story. The episode feels like the network saw how popular Bane was in the comics and asked the B:TAS crew to rush out an episode for the upcoming season. And if the story could somehow reference Batman’s back-breaking from the comics, it would be even better. That is conveyed by Bane yelling “I will break you!” a lot, then holding Batman over his knee during the episode’s climax.
Bane is hired by Rupert Thorne to track down Batman, and he uses a newly escaped Killer Croc as bait to lure Batman into his grasp. After getting beaten up by Bane, Batman interrogates Killer Croc in Arkham, and Batman oddly has a smile on his face and a quip in his back pocket for when he exits. Batman says, “Later ’gator” in this episode, which should never happen. While Batman uncovers Bane’s true identity, Robin is captured, because that’s what he’s there for. Once Bane captures the Boy Wonder, Bane strips off his shirt, cape, and utility belt, suddenly making this episode a lot creepier than it was previously.
Bane doesn’t let Rupert Thorne’s assistant Candice take off Robin’s mask because soon she’ll have Robin and Batman both, which is the kind of nonsense that comes whenever a hero gets captured. Bane can’t just dump Robin all the way into a water tank—he has to dangle him slightly over the surface of the water and have it rise to drown him. It’s a lazy episode when the writer has to rely on a half-assed escape plot, and judging by the Adventures of Batman & Robin opening sequence, there’s going to be a whole lot of narrow escapes for the Dynamic Duo.
Despite the story’s faults, Kevin Altieri directs some strong action sequences, showing off his skill at navigating characters around large environments during fights. Bane’s rooftop clash with Robin and boat battle with Batman are well-choreographed, and it’s interesting to see more variation in Batman’s fighting style—although he does rely on wrapping his legs around Bane’s neck a lot.
When Batman is about to have his back broken by Bane, the episode’s best moment occurs. Batman saves himself from paralysis by stabbing Bane’s venom dispenser with a batarang, causing the venom to continue pumping into Bane until he looks like a Hulked-out Matt Groening character. Dong Yang completely nails Bane’s grotesque transformation, and the sequence goes on for a long time. It’s surprising that it made it past the censors.
The episode ends with Batman revealing to Rupert Thorne that Candice was planning to betray him for Bane, and as Batman walks away, Rupert yells “Candice!” in his best Ricky Ricardo voice. It’s a silly ending for a light episode, which is, unsurprisingly, Bane’s only appearance on B:TAS as a main villain. It will be interesting to see if The Dark Knight Rises elevates Bane past his gimmick and into a multi-dimensional character, because this episode doesn’t.
- Batman Beatdown: Batman destroying Bane’s venom dispenser is such a grisly beatdown, it deserves mentioning twice. That scene really sticks with you.
- Eric Mahady provides the title card this week, and it’s a more modern illustration than we usually get from Eric Radomski. The sleek font and high contrast image make this episode seem darker than it really is.
- Why does the headline of Gotham’s newspaper just say “Rupert Thorne?” The writer must have been having a lazy day.
- Candice dives in to the tank to fight Robin, although it seems like she’s getting ready to have pool sex with him. It actually looks like that might be what’s happening when the two start grabbing and writhing on each other in the water.
- Bane looks so dopey without his mask on, but he also looks dopey when he’s wearing it.
- “You have nothing! Beg for mercy! Scream my name!” Oh, Bane…