Batman: The Animated Series: “Catwalk”
-

Batman: The Animated Series: “Catwalk”

-

Batman: The Animated Series

“Catwalk”

Season 2, Episode 9

“Catwalk” (season 2, episode 9; originally aired September 13, 1995)

Catwoman’s cameo in the Paul Dini-scripted “Almost Got ’Im” was one of the character’s best appearances in Batman: The Animated Series, so leave it Dini to give Selina Kyle her first great episode. The episode begins with a beautiful title card, an out-of-focus image of Catwoman on a rooftop, her sleek silhouette illuminated by the glow of a giant moon behind her. It emphasizes the loneliness of Selina’s rehabilitation, and the dreamlike interpretation of her criminal alter ego adds a layer of romanticism to her secret life.

The episode begins with Selina recapping her history in Gotham while the opening of a new museum exhibit of stuffed endangered animals curated by Veronica Vreeland’s family.  The monologue at the start establishes this as a more character-centric Catwoman episode, and this episode has Selina doing what she does best: flirting with Batman, stealing from the rich, and operating on both sides of the law. Dini and director Boyd Kirkland use expressionistic imagery in the opening flashback to reflect Selina’s emotional reaction to the events: Batman makes his first appearance backed by heavenly beams of light, and the judge who sentences Selina is stories tall.

Dini understands Selina’s appeal. She has good intentions, but she’s addicted to the thrill that only comes from committing illegal actions. Selina doesn’t fit in with the wealthy elite. She loves the lifestyle, but not the society. When Selina bitches out Veronica for her family’s history of hunting the animals they now have on display, Bruce calls her out on her rude behavior. “Just the cat in me, I guess,” Selina responds, and she lets her inner kitty take over for the rest of the story.

Selina is hired by The Ventriloquist and Scarface to steal the Vreeland family jewels, but she’s actually a diversion so that Scarface’s goons can steal the stuffed animals. Scarface cleverly appeals to Selina’s animal activism to manipulate her into helping him do something she finds morally reprehensible, but she’s not a pussy that likes being played with.

While Catwoman steals the jewelry, Scarface sends his goons in for the animals and  blows up Selina’s brontosaurus escape route, where she’s found under a stack of dinosaur bones by a museum security guard. When Batman confronts her at home, Selina tells him that she returned to the museum to apologize to Veronica, saw the burglars, and changed into her Catwoman costume to stop them. When they go back to the museum together, they notice the stolen animals, and Catwoman lets slip that she may not be telling the entire story. “You know what’s wrong with our relationship?” She asks. “You always let me get too close.” And then she beats him up on top of a blimp before taking off for her date with a scratching post.

Selina tracks Ventriloquist and Scarface to their lumber-factory hideout, where she shows why you should never bring your pet along on costumed adventures. When Isis’ meow gives her away, Selina ends up in the old conveyor-belt-with-a-buzzsaw trap, but is saved by Batman thanks to a tracker he’d stuck to Isis. The conveyor belt hasn’t shown up on this show in a while, and it’s nice to have a cartoon cliché in an episode that includes Looney Tunes allusions alongside quotes from Rudyard Kipling.

When Scarface ends up on the conveyor belt, The Ventriloquist has a panic attack but is able to prevent his hand puppet from being chopped to bits. Unfortunately for Arnold Wesker and his fragmented psyche, Selina triggers the crane release above Scarface, unleashing a stack of lumber to crush the wooden dummy and whatever sanity Wesker had left. Selina blames Wesker for taking away her freedom, but she can’t appeal to Batman’s sympathies. He knows the only person Selina has to blame is herself, no matter how much it breaks his heart to admit it.

“Catwalk” is the second Catwoman episode that uses feline literature to add a layer of sophistication to the story.  William Blake got some rare kid-show exposure in “Tyger, Tyger,” and the climactic moment of “Catwalk” forces Batman to choose between the lady and the tiger when Catwoman throws a stuffed tiger into the warehouse fire. He saves the animal, turns around, and Selina’s gone. (I love those sad Bat-eyes.) Having escaped to the Gotham rooftops, Selina calls herself “the cat who walks by herself,” a reference to Rudyard Kipling’s short story “The Cat That Walked By Himself.” She’s very well read in the cat classics, and the adults watching the show will be happy to see material they read in high-school English actually come in handy when watching superhero cartoons.

Stray observations:

  • Batman Beatdown: When Rhino charges with a huge log, Batman counters by kicking the log, sending Rhino flying into a nearby stack of lumber. Timber!
  • There are some beautiful music transitions during the opening flashback. Batman appears with a horn fanfare, which shifts into a soft string melody as Catwoman strokes his Bat-symbol. A piccolo flourish plays as she draws her claws, and the horns return as the lover-enemies battle it out.
  • Catwoman’s leap out of her apartment after she says, “Extinctions is for wimps,” is a beautifully animated shot.
  • “What’s she laughin’ at? My fly ain’t open is it?”
  • “They also seen you lickin’ yuh whiskuhs at the sight o’ Ronnie’s pretty spahklers.”
  • “Could you please give me a hand? This dinosaur seems to have fallen on me.”
  • “I t’ought I taw a puddy tat.”
  • “I needed a dummy to keep the cops busy while I grabbed the stiffs.” Scarface loves some good irony.