Part of the fun of having an extensive rogues gallery is mixing and matching characters and seeing how they complement each other, and “Love Is A Croc” features one of the oddest pairings this show has ever seen: Baby-Doll and Killer Croc. Written by the late, great Steve Gerber (creator of Howard The Duck), this episode is definitely on the goofy side, but has a strong emotional core in the relationship between the two villains, who are both social outcasts looking for someone who will appreciate them for who they really are. They team up to become Gotham’s Bonnie and Clyde, but their respective differences end up pushing them apart, proving that the two are just too broken to make it work.
Baby-Doll is an original villain who is a great fit for Batman’s world, particularly in how she reflects the show’s adult audience. I’m not saying that superhero fans are necessarily trapped in a state of arrested development, but there’s certainly a desire to hold on to youth that plays into the enjoyment of these characters and stories. Most superhero fans were likely exposed to these characters as children, and as people grow older, superheroes become a tether to the past and a simpler, more innocent time. Again, that’s not the case for everyone—especially as superheroes become a bigger part of pop culture and are specifically geared toward adults—but there’s still something delightfully juvenile about superheroes. After all, this is still a Saturday morning cartoon that originally aired on Kids WB, so children are the target audience.
But that’s the thing about Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures: In spite of being geared to a young audience, these stories resonate for adults too, and new layers of the story are revealed as the viewer grows up. For kids, this episode is a fun story with a great visual in the pairing of the tiny Baby-Doll with the monstrous Killer Croc, but as an adult, the real emotional devastation of this plot becomes clear. As past episodes have shown, these two villains are incredibly tragic figures, shunned by society because of their appearance and entering a life of crime in order to gain some semblance of control over their lives. That’s a theme that both young and old viewers can attach to, although in considerably different ways.
Children are more likely to connect with Baby-Doll, who doesn’t get the respect she wants because she’s just so small. At the start of the episode, a drunk tourist teases Mary Dahl at her concierge job, leading to her grabbing the man by the nose and slamming his head into her reservations binder. She still has a child’s temper, although she tries to hide it behind a restrained adult personality. When she returns to her room, she sits down with her two teddy bears and laments, “I’m not a baby, I’m not a child! I’m just… different.” While watching television, she sees Killer Croc on trial, and he echoes her sentiment, telling the judge that he’s misunderstood and persecuted because he’s different. He’s actually persecuted because he commits crimes and then breaks out of his straitjacket and tears up courthouses, but it’s possible that he wouldn’t have turned out this way if it weren’t for the way he was treated when he was younger.
Batman shows up to stop Killer Croc’s escape, but Baby-Doll is lurking in the background, plotting how to help her new crush break out of Arkham. She brings him whole chickens at the asylum to help ignite his affections, and when he’s transported via armored car, she plays her innocent little girl routine to knock the vehicle off the road and save her beloved. She’ll continue to exploit her appearance as she goes around robbing local businesses with Croc, playing the out-of-place little kid as a distraction while her man goes after the loot. It’s a smart plan, but things fall apart when Batman and Batgirl stop the couple’s latest heist, forcing a wedge between the partners in crime.
Croc and Baby-Doll try to live the life of a domestic criminal couple in the sewers, but Croc is clearly unnerved by Baby-Doll, who tries to build a romance with him while sitting in a high chair. No matter how old she is, she still looks and acts like a little girl, and not even Killer Croc can bring himself to be attracted to her. Of course, that’s the problem, and Mary Dahl’s appearance prevents her from achieving intimacy with anyone, and that’s what ultimately pushes her over the edge. When Croc abandons her and starts seeing more developed women, Baby-Doll lies to her man and tells him that she has one last big score, taking him to the Gotham nuclear power plant where she’s going to blow up the entire city.
Croc assumes that they’re going to hold the city ransom, but Baby-Doll is on a suicide mission, prepared to kill herself, Croc, and every citizen in Gotham just to get revenge for a broken heart. Baby-Doll overreacts like a child, but she has an adult mind that gives her temper tantrums a homicidal edge, and luckily Batman and Batgirl arrive just in time to stop her from causing a nuclear meltdown. When Croc foolishly defeats himself by breaking open some hot water pipes and getting burnt, Baby-Doll sits next to his steaming body with tears in her eyes and says, “We could have lived happily ever after. Just like on TV.” This show has been ending on some really gloomy notes recently, and the contrast between the TV Mary Louise Dahl who overflows her house with bubble bath at the start of the episode and the weeping Baby-Doll at the end is heartbreaking.
- Bat Beatdown: As Croc runs from the courthouse, Batman swings down and kicks him in the face, sending him flying into the grill of a truck. Getting kicked in the face by someone who has the momentum of swinging from stories high has got to really hurt.
- Barbara Gordon is way too tough to be creeped out by rats in the sewer, although I could see her complaining about the stench.
- “Come on, baby. Do something funny.”
- Batgirl: “What do you suppose they do on a date?” Batman: “I don’t want to think about it.”
- “Whee! Faster horsey, faster!”
- “Ordinarily, I don’t approve of spanking. But in her case…”