“Sins Of The Father” (season three, episode two; originally aired 9/20/1997)
Despite making his first appearance last week, the new Robin gets his origin story in “Sins Of The Father,” revealing that he’s a young boy named Tim Drake, but not the Tim Drake comic book fans are familiar with. The obnoxious little street urchin depicted in this episode is closer in character to Jason Todd, the second Robin who was infamously killed off via telephone hotline. The son of a drug addict mom and a criminal henchman father, Jason was more abrasive and morally ambiguous than Dick Grayson, with a dark side that was kept in check by his partnership with Batman. His “pulled from the gutters to become a superhero sidekick” origin is childhood wish fulfillment to the extreme, and it’s easier to capture in one episode than Tim Drake’s, which has him discovering Batman’s secret identity over an extended period of time.
Jason Todd’s backstory may work better for 22 minutes of television, but unfortunately he was dead when this series was on the air, so the second Robin of The New Batman Adventures gets Tim’s name but Jason’s personality. In the comics, Jason would eventually be revived thanks to Superboy-Prime punching the walls of reality in a storyline that we’ll just pretend never happened—and I’m pretty sure that it didn’t in the New 52 continuity. Tim’s origin has gone through some similar restructuring after DC’s reboot, and he was never actually Robin in the new timeline, serving as Red Robin for the entirety of his superhero career (despite whatever Teen Titans #1 may have originally said).
“Sins Of The Father” opens with Tim stealing some doughnuts, using a found Batarang to lose the cop that chases after him. While he’s out scrounging for food, two of Two-Face’s goons are looking for Tim’s father, who has disappeared with two gas canisters that the villain plans on using to hold Gotham City ransom for $22 million. There’s a corkboard covered in pictures of Batman, but writer Rich Fogel never really addresses why that board exists. Either Tim or his father Steven “Shifty” Drake were looking into Batman’s movements, but why? Was Steven planning on going to Batman with the information about Two-Face’s plot? Was Tim just obsessed with the Batman after finding one of his Batarangs? Maybe that board is a way of acknowledging the comic book Tim Drake’s natural detective skills, even if it is just for a quick moment.
That box of doughnuts comes in handy, and Tim escapes Two-Faces thugs with the help of powdered sugar and cream filling, although pastries aren’t enough to save him when he runs into the big man himself. Tim is taken to the docks where Two-Face finds the note his father left with him, along with the key to the airport locker containing the stolen chemicals. Batman saves Tim but is knocked out in the process, and with the help of Tim and the Batboat, the Dark Knight makes his way back to the Batcave with an unintended passenger. When Alfred sees Tim, his first words are “Oh, dear,” but in his head he’s probably thinking, “God, not another one.”
While Alfred tends to Batman’s injuries, Tim sneaks out of the cave and goes snooping around Wayne Manor, discovering that Bruce Wayne is Batman just before Batgirl appears to discipline him. Tim steals a wad of cash and a watch from Bruce’s office, and making his character less than virtuous gives him a different relationship with Batman than the previous Robin. Tim shares information and shows off his Batarang skills, but it’s not enough for Batman to allow him to assist in the field, even though he could use the help. Batman and Batgirl go after Two-Face at the Gotham airport, but he manages to escape with the gas containers, giving him the means to kill all of Gotham City unless he gets his money.
Compared to “Robin’s Reckoning,” the origin of this Robin falls flat, and that’s largely became Fogel doesn’t delve deep enough into the emotional impact of Tim’s experience. Dick’s origin story was so devastating because it transmitted a sense of what his family life was like, but the Drakes seem like an afterthought in this episode. When he finds out his father is dead, Tim barely has a reaction, and while that helps highlight how tough his character is, it’s a missed emotional moment.
After Two-Face broadcasts his ransom demands, Tim directs Batman and Batgirl to the Janus (of course) movie theater, where they fight admirably but can’t take out the villain and a few henchmen. This weakening of the heroes makes it more believable when Tim shows up in the Robin costume to kick some butt, looking very much like a child playing dress-up in the middle of a crime scene. Tim as Robin looks incredibly young, really emphasizing the whole child endangerment part of being Batman’s sidekick. When Robin first appears, Batman says, “Oh no,” as if he already knows this is going to do some damage to his reputation; the Dark Knight used to be a lone badass, now it’s like he’s running a superhero daycare.
While Batman and Robin handle the fighting, Batgirl defuses the gas distribution device by ripping out all the cords and hoping for the best. It miraculously works, and the Bat-family celebrates their victory with a nice little sparring to formally induct Tim into the team. As they fight, Bruce breaks down the rules of his working relationship with Tim: “Rule No. 1: You give me everything you’ve got. Rule No. 2: Then you give me more. And rule No. 3? I make the rules.” That last one is what caused trouble for the last Robin, and Dick Grayson shows up at the very end of the episode to offer a friendly warning to Tim before announcing that it’s time for the Boy Wonder to grow up. Nightwing is coming, but what caused the rift between Bruce and Dick? What could be bad enough to drive Dick to grow that horrible ponytail? These questions and more will be answered, but not right now. It’s Tim’s moment of glory now (which is, in a way, Jason’s moment), and he’ll enjoy it, because things are not going to end well for him in the DCAU.
- Batman Beatdown: When Batman finally gets his face-to-face-to-face time with Two-Face, he blocks the villain’s punch before knocking him in the jaw, then delivers a blow right to Harvey’s gut. Direct, effective, and brutal!
- Seeing Tim Drake on this show has me sad for Tim’s current state, shackled to Scott Lobdell’s nonsensical Teen Titans and stuck in limbo with the rest of the Young Justice cartoon cast. Tim deserves better! (We won’t even start on Stephanie…)
- This show really loses something without the title cards. It would be a fun project for an artist to create title cards for these New Batman Adventures episodes.
- I wish there was an episode about the day Bruce Wayne sat down with keys from various Gotham locations and memorized their imprints. That would be riveting.
- Two-Face: “He stole something from me.” Tim: “Your charming good looks?”
- Batman: “You looking for sympathy?” Batgirl “From you? Heaven forbid.”