“The Terrible Trio” (season 2, episode 6; originally aired September 11th, 1995)
Batman: The Animated Series’ streak of stellar episodes had to end eventually, and “The Terrible Trio” pits Batman against an aptly-named trio of rich assholes in one of the show’s worst episodes. The sons of three tycoons of land, sea, and air, the members of The Terrible Trio don fox, shark, and vulture masks as they commit crimes to drive away the boredom of a privileged life. Alan Burnett and Michael Reaves were twso of B:TAS’ strongest writers—Reaves was responsible for most of this season’s winning streak—but they provided a flimsy story and non-dimensional characters that were then horribly rendered by Jade Animation.
I believe a Batman story is only as good as its villain, which makes “The Terrible Trio” a big ole’ turd of an episode. Warren Lawford, Armand “Army” Lydecker, and Gunther Hardwicke are men with no defining characteristics other than varying levels of hatred for poor people. It would be easier to forgive their complete lack of motivation for crime if their dialogue wasn’t so bad, with Warren easily being the worst offender with lines like, “A valiant effort, stout sentinel, but the game was ours before it began.”
Like “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement,” this episode plays like a children’s show. The plot is devoid of pathos and is laid out in tedious detail so that even the youngest audience member will have no problem understanding it. The problem is that there’s little for the adult viewer to latch on to, and it leads to an episode that should never be rewatched once you’re out of grade school.
After lending $5,000 to his girlfriend, Rebecca Fallbrook, Warren recruits his partners to break into her father’s house, rob him, then beat him into a coma. It sounds intense, but the scene is backed by the Trio’s overly bouncy theme, and the music negatively impacts the tone of the episode’s villains. After last week’s gorgeous score, Shirley Walker’s compositions for “The Terrible Trio” sound generic and inappropriate. The Trio ends up appearing more like The Three Stooges rather than real villains, and the music works against the script to declaw Batman’s enemies and remove any threat they may have posed.
It’s also hard to take The Terrible Trio seriously with their uninspired character designs. The visuals in this episode are generally a mess, with Jade Animation pulling an Akom and turning in choppy, off-model animation. The characters’ bodies all look squat and compact, and their facial expressions, especially Rebecca’s, move around like Play-Doh. This episode has one of the least dynamic car-chase scenes ever attempted on this series, which is the fault of both Jade and director Frank Paur. Paur isn’t a horrible director, but his work always takes a big hit when he’s paired with a mediocre animation studio.
Warren’s an idiot that forgets to get rid of Rebecca’s father’s stickpin, and it falls out of his handkerchief when he offers it to wipe Rebecca’s tears. She suddenly understands what happened, and is now faced with three men who have just beaten and robbed her father. Warren snaps and decides that he wants to take care of Rebecca for being a spoiled, willful child—a lot like himself. He knocks her out with some chloroform and persuades his partners to help him get Rebecca in her car so they can push her off a cliff, but she is saved by a grapple from the Batwing.
Once he’s finally able to catch up with the Trio, Batman has no problem putting an end to their crime spree. Warren tries to bribe Batman, and when that doesn’t work, he brags about all the judges he has in his pocket. Batman’s not worried, though, because Warren’s time in prison, no matter how brief, will show him what terror truly means. The episode ends with Warren walking into his cell and meeting his massive new roommate, who looks like he’s ready to make someone his new bitch.
- Batman Beatdown: After taking way too long to catch three civilians in Halloween masks, Batman soars from an icy cliff to take down Warren on his snowmobile. Thank God that’s over.
- Bruce Wayne is shown skeet shooting and showing off his proficiency with a shotgun his episode. It never feels quite right to see Bruce with a firearm, but it makes sense for him to be a skilled shooter because Batman has to be good at everything. If he didn’t know how to handle a gun, he’d have a lot more trouble defending against them.
- Robin’s only use to the plot is to walk into traps, divert Batman’s attention, and state the obvious.
- “Oh well, Ming was a boring dynasty anyway.”
- “The only thing these guys are experts in is arrogance.”
- “Let's go, Fox. You've raided your last chicken coop.”