“The Ultimate Thrill” (season three, episode 11; originally aired 9/14/1998)
“The Ultimate Thrill” is an episode that shouldn’t work, boasting a one-note villain, a relatively bland story, and a Batman who is more super than human. Somehow, the creative team of The New Batman Adventures brings it all together with enough wit and intensity to make for a delightful story about the addictive thrill of danger. Hilary J. Bader pens the screen debut of Roxy Rocket, created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm in the pages of The Batman Adventures Annual #1, and the pulpy female pilot is a surprising fit for the world of the Dark Knight. A former Hollywood stuntwoman, Roxanne Sutton lost her job because she was making stunts more difficulty than they had to be and couldn’t be insured anymore. Batman thinks her new life as a thief is to get revenge on the people that fired her, but Batgirl understands that Roxy Rocket isn’t in this business for the money—she’s in it for the thrill.
This story is all about sex. Roxy straddles a phallus for almost the entire episode, and she drops so many sexual innuendos that her character probably made broadcast standards and practices blush. She gets a sexual rush from near-death scenarios, and when she jumps out of a zeppelin after robbing its upper-crust passengers, she meets her most satisfying partner yet when Batman shows up to chase her down in the Batplane. This show has done remarkable work creating female characters that are sexy but also legitimate threats, and while Roxy is the most overtly erotic, she’s also not as feminine as characters like Catwoman or Poison Ivy. Roxanne used to do a lot of the stunts for male actors, and she held on to some of that masculinity as she entered a life of crime.
While last episode’s pop-star story felt dated, “The Ultimate Thrill” has a nostalgic tone that embraces the pulp influence of Roxy Rocket’s character. The reference point is further in the past than in “Torch Song,” lending Roxy’s adventure an old Hollywood grandeur, especially evident in the action sequences. Contributing to the episode’s swank factor is Roxy’s partnership with the Penguin, resulting in a good amount of time spent at the iceberg lounge. Teaming a bird who can’t fly with a woman who spends most of her time in the air is a clever move on Bader’s part; Roxy has one short, fat man who pays the bills but is unable to satisfy her other desires, and a big hunk of Bat-beefcake for when she’s feeling frisky. Eventually, her need to grab Batman’s attention with every heist gets in the way of her relationship with her employer, who turns on her like a spurned lover.
The action in this episode is absolutely stunning, and it becomes clear why when looking at the storyboard artists that worked with director Dan Riba: Darwyn Cooke, Michael Manley, and James Tucker. Darwyn Cooke is the cartoonist who would go on to create the opening sequence of Batman Beyond, the current Catwoman design, and the Silver Age-inspired masterpiece DC: The New Frontier. Michael Manley was a comic book artist before transitioning to the world of animation, and he worked with James Tucker storyboarding “Holiday Knights” and “Cold Comfort,” two gorgeous episodes. After The New Batman Adventures, Manley moved on to storyboarding Samurai Jack and The Venture Bros. while Tucker worked on Batman Beyond and Justice League before taking on a producer role within the DCAU. This is an all-star team of artists working on the episode, and the action sequences are thrilling while expressive characters wonderfully act the dialogue.
This episode begins with a fantastic action sequence as Batman chases Roxy across the sky, figuring out that his airplane is too big to go up against his opponent’s sleek rocket. He comes back later with a jetpack, and while I have a problem with Batman having a jetpack because he really shouldn’t be able to fly, the action sequence is so smooth and dynamic that I can excuse the power boost. The standout moment of the episode is relatively small, but masterfully paced for maximum comic impact. It begins with Roxy finishing repairs on her rocket as Penguin’s scantily clad henchwomen sneak around the exterior of the garage. The camera zooms in on the women, specifically one who has pulled a gun from her one-piece swimsuit and is reaching for the doorknob. Then “Bam!,” Roxy kicks the door open and sends the woman flying, performing a back handspring into a scissor kick to knock out her partners. It’s a great bit of action comedy, and shows just how formidable Roxy is in combat.
After multiple rounds of foreplay, Batman and Roxy’s relationship ends with a big bang as they play chicken on her rocket. Roxy takes off her jacket and stares down Batman, who is done playing her games. When she tries to shut down the ship, Batman won’t let her, and he’s forcing her to understand the danger of this lifestyle. Unfortunately, it just gets Roxy really horny and she screams, “Oh baby, you’re the best! The ultimate thrill. The final stunt. Me and you. Yeah yeah YEAH! I knew it would be this way. The final stunt is the best.” As they jump from the exploding rocket, Roxy receives the ultimate stimulation, but she’ll need to hold on to that memory for a while because she’s far from her final stunt. When Batman pulls his parachute and safely lands, he puts Roxy in handcuffs as the police pull up. “What’s this?” Roxy asks, to which Batman replies, “My kind of game, and you lost.” Prison is just another adventure for Roxy, though, and she made her way out to show up on Superman: The Animated Series just a few weeks after her Batman debut.
- Batman Beatdown: After Penguin unloads his garbage-can Tommy gun, Batman sneaks up behind him in the dark and punches him through a window onto the balcony, then dangles him stories above the sidewalk and says, “Let’s say we have a little talk, just like old times.” There haven’t been too many extremely badass Batman moments in the last few episodes, but the Dark Knight is incredibly brutal this episode, maybe to emphasize the masculinity that Roxy finds so attractive.
- The shot of Batman hopping out of the Batmobile after skidding to a stop on the airplane runway is one of the coolest images of the Dark Knight ever.
- The Penguin has a Tommy gun in his trash can. That’s amazing.
- “Well, you’ve got the skills, you’ve got the guts. You just don’t have the tools.”
- “Now that she’s had a taste of you, she’s not going to settle for anything else.” BATGLARE.
- “I know he lives for the chase and I was the best he ever had.”
- “A bold statement. Energetic, forceful, and yet small enough to fit in a saddlebag.”
- “You missed your calling, Batman. You shoulda been in the movies.”
- “I love a man with staying power.”
- “Unfortunately, it’s the third act climax, and you’re not in the final scene.” Nice choice of words there, Roxy.