Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Batman: The Animated Series: “Chemistry”

Illustration for article titled Batman: The Animated Series: “Chemistry”

There comes a time in a man’s life when he meets the person that makes him want to hang up his superhero tights and live a life of domesticity. Bruce Wayne dealt with this situation before in Mask Of The Phantasm, but Andrea Beaumont wasn’t a sentient plant put into Bruce’s life by Poison Ivy to steal his fortune. After a run of exceptional episodes, “Chemistry” is a bit of a downgrade, failing to explore the full potential of its concept but still delivering a solid thriller. It’s one of the series’ most Bruce Wayne-heavy episodes, but the personal side of the story could be further developed to give a better idea of how Poison Ivy’s manipulation affects Bruce. Instead it’s a standard superhero narrative, elevated by a few horror movie moments that bring out the script’s creepy side.

Pamela Isley is a botanist that is so talented she is able to create humanoid plants with their own personalities, so why does she waste her talent on crime? Her incredible discoveries could earn her loads of fame and fortune as a scientist, but she has a need to hurt others as she gains her influence. Coming into contact with poison ivy causes irritation, and Pamela needs to be causing some sort of personal agitation with her scheme or it’s not interesting to her. We’ve seen how cautious she is in planning her crimes through her relationship with Harley, who always wants to take the bluntest approach possible. When she’s with Harley, Ivy lets herself have some fun without the intense emotional manipulation, like mind-controlling Bruce Wayne to pay for a lavish shopping spree.

While most of Gotham’s rogues have it out for Batman, Poison Ivy seems to always attack Bruce Wayne, whether through his best friend in “Pretty Poison” or his butler in “House & Garden.” When she’s separated from Harley, Ivy tends to always go straight back to Bruce Wayne; she’s either got the hots for him or subconsciously knows that he’s Batman, especially considering how attentive she is to pheromones. She goes right after the big man himself in “Chemistry,” but Bruce is just one of the wealthy Gothamites that has been paired with green-eyed broccoli human, who will inherit a massive fortune when her husband dies in a boat accident.

After meeting Susan at Veronica Vreeland's shotgun wedding, Bruce Wayne can’t get the Stepford clone off his mind, sneaking out of the Batcave so he can spy on her from a ledge across from her apartment. Turns out Batman in love is a total creep. He’s immediately enamored with Susan and asks her to marry him, quickly deciding that it’s time to retire the Batman costume and let Barbara, Tim, and Dick take over. Twenty two minutes isn’t enough time for this story to be fully explored, and writer Stan Berkowitz has to race through the deeper relationship elements so that he can get all the requisite superhero scenes in.

While the plot might not be the tightest, director Butch Lukic excels with the visuals, staging dynamic action sequences and tense, Hitchcock-inspired scenes when the flesh-ripping and back-stabbing begins. When Veronica’s husband beats her up and lights her house on fire, Batman dives in to save the day in a beautiful sequence that is storyboarded to emphasize the size of the home and the inferno that the Dark Knight has to cross to save the damsel in distress. Hermann-esque strings in the score add a layer of anxiety to the conversation where Bruce discovers Susan’s secret, and Linda Hamilton gives an appropriately chilly and menacing vocal performance as an herbal femme fatale. When Bruce discovers Susan’s true nature and asks what she is, she has a matter-of-fact response: “Why Bruce, I’m your wife.” And for that brief time, she really was, and Bruce really loved her. The script doesn’t explore that part of the drama very extensively, but as Batman flies away from the burning wreckage of his marriage, it’s clear that Poison Ivy has found a way to hurt him in a way that other rogues only dream they could.

Stray observations:

  • Batman Bruce Beatdown: After finding out his wife is a plant, Bruce becomes one ruthless opponent, shattering a lightbulb and stabbing Susan’s vine tentacle to electrocute her body. Between this and Robin melting the plant people with herbicide, the Bat-family looks to have no problem killing sentient lifeforms that aren’t human. First plants, then the animal kingdom!
  • I can’t see broccoli and not think of Nextwave. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go read Nextwave now.
  • Jason Blood and Zatanna are sitting together at Bruce’s wedding. I like that pairing a lot.
  • Veronica Vreeland should demand her money back for the state-of-the-art security system she bought that can be disabled with a mirror.
  • “And with pantyhose, who need ‘em anymore?”
  • Bruce: “It’s a lightness, a sense that things will work out for the best.” Tim: “It’s called happiness.”
  • “Ugh, as if!”
  • “Relationships aren’t supposed to be easy. Even I know that and I’m just a vegetable.”