“Judgement Day” (season three, episode 24; originally aired 10/31/1998)
I never expected Batman to become such a major part of my life. Sure, I loved Batman: The Animated Series as a kid and have thoroughly enjoyed Batman comic books and films through adolescence and adulthood, but he wasn’t my favorite comic book character. After reviewing 103 episodes of Batman: The Animated Series/The New Batman Adventures, I’ve developed a newfound appreciation for the character and his rogues’ gallery, particularly the way their stories shed light on the human condition while being immensely entertaining superhero adventures. No other rogues’ gallery comes close to Batman’s (although Spider-Man’s is up there), and the final episode of The New Batman Adventures recognizes this and makes sure the villains are put front and center.
When new antihero The Judge tears through Gotham’s criminal elements, we’re shown a frightening new side of one of this show’s most shattered characters: Harvey “Two-Face” Dent. Two-Face is the rogue with the deepest connection to Bruce Wayne (at least on the television series), so it’s fitting that he should be spotlighted in the finale. Viewers became acquainted with Harvey before he became a bad guy, and his supervillain origin is one of the highlights of the series. In “Judgment Day,” Two-Face becomes Three-Face when the former District Attorney develops a new robed-and-wigged personality that is dedicated to wiping out Gotham criminals with lethal force.
After years of being a slave to a scratched coin, it’s no surprise that Harvey Dent would develop a new personality that is staunchly dedicated to one goal. Unfortunately, that goal is killing all of the city’s bad guys (Two-Face included), which means Harvey also has developed a suicidal side. Harvey hates the part of him that belongs to Big Bad Harv, but he doesn’t have the power to kill himself so he creates a figure that does. This is some heavy shit for a children’s show, people! Harvey is one of this show’s most tragic characters, and his story only gets more depressing as he tries to redeem himself, even if that means death.
Using the sword of justice and the gavel of Harvey’s Marshal Award, The Judge goes after Penguin, Killer Croc, and Two-Face. Fitting Penguin and Killer Croc in the episode shows how far this series has come, particularly with Penguin, who easily had some of the show’s worst episodes before receiving a revamped look and social status. Meanwhile, Killer Croc is a character that this show’s writers always seemed to understand, and while he doesn’t do much in this episode, he’s a reminder of how BTAS/TNBA was able to bring some of Batman’s lesser-known characters to prominence. Speaking of characters that don’t do much this episode, the Dark Knight is barely in “Judgment Day,” mostly just there to solve the mystery of The Judge’s identity and save Councilman Corcoran’s life when he’s help captive by the villain.
The Judge has been able to track down criminals through a partnership with Corcoran, who provides him with confidential police files. Corcoran doesn’t think it’s fair that Commissioner Gordon is able to have his own superhero, so he gets one of his own in The Judge, unaware that the hero wouldn’t just stop at Gotham’s more colorful evildoers. After failing to kill Two-Face by asphyxiation, The Judge goes after Corcoran for his corrupt political dealings, but Batman arrives to save him just before he gets sliced in half. Yet while he saves Corcoran’s life, Batman destroys his reputation by leaving him with an unmasked Judge for the police and press to find.
While the writing and the animation on this series weren’t consistent, the audio was always top notch, from the voice acting to the musical score. Michael McCuistion’s score for “Judgment Day” utilizes a choir to give the episode an epic tone that stands out amongst the rest of TNBA chapters and lends the show’s final story even more impact. For the chilling final shot, there’s a low buzz of strings as Harvey rocks in his Arkham cell muttering the word “guilty” over and over again, building to a crescendo as the episode cuts to black. It’s interesting that there’s usually never any doubt over the guilt of Batman’s rogues because they all leave their signature stamp whenever they break the law. They want the world to know just how guilty they are. “Guilty” is the perfect word to end the series with, as guilt is a major aspect of Batman’s character. Bruce Wayne feels guilty for the murder of his parents, so he put on a mask and tried to stop that same tragedy from ever happening to someone else. He decided to take his guilt and try to create something better from it, and if he hadn’t, it’s very possible that Bruce Wayne could have been the man rocking back and forth in Arkham Asylum.
- Batman Beatdown: Bound at both the hands and legs, Batman shoots a grapple and goes flying into the air with The Judge dangling under him. He then slams the villain against the cheek of a giant Lady Justice statue, which is one of those rare instances where someone gets smacked by a face rather than on the face.
- This fantastic piece by Chris Sims on the recently (and very sadly) shut down ComicsAlliance outlines the differences between Batman and Spider-Man, stating how the former is a child’s fantasy while the latter is rooted in adolescence. Check out the AskChris archives if you need your Batman fix now that these reviews are leaving.
- If you’re desperate for more Batman stories set in the DCAU, don’t forget about the Batman Adventures comic books, most of which are available digitally.
- “I am the law. And I find you guilty.”
- Guard One: “Wish I had a nickel for every car that's been through these gates.” Guard Two: “I wish I had a dime for every time I heard you say that.”
- “Its about time someone threw the book at you.” And then he drops a giant book!
- I want to give a huge thank you to all the readers and commenters who made my very first solo gig for The A.V. Club such an amazing experience. Taking on BTAS was an assignment with its own unique pressures, but your enthusiasm every week made this job feel like anything but work. From the people that read and never commented to the great gimmick posters who showed up week after week, thank you for taking this amazing ride through Gotham City with me. This summer’s TV Club Classic slate includes my favorite superhero series of all time, so I hope you’ll all follow me as I dive into the epic Justice League Unlimited.