Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Batman - The Big Dummy

Okay, okay, I assume when people said "Something New" in the polls, they expected something within this decade, not something that their parents grew up with. And, to sweeten the deal, it'll even be about superheroes.

Time for me to talk about an often-forgotten section of an incredibly huge franchise, Batman. The Dark Knight is considered one of the most important characters when it comes to superhero cartoons, if only because he's been in so many influential cartoons. I won't get too much into just how powerful his shows were, if only because there are entire websites designed to talk about the impact Batman: The Animated Series has had on animation (ones more coherent and better-written than my blog, might I add) just as there are entire websites designed to talk about how stupid (whether delightfully stupid or just stupid stupid) the 70's Superfriends show is.

Most Batman cartoons, at least according to Batman fans, fall under one of three categories: Crap that came before Batman: The Animated Series, Batman: The Animated Series, and Crap that came after Batman: The Animated Series. It's a pretty common fact that Batman hit its cartoony stride in Batman: The Animated Series, and I'm not confident I can tackle that show yet, lest I want people hunting me down for making the wrong joke or saying that the wrong character sucks.

So, to ruffle the least amount of feathers as possible, I'm choosing a cartoon that's not Batman: The Animated Series (instead I'm going with the Jackie Chan-esque Batman cartoon that came out around 2004) and, to double my protection, I'm going to talk about a character that not many people even notice.

Yep, instead of talking about The Joker, The Penguin, Poison Ivy, or even Bane (just going to say it right now, but I think Bane is stupid), I'm choosing, well...this guy.

Pictured: Seriously a Batman villain.
This character, at least according to my really brief research on the Internet, is like the character that fans can't agree whether he's (or they're) a really awesome or a really stupid idea. Arnold Wesker aka The Ventriloquist and Scarface have appeared on as many Best Batman Villain Lists as Worst Batman Villain Lists. While the Batman nerds can pretty much agree that Crazy Quilt is a stupid idea and that The Joker is full of awesome, no one's really sure if a mentally disturbed middle-aged man who has a murderous personality manifest through his left hand is a good idea or a bad one. Even the writers can't seem to agree, because I've seen just as many Batman stories where this character was played for laughs as there are stories that are really tragic.

So I'm going to talk about Warner Brother's third most controversial cartoon (because even a Batman made by the creators of Jackie Chan can't reach the level of infamousness that Coconut Fred and Loonatics Unleashed have) for a change, because if there's anyone who can make a strange blend of good and bad mixed into one cartoon, it's Warner Brothers.

Let's look at...

The Big Dummy

November 27, 2004

Availability: On DVD.

Now, before I touch upon this episode, this is a good time to point out that since this episode takes place within the first season, Batman isn't carting around a young ward anywhere. I've noticed quite a few times in Batman cartoons (at least the more recent ones), the first season or two has no Robin or Batgirl, but then inevitably the show gets saddled with one because I guess Batman needs small kids in order to fight the mentally ill.

And really, we don't need more than one person wailing on this guy, because the cartoon opens with our main villain and he happens to look like this.

Truly the scourge of Gotham City right here.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and our first look into the living quarters of our villain of the day definitely reinforces that saying. I can just smell the wafting scent of loser just coming from this poor man's apartment. It's probably the mattress that makes me think this. I'm sure that poor lump of springs has seen many a night where Wesker was sitting in his underwear eating out of a carton of ice cream while watching reruns of Seinfeld.

The first thing you'll probably notice about this guy is that he basically looks like the Batman: The Animated Series version, except chubbier and with a less stylish taste in clothing. He's balding, and he's got the bowtie and the glasses, so therefore he's a Wesker. And coming from a show that mostly did its own thing with the other villains, (a quick google search will net you at least 20 pages worth of fans whining about the Riddler redesign) the fact that the Ventriloquist got off pretty much unscathed is notable.

Anyways, Wesker basically sits in the darkness of his lonely mess of an apartment while waiting for instructions from the ventriloquist puppet hidden underneath a blanket. Nothing strange about that!

So we cut to an abandoned construction site, and, like all construction sites in cartoons, people are able to just walk the hell onto the property and do as they please with all the equipment just lying around. In this episode's case, we get to see that two thugs (Rhino and Mugsy, because The Ventriloquist needs to be a threat somehow) are busy loading a giant construction vehicle into the back of Wesker's vehicle. I just love the pick-up truck he's using; I really hope that's seriously what Wesker drives. No wonder he's turned to crime if his stuff is so run-down.

And no, they never explain how Wesker was able to get hired help. I know villains in these cartoons pretty much have to have thugs in order to give Batman fodder for his fist, especially when they're tubby little middle-aged men like Wesker here, but I have to wonder the hiring process behind that. Can you take out a wanted ad for things like that? 

"I'm kind of new to this whole crime thing. Are we supposed to take the equipment without asking?"
One of the thugs complains about this really unorthodox crime until our chubby villain climbs out of his car, changes his voice, and reveals to both his thugs and the audience that he's not alone. I have to say, this reveal is really creepy even if you know what to expect. Nothing's more unsettling than seeing someone just instantly flip mental gears and suddenly become someone else, even if that someone else happens to be a ventriloquist dummy attached to his arm. Say hello to Scarface, kiddies!

...yeah, I might as well address the one thing that people hate about this version of this villain. Namely, the choice of design for the Scarface puppet. Instead of being modeled off a 1920's mobster, he's based off the Al Pacino version of Scarface, so he has the sandals, the earrings, the gold medallion, and the leisure suit. To sum it up, he's less gangster and more gangsta. All he needs now is a handgun to hold sideways.

As for me, I'm fine with this Scarface, even if he does look like Wesker carved him out of the wood of an ugly tree. I find the TAS version works a lot better and is a lot more intimidating (you never really get a sense that this alternate personality will kill you), but after you see the neat stuff they pull with this guy, you end up not caring. If only because the way they animate Wesker being dragged along by his own hand is really flipping hilarious.

Mugsy complains to Rhino about their new choice in a boss, and then unfortunately drops the D word. And before your mind goes into the gutter, the word was "dummy". Uh oh. Dem's fighting words.

"Really, Rhino? This is the best villain that could hire us? We're going to be the
laughing stock of henchmen everywhere!"
Scarface is a little angry that someone called him a dummy (even though he uses the word all the time, probably because he reclaimed that word), so he decides to show the thug who's the boss. Imagine if you will a short little bald guy constantly shoving the puppet into some man's face until he falls backwards onto a conveyer belt that leads into some sort of rock-grinding machine. Then picture some terrified criminal screaming that the puppet is the boss in order to avoid getting ground up into little bite-sized wedges. To say it's a really weird scene doesn't go far enough.

But hey, it effectively sums up the threat level for the Ventriloquist/Scarface duo. Either you find this scene incredibly creepy, especially when Wesker protests what his own hand is doing, or you find it so over-the-top that you can't take either character seriously. Or both; he's psychotic enough that it could really fall into either category.
This is probably one of the most embarrassing ways to get killed in Gotham City.
So the thugs, now with their pants essentially filled with excrement after their boss went completely nutszoid, continue loading stuff up into Wesker's van while Scarface laments the lack of class among his fellow villain these days. I'm noting this scene because, when he says that, Wesker actually turns his head and shoots his little puppet an incredulous look, as if questioning the idea that a little wooden doll that has to be carried by an overweight man who looks perpetually sad at life can ever be classy.

I totally had a chemistry teacher that looked just like this guy. (Wesker, not the puppet)
After that, we finally get our intro. It's a really unnoteworthy, bland intro (it's basically just shots of Batman and various villains against some subtle guitar instrumentals), so I'm going to give it an incredible disservice by not even talking about it and just dive straight into the cartoon. We hear Alfred list off all the stuff that's been stolen recently while doing batlaundry. Welding tools, motion control gyroscopes, and construction equipment have all been pilfered by the stubby, splinter-filled puppet hands of villainy. Alfred says that they don't seem related until Batman uses his powerful detective skills to deduce that someone is using them to build something.

No, really, Bruce? Nah, I'm pretty sure Wesker is just a hoarder and collects random things because he feels like it.

Oh, and we find that one of the Batsuits is covered in claw marks, most of them situated around the chest area. My, my, my. Only nine episodes into the show and already Batman's getting his freak on with a lady in cat ears and tight leather. Mee-ow!

But then Batman batturns on his batcomputer and we batget possibly one of the more batbizarre batsubplots I've seen batpop up in a Batman batcartoon. (okay, I'll stop)

Batman is going to try out online dating.

...DC fans, you may head to the forum closest to you and complain about this. Batman demands it!

I'm pretty sure half of the people on that site are supervillains, Batman.
It turns out that the reason Bruce's screen is being assaulted by these sites is not because his adblock is broken, but because Alfred is concerned about Bruce Wayne and pulled up that website so that Batman can meet a special someone in his life, one that doesn't have a criminal record like most of his love-interests. Alfred even ends up setting up an online dating portfolio for Bruce Wayne (leaving out the fact that he's a billionaire, because nothing's sadder than a billionaire using eHarmony) that says that he drives fast cars, enjoys athletic disputes, and is a night owl.

...In other words, Alfred basically made an online portfolio that says "I'm Batman Batman Batman. Bonana mana mo Matman." in big flashing red letters, but of course, Gotham just happens to turn a blind eye to clues like this. I mean, geez, it's not like there's a villain whose entire existence is based off of figuring out riddles or anything!
"That's a terrible idea, Alfred. It's almost as bad as the time you tried to make a Facebook page for me."
But let's leave that for a moment and get back to our one-man criminal duo and his (their) two henchmen as they enter The Gotham Air and Space Museum. Yeah, turns out Gotham City has a completely unsecure museum full of fully functional, valuable aircraft just waiting to be stolen. Who knew?

"Please don't steal the unguarded space shuttles and rockets. Thank you."
-Gotham Air and Space Museum staff
It is here that we get a little deeper into The Ventriloquist's psychosis and it's a mixture of hilarious, pathetic, and sad. Hilarithetisad if you will. Scarface leads the way, constantly bickering at the dumpy shell of a man constantly looking over his shoulder. He even calls him "Dummy" a lot (using it as a nickname for Wesker, because Batman villains love irony), even though just earlier, he showed that he doesn't like it when people call him that.

Since the two of them are basically performing a vaudeville ventriloquist act without an audience, Mugsy thinks that the man's totally insane while Rhino just kind of humors him and thinks that Wesker is just essentric because he's a genius. I love how obvious they make the fact that both goons think Wesker's out of his gourd. They're not even hiding their feelings because they're saying this within earshot. I'm sure that fills Wesker with a lot of confidence.

Also, great security, Gotham Air and Space Museum! It's nice that these men can just walk around and have arguments with each other (or themselves) without any cops showing up. No wonder the supervillains in Gotham have access to so many neat themed vehicles.

But then it takes the turn for almost heartbreaking when you hear that Wesker really wants to retire to some ranch in either Texas or Montana, "to work the land under clear skies" in his words. He's only really doing this just to get the funding for his retirement (and he only wants one heist too, in order to make sure he doesn't commit too much crime) because, as it turns out later on in the show, he doesn't even have a job.

So, for those keeping track at home, our villain for the day is an unemployed middle-aged man suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder. He has no friends, he has no money, he has no girlfriend, and he has no family. And, judging from most of his facial expressions in this episode, he knows how pathetic he looks. Arnold Wesker; his life is just one failure after another and if you don't pity him, you have no soul.

Forget Bruce. Wesker's the one that needs that "Find Someone in Your Area" site.
Scarface just kind of makes a joke to shut him up, which causes him to chuckle and then point to the doll and go "He'll never leave me" in a sad little whisper that just oozes with pathetic. Hah hah, wow. Why so crazy, Arnold.

And now would be to point out who's doing the voice of our main villain, because I forgot to do so earlier. Who else but Dan Castellaneta (and if you don't know who he is, then shame on you) is voicing Arnold Wesker and Scarface here, and because of this, sometimes in the episode, Wesker ends up sounding like ol' Gil (aka that really desperate salesman who can never sell a car and oftentimes tries to commit suicide) from The Simpsons. You know, just in case you didn't feel bad enough for this guy already, you can now picture him trying to strangle himself with Christmas lights.

...aaaaand I just made myself feel really bad. Can this episode switch to The Joker please? I feel bad making fun of this guy.
I think the only reason he's been alive for so long is because the muggers and serial killers that
infest Gotham City feel that he's way too easy of a target.
But enough depression, because we're moving on. We then we find out just how intelligent they are at their heists by just walking right through a security laser, one that they could just step over. Hey sure, the bright purple laser is just there for show, guys!

...and seriously, this is the thing that's protecting the incredibly dangerous and valuable aircraft? A single laser? Really? Come on, this would be ridiculous if this was just a normal city filled with your basic mugger or crack addict, but this is Gotham City of all places. Like 10% of the population is wearing a mask and committing crime based off a theme. A little more protection should be available in public buildings!

According to this cartoon, my college's dining hall has more security than an Air and Space Museum. What.
And while this is going on, Batman is looking up girls on an online dating service. He was quick too, because he already found a suitable female named Becky. She's a psychologist, but more importantly, she has pink hair! Therefore, she's perfect for the task of getting to know the real Bruce Wayne.

And judging by how generic her design is, she's never going to appear in this show ever again, making this whole online dating plot pointless from the start. Poor girl. She doesn't know how close she got to dating the goddamn Batman.
"Hello. I like sunset walks, going to the movies, and dressing up in tight leather costumes
and fighting people with mental disorders."
But then the Bat Alarm goes off and Batman, with a "looks like I already have a date" line (which is either really cool or really cliche and lame; my brain's still having trouble deciding), hops into his obviously CGIed car, and takes off like a bat outta hell, leaving a Tron-like trail of blue glowy stuff in his wake. Interesting take on the Batmobile, cartoon. I'm not sure if this means the car's running on some sort of magical space fuel or not. Maybe it's me, but I'm not sure if having an easily traceable trail emit from the car is really such a good idea for a superhero who will constantly be pursued in nutcases who aren't above using lethal force to eliminate their bat-themed enemies.
Batman drives with his high-beams on during the daytime? His battery's going to be so drained...
Back at the Air Space and Easily Stolen Stuff Museum, Mugsy just won't stop it with the complaints (and trust me, he's going to keep on complaining for the rest of the episode; no wonder he wasn't hired by a more threatening villain with that attitude), because now he's wondering how this junk is supposed to make them rich. Geez, man. Have a little faith in the balding man with the multiple personalities and the sweater vest. It's sure to pay off.
"Seriously, Rhino. How did it lead to this? Even jacking car radios had more dignity."
Suddenly, The Man of Bat shows up (choosing his patented method of jumping down from the ceiling and making a snarky remark based on what's happening), and he shows off his incredibly long cloak. Not even sure why it's this long in this one scene. I guess Batman has a feature in his costume that allows for an adjustable length in order to set the right mood.

Anyways, you know what that means, ladies and gentlemen. With Batman here, it's time to commence the fight scene!
I'm pretty sure if that cloak was that long normally, his archnemesis would be doors, not The Joker.
Okay, at the risk of saying that there's an aspect of this cartoon that's better than Batman: The Animated Series, the fight scenes in The Batman are really, really good. When someone throws a punch or lands something, you can really feel the weight. The timing is just amazing and, watching Batman take on Rhino and Mugsy, I can't find a single point where the fight felt dull.

I think the only real problem I have with this fight scene is the gratuitous use of property damage. Rhino freaking tosses a fighter jet model at Batman, and Batman goes and damages a large portion of the building in order to hit one of the thugs with something hanging from the ceiling. Geez man, maybe the reason there's so much crime in Gotham is because you keep wrecking all the public areas of interest and destroying thousands of dollars of equipment, Batman. What, you're going to pick a fight in a museum and start using the paintings as weapons too?

But believe me, my friends, because it gets even better. Because The Ventriloquist (or rather Scarface; remember who's leading who here) decides to join the fun. This scene is pure magic, because this is when Batman gets his first look at this themed villain, this mastermind behind the thefts that have been taking place lately. Needless to say, his (or their) first impression is not their best by any means, what with the dummy slapping him in the face after uttering the often-quoted "say hello to my little friend" Scarface line while Wesker just kind of stands back and awkwardly smiles. Pure gold right here.

And I might as well address the elephant in the room. Yes, they toned down Scarface a lot for this cartoon, and that includes the distinct lack of both mafia ties and a tommy gun. Scarface in The Batman is just a greedy little jerk that likes money. I'm totally allowing this though, because I deprive a lot of entertainment from seeing a villain this ineffective at hurting Batman while remaining good-humored about it. This is the man Killer Moth likes to hang out with in order to make himself look better by sheer comparison.

"Please don't kill me, scary bat person."
Oddly, this puppet-slapping scene does serve a purpose, because Batman is so distracted by the amount of sheer fail coming from Wesker that Rhino was able to gain the upper hand and slam right into him. And, through the use of coincidence and conveniently placed objects (this is why you don't go around throwing airplane parts willy-nilly, Batman!) the goons can use in order to restrain Batman, this looks like it could be the end of our caped crusader. And we won't even find out what happens until after the commercial break! Dun dun dunnnn...

I just wish they didn't do a CGI plane. It's incredibly jarring when paired up with the 2D characters. Because all I can picture is unfinished animation where everyone is reacting to something that only exists in their imaginations. Sort of like how one of the people in their group happens to be talking to a puppet as if they're an actual person. Right, Wesker?
Before the special effects were put in, they were reacting in fear to a tennis ball on a string.
One commercial break later, and, since Wesker and Scarface fell for the oldest cliche in the book in that they turned their backs and walked away while the hero was in peril (in fairness to Wesker, he's kind of bad at this whole being evil thing), we find that Batman is able to save himself through the use of his handy-dandy notebook utility belt. The belt tends to come up a ton in the show and is a common complaint, because a lot of Batman fans felt that the utility belt was way too deux-ex-machina-y. sort of is, actually. But then again, I've seen an episode of Batman: the Animated Series where, out of the blue, Batman knows ventriloquism. Geez, man. Why is it that cartoon characters just know how to throw their voices? I'm kind of jealous now.
Now available at your local Target for $10.99 plus tax!
 After his run-in with the "nasty little puppet", Batman decides to use his computer for something other than hitting online dating websites. It turns out, in Gotham City, there's a freaking online ventriloquist puppet directory. Holy bizarrely specific plot point, Batman!

Although this scene has another purpose besides showing us just what kind of messed up city Gotham happens to be that they need an online ventriloquist puppet directory complete with bios and everything. It also provides ample opportunity for Grade A Alfred snark. While Batman is busy searching through the different dummies, Alfred jokes that the different dolls are clearly smugglers and embezzlers. Considering this town, that wouldn't surprise me at all. At one point, the Batman comics has had two Ventriloquists as well as a living ventriloquist dummy named The Dummy.
"You're my favorite deputy!"
Finally, they manage to find Scarface and we learn some backstory, courtesy of Batman reading off his bio on account Alfred can't read the text himself or something. It turns out Arnold Wesker is a small-time performer and, after the audience booed him off the stage, both ventriloquist and dummy went out and robbed every last person in the audience. This gets elaborated on in a future episode, where we learn that Wesker was once the voice-actor and puppeteer for a children's show and, when he tried to make a ventriloquism act after the show ended, he got rejected and he went crazy.

I will note that unlike the comic version or the cartoon version, Arnold Wesker gets his Dissociative Identity Disorder late in life, and it's not triggered by some sort of bloody event he witnessed. His parents never get shot in front of him, he was not born into a mafia family, and he certainly never went to prison. He's just a nerd that snapped. Again, really toned down from the comic version, but then again, that would explain why this Wesker will actually have strong emotions when the other ones are repressed to the point of avoidance. Hardcore Ventriloquist fans will balk as such a pussification of such a classic villain, but then again, I'm pretty sure hardcore Ventriloquist fans don't exist. 

I also have a very good question. Why would this be in an online ventriloquist dummy directory? Do ventriloquists report when one of their kind goes completely insane? Why is his bio still up and reporting this? Does this site exist so that parents hiring ventriloquists for their child's birthday parties will be better informed?

"Karate experts love to drink kara-tea! ....Uh, I guess everyone's heard that one..."
But then this is interrupted by Batman getting a chat request. Oh dear. I can feel a disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced, on account they found the DC Forums and ranted about this to their fellow peers.

I gave myself eye strain trying to read the text on Batman's computer.
While Batman is loling and rofling it up with a woman with pink hair, we find an abandoned warehouse (because no superhero cartoon would be complete without one) where The Ventriloquist is clearly putting the parts to good use for his, or rather, Scarface's evil plan. We hear the distinct sound of a fat man welding airplane parts while Thing 1 and Thing 2 just kind of hang back and eat sandwiches and drink water. I guess Wesker disapproves of drinking on the job and makes sure his workplace of eeeevil is a sober one.

...although that makes me question one thing. Was Wesker doing the welding with his right hand, or was he seriously doing some amazing puppeteering behind that closed door and made the doll hold the welding torch? Scarface also gets a welding mask so that's why I'm asking.

And how does a retired children's puppeteer even know how to arc weld?

No, I'm sure Jim Henson used to do this a lot in his spare time.
We then see just why Rhino likes working with this mentally disturbed individual. He actually tricks Wesker into making Scarface give out his great plan while drinking a glass of water, inadvertently creating a really good ventriloquist act. Rhino even claps.

I love that they really play around with the fact that Wesker is, in fact, a very talented ventriloquist in this show. Gags like this really do wonders to flesh out this character. It's a shame Scarface is so ugly. I can't be the only one who thinks he looks a little like a diseased monkey.

Maybe his act would've been more successful if the puppet wasn't so repulsive.
Anyways, the dummy and his fat dummy need one more part before they can pull the biggest heist in Gotham history. Big words from something made out of wood and felt.

Oh, and Batman has a date with Becky at the cafe, and Alfred's happy that finally, Bruce is letting a special someone in his life get to know the real him. Maybe they'll get married and have lots and lots of babies, even! I'm totally sure his job at being Batman isn't going to interfere with his date, right?

...yeah, who am I fooling. We all know the outcome of this plot. Bruce isn't going to get laid tonight.

Not with that pointy chin, anyway.
But we can't dwell on Bruce's love life for too long, because a computer factory just got broken into! I guess, like airplane parts, really powerful computer chips are also not heavily guarded.

And man, it must be a slow day for crime if the most notable thing that's happening is this. I guess it's Joker's day off. I bet right now Gotham's breathing a sigh in relief that the worst they have to contend with tonight is some man in a bowtie and thick glasses. Every part that gets stolen is not a boat that gets blown up.

Also, I just noticed that in this entire episode, not once is Arnold Wesker is actually referred to as The Ventriloquist. They instead choose to refer to him as simply "Wesker". Before his other episode called him that, Batman fans worried that the reason they omitted his title is because they thought "ventriloquist" was too big of a word for the kiddies to understand. Please, back in my day, our cartoons made jokes about The Artist Formerly Known as Prince and expected us to totally get it.

No, not the iPhone factory!
Anyways, ignoring Gotham's incredibly lax security for a moment here. There's a great piece of animation where it's just Wesker and Scarface trying to locate the part they need. The best parts of this episode are just watching this poor lonely, sick-in-the-head man interact with himself while alone, because it just speaks volumes on his insanity that he's being bossed around by his own left hand. Plus watching a man get yanked around by his own arm like a rag doll just defies words.

After some slapstick (which, all things considered, would probably be very successful as a comedy routine, provided the audience doesn't know Wesker's not acting), they locate the motherboard. Quickly, Chubby McLonelyMan stuffs it into his shirt, because he thought very wisely that Batman would never conduct a strip search. Batman may be the World's Greatest Detective, but he's certainly not going to stuff his hand down Wesker's shirt.
Pictured: Criminal masterminds.
While they leave, the sad, washed-up puppeteer starts talking to his little puppet boss that they're one heist away from retirement and "the clean, honest work of a cowboy". You know, because I've gone a whole minute without feeling bad for Wesker. Aww, geez, it sucks that deep down, all this man wants is a pony. At this point, I'm ready for Batman to just give him a lollipop and send him on his merry way so that he can punch an actual villain instead.

Unfortunately, Batman found them, and let's them know in a Pre-Asskicking Line that Gotham Penitentiary has a thriving retirement community. Yes, Batman, but is the jail in Texas or Montana?

I highly doubt Wesker could stay on a rocking horse, let alone a real one.
What comes next is a scene, a beautiful glowing gem of a magical scene, that I like to call "The Doughy Nerd gets Beat Up By Batman Scene".

Want to know why I call it that? I'll give you three hints.

Sock! Pow! Bam! Bif! Zok!
You know, I think I've just inadvertently discovered the greatest Batman scene in the history of everything. If this doesn't convince you that The Ventriloquist is an awesome character, nothing will. He represents what would happen if we honestly tried to get into supervillainy, for he is a flabby nerd who spends his time locked indoors while reading books and has no business trying to fight Batman.

And honestly, I have to wonder if the reason the camera's focusing so much on Wesker is because, right now, Batman's doubled over in laughter and can barely breathe.

He's always picked last for Arkham Asylum baseball teams.
During this massacre of nerdiness, the computer parts factory gets switched on (because Batman is nice enough to slam the dork into the big, obvious buttons), the thugs are alerted to the fact that their boss is getting punched in the face by the dark knight, and I end up taping this entire scene and framing it on my wall. It's just pure beauty. I could never understand how people could praise the most obscure episode in Batman: The Animated Series and yet let this episode go ignored.

But moving on. Batman is through kidding around (because punching a man in the face and making him smack face first into a wall is "kidding around") and wants Wesker to give up the whole "I'm being bossed around by a ventriloquist dummy" thing. But there's just one problem, Bats. It's no act.

His face expression when he discovers how insane this geek is really says it all.

"What's wrong with this city...?"
So then Batman, now knowing exactly what he's dealing with here, decides to perform an act of mercy and snatches the doll away from Wesker. He even says "Consider this therapy", because if there's one thing I learned in Psychology, it's that you can just fix these mental problems immediately. I'm sure his split personality will just submerge once you remove the doll.

Yeah, Batman? Anybody who's even slightly familiar with this character knows that this isn't a good idea. Hell, in Batman: The Animated Series, when this happened, The Ventriloquist pulled out a stuffed thylacine and used it as a club against Catwoman. (and yes, this happened, check your DVDs if you don't believe me) You don't touch the puppet under any circumstances.
Batman just has an irrational hatred of bald people.
As expected, Wesker just flips the hell out and ends up charging (using "Coming, sir!" as his triumphant battle cry) at a man who dresses up like a bat and regularly fights serial killers to get that stupid doll back, on account the voices in his bald little head instructed him to do so.

By now, you can probably guess, but seeing The Ventriloquist fight Batman is just about the funniest thing ever. Just look at him! Wesker's a trooper.
While this is going on, Batman is praying that there's no security cameras recording this.
The doll ends up getting flung onto the computer chip conveyer belt thing, and, while Scarface is being damaged, Batman then has to stop a balding man from nearly killing himself. grabbing onto the seat of his pants. Yeah, it's an awkward scene. Truly this isn't one of Bruce's better days.
It's high school all over again.
He's not successful (although honestly, considering the physical training this superhero's been through, he should've totally had enough upper strength to overpower a nerd twice as old as him) because then Rhino and Mugsy show up and actually do their jobs. Hey, thanks, you two! It's not like The Ventriloquist was just getting his ass handed to him just now or anything. Geez, you'd think protecting a soft, pudgy, middle-aged virgin with no superpowers and no weapons would be easy.

While Mugsy and Rhino fight (and lose, as bad guy henchmen are wont to do when faced with men in capes), Wesker manages to escape into the night while towing his now broken, suffering doll. The mirth and hilarity that his scenes once had are now drained, because Scarface is at death's door. There's just something downright heartbreaking about seeing a man clutching an inanimate object to his chest and telling him to hang on, as if the thing is actually dying in his hands. The clincher is the part where Wesker, nearly ready to cry, tells his Muppet reject not to leave him.

...why do I feel really bad for laughing at his fighting scene all of a sudden?

Pictured: The closest thing this man has had to an actual friend.
Meanwhile, while Wesker runs off, Batman interrogates the two henchmen. It turns out the insane little nut is after the gold at the Gotham Federal Reserve and he built something that he can use to break in. Okay, fair enough, but I have a question, Bats. Why didn't you go round up Wesker too? It's not like Rhino and Mugsy can escape while hanging upside down while tied up, and I'm pretty sure you can outrun a little chubby man. How did Wesker escape? They literally give no explanation other than the fact that Batman was busy with the two thugs. Really? Did the utility belt just not have anything that could slow down an overweight failed comedian?
"You guys are seriously cutting into my online dating time."
Now, okay, what exactly did Wesker build anyway? The man's just a failed children's show puppeteer. I'm sure it's just something simple, one that still makes this show pretty grounded in reality...

"Piloting a giant robot makes me sad."
...oooor he just went and built himself a giant robot ventriloquist dummy that's carrying him like a dummy.

Pardon me for asking, but WHAT!?

So yes, a giant robot. Arnold Wesker, aka The Ventriloquist, someone who typically uses mafia-related tools, was able to build a giant robot. As you can imagine, this literally comes flying out of nowhere and the writers totally expect us to roll with it. They want me to just watch this scene where a giant Al Pacino machine carrying a bald man crash into the wall of the federal reserve and just be fine with it. Well, guess what. I'm not. least the workers that day had one hell of a story to tell at dinner time.

And how is Wesker piloting and voicing that thing? This just raises too many questions.
Scarface the giant robot (I can't believe I wrote that) ends up stealing all the gold in the federal reserve, but I'm sorry. You lost me cartoon. Robot? What!? How? Where? What does that have to do with ventriloquism, other than the really clever role reversal? This is like if Jeff Dunham just started committing crime while riding a giant robot Achmed the Dead Terrorist. It doesn't work that way!

Unlike me, Batman is completely unfazed by this mechanical monster and doesn't at all find this weird. He even wisely figures out that the thing has a weak point; Wesker. Yeah, Wesker, probably should've built something to protect you; you do look like a big target just sitting there, looking vulnerable and sad.

So then we get Batman fighting a giant robot that can throw cars and use a medallion as a weapon, all while our loveable sack of pathetic is just kind of clinging on for dear life. How did we get to this, people? I know comic books are a strange medium but daaaamn...

What the hell am I even watching anymore?
They end up on the rails of a train (don't question it, everything's tasting like purple now), and it looks like this is going to be the end of Batman. Man, he never thought it would end like this. Getting squeezed to death by Al Pacino as a robot while a failed children's show puppeteer looks on in fear. Just think of how much of a disappointment it would be to the more prominent villains if Batman ended up dying this way.

I love how Arnold Wesker managed to not fall off in this chaos. Like a beanbag filled with depression, he sits in place, reacting to the horrors taking place in front of him. I also like how not once did Scarface use him as some sort of human club. I'm sure it was tempting, all things considered.

Clearly Wesker is related to Dr. Wily if he can make a robot that complex.
Course, things turn sour when Scarface brags that he's going to rob the hell out of every bank in Gotham, which ticks off Wesker and his thick glasses of nerdiness, because he just wanted one heist before getting a ranch. The animators totally approach this scene without realizing how insane this entire situation this is and man do I love it. For crying out loud, it's a man shaking his fist at a giant gangster-styled robot that he himself is controlling and voicing, and they're having an argument about retiring to Montana. At some point in the cartoon, I have to keep checking to make sure I'm still, in fact, watching The Batman and not just having a weird acid flashback.
"I brought you into this world, and I can take you right out!"
"Shaddup! You're not my real father!"
While they're having a lover's spat, Batman throws some acid (which he happens to have in his utility belt, meaning that thing's saved him twice in this episode alone) onto the robot's face, which makes it step into the path of an incoming train made out of obvious CGI. Thank god for public transport! It's going to save the day this episode!

...also, way to not stop, train engineer. I know trains take a lot longer to stop than a car, but it's not like the giant rampaging gangsta was hard to spot or anything. He didn't even hit the brakes.

I love how trains always show up when the plot calls for them. I wish the buses down here were that efficient.
Batman's job isn't over, because he has to stop The Ventriloquist from running out onto the tracks in order to help his giant robot after being instructed by the angry Krusty the Clown voices in his head.

...yeah, I'm not sure what I just wrote so just bear with me here. It's kind of a running theme in The Ventriloquist's episodes that the damsel in distress is Wesker himself. Our loveable little sack of pathetic should be thankful that Batman didn't just let his ass get run over just to teach him a lesson.

Meanwhile, the train driven by the world's most oblivious driver runs right into the robot (with Wesker's head hearing one final "Dummy!" before Scarface gets demolished), completely destroying it and causing gold bars to rain from the heavens.

...okay, several things. One, how was that train not totaled? It just ran into a pretty solidly built robot filled with tons of gold and yet managed to just keep on driving on its merry way. Two, good job, Batman, because all of those gold bars that Scarface just robbed from the federal reserve are now littering the streets of Gotham unprotected. Unless clean-up is very efficient in Gotham City, you know some thief is going to make off with a couple bars.

And three, how is it that these two can be this close to an explosion and escape unscathed? How did they not suffer a concussion from any falling gold bars? Explain, cartoon!
Trains were his one weakness.
Wesker is really sad, though, because now he's all alone and his bald spot is taking over his entire head. He whimpers and says that they were going to go to Texas or Montana. Our Dark Knight, standing over the guy and radiating solid waves of pity on account he knows that Wesker's crazy instead of evil, says that we all have places we would rather be. subtly, Batman is blaming the fact that he missed his date with Becky on Wesker's mental disorder. Harsh.
"You'd better be ashamed. Thanks to your crippling dementia, I couldn't go out with someone I met online!"
Meanwhile, closure in terms of that online dating. Alfred informs the woman with pink hair (after she mistakes him for her date of course) that her real date can't show up, on account he's married to his work. I feel sort of bad for this girl, if only because they focus a great amount of time on the fact that she was waiting there for who knows how long, constantly searching the crowds for a glimpse of the man she shared such heartfelt text messages with. Poor girl.

You know what Batman should've done? Hooked her up with Wesker. That probably would've cheered the little screwball right up and the psychologist would've had someone to share an iced tea with. Then everybody wins!

...except for Scarface. Because he got hit by a train.
"Yeah, your date couldn't show up because he was busy fighting a mentally ill man
and his giant robot. I love your hair!"
And while she leaves, we see Batman standing on top of a building, watching this entire event take place while he's cloaked by the shadows of the crime-infested festering sore that is Gotham City.

...uh, deep? I mean, geez, he only knew her for like a day or two. I'm sure he could find another girl on that website just as easily. Don't give up hope yet, Bruce!

"I love this job more than I love taffy. And I'm a man who loves his taffy."
And, that's pretty much The Batman, aka one of the Batman cartoons that was not Batman: The Animated Series. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a bank to rob with my giant robot I built in my garage.

The Moral of this Cartoon
Ventriloquists are crazy and are able to build giant robots.

Final Verdict

Yep, this is not Batman: The Animated Series. But for what it's worth, this is a really good episode.

I think the main thing that will effect whether or not you enjoy this episode is whether or not you like The Ventriloquist, even if his portrayal in this episode is really strong and, in my opinion, full of some really powerful acting. This episode does a great job at introducing the concept of this character and you can really feel this man's pain in his voice work. And, oddly, it was the Batman sections with the online dating that ended up being the parts that dragged. Wesker was puppeeteering this entire episode from the get-go.

This was no "Read My Lips" though (the introductory episode to The Ventriloquist in Batman: The Animated Series), especially when it came to the climax. Yeah, I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to deduct points for the random robot that just appears completely out of nowhere. But I can understand why they used it, since by himself, Ventriloquist doesn't offer much in the way of firepower. He's more of a "stay on the sidelines and let the hired help do the talking" kind of guy. Especially now that his puppet no longer carries a gun. Plus a robot's the surefire way of adding excitement to any cartoon, and the big huge Scarface just using cars as weapons and plowing down buildings was kind of fun to watch. If a little goofy.

But all in all, it's a really solid episode, and I honestly have no complaints about the liberties they took with this character besides the odd-looking Scarface and the giant robot. They made some big changes, but Wesker ended up being a strong character in his own right. I can even go the extra mile and say that this is one of my favorite portrayals of this character.

...even if he only appeared in like three episodes in this entire show's run.

I'm just as saddened about this as he is. Come on, a man who can make his hair into such epic spikes should really appear in at least five episodes, not three!