Rest in Power, Kevin Conroy.
The year 1992 was a monumental year for Batman. Following the success of the live-action Batman Returns starring Michael Keaton, Warner Bros. took advantage of the ongoing “Bat-mania” and gratified fans’ need for more Dark Knight by releasing arguably the definitive version of our favorite caped crusader Batman in cartoon form.
Drawing huge inspiration from Tim Burton’s Batman from 1989, Batman: The Animated Series isn’t exactly an extension of the cult classic, but rather its own entity which became an instant hit amongst fans and is still widely regarded by a lot of people to this day as the best adaptation of the Dark Knight in any medium outside the comics.
Now, we’ve talked a lot about the episodes we hold near and dear to our hearts but this time around, allow me to put the spotlight on the show’s episodes which I think are often overlooked and deserve more attention. With that in mind, here are 10 of the most underrated Batman: The Animated Series episodes you should be rewatching!
Disclaimer: I’m putting some episodes from The New Batman Adventures since, you know, it’s still canon to the BTAS saga.
Nothing To Fear
While it isn't "Heart of Ice" nor "Over the Edge" levels of great, this particular episode will forever be remembered by avid fans of the cartoon for Kevin Conroy's tremendous voice acting. Taking nothing away from Scarecrow, of course, who proved to be a formidable foe for Batman in this episode. Speaking of Conroy's brilliant acting, "Nothing to Fear" was home to that iconic BTAS line that would define the character throughout the series' impressive run. "I am vengeance, I am the night, I am Batman!" Just thinking about it sends shivers down my spine. Need I say more?Advertisement
The first episode from The New Batman Adventures to make it to this list, "Old Wounds" gives fans a little backstory as to how and why Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson's working relationship and friendship went sour. As all of you know, in TNBA, Dick retires his Robin mantle to become Nightwing. It's a great episode highlighting Grayson's transition from "birdboy" into a man of his own. Go give it a watch!
Arguably one of the most heartwrenching episodes in all of BTAS, "The Underdwellers" is centered on the story of children who were forced to take a life of crime at an early age, taking orders from a manipulative old man called the Sewer King. Batman eventually finds out about his abusive ways when he stumbles upon a kid named Frog whom he ends up rescuing and taking to Wayne Manor under Alfred's guidance. Later in the episode, Batman and Frog go back to the sewer as the caped crusader puts an end to his madness, freeing the children from his clutches.
Shadow of the Bat (Parts 1 & 2)
Barbara Gordon makes her debut as Batman in this episode. Following the wrongful accusations thrown at Commissioner James Gordon, Babs takes matters into her own hands to save her father.
Out to prove the commissioner's innocence, Barbara seeks help from Batman but to no avail. She would then dress up as the caped crusader in an attempt to find out who exactly framed her dad. Unsurprisingly, Barbara finds herself in the middle of all the chaos, proving that she can hang with the dynamic duo which eventually earned her a spot in the Bat-family.
Sins of the Father
Dick Grayson's Robin origin story easily trumps this one but it's nice to see how a young Tim Drake became Batman's new trusty sidekick following Grayson's transition to becoming Nightwing. Warner Bros. and DC took a huge risk with the inclusion of Drake in the Bat-family but it proved to be a great decision as the new Robin would gain a following of his own. He even becomes a key character through the end of the show's run.
The Mistress of Magic only appeared once in the show and it left a lot of fans, myself included, wanting one. Easily one of my personal favorite episodes, "Zatanna" is a bit of a throwback that follows Bruce Wayne's early days as Zatara's student. After learning the art of magic and being an escape artist, Bruce parts ways with Zatara and his daughter Zatanna. As fate would have it, Bruce, now the silent protector of Gotham City and Zatanna would once again cross paths. Only this time around, Batman is now saving his childhood friend from peril after being accused of taking the Gotham Bank's money following a failed magic exhibition.
Feat of Clay (Parts 1 & 2)
BTAS is beloved by fans for tweaking its villains' origin stories, giving them a more tragic and complex reimagining. Clayface's origin is no different. Once a struggling actor, Matt Hagen's life takes a 360 turn following an incident that permanently gave his body shapeshifting abilities.
Out to seek revenge and possibly get a cure for his condition, the now Clayface wreaks havoc during one of Daggett's appearances to promote his product. Batman, of course, tries to put an end on Clayface's rampage and successfully stops him for the time being.
On Leather Wings
It's crazy to think that this episode would be considered underrated. After all, it's the first episode fans saw 28 years ago, effectively giving birth to the BTAS mania. While not the most superb out of all the BTAS episodes, it's still an episode worth revisiting as it pits Batman, a vigilante dressed as a bat against an actual Man-Bat. It's action-packed and intense. It's everything you would want in a pilot episode.
Legends of The Dark Knight
This brilliant 3-in-1 episode is definitely one of The New Batman Adventures' strongest entries. It follows a trio of Gotham youngsters who tell their own respective stories of what they think the Dark Knight truly is like. It cleverly pays homage to Batman & Robin's vibrant and campy silver age exploits, as well as Frank Miller's gritty retelling of Batman in The Dark Knight Returns. During the latter part of the episode, the kids see Batman in the flesh as our favorite dark vigilante battles the sinister Firefly. It's an absolute gem that is worth rewatching!
One of the show's crowning achievements was the creation of Dr. Harleen Quinzel aka Harley Quinn. Originally intended to just be a supporting character for The Joker, Harley's popularity was too unprecedented, she was able to ultimately crossover to other forms of Bat-media. This fun episode sees the character come clean as Harley is out to live a normal life away from her devious days as a henchwoman. However, she experiences a series of unfortunate events and Quinn is left without a choice but to embrace what she's become — Mistah J's one and only Puddin'.