Batman The Animated Series: Pretty Poison

"So his fate was sealed...with a kiss. And now so is yours."

Batman: The Animated Series is just a noir detective story in fancier clothes and no noir detective story is complete without a great femme fatale.

With the exception of Joker, BTAS has so far eschewed all the high profile members of Batman's rogues gallery in favour of less well known ones. Well, less well known at the time. So instead of household names like the Ridder, Penguin and Catwoman, we've had episodes about the likes of Man-Bat, Scarecrow and my favourite homicidal redhead, Poison Ivy.

Meet Pamela Isley. She's a botanist with classic movie star good looks who likes plants more than people. Like, a lot more. So she's none too happy when District Attorney Harvey Dent has a field of rare flowers destroyed in order to build a new prison. A prison that Bruce Wayne paid for, but he somehow manages to avoid Pamela's wrath. Now Pam could've done what any sane person would've and become an environmental lobbyist and maybe filed a lawsuit against Dent and the city. But being a resident of Gotham City she of course chose to murder Dent instead. And, like so many other residents of Gotham City, it wasn't enough for Pamela to simply kill Dent. No, she also had to adopt a supervillain persona as well, complete with costume, which is of course rather revealing because men.

The makers of Batman: The Animated Series didn't always try to make their villains sympathetic, but they did always try to make sure that we at least understood what it was that drove these people to become costumed maniacs. For Poison Ivy it was all a matter of justice. She sees herself not as a villain, but as a crusader with a righteous cause to deliver retribution to those would harm poor, innocent, helpless plants, starting with Dent. Ivy doesn't try to kill him because she likes to murder people. Sure, she kinda gets a kick out of it, but as far as she is concerned Harvey Dent is a murderer and she is just delivering vigilante justice. Ivy is basically Batman, but for plants. No wait, Batman doesn't kill. She's the Punisher, but for plants.

As great as Ivy is, I find her debut episodes somewhat lacking. Like the previous episode, it's seriously short on plot. I imagine that is why they threw in that lengthy, rather pointless jail break sequence at the start. But even with that bit of shameless padding there is still isn't much to fill out the full 25 minutes. It's obvious from the start that Ivy's the one who poisoned Dent and it doesn't take the World's Great Detective long to figure that out. After that light-bulb goes off it is straight to the third act confrontation, which they again stretch out by giving Ivy lots and lots of classic bad guy monologuing to do.


I Know That Voice

Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy was voiced by Diane Pershing, a professional voice actress who'd previously voiced Crystal Kane on Centurions, Netossa on the original She-Ra, and Dynak X on Defenders of the Earth. Harvey Dent was voiced by character actor Richard Moll, who is probably best known for playing Aristotle Nostradamus "Bull" Shannon on Night Court.

Comic Book Connections

Poison Ivy first appeared in Batman #181 (June 1966) and was created by Robert Kanigher and Sheldon Moldoff. Kanigher is said to have modelled the character after Bettie Page. The character was partly inspired by the short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Rappaccini's Daughter, about a maiden who tends a garden of poisonous plants and eventually becomes resistant to the poisons, but in the process she herself becomes poisonous to others. BTAS's version of the character is (at this stage at least) less fantastical than her comic book counterpart. She's just a skilled botanist who's good with poisons and possesses no superhuman powers, although she does have some kind of unexplained telepathic control over all those giant plant monsters she creates.

Notes and Quotes

--After this episode, Ivy is regularly incarcerated in Arkham Asylum rather than Stonegate.

--Along with Ivy, this episode also features the first appearance of Renee Montoya on the series.

--Bullock interrogating the restaurant staff was fun.

--Rosaceae Vularis does not translate to "wild thorny rose", but rather to "normal rose".

Escapee: "Who are you?"
Batman: "I'm your worst nightmare."

Escapee: "Big wings!"
Montoya: "Yeah, yeah, big wings. Move it along, pal."

Bullock: "So what'd you put in this mousse?"
Chef: "Chocolate, sugar, eggs, cream..."
Bullock: "Strychnine?"
Chef: "No, no. No strychnine. But I added just a pinch of vanilla."

Poison Ivy: "They can bury me in the ground, as deep as they like. But I'll grow back. We always grow back."

Two and a half out of four chocolate mousses.

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

What's funny is that Daniel just now finished making homemade chocolate mousse for Christmas dessert. :)

sunbunny said...

Wow Billie, I guess my invitation t the homemade chocolate mousse Christmas party got lost in the mail. That's cool. Fine. Whatever.

This is one of my favorite episodes because I ADORE Ivy. And honestly, in this one at least she was right. Even a cursory environmental survey should've turned up that building that stupid eyesore of a prison would cause a flower to go extinct. Methinks some of Bruce's money went to greasing a few wheels...

There's a GREAT callback to this episode in "Almost Got 'Im"

CoramDeo said...

The Batman fan in me says, 'Meh. Ivy's had better stories.' The dedicated television watcher in me says 'It's awesome that Harvey Dent shows up in a bunch of episodes before he becomes Two-Face.' The philosopher/historian in me says 'SEE? This is what happens when you reject the hierarchy of substances!' Bonus points for getting the hierarchy of substances joke without looking it up.