Batman The Animated Series: It's Never Too Late

"All your power and money has bought you an empire of misery."

And now for something (almost) completely different.

The makers of BTAS were determined that the show wouldn't be typical Saturday morning cartoon fare. They didn't want to just tell tried and tested stories about Batman foiling OTT supervillian schemes and delivering blunt moral lessons at the end of each episode. They wanted to tell, for lack of a better term, more grown up stories. Stories where the villains were complex and even a little sympathetic. 'It's Never Too Late' is not one of the series best episodes, but it is one of the best examples of exactly what Timm and his team wanted to do with the show.

A cross between A Christmas Carol and Angels with Dirty Faces (a film about a gangster and a priest who used to be childhood friends), this episode tells the story of Arnold Stromwell, an aging gangster locked in a bloody gang war with his younger rival, Rupert Throne. The war isn't going well for Stromwell and to make matters worse his only son has disappeared. Believing that Throne is responsible, Stromwell sets up a meeting so he can call a truce and get back his son.

But Throne, unsurprisingly, pulls a double-cross and tries to have Stromwell assassinated. Luckily a certain local vigilante with a knack for the theatrical is on hand to save him. Hoping to make Stromwell's heart grow two sizes so he'll turn and testify against the city's other mobsters, Batman takes on the role of the Ghost of Christmas Present and gives Stromwell a tour of Gotham so he can see first hand the damage his criminal empire has wrought upon the city.

This is an episode that deliberately eschews everything we associate with comic book stories. There are no maniacal supervillains nor a race against time to stop some diabolical plot that will destroy all of Gotham. Batman is the only comic book element in this story, and even he is used in an atypical fashion, acting more as a guardian angel than as a shadowy figure of vengeance and violence. His goal here isn't just to bring down the mob, but to also save one man's soul by making him see the error of his ways so that when he finally does the right thing he does so for the right reasons, not because he's shit scared of the creep in the cape.


I Know That Voice

Stromwell was voiced by Eugene Roche who played E. Ronald Mallou, Esq. on Soap, Bill Parker on Webster, and Luther H. Gillis on Magnum P.I. Michael was voiced by Paul Dooley, who played John Shirley on Grace Under Fire and Enabran Tain on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Stromwell's wife, Connie, was voiced by Katherine Helmond best known for playing Jessica Tate on Soap, Mona Robinson on Who's the Boss? and Ida Lowry in Brazil.

Notes and Quotes

--The music playing in the restaurant at the beginning is 'O sole mio by Giovanni Capurro, Eduardo di Capua and Alfredo Mazzucchi.

--This is another episode that really pushed the boundary in what you could show in children's animation. Not only are there multiple references to drug dealing, something very taboo at the time, we even see a character who has become a junkie struggling with withdrawal.

--Pretty dumb of Stromwell to meet Thorne in a place he controlled rather than at a neutral location.

--Bruce has stepped up his undercover game since 'The Forgotten'.


Michael: "Arnold? That's one soul I wish I could give up on."

Stromwell: "I don't need your help!"
Michael: "Oh, is that a fact? An empire crumbling? A marriage shattered? A son lost? Sure, you're doing fine."

Two and a half out of four local vigilantes with a knack for the theatrical.

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

2 comments:

Chris said...

This is one of these episodes that on the one hand, I really appreciate for being a showcase of the TPTB's willingness to go way beyond what is normally depicted in superhero cartoons and to handle more serious and dark subject matter such as drug abuse. But on the other hand, I can't exactly call it a favorite of mine. It's a little hard to rate. I do like Batman's role here as more of a dark Guardian Angel than personification of vengeance, though.

sunbunny said...

Yawn. Needs more Batman. I get what they're trying to do but it's not what I want from BtAS, you know? It's edgy and mature but I want to see Harley Quinn cavorting around. As a kid maybe I would have appreciated being treated like an adult but as an adult, dammit I want to see kid stuff!