From almost the beginning of Batman: The Animated Series, the creators attempted, much like in the comics, to try new things with the format and try things that broke with the already-established formula. We saw last week an episode that condensed an entire story into one hour, and this week we’ll take a look at one that shifts focal points and protagonists about as much as a Game of Thrones book. How could three people have such different interpretations of the same event? That’s exactly the problem in “P.O.V.”
We begin with two of Gotham’s finest, Officer Renee Montoya and rookie Officer Wilkes, speeding to a warehouse that is to be the site of a sting operation to take down some drug lords. They’re supposed to be meeting Detective Harvey Bullock to go in together, but when they arrive they find the warehouse engulfed in flames and Bullock outside nursing a walloped head. Montoya heads inside, Wilkes chases after two gangsters getting away, and Bullock passes out after spying the Batman on top of the building.
We then cut to an interrogation room hours later with the three officers being grilled by Internal Affairs Agent Hackle. He suggests all three cops were in on the botched sting and taking bribes to look the other way. Everybody, including an observing Commissioner Gordon, thinks this is way out of line, but he has a point; if nothing happened, why did the whole thing end up going sideways? Bullock claims it was Batman’s fault, as well as the two other cops for being late. Montoya protests, saying they were on time.
This leads to the bulk of the episode, whereupon each of the three cops get a chance to tell the IA man things from their own points of view (hence the title, duh). The genius part of this Rashomon device is that, while we hear each character give their account in his or her own words, we see what ACTUALLY happened. This is especially evident during Bullock’s testimony. He makes it sound like he only went into the warehouse to salvage Batman’s screw-up, but we can clearly see that this is, of course, not the case.
Next we hear from the rookie Wilkes, who talks in awe of Batman stopping the thugs’ getaway car using magical powers, though we of course know they’re just gadgets. Finally, it’s officer Montoya’s turn, and her version of things is the closest to the visual truth. She saw Batman burned alive in the warehouse. All three officers get suspended until further notice, but Montoya keeps figuring things out, eventually clicking on half-heard words meaning another warehouse at the docks, where the baddies are holding a very much still alive Batman. The two of them then work together to take out the gang.
This episode doesn’t try anything fancy in terms of the crime plot, but that gives it plenty of room to do interesting things with the narrative structure. None of the three stories are particularly long but they give a very accurate demonstration of the state of mind of the three cops; Bullock hates Batman and so makes him sound like the fool, Wilkes idolizes Batman and buys into the myth of him being something other than human, and Montoya is a realist who tells the truth. All three also get things slightly wrong (at least) and it’s only we, and Batman, who know the full story.
One other quick thing I want to point out: the main gang member, the huge and most sinister of them, is drawn to look like actor Rondo Hatton, whose face looked like an Easter Island statue from suffering from a pituitary disorder and who starred in several crime and horror films in the 1930s and early 1940s, most famously The Brute Man in 1946. The Animated Series would often base characters, especially one-off ones, on specific stars from that era of Hollywood. It immediately gives the thug a sense of character, and that he’s voiced by Ron Perlman makes it all the better.
Overall, “P.O.V.” is a nice little Batman-lite episode that gives the Gotham P.D., and specifically Officer Renee Montoya, an invention of this series, a time to shine.
Next week, we get a lot heavier with the two-part origin of one of the Dark Knight’s most complex and tragic villains, Harvey Dent, in a story that bears his more famous name, “Two-Face.”