Oh my! What an apt title for an episode. This is the kind of episode of Batman: The Animated Series that has a couple of interesting thematic moments, some good animation and dynamic action, but for whatever reason doesn’t really do a whole lot for me. The sad thing is, this began the final five episodes of the series. All of them were produced earlier than most of the previous ten which made up Season 3, but they more or less got buried for a whole year until September of 1995 when they all ran for five consecutive days from the 11th to the 15th. So, unfortunately, we’re getting mostly episodes that can’t hold a candle to what we’ve already covered, but everything that has a beginning also must have an end, and to begin with, we look at “The Terrible Trio.”
Written by Michael Reaves from a story by Reaves and Alan Burnett and directed by Frank Paur, “The Terrible Trio” ought to have been at least a solid second tier episode, but I think mostly falls down with the characterization of the villains. The Terrible Trio were actually from the comics, introduced in the late 1950s and have popped up here and there over the years. Trust fund kids who believe they’re actually better and more worthy of things than those not born into wealth, the three preppy a-holes, Lawford, Lydecker, and Hardwick (yes, Hardwick), put on masks corresponding to their family’s means of wealth and proceed to rob, hurt, and eventually attempt to murder anyone whom they consider lesser. Naturally, Batman, a rich kid who works on the side of justice, has none of it.
Late at night, three men in masks, one a fox, one a shark, and one a vulture, break into an office and begin stealing bags and bags of money. The middle-aged security guard attempts to stop them, but the Fox knocks him down, then berates how much the man gets paid and tosses him a bundle of cash to keep quiet. The guard has more self respect than that and turns him down. Batman and Robin burst in to thwart the trio and, after a fight, Robin is knocked unconscious and Batman has to take him out the window into the water below because the building, having caught fire, is about to explode.
Already this is a weird opening. These guys are just thrill-seeking thieves and they blow up a building? They might be able to do it once, but there’s no way they should keep besting Batman and Robin. Obviously, if they were just easily defeated, the episode wouldn’t happen, but it’s still a bit bombastic for the first crime of the episode. Anyway, these guys are d-holes so it makes sense.
The papers call them the Terrible Trio, and have pictures of them and everything, but not who they really are. Bruce Wayne knows the real people and has a charity skeet-shooting contest with them. Warren Lawford, Armand Lydecker, and Gunther Hardwick are all trust fund douches who went to the same fraternity. Warren is the ringleader and is the most outspokenly hateful toward “the help,” which he says to Bruce when he thanks the man who hands him his next shell. Bruce just says he was raised to be polite, but Warren thinks people with menial jobs are literally lower and less worthy than those with means. He despises them and doesn’t think anything of hurting them. Perhaps because d-bags get girls they don’t deserve, Rebecca Fallbrook, the daughter of a very wealthy man, is Warren’s girlfriend even though her father doesn’t approve.
Rebecca’s father won’t give her all the money she wants and so Warren, nice guy that he is, gives her a check. However, he tells the other two in the trio that Mr. Fallbrook is going to pay them back with interest. That night, the Trio make their way to the Fallbrook house and begin looking the place, except Mr. Fallbrook is home and has a gun, two things they were led to believe were not the case. The old man calls the cops, but the Trio are able to pull the plug on the phone and beat the old man senseless. Just for fun, because he can, Warren steals Mr. Fallbrook’s special tie pin as he makes his getaway.
They think they’ve gotten away Scot free, but they haven’t. Batman gives chase in the Batmobile, but the Trio have grenades in their car and begin dropping them toward the Dark Knight. Once they’ve expelled all their bombs, Batman fires the mobile’s grappling hook and begins to pull their car toward him. Luckily for them, Shark is an excellent marksman and is able to shoot a pistol at high speed and break the Batmobile’s tether to them. Batman isn’t letting up, so Warren tells the other two to throw the money out the back, and when they do, all the people on the street begin running out to try to grab as much as possible, blocking Batman’s path and allowing the Trio to escape.
Bruce Wayne goes to visit Rebecca and her father in the hospital but quickly Warren arrives and talks his magic and tells Rebecca they should go up to the mountains and forget all this. She agrees and Bruce is left suspicious. He goes into Mr. Fallbrook’s room and takes note of the very particular indentation that was left in his forehead after being punched. He takes an image of it and goes back to the Batcave where he determines that, of course, it’s a fraternity ring emblem and who else would be so cavalier and heartless than the three rich pricks he’s already met?
Up in Warren’s mountain cabin, he and the others day they’re going to make Rebecca cheer up (he even says “with as much as you’re crying you’ve almost got me convinced you care about the old windbag”). However, when he goes to dry her eyes with his handkerchief, something falls out of his pocket. It’s the tie pin, and Rebecca would know it anywhere. She soon realizes who she’s dealing with, and they know she does. She insists she won’t tell anyone, but Warren says they can’t afford to let her change her mind, knock her out with chloroform, and the Trio then put her unconscious behind the wheel of her car and push it over a cliff. Real nice guys.
Luckily, Batman and Robin just HAPPENED to have been there with the Batwing and catch Rebecca’s car before it crashes. Then, Batman jumps out of the plane and proceeds to take out each of the men on snowy-covered foot, eventually ending with Warren who attempts to buy Batman off with a million dollars. When it’s clear Bats wants nothing to do with him, Warren yells that he’ll be out in no time because he has every judge in Gotham in his pocket. Cut to him being put in Stonegate Penitentiary and meeting his new, enormous, angry-looking cellmate.
Like I said, this just is a weird feeling episode. Clearly, the Trio, and especially Warren, are very closely tied to characters like Brandon and Philip in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, two high-society brats who believe they are predestined to have higher human worth than everyone else. Batman at one point says they’re worse than the Joker because at least the Joker has madness on his side. And it’s true; Warren is an awful, irredeemable, un-fun to watch villain. The whole time you just want Batman to punch him in the face repeatedly. There are only a handful or fewer villains on this show that I flatly hate and don’t even find joy in watching. Kyodai Ken, the ninja, is the only other one that pops directly to mind. Warren might be the worst villain in all of the series.
Next week is another atypical episode, but one I’m really looking forward to revisiting. It involves Ra’s al Ghul telling Batman and Robin a story from way back in his past; the Old West to be exact, when he came up against another do-gooder with a dark side, bounty hunter Jonah Hex. “Showdown” is next week, and we’re down to our final four episodes.