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BATMAN Reanimated – ‘Double Talk’ Shows the Dark Knight’s Softer Side

BATMAN Reanimated – ‘Double Talk’ Shows the Dark Knight’s Softer Side

Stemming almost entirely because I taped it and an episode of Animaniacs one afternoon when I was a kid, I’ve seen the episode “Read My Lips” of Batman: The Animated Series about a million times, and as such the character(s) of the Ventriloquist and Scarface became favorites for me. Such a weird idea: a meek nobody has a split personality that he puts into a wooden dummy of a crime boss, and he’s good enough that criminals follow him. He only had a couple appearances in TAS, and returned for only one episode of The New Adventures of Batman, fittingly titled “Double Talk.”

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This episode actually feels the most to me so far like it could have fit in Batman: TAS; it’s told mostly from the villain’s point of view and there’s a fair amount of nightmare sequence/mental breakdown stuff which the earlier show did so often, and brilliantly. It’s also one of the more optimistic and redemptive episodes. I’ve always had the sense that Batman’s at his best when he decides to help the criminally insane instead of just beat them up. He clearly hates Penguin and Riddler and Scarecrow, but he has compassion and pity for Mr. Freeze and Two-Face, and Arnold Wesker.

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The episode opens with Wesker—known in the criminal world as the Ventriloquist—getting released from Arkham Asylum with a clean bill of health, free of his alter-ego Scarface. He moves into a halfway house owned by the Wayne Foundation, and Bruce Wayne even gives him a job in the mail room of Wayne Enterprises. Everything seems to be looking up for Wesker, except he runs across Scarface’s old henchmen, Rhino and Mugsy. They try to taunt the poor man into bringing back Scarface, and Batman has to come and beat them up.

It doesn’t stop there, though. Wesker starts getting phone calls from Scarface, and even seeing him across the street and on city buses.

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Batman and Batgirl keep tabs on Wesker, who is slowly losing his grip on reality and finding himself slipping back into his old ways. One night, Batman even sees what looks like the dummy itself running on the rooftops surrounding Wesker’s apartment and this pushes Wesker over the edge, fully embracing Scarface again and plotting a new heist: Lucius Fox has just put millions of untraceable bearer bonds in the Wayne Enterprises safe. Clearly someone is trying to drive Arnold Wesker back to a life of crime. But who, and why?

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“Double Talk” is an episode that presents a quite effective mystery plot where you’re never sure—as Wesker isn’t—if “Scarface” is real, just in his head, or an elaborate hoax. Either way, the result is the same, and it’s something Batman clearly wants to prevent. It’s rare to see Batman in the role of rehabilitater instead of crime-stopper, but it’s actually quite refreshing. And since this is his last appearance in the animated series, we can sort of take solace in the notion that just this once, Batman’s efforts were successful.

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And, for you Easter egg fans out there, there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo during the scene in which Wesker goes to the park in the middle of the day. He walks through the scene of people sitting on the lawn and playing catch and what not and in the back of the frame for half a second you can see Clark Kent and Lois Lane sitting on the grass enjoying a summer’s day. Weird, huh?

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Next week, we’ll hit some sweet-ass Joker business in the episode “Joker’s Millions,” a comedy based on the movie Brewster’s Millions. Get it? Let me know your thoughts on “Double Talk” in the comments below!

Images: WB Animation


Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. He’s written the animation retrospectives Batman: Reanimated, X-Men: Reanimated, Cowboy Rebop, and Samurai reJacked. Follow him on Twitter!

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