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BATMAN Reanimated – ‘Over the Edge’ is Sheer Perfection

BATMAN Reanimated – ‘Over the Edge’ is Sheer Perfection

1992’s Batman: The Animated Series had a number of character-, series-, and genre-defining episodes, many written by head writer Paul Dini. “Heart of Ice,” “Almost Got ‘Im,” “Harley and Ivy,” and others come to mind. The 1997-1998 follow-up, The New Batman Adventure certainly has fewer of these standouts, but when an episode hit, boy did it ever, and arguably Dini’s best work came in the 11th broadcast episode, “Over the Edge,” which shows us the worst possible outcome of the Bat-Family’s nightly activities, and features break-neck action direction to boot.

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So far, the aspects of The New Batman Adventures that have stood out to me most during this re-watch have been the animation direction (though character designs I don’t love) and the hints that Batman is perhaps a reckless mentor figure for bringing children into his world. “Over the Edge” addresses those concerns head-on, but instead of having Batman himself deal with them directly, we get another character’s fear-induced fever dream rendition. It’s a bit of a cheat, but the episode is no less a gut-punch.

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The episode opens in the middle of an insane action sequence — Yuichiro Yano directed the episode, another key animator from Japan who became indispensable on Batman, Superman, animating “Never Fear” and “Mean Seasons” — where Batman and Robin are running for their lives in the Batcave as Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD open fire at them. Gordon tells “Bruce” to give it up, and the SWAT team blows up the Batmobile, forcing the Dynamic Duo to jump down to the water below for the Batboat, narrowly escaping getting shot because Alfred jumps on Gordon. Police boats give chase in Gotham Harbor and it’s only Nightwing’s sudden appearance that lets them get away.

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After regrouping, we get a flashback of exactly what happened: Batman and Batgirl were fighting Scarecrow on a rooftop and he wallops Batgirl, sending her down to the streets below, right in front of Gordon and Det. Bullock. As they call for an ambulance, she weakly says “Dad” before dying. Finally Gordon knows the truth, and he’s angry. Bullock attempts to arrest Batman for murder (I mean, by association, I GUESS. Reckless endangerment resulting in death for sure) but Batman takes off. Gordon proves not to be a blind fool, and quickly figures out that Batman is Bruce Wayne, which leads to both Dick Grayson and Tim Drake becoming wanted fugitives as well. Dick even gets arrested.

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Unmasking the Batman in public and the ramifications of the PD’s tacit allowance of vigilante activity then leads to a cadre of villains coming forward and starting a class action lawsuit, citing the Batman as the cause of their fragile mental conditions. Harley Quinn, Mad Hatter, the Riddler, and the Ventriloquist even go on a talk show to tell their sob stories about the horrible Batman. Gordon, meanwhile, hires Bane to find and take out Batman and after a double-cross, the three men end up on the roof, and Bats and Gordon fall to their deaths…

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…just in time for Barbara Gordon to wake up, in the Batcave, finally having kicked the Scarecrow’s fear toxin. It was her dream all along, her biggest fear being her secret life catching up with her real life. She decides to tell her father the truth, but he more or less says “you’re an adult, you can make your own decisions, and I’ll support you the whole way.”

It’s sweet, granted, but I found myself incredibly troubled. We saw, albeit in a nightmare, what would happen if her father found out the truth following an accidental death, and instead of getting out ahead of it, Barbara just hugs her dad when he says she can do whatever she wants. Not to mention that Batman IS guilty of endangering the lives of children and youths to further his incredibly dangerous nighttime activities.

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“Over the Edge” is a dark what-if story of the worst case scenario for both Gotham City and anyone associated with Batman, and to Dini’s credit, the episode ends back at status quo but none of the legitimate problems are addressed. Batman is still culpable for everything, Commissioner Gordon would be completely justified in being kept in the dark by his friend and ally for so long, and Gotham City would effectively collapse. It’s brilliant writing, and a brilliant episode top to bottom.

Next week, however, we talk about what is considered a pretty poor episode by most fans: “Torch Song,” in which a pop singer is stalked by an obsessive pyrotechnician who’s calling himself Firefly. Oh good.

Let me know your thoughts on “Over the Edge” 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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