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BATMAN Reanimated – ‘Torch Song’ Goes Up in Smoke

BATMAN Reanimated – ‘Torch Song’ Goes Up in Smoke

While I haven’t been as bowled over by my re-watch of The New Batman Adventures as I was with my re-watch of Batman: The Animated Series a few years ago (read those reviews if you haven’t), in general I’ve been enjoying the 1997-1999 series well enough, and have lately been giving a lot of praise to the direction. Last week, I talked about “Over the Edge” which is far and away the best episode this series ever did. But now I get to talk about “Torch Song,” an episode that felt just kind of off, and small, and even silly at times.

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The story doesn’t quite gel together in this one, and the direction lacks any of the dynamism of the previous few episodes. One of the big issues is that New Batman employed several anime directors and animators to give the show some visual dexterity, but that also means the episodes that were directed by some of the in-house Kids’ WB directors just felt very by-the-books and flat by comparison.

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As for the story, Bruce Wayne is dragged by his new girlfriend-of-the-moment Shannon (voiced by The Go-Gos’ Jane Wiedlin) to a concert by the hot new pop star, Cassidy (voiced by singer Karla DeVito). Bruce runs into Barbara at the back of the theater as he and Shannon head up to the front. Backstage, Cassidy is confronted by her ex, Garfield Lynns, the tour’s pyrotechnics guy, who wants to make her pay for breaking his heart. She fires him, but this will be his last show…

Naturally, Lynns is a psychopath who wants revenge and blows up all the fire on the stage to a ridiculous level and Cassidy is almost engulfed in flames were it not for Batgirl swooping in. Meanwhile Bruce, at the front of the stage, could do nothing but look on. With the police, and Batman, on his trail, Lynns dons a flame-resistant suit with a jet pack of sorts and calls himself Firefly, vowing to make Cassidy (and the world) pay for hurting him because he’s a jerk.

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A couple things about this episode just don’t sit right with me. First and foremost is the villain of Firefly. While I certainly applaud the show for introducing new villains into the televised Rogues Gallery, most of them have had some kind of tragic or at least misguided beginning. Even Mad Hatter, who in TAS was obsessed with a co-worker and fixated on her, Alice in Wonderland-style, was a misguided, clearly emotionally damaged figure who just became a super villain. Garfield Lynns, excuse my French, is just an asshole. The first scene in which we see him, Lynns is shouting at Cassidy and calling her a tramp. I would never say we need to “like” a Batman villain, but there needs to be some kind of relatable sadness to them to make them compelling.

My other big issue in “Torch Song” is that there’s a weird cynicism I never would have picked up on when I was a kid. It all felt like they were trying to sell new action figures. It’s literally a matter of hours in the story of the episode between when Lynns sets fire to the stage and when he reappears in full Firefly gear. Had he been planning this for months? If Cassidy had been like, “You know what, let’s get back together,” he’d have wasted all of those resources? Furthermore, they didn’t even do a great job of animating his jet pack; sometimes he’s just flying with no propulsion. They used this opportunity to introduce a new Bat Flame Suit for Batman, which is a big armored, fire-resistant suit with no cape and a re-wired Mr. Freeze gun to fight the infernos. You could see a toy marketing person wringing their hands the whole time. And indeed, both of those became toys soon after.

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So, ultimately, this is not one of the better episodes and might actually be on the low end of the show’s output in total. Next week, we get one that’s much better remembered–a comedic look at a villain team-up as Killer Croc becomes partners with Baby Doll. It’s “Love’s a Croc” next go-round.

Let me know your thoughts on “Torch Song,” and the rest of Batman: Reanimated, 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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