Batman: The Animated Series – Episode 8 – The Forgotten
Director: Boyd Kirkland
Writer: Jules Dennis, Richard Mueller, and Sean Catherine Derek
Story Editor: Sean Catherine Derek
Animation Studio: Dong Yang Animation w/NOA Animation on Layout Services
Theme Score: Shirley Walker
Episode Score: Shirley Walker
Right from the get go we have ourselves an episode hewed more towards classic TV and Movies such as Cool Hand Luke with a bluesy Harmonica riff played over the opening title card whilst the card features a barbed wire topped fence. It actually segues nicely into the slightly brooding score opening upon the streets of Gotham too. The score sort of works throughout but at times the up tempo brass of the action scenes tends to clash a little with the actual environment it’s all taking place in especially in contrast to the bluesy tone of the harmonica open.
I like that billionaire Bruce Wayne knows how to make himself over as a much older man with white hair and a stubble too. Part of me imagines him subtly getting makeup tips from his many ex-girlfriends. Plot wise, the episode kicks off with Bruce at a soup kitchen where the head laments that the homeless are starting to go missing and Bruce decides to investigate, thus making himself over.
After heading out, he comes upon two goons with one of them taking him out. Animation wise, the scene is well done if not a bit choreographed but seeing Bruce “fight” with both hands kept in his pockets is a nice touch to showing just how savvy he is as a fighter from his training and expertise.
Bruce wakes up, suffering from amnesia no less, and quickly befriends Salvo Smith (Lorin Dreyfuss) and Dan Riley (Dorian Haywood). Animation wise, Salvo definitely has similarities to what would later be Jonathan Crane’s character. Dreyfuss has a lot of fun with Salvo, supplying a lot of the comedic snark throughout the episode and proves to be one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dull episode. Voice wise, Conroy does a great job after realizing who he is of immediately switching from Bruce Wayne’s confused, exasperation to Batman’s determined, no nonsense style vocal delivery.
The plot quickly finds Bruce at, for all intents and purposes is a much smaller fascimile of a plantation, with the gang working to find gold ore for Boss Biggis (George Murdock). Biggis is a pretty bland character typified by the stereotypical heavyset (shown eating so we really get it) jerk owner who isn’t physical but just bosses and orders everybody around to get the fear of him.
Kirkland does a fine job directing wise as I especially love the transition shot of Bruce gazing up at the sun only for Kirkland to pan down on the Wayne Manor where Alfred is. One of the highlights in both directing and writing is the promotion of Alfred into Batman’s detective role as Alfred deduces that Bruce is gone and latches onto the Studebaker not being in the garage as a means of trying to track him down. The shot of Batman’s costume in gray whilst hiding is a mesmerizing visual and his yanking of the mook is something almost right out of Alien.
The writers try with the plot they have but it’s too one note and the characters just aren’t fleshed out enough to carry the episode on their backs as likely intended. Some of the lines are pretty funny but they stand out as much for the flatness of everything else. In a bit of depressing character development, Salvo remarks he’s there because it’s a job whereas Dan was abducted much like Bruce was. Unfortunately there isn’t much in the way of action except fighting up goons/mooks and the villain poses absolutely no threat at all. As sound as the potential of Bruce being amnesiac is, it’s wasted here because it’s just not interesting to watch on the whole and Savoy and Dan aren’t developed enough to engage the viewer on their own either. There is also nothing in the way of high stakes as the involvement of Alfred pretty much guaranteed that he would have some input into rescuing Bruce from the situation.
A lot of what works is largely in spite of the weak plot. Bruce’s nightmare scene involving the Joker showcases some fun from the animation studio while his inability to help everybody at the Dock Street Rescue Mission is a sad reality of life. Later, the fight involving Dan and he against Boss Biggis’ goons is enjoyable because at this point it’s rare to see Batman/Bruce fighting alongside anybody else. The realization of the Wayne grave marker and it shattering is another great visual effect by Kirkland and the animation studio. Also a bonus to the animation studio for calling back to Star Wars visually with the shot of Alfred going sideways in the Batplane within the canyon walls. The grays in the tunnels with the lights out are some of the more unique runs of animation in the series thus far and stand out in a pleasant way.
Overall Score: 61%. Hard to even call it a plot and the villain was the worst kind of villain with no backstory, no real emotional motivation, and no threat to Batman. The animation studio and Kirkland tried and there are some really neat visual elements throughout but everything else is just lacking and secondary which is a real shame. The two side characters had some potential to be one hit wonders but the script just gave them nothing to build off of and even their interactions with Bruce were limited. Skip this unless you want to appreciate the animation and some of Kirkland’s shots.
You can see past reviews here: Batman: The Animated Series Episode Reviews