Batman: The Animated Series – Episode 05 – Pretty Poison
Writer: Paul Ruegger (Teleplay), Paul Dini & Michael Reaves (Story)
Director: Boyd Kirkland
Theme Score: Shirley Walker
Episode Score: Shirley Walker
Animation Studio: Sunrise
Story Editors: Paul Dini & Tom Ruegger
I’ve always enjoyed the character of Poison Ivy, and this serves as a fine platform for her character. Kirkland makes his debut here and he’ll be a notable presence in BTAS, often working closely with Ivy associated episodes including Harley and Ivy and House & Garden later in the series. A lot of his career was spent working on shows such as G.I. Joe, Spider-Man, and Thundarr the Barbarian prior.
As a director, much like Kevin Altieri, he takes a lot of unique angles to shots and helps the composition highlight from the get go as Ivy’s shown digging a plant out while Mayor Hill presents a groundbreaking ceremony with Harvey Dent (Richard Moll) and Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy). I love the little touch of promoting the change in land development with the caption, “A Better, Safer Gotham 5 Years Later,” knowing what we know of the Rogues gallery and Arkham Asylum. It also really helps set up Ivy’s character throughout the episode and the patience she shows for her revenge.
Kirkland does a great pan down capturing the ‘action’ in the background of cop cars racing down the street while the story shifts to the Rose Café where Pamela Isley and Harvey Dent are out on a date while waiting for Bruce Wayne. I love the intercutting of Batman’s pursuit of the escaped convict with the dinner date conversation, a classic way of showing two scenes going on simultaneously while not taking away from either one (a tactic Tiny Toons excelled it constantly) and Kirkland handles it well.
I really love the shot off the window glass from behind Bruce and Isley as Harvey lays, blurred and out of focus, in his hospital bed. Even in this little shot, it gives off the stoic ‘Batman’ vibe that Bruce always carries around with him while showcasing Isley as the innocent, loving girlfriend she supposedly is (despite being with Harvey for presumably a week at most).
The story has Paul Dini’s fingerprints all over it along with a lot of little touches from Michael Reaves. Reaves had worked on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and would work on Gargoyles afterwards and the action in this episode clearly showcases his contributions. Dini would work concurrently on Animaniacs while have worked prior on Tiny Toon Adventures and had even written an episode of Transformers. Dini was also use to characters and action, having written for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in the early 1980s.
The episode has a lot of great touches including showing the GCPD at their desks and Bullock going back to retrieve a donut. I really love the details of this story including character growth that generally gets overlooked such as Batman being in such a hurry, and Alfred being so used to it, that he brings a coat directly out to hand off at the Batmobile. It also shows how close the two of them are that Alfred already has Bruce’s car in mind out front idling with a full tank.
In a bit of an amusing touch, Isley is listed on her Gotham University I.D. as living on 69 Green Street, given her attitude towards men and later team ups with Harley Quinn, it probably meant nothing but is a fun little in joke for fans to see on rewatches.
It’s always fun seeing Bruce use his detective capabilities and it’s full on in this episode, another nod towards the writing prowess of Dini & Reaves as well as their familiarity with Batman as a character. He’s able to deduce where Isley works, her background, and goes to investigate her as a potential suspect involved in Harvey’s poisoning. This also ties back into his disbelief over Harvey’s rushing into possibly proposing marriage to her as well given how short the two have known each other.
Plot wise, the episode remains strong throughout as there’s a real sense that Harvey’s life is in danger from seeing the Wild Thorny Rose dug up earlier and the revelation from Alfred later in the Batcave. As Batman enters, there’s some great stuff going on facially as he gets literally tied up in vines and dragged during a gigantic Venus Flytrap. The end is solid with Ivy going for another kiss, knowing it worked on Harvey, but again Batman’s detective capabilities are spotlighted as he had a counter measure believing that Ivy may have poisoned Harvey this way. I really, really like the ending as Batman arrests Ivy after trading her beloved plant to her for the antidote using his smarts to prey on her own vulnerabilities.
The voice work is another highlight of this episode with Conroy and Moll easily going back and forth like they actually had been friends for years. Conroy does a solid job transitioning from Batman to Wayne and from thinking Harvey’s pulling his leg to genuine concern. Diane Pershing, much like Conroy as Batman, does a great job subtly switching from a more seductive tone with Isley to a bit of a darker attitude and bite as Ivy. This is shown best when she comes upon Batman’s being caught and starts to explain why Dent had to pay.
Sunrise, notable for doing a plethora of Anime over in Japan, is mostly solid, albeit a little bit jerky at times in character movements but a lot of the up close facials really work and stand out. Some of the long shots don’t come off as tightly but the overall character models hold up and the use of close ups by Kirkland helps the animators stay strong where they needed to emphasize it. The close up on Bullock as he interrogates the chef is a particular highlight.
The design of Isley is fantastic from the get go, our first real “knockout” of a woman and it’s clear Dini & Reaves wanted to spotlight the fact that Isley is a very attractive woman to highlight her deadliness when she kisses Harvey and poisons him. Even the way the men have to look at Isley as she leaves the Rose Café says more than words could. Sunrise does a really solid job for the most part, although depicting Ivy’s anger and rage kind of gets wonky at the end of the episode.
One of my favorite directing shots and animated shots in the entire episode is how Isley removes her hat before talking to her rose. It’s a very simple shot but the way Isley removes the hat yet again displays a thin aspect of her natural seductive capabilities. The ensuing scene also comes off as a bit romantic as well and showcases Isley’s greater affection for her plants than others. A fantastic way of showing, not telling, which is further expanded on with Ivy dragging a finger seductively over Batman’s shoulder.
The score is mostly solid although kept somewhat in the background with the exception of the first 5 minutes and last 5 minutes of the episode.
Next Week: Episode 6, The Under-Dwellers