Batman: The Animated Series was a landmark piece of pop culture entertainment. It was the start of the Bruce Timm and Paul Dini universe of cartoons alongside Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, and Justice League. The show is responsible for the creation of Harley Quinn, who is now one of the most popular characters in all of the DC universe. A few episodes of Batman: The Animated Series were nominated for and even won Emmy awards. One of those episodes was “Heart of Ice,” a story that completely changed Mr. Freeze’s backstory for the better.
However, not every episode of Batman: The Animated Series was a classic like “Heart of Ice.” There were many episodes that did not meet the standards of other all-time great episodes. The following 15 episodes are the bottom of the barrel. Many of them feature villains either created for the show or were so obscure even die hard Bat-fans wouldn’t recognize them. A few at least feature well-known characters like Catwoman or the Penguin. These episodes are so bad they threaten to topple the legacy of what Batman: The Animate Series created. Note: This list contains episodes from Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures.
15. YOU SCRATCH MY BACK
This episode sneaks into the number 15 slot because it is all about Nightwing being a brat. Dick Grayson is so determined to make it as a vigilante on his own, outside the shadow of Batman, that he gets tricked by Catwoman into making several bone-headed mistakes. It’s an episode full of cringe moments watching Nightwing stumble through these situations all the while being arrogant towards Batman and Batgirl.
Catwoman, for her part, acts just like she always had. Can’t fault her for that. But come on Nightwing, she’s the same Catwoman she’s always been! This episode is the first time audiences saw Catwoman’s divisive new costume design. It is heavily influenced by Michelle Pfeiffer’s costume from Batman Returns. Her new costume is completely black making it hard to understand how her character is moving in any given scene.
Gather round y’all for a story I reckon you ain’t never heard before. Ol’ Farmer Brown and his daughter were simple farmers/microbiologists who developed grotesque farm animals that could supply more meat than ordinary animals. When one of the animals got loose, those dang government city types banned Farmer Brown from the city. Farmer Brown spent the next year, and an unknown fortune, on developing more animals that would terrorize Gotham.
This episode is borderline so-bad-it’s-good. There are lots of dopey farm-based puns that even the voice actors couldn’t muster enthusiasm for. The plot makes no sense. Farmer Brown demands $50M from Gotham, but how much money did he spend on his massive indoor farming facility? Is he just going to break even? The monster designs are the only redeeming factor and even they seem out of place in this series.
13. MEAN SEASONS
Paige Monroe was a fashion model kicked out of the industry when she hit 30 years old. After that, she created holiday-themed costumes and kidnapped her former employers. Throughout the episode, the audience is shown all the various ways women are treated poorly in the fashion and entertainment industry. The end is straight out of the Twilight Zone: Calendar Girl wears a mask to hide her grotesque, but beneath it is a face that’s still beautiful, only she doesn’t believe this anymore.
Sure, this show was meant for any aged person to watch and many of the episodes work on multiple levels, but it’s a little bit too serious of subject matter for what this show was about. This one though feels more like an after school PSA episode. Not to mention the calendar-themed weapons and costumes were uninspired. Also, Chippendale’s henchmen? Borderline inappropriate.
What do you get when you cross Gollum with Elmyra from Tiny Toon Adventures? You get Mary Louise Dahl, the former actress turned kidnapper known as Baby-Doll. Her grand scheme is to kidnap former co-stars because they were big meanies to her. Baby-Doll has the condition “severe systemic hypoplasia,” which means she looks like a five year old for her whole life. The fact that Baby-Doll speaks in an annoying pipsqueak voice is totally her choice though.
The worst part of this episode is the artificial de-powering of Batman and Robin. Of course Baby-Doll isn’t a threat to the dynamic duo; not even the grade-Z thugs Baby-Doll hires can stand up to them. Nevertheless, the show insists that Batman really would double over in pain being hit with tennis balls. Or somehow getting walloped with a stuffed doll would stagger Batman. It’s just absolutely ridiculous.
11. SEE NO EVIL
This episode is more Scooby-Doo than Batman. The villain, Lloyd Ventrix, wears a suit that makes him invisible. Ventrix reveals himself when that meddling Batman won’t let him get away with it. It, in this context, is Ventrix kidnapping his own daughter because his ex-wife has a restraining order against him. It’s all sorts of gross. Although, it is kind of hilarious how poorly Ventrix’s plan goes.
This episode has an unusually high number of jokes in it. Most of the jokes are in response to something unusual happening with an invisible man running around. They are dumb observations like seeing Batman on the roof of an invisible car and stating, “I didn’t know he could fly.” The jokes are there to undercut the icky-factor of Ventrix’s character but they just end up being groan worthy.
10. PROPHECY OF DOOM
More like Prophecy of Dumb. Astrology, horoscopes, healing crystals, lay lines, harmonic frequencies, and planets in retrograde are all junk science that is a scourge to our society. This episode features an out-of-work actor playing the part of the future seer, Nostromos, who commits acts of sabotage to prove his predictions correct. Even though this episode clowns on the pseudo-science concepts, and the gullible people who fall for them, it’s still giving those concepts airtime.
For a 22-minute cartoon, it is an absolute slog to get through. Most of the runtime is a slow burn about a bunch of rich doofuses who believe in the snake oil that Nostromos is pitching. Even the moments of danger have no real stakes to them. The final action sequence is okay compared to what came before, but still at the bottom of the list of great action scenes this series produced.
9. NIGHT OF THE NINJA
Batman goes up against a ninja! Remember how cool it was when Batman fought the League of Shadows in Batman Begins? This episode is the opposite of that. It contains virtually no awesome martial arts fights. Rather, every fight between the ninja Kyodai Ken is abruptly stopped short. The final fight is especially bad when Robin proves himself to be unimaginably useless.
The rest of the episode is divided between lame burglaries of Wayne Enterprises or flashbacks to Bruce’s training in Japan. These flashback sequences are from when Bruce was traveling the world gaining skills to become the Batman. There’s nothing noteworthy about them. There’s a cliched story about two students who become enemies. Also, it pains to say this, but Kevin Conroy’s young Bruce Wayne sounds bad because it’s too nasally and wimpy.
8. IT’S NEVER TOO LATE
You know that old saying: “Kids love slow-paced melodramas about gangsters reflecting on a life of crime.” It’s Never Too Late perfectly nails that aesthetic. It’s just too bad this is a show in which a man dressed as a bat fights other men in silly suits. This type of story might have worked in the comics, but Batman: The Animated Series was first and foremost a kid’s show.
This episode is a bit of a stealth reboot of It’s A Wonderful Life, which, again, this was supposed to be a kid’s show. Batman takes Arnold Stromwell, the old guard of the Gotham mob, around on a tour of Stromwell’s old haunts to show him the damage he’s done to the city and his family. Sure, kids should be shown “crime doesn’t pay,” but yeesh, what a snooze of an episode.
7. THE UNDERDWELLERS
A group of homeless children are turned into pickpockets and thieves by the super-creepy and disturbing Sewer King. The Sewer King is an abusive jerk who treats children poorly all so he can live a life of luxury underground. What? You’d think by the end of the episode we’d see Batman give the Sewer King his comeuppance, but no. Batman knocks him out like every other goon and we’re left to assume Sewer King goes to jail. And in Gotham, that’s no guarantee at all.
Halfway through the episode there’s a hilarious (re: not funny) sequence in which Alfred babysits one of the homeless children. It’s a moment that completely falls flat and is out of place in the series. The music in this episode is also out of place. The score, normally phenomenal, is distracting because it changes tone so frequently.
6. TYGER TYGER
This is Batman: The Animated Series’ riff on The Island of Dr. Moreau. Dr. Emile Dorian uses the formula that created villain Man-Bat to turn animals into humanoids. He even turns Selina Kyle into a literal cat-woman. That’s about as clever as the episode gets. The actor playing Dorian delivers lines so flatly it can lull even the most attentive viewer to sleep.
The whole episode is dry and devoid of any emotion. The cat and mouse game between Batman and Tygrus contains no real dangers. Even after falling into a seemingly bottomless canyon, Batman safely lands in a tree. Selina is annoyingly useless in the episode as well. Sure, she was turned into an animal, but was still able to talk and fight. Normally she’s such an interesting and capable character. In this, she is reduced to a nothing role.
5. TORCH SONG
Torch Song is the first appearance of Firefly in the animated series. Firefly, Garfield Lynns is a sad-sack creep lord so hung up on his ex-girlfriend, Cassidy, that he turns to a life of crime and terrorism. Firefly has always been a C-list villain whose impotent rage is inversely proportional to how effective he is as a villain. He is so lame that his grand scheme to blow up Gotham’s sewers unravels almost immediately.
The episode ends on a sour note. After being kidnapped and nearly burned to death on several occasions, Cassidy finds herself paralyzed with fear, seeing a simple burner. It’s a really weird choice to show Cassidy as living with a lifetime fear of fire even though she didn’t do anything to be punished with that life-long fear.
4. MOON OF THE WOLF
Batman versus a werewolf? How could that go wrong? A couple of ways. One, Batman displays stunning stupidity when he agrees to go to Olympic athlete Anthony Romulus’ house. Romulus put an advertisement in the newspaper he wants to meet Batman one on one to give him money for charity. Wouldn’t Batman be aware how much of an ambush that situation could be?
Two, the werewolf was a plot put in motion by Professor Milo, the weirdo with the bowl cut hair and proclivity for genetically altering animals. Professor Milo is a terrible villain. The Joker is a murderer but at least he’s a compelling character. Professor Milo is a sniveling twit and a vacuum of personality. Third, the explanation of how Romulus became a werewolf is so dramatically inert, it’s sleep inducing. Finally, what does “Moon of the Wolf” even mean?!
3. THE MECHANIC
Batman’s mechanic gets kidnapped by the Penguin and is forced to make dangerous changes to the Batmobile. So many questions and plotholes plague this episode. Why does Batman need a mechanic for his car? Does he also have a mechanic for the Bat-plane? Why is this mechanic in an external location? Why not have him live in the Batcave full-time? Why doesn’t Batman have 24-hour surveillance on his mechanic?
Like Moon of the Wolf, this episode also features a boring flashback sequence explaining who Earl the mechanic is and how he came to be. Of course, since it’s a Penguin episode, it’s expected to be terrible. It’s shocking that the Penguin can keep hiring goons in Gotham, because he is an objective failure of a supervillain.
2. THE TERRIBLE TRIO
Three smarmy, arrogant rich jerks team up to wear cheap animals masks and commit crimes. Like Prophecy of Doom, this episode does not look kindly on its villain. However, it is still rage-inducing to watch the Terrible Trio gang in and out of their costumes. Every line from Fox, the leader, makes you want to punch your television because of how condescending he is.
Batman even says in the episode, “Scoundrels like these are worse than the Joker. At least he’s got madness as an excuse.” Watching these 1% scumbags pursue a life of crime because, in their words, they were bored absolutely makes your blood boil. Even though the end shows Fox in jail, you can’t help but think he’ll get out sooner than another prisoner from a poor economic background.
1. I’VE GOT BATMAN IN MY BASEMENT
Two nerdy kids see a vulture in Gotham – yes, a vulture! – and decide they must check it out. This starts a farce of an episode that sees the kids accidentally saving Batman again and again. Who could be the villainous mastermind trying to stop them? Why none other than perpetually useless Penguin! After the events of this episode, the other Gotham villains should have exiled Penguin for being so ineffective.
Who is this episode for? Certainly not adults. It’s horribly annoying watching the klutzy kids try to operate the Batmobile or other bat-gadgets. It’s not for kids either. Kids want to pretend they’re awesome crimefighters like Robin or Batgirl. No kid thinks to themselves, “I want to drive the Batmobile, but not know what any of the buttons do!” From start to finish, this episode is wall-to-wall frustration.
Have you managed to trudge through each of these episodes? Let us know in the comments which one you hate the most!