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BTAS #15 & 16
Cat and Claw
Directed by Kevin Altieri
Directed by Dick Sebast
Parts 1 and 2
Story by Sean Catherine Derek
and Laren Bright
Teleplay by Jules Dennis
and Richard Mueller
It is to be expected that coming off of an episode like Heart of Ice, debatably one of the best of the whole show, it can be easy to be disappointed at the next episode for not being as good. That being said, outside of that bad taste in my mouth going into this review, these two episodes struck me about the same as The Underdwellers did. There was great character, good occasional lines, decent action, but I was constantly distracted by a bad overall plot and a horrible and uninteresting villain. That is in no way to say that these episodes do not have value though. In particular, there are two things to know about this episode.
The first of, which is the more obvious, is that this is the introduction episode for Catwoman. Personally I really like this version of Catwoman, but I wish she got a better introduction episode as she does deserve some respect in this version, but I’ll get to that later. The second thing of note is this was actually the first episode to air. Often with TV shows like this, they will release a mid-season episode before the premiere as a sneak peek just to entice interest in the premiere. These two episodes for most people were the first impression they had on BTAS…. I’m not sure that’s a great thing though.
Our episode begins with Catwoman scaling the side of a building. It is worth mentioning that this Catwoman is using special claws that allow her to climb the walls. She does not have any mutation or supernatural abilities of any kind in this version.
People often go back and forth on whether or not Catwoman has powers, and this version chooses to leave her as a cat burglar only and not a Metahuman. Although I have seen both versions of the character work effectively, and there are Metahumans in this show, I think it works better for this version. Her portrayal works similar to Poison Ivy’s in a good way: She does not act like a cat, she is not part cat, she does not have cat powers, she is not sexually aroused by cats, she is an activist who loves cats, and when she turns to crime she themes herself accordingly.
The other unique aspect of Catwoman’s character is that so far in the series, as odd as it sounds, she’s the only main Batman Villain who is into crime purely for financial gain. Most are in it for revenge, public status, or for the sake of spreading chaos or panic. Penguin comes the closest, but he steals in order to fulfill his compulsion for sophistication. He’s not interested in stealing for money, he does it for class. For a character most people accuse of being generic and boring, I was surprised to find such a unique trait.
Catwoman uses her claws to cut the glass window of a wealthy sleeping woman. After Catwoman cuts the hole out, she then commands her cat assistant, Isis, to jump through the whole and steal the woman’s prized necklace. According to online sources, Isis is supposed to be a Siamese. This version however must have had Catwoman dye her fur as they are typically dual toned. Isis looks carefully at the necklace in the display and the visuals imply that Isis is able to focus her eyes to see security beams that humans wouldn’t be able to see. I am unaware if cats can actually do this, but I’m going to put it in the “superhero logic” category.
Batman spots Catwoman as she exits the building. She jumps to the ground when she hears Batman coming after her. The animation on this episode has a few cool, but inconsistent moments. One of the better of these is the design of Batman’s face as he scowls at Catwoman. It is reminiscent of the style used in the iconic “Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns”. Catwoman tries to flirt with Batman, but Batman shrugs it off. Catwoman then makes a run for it.
The tradeoff between Catwoman and Batman has always been that Batman is stronger but slower, and Catwoman is quicker and has more agility. This series follows that rule very well. Even without powers, Catwoman leaps off the side of the building and latches to a flagpole with her whip to get back to the rooftops. She is surprised to find Batman waiting for her in the shadows when she gets there.
The two of them then continue on in a beautifully animated chase scene that ends in a brief fight scene where Catwoman makes a slash in Batman’s cape. (Which based on your own interpretation ranges from an impressive to laughably impossible feat.) Catwoman and Isis run across the street, but Isis is stunned and startled when an oncoming truck’s high beams hit her. Luckily for Isis, Batman dives in and gets her out of the way before the car can hit her. Catwoman calls Isis with a whistle and is seen blowing Batman a kiss before escaping. Batman looks up at where she stood with a flirtations whistle and remarks about the piece of Isis’ hair that she left behind.
Batman and Catwoman’s first encounter is pretty well handled and establishes the flirtatious nature that this relationship is built on. The mechanic has always been to juxtapose differences between the relationship between Batman and Catwoman and the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. We will see how the latter relationship is handled later in the episode.
Bruce Wayne is seen attending a charity bachelor auction for a mountain lion based Wildlife Reserve. Bruce is called up to the stage and the women in the crowd begin to bid on him. Starting at $500, the price continues to go up and up and up until a voice in the back of the room screams out $10,000. The voice from the back of the room is Selina Kyle.
Bruce stares at her as she stands under the spotlight at the back of the bar. Bruce surprisingly gets flustered and nervous talking to her, and after she says that he’s not obligated to go on the date, he insists on taking her out. Bruce and the others hear gunshots outside and when Selina and her assistant turn to look where it came from, Bruce disappears.
This scene has another example of a unique animation style, but it’s one used other places in media. In this technique, main characters in a scene are animated normally while background players are painted dark blue. This symbolizes their lack of importance as they appear like outlines blending into the backgrounds. Some say this is done for budgetary reasons on scenes with large crowds of people, but this show has enough crowd scenes I’m going to assume Altieri did this in order to help guide the eye through such a busy scene.
Batman tracks down the gunfire coming from a cell of well-experienced criminals that are stealing a truck of army supplies and weapons. They are seen keeping the cops at bay by shooting a Vickers out the back door of the Truck. Batman jumps onto the truck and strategically crashes it. Commissioner Gordon shows up with several officers to take over the situation. Gordon informs Batman that Red Claw, an extremely dangerous terrorist, has been spotted. Batman is advised to keep a look out.
Selina Kyle gets ready for her date in her lofty apartment surrounded by her several cats. She continues to make jabbing, obvious statements about how she’d rather be going out with Batman. Usually, I welcome these double meaning jokes, but the actor’s delivery just feels on the nose. Bruce welcomes her at the door with flowers and a compliment, but she is quickly called away by her assistant for a phone call with her lawyer. Selina is furious when she finds out that the company Multigon International has overturned a legal matter and purchased the Mountain Lion Reserve that she was donating money to at the auction. Selina apologizes, but Bruce comes to the rescue by nonchalantly picking up the phone and asking her what time she would like a meeting with their president.
Multigon’s office is, not so subtlety, covered in taxidermy animal head mounts. Mr. Stern, Multigon’s president, informs her they are committed to use the land to make a five star resort. Selina claims the land is so far in the middle of nowhere, it’s practically worthless for anything but a reserve. Mr. Stern insists it’s their best strategy and “politely” shows them to the door. Selina storms out with threats to inform other animal rights groups. After they leave, a door opens from behind his desk and reveals Red Claw, but low and behold, the episodes big twist, Red Claw is a Woman!!!…So?
I want to make sure I state this clearly and accurately here because this differentiation is incredibly important. In the past, I have praised this series for its incredibly important work in establishing strong female characters, but just because a female character is strong, does not mean that a character is good. Is Red Claw strong? Yes, she’s incredibly strong, skilled, and known in the episode as “The most dangerous terrorist in the world.” Is she a female character? Yes. She is a female character working as a main villain who fights Batman and Catwoman and has her own goals and objectives. So she covers the basic requirements, but those aren’t the traits that make a good character. The answers to these questions are only a skeleton on which interesting characters are built upon. Here are some questions that better define my point and my feelings toward this character.
Does she have depth? No. Her character is given little to no personality outside of “I am a woman who fights men so that makes me awesome.” Does she have any unique traits that set her apart from other Characters? Once again, No. The most unique thing about her is the fact that she’s foreign, but they don’t explore or use that at all. It’s just there to say “I am a villain with a somewhat eastern accent so I’m obviously evil and scary”
Does she enhance or influence the story or any other character in a way other than just not being on “their side?” You guessed it, no. Her character is completely replaceable in the context of the episode. All important or personal responses she has from characters are generic lines that could be said to virtually any other character and still have the same result. This shows how generic and literally replaceable her impact is on the episode. Finally, does her character or her goals leave a lasting impact of any kind? Absolutely not. Not only did I not remember this character until I re-watched them here, but I’ve had to constantly take closer looks at this character numerous times just to try and remember what little personality she does have to work with. I may sound like I’m being too hard on Red Claw, but I stand up to the point that “BTAS is better than this.” This kind of lazy, phone in villain is exactly the kind of cliché’ that this show strives so hard to overcome. This breakdown is one I will continue to use on other characters so I want to make it clear that this is not a simple unnecessary rant. The parking garage is accompanied with some slightly better Batman/Catwoman references.
Batman breaks through the ceiling of a mob kingpin and interrogates him for information about Red Claw. The Kingpin claims that he doesn’t know anything, but he’ll see what he can find.
Catwoman breaks into the Multigon offices and uses the secret code she remembered from the first visit. I find it funny that the song on the key piano is Beethoven’s Ninth and there’s the whole cats have nine lives thing. Probably coincidence, but I like it anyway. Several trick doors open up and Catwoman begins taking photos of the files inside of a safe.
Red Claw continues with a lecture to her men about a military train they plan to rob that has some unexplained super weapon on it because …well the plot said so? I’m not sure. They don’t give any better reason than “because we’re the bad guys”. Security cameras catch Catwoman taking photos of the documents and they head to the office to take her out.
Isis senses something is wrong and insists they get out, and Catwoman is able to escape into the ventilation system before security makes it into the room. One of the henchmen goes in after her, but she comically stops them with a long maze of spikes that are shaped like cats. Catwoman escapes to the roof, but Red Claw is right behind her. With nowhere else to go, Catwoman takes a wild leap to a building rooftop she can barely reach. She tries to pull herself up, but Red Claw fires at her with a personal grenade launcher. She misses the direct hit, but sends Catwoman plummeting towards the pavement.
Batman saves her just in the nick of time with a surprise swing of his Grapnel gun. Catwoman embraces him with a kiss. Batman is surprised at first but, after they land, Batman clearly starts to enjoy it. Catwoman thanks him for saving Isis. Batman tries to remove Catwoman’s mask, but Catwoman refuses. Batman warns her that her crime fighting way stands in the way of the obvious attraction they have for one another. Catwoman catches him off guard and uses it as an excuse to get away. Catwoman returns to her home and her assistant greets her with a robe that she comedically wears over her costume. The episode ends with the reveal of one of Red Claw’s men spying on the two of them and discovering her secret identity.
I won’t say much about this episode separated from the parts, but I will say from a wait till next week to see the next one perspective, I’m not engaged. As far as establishing Catwoman and her relationship with Batman, they’ve already done that. I already have her character in my head and I understand her dynamic with Batman. The second part just serves as an excuse to stretch out the plot with Red Claw. Which would be fine if I gave a damn about her character or her plans. I don’t.
Regardless, I am an unbiased Reviewer and will continue with the part accordingly.
One thing of note about this second episode is that is not directed by Kevin Altieri. Instead, TV writing veteran, Dick Sebast, directs it. Considering his storyboard resume is actually quite impressive, I have high hopes for the second half, and Sebast has not only directed some other amazing films, but some of my favorite BTAS episodes, I’m nervous about his reputation on sequels. I don’t exactly know how I feel about episodes of Batman: the animated series being made by the man who made “The Secret of Nimh 2: Timmy to the Rescue”. Regardless, I promise to approach the episode fairly and judge it on its own merits.
The episode begins with the Mob boss from the first episode walking under a dark bridge in the middle of Gotham’s equivalent of Central park. He seems suspicious of his surroundings and for good reason. Batman walks out of the shadows and catches him off guard. Batman then confirms the meeting was premeditated. After the Mob boss tries to hold some information as black mail to keep Batman out of his mob’s way, Batman starts to threaten the use of force against him and his gangs. The mob boss confesses to rumors of a train heist going down tonight and that nobody local to Gotham is making the hit.
Batman talks to Commissioner Gordon about the rumors, but Gordon confirms there are no trains going through Gotham that night. Batman suggests he check military trains that would be off the grid.
We cut to some beautiful shots of the military train traveling in the middle of the night. One of the solders gives us our first confirmation that the weapon is in fact a Biochemical Virus. There’s also a real good face palm moment when one them taps hard on the lid of the chemical crate with the butt of his rifle…. I’m sorry, but I’m uncomfortable with you protecting my country anymore.
Using a rocket sled on the tracks, Red Claw and a small group of her men climb on to the surprising unprotected caboose of the train and use a bazooka to break the chains between cars and leave the car with the most solders falling behind them. They use a gas grenade on the others. Batman swoops in and takes out several of the henchmen in a brief but well-handled fight scene. In the designated Face Palm Moment of the episode Red Claw, The “most dangerous terrorist in the world”, Blasts open the crate containing a biochemical bomb, with a shotgun blast… I don’t feel like I have to explain what’s wrong with this scene so I’m going to move on before the logical side of my brain explodes.
As unimpressive as the reveal that Red Claw was woman was to the audience, Her banter response with Batman is easily the best line(s) of the episode. “Red Claw? A Woman?” “Is that a problem for you Batman?” “Not at all. I’m an equal opportunity crime fighter”. As often as these episodes can make me groan, it’s impossible to watch those lines and not smile. Batman tries to take out Red Claw, but she warns Batman that the bomb will destroy everything within a ten-mile radius. Batman is forced to let her go.
Commissioner Gordon screams over his phone to a military general about how he was not given knowledge of this train and blames that for the theft of the bomb. Immediately afterword, we get a great reveal that Commissioner Gordon has a separate phone in his desk specifically for calls from Batman.
Bruce Wayne is speaking to Gordon, in one of the very few scenes in the whole series, which features Bruce Wayne speaking In the Batman voice. Gordon confirms that Red Claw is putting up a 1 Million dollar demand in exchange for not destroying Gotham. Bruce pulls up to pick up Selina Kyle for their next date. Bruce and Selina share some actually well written secret identity hinting while Bruce tries to test the waters on whether or not they are being followed by a red car. Unfortunately for them, the red car begins to ram them. The cars begin to hit each other back and forth, until Batman pulls a U turn and plays chicken to drive the other car off the road.
Bruce and Selina walk back up to her room and Bruce asks her if she’s alright and to tell him if she’s in danger. Selina is flattered and kisses Bruce on the cheek. Bruce confesses he has feelings for her, and the two of them part ways.
Selina’s assistant meets her inside as Selina is changing into her Catwoman costume. Selina discusses that there are hidden bunkers underneath the resort site. We also get our first look at the fact that her claws, like a real cat, are retractable. She tells Isis that she is going alone.
Alfred speaks with Batman in the Batcave where they find a cat hair on Bruce’s Jacket. He puts two and two together to discover Isis is the link that reveals Catwoman’s secret identity.
Selina’s Assistant is making, what I’m guess because this is a kids show is, orange juice. A henchman from Red Claw breaks into the apartment and begins to sneak up on her. Just as he’s about to attack, she sees his reflection in the glass table that she set the pitcher on and splashes the juice in his face. She tries to make a run for it, but the door is locked and it takes her too long to unlock it. The henchman swings his hand back to hit her, but Batman show up just in time to grab his arm. Batman pummels him as the assistant struggles to retrieve her glasses.
Batman tells her he knows who Catwoman is and insists that she tell him where she went. She confesses that she went after Red Claw and also that Catwoman is in love with him. Batman stops for a moment, but moves onward to find her.
Catwoman breaks into Multigon one henchmen at a time. She sneaks in through the ventilation, but a quick shot of the Batplane shows that Batman is not far behind.
The Two of them end up bumping into each other while trying to break in and are caught by Red Claw and captured.
The Two of them are tied back to back with ropes. Red Claw, in a confusingly stupid stroke of not logic, decides instead of blackmailing Gotham to use the Biochemical Bomb, that she will kill all in a ten mile radius along with Batman and Catwoman…. for reasons…. and then give fake vials for ransom to collect the money…. because reasons. You know what? That’s not accurate. She does have a reason. A really stupid, nonsensical reason. She decides to use it on them because, “Why risk carrying such a dangerous chemical around?” Well let me ask you this Red Claw: If the chemical is so dangerous to carry it around then WHY DID YOU STEAL IT IN THE FIRST PLACE!?!?!?!? World’s most dangerous terrorist my ass.
In yet another act of stupidity, Red Claw did not take away either Catwoman’s claws or Gadgets nor Batman’s utility belt, so they escape quite easily. All the other terrorists are making their escape and there’s an emergency siren, but the rate that Red Claw’s chemical melt away towards the biochemical bomb detonating is fast enough to make the idea of escaping downright laughable.
Batman convinces Catwoman to make her escape while he takes care of the bomb. In order to take care of the ultra-dangerous Biochemical bomb, Batman opens a hose connected to a petrol truck and creates a trail of Jet fuel leading back to the truck. Batman drives the truck away and throws a grenade out the window, setting off a trail of fire leading back not only to the bomb, but to an entire army supply of TNT, Grenades, and all sorts of explosives. As much as I want to tear this moment apart, I’m going to just say that maybe the explosion helped diffuse the chemicals of the bomb or that the bomb required being detonated gradually and that rapidly blowing it up stopped the chemicals from mixing and becoming volatile. Seems Legit.
Commissioner Gordon Comes up to the scene with choppers and rounds up the terrorists. Catwoman tries to slink away, but Red Claw attacks her. What follows is an incredibly lame fight scene; Catwoman is saved by one of the mountain lions that Selina was fighting to save. Ha ha . Irony. Catwoman disappears as Batman hands Red Claw over to Commissioner Gordon.
Catwoman returns to her apartment to find Batman waiting for her there. Batman tells her that he didn’t want to see her taken away by the police like a common criminal. Catwoman tries to flirt with him because she knows he cares for her, But Batman handcuffs her and ends the episode on the line, “More than you know.”
Although I will state clearly that I find both of these episodes have some incredible moments in character and animation, a lazy plot and a completely uninspired villain drag this whole episode down into mediocrity. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. “BTAS is better that this!”
I’ve already ranted enough about how I despise Red Claw so I won’t do any more of that here. What I will talk about though is how much it drags down this episode that her big scheme doesn’t really amount to anything. A character’s goals can show just as much as her direct personality. As mentioned before, with minor adjustments, I just as easily could see Joker or The League of Shadows or any number of Batman villains could have attempted this heist. Not to mention the actual stakes of the situation are really unclear and makes it difficult to get invested in the story. Also it leaves the story littered with plot holes. For example, if Red Claw said that the tunnels underneath the land were from the government, then, why was the land available for sale in the first place? Or why did they not think of it as a place that lots of weapons could be stored?
Many people might immediately criticize me for being so hard on Red Claw while so many people have major problems with Catwoman. Let’s take a closer look at Catwoman shall we? I’ll use the same questions so you know I’m being fair.
Does she have depth? Yes. Her duel Identity does not express a fake personality, but rather explores different aspects of her personality individually. Does she have any unique traits that set her apart from other characters? Yes again. Selina ‘s animal activist efforts are very carefully crafted in a way that is more realistic to honest activists and not a view of extremists. Not to mention her gray morality helps define her from other villains. Does she enhance or influence the story or any other character in a way other than just not being on “their side?” You guessed it, Yes. Her character is invaluable to the other characters in the plot. Catwoman’s activism is the thread that connects the civil and superhero sides of the story. Her character is a major impact character for both Bruce Wayne and Batman as she lowers Bruce’s defenses and makes Batman briefly contemplate where he draws his line between good and evil and has to stop his feelings from perverting his personal code. Finally, does her character or her goals leave a lasting impact of any kind? Absolutely. Out of all the various interpretations of Catwoman, next to Michelle Pfeiffer, This is by far my favorite version. She finds a great balance of keeping her flirtatious and manipulative personality without turning her into a mindless sex symbol. She is a perfect example of how a female character can be beautiful and seductive, but that doesn’t make her a bad character. In fact it can help make her a great character.
Although the music of this episode is really good, I am disappointed that Catwoman does not really get her own theme. At least, not in the same manner as other villains got themes. The music revolving around Catwoman is usually played on either strings or oboe. It conveys a sense of sneakiness and suspense and the instruments themselves subconsciously reflect her movement. I’m just sad we didn’t get a memorable theme to line up with her character.
This isn’t the only episode in the series that features two writer’s working on a two-part episode, but I actually found that not to be a major problem. Altieri is one of the more consistent directors on this show and although I gave Sebast some crap about Nimh 2, he did a really good job. I think a big part of the problem is the writing. These particular episodes had 4 writers. 2 on teleplay and 2 on story. Usually when you see credits like this, it means an episode was probably plagued with numerous rewrites and staff changes. This is most likely responsible for the episodes’ numerous inconsistencies.
Cat and Claw is not a bad set of episodes. I just wanted more. It’s radically inconsistent and the story is hard to care about. However, it’s introduction to Catwoman and her relationship to Batman is worth checking out. I can’t give this a recommendation unless you’re either a Catwoman fanatic or insist on purely watching every episode. Otherwise, I could take or leave these two.