My episode timeline for BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES!
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Awhile ago, I started a side project as an excuse to watch every episode of “Batman: The Animated Series” again. I started wondering how the show might’ve developed if the episodes were basically presented in chronological order (rather than production or airdate order), and if the show were just a bit more serialized by design. Beginning with the flashbacks from MASK OF THE PHANTASM and ‘Robin’s Reckoning’ (since those two are relevant to B&R’s origins), I set about creating an entirely new timeline for the series.
A few things in the back of my mind as I was putting this together:
1. Escalation. Like the Nolan films, we start with the crime lords and street level bad guys, then work up to the super villains and freaks, then we introduce more and more science fiction elements, along with more frequent appearances by Robin. This creates a progression in the scope of the show over time.
2. Arkham Asylum. It’s not that important, but I tried to give some order to certain villains and their escapes from prison. For example, if Riddler gets away at the end of one episode, the next time we see him he’s still on the loose. This gets tricky of course, especially with frequent baddies like Joker, Two-Face and Poison Ivy.
3. The calendar. I didn’t go out of my way to fill out the dates on every event, but I tried to keep in mind the passage of time from one episode to the next. If one episode is clearly during winter or Christmas, the next episode shouldn’t skip to summer.
Of course, this being more of an anthology series than a serialized one, not everything fits perfectly. The show gives us no definitive look at Batman’s early days (and Robin’s even less so), and some characters’ appearances can happen in almost any order. There’s many different ways to experience this show, but this is the way that I’ve come up with.
**EDIT: I originally left out the three episodes that I consider the worst (‘The Terrible Trio’, ‘Baby Doll’, and ‘Moon of the Wolf’), but for the sake of thoroughness, I've reinserted them.**
We start things off with Batman fighting street level criminals. I may edit these together into a movie and call it “Batman: Streets of Gotham.”
Mask of the Phantasm (flashbacks only)
032-33 Robin’s Reckoning (flashbacks only)
031 The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
006 The Underdwellers
012 It’s Never Too Late
026 Appointment in Crime Alley
--Like I said before, I took the flashbacks from the movie (up to Bruce first donning his cowl) and ‘Robin’s Reckoning’ and stuck them at the top. All other flashbacks stay exactly where they are. After the flashbacks, ‘POV’ gives some background on the recurring cop characters and ‘Cape and Cowl Conspiracy’ introduces the Bat-signal. ‘Underdwellers’ is filler, while ‘It’s Never Too Late’ gives insight into Gotham’s criminal underworld. ‘Appointment’ gives us Leslie Tompkins, and its placement here creates an open-ended resolution where Batman’s one-man battle against crime nearly overwhelms him, culminating in a hollow victory against Dagget.
--There are other episodes with ordinary bad guys and no sci-fi elements, but these are the ones that can fit into Batman’s early days. Now it’s time for the supervillains! From here on, the episodes are grouped into normal-sized seasons, sort of like if the above listed were the back-nine of a TV show that had a spring premiere.
064 Read My Lips
--Despite airing much later, I placed this episode early due to Gordon’s behavior around Batman. He doesn’t seem used to the disappearing act yet, suggesting an earlier point in their relationship. Plus the Ventriloquist is a great bridge between the street-level crime-lords and the full-blown freaks.
003 Nothing to Fear
015-16 The Cat and the Claw
013 I’ve Got Batman in My Basement
004 The Last Laugh
--Scarecrow, Catwoman, Penguin, and Joker. Certainly not their best episodes, but all make decent introductions for the long-running characters.
035 Night of the Ninja
--Obviously not Robin’s first time out, but the Boy Wonder comes off as relatively new to the game, enough that this works as the first time we might see him in action.
001 On Leather Wings
005 Pretty Poison
--Now it’s time for the sci-fi. ‘On Leather Wings’ is the first episode in production order, but placing it later does create some shock at the prospect of an honest-to-god monster on the show. Also, in these two episodes we meet Harvey Dent! Between here and ‘Two-Face, part 2’, there are plenty of episodes to break up his appearances.
018 Beware the Gray Ghost
020 The Joker’s Favor
019 Prophecy of Doom
008 The Forgotten
010 Two-Face, Part 1
--Ah, nice to see Harvey got his love life worked out after that last one. Oh, wait…
009 Be a Clown
036 Cat Scratch Fever
034 The Laughing Fish
017 See No Evil
--I considered placing this one later, closer to ‘Heart of Steel’ maybe, but I found it’s far more grounded than the ‘invisible man’ concept might suggest. So it goes up here.
043 Moon of the Wolf
011 Two-Face, Part 2
--Because events pick up months later, it made sense to break up this two-parter. They really work better as two separate episodes rather than as one continuous story.
059 Blind as a Bat
040 If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
002 Christmas with the Joker
--This one is epic. If this show were live action, I imagine they’d really have to earn a Xmas special of this scale.
044 Day of the Samurai
051 The Man Who Killed Batman
--Joker is still on the loose at the end of this episode, and won’t get nabbed until the next one.
037 The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
--The first team-up between the bad guys! Naturally we’d spend all season building up to this.
025 The Clock King
056 Harley and Ivy
Mask of the Phantasm (present)
--I’m still not sure about the placement of this one. It could go later, between seasons 2 and 3.
024 Fear of Victory
--Dick’s in college! Yay!
014 Heart of Ice
021-22 Feat of Clay
027 Mad as a Hatter
--Now that it’s season 2, we can introduce more science-fiction-y bad guys into the mix, like Freeze, Hatter and Clayface.
028 Dreams in Darkness
041 Joker’s Wild
029 Eternal Youth
042 Tyger, Tyger
--I considered leaving this one out, as I’ve always disliked it, but it’s rather essential in the development of Batman’s relationship with Selina. Plus, we check in with Dr. Langstrom.
032-33 Robin’s Reckoning (full)
--I considered placing this much later, spacing out Batman’s career between meeting Dick and finally catching Zucco (nine years by Zucco’s count). However, even with Dick’s comment that he doesn’t get to do this much since he started college, the relationship between Batman and Robin is more mentor-student and less chummy than we see later on in the series. Also, I tried skipping over the flashbacks, but the story is a lot weaker without them.
030 Perchance to Dream
046 Almost Got ‘im
--At first, I’d planned for ‘Almost’ to precede ‘Perchance’, with Catwoman’s offer leading into Bruce’s fantasy life. But by swapping them, that final scene with Catwoman strikes a far more bittersweet tone, as Bruce has now already seen a vision of a life with Selina away from the freaks and the masks and the Bat, and he knows it’s just not in the cards.
038-39 Heart of Steel
--This ep eases into the premise of evil robots amazingly well. This is about as far into the series as I can place it, as Batman’s assessment of the destroyed robot being “more advanced than anything he’s ever scene” needs to hold water, and there’s plenty of key episodes that follow from it. Plus, it’s high time we met Barbara Gordon.
045 Terror in the Sky
047 Birds of a Feather
048 What is Reality?
063 Fire from Olympus
049 I Am the Night
--This is everyone’s favorite “I’ve been Batman a long time and it kinda sucks” episode. There’s nothing particularly special about its placement here, but checking in with Barbara means we’re between ‘Heart of Steel’ and ‘Shadow of the Bat.’
050 Off Balance
--This episode is pretty weak on its own, but it introduces a host of elements that will be important later. Plus, the League of Shadows creeping into Gotham sounds like a big deal at this point.
053 Paging the Crime Doctor
--Time for the big bad guy mashup! It works as a lead-up to the finale. Plus, as good as this episode is, I really wish it was two parts.
060-61 The Demon’s Quest
--What better way to end the season than by saving the world, right?
--The last “season” is almost entirely “The Adventures of Batman & Robin” episodes. By this point, just about all the important characters and gizmos have been introduced, and there are many references to events from past episodes.
057-58 Shadow of the Bat
--This of course was the season premiere, and it’s a great way to kick things off.
062 His Silicon Soul
065 The Worry Men
067 A Bullet for Bullock
070 House and Garden
--By this timeline, we haven’t seen Ivy since ‘Trial’, giving plenty of time for her apparent reform. This season finds a lot of villains trying unsuccessfully to turn over a new leaf.
071 The Terrible Trio
073 Time Out of Joint
076 Baby Doll
077 The Lion and the Unicorn
--We’ve seen Selina struggling throughout the series to stay on the straight-and-narrow. This ep completes her arc back into the full-fledged criminal that she really should’ve been all along.
079 Riddler’s Reform
080 Second Chance
081 Harley’s Holiday
083 Make ‘Em Laugh
055 The Mechanic
--I put this one as late as possible (I think it was the last one I ever saw). It’s really a disposable episode, but it works as the official demise of the TAS Batmobile, making way for the TNBA design.
084 Deep Freeze
085 Batgirl Returns
--This originally aired long before ‘Catwalk’, but it really needs to go after. It’s the last one on the production order, and it works as the lead-up to SUB-ZERO and the end of this phase of the show.
And to finish things off:
“The New Batman Adventures” episodes all come after of course, and the only continuity issue is ‘Holiday Knights’, which could probably be placed at the end of the first season instead of the beginning, with ‘World’s Finest’ opening season 2.
Well, that’s what I got. Thoughts? Comments? Did I miss anything?
All images courtesy of World's Finest/ToonZone.
For another more expansive look at DCAU's chronology, you can check out Yojimbo's Unofficial Timmverse Timeline: http://www.dcauresource.com/timeline.php
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