I am starting a new thing. It is called Watch Me!, exclamation point included, and is inspired by episode-by-episode recaps you would see on places like The Mary Sue but perhaps with less reaction gifs. In my first rendition of Watch Me!, I will watch the first season of Batman: The Animated Series, that iconic television series every Batman fan knows and loves. It was my introduction into the Batman franchise though I have never seen every episode. I have seen some episodes, and I certainly remember that iconic opening sequence from my childhood. Therefore, I will revisit it, mostly because a friend loaned me the first season and it has sat on my coffee table for about three months.
We’ll start things off by looking at the opening sequence.
The Warner Bros logo turns into one of the patrol blimps that keep watch over Gotham. Pan down to the city streets for a dark and gritty, almost dystopian feel. The music meanwhile features long notes and the basic Batman theme you should be familiar with if you are roughly my age and call yourself a Batman fan. And if you are not familiar with it, I know the show you should watch.. (It’s this one).
Fade to the side of a skyscraper that turns out to be a bank. We see two dark figures in trench coats and fedoras getting all shifty eyed. Those guys are sketchy and alas! An explosion at the bank! And those guys are there to witness it! Are they really thieves? They are never shown with bags of money or any object that could be stolen from the bank. So why blow up a bank’s entrance? Act of terrorism? Wouldn’t that be better served in the daylight with more people?
It doesn’t matter because the Batmobile starts up in the Batcave. Ho, Batman! The Batmobile gets a few cool shots while in pursuit. The music got more excited at the explosion to build up the excitement, and I as a viewer wonder what sort of budget this show had to get such an amazing score. Maybe people at Warner Bros/DC know Danny Elfman. This is about the time of the old Batman movies after all. It could have been a thing.
Gotham Police pursue the gangsters in a car while they run on foot, which would so not happen in real life. Those baddies would have been caught so hard unless they have superpowers. Which they probably do because when the police car follows them into an alleyway, they are already on the roof of a building that is at least twenty floors. I guess these are not your typical gangsters and that is why BATMAN is here to save the day. (Dum-dum-duuum-dumm)
Perhaps that foreshadows all the crazies Batman has to deal with through the show. Gotham Police can’t take down the superhero’d villains so Batman does it for them. Which is what happens here after the iconic shot of Batman glowering, narrowing his eyes in a way that should make any lawbreaker quake.
The music picks up, the gangsters draw their weapons, and Batman knocks away the guns with a Batarang. One is taken out via bat-tackle, the other throws a punch, misses, and gets punch in return.
The Gotham Police have finally caught up via Police blimp, but everything is taken care of. The thugs are tied up, defeated, and there is no sign of anyone. The policemen scratch their heads in confusion. The camera knows what happens, though. Pan up to a silhouette atop a skyscraper.
I am vengence. I am the night!
Ominous lightning strikes and we fade to the next episode.
I remember a commercial for Batman the Animated Series had Batman say the “I am vengence . . . ” spiel around the time of the lightning strike. So that part of the intro will always remind me of that.
For an introduction, this one does a good job. It is short and simple, roughly a minute in length, and inspired by art deco and noir to set the stage. Gotham City resembles Chicago in the Prohibition Era, perhaps with more crime and quite a few more crazies, but certainly draws from media produced in that era. I may not remember a lot from my childhood and I have seen only a handful of episodes as an adult, but I expect the episodes to be varied, moving through the genres of action, mystery, and literary like Batman moves through his city.
This is a show heralded for its everything: the music, the story, the characters, the animation. People say it has withstood the test of time. That is why I am here to break it down for you.