When it comes to Batman media, the gold standard for many is Batman: The Animated Series. The Kevin Conroy-led show has been praised as not only containing some of the best Batman stories but as being one of the best-animated shows of all time. The show dealt with mature themes and appealed to adults just as much, if not more, as children. BTAS ran for 85 episodes and several seasons under different names. The show even got a theatrical movie and has been called the best of the theatrical Batman movies. The question is often asked, of the 85, which episodes are the best? There are certainly more than 10 contenders, but here are 10 of the best episodes for newcomers to get into.
10. Perchance To Dream
Perchance To Dream serves as a what-if story of sorts. The episode sees Bruce Wayne awake to discover that his parents are still alive, and he is living a happy life engaged to Selina Kyle. On top of this, someone else is living the tormented life of Batman. Bruce’s life is filled with tragedy and misery, so seeing him happy for once is a breath of fresh air. Bruce Wayne can’t escape his instincts and quickly realizes things aren’t as they seem. The episode is touching, yet tragic and shows a different side of classic characters.
9. The Forgotten
While investigating homeless people going missing, Batman suffers a brutal blow to the head and loses his memory. Not knowing who he is, Bruce goes under the alias John Doe and finds himself a slave in a prison camp. He soon learns the prison camp is the key to the missing people, yet Batman is buried deep in his subconscious. The episode does a great job at showing Bruce’s instincts are too perfect to be forgotten, and that he will always do what is right even if he isn’t Batman. Batman: The Animated Series is filled with perfect moments, but the scene of Bruce in the “hot box” from this episode is one of the greatest.
8. Joker’s Favor
The Joker has plenty of episodes that stand out, but here is one that stands out mainly because of one character. A mild-mannered man accidentally cuts off the Joker while driving. Scared for his life, he pleads with The Clown Prince Of Crime to spare him, and in return, he will do anything. Years later, Joker cashes in the favor and uses him in an attempt to assassinate James Gordon. There are plenty of funny moments, such as when Joker yells for Batman’s help, but the reason this episode is so well-known is that this marks the first appearance of Harley Quinn. She appears as just a throw-away henchwoman, but she would go on to become one of the most iconic Batman characters of all time.
7. Almost Got ‘Im
Ask any Batman fan and they will tell you that the villains are some of the most important characters. The classic episode Almost Got ‘Im proves this, as the episode is simply Batman’s greatest foes playing poker. The episode doesn’t have a lot at stake, it is simply the villains sharing stories about the times they almost got Batman. The chemistry is fantastic and each villain is kept perfectly in character in how they nearly stopped Batman. The episode is mostly humourous, but its easy-going pace is what makes it stand out. The episode even received a card game based on it, which is something most other episodes of shows can’t say.
6. Robin’s Reckoning
There are several fantastic two-part episodes throughout the series, and Robin’s Reckoning is one of the best. The plot revolves around Batman hunting down a criminal and refusing Robin’s help. Upon doing some investigating for himself, Robin discovers that Batman is going after the man who killed Robin’s parents. In addition to serving as Robin’s origin story through flashbacks, the episode is great because it shows Robin having to deal with the man who ruined his life. Bruce sees his training for Dick put to the test as Robin is finally faced with a choice regarding the man who took everything from him. This is a perfect example of the show dealing with more mature themes without going too overboard, and in the process is one of the best Robin-driven episodes ever. In this show or others such as Young Justice.
5. Heart Of Ice
In the comics, Mr. Freeze was the shining example of a gimmick villain. He shows up, freezes some stuff, and goes about his day. Batman: The Animated Series is what introduced the heartbreaking backstory of the character in a few particular scenes, cementing him as one of the more tragic and iconic villains in Batman’s rogue’s gallery. Freeze is introduced as the gimmicky villain from the comics, but Batman quickly uncovers his only wish is to save his dying wife. This backstory followed the character in every appearance after the series, as does the fittingly cold performance. Often when people think of Victor Fries, they think of the less than stellar Arnold Schwarzenegger performance in Batman & Robin, but to get the full force of this tragic character, this episode is the way to go.
4. Beware The Gray Ghost
Whenever a flashback to Bruce Wayne’s childhood is shown in the animated series, it is usually dark and bleak. However, one of the things that make Beware the Gray Ghost so special is that it shows Bruce happy before the night that would change his life forever. Batman is investigating a series of bombings modeled after an old television series he watched as a child. The show is lost to time, so he seeks out the show’s star for answers. Seeing Batman geek out over a childhood hero is jarring at first, but it is refreshing to see him happier even for a brief time. What makes the episode extra special, is that the Gray Ghost is voiced by Adam West, who was of course the Batman of the ’60s.
3. Over The Edge
Over The Edge goes all out from the very beginning. The episode shows Batgirl falling to her death after a fight with Scarecrow in the opening. If this wasn’t bad enough, she lands on her father’s police car. Commissioner Gordon then finds out who Batman is, and sends the entire police force after him, as he blames Batman directly for the death of his daughter. what follows is an intense and thrilling episode, even if the ending is predictable to those familiar with Batman lore. Seeing these heroes be defeated by the very police force they are sworn to protect is hard to watch. Not even Alfred is safe, as he is arrested after the GCPD storm the Batcave.
It is fitting that the episode featuring Two-Face’s origin is a two-parter. Like any great villain origin in Batman: The Animated Series, Harvey Dent’s turn to villainy is nothing short of tragic, especially in his scenes. Dent was introduced several episodes before this and has returned occasionally as Gotham’s fearless District Attorney. Seeing an already established character lose all hope and turn down such a dark path is hard to watch. Even harder is seeing Bruce Wayne, who was a close friend of Dent, blame himself for the accident that scarred both his face and his psyche. Like Batman: The Animated Series had done time and time again, a classic character was born again in a tragic manner through a series of scenes that is fitting of the show’s dark tone.
1. Mad Love
Harley Quinn was perhaps the show’s greatest achievement. She was originally introduced as a one-off character, but exploded in popularity, thanks in part to this episode. Mad Love shows viewers how exactly Harley came to be involved and obsessed with The Joker. Harley was once a psychiatrist, Dr. Harleen Quinzel. Quinzel had her own issues, and Joker exploited them and brainwashed her into becoming his minion. Harley’s story is heartbreaking, as at the end of the day she is just another one of Joker’s victims. The animated series has shown before that Joker would see her dead or captured if it meant his survival. Harley’s redemption is something fans love to see when it happens, which is often. And seeing how she came to be the criminal she is, it is no surprise.
Which of these episodes and scenes from Batman: The Animated Series is your favorite? Any episode you think we missed? Let us know!