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 Joker's Wild

  A bankrupt casino owner incites the Joker.
  Original Airdate: November 19, 1992
  Episode # 40
  Rating: * * *

Credits Cast

Written by Paul Dini
Directed by Boyd T. Kirkland
Music by Todd Hayen
Animation by Akom

Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. as Alfred
Mari Devon as Summer Gleeson
Mark Hamill as The Joker
Diane Pershing as Poison Ivy

Harry Hamlin as Kaiser
Ernie Hudson as Security Guard
Brion James as Irving
Roger Rose as TV Host

"Joker's Wild" belongs with "The Laughing Fish" and "Joker's Favor" as one of the trio of "classic" BTAS Joker stories. By that I don't just mean that they are gleefully entertaining and almost insanely good, or that such other Joker outings as "The Man Who Killed Batman" or "Joker's Millions" aren't in the same league. I mean that in these three episodes BTAS (which is, after all, a television adaptation of a classic comic book series) captures the raw, clever power of a first-class, comic book kind of story. That only one of that trio is adapted from an actual comic book shows just how good and clever these three stories are.

And there's no denying the cleverness of "Joker's Wild." There is, for a start, the tidy little plot: casino mogul Cameron Kaiser ("kaiser"; "king"; top face card) has bankrupted himself with his new showplace, so he decides to play it into an insurance scam by inciting the Joker into blowing it up. Of course, the king is going to get trumped when he's up against an ace detective and that wild Joker, but that shifty background neatly shuffles our sympathies. It's always tempting to root for an attractive villain like the Joker, and by making the clown prince of crime the real victim of the piece the story cheerfully invites us to surrender to the impulse. It's not really Batman and the Joker vs. Kaiser, of course, but both hero and villain get their turn smacking the guy around. Very satisfying, that.

Moreover, that insurance plot is packed together so tightly and dealt out so smoothly that there are plenty of opportunities for some good character interplay. Batman rarely gets the chance to let his Bruce Wayne persona do any work for him, which is a pity when this ep shows just how smart he can be when he's playing fatuous—the scene where he blackjacks the Joker at the gaming table is one of the highlights of the series. Not that the Joker gets completely upstaged, not when he gets to channel his inner looney toon while he's still in Arkham.

The episode's gravest defect is its clumsy animation—All hail Akom!—and there are places where the jokes are more theoretically funny than actually funny because they've been thrown off by some very bad pacing. Still, that's not the worst thing that could happen; there are a number of very good comic books that are similarly handicapped by sub-par artwork. Sometimes it's just best to take the hand you're dealt.

BTAS is at its best when it is playing at movie-making: tight, film noir explorations of character and situation. But comic books, those jolly little tales to tickle the sense, have their own unique charm. Truth is, the Joker, with his blank background and uncomplicated character, is more suited to pulp. But pulp is an irreplaceable part of a complete aesthetic, and good pulp, like the Joker himself, has no peer.

Related Episodes
   * Joker's Favor
   * The Laughing Fish
   * Make 'Em Laugh

What Others Are Saying ...
"This was not the greatest of the Joker episodes, but that's mostly because of the poor animation."World's Finest

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