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 Over the Edge

  Angered by the death of Barbara, Gordon declares war on Batman.
  Original Airdate: May 23, 1998
  Episode # 11
  Rating: * * * 1/2

Credits Cast

Written by Paul Dini
Directed by Yuichiro Yano
Music by Shirley Walker
Animation by TMS

Kevin Conroy as Batman
Tara Charendoff as Batgirl
Loren Lester as Nightwing
Mathew Valencia as Robin
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Alfred
Bob Hastings as Commissioner Gordon
Robert Constanza as Bullock

Liane Schirmer as Officer Montoya
Lloyd Bochner as Mayor Hill
Jeff Glen Bennett as Jack Ryder
Roddy McDowell as The Mad Hatter
Henry Silva as Bane
Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn
John Garry as Lawyer

Someone clearly was itching to tell the story of the tragic end of Batman and company, and this is it. I find it impossible to believe that, if the series ever demands a finale, it could be better than "Over the Edge."

Scenes of surprise and horror build on each other in quick succession. It opens with an astonishing set piece: Gordon and a battery of armored policemen storming the Batcave, calling the fleeing Wayne by name, shooting to kill. (And special, enthusiastic praise of the direction: The smooth, clean movements, the pounding sound effects and score, the razor cutting from shot to shot make this sequence a joy to watch.) In flashback we see the brutal death of Barbara Gordon as she plummets from a ledge and shatters the windshield of the police cruiser in which her father rides; we hear the agony in Gordon's voice as he implicitly accuses Batman of murder. Later, a severe, almost surreal urban funeral gives over to a rooftop fight between Batman and Bane (recruited by the Commissioner as an assassin) and ends with Gordon and Wayne plummeting, like Batgirl, over the edge.

And then Barbara wakes up.

If this sounds stark, it is, even if we knew from the start that it was coming. So here I must register a certain amount of dissatisfaction with the episode's construction. Flashbacks and "it was just a dream" endings, I think, are always defeats. Here, the former is especially egregious. There is just no reason, of logic or drama, to begin in medias res and cut to a flashback; couldn't it have been just as thrilling and shocking to begin with the battle against the Scarecrow, and Barbara's death, and then simply proceed in a straight line? Worse, once we learn it is just a dream, the flashback device is doubly distracting: When was the last time you had a flashback inside a dream, particularly a flashback told from the point of view of another person?

I also have doubts about the execution of the "dream" angle. Obviously, the only way to tell this story and not ruin the continuity of the series is by revealing it to be a fantasy of some kind, and there is nothing wrong with embedding it in a dream. My quarrel is with the episode's essential coyness, its pretending there might be some other way of working out a solution. Since the solution is obvious even from the start, I think it should have made a virtue of necessity, and played up the fact of its being a dream. Juxtaposed against the essential reality of the confrontation with the Scarecrow, the body of the episode could have put jagged editing, distorted perspectives, and the use of fade ins and fade outs to suggest the horrible dream logic that makes nightmares so viscerally terrifying. The series, in both its BTAS and TNBA manifestations, has always taken advantage of the expressionistic techniques available in animation (and we can look back on "Perchance to Dream" and forward to Batman Beyond's "Spellbound" to see the skillful mixing of dream and reality); this episode could have taken those tendencies and run riot.

These cavils and quibbles aside (and I emphasize how minor they are) this episode demonstrates with brutal effectiveness just how serious and adult an animated series can be without falling into the trap of thinking that mature themes require a "Mature Audiences" treatment. Death, honor, loyalty, responsibility: each of these elements is presented and worked out with rigorous care and clarity of purpose. An episode like this redeems the promise of those who see in comics and animation a contemporary manifestation of the need to mythologize.

Related Episodes
   * Perchance to Dream
   * Spellbound
   * Bane
   * The Man Who Killed Batman

What Others Are Saying ...
"An instant classic. . . Awesome story, characterization, animation, music, sounds, everything."Two-Face's Tower of Tranquility and Terror

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