What They Say:
Mayor Hamilton Hill’s miserable son, Jordan, becomes even sadder when his father uses his birthday party as a political gathering, and ends up stowing away in the truck of the circus performer hired by Hill for the party, whom he doesn’t know is actually the Joker in disguise. It is now up to Batman, whom Mayor Hill distrusts, to rescue the boy before it’s too late.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The series did a nice job in bringing the Scarecrow into it with the last episode that had come out and this one plays to fear in a different way. With Batman designing his outfit to be as intimidating as it is for criminals it also makes it difficult for innocent folks to connect with him in times of crisis when he needs them to. It’s one of the reasons that the comics brought Robin into play, even if the conventional wisdom is all about him being an easier target/distraction. When you have Batman wanting to save a kid but the kid won’t get close to him because of how afraid he is, that leads to a real problem. I like that a different aspect of fear was played with here after putting Batman through the wringer a bit with the Scarecrow just before this.
The opening thrust to events here is the mayor making himself a greater enemy of the colorful criminal underworld when he makes it clear quite publicly that he intends to run all of them and Batman out of town. That, unfortunately, just sets the Joker to wanting to make a point of how ineffective the mayor can be. And this mayor isn’t exactly a great person to begin with as we see him setting up a big party for his young son Jordan but it’s really all about press and access since almost all of the guests are People of Importance to his father. Jordan gets all of this and is frustrated by it, which is made more complicated by his own interest in magic that his father really takes a dark look at. So when we get a comical clown with a dark edge himself showing up at the party, you can see pretty easily how things are going to shake out here.
Setting the Joker up as Jekko the Clown is cute and having Bruce show up with a big present for Jordan puts all the pieces into place. The Joker has some fun in toying with everything but it takes the unexpected twist in how Jordan stows away with Jekko, not realizing that he’s the Joker. He wants to learn magic from Jekko and the Joker most definitely takes advantage of this since he likes to perform and Jordan is a very willing audience. I’d have wanted to have seen more of this but Batman’s busy tracking down Jekko and Jordan with the clues that he has and it lads to a fun fight within the closed circus where Joker uses Jordan as a willing prop since he has no idea of the truth of it all. It’s a nice twist on things and it gives us one of the first times on the animated side that we get Batman being knocked out like he is here.
The series continues to work well for me though I can see how the slower pacing and more deliberate approach might frustrate some viewers in how it’s all executed. After watching so many hyper and fast shows the last decade or so, it’s a nice change of pace for me and I like revisiting this after so many years to see how so much was introduced and established here. This episode does a nice job in playing with the Joker in a creative way thanks to Jordan and putting Batman in the Joker’s clutches for a while with some classic magic tricks to try and torture him with is simply delightful.