What They Say:
Batman investigates The Society of Shadows who settle in Gotham to continue their crime spree.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
There are things that even during the original broadcast run back in 1992 that caught my eye and made me perk up with certain episodes. While it would often be a character or the use of someone like Robin, it was the creative that really got me excited. This episode, animated by Sunrise, brought in Len Wein to write it and that just warmed my heart after seeing so many of his stories in comics over the years. Directed by Kevin Altieri, it brought in Michael York to voice Vertigo, which works really well for me, and featured the first appearance of Helen Slater as Talia. Add in a little David Warner as Ra’s al Ghul and the villainous side was set for me but with a cast that just made me grin from ear to ear. This episode was also an adaptation of one of the comics going back to the 1971 issue of Detective Comics that brought in Talia for the first time.
This episode starts with some fun as Batman discovers about a new mysterious group operating in Gotham known as the Society of Shadows, thanks to an informant of his who pays the price. That sets Batman to really go all-in on this with those that killed the informant after he was able to learn the name Vertigo. This is definitely one of those dark organizations who have their operatives kill themselves if caught, so real cult/true believers kind of stuff. With Talia watching from a distance, she’s certainly intrigued by what she sees as there’s an allure to her when it comes to someone like Batman. We’ve seen this story adapted in several forms over the years, including in Arrow where they took some aspects of it for Oliver’s origin, but this is a very slimmed down original adaptation that works well because it doesn’t deal with heavier continuity aspects that the comics and live-action side have fallen into.
Talia’s initial objective that catches Batman’s attention is the theft of an ultrasonic drill from Wayne Enterprises and that goes off with Vertigo helping out using his abilities to mess with everyone’s stability. With Vertigo having stolen the drill and now on the run from the Society of Shadows, there’s a kind of team-up that happens with Talia of convenience that’s fun to watch – especially when both are wounded and she takes care of him and even removes his mask. There’s some obscuring of the reality of her father’s organization that she’s seeking to secure the drill for, and to deal with Vertigo’s betrayal, but the show balances it and the dynamic between Batman and Talia very well. He’s still intent on the big picture but she’s a formidable enough one to draw him into things more personally.
There’s a lot of little nuance to the episode that’s fun to watch but the big draw really is Talia as she keeps her real allegiances fairly secret and we don’t even get Ra’s al Ghul named within the episode. These characters are all ones that really expanded the bigger picture for Batman for decades to come with the interactions not just with Talia but with Ra’s as well, a son born to her by Bruce, and a host of other complications along the way. This is one of the more complex episodes with what it wants to accomplish in its brief time but it handles it very well, providing space to breathe with quieter moments amid all the ongoing events and action. It’s definitely a favorite even if we’ve now seen so many aspects of it re-adapted elsewhere.