Beware the Spoilers!
This is a full episode recap, so if you want to avoid spoilers, watch the show first!
This episode, Batman runs “afowl” of a nimble, cat burglar femme fatale, dressed in black leather, stealing shiny objects. No, not that one. Meet Magpie, the ornithological-based vixen with razor sharp talons and a fascination with anything shiny, who has been leading Batman on a chase throughout the city. Humorously, Magpie doesn’t even realize the value of what she’s pilfered. She just took them because she likes sparkly objects! (She even steals a stapler, which is engraved as belonging to the Miskatonic Psyciatric Hospital.) She sets her sights on Batman’s utility belt, but instead he offers her a pair of handcuffs. They battle and Batman manages to cuff one of her wrists, but she manages to escape. Batman investigates the crime scene (a warehouse) and finds a victim that Magpie mind-wiped with one of her shiny devices. At the time, Magpie calls him Joe. (The stapler comes back into play.)
The next morning, Lieutenant Gordon and his daughter Barbara (redesigned with a hip indie rock look) enjoy dinner. Barbara inquires about The Batman, but Gordon insists that Batman is no hero because he takes the law into his own hands. Barbara seems dejected.
Later, Gordon investigates the crime scene, noticing that some dust has been unsettled and pulls out a box labeled “Blackgate Prison” and sorts through some of the paperwork inside, pausing on the file for a criminal named Lunkhead. In the warehouse, he finds a discarded Batarang, embedded in a box.
At Wayne Manor, Tatsu Yamashiro, Bruce Wayne’s new driver and bodyguard asks “The Major” aka Alfred about The Batman. (Seems to be the breakfast topic of the day.) Tatsu deems him nuts, while Alfred states that he isn’t as “nuts” as his enemies. She then tells Alfred that she owes him more than she can ever repay and is willing to stay and help until his leg is healed, but she doesn’t seem to fit into Wayne’s lifestyle. Alfred simply tells her that not everything is as it seems.
Bruce enters and Alfred goes to get him some green tea. Bruce asks about Tatsu’s military background and then asks if “The Major” is what she called Alfred as a child. He points out that when she calls him that, she lowers her voice and looks up, the way a child would, displaying some of that keen detective skill Batman is known for. He then guesses that Alfred worked with one of her relatives when she was young… her father. He asks if he was MI6 as well. Tatsu confirms that yes, they were partners, until her father died.
A short bit later, Alfred confesses that Tatsu is his goddaughter before he and Bruce descend into the Batcave. Bruce insists that he doesn’t like secrets, but Alfred counters that Bruce is the definition of secrets.
Batman pulls up the information on the mind-wipe victim, identifying him as Joe Braxton, a member of a research team, but he doesn’t know what they were studying, although he suspects Blackgate Prison has some connection. Alfred notices that there was another member of the team, a psychotherapist named Bethany Ravencroft who has a practice in Gotham City.
Batman stakes out her office, spotting Bethany typing on her computer through the window, but pauses to scare off some graffiti artists. He looks up and Bethany is gone… but Magpie is behind him and takes him by surprise with a sucker punch.
When Batman comes to, the pair banter a bit and Magpie tries to kiss him, but he rebuffs her. She once again references his “shiny, shiny belt.” They fight and Magpie knocks Batman off the roof. She casually makes her exit, but Batman returns. He asks why she mind-wiped Braxton and she declares that she was looking for something that belongs to her. She goes to leap from the rooftop, but Batman lassos her feet, leaving her dangling dangerously above the concrete below. She vows that she’ll never be caged again and slices the rope, plummeting several stories, crashing into the roof of a car, caving it in. Her limp hand hangs over the side… but then it moves. She gets up, none the worse for wear, and escapes. Batman takes note that she said “again” and deducts that she was a prisoner at Blackgate at one time.
The next day, Gordon goes to speak to a reformed Lunkhead, but Lunkhead attacks him. Gordon tries to reason with him, telling him that he isn’t in trouble, but when he mentions Batman, Lunkhead lashes out again. Gordon mentions that when Batman apprehended Lunkhead, he put him in a coma for two months. Gordon is forced to bribe him with candy in order to get the information he needs about the mind control experiment that Lunkhead took part in during his time in prison. Lunkhead doesn’t remember much but mentions a nice lady in the cage next to his… Margaret Sorrow, who was taken away.
Bruce Wayne is also investigating Margaret Sorrow, a kleptomaniac who was sentenced to ten years but only served two. Her current whereabouts are unknown. He then arrives at Dr. Ravencroft’s office and tells Tatsu to get a coffee. After he exits the car, she sighs and tells herself that she is only working for this “marshmallow” temporarily, but then says she needs to hit something.
Dr. Ravencroft’s assistant Cassie eagerly escorts Bruce to the doctor’s office. Dr. Ravencroft greets him warmly. Bruce notices the Rorschach blotches on her wall. One sparks memories of the deaths of his parents. Before they can begin their session, Alfred phones, pretending to be an IRS agent. Dr. Ravencroft excuses herself, allowing Bruce time to search the office, where he finds a key with the initial A on it as well as Joe Braxton’s watch and the stapler Magpie stole, engraved with the name Miskatonic Psyciatric Hospital.
So naturally, where does Batman head, other than the deserted hospital, where he is almost immediately attacked by Magpie. They battle, but after a harsh blow, Batman insists that he isn’t trying to hurt her. Magpie states that she can no longer feel pain (explaining the fall from the roof). “Just another piece they stole from me,” she hisses. Batman steps closer, offering to help. Magpie faces away from him and says she’s afraid, but then sneers and spins around, stabbing Batman with her poison dipped talons. He collapses and she takes his belt, which she has been eying all along.
Batman awakens, fastened to a table with the brainwashing helmet on his head. Magpie taunts him, and states that she has figured out a way to reformat the helmet to put erased memories back, when suddenly a female scream can be heard from elsewhere in the facility. She leans in a gives him a kiss, before walking away, hitting the switch and exiting the room. But Batman secretly plucked one of the feathers off of her costume while she was close and uses it to pick the lock on his cuff once Magpie walks away. He rips the mind control helmet off and crushes it under his boot.
He stops to examine some files on the floor, similar to the Lunkhead dossier that Gordon used. What he sees startles him and he drops the file for Margaret Sorrow, whose face has been scraped up. Batman follows the screams down a hallway, and finds Magpie straddling her victim. He flings a Batarang at her, whipping her platinum wig off, revealing her short dark hair… Cassie, Dr. Ravencroft’s assistant! It’s Ravencroft that is strapped to the table, screaming.
Magpie sees her reflection in a mirror and gasps, “Whose face is this?” Batman explains that she has two personalities and that the prison experiment was designed to strip out the bad. The scientists gave her a new face and name to start life over, but Magpie hysterically cries that he’s lying, pops her claws and goes after Dr. Ravencroft only to be halted by a gunshot… Gordon enters, but thinks Batman is working with Magpie, who scoops up two scalpels and flings them at Gordon, grazing his arm. Batman tells him to free the doctor while she goes after Magpie. Reluctantly, Gordon concedes.
Batman finds Magpie fretting over the destroyed helmet. Batman enters and she declares that Margaret Sorrow is gone. All that’s left is Magpie! She and Batman throw down once more. This time, Batman sends her flying into an electrical control panel, which supercharges her, finally knocking her out.
Batman reclaims his belt. He and Gordon exchange tense words, but Gordon lets him go.
The next day at Wayne Manor, Tatsu calls for Bruce, but he doesn’t answer. She spots him entering the library and follows him in, only to find… nothing. She pauses, confused in front of the fireplace, unaware that Bruce is watching via hidden camera and that this is the first part of her “tests.”
Okay, so this series is growing on me. The first episode was the first exposure to this new Bat Universe and took some getting used to, with the modern setting and somewhat sterile CG animation. I like that in many ways, nearly everything about this series is new. Alfred is like an older Jason Statham, bald and bad, a former soldier with a mysterious past. I like this take! We’ve seen the stuffy old English butler version in every prior adaptation, but in the comics, Alfred is a former soldier and MI5 (updated to MI6 on this show) agent, but rarely has that been exploited in the comics. It’s kind of a neat take and is definitely refreshing. Likewise Katana has been re-imagined, apparently losing some of her mystical backstory for a more grounded, military-based take.
I like that Batman is still a beginner here and that he and Gordon have yet to form their significant bond. He’s back to his outlaw roots, taking him more inline with the Nolan movies which is the version of the Dark Knight most people today are familiar with. Gordon is also well depicted. I like that both Bruce and Gordon’s detective skills are being showcased. And I was thrilled that Barbara appeared and I love her new look!
And what about Magpie? Toward the beginning, I felt like they were just using her as a stand-in for Catwoman, who was off-limits due to the producer’s desire to mostly only use previously unadapted rogues, but over the course of the episode, I came around. She was delightfully deranged, mixing great voice acting by Grey Delisle, channeling Eve Harrington and Margo Chandler at the same time, with the animation which is also growing on me. She looked fantastic in her fight scenes! Great, fluid movements! I was unsure about her costume and the high heels are still ridiculous, but factored in with her deranged persona, I can more than live with it. Mark my words, Magpie will become the new drag cosplay character of choice!
So all in all, I think this episode excellently built upon the first, crafting a sophisticated new take on the Dark Knight that mixes elements from different incarnations with some fresh new elements.