Episode title: Earth Mover
Original air date: September 25, 1999
If you cast your mind back to my coverage of the first season (or failing that just hit the archive section) you will remember that I noted that in the character of “Inque” the series has essentially reworked the classic villain “Clayface” to fit into this new world and now a mere 15 episodes into the show and they essentially rework him again with this episode as we are introduced to the one shot villain “Earthmover”. Yes this might seem like some very lazy writing, but stick with us here as this episode more than manages to stand on its own merits.
Starting off with as mystery piece with one of Terry’s friends, Jackie believing that she is being constantly watched by an unseen presence, while things only get stranger when Terry spots a man made entirely out of dirt. More bizarrely about this situation though is the fact that Bruce doesn’t believe Terry’s claims, even though he battled Clayface numerous times during his time as the Batman, not even considering the number of other bizarre mutations and monsters making it all the more confusing as to why he’s suddenly playing the skeptic. These mud men are of course just the surface of a much deeper mystery and one which Jackie’s guardian Bill might be at the centre of, which only become clearer as Gotham is hit with a series of strange earthquakes and more when Earthmover appears to be targeting him in particular.
Interestingly all it takes to get the truth behind the identity of Earthmover is some old school Batman intimidation, with the showrunners deciding near the halfway point to abandon any heavy detective work in favour of upping the action quota. However it’s here in these action scenes that I found myself being posed with a surprisingly large amount of questions, as during several of Terry’s battles with the mud men he is not wearing his Batsuit. Now the suit was highlighted in the pilot episode as increasing the wears dexterity and strength, but here he seems to have no trouble doing any of his usual moves without the assistance of the suit. Equally we have an amusing scene were Terry is launched into orbit only to suddenly return in his full batsuit……now were exactly was he hiding that to, a question which only become more baffling when you consider that unlike Clark Kent he never wears his suit under his civilian clothes. We also get a scene in which Dana is seemingly killed off with the camera cutting away suddenly as a large pillar of earth descends towards her. Dana fans of course shouldn’t really worry as she is fine even if this scene is worryingly the last we see of her in this episode, begging the question if she was originally supposed to be killed off in this episode?
For fans of Bat tech, Terry gets to showcase a few new toys including most excitingly “The Bat Sub” which gets its sole appearance here and while clearly designed to have the same sleek lines as the new Batmobile it does unfortunately doesn’t have the same wow appeal, especially when it seems to have been crushed to half its original length. Despite these issues it is still a fun addition to the armoury and it would have been great to see it used again in future episodes, which sadly never happened.
As a villain Earthmover is fascinating in concept seeing how he is one of the few morally ambiguous villains which Terry faces, while Bill who he’s targeting is equally not a truly evil man, especially when he’s spent his time trying to make up for his previous misdeeds. The main issue with Earthmover though is that he is essentially just a skeleton with glowing eyes, no doubt making him an animators dream, with his powers affecting the world around him and in turn making his powers the real draw here, especially when he can summon an army of mud men let alone the ground itself as he causes pillars to appear to batter Terry, while for his grandstanding moment, drags a whole building underground.
An interesting episode and much like last week the action quota is kept high and inventive even if this time there is a surprisingly large number of questions as to the logic of some of these scenes as I mentioned earlier. But for a one shot villain there has still clearly been a lot of thought still put into the character design and back story, making it little surprise that the series producer and co-creator Bruce Timm named it as his favourite episode of the series, while it continues the already strong start the series has had.
Next Episode: Joyride