Episode Title: “Mayhem of the Music Meister!”
Original Air Date: October 23, 2009
Do you like musicals? Do you like West Side Story style Dance fights? Do you like Neil Patrick Harris? If you answered yes to any of these, today is your lucky day! This is the musical episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, probably the most highly praised episode of the series, smashingly premiered at San Diego Comic-Con and Emmy nominated. It has been called one of television’s best musicals (by Wikipedia). The question remains, did I enjoy it? Read on to find out.
In a rare turn for the series we have almost no teaser, we have an exceedingly brief clip of Music Meister preparing to conduct an orchestra, then the opening credits roll.
The episode proper opens with Music Meister using his musical mind controlling magic to induce a collection of both heroes and villains (Black Canary, Green Arrow, Aquaman, Black Manta, Gorilla Grodd and Clock King) to hijack a United Nations communications satellite, launching it into space after they install a device for him. Batman witnesses this bizarre scene and deduces that Music Meister is using his music as mind control, and the Caped Crusader inserts his handy anti-musical mind control ear plugs that he never leaves home without. Batman jumps into the fray, and is attacked by some of the best choreographed dance moves ever witnessed in the DC Universe. In the kerfuffle Meister escapes and Batman shares his deductions about the mind control to the now clear thinking heroes, and dispenses spare anti-musical mind control ear plugs to the group (why leave home with only one pair when you could bring five?). A clearly smitten Black Canary insists on accompanying the dream Dark Knight in his dogged pursuit of the malicious maestro. We see the harmonic villain playing his organ for an audience of cardboard cutouts in what is clearly a reference to Phantom of the Opera as Batman finds him and pursues Meister across Gotham while a chorus of heroes and villains join him in singing about how Batman “Drives us Bats”. Some prison inmates are loosed upon Batman, and in an interesting romantic twist, we learn the Black Canary’s mellifluous melodies have lead the Meister to have unrequited love for the fishnet stocking clad heroine. Predictably Canary rejects the bad guys advances and continues to pine for Batman. With little transition or explanation, we see Batman and Black Canary in a very sinister death trap involving ropes, acid, lasers, walls closing in, and explosives. Batman uses his typical deus ex machine to escape and continue pursuing the villain. Music Meister hypnotizes the world with his music (with help of the satellite), and somehow manages to once again control Black Canaries mind. This leads to a sing off between Batman and Black Canary, where the caped crusader tricks his second favorite bird themed hero into unleashing her Canary cry onto the populace, breaking Music Meister’s control over theme (and his equipment in the process). Batman captures the chaotic conductor, and reveals that he only won the sing off by using what has to be the first ever documented occurrence of autotune in the DCU (eat your heart out Kanye). Black Canary asks Batman out on a date, he rejects her, and Green Arrow slides in to catch her on the rebound as credits roll.
Whether or not you like this episode, there is absolutely no argument that you will remember it in perpetuity. Most people are going to really enjoy this adventure, but I suspect that there is a contingent of folks who are turned off by musicals in general, and Batman themed musicals in particular, and for those folks this episode is a lost cause. I saw this episode before I had ever seen Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog (which has some interesting parallels to this story, but that discussion is for another day), and before NPH had hosted the Tony’s (I think, in the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I have never watched the Tony’s), so I had no idea that Doogie could sing. Sing he did, the break out star of the Harold and Kumar movies raised the guest actor bar in this series to unobtainable levels. The story itself if nothing exceptional, but who’s watching this episode for the story? This episode is all about the music (and dance fighting). If you like the music, the good news is that the sound track was realeased as a fun (if rather short) album you can purchase. If you don’t like the music, you can buy the album ironically to show you’re friends the new level of nerd that you have ascended to. The animators also appeared to have fun with this episode, working in a ludicrously large number of musical themed costumes for the villain including, but not limited to, a punk rocker, a marching band leader, an elvis jumpsuit and an 80’s new wave incarnation of Mozart. Overall, this episode is a blast, though I suspect somewhat disdained by a small community of anti-musical folks. But to be honest, I don’t really like musicals (excluding Grease), I’ve never actually seen the sound of music, I can’t sing or play any instrument, but I still loved this episode (it may help that the duration is 20 minutes, not sure I’d be interested in a 2 hour movie version). Harris’ enthusiasm and charisma are channelled through his voice acting, and the ever curmudgeonly Batman makes the perfect foil in such a farcical adventure.
Featured characters: Black Canary (Kanigher & Infantino, 1947), Music Meister (original creation)