Episode Title: Batman Sets the Pace
Original Airdate: April 7, 1966
If you recall, when we last left Gotham city, Batman and Robin had been captured by the Joker and locked inside a smoke stack which is slowly starting to fill with deadly gas. The space is too narrow for our heroes to use their bat ropes. How will they escape? Let’s find out in this week’s episode, Batman Sets the Pace.
To get out of this fix, Batman and Robin us an old trick. I could’ve even thought of this one. Just as the gas is about to rise over the Dynamic Duo’s heads, they go back to back, brace their legs against the walls, and slowly start to scale up the inside of the chimney. When Joker goes to check on their fate, he finds that they are escaping. But rather than deal with the heroes, the Joker and his men flee. It seems that Batman is no closer to finding the kidnapped Maharajah.
The Caped Crusades then return to the Batcave to analyze the evidence from the smoke bomb that went off on the golf course in the previous episode. There we learn that the hairpin stolen at the beginning of the last episode was the trigger for the bomb (I’m glad that was finally shared, because I was still lost on that one). Batman also analyzes the residue left behind and finds that the gas was quite unique and only could’ve possibly come from the Ferguson Novelty and Magician’s Supply Company. As they fear a trap from the Joker, they go to investigate as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson.
While at the store, Bruce Wayne uses a “one-way glass reversing refractor” (which is conveniently for sale at the shop) to find the Joker’s hideout behind a one way mirror and spot a secret way in. Later, our heroes return as Batman and Robin, surprising the Joker’s men. A fight ensues, but Joker and Jill manage to escape. There is still no sign of the Maharajah.
Later, Commissioner Gordon receives a call from the Joker to make arrangements concerning the ransom for the Maharajah. The dignitary has agreed to cover the ransom himself…half a million dollars. He makes arrangements to write a check which Batman must cash to pay off the Joker. Batman unwillingly goes along with the plan. Luckily, he’s a few steps ahead. During the money exchange, our heroes begin fighting with the Maharajah…who was really the Joker in disguise all along (we never saw them together at the same time). The real Maharajah, it turns out, was really on a hunting trip, nowhere near Gotham City.
I didn’t think part one of this story was one of the best episodes we’d seen so far. Unfortunatley, part two rounds out the story with the same somewhat lackluster results. The final gimmick of the episode, that the Maharajah and the Joker are one and the same, is kinda fun. However, the reveal is pretty unspectacular. The Caped Crusaders just start fighting with the Maharajah and tearing sawdust and stuffing out of his robes. The reveal that it’s the Joker happens once he’s unconscious, as Batman removes a goofy looking plastic mask. I wanted something more dramatic, with the cackling Joker not being subdued quite so easily. This final showdown also has a pretty big loose end that never gets resolved: what exactly happened to the Joker’s girl, Jill? She escaped with him earlier in the episode, but we never hear from her again.
We do get a few fun moments peppered throughout this episode. The biggest laugh from me came when the Dynamic Duo are about to drop through the secret entrance of the Joker’s lair. Robin wants to go first, but Batman stops him and explains, “dynamic seniority.” The strangest moment though is the epilogue in which Bruce Wayne gets another call on the emergency phone from Commissioner Gordon. Having just taken care of the Joker, what could be the problem? Well, Gordon has heard a rumor that Batman has been contacted about going to California and running for governor. Lucky for the citizens of Gotham, this is nothing more than a rumor. At the time this episode aired, California was approaching its gubernatorial election…which would be won by future president Ronald Reagan.
While these last two episodes have had their moments, this Joker tale has been one of the least satisfying of the series so far. Perhaps next time we’ll fare better with a villain created specifically for this series. Victor Buono makes his debut as King Tut in The Curse of Tut. Join us…same bat-time, same bat-channel (superhero).
Bat Gadgets Used:
Hyper Spectrographic Analyzer
Pattern Identification Manual
Holy Mole Hill
Holy Golden Gate