Episode Title: A Riddling Controversy
Original Airdate: February 9, 1967
When we last saw Batman and Robin, they were sinking slowly into a giant pink cake made of quicksand. It seems like there will be nothing to stand in the Riddler’s way now. Let’s see what happens in the exciting conclusion, A Riddling Controversy.
As our heroes continue to sink, Robin starts to panic. Batman, however, reminds him that they have a better chance of surviving if they stay calm. They stop struggling and stop sinking just as they hit chin level. They then slowly reach down to their utility belts to activate the new, and untested, experimental heel and toe bat rockets. The rockets are activated and, with the help of some all too visible wires, our heroes shoot out of the top of the cake.
Now, using the last riddle the Riddler left, our heroes try to figure out where he’ll strike next. The riddle states, “when is an eagle’s nest blest best?” I won’t explain all the attempts at solving the riddle…but they soon realize that Riddler intends to rob latin millionaire Anthony Aquila (that’s spanish for Eagle). When the Caped Crusaders arrive at Aquila’s penthouse, they find Riddler and his men already robbing the joint. A fight breaks out but our heroes easily take care of the henchmen. Riddler is prepared, though. He has Aquila (who looks like Fidel Castro) trapped inside a strange puzzle cage with explosives attached. Our heroes must solve the puzzle before the bomb goes off. Riddler, of course, escapes while they try to figure it out. The puzzle is solved easily, and the bomb is just a fake…with a new riddle attached.
Back at his puzzle factory lair, Riddler now has the three million dollars he needs to purchase the de-molecularizer. The device is just the size of a flashlight pen, but it is able to cause things to disintegrate into nothing. Now Riddler can hold the city at ransom. He even hides the device in Commissioner Gordon’s office…if the demands aren’t met, the building will vanish into thin air. Batman, however, figures out the riddle and sets out to capture Riddler in the batcopter. However, he takes along a hefty helping of sodium dichloride. At the moment that police headquarters is due to vanish, a cloud appears in the sky and a lightning bolt strikes the building. It does not vanish, though. Well, it turns out that Batman and Robin used the chemicals, and some fancy calculations, to cause the lightning with some cloud seeding, thus disabling the tiny weapon. Our heroes then bust in the window and battle the crooks, winning the day once again.
We have some wild moments in this episode, but on a whole it feels kind of flat. Sadly I think that the material might have worked a bit better had our Riddler been Frank Gorshin rather than John Astin. Gorshin’s manic behavior has a way of intensifying everything. Astin just seems to be along for the ride in this one. It’s not helped by the fact that this could’ve been any villain in this particular chapter. There’s nothing about it that really screams “Riddler.” Even the riddles themselves are kind of lame and don’t really play into the story that much. Almost like they were tacked on at the last minute.
I did really dig the strange puzzle cage that Riddler locks up Senor Aquila in. It looks like some sort of psychedelic 60’s jungle gym. Though, I thought that Robin figured out the puzzle a bit too easily. Drawing out the suspense would’ve made the scene a bit better. There’s also a really cool gimmick that comes into play briefly in the final fight. When Batman and Robin bust through the window, they end up standing on top of a box with a puzzle-like design on top. The puzzle pieces then suddenly drop away, revealing spikes. Of course, our heroes manage to jump out of the way, but it was cool gimmick.
Ultimately, the best moment of this episode is the escape from the cliffhanger. It’s made even sweeter thanks to the very cheesy wires that are employed to create the effect of our heroes rocketing out of the top of the cake. There are a few bright spots along the way, but it’s mostly downhill from there. As for Riddlerhe next time we see him he will once again be played by Frank Gorshin. I don’t want to rag on John Astin too much. He’s a very skilled comedic actor, but the Riddler just wasn’t quite the right fit for him. On our next episode, though,we see the return of a classic villain, played by the man who has owned the role for this entire series. Cesar Romero is back as the Joker in The Joker’s Last Laugh. Same bat-time, same bat-channel (superhero).