Written by Musgo Del Jefe
Season Four of The Batman was creative and thought provoking. Robin was introduced to the mythology, one episode echoed Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and in the finale, Batman and J'onn J'onnz (the Martian Manhunter) battled The Joining. The final scene of that season introduced Batman to the Justice League – Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Hawkman in addition to Martian Manhunter.
Season Five starts exactly one year after the attacks. The show hits the ground running with a two-part episode introducing Superman ("Batman/Superman Parts 1 & 2"). The first episode is chock full of comic culture references with nods to almost every other incarnation of Superman in movies and television. Lois, Clark, and Jimmy have traveled to Gotham to present them with a check from the city of Metropolis to help rebuild from the battle with The Joining. They are met here by Superman villain, Metallo. In his battle with Batman and Robin, Metallo looks much like the T2 from the Terminator series. As a way of linking him to that character and not having to do a lot of explaining, we even get an "Hasta la vista, baby" as Robin drives away on his motorcycle.
In what will become a blueprint for many of this season's episodes, there is a blending of bad guys from both universes. Black Mask, Bane, and Clayface work for Lex Luthor to kidnap Lois. All the while Poison Ivy has been captured and Lex uses her spores to control Superman. The second part of the story is essentially a long fight scene with Lex launching one new attack after another with Superman under his control. In a nod to the current DC Comics mythology, Superman allows Batman to keep one of the last existing pieces of Kryptonite, so it doesn't fall into the wrong hands. But this also serves to give Batman, without super powers, equal footing with Superman. In the end, Superman is introduced to the Justice League.
The season is very uneven and predictable. Much like the final season of Teen Titans, each episode from #3 to #11 follows one of two paths: a Brave and the Bold episode (a reference to the old time Batman Team-Up comic) or a stand-alone, usually action-packed episode featuring a Bat villain that is familiar to the viewer. What worked so well in Season Four was that we got to see Batman as a detective. There was a lot of character development between Batman, Robin, and Batgirl (who's almost an afterthought in this season). The Bat "family" that was built in Season Four is almost ignored and forgotten.
Each Justice League character gets an episode dedicated to them. It might be an origin back story (like Green Arrow in "Vertigo") or one that showcases their unique talents (like the Flash in "A Mirror Darkly"). There just isn't the chemistry between Batman and these new characters. It makes me long for the traditional Batman and Robin stories.
The traditional stand-alone episodes don't have the heart and cleverness that ones like "Artifacts" did in previous seasons. "White Heat," for example, brings back Firefly. He's a fun character that stands out because people don't remember his name. In this episode, we are introduced to his girlfriend, Blaze, and through an accident he becomes a new villain, Phosphorus. Instead of playing up the stories that made him a fun character (like people calling him "Bumblebee Man" because of his suit), we get an angry villain that's just Clayface with fire. The Joker is featured in "Joker Express". His humor is all but lost in an episode that becomes one big chase scene. The Joker in a criminal mastermind and part of the fun of his episodes is watching the detective, Batman, figure out the mystery.
The season and series ends with a two-parter that brings back The Joining. The finale would have had more power if we really had connected with the heroes. Seeing them all together fighting for Gotham is nice but not inspiring. The final story tries hard to make a point about working together as a team. It isn 't just super-heroes with superpowers that win the battle. Batman is an important piece with his intelligence.
This could have been a powerful episode with deeper meanings. Done correctly, this could lead to future Justice League movies and cartoons. But the lack of creative presentation of these iconic characters makes it less interesting. Season Four showed where the characters could go with creative license. Without that, it's not a Justice League, it's just five guys fighting the bad guys. And that's not what moves us.
The two-disc set includes the usual single Special Feature. This time it's a piece entitled "Joining Forces" which essentially details how the producers tried to translate the Brave and the Bold team-ups from the comic books to the small screen. It's interesting to see the sources they are pulling from but the execution did not translate. The new heros do not soar into our hearts.