There was something really special about Batman: The Animated Series. Anyone could tell right from the opening title sequence, which didn't even need to identify the show by name. Once you heard that classic Tim Burton score and saw the Art Deco design of Gotham's cityscape, you knew you were watching Batman.
While the series is iconic and fondly remembered, despite having only aired for a total of 85 episodes, it has its share of ups and downs. While some episodes are so great that they entirely changed the canon of Batman's story, others were so dismal that they are better left forgotten. these are the five best and five worst episodes of Batman: The Animated Series.
10 Best: Two-Face Part 1 & 2
One of Batman's greatest defining traits has absolutely nothing to do with him: It's his rogues gallery, which is probably the most iconic in comic book history (the only one that really compares to it in terms of recognizability is maybe Spider-Man's).
Among those villains is Two-Face, formerly known as district attorney Harvey Dent. While the comics explored his origin at length (most memorably in The Long Halloween), this two-part episode made the whole thing feel fresh by not only exploring how Harvey became Two-Face, but also spending some time showing that he already had a dark side, one that often came out under stress.
9 Worst: Critters
While technically part of The New Batman Adventures, we're counting this episode as that series is still part of TAS continuity. "Critters" is the kind of Batman episode that ends up being really disappointing for a lot of reasons.
First of all, the main villain in this episode isn't anyone that fans would recognize. Instead, it's literally a guy named Farmer Brown who has created genetically modified farm animals that are attacking Gotham City. The whole thing feels more like a half-baked 1980's creature feature than a real adventure of the Dark Knight.
8 Best: Joker's Favor
Living in Gotham City must be at least a little bit frustrating. Imagine the commute to and from your workplace when there could literally be a high-speed chase involving the batmobile at any second. That's the premise that leads to one of the more inventive episodes of TAS.
Charlie, a normal Gotham resident, gest on the wrong side of the Joker, and then must take part in one of his nefarious schemes. Luckily, he's able to get Batman to help out before it's too late. The episode really shines in how it frames a classic Batman story through the eyes of the average citizen, which helped to ground the show in its own reality.
7 Worst: Moon of the Wolf
Some of the least memorable episodes of TAS pretty much just center on the premise of Batman vs. something. In this case, it's a werewolf. Yeah, there's not really much more to it than that.
The episode finds the Caped Crusader investigating the presence of said Werewolf throughout Gotham, before confronting the beast and discovering its true identity. Unlike the werewolves of horror lore, this one is just a genetic experiment created by a mad scientist. Even an episode with the Penguin would have been more fun than this.
6 Best: Almost Got ‘Im
Ah, now here's an episode that really highlights that aforementioned Rogues Gallery. In fact, the episode is barely about Batman at all, instead focusing on how obsessed the villains are with killing him, and it all takes place over a game of poker.
Each villain, from Two-Face to Poison Ivy to the Joker, all have their own separate accounts of how close they got to taking out the Bat once and for all. It's exciting and even humorous at parts, and it even has a final twist that makes the episode so much better. It's not traditionally structured, but "Almost Got 'Im" is a great dive into the world of TAS.
5 Worst: Baby-Doll
For some reason, there was a big trend in the nineties of having really annoying baby characters in cartoon shows. You could see it everywhere, and it probably drove parents crazy. At least TAS was something of a respite from that trend, right?
Wrong! As the episode "Baby-Doll" proves, even TAS couldn't resist having Batman, the Dark Knight, face off against a bratty little girl. Of course, Baby-Doll was actually an adult who only appeared to be a child, but it didn't make her any less irritating. This episode also featured some of the most pathetic moments for Batman as well.
4 Best: Perchance to Dream
"Perchance To Dream" is by far one of the most creatively tragic TAS episodes out there. It's like the writers had the idea for Inception more than 15 years before the movie ever came out.
This episode finds the Caped Crusader caught in a confusing alternate reality, one where Thomas and Martha Wayne are still alive, Bruce Wayne doesn't have to be Batman because someone else already is, and life is basically perfect. Too perfect... Once Bruce figures out he's in a dream because he can't read anything, he decides that as perfect as this life is, it isn't real, and he must leave it behind. Turns out, the whole thing was an illusion created by the Mad Hatter.
3 Worst: Night of the Ninja
Remember when we said that sometimes the writers would just go to the old well of Batman vs. something? Well, in the case of "Night of the Ninja," it was Batman vs. a pirate. Just kidding. It was a ninja.
Anyone who grew up in the nineties might remember that ninjas were pretty popular at the time, so it makes sense that TAS would drop one into a Batman story. While the episode explores Bruce's training, it's not really all that deep of a story, and for an episode about fighting ninjas, the fight scenes are incredibly lacking.
2 Best: Heart Of Ice
Come on, what other episode could take the top spot for the best TAS has to offer? "Heart Of Ice" was the first episode of TAS to win an Emmy, and it was well-deserved. To this day, it stands as one of the most emotional and heartbreaking stories ever told in the Batman canon.
The episode brings Mr. Freeze into the world of TAS. While the villain had been featured before as more of just a gimmicky bad guy, the episode, written by Batman mastermind Paul Dini, gives him a tragic backstory. The story of Norah Fries and her terminal illness was so well-received, that it was made canon throughout all Batman media. The final moments of the episode are heart-wrenching and find a rare moment of Batman sympathizing with his enemy.
1 Worst: I've Got Batman in my Basement
Try not to get whiplash as we transition from basically the greatest episode of TAS ever made to one of the most irritating and pointless. "I've Got Batman In My Basement" sounds either like a very weird children's book or a very dark story about superhero torture. Unfortunately, this episode leans toward the former.
This time, Batman is knocked unconscious by gas from the Penguin, and it's up to two precocious children to help him out. The episode not only puts Batman in one of the lamest positions he's ever been in, but it also features some truly weird story beats. IF you binge the series, feel free to skip right over this one.