In his 5th year of crimefighting, Gotham's grim loner at last gets a superhero sidekick. And it's not Robin. There's a definite infusion of girl power as Season 3's first two episodes unveil the origin of the plucky but extremely raw Batgirl. The rest of the season lays out her journey from undesired, unproven nuisance to Batman's well-regarded, in-the-loop sidekick. With the departure of Detective Ellen Yin, Batman's former hush hush ally in the Gotham constabulary, we get to see more of Batgirl's dad, Commissioner James Gordon, who, in Season 2, made his debut and reached an accomodation with the Dark Knight. Here, we see the Batwing, as well as the new, fairly awesome Batmobile. We say goodbye to the eerie theme song of the first two seasons and hello to the more upbeat and guitar-strummy new theme music, although I do lament the loss of the fun and freaky "Baaatmaaan" which can be heard at the end of the original theme.
Producer/Art Director Jeff Matsuda's distinct style again shines clear and strong. Quite a bit of the animation reminds me of his old Jackie Chan cartoon, which threw me off for a moment. Then I got used to it and I like it now. Another positive for the series is the humor. There's always been some comedy to this series, but, thanks to the quippy and infectious Batgirl, there's an even more pronounced lighthearted tone, which, by the way, serves as a nice counterpoint to Batman's brooding.
This season wouldn't be complete without Batman's roster of oddball villainy (Penguin, Joker, Catwoman, etc.). Poison Ivy is re-imagined here as a contemporary of Batgirl's. The nanotech-manipulating Gearhead debuts and wreaks havoc with Bats and his wheels, while Maximillian Zeus still has his god complex intact. However, it's the final episode which presents Batman with his deadliest adversary as embodied in the creation of the unctuous Professor Hugo Strange. And, for fans of the live action '60s Batman series, Adam West has been a recurring guest actor as the voice of the Gotham mayor. My favorite episodes here are "Batgirl Begins, Parts 1 & 2," "RPM" (that Gearhead is a lot of fun), "Thunder" (Batgirl is growing more and more disenchanted with Batman keeping her out of the loop, and Zeus looks darn impressive), and "Gotham's Ultimate Criminal Mastermind" (a worthy duo of villains).
Yup, it's a bit disconcerting having Batgirl come in before Robin, as it does change up the team dynamics, and especially when Robin finally does appear in Season 4. But guess what? For me, Season 3 became the turning point of the series, when I began to regularly try to catch it on TV. The biggest reason is Batgirl. I truly enjoy this series's take on Barbara Gordon and her alter ego. She's brave but insecure, athletic but klutzy, resourceful but with an aptitude for occasionally bollocksing it up. But she doesn't waver, whether in a tussle or in trying to convince Batman to accept her as a crime-fighting partner. And she's funny and has no qualms about ribbing the mega-serious Caped Crusader. Safe to say Batgirl won me over pretty quickly. Which is a good thing, as she's in a ton of episodes. As for the Batman, well, the dude remains a dark and righteous superhero. Wouldn't have him any other way.
Season 3's 13 episodes are:
Episodes 1 & 2 - "Batgirl Begins (Parts 1 & 2) - Barbara Gordon, teen Olympic hopeful and the police commish's willful daughter, dons the cowl and cape of Batgirl for the first time. Meanwhile, Barbara's buddy, Pamela Isley, becomes the demented Poison Ivy. That friendship's probably over.
Episode 3 - "A Dark Knight to Remember" - Bruce Wayne suffers a head trauma after a run-in with the Penguin and loses all memory of being the Darknight Detective. This sucks for the kidnapped Batgirl as she's about to be put to death by the Penguin at the stroke of midnight.
Episode 4 - "A Fistful of Felt" - Heaps of bent psychology here. Professor Hugo Strange pronounces the Ventriloquist cured and releases him from Arkham. The Ventriloquist gets a new gig performing at kids' birthday parties. But what happens when his old, malevolent puppet Scarface reappears?
Episode 5 - "RPM" - Nanotech-powered racer Gearhead comes to Gotham to seek thrills and loot cash, and Bruce builds an all-new and improved Batmobile. Meanwhile, Barbara goes to driving school.
Episode 6 - "Brawn" - The Joker has made off with Bane's power infusion module and is now all muscly and super-strong. Is Batman still in his weight class?
Episode 7 - "The Laughing Cats" - Joker absconds with a pair of endangered Siberian leopards, intending to sell them to a hunter of very rare beasts. Catwoman, she doesn't approve.
Episode 8 - "Fleurs Du Mal" - Even as the mayor initiates an environmental "Green Up Gotham" program, the Penguin schemes to make it rain, Alfred gets hay fever, and Batman is arrested for killing a plant. Can you guess the villain?
Episode 9 - "Cash for Toys" - After Wayne Industries shuts down the dangerous toy-making company Krank Co., its owner Cosmo Krank seeks out vengeance with his arsenal of lethal playthings. This is a fairly amusing episode if you're a fan of Patrick Warburton, who voices the brash Cash Tankenson as he provides police protection and "wingman" duties for Bruce.
Episode 10 - "The Apprentice" - After Bats and Batgirl foil another one of his schemes, Joker decides to get his own sidekick ("I want my own Mini Me."). So he starts hanging out at the comedy club Ha-Ha-Hacienda and discovers Prank.
Episode 11 - "Thunder" - The corrupt but semi-majestic billionaire Maximillian Zeus, after having lost the mayoral election, makes up his mind to rule Gotham anyway. And, he's got a flying warship to back up his ambition.
Episode 12 - "The Icy Depths" - Mr. Freeze and the Penguin vie for a jewel-encrusted umbrella, which hides a clue to sunken treasure. Meanwhile, a sneaky, old chum of Alfred's comes a-calling.
Episode 13 - "Gotham's Ultimate Criminal Mastermind" - The ever-oily Professor Hugo Strange demonstrates his Digitally Advanced Villain Emulator (or D.A.V.E.), the most up-to-date criminal-capture technology and powered by artificial intelligence. But you just know D.A.V.E.'s gonna rebel...To save the day, Bats just may have to pull out a ploy from Captain Kirk's bag of tricks.
Note: Disc 1 provides the first seven episodes, Disc 2 has the final six. For a special feature, there's only the 8-minute-long "The Batman: Season 3 Unmasked" featurette.
Three and a half stars for this one? Yeah, why not. And, for those who enjoy Season 3, Season 4 is even better. However, I'm still not that fond of the first two seasons.