So this is back, mostly because I would have felt remiss to not talk about Young Justice this week, but, because Dick was not a part Justice League or JLU, I decided to dive into Batman The Animated Series to do this one and only very special version of the feature especially for Dick Grayson Appreciation Week!
The two episodes that I’m over thinking today are “Robin’s Reckoning,” an epic award winning 2 parter, that delves deeply into the psychology of Dick’s decision to be Robin and sows the seeds for the estrangement between him and Bruce and “Performance,” an episode where the team dresses up in funny circus outfits, Dick gets a cold, and Wally gets mad at him because he wasn’t invited on the mission and Roy is a jerk. (To be fair, on Young Justice Roy was always a jerk.) Um, I think I just gave away how this post was going to end.
Anyway, these two episodes were chosen because they’re both about exploring the reason behind Robin. Sure, there’s a world of difference between the 13 year old we see on Young Justice and the 18 year old on Batman, but he’s still Dick and both deal with revisiting the past in a visceral way and it helps them to move forward. Also, these are big, “Pre-Nightwing” moments in both series.
As I said, “Robin’s Reckoning” is the first time we really see that the dynamic duo doesn’t always get along, and “Performance” offers the first time Dick takes the lead on a mission (Kaldur is absent…for some reason. He’s in Atlantis, I guess?), the the extent that he even dispatches the mission, Batman is unaware of it. (And did I mention that Roy is a huge jerk for most of the episode? And the series? Good, glad we’re on the same page there.)
The mystery at the center of “Robin’s Reckoning” is about tracking down Tony Zucco, the low level thug who killed John and Mary Grayson. After finding him, Batman tells Robin to sit it out. He refuses and throw several hissy fits. The episode is also peppered with flashbacks from that fateful night at the circus and Dick’s move into Wayne Manor. The “present day” portion ends with Batman telling Robin that he didn’t want him to lose his life after everything else Zucco took away. The flashback ends with Dick learning that Batman is Bruce and becoming Robin.
It’s actually one of the less effecting of BTAS‘s emotional episodes, but it still packs a gut punch, and Dick’s declaration that he won’t be taking orders, “this time, or maybe not ever again,” becomes eerily resonant in The New Batman Adventures, where Dick has a bad ponytail and an even worse attitude. But Robin’s reckoning ends with a sweet moment between Bruce and Dick on two levels.
Then there’s Performance.
This is an episode I remembered with a great deal more affection than I had when I watched it again. It’s a decently fun adventure, pitting Connor, Megan, Artemis, Roy and Dick against Parasite, who’s trying to build a machine that sucks life forces because he just can’t get enough. He’s gathering the parts he needs by traveling through Europe with Haly’s Circus, and when the heat comes down, there’s just no way that Dick can let the place he grew up, the last connection he has to his family be anything less than vindicated. So, the team disguises themselves as The Danger Siblings, and have a convoluted act that shows off some of the coolest arrow shooting animation on a series filled with cool arrow shooting animation. There’s a few sweet moments, where Dick looks at a Flying Grayson’s poster and when Haly lets him know that he recognizes him.
I don’t think that this episode would have suffered as badly if I hadn’t literally just watched “Reckoning” which is truly a superb piece of work.
So this round goes to Batman: The Animated Series, which shouldn’t surprise anyone, because it is generally the best at everything.