Birds of a Feather

  The Penguin falls for a socialite who only wants him for his novelty.
  Original Airdate: February 8, 1993
  Episode # 47
  Rating: * * 1/2

Credits Cast

Story by Chuck Menville
Teleplay by Brynne Stephens
Directed by Frank Paur
Music by Shirley Walker
Animation by Dong Yang

Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne
Bob Hastings as Commissioner Gordon
Marilu Henner as Veronica Vreeland
Paul Williams as The Penguin

Sam McMurray as Pierce
Neil Ross as Jake
Danny Wells as Guard

Dear Emma,

I received and digested with great pleasure your missive of the fourth. Venice I deem agreeable with you and yours, and I share your misgivings over the eventual move to Ravenna and thence to Rome. This letter shall without doubt arrive too late to weigh in the balance against Lady Small’s desires, but your trajectory I foresee to be one of Romance-to-Ruin, the etymology of the former notwithstanding.

Mr. Dashwood, I am informed, has already passed along word of our friend V___’s latest folly, a report that I trust he conveyed with his customary brevity. Suffice it here too to say merely that her search for sensation lately uncovered a most unfortunate creature by the name of Cobblepot. I will not raise my voice against him; that prejudice I am happy to leave to V___ and her co-conspirator P___. Not that such is entirely unwarranted, but the misfortunes of his past and his appearance are of the sort best passed over in silence. If such silence should have the effect of shunting him away from all society I suspect that outcome would be for the good of all concerned, Mr. Cobblepot being not the least of whom would benefit. And I guess he himself would be the first to agree that his happiness was not improved by his association with our like. He is a proud bird, and the malice that brought him into our company—and whose only aim and outcome was his mockery—had grotesquely predictable results.

I suppose it will sound very callow of me to say, but the whole thing bored me to distraction. Of course you ask, in what sense were these people placed for my amusement? But that was V___’s entire aim, you know, to shock and titillate our sensibilities by feigning interest in this squat and smirking little man. But she is entirely transparent and in the end only shocked herself by coming to regret the pretence. So she failed in her own purposes, and in a manner so humiliating to herself that the only sociable recourse would have been to avert our eyes from the situation entirely.

Unless, of course, it were to watch, not the situation itself, but the people trapped in it as it developed and as they developed too. These are, after all, our friends and neighbors, and one should always conceive and cultivate an interest in one’s fellow man. But even there matters were entirely off-putting. I have never held V___ in very high regard, you know, and in this she fell below even my expectations. She could bring herself neither to tease and humiliate Mr. Cobblepot with a thorough cruelty, nor to give up her plan entirely even at the point that it was almost too late. Through all this she showed herself merely timid—too timid to resist P___ and too timid to surpass him. And proud did I call Mr. Cobblepot? Stupid too, I would judge him, for only some compound of self-blindnesses (and of a sort that renders the victim of such ocular disability less interesting as a specimen of personality) could explain the ease with which he was taken in by the charade. And how can one tolerate long the spectacle of the thoroughly unsympathetic made thoroughly ridiculous, and thus made immune to both our empathy and our respect?

And so it was with a peculiar detachment that I watched the unfolding comedy. Or was it a tragedy? My inability to characterize the ungainly episode we witnessed will not I hope be taken as evidence that my capacity for discernment has taken flight, nor as a mark of my uncharitable appreciation for the genuine pain it caused all around. Scorn and detachment—emotions inhumane if all-too-human—were the feelings aroused in me as I watched high folly feed on itself. Now, to watch such folly so feed might suggest a fine old tragedy. And yet events were so marked by social comedy and self-parody (armed only with P___'s lockjaw might Samson have slain a hundred Philistines) that miserable laughter was the only possible response at times. The fine eye of our friend Jane was called for in places, and had her creative mind been at work we might have been given something more subtle than Mr. Cobblepot’s appalling table manners or his habit of caterwauling at the opera.

So if we watched the resulting spectacle it was only from the same sense of duty as leads one to attend to roadside accidents or the surgical amputation of limbs: We knew it was going to be horrible, and we watched only to see how horrible it would actually be. Even the final intervention of our friend The Dark Gentleman only brought matters to a merciful end rather than a proper resolution, because there could be no proper or satisfying resolution to such a mess—only a blank ending.

Well, I see that I have become hectoring and querulous again. Such are the flaws in my character, and you could not be my devoted friend and confidante without already being wearily familiar with them. The weather here continues fine for the most part, and the rain we had yesterday is welcome in the country, and so for that reason I will not begrudge it, although it befouls the atmosphere of Gotham and makes the streets more noisome than usual.

Ever yours,

Related Episodes
   * Mad as a Hatter
   * Love Is a Croc
   * Torch Song
   * Mad Love
   * Disappearing Inque
   * Riddler's Reform
   * Joker's Millions
   * Essay: Black Widows and Widowers

What Others Are Saying ...
"This was one of Penguin's better episodes, but still not the best. The idea of Penguin going straight has been driven into the ground for far it's growing mold. They did have some fun this time with the idea, having Penguin become a social outcast due to his wild personality and bizarre appearance."World's Finest

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