It's Never Too Late

  An aging mob boss is redeemed.
  Original Airdate: September 10, 1992
  Episode # 11
  Rating: * * 1/2

Credits Cast

Story by Tom Ruegger
Teleplay by Garin Wolf
Directed by Boyd Kirkland
Music by Lolita Ritmanis
Animation by Spectrum

Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne
Bob Hastings as Commissioner Gordon
Robert Constanzo as Bullock
John Vernon as Rupert Thorne
Townsend Coleman as Chick
Paul Dooley as Father Michael
Jeff Doucette as Gabe

Linda Gary as Constance Blaine
Katherine Helmond as Connie
Peter Jason as Mason
Alan Roberts as Young Arnie
Eugene Roche as Stromwell
Josh Weiner as Michael

Bruce Timm on Boyd Kirkland's direction of “It’s Never Too Late”: "His storyboards were staged brilliantly. There's this one great shot on the storyboard. You're looking at a church and the camera pans to where a restaurant is. I found that it was the first time I actually thought of Gotham as a real place. It's easy for the city to be just a backdrop, but here it felt like it had geography."

Possibly Kirkland’s attention to geography in “It’s Never Too Late” is merely fortuitous. I prefer to believe it is design. After all, of all the directors who worked on the series’ first iteration, Kirkland was the most attentive to the ways that staging could create or enhance psychology. Consider, for instance, the claustrophobic apartment fight that highlights “Appointment in Crime Alley": there Kirkland makes a darkened apartment a trap, first for a woman terrorized by thugs and then for the thugs as they are terrorized by Batman. Consider, too, the obsessive fanboy’s fondling of his toys in “Beware the Gray Ghost": the Bruce Timm caricature winds himself up for the showdown by winding up his dolls. And consider the at-a-distance point-of-view from which Bruce Wayne watches his alter ego take down a gang of robbers in “Perchance to Dream,”: by showing the scene from something like Wayne's point-of-view, Kirkland puts us inside Wayne's head. In each of these sequences—and examples could be multiplied—the form of the action is more important than the action itself, because it’s the form that gives us the meaning. Kevin Altieri gave his episodes greater visual flair and kinetic energy, but Kirkland—even in his most meretricious offerings—grasped and presented us with BTAS’s very noir heart.

In “It’s Never Too Late” Kirkland assays the geographies of place, time, and memory. Most obviously, he twins the present and the past by stimulating Stromwell’s flashbacks with objects and locations. But when he does that pan from the church to the restaurant, he gives us both an economical, cinematic “cut” and a statement of theme: He takes us from the realm of “higher” things to the gutter; and he uses that church, which looms recurrently in the background, and from which Batman and Father Michael plot Stromwell's redeption, to observe and dominate the actions of the oblivious Stromwell.

But it is with the continuity that Kirkland excels. The story is not only about redemption but about the sinner’s progress. His psychology of temporary escape, eternal pursuit, and inevitable confrontation with both his misdeeds and his moment of grace are dramatized by Kirkland’s terrier-after-a-rat construction. Many action shows (and movies) cheat on their chases and escapes: they show endless loops of people running, punctuated by shots of them popping out of inexplicable hiding places. But Kirkland gives us the geography of the chase, always showing us how Stromwell gets from one rat hole to another; he can escape Batman or Thorne’s gang, but he cannot escape his remorseless director. The effect—remarkable here as it is in the open vistas of “Sideshow”—is of claustrophobia, of a man suffocated by unyielding pursuit. The story itself is melodramatic and more than a little manipulative, defects even the most skilled direction cannot altogether expunge. But Kirkland makes Stromwell’s exhaustion and surrender feel earned.

It’s always dangerous to pin the virtues of an episode on one man, but a glance at Kirkland’s resume should justify the sense that he is primarily responsible for lifting “It’s Never Too Late” above the level of routine. Still, in the sense of fairness, let us also mention his storyboard artists on this episode: Curt Geda, Doug Murphy, and Philip Norwood.

Production Notes
Boyd Kirkland: "This is one of my favorite shows [because] ... Batman is not driving around playing catch-up. He knows what's going on and is behind the scenes manipulating the situation to serve his ends. To me, this is the epitome of how Batman should be portrayed."

Related Episodes
    * Robin's Reckoning
    * Paging the Crime Doctor
    * I Am the Night
    * A Bullet for Bullock
    * The Forgotten
    * Mask of the Phantasm

What Others Are Saying ...
"... not subtle enough to be fully convincing."Jason Warren,

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