Joker's Favor

  The Joker bullies an ordinary man into helping him kill Gordon.
  Original Airdate: September 11, 1992
  Episode # 22
  Rating: * * *

Credits Cast

Written by Paul Dini
Directed by Boyd Kirkland
Music by Shirley Walker
Animation by Dong Yang

Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. as Alfred
Bob Hastings as Commissioner Gordon
Robert Constanzo as Bullock

Mark Hamill as The Joker
Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn
Ed Begley Jr. as Col lins

For all the simplicity of his smile, the Joker is actually quite a complex creature. He has brains, cunning, technical know-how, a playful sense of humor, and even a romantic side. He is also quite mad and has a good schtick going. That's the most visible aspect of his character, of course, and one that most writers dwell on with loving detail.

But if there is a single key to his character, it must be his cruelty. He is not merely a smiling, damnéd villain, but a Chesshire cat of grinning malice. C. S. Lewis said the Devil does not disdain the smallest cruelty, as God will not disdain the smallest kindness. The Joker is Batman's devil.

Who is Charlie Collins? A nobody; a nullity; a speed bump hit during a high velocity getaway. But the Joker will pause, turn, pursue, corner, and threaten this man who had the misfortune to lock eyes with him on the freeway. Why? Because it delights him. Causing pain is its own reward.

But the pain must be savored. Where is the pleasure of a quick gulp when Collins's misery can be laid aside and aged like a fine wine, then swirled and sniffed before being consumed at the conclusion of a giddy banquet? So he lets Collins go, but watches and follows him as he tries to escape—oh, how the Joker must have enjoyed Collins's fruitless and (undoubtedly) clumsy efforts to slip away—before calling in that long-delayed favor. Naturally, the climax to his plot comes with a double sucker punch: He calls Collins in to perform a meaningless task (holding the door open while Harley—making her first, and quite promising, appearance—wheels a booby-trapped cake into a policeman's banquet) and then leaves him there to suffer an explosive fate. Sadism this sweet must be admired, so long as you're not on the receiving end.

But back to Charlie. This is a one-time character. He's not very interesting, but that's the point. He's dull, plain, and ordinary. In other words, he's just like us, and through his point of view we get an unhindered and unromaticized appreciation of what it must be like to be the punch line to one of the Joker's gags. Too often the omniscient viewpoint—the one adopted when it is just Batman vs. the villain—distances us from the pain which the Batman universe specializes in dramatizing. But Collins is also the hero of the story, the man with a problem who must finally trust to his own ingenuity in order to escape. And escape he does, finally, by turning round and throwing the Joker's bitter jests back in his lap.

The ancillaries of Dini's script never disappoint either, as he deftly mixes suspense, comedy and revelation of character. The Hitchcockian pattern of an ordinary man, through one bad turn, falling into extraordinary circumstances and fighting his way out, is complemented with Hitchcockian touches: Collins tries to approach two policeman at the airport, only to be intercepted by Harley; a police convention proves to be the most dangerous spot in the city.

Related Episodes
   * Joker's Wild
   * The Laughing Fish
   * Harlequinade
   * Make 'Em Laugh

What Others Are Saying ...
"Paul Dini's first Joker script is a whopper, bringing us the first real instances of the playful and the demonic in the Joker, a character that, when done right, can snarl and smile in the same second."Alex Weitzman, The Big Cartoon Database

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