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Invasion of the Secret Santas!
Original Airdate - December 12th, 2008
In this week's episode, the evil Fun Haus plans to steal Christmas with his army of robot Santas and killer toys including Dynamite Dolly and the Presto Play Pals! Red Tornado teams up with Batman to save the day and in the process, finds his holiday spirit. In our weekly teaser, Batman and Blue Beetle throw Sportsmaster a perfect strike when he sets up a deadly game with human bowling pins at the alley!

Written by Adam Beechen
Directed by Brandon Vietti
Animation by Lotto Animation*
Review by Andew
Media provided by Warner Bros. Animation

* - Due to Cartoon Network's squishing of the credits, the animation studio for this episode is not confirmed; it's our best guess out of the smudgy mess they left on the screen.
Diedrich Bader as Batman
Corey Burton as Red Tornado
Will Friedle as Blue Beetle
Zachary Gordon as Young Bruce Wayne / Kid #1
James Arnold Taylor as Father
Gary Anthony Williams as Fun Haus

Theme Written and Performed by Andy Strumer
Music by Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter

In what is a surprisingly rare occurrence within the DC animated universe, we have been treated to a Christmas-themed episode to give us a superhero-inspired warm and fuzzy feeling. Did this episode pull it off well? Let's evaluate!

The episode starts off with a bowling tournament that gets interrupted by a random masked villain named Sports-Master who enjoys his afternoons by reading, long walks on the beach, oh, and bowling bombs towards people in oversized glass pins. This of course is disturbed by Batman's spoil-sport entrance in which he oddly decides to push away a bomb with yet another bomb! That...really didn't make much sense to me, but it's perhaps a minor nit to pick. Helping Batman on this athletic escapade is the lanky Blue Beetle and his Goober of a suit.

Blue Beetle's inclusion was random, but I felt they made him into a fun character - although he seems to talk a bit too much. Quickly his bantering with his suit causes him to (from Batman's perspective) refer to Batman as a goober. If someone had described that to me without seeing this episode I would have balked and ranted at the ridiculousness, however, it was actually handled quite well that left me chuckling. The scene goes on with further quips by the obviously young Blue Beetle, but Batman stayed mostly silent. This was quite surprising to me as this episode is my introduction to the show and I was sure Batman would be constantly speaking one-liners, but fortunately I was quite wrong.

After the awkward athletics are taken out of the game, Blue Beetle invites Batman over for Christmas dinner, but Batman refuses insisting in a decently Batmanish tone that he has work to do. This struck me as very surprising to me as it's a Christmas episode for a child-oriented show, and yet they have made Batman obviously unsentimental towards Christmas. I was quite certain from the look of this show that they would never take Batman -that- seriously.

Slightly disappointingly, however, when returning from the commercial break the following scenes do not involve Batman. Rather, they introduce us to a new hero to the show; Red Tornado. Or, rather, his professor persona that is leading a lecture only to be interrupted by a student making a quite subtle hint at Indiana Jones. Despite noticing an out-of-control truck tearing through the snow-covered streets, he non-challantly excuses himself from the class room and proceeds to...tear off his human face. That was a new one for me. After rescuing two children nearly pillaged by the truck on amuck, their father goes on to mention Christmas spirit.

Red Tornado, being a robot - as harshly pointed out by one of the children - has no idea what this is. So, in a plot similar to Justice League's "Comfort and Joy," the non-human hero is determined to learn about Christmas. He attempts a mathematics explanation (what a nightmare...before Christmas!), then proceeds to deck his halls quite thoroughly only to come up empty-handed. Or, I suppose, empty hearted. He even attempts to sing Christmas carols under his human disguise to the children he had saved earlier in the day. Although this premise for a children's show episode could have ended up campy, you actually feel the serious atmosphere and feel for Red Tornado's internal torture.

Unfortunately, he is interrupted in his Christmas investigation by an... alien attack? Despite being the classical little green men, they are supposedly Neptunean and demanding Santa Clause. Obviously this takes place before the creation of Robot Santa.
I assumed that this was the inevitable point where things got incredibly corny, maybe even campy. I was surprised, however, to see they had Batman fighting the little UFOs by hand rather than via Batwing. Eventually he activates a glider which forms out of his cape which connects it slightly to "Batman Begins," but strangely the glider is very metal looking in its appearance. Despite this oddity, the action sequence is quite thrilling as Red Tornado shows up, and he discovers a non-ridiculous explanation for the invasion!

The UFOs are actually toys created by a grinning villain known as Fun House, who is allowed to deliver a villainy speech as to why he's on such a rampage as Batman and Red Tornado patiently stand there. Fun House then proceeds to throw a baby doll towards them and flies off, and guess what? Yeah, it's a bomb. A bomb with 10 seconds that strangely Batman and Red Tornado continue to stand there and watch, until Red Tornado uses a tornadic funnel to launch it into the sky. This was the weakest part of the episode as it feels like simple filler.

After the bomb is destroyed, instead of pursuing the freaky Fun House, Red Tornado proceeds to give Batman a present; a World's #1 Detective mug. This shockingly sparks a flashback to a past Wayne Christmas as young Bruce analyzes a present, cuing his father to say "Our little detective." This was a very nice scene, and nicely ended it with a fun quip from Batman towards Red Torando. As they're patrolling along looking for Fun House, they come across a rude and runaway Santa that turns out to be a robot, and Batman proceeds to fry it in a manner that… was actually rather disturbing. Fun House claims it won't give kids nightmares, but I think it was actually far more disturbing than his plan with the automated Santas.

Sadly we're forced to listen to a child cry over not getting the most popular toy of the season, but it sparks yet another flashback for Batman as we learn in his pre-troubled days, he was quite a brat. This is then followed shortly by a flashback sparked by a movie theater in which we're put into the incredibly familiar scenario; young Bruce and his parents outside a theater. As I was watching this, I was certain they wouldn't dare put his actual origin into this show, and yet… Not only did they show his origin in a shocking yet subtle manner, they pushed the envelope by placing it during Christmas AND still leaving him to be a brat. That easily and delightfully flushed away the rest of my assumptions for the writing of this show.

Incredibly strangely, though, they move on from that to revealing Fun House's true plan; to recreate the movie "Small Soldiers." Well, okay, not really. But, it is similar in that the popular toy actually turns out to be an action figure-sized robot that is controlled by Fun House, and not only holds the various families at bay, but they can also form into one large seamless Mecha. I assume he had these made in Japan. Batman strangely doesn't do much but stand there and watch Red Tornado handle the oversized threat, which results in Red Tornado overloading his circuits and exploding.

Relax, our newfound hero doesn't die - but it is incredibly shocking they would show Batman picking up his severed head. Of course, in the very next scene we see Red Tornado's head back on his armless and legless torso getting loaded up into an ambulance. Still, it was pretty serious thing to do in what surely is geared towards children. Ignoring the timeslot, of course. This seems the end of the episode, but we're left with one interesting treat as Batman gets into the retina-provocative Batmobile and finds a present, from Alfred. The present turns out to be the object that turned pre-Batman into Bratboy during the flashbacks, and will leave you to see the episode to understand.

Overall, I probably should have had a more opened mind when watching this show, but despite my stubborn assumptions I was still immensely shocked at how enjoyable this episode - and show - turned out. Growing up with the epic and beloved creation that is "Batman: The Animated Series," I have a very pre-set idea as to what an animated Batman should be, and shockingly this show comes close to the quality of writing that made B:TAS so enjoyable - well, at least the lighthearted episodes of B:TAS. I highly suggest anyone with inhibitions towards this show to give it a try - especially this episode. No one episode is going to be perfect and it has its flaws, but it was highly enjoyable.

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