October 16th, 2002

Eye of the Dragon

And in this week's installment of How They Should Have Done It:

Birds of Prey

As I sit here half-watching the second episode, I realize some of the problems with the first.

Most of the really big ones -- the ones that drag it down -- center around the treatment of the Batman Mythos (echo echo echo). They should not have tried to cram all the backstory into the first ten-fifteen minutes of the opener -- especially since the main storyline of the opener felt fairly lackluster. The pilot ignored one of the oldest adages of writing: Show, Don't Tell.

Trying to stuff the three or four parallel stories of Helena's parentage, Barbara's shooting, Dinah's precognition, and the whole Batman/Joker endgame into that overstuffed opening just didn't work.

I see two ways they could have cleaned this up:

One: they could have taken that first few minutes and stretched it out into the whole episode. Don't play up the Batman parts any more than they already did, but turn it into something more than just vignettes with narration. Show us how Helena wound up with Barbara. Show us how Babs made the transition to Oracle. Hold off on revealing the identity Helena's father -- and possibly even her mother's extra-curricular activities as well. Don't wait seven years to bring in Dinah. Show us the team becoming a team.

Two: they could have done exactly the opposite: given us the team of Oracle and the Huntress as a fiat accompli, seen through the eyes of the runaway teenage psychic who's just weaseled her way into the crew. Don't tell us anything about Helena's parentage or Barbara's previous career -- except perhaps mentioning that her father was the police commissioner. Bit by bit, over the course of the first season, reveal more and more about their backgrounds, as ongoing threads, as background elements in episodes, even as the central plot of an occasional episode. Treat The Batman like Voldemort, in the Harry Potter tales: nobody

The superhero adaptations that work -- Batman: The Animated Series, Smallville, and the one that conceptually bears the closest resemblance to this show, Batman Beyond -- all used combinations of these principles.

One wonders if they can salvage the show. Don't ask me how I liked the second episode -- frankly, I got distracted.

Oh, and one last thing: never, ever refer to "Batman" and "Joker" without the definite article "The" in front of them. Treat those as titles, not personal names.

In our next installment of How They Should Have Done It: Enterprise!
  • Current Music
    Kris Carter - Batman Beyond - Return of the Joker Opening Theme