The Cat and the Claw (Parts 1 & 2)
Directed by: Kevin Altieri (Part 1) and Dick Sebast (Part 2)
Written By: Jules Dennis and Richard Mueller (Teleplay)
Original Air Date: September 5, 1992 (Part 1) and September 12, 1992 (Part 2)
Synopsis: [From IMDB [Part 1] see link: Here] Catwoman and Batman join forces in an attempt to foil the evil forces of a terrorist by the name of Red Claw.
As the second ‘two-parter’ of the series, The Cat and the Claw is of note within the history of Batman: The Animated Series for two reasons. Not only does it serve as an introduction to the character of Catwoman, the first episode also acted as the premiere episode of the series, capitalizing on the success of Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, which had been released just months before. What is clear from The Cat and the Claw, is that the two episodes act as a kind of strange, Jekyll and Hyde affair. On one hand, the addition of Catwoman is done almost excellently, yet, on the other, both episodes are plagued by weaker than average scripting and inconsistent animation.
The episode acts similar to the Two-Face ‘two-parter’ in that it begins the story arc between Batman and Catwoman, something that will later be explored in Cat Scratch Fever and Catwalk. The story introduces Catwoman, who encounters Batman following a spate of robberies that are designed to fund her alter-ego Selena Kyle’s charitable activities. At the same time, Catwoman’s crimes also draw her into a terrorist plot undertaken by a rogue criminal named Red Claw, who threatens to hold Gotham for ransom via the release of a plague virus that could wipe out the city.
It is first beneficial to begin with the positive aspects of the episodes, most notably the series representation of Catwoman. While many critics (including producer Bruce Timm) have had issues with the series’s presentation of the character, I’ve always been largely impressed with this version of the character. Not only does Catwoman have an almost perfect design, which works perfectly within the series’s sandbox, within the series, Selena Kyle/Catwoman is presented as a socialite, with a keen interest in the environment and wildlife. While she masquerades at night as a cat burglar, her crimes are done for a reason, to save the wildlife that is her passion.
In this sense, Catwoman not only acts as a double for Bruce Wayne, she also has a slightly different modus operandi from both the prostitute/dominatrix inspired character from the comics and Michelle Pfeiffer’s psychotic, zombie secretary in Batman Returns (Although she does borrow Pfeiffer’s blonde hair). In giving her such motivations, this series’s version of Catwoman stands as a character who appears more ambiguous; one who commits crimes not just for the thrill or out of revenge or greed, but out of a well-meaning moral agenda.
Perhaps the strongest element of both episodes comes from the interplay between both Batman/Bruce Wayne and Catwoman/Selena Kyle. Both Adrienne Barbeau’s Catwoman and Kevin Conroy’s Batman have excellent chemistry and their relationship is played to perfection, whether it be the playful banter in the episode’s opening scene, or the more romantic, even sad moments between the two at the story’s conclusion. This further extends to both character’s alter-egos who both exhibit the same kind of playfulness and humour that makes their relationship more endearing. It is these scenes that are easily the best part of the two episodes, with the difficult decision undertaken by Batman at the end of the last episode, given more weight as the story moves on.
Yet, despite both episodes largely succeeding due to the relationship and interplay between the story’s main characters, The Cat and the Claw sadly lacks due to the weaker than average script at play. Some of the dialogue is clunky, even cringe worthy at times (Batman’s: “I’m an equal-opportunity crime-fighter” line, being of particular note) and while the episode’s main antagonist Red Claw may have appeared as a somewhat interesting character on paper, she could certainly have benefited from further backstory, rather than being a somewhat two-dimensional villain who’s only defining attributes appear to be that she is Russian and female.
Not only this, the animation within The Cat and the Claw appears to be largely inconsistent, throughout each episode. While many of the set pieces are fast and largely well-executed (particularly the train fight at the beginning of Episode 2), there are also some weaker moments, particularly in the final climatic set piece, where several of the explosions and the erupting fire appearing to be drastically lower in quality than anything in the same episode. It’s a shame, particularly as it becomes clear that the removal of such inadequacies may have allowed the two episodes to become more highly regarded among fan communities.
Ultimately, despite such hang-ups, The Cat and the Claw is by no means a failure, despite it standing as a somewhat average episode. While there are nevertheless many episodes that are of better quality than The Cat and the Claw, both are episodes that are still worth watching, not least due to their specific historical importance to the series itself, but also due to a strong introduction to the Catwoman character and the excellent chemistry between the episode’s main leads. They’re both worth a view, particularly for fans of Batman and Catwoman.