Oh the Riddler. He shall riddle you, heartily. The two episodes in this special "twofer" are If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich? and What is Reality? Both are in the second volume of Batman DVDs. So, I dunno, something.
If You're So Smart... tells us the origin of the Riddler, one Edward Nygma, who had made a popular video game, "The Riddle of the Minotaur." Then he gets fired. The moral of this story is read your contract. I'm getting the moral out of the way first, yes, look when you're doing two episodes at once you gotta shake things up. This is uncharted territory.
This game, the Riddle game, is stupid popular. How popular? They are making an amusement park for it. Imagine a giant Pacman amusement park. Giant balls everywhere, people in ghost costumes chasing you, moving fruit and pretzel stands, and the only way out is to die because the exit is just back to the entrance. This is brilliant.
Robin, that kooky youngin', is totally into this video game. He plays it on Batman's 50 million dollar computer. Yes. $50,000,000. Let's just all think about that amount of money for a while.
Nygma meanwhile has become quite upset with his former boss, Mockridge and is going to fuck up Mockridge's deal with Bruce Wayne. I find this part especially delightful, when Riddler attacks Mockridge and he offers Batman money to help him. I just imagine him charging Mockridge the exact amount Bruce was going to give Mockridge in their deal. This job pays for itself.
So these riddles. Man. The first one is "Why do multi-million dollar deals break down in the wasteland?" The Wasteland it turns out is a club that Mockridge owns? So why do multi-million dollar deals break down in the wasteland? Because you go there, and the Riddler kills you. Some riddle. Woo. And while he's trying to kill him, he turns on some disco lights, which were supposed to be threatening, I think, but they catch fire, which was maybe the scary part, but really it's more because of shoddy workmanship than anything Riddler did.
The next riddle, after Riddler kidnaps Mockridge, is in morse code, which Batman uses a tiny "palmtop computer" to translate. The riddle? "When is the minotaur's owner as high as an elephant's eye?" The owner is Mockridge, and the thing that is high is corn. Robin ponders "When Mockridge is in the corn?" Every kid in Mitchell, South Dakota said "MAIZE. WHEN HE'S IN THE MAIZE. AND MAIZE EQUALS MAZE, GOD." Growing up near the Corn Palace results in you knowing more about corn than you really care to.
So they go to the maze at the amusement park, and I have to wonder, this was gonna be...a game, for...just tourists? Giant blades are flying out of places, a huge hand scoops Batman up? Were families going to go through this maze and get scooped up by a hand? Did the person who decided this should be a huge lifesize maze ever play Rollercoaster Tycoon? People do not like rides that kill you!
As cool as they may be.
HAND OF FATE!
How many times can I make this joke? Probably never again, since I've done both "hand of fate" episodes now. Oh well.
What is Reality? has video games too! After leaving a bunch of "riddles" which are more like jokes around, Batman goes to Gotham PD where the Commissioner is not surprised to hear him, but is surprised when he sees him.
Nygma's devious plot this episode was to get his name off pretty much any and all public records. Oh also, he was gonna kill the commissioner. He sends a giant box to police headquarters, which is ticking. Gordon says the box was "delivered."
By who, USPS? That box is huge. Robin opens it somehow, and all these police folk who are scared that it's a bomb, pull out their guns. What were they going to do, shoot a bomb? No wonder Gotham needs Batman.
I am happy that as soon as a riddle shows up, Batman is like "welp, looks like the Riddler." None of this "oh goodness who is sending these riddles, it could be anyone!"
Batman uses his 50 million dollar computer to decode the first riddles, which all have numbers in them. "Let's convert them to Roman numerals!" he declares. Sure. Why not? I convert numbers to Roman numerals all the time, just to see if they spell anything. This ridiculous "clue," and I use the term loosely, leads Batman to the DMV.
At the DMV there is a car driven by a robot. It naturally, tries to kill Batman. Nice.
Meanwhile back at the Police Station, Robin is showing off the big computer thing. Here, Commish put this thing on your head, yeah, I know the Riddler sent it, but I'm sure it's safe.
It is very Escher in here.
Back with Batman...I can't....I can't even...
Here you just read this:
RIDDLER: Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no tales. It all makes 'cents' when you add it up!
CUT TO BATMOBILE.
ALFRED: Four quarters and a penny, sir?
BATMAN: Penny. . . Penny. . . Cent. Red cent. Copper. It's made of copper.
ALFRED: And copper is another name for a policeman.
BATMAN: And 'no tails' would be heads. Police head. . . Quarters!
ALFRED: Police Headquarters. Bravo, sir! It does make 'cents' when you add it up!
So, the clue is "go back to police headquarters." Where your sidekick is. Where you were probably going to go anyway.
And who says "copper," besides 1930's gangsters?
And how much acid is Batman on to be somehow following the exact same train of thought Nygma used to make these clues?
Which brings us to the inherent problem with Riddler episodes. The Riddler is ridiculous, and his schemes are supposed to go on for weeks, months, forever, and they're supposed to take Batman a while to figure out and etc. Well how do you do that in 20 minutes? This is why they never did many Riddler episodes. They are difficult and they end up being ridiculous. And you have to use the word "copper."
Commissioner Gordon is plugged in the Riddler's machine, and unplugging him will kill him somehow! So it's up to Batman to go in there and get him out, goddammit.
Riddler says something about kings and queens playing which is obviously a chessboard, but first Batman has to have a wild chase scene through these doors:
He finds the chessboard door, he has to move like a knight, there's more terrible puns and everyone in the audience groans. Batman finds a box, and the commissioner is inside, so Batman cheats and just starts smashing the thing. Fine by me.
Both of these episodes sorta end with Batman having a "riddle of his own!" but his are always really really bad, and not exactly riddles even.
Like this one. He makes a lot of Batmen, and Riddler makes a lot of Riddlers and Batman says "HOW CAN YOU DIVIDE YOUR ATTENTION IN 32 DIRECTIONS AND STILL MAINTAIN THE CONCENTRATION TO KEEP YOUR WORLD TOGETHER?" He yells it like that too. The answer is "YOU CAN'T!" which he also yells and is a terrible answer. Then we get some more modern art with a little Dali:
In the previous episode, Batman says "HOW DO YOU STOP A MINOTAUR?!" which, again, is a really stupid riddle, and again he yells it. The answer to this one? "LIKE THIS!!" How is that even an answer? I want to get Batman a riddle book, and then even if they aren't appropriate to the situation, at least they'll actually be riddles.
What is Reality? ends with the Riddler giving Bats a bit of a clue as to where he is by saying "If the planet were equitable, I'd still have my old job." The meaning? If the world's fair, I'd still have my ex-position.
Let us all groan together. And enjoy our picture of the week*.
*pictures not necessarily weekly.