Riddle me this, readers… How many Batman fans does it take to screw in a lightbulb? None – they prefer a dark (k)night.
Yes, it’s time to check in with our dynamic duo and that brain-teasing bandit the Riddler. With Frank Gorshin paving the way once again for the guest villains to try and steal the spotlight, the real question is can these episodes deliver on the high hopes of the fans?
At Gotham City International Airport, the king of a European country arrives in high spirits. King Boris gratefully accepts a bunch of flowers from a well-wisher, but they explode and leave behind a riddle: When is a person like a piece of wood? A call gets put through to Wayne Manor, as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are involved in a game of chess. Summoned to police headquarters, they change into Batman and Robin to learn more.
They know the Riddler is at large, and Robin solves the clue quickly. Could it be to do with the international chess tournament being held? King Boris’s presentation of a replica statue to celebrate freedom? Or even the beauty pageant, where King Boris is to be a judge? They determine the Queen of Beauty pageant may be the target, and set a trap in case the Riddler tries to steal the winner’s tiara.
As soon as the new winner is announced, the Riddler appears on queue to steal both the tiara and a kiss. The plan to catch him quickly goes awry however. The Riddler, expecting the trap, disposes of the decoy tiara he’s stolen and asks our heroes to solve another riddle: What room can no-one enter? He leaves them a note too, this one a cunning conundrum that leaves the crimefighters baffled.
They focus on the room-riddle and quickly come up with an answer, while in the sewers the Riddler updates his henchmen on his plan. At an exclusive club, King Boris is enjoying an upmarket social gathering and he goes exploring the wine cellar with his companions. Batman and Robin arrive to protect him, but as the champagne corks pop the king is kidnapped, and two more riddles are left for the dynamic duo to solve.
Robin decyphers the clues once more, and after returning to the Batcave to find the location of the king they head to the abandoned Gotham City Water & Power Plant. The Riddler has the king and the replica statue, but is he after a royal ransom? No, just the appearance of Batman and Robin. They arrive, but are caught in a sticky situation and become trapped. Astonishingly, the Riddler releases the king and lets him take the replica statue with him, but has a different fate planned for the caped crusaders.
The Riddler straps them to a pair of giant fans. He explains that due to the speed at which they’ll be spinning, the centrifugal force will kill them in under a minute. He leaves them with one last parting riddle: Why is a woman in love like a welder? He leaves them to their grisly fate and leaves, while the blades spin faster. Could their fans be the end of them? Will they put a spin on the Riddler’s criminal conundrums? Find out in the second episode of this two-parter, same bat-time, same bat-channel!
When Frank Gorshin took the role as the Riddler, he turned a minor villain into a major threat. With his physical comedic nature, wild giggles and dementedly dark sense of humour, Gorshin turned in some of the best and most watchable performances of the whole series. While this may not be the smug, superior villain of later years this Riddler still has a cutting edge to him that makes him dangerous. But do these episodes equal Gorshin’s performance?
Riddler’s plan is an obvious one, but thankfully isn’t revealed too soon. The riddles may not be the most complex, they may still leave you scratching your head for a few moments because there could be several answers. Robin gets to shine in the first episode as the smarter of the two detectives when it comes to solving these particular puzzles, a fact the Riddler points out, while Batman shines in the second… as does Bruce Wayne, especially when meeting Batman for the first time. What? Holy confusion!
These episodes move at a fast pace, with the story being more important than the action. The cliffhanger is solid (although the solution is a little disappointing) and some of the recurring routines are on display, including the back-and-forth pacing about in Comissioner Gordon’s office. And, once again, the accusations of campiness are blown out of proportion. This series may not be the most serious version of Batman, but it isn’t a comedy either. So riddle me this: What is it?
It’s entertaining, that’s what it is. And at the end of the day, that’s what counts.