Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch Batman! “Hizzoner the Penguin” / “Dizzoner the Penguin”

“Hizzoner the Penguin” / “Dizzoner the Penguin”
Written by Stanford Sherman
Directed by Oscar Rudolph
Season 2, Episodes 17 and 18
Production code 9719
Original air dates: November 2 and 3, 1966

The Bat-signal: The Penguin foils a robbery of a blind news vendor, right in front of a cop. (Said cop was way more concerned with Penguin than the poor blind dude.) He then saved a baby and donated money to the Gotham City Charity Fund. A very confused Gordon and O’Hara immediately go to the red phone…

The Bat-phone’s call interrupts Dick’s rehearsing for the school play—he’s doing the title role in Macbeth—and said interruption proves a boon to Shakespeare lovers everywhere, as Dick is an even less convincing Macbeth than he was a thug back in “He Meets His Match, the Grisly Ghoul.” They slide down the Bat-poles and head to GCPD HQ.

While riding the elevator up to Gordon’s office, they discuss the rumors they’ve heard that Penguin is running for mayor. Batman reveals that the Gotham City Charter (the same one Egghead recently stole) allows convicted felons to run for mayor.

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Mayor Linseed is in Gordon’s office, and he’s not sanguine about his reelection chances. According to a Gallus poll, Penguin’s at 60%, with Linseed only at 30%. Seven percent are undecided, and 2% are for Harry Goldwinner, a monarchist candidate. (The three Gallus representatives don’t account for the remaining 1%.)

Linseed feels he has no chance, but he has a notion on how to defeat the Penguin: Batman runs against him. Reluctantly, Batman accepts. This immediately results in a bump in the polls—Batman is at 55%, with Penguin down to 35%. (The undecideds and the monarchists are holding steady.) Penguin gives a speech before a crowded campaign HQ insisting he’ll only do slogans and flash, no issues (they confuse the average voter)! Meanwhile, Batman and Robin strategize in an empty campaign HQ, putting together modest posters, with Batman insisting that he will focus only on the issues, and avoid flash. He also gets a very large campaign contribution from Aunt Harriet.

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Two couples with babies show up for a Batman rally. However, Batman refuses to kiss the babies, as it’s a bit of an unsanitary habit. The parents express their outrage, as they suspect any politician who won’t kiss a baby. Penguin shows up and kisses the babies—with his cigarette still in his mouth, thus doubling down on the unsanitary nature of the action—which costs Batman four voters, who now think he hates children. Privately, Penguin confesses to the Dynamic Duo that he should have gotten into politics years ago, as all the things he loves to do as a criminal are completely okay for a politician.

The rally itself is rather poorly attended—only five people in the audience. On the podium with Batman are Robin, Gordon, Linseed, and a barely awake O’Hara. Meanwhile, Penguin’s rally has a bellydancer, champagne for everyone, and Paul Revere & the Raiders.

Batman is scheduled to speak before the Grand Order of Occidental Nighthawks. (By a startling coinky-dink, several of Penguin’s campaign workers are wearing shirts labelled “G.O.O.N.”) He shows up, and the goons (surrounded by “Vote Pengy!” posters) immediately attack with umbrellas. Fisticuffs ensue, but Batman capitulates when Robin is captured. They’re placed in one side of a scale that’s hovering over sulfuric acid (conveniently labelled with the words “SULPHURIC ACID”). In the other side of the scale is a pile of ice, which is melting.

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Penguin shows up and expresses outrage that the goons would endanger a candidate. He intends to call the police, but dagnabbit, he’s out of dimes! So he walks very slowly out the door intending to go to police HQ directly. He should be back in a few hours…

However, Batman and Robin’s costumes are acid-proof (something either Robin forgot or was never told), so Batman—covering his face with his cape—simply rolls over and into the acid, thus saving Robin from going into the vat. He emerges unscathed and frees Robin.

Batman and Penguin have a televised debate. Penguin raises the completely legitimate point that Batman wears a mask and nobody knows who he is. Every newspaper picture of Batman shows him with criminals, while all of Penguin’s are with police. Penguin associates with the law, while Batman rubs elbows with the worst elements of the city. Penguin believes that Batman is a criminal under the mask.

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Penguin’s goons overlay Penguin’s campaign song over Batman’s (very dull) rebuttal. Then the debate is interrupted by a robbery at the convention center where a jeweler’s convention is being held. Both the Dynamic Duo and Penguin head off to save the day (leaving a befuddled debate moderator behind). The trio fight the goons, though Penguin is play-acting for the cameras. The TV news is reporting on the fight as it happens, with one reporter trying to interview both candidates mid-fisticuffs.

Penguin actually “takes out” most of the goons, thus improving his poll ratings to 65%. Penguin calls Batman’s campaign HQ and taunts Gordon, saying he’ll appoint Riddler police commissioner and Joker the chief of police. However, the actual voting turns out to be very close. The Gallus guys are devastated, as they feel no one will trust their polling data ever again after this, though they console themselves with the notion that they could go into television ratings…

Penguin, seeing his margin for victory close, goes off for one last dirty trick: he kidnaps the Board of Elections, who have to count the vote for it to be legitimate. Penguin instructs Batman to convene the City Council to declare him mayor, or the board will be toast. But Batman assumes he’s at the headquarters of the Grand Order of Occidental Nighthawks, and sure enough he finds them there, and fisticuffs ensue, with Penguin and the goons shoved through the Campaign Literature Packager, which puts them all in big boxes ready to go off to jail.

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Only after the fight does Robin reveal that Penguin kidnapped the board too late—they’d already counted the votes, and Batman won. However, Batman immediately resigns, which puts his deputy mayor—Linseed—in charge. Batman then gets calls from both political parties, asking him to run for president in 1968…

Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! Batman uses the Bat-tracer to try to trace Penguin’s call, but he doesn’t stay on the wire long enough. He also has a bat-mirror that he uses to check on his debate makeup after Alfred applies it.

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Holy #@!%$, Batman! When he learns that convicted felons can run for mayor in Gotham, Robin mutters, “Holy disaster area.” When Harriet hands Batman a large campaign contribution, Robin goes goggle-eyed and cries, “Holy bank balance!” When Batman tells him that their costumes are acid-proof, he grumbles, “Holy coffin nails.” When Penguin kidnaps the Board of Elections, Robin complains, “Holy pot luck.” When Batman is asked to run for president, Robin cries, “Holy bulging ballot boxes!”

Finally, as part of the cliffhanger voiceover, William Dozier utters, “Holy batgraves!”

Gotham City’s finest. Several plainclothes cops and the elevator operator at GCPD HQ are Penguin supporters, and whoever issues firearms to uniforms also is, as at least one cop’s gun doesn’t fire bullets, but instead kicks out a flag that supports Penguin’s mayoral run.

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Special Guest Villain. In terms of airing order, this is Burgess Meredith’s first second-season appearance as the Penguin. However, the first two episodes actually filmed for season two were “The Penguin’s Nest” / “The Bird’s Last Jest,” which is still five stories away from now in terms of air dates. Given the subject matter, however, it’s not really surprising that they placed this episode during Election Week…

No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Front and center at Penguin’s campaign headquarters are three nubile young women, who say they wish they were old enough to vote. Yeeeeeeah.

Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.

“I’m convinced the American electorate is too mature to be taken in by cheap vaudeville trickery. After all, if our national leaders were elected on the basis of tricky slogans, brass bands, and pretty girls, our country would be in a terrible mess, wouldn’t it?”

–Batman, showing his ignorance of U.S. electoral history.

Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 27 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, writer/editor Glenn Greenberg.

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The plot for this episode had to have at least partly inspired one of the storylines in the Tim Burton-directed 1992 movie Batman Returns, in which the Penguin (played by Danny DeVito) runs for mayor, although Michael Keaton’s Batman doesn’t run against him…

The Gallus poll is a play on the Gallup polls that are still used today, and Walter Klondike, Chet Chumley, and David Dooley are plays on popular newscasters of the era, Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, and David Brinkley.

That really was Paul Revere & the Raiders providing the music at Penguin’s rally, along with bellydancer Lorraine Shalhoub, who legally changed her name to “Little Egypt,” a name also used by several bellydancers at the turn of the 20th century.

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Given how contentious the 1968 presidential election wound up being, having both parties contact Batman to run for their party was amusing, more so given that the second call—to which Batman responded, “Don’t you already have a candidate?”—had to be from the Democratic party. President Lyndon Baines Johnson originally intended to run for reelection in 1968, but he withdrew from the race in March 1968 after the New Hampshire primary.

Pow! Biff! Zowie! “It’s a pleasure to hear plain, honest talk from a candidate instead of the usual political mumbo-jumbo.” Batman has toyed with political satire twice before, once at the end of “Batman Sets the Pace” when they poked fun at the 1966 California gubernatorial election, and again in the movie with the digs at world politics and military bureaucracy. But this is the first time they’ve embraced it so wholeheartedly, and it’s an absolute delight, quite possibly the show’s finest hour, though I freely admit that I’m slightly biased toward it because (a) I’m an election junkie, and (b) I’m rewatching it the same week that Donald Trump (who is pretty close to a real-life super-villain) became the last man standing in the Republican primary race.

Penguin’s mayoral campaign is a delight, as it’s an expected triumph of style over substance, aided by Batman’s substance being so incredibly boring. Even his biggest fans—Linseed, O’Hara, Gordon—are put to sleep by his rally (to all of five people). In particular, Penguin’s vague declarations of clichés and bromides, followed by constituents grateful for his alleged straight talk has been a hallmark of bullshit campaigns for centuries. (It’s certainly not a new phenomenon, as even a cursory study of nineteenth century political campaigns will reveal. If anything, “dirty” campaigning got cleaned up in the latter part of the 20th century…) And the news coverage of the fisticuffs in the convention center, down to on-the-floor interviews, was just classic.

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With all that, though, Penguin raises at least one good point: Batman hides behind a mask. They don’t know who he is. Leaving aside the fact that it should probably keep him from even being on the ballot (seriously, you kinda have to reveal your real name in order to run for something), it’s a legitimate point, one that Batman doesn’t get the chance to rebut thanks to the heist at the convention center.

And still with all that, the moral of the story is (more or less) in the right place. Batman’s appeals to trust votes over poll results and issues over flash are worthwhile ones.

Bat-rating: 10

Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s Stargate SG-1 novel Kali’s Wrath is now available for preorder on Amazon and Amazon UK. The eBook will go on sale on 19 May and the print book will be available in June. In addition, check out Keith’s seasonal Stargate Rewatch right here on Tor.com.

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