I love a good Batman psych evaluation, and “I Am The Night” explores the burdensome pressure that Bruce’s mission puts on him, taking him to a breaking point with his alter ego. On the anniversary of his parents’ murder, Bruce experiences a crisis of faith when Commissioner Gordon is shot, and the episode evokes memories of Mask Of The Phantasm as Bruce considers abandoning the promise he made to defend Gotham City. Some might consider this episode overdramatic, but I’d rather call it operatic, with writer Michael Reaves and director Boyd Kirkland emphasizing the epic scale of Batman’s mission and Bruce’s limits as a human being.
You are watching: Batman the animated series i am the night
From the opening title card, it’s clear this is going to be one of the serious episodes, with Michael McCuistion’s lamenting score backing an image of a gunned-down figure lit by a single red spotlight. The episode begins with an expansive, lingering shot of the bat-cave, Batman’s massive underground kingdom where he sits forlorn on his rocky throne. This is a hard day for Bruce, and because Roland Daggett got in the way of his mourning last year, Bruce is double the melancholy this time around.
As he reads about Penguin’s overturned conviction in the newspaper, Bruce wonders if his actions have any effect at all, and after almost 50 episodes, it’s easy to see why the poor guy would get frustrated. It’s a lot easier to keep the streets clean when the city’s prison and legal systems aren’t complete pieces of shit.
While Batman is leaving roses at the spot where his parents were killed, Gordon and Bullock are preparing to raid Jimmy “The Jazzman” Peake, a criminal with a grudge against Gordon for ruining the biggest score of his life six years ago. In Crime Alley, Batman discusses his malaise with Dr. Leslie Thompkins, who tries to motivate her friend using the philosophy of George Santayana. As Thompkins tells Batman that “those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it,” Bruce responds with another Santayana aphorism, “A fanatic is someone who redoubles his efforts while losing sight of his goal.” The philosophical shout-outs add a layer of sophistication to the script, continuing later in the episode as Bruce stares into the depths of the bat-cave and quotes Nietzche: “When you look too long into the abyss, the abyss looks back through you.” Bruce forgets to mention the first part of that quote, but it applies just as thoroughly: “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster.” How long can Batman keep fighting before he becomes that which he despises?