He’s the Dark Knight’s greatest enemy. A sick, deranged mind hiding beyond a colorful ridiculous exterior. As such, he’s had the lion’s share of good episodes through the animated series. So, here we go with the countdown of the Joker’s best episodes!
Special mention: The Worst Episode
The Last Laugh:
Oh dear God, I couldn’t do this list without mentioning Joker’s single worst episode of the series. So, it’s April Fool’s Day, and Joker shows up in the river riding on a garbage barge. The barge is giving off a green cloud that is making people laugh insanely, all so Joker and his thugs can loot the town. That is possibly the lamest plot the Joker has ever pulled in his entire existence as a fictional character, and I’ve read the comic where the Joker kept using the word “boner”. Anyway, Alfred is one of the people affected by the gas, so Batman goes after Joker and has to face Captain Clown… a six foot tall silent clown that turns out to be a robot. Yes, it’s as stupid as it sounds. While this is still pretty good compared to some other cartoons, by Batman the Animated Series‘ standards, it’s one of the worst. Now, on to the good ones.
6. Be a Clown
Mayor Hill has been neglecting his son Jordan, whose dream is to be a magician. It’s so bad that the Mayor is using Jordan’s birthday party more to socialize with his supporters. The Joker (angry that the Mayor lumped him in with Batman as criminals) crashes the party, disguised as a birthday clown who does great magic tricks. He leaves a bomb behind, but Bruce Wayne manages to “accidentally” knock it into the pool, saving everyone. However, it turns that when Joker left, Jordan hid inside his car. When Joker discovers the runaway and his hopes that he can learn magic from the disguised clown, he decides maybe he should teach the kid how to do magic. Batman eventually tracks them down, Jordan realizes that the party clown is the Joker, and there’s an epic fight on a roller coaster before the kid is returned home and his father makes up for neglecting his son’s feelings. While nothing special overall, I find the Joker’s interaction with Jordan fascinating. I mean, he’s still creepy, but the way he tries to mentor the kid is an interesting moment that sadly never occurs again with any other character.
5. Christmas with the Joker
This was the first episode they made to feature the Clown Prince of Crime. Amazingly, it’s a pretty good showcase of what the show’s direction with the character was going to be compared with other shows. After a hilarious opening of the inmates singing carols at Arkham, which includes Joker singing the infamous “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells,” he makes his escape. Robin thinks Batman should let it go and watch It’s a Wonderful Life (a film Batman admits he’s never seen), but the Christmas Eve broadcast is interrupted by Joker, who has kidnapped Commissioner Gordon, Detective Bullock, and reporter Summer Gleeson. He’s planning bombings around Gotham, and is also planning to kill the hostages at midnight. What follows is Batman and Robin taking on a bunch of insane challenges, and well… that’s it. While nothing super special happens, it’s still a great episode to introduce the Joker on.
4. Joker’s Wild
A billionaire named Cameron Kaiser has opened a new casino, and much to everyone’s shock, it’s themed on Joker, complete with a laughing head outside, and all the staff dressed like the madman and Harley. He claims that he’s honoring not the Joker, but the symbol’s roots in games. Joker finds out and is not amused that someone is making a profit off his image. He immediately breaks out of Arkham and goes to the casino, planning to bring it crashing down. Batman, suspicious of why Kaiser would make such a blatant target, does some digging and discovers that the billionaire has nearly gone bankrupt building the casino. So, rather than keep the original theme, he had it changed to a Joker theme and insured in such a way that when the Joker does destroy it, he’ll make a fortune. As Batman and Joker keep clashing throughout the casino, the question remains: would Joker really destroy it when he finds out he’s being played. This episode gets bonus points for one scene in particular. Since all the staff are dressed like him anyway, Joker gets mistaken for a dealer at the blackjack tables, so he decides to amuse himself by cheating people out of their money. Bruce Wayne, recognizing the real Joker, takes great amusement in playing the oblivious rich boy as he takes his nemesis on in a card game, tossing casual insults about the Joker’s appearance the whole time. That scene alone is worth watching this episode for.
3. Joker’s Favor
Charlie Collins was just an ordinary guy having a really bad day: turned down for a raise, his kid needed braces, stuck in traffic, etc. After getting cut off on the freeway, he lost his temper and chased the offending car down, determined to let the driver have a piece of his mind. Unfortunately, the driver turns out to be the Joker. Desperate to survive, Charlie swears he’ll do anything. Joker decides to take his driver’s license, and says he’ll let him off in exchange for a favor. And despite moving himself and his family to a new city and changing his name, two years later Joker finally calls in the favor Charlie owes him. Turns out, he wants Charlie to help him out by… opening a door for Harley Quinn (making her debut in this episode), so she can bring a cake with the Joker in it to a party celebrating Commissioner Gordon. The Joker has obsessively stalked and kept tabs on Charlie as his hobby, all for that. Of course, he plans to kill Charlie too, but Charlie manages to get a warning out to Batman, who shows up to save the day. And in the end, Charlie gets the last laugh on the Joker. I love this episode, not only for showing just how scary the Joker could be when dealing with ordinary, run-of-the-mill folk, but also seeing someone like that manage to get the best of him.
2. Joker’s Millions
This episode from the final season is possibly the funniest one of all. Joker, facing dwindling funds, finds out that an old crime boss rival of his has died. Joker initially is confused why he’s receiving a letter until it reveals that said rival left him millions of dollars as an inheritance. Joker immediately uses said fortune to expunge his record, get declared sane, and plans to spend the rest of his life comfortably rich and never do a single evil thing again. His ultimate win over Batman is living a happy life with his fortune, knowing it’ll drive his foe nuts that he can’t touch him. The irony is, he’s right, Batman spends most this episode incredibly angry that Joker’s free, and that he can’t touch him. However, when the IRS show up to collect on the inheritance tax (and as Joker puts it, he’s crazy enough to take on Batman, but not the IRS), the Clown Prince of Crime discovers that only about 10 thousand of the money was real, the rest fake. Turns out, the aforementioned crime boss rival got his revenge on Joker by making sure Joker would have enough money to blow through quickly, and now he’s either going to go to jail for tax evasion or have to admit he was played. Either way, not a good situation for Joker. What follows… I’m not going to spoil, but this is the most I’ve ever laughed at Joker in this whole show’s history.
1. The Laughing Fish
What happens when you mix together Denny O’Neil’s “Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” and Steve Englehart’s two parter “The Laughing Fish/Sign of the Joker,” two of the best Joker comic stories ever? You get one of the single greatest episodes of the animated series. Joker’s poisoned the fish in Gotham so that they all come out with his grin. However, the fish aren’t poisonous for humans. It turns out that Joker plans to copyright the fish, so he can get rich off the royalties. When told that fish can’t be copyrighted since they’re a natural resource, Joker decides to start attempting to murder as many copyright clerks as possible until he gets his way. As Batman attempts to stop the attacks and track down the Joker, we’re given one hell of an episode, complete with Alfred Hitchcock style music, truly terrifying moments, and a spectacular climax. The Joker is at his best in this episode: he’s funny, sinister, insane and cunning. It’s like an essential showreel of all the things Joker should be, and that’s why it’s the best Joker episode ever.
Only one more list to go, kiddies, and it’s going to be a major one. Next time, we’re going to talk about the greatest episodes to focus on Batman himself. Look forward to it!