Twenty-five years ago this September, Batman: The Animated Series premiered and left a major impact on how we think of Batman. Continuing that legacy was its follow-up show, The New Batman Adventures, which also has an anniversary this month, celebrating 10 years since its premiere. The show had some incredible episodes about Gotham and the Caped Crusader, but one that continues to stand out to me all these years later is “Over the Edge.”
“Over the Edge” is one of the best episodes of the entire series. It’s here that we get a glimpse of what might happen if one of Gotham's heroes died and their identity revealed. It starts with Batman and Robin running to escape Commissioner Gordon and his cops in the Batcave. Leaving Alfred behind in a close call, they’re saved by Nightwing, who then asks what happened, and we’re treated to a flashback. It turns out, while going after the Scarecrow with Batgirl’s help, she was knocked off the building and fell on Gordon’s police car. Before she died, she called him dad and he realized it’s his daughter Barbara. Angry at Batman for never telling him the truth, this led to him discovering Batman is Bruce Wayne and the police chase we just witnessed.
Before we know it, things get even worse. Nightwing is arrested, Bruce convinces a tearful Robin to leave him, and Gordon turns to Bane for help in getting his revenge. Bane ultimately turns on Gordon and soon the Commissioner and the Dark Knight find themselves falling off a building, but then Barbara wakes up and it turns out the whole thing was a dream. Gassed by the Scarecrow, this dream showed her deepest fears. She decides not to ignore it and tell her father the truth, but when she tries he just says he loves her and she doesn’t need to run decisions by him. So she doesn’t say a thing.
This episode has been a favorite of mine for years. It’s an interesting exploration of what might happen if a member of the Batman family died. Would their revealed identity lead to the discovery of Batman’s identity and from there, would a manhunt ensue? What would happen to the other heroes? Barbara’s connection to Gordon makes it a particularly interesting scenario to explore, since it becomes much more personal. Seeing this explored in a cartoon, even when it’s erased by being explained as a dream, is extremely impressive.
“Over the Edge” was also an interesting way to explore a character’s fears with them barely being in the show. It tells us a lot about what concerns Barbara has and honestly, it makes a lot of sense for her and even the others to be thinking about this on some level. The fact that a cartoon could explore this so wonderfully and thoroughly is amazing and one of the reasons this cartoon and its predecessor, Batman: The Animated Series, remain memorable to this day.