Dreams In Darkness was first broadcasted on November 3, 1992 and then, debuted in primetime on December 20, 1992 with a script by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens and directed by Dick Sebast.
Batman is incarcerated in Arkham Asylum after being exposed to the Scarecrow’s fear-inducing gas. Batman knows that the Scarecrow has escaped for the second time and is planning to poison Gotham’s water supply with the same fear-inducing gas.
So, right off the bat, this episode takes you by complete shock when it started with Batman being taken in a straightjacket into Arkham Asylum and it’s like “holy crap, what the hell’s going on here?” because that’s a hell of a way to open up an episode. I mean, right from that title card alone, we get this sense of “okay, this is gonna get intense” and it does.
This is also one of the rare times that Batman narrates the past events that led him up to this moment, only a few more times in the series would we get a flashback to what happened with Batman narrating how it came to be, which is important to the story at hand.
The Scarecrow’s plan in this fits more in line with what you’d expect from the character and not just using fear toxin to gamble at sporting games…seriously, who came up with that plot?…not only does it have a lot of inspiration as it would later be used as the plan for Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow character in Batman Begins but the images of Batman in Arkham Aslyum as a prisoner are used in the first Batman: Arkham Aslyum game in one of the Scarecrow boss battles. Sadly, this is the last time Scarecrow would be a main villain in Batman: The Animated Series although he would still show up in smaller roles in the rest of the original run and then revived in The New Batman Adventures.
The hallucination sequences for Batman are intense and sometimes pretty chilling, right off the bat, there’s a scene where he’s doing his detective work and then all of a sudden, the Joker appears in the mirror image on the computer screen and then there’s a fresh perspective on Bruce’s parents’ murder that we hadn’t seen done up to that point where that tunnel they go down turns into a gun out of nowhere, some of the imagery in this episode gets so intense and it helps to have the great animation to it as well.
We also get a lot of Batman’s psyche brought into this and how tough he’s being even in such a predicament that he’s in, there’s a bit where he has the chance to get an antidote for the gas but the downside is that he would be knocked out for two days and decides not to take it knowing how close Scarecrow’s plan is coming to fruition.
One of the interesting aspects about the episode is Dr. Bartholomew, played by L.A. Law’s Richard Dysart, the doctor is written well where you know that he’s just trying to do his job and the performance by Dysart is restrained and more reasonable and not some wacky insane over the top antagonist. He’s not just condemning Batman because of what he does, he’s reasonable and makes logical points about how a big plan like wouldn’t go unnoticed.
The episode also does a good job of bridging the gaps between the action and the more enlightening moments, you’ll have an intense hallucination scene and then moments with the doctors, another intense hallucination scene and then more moments with the doctors and so on and so forth.
Dreams In Darkness can actually be seen as the polar opposite to another Batman: TAS episode we’ll talk about in a few more days, Perchance To Dream, with this one facing Batman’s greatest nightmares while Perchance To Dream see Batman’s greatest dreams coming true…in a way but again, I’ll talk more about that when we get to that episode.
Dreams In Darkness is one of the more intense and gripping episodes the show has done up to this point, the animation is once again top-notch, we get a nice glimpse in the dark psyche of Batman, the pacing is great, the action and the hallucinations are intense, and it’s just what you’d expect to see when you think of a Scarecrow centered episode. A shame that this is the last time we see him as the main villain…at least in this original run of the show.