One would think that Batman, often said to be the world’s greatest detective, would be able to figure out a simple mystery involving a criminal dressed up in an animal costume more efficiently than a gang of meddling teenagers and their creepy talking dog. The most recent episode of Boomerang’s Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? would disagree.
In “What a Night for a Dark Knight” (a nod to the very first episode of the original Scooby-Doo series) Scooby and the Gang make their way to Gotham City of all places, because it just so happens that Daphne has a close connection with her “uncle” Alfie Pennyworth.
Alfred, Daphne explains, once worked as her family’s butler for a summer before eventually becoming a Blake family friend who frequently played on their polo team. Daphne’s certain that Alfred will be elated to see her, but just as the gang enters Gotham’s city limits, they’re run off the road by a recklessly-driving Batman who’s hightailing it somewhere in the Batmobile.
Because the kids and Scooby are all fans, they’re too busy being excited to consider the fact that one of the world’s most famous superheroes sent them into a tailspin and almost made them crash into a boulder — and their giddiness doesn’t wear off until they arrive at Wayne Manor to find the place in shambles and Alfred quite missing.
It’s here that the Scooby-Doo-ness of Guess Who kicks in, because as best as the kids can tell, there’s a mystery to be solved, and hunting for clues around big, creepy houses is kind of their thing. The problem, of course, is that Wayne Manor isn’t just any old house, and the teens aren’t alone. Batman (voiced by Kevin Conroy, because of course he is) is there with them, but if he were to immediately reveal his presence to the kids, it would raise a number of questions about why, exactly, he was there given that no one at the residence, including Bruce Wayne, seems to be present.
As Mystery Inc. wanders through the Manor, they do end up stumbling across a number of clues about who broke in and seemingly kidnapped Alfred, and “What a Night for a Dark Knight” cleverly riffs on the old-school Scooby-Doo narrative trappings by framing Batman himself as the creepy monster lurking in the shadows. While there is a proper criminal behind all the mayhem, the episode leans into the aspects of Batman’s presence that make him such a frightening person when he’s trying to intimidate villains — albeit through the lens of that kooky, spooky style of classic Scooby-Doo cartoons.
Batman has no reason to immediately assume that the kids themselves aren’t responsible for the break-in, and so he approaches them the way he would any other gang of brightly-dressed weirdos who rolled up into Gotham in a garish van: he stalks them and carefully traps them all with a variety of bat-themed gadgets, before rounding them all up for interrogation.
The entire point of Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? is to mine comedy out of the idea of famous people crossing paths with Mystery Inc. and getting into hijinks. When these guest stars are real people, the humour comes from their ability to go with the general flow of Scooby-Doo style jokes. But with characters like Batman who come from worlds with their own established rules regarding incidents like this, what’s funny is Batman’s inability to immediately grasp the full picture of the situation.
When Fred tries to explain to Batman that they’re all detectives (kinda), Batman straight-up doesn’t understand. One imagines there’s part of him that reacts that way because he doesn’t think children should be getting into that kind of trouble — but that’d be a rather hypocritical stance for him to take (see: his sidekicks.)
In this particular instance, it definitely seems like he’s really just trying to get Mystery Inc. out of his way. But the more Batman speaks with the teens and the dog, it becomes increasingly obvious that they aren’t the culprits and that if Batman isn’t careful, they’re definitely going to figure out his secret.
Working together, Batman and Mystery Inc. identify someone who appears to be Robert Langstrom, a.k.a. the Man-Bat, as the person who kidnapped Alfred, but when Batman learns that Langstrom hasn’t left his cell at Arkham, he finally realises that the mystery was always the sort of situation the teens were somewhat more equipped to understand.
As always with Scooby-Doo, the monster’s just a guy in a suit who the teens end up running away and hiding from, before attacking him in a convoluted plan that involves costumes, a hose, and a falling chandelier that traps their assailant, giving everyone a chance to unmask him. Batman isn’t at all surprised to find the Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill, because, likewise, of course) behind it all, comically beneath a mask that is also beneath a Man-Bat costume head, but not because he’d deduced his identity on his own.
Batman admits that Velma provided him the necessary information to crack the case, and the Joker bemoans that he almost certainly would have gotten away with his plan to hack into Bruce Wayne’s back accounts after the kidnapping were it not for Scooby-Doo and those meddling kids kinda messing everything up for him. You know how it goes.
By the episode’s end, none of Mystery Inc. lets on that they might have put two and two together and figured out that Bruce Wayne and Batman are one and the same, and it’s likely for the best.
They’d all probably make excellent new additions to the Bat Family, but to become that, they’d have to go through all sorts of messed up traumas that they’re much better off avoiding since they can help it. That kind of grim darkness isn’t Scooby’s speed, which is why one of the last things you see as “What a Night for a Dark Knight” is the Mystery Machine parked out front ready to drive off.
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