Recap / Batman: The Animated Series E6 "The Underdwellers"

Batman discovers a group of homeless children forced to steal for a cruel, deranged man called the Sewer King.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The tunnels are larger than the average hallway, and some chambers are huge and cavernous.
  • Abusive Parents: The Sewer King sees himself as a good parent to his "beloved children", even though he orders them to steal for him, punishes them severely for talking, and makes them live in deplorable conditions.
  • Adult Fear: Batman is logically angry when Frog picks up and plays with a decorative gun on the wall of Wayne Manor, since it could have been loaded; though realistically, if anybody would know you should never store guns loaded, it would Batman.
  • Berserk Button: Batman is ABSOLUTELY FURIOUS when he learns how Sewer King treats the orphans. He's so angry, in fact, that he's extremely tempted to actually break his Thou Shalt Not Kill code.
    Batman: I don't pass sentence. That's for the courts. But this time—this time I am sorely tempted to do the job myself!
  • Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes: The Sewer King locks his slaves in a room with painfully (to them) bright lights as punishment. When they are finally freed, they are dazzled by the daylight, but it's apparent that they'll get used to it as they're returned to normal lives.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The Sewer King can't understand why Batman would bother saving his life.
  • The Fagin: The Sewer King is the evil version.
  • First Time in the Sun: In the end, the Sewer King's captured orphans are brought into the sunlight at last.
  • Honor Before Reason: When Sewer King is falling into his alligator pit (but then again, maybe he just knows his alligators wouldn't attack him).
    Batman: Grab my hand!
  • King of the Homeless: The Sewer King.
  • Light Is Not Good: The Sewer King punishes a child for breaking his rule against "talking" (he cried out after injuring himself) by locking him in a room filled with bright lights for several hours. Averted at the end when the orphans enter the daylight again.
  • Monster of the Week: The episode spotlights a villain called the Sewer King who never appears again. He is sufficiently creepy for a Batman villain, but it's just as well he never returns, since he is really only good for one story (that is, showcasing the evils of child slavery).
  • Mook Horror Show:
    • A kid's version, as Frog attempts to escape Batman through the sewers that he knows like the back of his hand, only to find there is no escape from the Dark Knight no matter where he goes.
    • The Sewer King has an adult version as he learns to his growing terror how relentless Batman can be when he's chasing a villain down.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: The Sewer King trains alligators to use as attack hounds and bodyguards; in fact, he's really not much of a threat without them.
  • No Indoor Voice: "Rule number one... NO TALKING!!!!"
  • Off-Model: To the point where the animation company behind this episode was almost fired for it.
    Bruce Timm: It's Junio's weakest episode, we almost didn't use them after that. It was the first one that came back that really looked totally unlike our show. It was very Japanese. But I'm glad we did use them again, they've done great work.
  • Papa Wolf: Batman is enraged by Sewer King's crimes against the orphans.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: While being chased by Alfred in the Wayne mansion, Frog finds a collection of antique firearms. He grabs a blunderbuss off the wall and waves it around like a toy. Alfred immediately backs off, but Batman jumps in and grabs the gun out of the boy's hands. Batman notes, "It's not loaded, but it could have been."
  • Save the Villain: Given the nature of the villain's crime, Batman seriously thought about averting the trope this time but it was eventually played straight.
  • Sewer Gator: The Sewer King has somehow tamed an army of these. They are so loyal that they don't attack him when he falls into their pool.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Child slavery, even more so. Batman is so horrified and angered by the conditions the children are kept in that he seriously considers breaking his Thou Shalt Not Kill rule.
  • Somewhere, a Herpetologist Is Crying: It's extremely unlikely that Batman, even at his peak strength, would be able to overpower the bite of an alligator (which may reach almost 3,000 lbs in bite force). He'd be much better off holding the gator's jaws shut; the opening muscles are far weaker.
  • Suddenly Voiced: Frog gets a line at the end of the episode.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill:
    • Batman still goes by this, but he let the Sewer King know that he was sorely tempted to break it this time.
    • Notably, when they're fighting earlier in the episode, Batman inadvertently causes the Sewer King to fall into the pool of water they're fighting above. Batman sees the alligators going into the water after him, thinking that they're going to eat the Sewer King—and Batman simply comments on how appropriate a fate it is for him.
  • The Voiceless: The Sewer King, believing that children should be seen and not heard, forces his charges to be silent at all times... or else.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Dear lord. The Sewer King keeps them as slaves and treats them like dirt. The most despicable part may be his claim that he's helping them.