The scene where Batman himself is horrified when he finds the video recording that tells him (and the viewers) how Victor Fries became Mr. Freeze via Corrupt Corporate Executive.
The 'summer day' speech.
Think of it, Batman. To never again walk on a summer's day with the hot wind in your face and a warm hand to hold. Oh yes, I'd kill for that!
The ending, where Freeze tearfully apologizes to the small dancing doll that represents Nora in his Arkham cell, for not being able to save her.
I failed you. I wish there were another way for me to say it. I cannot. I can only beg your forgiveness, and pray you hear me somehow, someplace...someplace where a warm hand waits for mine..."
Paul Dini once said if he were to do the episode all over again, he would have ended it where Freeze would weep and his tears would turn into snowflakes that fall on the musical figurine. Wow, Paul Dini thought of a way of making this ending even more of a tearjerker!
"Growing Pains," where Robin helps a scared amnesiac girl named Annie run away from a super-strong man. Turns out the man is Clayface, and she's actuallya part of himthat he's trying to have merge back with him. He succeeds.
Gotham Policeman: We'll book him on the robberies and B & E, right? Anything else?
Robin: Yeah. Murder.
It was worse if you actually read the comics at the time. At that point, Tim Drake/Robin was still early in his solo series, and he had a Love Interest his age for whom Annie was a dead ringer, and who had a similar name. For someone watching who thought the show was bringing her from the comics to the screen, the ending is an even bigger shock.
Really, BTAS was very good at this. Other especially sad episodes include "Mad as a Hatter," "Mudslide," "Home and Garden," "Deep Freeze," "His Silicon Soul" and "Robin's Reckoning." Additionally, it is very hard to think of a character on the show who doesn't have a backstory that's really sad. Except Riddler, maybe.
Riddler doesn't seem too tragic a character at first, but Word of God and background information outside his on-screen appearances makes him very sympathetic and pitiable. Extremely intelligent and frankly quite an oddball, he was always a social outcast, but hoped to make something of himself by utilizing his intellect in designing a hugely successful video game...only for his greedy boss to cheat him out of the credit for it and fire him when he tried to sue. Is it really any wonder the Riddler sought revenge? And then there's his obsession with outsmarting Batman that pushes him back into villainy after an attempted reform.
This version's Scarecrow doesn't have a tragic past, either. He just liked to frighten things as a kid and tht developed into adulthood. So, four villains.
Dick's farewell to his circus friends in "Robin's Reckoning" has always brought tears to Bruce Timm's eyes. While Dick's parents' death is pretty strong, what's really strong is Bruce and Dick's flashback talk near the end of part one, when Bruce sees quite a bit of himself in the acrobat.
Bruce: You keep thinking..."If only I've done something differently. If only I could've...warned them". But there isn't anything you could've done. There isn't anything either of us could've done. Dick: (looking at Bruce's parents' portrait): Your mom and dad? (Bruce nods) Dick: Does the hurt ever go away? Bruce: I wish I could say "yes." But it will get better in time. For you. That I promise. (The two hug)
"Deep Freeze" has two particular moments, the first being where Victor, having finally found the means to cure Nora, realizes that he has to give it up so that she won't lose the world she loved. The second is where he decides that he'd rather stay behind in Oceana to die with her than save himself.
Freeze: We're together again...my love...
And there's the part where he tries to talk Walker out of the procedure.
Freeze: You want to live like this? Abandoned and alone? A prisoner in a world you can see, but never touch? Old and infirm as you are, I'd trade a thousand of my frozen years for your worst day.
"Old Wounds" is one of the worse tearjerkers in the DCAU as it shows the events leading up to the original Robin's split from Batman. The worst part is if you go back and watch the entire series from the beginning, you can actually see their relationship slowly break down over time due not only to the clash in their personalities and ideologies, but also Bruce's growing obsession and struggle with his own inner darkness. Truth be told, by the time Dick returns to moonlight in Gotham as Nightwing, he's Not So Different from Bruce, but it's too late to salvage any relationship they had and he's mostly seen working with Tim and Barbara or else on his own, and then Batman Beyond reveals that Bruce and Dick never truly reconcile, and while Bruce will occasionally reminisce about past adventures with Barbara and Tim, he never talks about Dick.
Worse still, Bruce is noticeably colder with Tim than he was with Dick. Bruce obviously cares for Tim, but their relationship never had the father/son vibe that Bruce had with Dick. It's not until late in Batman Beyond with Terry that we see Bruce start to have that sort of trust and fatherly relationship again.
In "Perchance to Dream," already a highly emotional episode if ever there was one, ends with The Mad Hatter launching a tirade against Bats when he asks the Hatter why he trapped him in a ideal dreamworld. The Hatter is quitemad, but it's delivered with such anguish...
Batman: Why. Why did you do it? Why? The Mad Hatter:You, of all people, have the gall to ask me that?! You ruined my life! I was willing to give you any life you wanted...just to keep you out of mine!
Bruce accepting the dreamworld as reality, and for about a couple minutes of screen time, we get to see him truly happy for the first time...ever. His desperation as he searches for a coherent book as well as the look of pure anguish as he realizes which is his true life always brings a tear to my eye.
The entire episode "See No Evil," aside from being prime horror. We have a creepy ex-con whose former wife and young daughter have a restraining order against him. So he steals some material that allows him to make an invisibility suit, poses as his daughter's imaginary friend Mojo, swipes valuable jewelry for her to gain her trust and finally attempts to kidnap her. Batman intervenes, he's exposed and foiled, and the episode ends with the girl telling Batman that she and her mother are going to move away, where Daddy will never find them. The whole episode is heartbreaking.
It's impossible to not get teary-eyed in the ending of the episode (and Trope Namer) "Mad Love." Poor Harley Quinn.
Harley Quinn: My fault...I didn't get the joke.
The tearjerker value of any episode featuring the Joker mistreating Harley will be increased after seeing "Mad Love."
Harley manages to abduct Batman on her own. After he laughs at her naivete, prompting her to yell that Joker had told her "secret things, things he's never told anyone!" Bats then rips this apart by countering with "Was it his line about the abusive father?Or the one about the alcoholic mom? Of course, the runaway orphan story is popular. He's gained a lot of sympathy with that one... What was it he told his parole officer? Oh yeah—'There was only one time I ever saw Dad really happy. He took me to the Ice Show when I was seven.'" This shatters her illusion, but she starts to lower him into the tank because she sees him as the true problem with their relationship, but he convinces her that Mr. J won't believe her without his body as evidence. She then calls the Joker, who's infuriated at her, providing the picture and line for this. He then pushes her out a third-story window onto some crates in the alley below. After a few lines of dialogue between him and Batsy, the camera then pans onto Harley's broken body, where she utters the aforementioned line.
And it goes From Bad to Worse—at the end of the episode, it looks like Harley is about to swear off the Joker for good and reform...only to find a flower in her cell saying "Feel better soon - J."
Harleen Quinzel: Never again. No more obsession, no more craziness, no more Joker. I finally see that slime for what he is: a murderous, manipulative, irredeemable... (notices the flower on the nightstand) Harley Quinn: ...Angel!
The original comic had a more haunting line that was more direct in the passive-aggressive battered wife syndrome parallels (and the final line is an homage to the song "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)," the musical Carrousel and the stage play Lilliom that explores those dark themes:
Dr. Leland: So, tell me, Harley—how did it feel to be so dependent on a man that you'd give up everything for him, gaining nothing in return? (leaves)
Harley:(bitterly) It felt like...
(sees flower with "Feel better soon - J")
Harley:(dreamily) It felt like a kiss.
"Mad Love" is probably one of the greatest episodes in the entire series because it doesn't back down on abusive relationships. While most of the interactions between Harley and Joker are Played for Laughs (the final act in "Harlequinade," for example), "Mad Love" shows just how obsessed Joker is with getting the Batman in ways that "The Man Who Killed Batman" only hinted at. And to see him snap at her the way he did was horrifying because she is a fan-favorite and the writers and animators tried hard to make her cute, quirky and adorable. Usually when she's happy, it makes at least some fans hearts melt and when she finally sees the Joker for what he is...the Joker knows just what to do to make her come running back. "Mad Love" wasn't the first episode to show their abusive cycle, but it didn't hold anything back in showing how devastating abuse can be.
Bruce's guilt-fueled dream in "Two Face, Part II." "Why couldn't you save us, son?"
The Two-Face arc was absolutely heartbreaking. With the first episode, it starts uncomfortable as we see the angry side of Harvey coming out more and more. It ends with his face getting scarred so badly that it destroys his mind, and the scene where he walks out and is seen by his fiance Grace is the capper. But it gets worse in the second part, whether it be his constant thinking about Grace and longing to be with her, Grace's shock at realizing that she accidentally led Thorne to Harvey which was further proof to Harvey that life is ruled by chance, and capping it with his complete psychotic breakdown when he can't find his coin, having a closer resemblance to an animal than a man. It finally ends with Batman going to a fountain after telling Gordon that there's always hope, wishing Harvey luck, and then flipping the coin in as it lands heads up. The arc rivals "Heart of Ice" for the biggest Tear Jerker of the series.
And how about the very last time we see Harvey? He went even crazier and developed a second alternate personality called The Judge, a personality so separate from his 'normal' ones that it tried to kill him. Batman stops him eventually and sends Harvey back to Arkham. We see Harvey in his cell, in a straightjacket as he plays out a court scene with himself on trial, saying "The People versus Harvey Dent. How does the defendant plead?" And all poor Harvey can do is brokenly say over and over again, "Guilty... Guilty...Guilty..."
What was notable about this show was that the transformation episode was not Harvey's first appearance in the series. He was a recurring character in a few episodes that showed him to be an honest man working for the good of Gotham and a great friend to Bruce Wayne. This made the events of "Two-Face" even more heartbreaking.
"Over the Edge," period—even though it's All Just a Dream, it is still possibly the most emotionally intense episode. From Batgirl's death to Gordon and Bruce's reactions, to Bruce telling a teary-eyed Tim to leave for his own good. And in the last scenes of the dream, seeing how broken both Batman and Jim had become only upped the sadness.
One of the more poignant parts is that it's subtly implied that Gordon is well-aware of how his vendetta against Batman is both irrational and turning him into a monster himself, but after sacking Wayne Manor and ordering the arrests of Alfred, Dick and Tim, there's no going back, and he knows it.
"Feat of Clay".
I'm not an actor anymore, Teddy. I'm not even...a man.
Clayface's final moments in "Mudslide." As his only hope of redeeming himself or ever being human again melts away, he miserably looks up at Batman and admits defeat:
Too late, Batman. Curtain's going down...for good this time.
"Second Chance." The end. Just watch it without a small drop.
The show even makes you care about Villain of the Week characters who never show up again. In "Tyger, Tyger," you're introduced to Dr. Emile Dorian, a deranged geneticist, and his creation, a cat-man hybrid named Tygrus. Dr. Dorian has Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) kidnapped to be transformed into his mate. You're largely indifferent towards the creature until you find out he's sentient and capable of speech; he thinks of Dr. Dorian as his father and the only reason he's an antagonist in the episode is because Dr. Dorian lied to him, telling him that Selina would grow to love him once Batman was out of the way. He's eventually persuaded that Batman isn't his enemy, but this angers Dr. Dorian, who's knocked out in an ensuing struggle with Batman. Upon being confronted once and for all with the crushing reality that Selina definitely does not want to remain a cat-person, he forks over the antidote to her and bids her goodbye. Selina tries to persuade him to come with them, saying there's nothing for him on the doctor's island anymore. His response is terribly depressing:
There's nothing for me anywhere.
And this setting could have provided the perfect opening for Shazams Mr. Tawky Tawny in the DCAU; a tiger man who refused to surrender to Tygrus' despair and sought out Human society.
There are scenes throughout the series that make it pretty clear just how strongly Bruce feels that his parents' deaths were entirely his fault.
A great example of that is when Batman returns to the spot where his parents were shot with Dr. Leslie Thompkins, the woman who originally helped comfort him as a child.
"Birds of a Feather": You will pity the Penguin. In this episode, Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot is released, fully intending to retire from crime—and finding that without his criminal friends, his life is pretty void of companionship. He meets up with Veronica Vreeland, a shallow former Love Interest of Bruce Wayne's, and a male friend (it's never shown whether they're romantically involved) who's an ever bigger Jerkass than she is. They decide to amuse themselves by pretending to like Penguin and bringing him into high society, being inspired by the fact that the most-talked about party of the year involved The Joker crashing it and holding people hostage. The Penguin falls for it, going so far as to plan to propose to Miss Vreeland. Even Batman congratulates him on the new direction of his life (although still decidedly unconvinced that he's truly reformed). Unfortunately, Oswald finds out that they were playing him for a fool the whole time and goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Veronica and her Upper-Class Twit of a friend. Batman stops him and the saddened Penguin returns to prison, musing ironically to himself: "I guess it's true what they say. Society is to blame. High society."
After Oswald came to her defense and fought off some muggers, she could actually have been falling for him, and the conversation where The Penguin found out about the plan to use him was because Veronica was chatting with her male friend about having second thoughts about the entire thing.
A subtle one in "Animal Act," in which Dick and Tim visit the former's circus home.
Tim: This must've been a fun place to grow up. Dick:(looking up at the trapeze) It was.
Poison Ivy's introductory episode, where she accidentally kills her mutant flytrap plant, then sets her whole greenhouse on fire. You actually feel sorry for fiction's ultimate eco-terrorist when you see the look on her face at what she's done.
For that matter, even though she escaped at the end of the episode, "House and Garden," where she tried to have some kind of a family and normal life (even though it was all a fake) left you feeling some pity for Pamela.
Somehow, it manages to get even worse. While Pamela does retire from being Poison Ivy at that point, she leaves behind one last vegetable creature to pose as her in Gotham to distract Batman and keep Harley company, accounting for her change in appearance in-between the two series. At one point during a fight with Batgirl, the new Ivy is hit with weedkiller and finds herself breaking down. She attempts to seek out help for what is happening to her and...
Selena desperately searching for Isis in the early scenes of "Cat Scratch Fever."
Plus when she does this later on, as she's starting to succumb to the effects of the disease. To make matters worse, she got infected after she was scratched by one of the infected animals at the lab...Isis.
Almost all of "I Am the Night," which starts with Bruce despondent over how crime will always exist no matter how many small battles with it he wins, and his spiral of depression getting worse when he blames himself for Gordon being shot.
Bullock didn't make things any better. He tells Batman he should have been there for him and that Gordon was counting on him. He tells Batman is just as responsible as Gordon's shooter. Feeling more depressed, Batman swings away. And Bullock tells him it's not over, "I ain't talking about law! It's about you and me!" Though Bullock seems like an insensitive jerk, he truly cares about Gordon as Batman does. His anger must steam from his belief that Batman causes more harm than good to the city.
In "Sideshow," Killer Croc escapes into the wilderness and is taken in by a group of ex-sideshow performers who think he's escaped his own brutal circus masters. Eventually Batman finds them and his true nature shows itself, and as he's taken back to prison, the "seal boy" who first found him asks why he didn't just retire from his criminal life and stay with them in peace. Croc's response is surprisingly insightful, for him anyway: "You said you could be yourself out here, remember? I guess that's what I was doing: being myself."
The sheer heartbreak of the seal boy, and the other, well-meaning ex-carnies, upon finding the peace of their village being violated, is pretty depressing unto itself. They seemed so happy to find a new friend.
Tim overhearing that his father is dead in "Sins of the Father."
The reveal that Calendar Girl's face is perfectly normal and beautiful, but she's so psychologically screwed up from the way the modeling industry treated her that she only sees the flaws in it.
Made even worse with the Reality Subtext, as Sela Ward, who voiced Calendar Girl, was told the exact same thing by the modeling industry (though she didn't go crazy as a result).
Batgirl: I don't get it, she's beautiful.
Batman: She can't see that anymore. All she can see are the flaws.
"His Silicon Soul." Once again, the writers took something that could have easily been another stock superhero show story and made it into something poignant and tragic. Duplicant!Batman is an Iron Woobie, you can't help but feel sorry for him/it. But especially, especially when the Duplicant's tomato gets squashed flat.
Rossum: You don't understand. You're not a man's mind in a robot's body. You're a robot. Period.
Duplicant!Batman: You're lying! It's not possible! I know my family and friends! I remember names, faces, birthdays! I have memories! A past!
Rossum: You have information. Data. Nothing more. Do you remember your first kiss? Your favorite song? The last time you tasted a really good steak?
Made worse when he believes he killed Bruce and is stricken by guilt. Realizing the scheme Hardac built him to complete will kill many more people, he sacrifices himself to foil it. Bruce wonders if this meant the duplicate had a soul of his own.
Bruce: It seems it was more than wires and microchips after all. Could it be it had a soul, Alfred? A soul of silicon, but a soul nonetheless?
A blink-and-you-miss-it example, but in "Christmas With The Joker," when Robin can't believe Batman has never seen It's a Wonderful Life, Batman responds that he "couldn't get past the title screen." It says an awful lot about Bruce's life that he can't stand a movie title implying a good life.
In the episode "Chemistry," Bruce has fallen in love. He tries to explain what he's going through to his partners:
Bruce: Everything's changed for me in the past few weeks. The pain of my parents' deaths... It's still there, but it seems smaller. And there's a new feeling now.
Barbara: Which would be?
Bruce: It's a lightness. A sense that things will work out for the best.
Tim: It's called happiness.
Bruce: Whatever it is, I like it.
At first it's funny, as Bruce regards happiness as a completely foreign emotion. Then you realize that Bruce regards happiness as a completely foreign emotion.
"Paging the Crime Doctor", Bruce pays the bail for Matthew Thorne, who was friends with Thomas Wayne and Leslie Thompkins, asking only that he (Thorne) tell him (Bruce) about Thomas.