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Recap / Batman: The Animated Series E12 "It's Never Too Late"

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Mob boss Arnold Stromwell has two worries in his mind: the disappearance of his son and the emergence of rival gangster Rupert Thorne, who's rapidly muscling in on Stromwell's turf. Naturally, Stromwell's convinced that Thorne's behind his son going missing, though the other denies it. It all comes to a head when Thorne invites Stromwell to his restaurant for an underworld "peace summit". On the way there, Stromwell's car stops for a passing train, which triggers a painful flashback in Stromwell. He recalls that when he was a child, he had already started down a life of crime with petty stealing, while his brother Mike tried to keep him honest. One day, while walking through a railyard, Arnold's foot became stuck on the rails as a speeding train approached. He escaped in the nick of time—only to see another train speeding toward him and Mike from the other direction! In the present, Stromwell shakes a look of horror off his face.


From amongst the gargoyles atop the roof of a cathedral, Batman watches the gangsters' movements, then goes inside to have a word with the priest. "Arnold" will need the good Father's help tonight, and Batman urges him to "be there" before leaving to deal with the peace summit—which is a trap. The place is rigged to blow, and only the intervention of Batman saves Stromwell from a fiery demise.

Once safe, Batman urges Stromwell to give up the pointless gang war and turn state's evidence against his criminal associates, but Stromwell brushes Batman off. Determined to make his point, Batman reveals he knows where Stromwell's son is, and personally takes him there to prove it. Turns out he hasn't been kidnapped by rival gangsters at all. Instead, he's confined to a hospital bed, where he's recovering from an overdose of drugs. Stromwell's estranged wife is also present and lets him know in no uncertain terms that she holds him responsible for their child's condition, since Stromwell actively traffics in narcotics all over Gotham. Batman again urges Stromwell to give himself up, noting his life of crime has brought nothing but misery to everyone.


Apparently convinced, Stromwell offers to give up what he knows to Batman and leads him to a remote railyard warehouse where he's kept extensive records of his criminal operations. Batman, however, instantly realizes the files are dummies, and Stromwell never intended to go straight after all.

Suddenly, Thorne and his men arrive, having tracked Stromwell down to finish him off for good. Batman manages to take out the attackers, but Stromwell gets away in the confusion. Stumbling to the nearby railroad tracks, he encounters the priest Batman spoke to earlier.

Stromwell soon realizes that this is the same railyard he and Mike walked through as kids, triggering the rest of the flashback. As the second train barrelled down on Arnold, his brother threw him to safety, apparently perishing. Stromwell, in the grip of the horrible memory, calls out for Michael—and he answers. Father Michael survived, merely losing a leg to the train, and grew up to become the priest of the Gotham cathedral. Michael explains that he holds no grudge against Arnold, but that it's time for him to atone for all the wrong that he's done. This time, he has to save himself and his family, or go down with the rest of his crumbling criminal empire.


As the two reconcile, Thorne makes one last effort to finish Stromwell off, but is foiled by Batman.

The police soon arrive to arrest Thorne's men, and Stromwell tells Commissioner Gordon he'd like to make a statement as Batman watches from the shadows.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • An Arm and a Leg: Michael lost his right leg to the train as a boy, in the act of saving Arnold's life. He has a prosthesis and doesn't hold a grudge.
    Arnold: Last time you helped me, it cost you your leg.
    Michael: Oh, I get by. Knock on wood. [raps his knuckles against his prosthetic thigh]
  • Being Evil Sucks: Stromwell's life is a living hell because he's a gangster.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Stromwell operates one of Gotham's largest drug empires and isn't afraid to kill anyone that gets in the way, but he truly does care for his son and it's implied he changes his ways after encouragement from his own brother.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When Stromwell accuses Thorne of being responsible for his son's disappearance, Thorne replies that he doesn't go after a rival's family, despite the previous episode showing him using Harvey Dent's fiancée to get at Two-Face.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Stromwell versus Thorne. Though even the news states that Thorne is winning.
  • Good Samaritan: Michael; justified in that he is a priest, but he shows remarkable restraint and refuses to give up on his brother, even though his help has never yielded much results before.
  • Heel–Face Turn: With encouragement from his brother, Stromwell turns himself in and grants his knowledge of Gotham's criminal underworld to the police.
    Stromwell: [last line] Commissioner Gordon, I... have a statement to give you.
  • Homage: To the gangster film Angels with Dirty Faces—the two boys, one of whom becomes a priest (Father Michael), the other a gangster (Arnold Stromwell). The scene on the railroad tracks alludes to a similar scene in the film.
  • I Own This Town: A somewhat unusual treatment of this trope: at the start of the episode a young delinquent is seen proclaiming he'll someday own Gotham City. Most of the rest of the episode takes place in the present, where said delinquent is Arnold Stromwell, The Don who has long held Gotham under his sway, but whose family life and criminal empire are rapidly collapsing due to a Mob War with Rupert Thorne.
  • It's All My Fault: Arnold asks Michael why he's still helping him, clearly blaming himself for the accident when they were kids where Michael lost his leg.
  • Irony: Stromwell blamed Thorne for his son Joseph going missing, but in reality, Joseph disappeared because of substance abuse from Stromwell's own drugs.
  • Master of Disguise: The bearded drunk that Thorne has removed from his restaurant so he can "talk shop" about disposing of Stromwell with his goons? You'll never guess who that was...
  • Monochrome Past: The flashbacks are in sepia tones.
  • Nasty Party: Thorne invites Arnold to a meeting at a restaurant with the intent to kill him there.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Played with. Michael saved Stromwell's life when they were boys, despite the former knew the latter's stealing candy was a sign he was a bad egg. For his troubles, aside from Stromwell growing up to be a gangster, Michael lost his leg in the process. What makes this interesting is that the guilt-ridden Stromwell himself lampshades this, and wonders why his younger brother still wants to help him.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The first flashback ends with a second train approaching; it's unclear which of the two boys, Arnold or Michael, or both, were in danger. The second shows that Michael was safe, but leapt back in front of the train to push Arnold out of the way, apparently losing his life. Only afterward is it made clear that Michael survived with the loss of his leg, and became a priest.
  • Railroad Tracks of Doom: Arnold's foot got caught in the rails of a train track at the wrong time. Ironically, it was his brother Michael coming to his rescue who ended up paying for it with his leg; Arnold got away without a scratch.
  • Red Herring: Stromwell thinks Thorne kidnapped the former's son Joseph, and nobody would put it past him. However, the evidence points away from Thorne when he claims he doesn't mess with family note .
  • Running Gag: One of Stromwell's goons mentions his boss looks pretty sharp on the TV news—Stromwell isn't amused. Later, Detective Bullock tells Commissioner Gordon that he also looked better on TV than in person; Gordon's not amused either.
  • A Very Special Episode: Starts off as a basic gang war story, before leaping into an anti-drug Aesop.
  • Whole Plot Reference: There is some similarity between this episode and the stories of A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life, with Batman acting as an "angel" showing a man familiar places, and jogging memories of his past life in an effort to change his mind. It also seems to draw from Angels with Dirty Faces, about a gangster and a priest who were best friends in childhood found themselves on opposite sides.


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