Follow TV Tropes


Recap / Batman: The Animated Series E22 "Joker's Favor"

Go To
The episode begins with Everyman Charlie Collins driving home from his work and missing out on listening to a baseball game on the radio because of criminal activity. The called-off game is just the latest bit of bad luck in a day full of indignities, and Charlie complains about his very normal, everyday problems—busted after asking for a raise, his kid needs braces, his wife Bonnie is making meatloaf for dinner... As if that weren't bad enough, some speeding police cars and the Batmobile chasing someone cut him off. Angered and frustrated when yet another motorist cuts him off, Charlie loses his temper and decides to pursue the other car to give the driver a piece of his mind. The resulting rant, however, is the worst thing yet—it turns out this second car is being driven by The Joker, who does not appreciate people yelling at him. Charlie desperately tries to drive away, but the Joker cuts him off at every turn and corners Charlie when he gets out of his car to run away.

Joker: We can't have people cursing at each other on the freeway! It's simply not polite! I'm just going to have to teach you some manners!

The Joker prepares to kill him, but Charlie begs and pleads for his life. It isn't until Charlie tearfully claims he'll do "anything" to save his life that the Joker's interest is piqued. Thoroughly amused by the idea, Joker promises to spare Charlie's life in return for a "favor" sometime in the future—he doesn't say what, he doesn't say when, but when he calls, he expects Charlie to answer. Then the Joker leaves, having changed Charlie's life forever...

Two years later, Commissioner Jim Gordon is receiving a testimonial ceremony at the upscale Peregrinator's Club, a show of support for all his years of service, and all the best and brightest in Gotham will be there to show support... except the Joker, who wasn't invited. Furious at this, the Joker plans to teach everyone involved a lesson, and instead of getting a specialist to help, he decides this would be a wonderful opportunity to cash in his favor with Charlie. Meanwhile, Charlie has changed identities, moved halfway across the country, and started a new life. Nevertheless, the Joker effortlessly contacts him.

Charlie: How did you find me?
Joker: Oh, I never lost you, Chaz. You've become my... hobby! [evil laugh]

Charlie initially refuses, but after the Joker threatens his family, he grudgingly comes back to Gotham. His attempt to go for help is intercepted by Harley Quinn to bring him back to the Joker, who tells him the favor he brought him back to do—opening the door at the Commissioner's testimonial. That's it. Charlie is baffled at the simple task, but knowing how dangerous the Joker is, he didn't object. However, he does realize that there must be something much more sinister at work, and before the ceremony he gives a last ditch effort to contact Batman, jury-rigging a Batsignal that Bruce Wayne just happens to see as he is leaving the party early.

Later, at the testimonial, Gordon's ceremony goes as planned until partway through. Harley knocks on the door, Charlie answers it, and an unscheduled cake is rolled in, in the Commissioner's honor... and Charlie finds that his hand has been glued to the doorknob. The cake holds a surprise—gas that paralyzes everyone in the room except Charlie and Harley (she gives him a gas mask too). The Joker then pops out of the cake and gives a riveting speech in praise of the Commissioner, capping it off with a gift from him and "all the others doing 25 to life": an explosive medal, set to take out the whole building. Thus, the Joker departs with one of his worst enemies and a room full of people about to die and laughs in Charlie's face, leaving him behind to die as well.

Thankfully, Batman interrupts the party, and Charlie directs him to the bomb. After checking to make sure everyone's all right and freeing Charlie, Batman goes off in pursuit of the Joker, effortlessly taking out his goons (including Harley) and tracking the giggling madman into a temple the Peregrinator's Club reconstructed. After avoiding a few deathtraps and close calls, Batman manages to push Joker into the street, where he runs into Charlie, who sternly demands he stop. When the Joker tries to keep running, Charlie repeats his demand and grabs him, before punching him.

The Joker is furious about "a miserable little nobody" like Charlie making demands of him, and tries browbeating him into obeying him again by threatening Charlie's family. But, driven to mad desperation by the Joker's machinations, Charlie reveals he has taken one of Joker's bombs and plans on killing them both. He says that he has truly figured the Joker out: the Clown Prince of Crime's only real goal in life is defeating Batman in a grand public spectacle, or, at the very least, dying in the effort of it—Charlie gloats that he'll now make sure that dream will never come true because he will blow himself and the Joker up. His family will be safe and the Joker will only be remembered as the villain who was unceremoniously killed by "a miserable little nobody." And he hits the nail right on the head, as suddenly the disdainful and mocking Joker is reduced to gibbering, pleading, and screaming for Batman's help as Charlie menacingly advances to kill him with his own trap.

Joker: [looking TERRIFIED] Look, Charlie! You've had a busy day! All this running around, all this excitement with... [yells in the other direction] BATMAAAAAN!!!

Batman shows up just in time... well, actually, Batman was already watching this for a minute or two anyway, but why not let Joker sweat for a bit? Despite Batman's attempt to talk Charlie out of what he's doing, Charlie refuses, claiming that this is the only way his family stays safe. In desperation, Joker immediately takes all of his info on Charlie's family, which he keeps in a book, and frantically tosses it to Batman—at which point Charlie reveals that the bomb was a dud and his craziness an act all along, in order to get the Joker to give up the information.

Charlie: Hey, Joker! [BOOM!] [a sign that actually says BOOM! simply floats to the ground] Gotcha!

With the Joker thoroughly defeated and humiliated, Charlie earns a rare laugh from Batman, and a new future as a free man. As Batman takes Joker away, Charlie wearily walks off happy to be able to see his family again... even looking forward to having some of Bonnie's meatloaf...

This episode marks the first appearance of Harley Quinn.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • 555: Charlie's phone number as Don Wallace is 555-0001.
    • Played with in that the 614 area code is real: the area code for a large part of Central Ohio. However Springdale is in the vicinity of Cincinnati, not Columbus.
  • Action Survivor: Charlie evolves from a simple unlucky everyman to a badass capable of screwing Joker's plan over six ways to Sunday and getting him to surrender with a dud bomb and a threat to his one dream.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • Batman himself chuckles at how Charlie terrifies the Joker into submission with a fake bomb, something that the Joker tried and failed to do for years, adding a extra layer of just how epic Charlie's Batman Gambit ended up.
    • Renee Montoya, while initially bemused by a "female officer" (Harley Quinn dressed as one) pushing in a cake for Commissioner Gordon, is amused when Harvey Bullock tries to come on to the former and blocks her path with his leg, leading her to hit it with a police baton in response.
  • Adventurer's Club: The Peregrinator's Club as an exclusive lounge for the wealthiest citizens of Gotham City. Originally used by adventurers and explorers, it later became home to the city's rich and affluent bluebloods. That would explain why the club reconstructed a Mayincatec temple, right down to re-poisoning the darts in the traps... at least in part. Remember that is a Gotham City club.
  • An Aesop: Possibly several.
    • Road rage is bad. Never do it, because you never know who you'll be insulting. Wether someone cuts you off in traffic or if you are that someone.
    • Try to appreciate what you may already have in life while you still can. Maybe it's not as bad as you think.
    • You can't always wait for someone to help you. Sometimes, you have to take matters into your own hands.
    • If you wish you could have a different life, Be Careful What You Wish For, as you may end up wanting your mundane life back.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: While completely merciless towards Charlie Collins when he has the upper hand, once Charlie gets one of the Joker's bombs and threatens to blow him up the Joker starts pathetically screaming for Batman to save him.
  • Alliterative Name: Charlie Collins.
  • And I Must Scream: The Joker's gas totally paralyzes people—while it's obvious they are still conscious, which meant that Commissioner Gordon is watching as a timed bomb counts down, and all he can do is watch it happen.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: Joker threatens Charlie's wife and son.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: During Charlie's big speech to the Joker, he comments that for all of his pompousness and showmanship, the Clown Prince of Crime is truly motivated by only one thing—destroying Batman in a grandiose scheme (or dying in the effort at the very least). He then asks the Joker about that very fact: "See? I can destroy a man's dreams, too! And that's really the only dream you've got, isn't it?!"
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "Boss turns me down for a raise, my kid needs braces, and Bonnie's cooking meat loaf for dinner."
    • "Home... I never thought that would sound so good. I wonder what Bonnie's making for dinner? Right now anything would tastes great. Even meat loaf."
  • Badass Normal:
    • Discussed. Batman says the other officers would disagree with Gordon's disgust at honoring him. The Commissioner retorts they should present Batman with the award, who declines, saying Gordon works around the clock fighting the loonies of Gotham.
    • It can't get more badass than Everyman Charlie Collins actually instilling fear in the Joker. He even surprises the Clown Prince at the start of his revenge by punching him in the breadbasket hard enough that it sends him reeling into a pile of trash cans, unable to retaliate physically. The furious Joker then threatens his family - and that's when Charlie pulls out a bomb and really scares the hell out of him.
  • "Bang!" Flag Gun: A variation — the bomb Charlie uses to threaten the Joker turns out to be a "BOOM" flag bomb.
  • Batman Gambit: Charlie invokes He Who Fights Monsters as a way to bully the Joker into giving up all the info he has on him and his family.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: Charlie Collins begins as an Everyman with a touch of Ungrateful Bastard (at least about his day-to-day life). By the end, he becomes an Action Survivor with a new appreciation of his mundane life.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: After having an absolutely awful day, Charlie just wants someone to realize that he's not a nobody—what really angers him about the motorist cutting him off on the freeway is the other person "treating him like [he] doesn't exist". He then gets his wish of being important to someone... unfortunately, that someone is the Joker.
  • Big Eater: Bullock, to Montoya's disgust.
    Bullock: (takes Montoya's bread roll) You gonna finish that?
  • Booby Trap: The reconstructed temple is full of them.
  • Book Ends:
    • The episode begins with Charlie unhappy with his mundane life and the perspective of eating meatloaf for dinner, and ends with him happily going home and looking forward to Bonnie's meatloaf.
    • Also the scenes of the Joker threatening Charlie and Charlie eventually threatening the Joker.
  • Born Unlucky: Charlie's life already sucked before he met the Joker, who just added a whole bunch of psychological torture to it.
  • Brick Joke:
    • The episode begins with Charlie grumbling about how his wife is cooking meatloaf for dinner and ends with him looking forward to said meatloaf.
    • Charlie decides to yell at the Joker's car for cutting him off without warning. As Joker begins hunting a terrified Charlie down, he very politely uses both a hand signal and his blinker when changing lanes.
    • Charlie, during that same encounter, rants "Why, for two cents, I'd...", only to be cut off by his own shock of the Joker being the motorist he's cursing out. At the end of the chase, Charlie is forced into the woods when his car stops. He runs out of his car and thinks he has escaped, until the Joker appears behind him - throwing two coins at him, daring him to finish his threat:
      Joker: There's your two cents. Now what are you going to do to me?
  • Bullying a Dragon: Charlie gets his road rage on and starts cussing out the Joker.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Joker's ultimate response to making Charlie's life a living hell, and then killing him, is akin to someone finishing off a collection—the Joker simply decides to get a new hobby.
    Joker: [casually] Guess I'll need a new hobby now that old Charlie's... ["dead" gesture] ffft.
    Harley: [even more casually] Macramé's nice.
  • Butt-Monkey: Charlie starts out the episode facing mundane problems, like a terrible day at work, and traffic. He ends up chased by The Joker, and is forced into a debt.
  • Can Only Move the Eyes: The Joker's gas paralyzes people in this manner.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Charlie's one attempt at acting rude got him in deep...
  • Cardboard Prison:
    • Joker casually mentions that he "arranged for another early parole" from Arkham upon hearing about Commissioner Gordon's special award. Whether he escaped or entered some kind of insanity plea is never mentioned.
    • Later, Charlie lampshades this trope to justify why he has to use a bomb against the clown: "You know he'll just escape again. This is the only way my family stays safe!"
  • Character Development: Over the course of the episode, we see Charlie Collins evolve from a helpless victim when he meets the Joker, to a guy who seeks help in ingenious ways (when he manages to fake a Batsignal) to a guy who manages to trick the Joker!
  • Characterization Marches On: Harley's line about beauty school may suggest that her origins as a psychiatrist may not have been cemented at the time.
  • Comically Small Demand: Joker's Favor turns out to be for Charlie to open the door for Harley to wheel in the cake. Then deconstructed when Joker decides Charlie's usefulness (and life) are over immediately after he's done this.
  • Cornered Rattlesnake: After finally getting fed up with the Joker pushing him around, Charlie threatens the Joker with blowing them both up with one of his own bombs and thereby taking away the Joker's greatest dream: Kill Batman or die trying. The Joker is so scared by this threat that he begs Batman to protect him from Collins.
  • Dartboard of Hate: The Joker is seen flinging darts at a newspaper's front-page photograph of Commissioner Gordon.
  • Deal with the Devil: Not that he has much choice, but Charlie gets roped into one with the Joker in the first act.
    Joker: I'll let you off if you promise to do a little favor for me.
  • Deconstruction: The episode looks at Gotham through the eyes of average Joe. Charlie isn't a trained superhero, police officer, or a martial artist, and so when he enters Joker's sights, he doesn't have some fun adventure but is functionally being hunted down for sport by a psychopathic killer. Charlie is forced to flee Gotham for his safety, and when that doesn't work, he's forced to tough up and deal with the Joker himself... after which he immediately goes back to his mundane life.
  • Distant Prologue: Opens with Charlie Collins accidentally cursing out the Joker, leading him to be forcibly hired by the Clown Prince of Crime to do a favor that he has not thought of yet. It takes 2 years for "Mistah J." to think of something and track Collins down.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Charlie is clearly not a fan of his wife's meatloaf at the beginning, but after all he goes through, he knows he'll be grateful to be with her no matter what she cooks.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After being tormented by the Joker for a long time, Charlie socks him in the gut and spooks him so bad the Joker begs Batman for protection.
  • Dramatic Irony: Charlie manages to do what the Joker never could throughout this franchise: get Batman to laugh. Other, interconnected examples of this trope are also listed below under Pastiche.
  • Driven to Madness: Invoked by Charlie Collins in his last confrontation with the Joker.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Invoked when the threat of being ignominiously blown to bits by "a miserable little nobody" instead of going out in a blaze of glory fighting Batman makes the Joker back down.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In this, Harley Quinn's debut appearance, she mentions having previously gone to beauty school rather than the former Arkham Asylum psychiatrist that would later be established as part of her backstory (though she may have merely been speaking rhetorically). It's also possible that she did go to beauty school at some point in her life before going to medical school.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Charlie has to assume control of the situation to save himself and his family. He defeats the Joker while Batman is a mere spectator. Batman gets a real kick out of this development.
  • The Everyman: Charlie, an average man who lives an average life that Joker derides as "mundane" and "meaningless". The fact that the Joker spends two years keeping track of this poor guy only to find him and sadistically hold him up to a promise later, even though it doesn't benefit him in the least, only serves to show what a monster he is.
  • Evil Is Petty: Charlie's part of the plot, the multiple years of being stalked by the Joker culminating with trying to blow him up with a bomb, are the result of the Joker feeling insulted that Charlie yelled at him in a moment of road rage. For further pettiness, the Joker considered the whole thing, in his own words, as "a hobby". He also decides to blow up Commissioner Gordon (with Charlie as collateral damage) because he felt insulted about not being invited to the celebration of the Commissioner's career (even if he is most definitely a major reason why it's been so colorful).
  • Exact Words:
    • Charlie caps off his rant at being cut off with, "Why, for 2 cents, I'd—" before noticing who he's dealing with. When the Joker later catches up to him, he throws two pennies at Charlie's feet and ominously dares Charlie to do something to him.
    • Also:
      Charlie: Wait! You promised to send me home!
      Joker: I never said alive!
  • Fade to Black: The last shot of the episode is Charlie entering the shadows and vanishing into silhouette, symbolizing his return to his "mundane and meaningless little life." And he couldn't be any happier.
  • False Camera Effects: When the Joker threatens Charlie Collins' family by phone, the camera's depth of field moves from Charlie inside his house to his wife and son outside; when he hangs up, it shifts to Charlie again.
  • Faux Affably Evil:
    • This is the episode that cements that aspect of the Joker's characterization even before he says a word. After being cussed out by Charlie for cutting him off without warning in the road, Joker begins hunting a terrified Charlie down, while Joker very politely uses both a hand signal and his blinker when changing lanes.
    • When Joker and Charlie are reunited, we have this gem from Joker:
      Joker: Jumping Jiminy Christmas, Charlie Collins! It's been forever! How are you, man? You look great! Lost a little weight. Lost a little hair too. Oh Charlie, Charlie, Charlie, Charlie. So, ready to do me that little favor?
  • Flaw Exploitation: Charlie wins his Batman Gambit by exploiting Joker's dream to kill or be killed by the Batman (The Only One Allowed to Defeat You) and his belief that everybody is only a "bad day" away from where the Joker is, by invoking He Who Fights Monsters and "Not So Different" Remark.
  • Fleeting Passionate Hobbies: Darkly invoked by the Joker in Charlie's case; see But for Me, It Was Tuesday.
  • Foil: Charlie is one to Batman and Bruce Wayne, in that he actually does have a normal life and barely manages to hold onto it; whenever Bruce gets a sense of normalcy like marriage or family, circumstances manage to hold it off. Charlie has more mundane problems such as not having enough money for his children's braces and disliking his wife's meatloaf, and by the end he comes to prefer those to the madness that the Joker brings to any party. Batman seems to silently agree, given he doesn't call out Charlie for helping the Joker when hearing that the Joker kept Charlie as a "hobby." Unlike Bruce, he doesn't have to put on a mask to bring down the Joker.
  • For the Evulz:
    • The only reason Joker keeps stalking and threatening Charlie all those years, just to kill him anyway. More so than most of his other appearances, this episode shows just how needlessly cruel the DCAU Joker can be, simply because it amuses him. However, Charlie manages to get this to backfire on him by the end.
    • Also, Joker's endgame is to kill Gordon (whom he has no real personal vendetta against) very flamboyantly at a banquet in the latter's honor for seemingly no reason other than the fun of it.
  • From Bad to Worse: Charlie begins the episode grumbling about his mundane problems. Then he curses out another motorist on the road, only to realize said motorist is the Joker. Whoops.
  • From Zero to Hero: Charlie starts out as a simple everyday man who was unlucky enough to cross paths with the Joker, but ultimately manages to terrify even him for a moment.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck!: Charlie's motorway rant to the Joker, which is explicitly stated as "cussing him out", is remarkably tame: "Hey, buddy! Yeah, I'm talking to you, clown! You think you own the whole road? Why, for two cents I'd..." However, given that Joker himself is a complete psychopath, it's not surprising that he chooses to take this mild string of insults so personally. Though it's possible that he wasn't actually offended by Charlie's insults and just used them as the perfect excuse to intimidate and kill someone.
  • The Heckler: Charlie Collins realizes the only way to truly inspire fear into the Joker is stealing his act by menacing Joker's only dream: his Final Battle with Batman.
  • Heroic Bystander: Charlie becomes this twice. First, he constructs a makeshift Bat-Signal out of some items he finds in a broom closet, alerting Bruce Wayne to danger at the banquet. Then, after Joker paralyzes everyone in the Peregrinator Club, including Charlie himself, he takes it even further: when Batman enters, he immediately shouts "The commissioner's medal—it's a bomb!", allowing the Dark Knight to take care of the threat seconds before the explosive detonates. Thanks to Charlie, dozens of innocent people live.
  • Heroic Heelization Speech: Charlie gives one of these to the Joker of all people, after Joker has terrorized him and his family for years.
    Joker: You miserable little nobody! If I get caught, your wife and son are history!
    Charlie: You're not getting caught. Not this time. I found this blown out of the van. [reveals a Joker bomb] This is how it ends, Joker. No big schemes. No grand fight to the finish with the Dark Knight. Tomorrow all the papers will say is that the great Joker was found blown to bits in an alley alongside a miserable little nobody. Kinda funny. Ironic really. See, I can destroy a man's dreams too, and that's really the only dream you've got, isn't it?
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Invoked by Charlie, and the Joker believes it!
    Joker: Stop! Y-you're crazy!
    Charlie: I had a good teacher! [chuckles evilly] Say goodnight, Gracie!
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Joker is ultimately beaten and humiliated by one of his own dud bombs.
  • Holding Out for a Hero: When Charlie sees Batman at the paper, he tries to call him to take care of the Joker... only after Joker's Kick the Dog moment does Charlie realizes that he, and not any other, must stop his tormentor.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Just when Collins believes he has lost the Joker, his station wagon appears from nowhere.
    • Collins tries to approach two policemen at the airport, only to be intercepted by Harley.
  • Horrifying the Horror: When Charlie makes a final confrontation with the Joker, he finds one of his bombs and threatens to kill them both, giving the Joker an anticlimatic end, and denying him the possibility of a Final Battle with Batman. The Joker is terrified at the prospect and starts calling for Batman to save him.
  • Hourglass Plot: Current page image. The story begins with the unhinged Joker threatening Charlie and ends with the unhinged Charlie threatening the Joker.
  • Humble Hero: When Gordon says that Batman should be the one being honored, Batman remarks he's simply "the night shift."
  • I Have Your Wife: The Joker strong-arms Charlie into cooperating with him by making it clear that if he tries to run, it's his wife and son that will suffer for it.
  • Ignored Vital News Reports: Everyman Charlie Collins' car radio broadcasts the last part of the bulletin announcing someone has escaped and is considered armed and dangerous. Charlie, not being a Superhero, only cares that this is aggravating the traffic jam he's in and goes in a Slight-Induced Rant on how his life sucks. Some minutes later, he will be Mugging the Joker...
  • Implacable Man: The Joker manages to find Charlie wherever he goes, no matter Charlie's maneuvers to lose him.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Joker's whole plan to blow up everyone at the dinner honoring Commissioner Gordon is based on this. The Clown Prince of Crime feels that he has created the most work for Gordon and the Gotham P.D., and therefore deserves the award, or at least an invitation... never mind that the "work" Joker is talking about includes mass chaos and murder. The Joker does it again later when revealing what the "favor" he wants Charlie to do is... open a door for Harley so she can wheel a cake into the banquet hall. Charlie, who's spent the last two years with the Joker breathing down his neck, is pushed into Stunned Silence at hearing the extremely insignificant request.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • At the highway:
      Charlie: Hey, buddy! Yeah, I'm talking to you, clown! You think you own the whole road? Why, for two cents, I'd— [sees the Joker]
      [after a frenetic chase]
      Joker: [throws down two pennies] There's your two cents. Now, what are you going to do to me?
    • Charlie tries to justify his road rage with, "I had a bad day." When the Joker tries to convince Charlie not to kill him, he mentions Charlie has had "a... busy day."
    • When the Joker threatens Charlie's family, calling him a "miserable little nobody," Charlie throws those Exact Words back at him when he threatens to blow them both up.
  • Jumping Out of a Cake: The Joker. Amusingly, they were originally going to have Harley do it, figuring it would be "weird" with the Joker—only to have him do it and keep Harley, who grew into one of the show's iconic characters.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: The Joker gets away with basically psychologically torturing Charlie for two years, scaring him enough he has to move and change his name. As if this weren't cruel enough, he basically just leaves him to die after getting his favor. Eventually, Charlie corners the Joker with one of his own bombs, and implying he's fine with blowing himself up as long as the Joker dies too. The Joker completely loses it and calls out for Batman to save him. We then find out the bomb was a fake and the Joker is hauled off by Batman, which he probably finds especially humiliating this time as a normal person defeated a big scary villain like him.
  • Leitmotif: It's Batman: The Animated Series, so Charlie has one. It's a whistling tune (backed by tuba!) used in increasingly ominous ways as things go sour. The ending practically gives it a Triumphant Reprise when he's able to finally head back home in relief.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: Instead of Batman or his allies, the episode focuses on an ordinary man caught up in one of the Joker's schemes.
  • MacGuffin: Joker's favor is only an excuse for Joker to Kick the Dog.
  • Mugging the Monster: Charlie Collins gives a rant-inducing slight to a unknown motorist... who is the Joker. Cue Oh, Crap!.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: Charlie's Leave It to Beaver-esque Leitmotif suddenly stops dead as he realizes, with a look of horror upon his face, that two of the Joker's underlings have managed to track him down to Ohio after living for two years in some form of peace and quiet under a new name.
  • My Car Hates Me: When Charlie flees from the Joker (breaking through a fence to do so), his car starts to sputter going up a steep hill. Charlie prays: "Go, go, go... come on!" However, when the radiator overheats and his car stops, Charlie simply gets out of the car and runs for it.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The main reason the Joker's plot to kill Commissioner Gordon fails is because he decides to involve Charlie Collins in the plot For the Evulz.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Charlie is an average man who lives an average life that the Joker derides as "mundane" and "meaningless", his only dream to be with his family—he's nothing more than a hobby for the Joker. It turns out that the Joker's dreams are pretty petty too... Charlie lampshades the fact that the only thing that brings the Joker any joy is destroying innocent lives like Charlie's.
    Charlie: You see? I can destroy a man's dreams, too!
  • Not So Stoic: Charles Collins's revenge on the Joker gets a brief chuckle out of Batman.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: During Charlie's Cornered Rattlesnake moment, he pretends to have gone mad, so the Joker will believe that his threat of blowing both of them up is genuine. It works.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Joker takes a page out of Droopy's book when Charlie first tries to get away from him. No matter how far Charlie drives, how many twists and turns he takes, Joker always ends up right next to him—smiling.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Charlie Collins is driving home after a miserable day at work when some jerk cuts him off on the freeway. Charlie pulls alongside the other driver, rolls down his window, and proceeds to cuss and threaten the other driver... until said driver turns and gives him a BIGGGGG smile. Charlie's face is pretty much distilled Oh, Crap! at that point.
    • Again, when the Joker somehow finds him despite legally changing his name and moving, because he's been watching him all this time.
    • Charlie returns the favor by trapping the Joker in an alley with a bomb. Joker is absolutely terrified, thinking he's actually going to die, and cries out for Batman to save him. Batman is actually about twenty feet away, watching the whole thing, and Charlie knows it. But Batman lets the Joker sweat for a few minutes before trying to stop it... and revealing that the bomb was a fake all along (and Collins knew it).
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Genially exploited and lampshaded by "miserable little nobody" Charlie Collins when he snaps and becomes a Cornered Rattlesnake willing to take the Joker with him in a Heroic Sacrifice. Collins manages to inspire fear in a psychopath by menacing the only real dream he has.
  • The Only Way To Be Sure: Charlie says that killing the Joker is the only way to make sure Joker doesn't come after his family. This is subverted when Joker gives up all the info he has to find them, and Charlie shows the bomb was a dud.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Downplayed. After the Joker is done threatening Charlie at the beginning, he walks off laughing. The Joker doing cruel things and laughing is nothing special, but what makes this moment stand out is that, instead of his usual high-pitched, psychotic laughter, this time the Joker's laughter is surprisingly low and ominous. He's not playing up the clown image for once, this is just pure, cold-hearted malice.
  • Papa Wolf: Charlie is coerced into doing the Joker's dirty work by the mad clown threatening his family. He later threatens to blow himself and the Joker up to protect them.
  • Paranoia Fuel: An In-Universe example occurs for Charlie—after the Joker extracts the promise of "a little favor," the poor guy spends two years with the threat of the Clown Prince of Crime coming back into his life at any moment to murder not just him, but his wife and young son as well. And even after legally changing his name and moving across the country, one day Charlie picks up the phone... and the Joker is on the other end, explaining that he's been watching him the entire time. And just to twist the knife further, a few seconds later, a car pulls up with two of the Joker's goons inside, making it clear that there's no escape.
  • Pastiche: This episode shares a lot of the tropes with Alfred Hitchcock's Signature Style:
    • Action Survivor: Charlie Collins fits the Hitchcockian pattern of an ordinary man, through one bad turn, falling into extraordinary circumstances and fighting his way out.
    • Black Comedy: So, did you find the episode funny? Just ask Charlie Collins how much fun he had!
    • Dramatic Irony: A lot of times, Hitchcock placed his heroes in formal social gatherings, where they conceal something dark and horrible and yet can't tell a soul:
      • The police cars and the Batmobile run to chase the Joker—when he is right behind them in a station wagon.
      • Charlie realizes he has Mugged the Joker and tries desperately to escape him, while the other motorists, trapped in boredom, don't even pay attention to him.
      • When the Joker menaces Charlie by phone, False Camera Effects uses Emphasis by Focus, showing the audience that Charlie has to hide the peril he faces from his own family.
      • A police convention proves to be the most dangerous spot in the city.
      • Charlie cannot tell any policeman the peril they all face, because the Joker's minions are watching him.
    • Fade to Black: The last shot of the episode is Charlie entering the shadows and vanishing into silhouette, symbolizing his return to his "mundane and meaningless little life." And he couldn't be any happier.
    • Hope Spot: Just when Collins believes he has lost the Joker, his station wagon appears from nowhere. Collins tries to approach two policemen at the airport, only to be intercepted by Harley. Charlie always hoped the Joker would spare him, even trying to justify himself before Batman.
    • MacGuffin/MacGuffin Title: Joker's favor is only an excuse for Joker to Kick the Dog.
    • The Oner: There is one take at the Peregrinator's Club when the camera goes from being placed on Bruce and Gordon to pan down past the legs of a passerby to see little Charlie Collins emerge from a door in the background.
    • The Peeping Tom: Charlie Collin is spied upon by the Joker for two years to ensure he will not break his deal with the Joker.
    • Police Are Useless: Just moments after police cars and the Batmobile had pushed aside Charlie Collins' car at the highway, Charlie asks "Where'd all the cops go?" when the Joker is chasing him. The entire police department could have been killed if not for Batman.
  • Perspective Flip: This episode tells the tale from the point of view of the Everyman citizen Holding Out for a Hero who has aroused the wrath of the Super Villain and must become an Action Survivor. Indeed, Bruce Timm stated that this episode, along with "The Man Who Killed Batman", was inspired by the style of Will Eisner's The Spirit, in which many of the stories revolve around ordinary people and the hero is often not featured except at the beginning or the end.
  • Playing the Victim Card:
    • Harley tries this on Batman.
      Harley: I know. You're thinking, "What a shame. A pure, innocent little thing like her led astray by bad companions." [grabs a knife, but Batman stops her]
      Batman: Right. Tell me another. [handcuffs Harley and goes after the Joker]
      Harley: Oy. Beauty school is looking good right about now.
    • Charlie Collins also invokes it when he confesses to Batman that he helped the Joker with his plans. In this instance, it's a subversion since Batman not only freed him, but asked him how he got involved with the Joker in the first place, and he really is just an everyman in way, way over his head.
      Charlie: Watching me for two years, like a bug in a jar, watching, laughing and threatening my family. I had no choice, Batman, really!
  • Please, I Will Do Anything!: Charlie just had to say this to the Joker, one of the last people you'd want to say this to.
  • Poisoned Weapons: The Peregrinator's Club has reconstructed a Mayincatec temple, right down to re-poisoning the darts in the traps, which Joker uses to his advantage. The Joker had probably fixed this up beforehand.
  • Properly Paranoid: All of the precautions Charlie took to protect himself from the Joker were justified, considering that the clown found him after two whole years passing by.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Charlie has an exceedingly bad day: no raise to cover his kid's new braces, his wife is making his least favorite meal, and he keeps getting jerked around on the freeway. When he gets cut off by someone who didn't even bother signaling, he decides to vent his frustrations. This proves to be a bad decision.
  • The Real Heroes: The episode's Central Theme. The subplot mentions that Gordon doesn't think he deserves an homage, but Batman remarks that Gordon deals with Gotham's insanity 24/7 while Batman is only pulling the night shift. And Charlie, an example of This Loser Is You, defeats the Joker.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Joker gets a taste of his own medicine from Charlie:
    Charles 'Charlie' Michael Collins: Hold it!
    The Joker: Oh, come on.
    Charlie: I said hold it!
    [slugs Joker in the stomach, knocking him to the ground]
    Joker: You miserable little nobody! If I get caught, your wife and son are history!
    Charlie: You're not getting caught. Not this time. I found this blown out of the van!
    [reveals a Joker bomb]
    Charlie: This is how it ends, Joker. No big schemes. No grand fight to the finish with the Dark Knight. Tomorrow all the papers will say is that the great Joker was found blown to bits in an alley, alongside "a miserable little nobody!" Kinda funny. Ironic really. See, I can destroy a man's dreams, too! And that's really the only dream you've got, isn't it?
    Joker: Look, Charlie, you've been having a bad day. All this running around, all this excitement with...
    [yells in desperation]
    Joker: BATMAN!
    [to Charlie]
    Joker: Stop! Y-you're crazy!
    Charlie: I had a good teacher! Say goodnight, Gracie!
    Joker: NO! BATMAN! BATMAN!!!
  • RevengeSVP: Though it's more likely he's merely taking the opportunity to kill Gordon while his guard is down, Joker claims that he plans to attack Gordon's testimonial simply because he wasn't invited.
  • Sanity Slippage: Invoked in the final scene with Charlie, pushed to his wits' end, giving the Joker the scare of his life. Joker falls for it, hook, line, and sinker.
  • Shame If Something Happened: The Joker calls Charlie to follow up on the "favor" he owed him, and tells him not to tell anyone of this, even his family, as "bad things happen to people who gossip". The camera then pans out through Charlie's window to see two of the Joker's goons in a vehicle driving past the front lawn his wife and son are spending time on.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of Joker's mooks reads a Tiny Toon Adventures comic in one scene, one of many references in the series as the two shared several writers and producers. And both shows aired on Fox Kids then.
    • "Say goodnight, Gracie!"
    • "Now listen up, Charlie Brown!"
    • The Joker's two mooks, Rocko and Henshaw, are named for characters from The Phil Silvers Show.
    • While cheering for the Joker at the testimonial dinner, Harley mimics the trademark "woof-woof-woof" hand gesture of talk show host Arsenio Hall.
  • Slasher Smile: Observe the Trope image. Charlie manages to give a slasher smile identical to the Joker's.
  • The Sociopath: The Joker holds off on killing Charlie in favor of stalking him for years, forcing him to move and change identities. When he brings Charlie back, it's to do a seemingly pointless task which is actually just an excuse to kill him anyway. The kicker is that this was never anything of note to the Joker, he just regarded this as a hobby, something to do for a laugh when it dawns on Charlie that the whole thing was meaningless.
  • Stock Phrases:
    Charlie: Please don't, I Have a Family, a wife, a little boy! Please, I'll do anything to make it up, anything!
  • Tempting Fate: Said by Charlie just before everything goes to hell.
    Charlie: When exactly did I became life's punching bag?
  • Terms of Endangerment: Joker lays it on thick with Charlie: in their first encounter, he calls him "my rude friend," and when they reunite, he uses pet names like "Chaz" and compliments his appearance.
  • Terror Hero: This is typically Batman's forte. But this time, by threatening his greatest dream, CHARLIE COLLINS SCARED THE JOKER!
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Charlie attempts this at the start of the episode. Big mistake, as he ends up antagonizing someone far more dangerous than he could possibly deal with.
      Charlie: Oh, so that's it! No signals! No nothing! Just push me aside! Treat me like I don't exist! Well comrade, not this time.
    • At the end of the episode, Charlie takes it for real. If the Joker calls you crazy and Batman grins at the end of it, it's safe to say you pulled off a good prank.
      Charlie: Hold it!
      Joker: [pats his head] Oh, come now. [walks away]
      Charlie: I said hold it!! [punches Joker in the gut, knocking him into trash cans]
  • Undignified Death: Charlie threatens with making the Joker suffer this and as a result intimidates him into surrendering. It's made clear that the only kind of death the Joker won't label as this is a Mutual Kill with Batman.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Charlie's rather schlubby, but his wife Bonnie isn't half bad. Though considering what he did to the Joker, there might be more to him than meets the eye. Or he let himself go way over the years.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The Joker has a funny one, being bullied by Charlie Collins and calling Batman for help!
  • Villains Want Mercy: After tormenting Charlie for years, the Joker begs him for mercy when Charlie threatens the Joker with the Joker's own bomb. Joker goes so far as to cower behind Batman when Charlie throws the (fake) bomb at him.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Averted as Batman frees Charlie from the door and saves everyone from the bomb. He asks with genuine compassion about Charlie being the Joker's "hobby" and understands the situation that Charlie was in—having a bad day that led to his family being threatened, being hounded and stalked for two years. This makes sense, especially given that Bruce hasn't had a truly normal life since his parents, Thomas and Martha, died—he pines for a normal life, but due to his double-life as Batman, Gotham's criminals constantly take it away.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Averted when a Freeze-Frame Bonus of Charlie Collins' driver license reads: Charlie Collins, Woodrust Drive, Gotham Estates, N.Y.. So at the very least, one of Gotham City's suburbs is in New York state.
  • Witless Protection Program: Charlie Collins, after his harrowing encounter with the Joker, moved well away from Gotham City and changed his name; only to not only receive a call from the Joker wishing to cash in his favor a few years later, but when he looks out the window, there are a couple of the Joker's goons right outside his house in case he tries to say "no". For further horror points, it is established that Joker only kept tabs on Charlie as a hobby.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Gordon really hates the idea of a celebration in his honor. Batman remarks he absolutely deserves the honor for dealing with Gotham's problems all day every day.
  • You're Insane!:
    • The Joker accuses Charlie of being "crazy"—"I had a good teacher!"—when he really believes Charlie's going to blow them both up.
    • More typically, though he's naturally afraid to say it to his face, Charlie mumbles that the Joker is nuts when he cashes in his "favor" by stalking him for two years and calling him out of his new home and changed name to hold a door open, and yells at him for not thinking it was obvious.