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Recap / Batman: The Animated Series E30 "Perchance to Dream"

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Bruce Wayne wakes up and discovers his parents are still alive and he's not Batman. Everything seems perfect, but is it all too good to be true?


Tropes in this episode include:

  • Absentee Actor: Bruce mentioned Robin, believing he rescued him. Alfred, in the dream world, assume it was the name of some woman Bruce dated despite being engaged to Selina. Though, there was originally supposed to be a scene showing Robin living in the streets in Bruce's dream world.
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  • All Just a Dream: Bruce Wayne wakes up in a world where he isn't Batman. He eventually realizes that it is a dream (because some people's dreams work in such a way that they can't read anything in a dream) and ends it by jumping off the clock tower. Apart from the reading issue, wish fulfillment dreams don't work on Batman; a world where Bruce Wayne is happy? His subconscious knows that's impossible.
  • Blank Book: Some books are blank, others are just full of gibberish. This is because reading is a function of the right side of the brain, which is inactive when sleeping.
  • A Fate Worse Than Death: Bruce jumps off the clock tower rather than stay in the dream—either he wakes up or he dies, avoiding the worse fate either way.
    Bruce: I won't live a lie! No matter how attractive you make it!
    Mad Hatter: It's rather moot at this point. There's no way out of this.
    Bruce: Tell me how to wake up or... !
    Mad Hatter: Ah ah ah! You can't hurt a dream, and you can't wake up! The police are on their way! Do you want to spend the rest of your dream life in Arkham? Don't fight it, Bruce.
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  • The Final Temptation: Batman is caught in a virtual dream world by the Mad Hatter (who fortunately cannot observe the dream itself) living a life as playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne, with his parents alive and well (and thus he has never become Batman). In the dream he is engaged to Selina Kyle (who is not Catwoman) and the mysterious Batman is someone else who has just shown up in Gotham. His friends and family in the dream almost have him completely convinced he has created his real life as a delusion to escape his feelings of not having accomplished anything on his own, but the illusion falls apart when he discovers he can't read anything.note  Suffice to say, he does not appreciate the Mind Screw when he wakes himself up.
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  • Foreshadowing: During the first appearance of "Batman," one of the storefronts in the background has a sign on it that's illegible gibberish. It could be just an artifact of being drawn by the animators as filler, but, in retrospect, it could be a subtle clue as well.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Pay close attention to Selina's actions when she offers to cheer Bruce up. She's taking off her gloves as she says it.
  • A Glitch in the Matrix: The Mad Hatter traps Batman in a Lotus-Eater Machine where his parents are still alive and well, and some other guy is out there beating up crooks in a bat costume every night instead of him. The way he realized he was dreaming was that the newspaper he was reading was gibberish. Then he remembered that the brain hemisphere used for dreaming was not the one used for reading. While that's nonsense (both hemispheres are used for dreaming, and he got it the wrong way around about which is used for reading), it is true that dreams typically fail to produce readable text.
  • Idle Rich: With his parents alive and the role of Batman taken, Bruce has nothing to do—while he runs Wayne Enterprises in theory, "Alfred" notes that Lucius Fox does the actual work. "Leslie" assumes Bruce's problem stems from disassociation—he's identifying with Batman because he doesn't feel he's personally accomplished anything.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: Bruce wakes up to discover his parents are alive, he's engaged to Selina Kyle, and there's even a Batman to fight crime. Sounds like a perfect life, huh? Like it says in the title, it's All Just a Dream and he's been put in a Lotus-Eater Machine by the Mad Hatter.
  • "Leave Your Quest" Test: Batman is trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine where his parents aren't dead, he's engaged to Selina Kyle, and someone else is running around Gotham City, solving crimes and fighting the good fight. Eventually Bruce Wayne starts to settle in and writes his Caped Crusader days off as a temporary illusion. Then, he realizes he can't read, and recognizes that it's because he's in a dream world.
  • Literary Allusion Title: To Hamlet, more specifically the To be, or not to be soliloquy.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: The Mad Hatter's device creates its victim's ideal world for them to stay content in. Since it uses the mechanism of dreaming, common irregularities of dreams such as illegible printed text act as A Glitch in the Matrix to clue the victim in to what's going on.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: "Thomas Wayne" makes a giant swinging motion as he explains that he and "Martha" are going to go golfing. Evidently, the Thomas Wayne in this continuity really likes golf.
  • Musical Spoiler / Theme Song Reveal: There's a modified version of The Mad Hatter's Leitmotif as a musical hint towards his usage of a dream machine on Batman that plays at several points throughout the episode.
  • Pinch Me: Bruce realizes it's All Just a Dream when he finds he can't read any books (based on the idea that the left side of the brain, which controls the interpretation of written words, is mostly dormant during dreaming), though it takes him a bit longer to figure out how to free himself.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Selena wears a pink and lavender outfit.
  • Psychological Horror: Bruce fears to see Through the Eyes of Madness for all his I Just Want to Be Normal fantasy.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Gordon says to Batman, "Any idea what it [the mind-control helmet] is?" and Batman deadpans back the final line of The Maltese Falcon:
      Batman: Yes. The stuff that dreams are made of.
    • That line is also an homage to The Tempest, act IV, scene 1.
      Prospero: ...We are such stuff
      As dreams are made on; and our little life
      Is rounded with a sleep.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: This episode is one for the comic "For the Man Who Has Everything" (later given an Animated Adaptation in fellow DCAU show Justice League). Both stories are about a hero who is placed into a Lotus-Eater Machine and given a dream about mundane life as a "normal" person. Superman, as The Cape, has a Happily Ever After fantasy. Batman, as The Cowl, dreams a Psychological Horror fantasy.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    Mad Hatter: It's not possible! No one's will is strong enough to escape my dream machine!
    Batman: [furious] Why? Why did you do it?
    Mad Hatter: "Why?" You of all people have the gall to ask me that? YOU RUINED MY LIFE!! [breaking tears] I was willing to give you any life you wanted, JUST TO KEEP YOU OUT OF MINE!!
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Bruce gets out of the dream state unharmed by "dying" in a fall, betting against the trope. Judging by Mad Hatter's reaction, this is the only way to get "out," and he's shocked someone would willingly end what should be their greatest fantasy.

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