7. His Silicon Soul
As far as compelling openings go, "His Silicon Soul" is hard to beat. In a secluded warehouse late at night, Batman bursts out of a crate to apprehend two would-be thieves. After a scuffle, one of the goons actually manages to shoot Batman in the abdomen. That's already pretty messed up for an afternoon cartoon, but then Bats looks down to see machinery in place of his stomach -- he's a robot! Shocked and confused by these events, Batbot manages to stagger into Wayne Manor and scare the Earl Grey tea out of Alfred before collapsing on the floor.
We see that the real, fleshy Batman is now investigating the crime scene at the same warehouse, while the baffled doppelganger searches for answers in the Batcave. This is where we figure out that His Silicon Soul is actually a follow-up to a previous episode, Heart of Steel, in which the villainous SkyNet stand-in HARDAC created a duplicate of Batman.
Still unwilling to believe that he's a fabricated lifeform, Batbot seeks out HARDAC's human creator, Karl Rossum, who has since retired. Despite Rossum confirming his creation's artificial status, Batbot won't have it. You kind of can't blame him; imagine if you thought you were human, only to be told you're merely a creation. Now imagine that you thought you were Batman, only to be told you are not Batman. You'd be pissed too.
Rossum explains that Batbot can't remember specific feelings because he is in fact a robot, one that was implanted with Bruce Wayne's memories. And these memories have a limitation, in that they're just informational -- facts, really -- with no emotional content. That's the opposite of a human, who is more likely to remember how they felt watching the finale of the Gilmore Girls than the license plate of their car.
The real Batman arrives shortly, but is no match for his mechanical mirror. Though he lacks humanity, that turns out to be a strength for Batbot. He's basically a Batman Terminator, which is the most dangerous and possibly the most awesome thing in existence.
Batbot easily defeats Batman, but can't bring himself to dispatch the original. As a true clone of Batman, Batbot has a built-in code that prevents him from killing. Even when HARDAC takes over the robot's consciousness and starts the Judgment Day countdown clock, there's still a lingering thread of justice in there. Batman figures this out for himself during his last battle with his brainwashed foe, which is why he lets himself be punched into one of the Batcave's many mysterious and impractical bottomless pits.
Batman isn't dead, of course, but Batbot doesn't know that. Deep down, Batbot is still Batman, and is suitably horrified at the thought of taking someone's life. As HARDAC's programming is re-overwritten, Batbot makes the ultimate sacrifice to end the doomsday plot.
The human Batman re-emerges alive and well, lamenting his fallen self. He wonders aloud whether Batbot really did have a soul, given his willingness to put the people of Gotham before his own needs. And that's just the first one, folks.
6. Mad Love
In a rogues gallery full of tragic figures, Harley Quinn's story is among the saddest. Try as she might to win the love of the Joker, she'll never be more to him than a stooge he can manipulate. Her "Puddin" is infatuated with his superhero archnemesis, and nothing is going to come between them. It's a punishment akin to eternal friendzoning, only in this case the object of affection is an abusive, psychopathic shitstain.
"Don'tcha wanna rev up your Harley?" is a quote that's been plastered everywhere on the internet for years. On the face of it, the line is a silly yet extremely suggestive pun that subverts what we think is possible in afternoon children's programming. But people leave out that last part, where Joker grabs her by the face and pushes her off the desk. It's a comedic pratfall, but at heart, still an act of physical (and emotional) violence.
The scene comes early on in "Mad Love," and the episode only gets darker in its depiction of Joker and Harley's frightening relationship. We flash back to their initial therapy session, when Harleen Quinzel was still a psychologist working at Arkham Asylum. Joker quickly wins Harl over his with a bullshit sob story about an abusive father, one that was happy only once: During their trip to the circus.
Flash back to the present day, and Harley is still desperate to please her Puddin. She hatches a scheme to ensnare Batman, making it seem as though she's ready to finally turn on her former beau. The plot goes off without a hitch, and she soon has B-Man suspended over an aquarium full of bloodthirsty piranhas.
Harley waves goodbye to Batman, thanking him for the laughs while assuring herself that this will finally earn the favor of the Joker. That's when Batman starts laughing. Not just laughing, but a full on guffaw, a dark and throaty cackle that vibrates the room. It's not clear whether he genuinely thinks it's funny or it's just part of his escape plan, but either way it rattles Harley.
Batman sneers at her. "You little fool. The Joker doesn't love anything except himself." It doesn't take the World's Greatest Detective to know that, but Harley -- arguably the closest person to the Joker -- is blind to it.
Everyone knew that Joker's story was a crock of crap. Everyone but Harley. She's so dependent on affection and attention from her abuser that she'll believe just about anything he says. Even the fact that Batman knew Joker's fake childhood anecdote couldn't dissuade her. When Joker barges into the room, she gleefully announces her success.
But Joker doesn't take kindly to someone else other than himself undoing the Batman, so he throws Harley out a window.
For all intents and purposes, this is attempted murder. Sick of Harley annoying him and giving him exactly everything he ever wanted, Joker was absolutely fine with getting rid of his sidekick once and for all. He didn't even do it in a funny way, instead just an unceremonious fall down several stories.
Harley survives by landing on some garbage, but she remains doomed to fawn after her own personal supervillain. Even to the very end, she can only blame herself.
Harley doesn't understand that there is no joke to "get" when it comes to the Joker. He's out to make himself laugh, and no one really knows how he ticks. As for anyone who tries to understand him, well, the joke is on them.