Friday's Batman: The Brave And The Bold abandoned the familiar formula of the series for something much more unexpected: A love letter to animation full of in-jokes, easter eggs, and even jabs at fanboys who don't dig the show's upbeat style. We kind of think we loved it.
Given the show's well-established love of easter eggs to eras gone by - Especially the design style of former Batman artist Dick Sprang, given full reign in the second half of this episode - and the past of episode writer Paul Dini, it's maybe unsurprising that "Legends of The Bat-Mite" felt as much like a great lost Looney Tunes cartoon at times as an episode of B&B, but that didn't detract from just how much fun the episode was. The pre-credits opening (where the guest-star was Ace, The Bat Hound) should've been a clue, but by the time Batman's fight with various imaginary holiday-themed creations (including mutant Easter bunnies and biker Santas) was interrupted by a parody of a comic-con panel where Batman fanboys complained that this Batman wasn't the grim urban avenger they were used to, it was clear that this was the kind of episode created out of the particular mix of love, anger and comedy that made shows like Pinky And The Brain, Animaniacs and Freakazoid so enjoyable way back when.
As much a celebration of old-school cartooning (Complete with Bat-Mite's "That's all, folks!" at the end of the episode) as a story in and of itself - The sequence in the second half, wherein Bat-Mite tried and failed to take on the role of Batman, looked like something from the more surrealism-influenced cartoons of the '50s, as if the Warner Bros cartoonists of the era tried to create something in answer to Disney's Fantasia - this episode was over-the-top, beautiful to look at and easily the best thing on television for a long time for cartoon geeks like me. It was also a welcome surprise, departing from the show's usual formula, which has been seeming a little bit more... well, formulaic, over recent weeks. It'd be completely counter-intuitive to want more of this every week - Part of its strength was that it was so unexpected, after all - but if some of this episode's passion can find its way into every other episode...? This really will end up being the greatest superhero cartoon ever.