flying robin

Robin's Reckoning

Robin's Reckoning is a two part episode of the critically acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series. The first part aired on February 7, 1993 and was written by Randy Rogel and directed by Dick Sebast; it earned the series an Emmy award and is considered to be one of the best episodes of the series. The second part aired a week later. The story is based on the origin of Robin (Dick Grayson) from Detective Comics #38 (April 1940), which it shows through flashbacks, intercutting an unfolding mystery in the present with the more significant moments of Robin's life. It touches on Robin uncovering who killed his family and how he first met and joined forces with Bruce Wayne. Meanwhile, it also shows how Batman and Robin are slowly growing apart, and Robin's inevitable confrontation with the murderer in question.

Plot synopsis

Part I

During a stake-out at a construction site, Batman and Robin catch a gang of mobsters trying to extort money from a wealthy architect. While the others escaped, Batman catches one and demands an explanation and the name of his boss. The criminal refuses to speak to him or the police, but when Batman shows he's not joking, he blurts out the name "Billy Marrin". When they return home, Robin is left wondering who Marrin really is, but Batman insists that Robin stay out of this one: he works alone for the time being. Following Batman's departure, Robin and Alfred Pennyworth use the Batcave's criminal database to determine the real identity of the crime mob boss. To his shock, Robin discovers that Marrin is really an alias for Tony Zucco, the man who took his parents from him nearly nine years ago.

As a young child, Dick Grayson was in a popular circus acrobat trio with his parents, "The Flying Graysons". While performing at a Wayne Charity convention in Gotham, Dick overhears a young Tony Zucco threatens the ringmaster Mr. Haley, telling him that if he doesn't pay money for "protection" then people will die. Haley refuses this to preserve his integrity, and in response, Zucco partially saws through a trapeze rope to be used in the Graysons act. During a portion of the trapeze act involving Dick's parents on the same trapeze, the rope snaps and his parents plummet to their deaths in front of his eyes. Bruce Wayne, who is in the audience, takes pity on the boy, as they are both the orphaned sons of parents murdered in their presence. Upon hearing of Dick's telling of what he saw, Jim Gordon fears that he will have no place to go, as he is a material witness, but Bruce steps in and adopts young Dick. The general awkwardness of the situation, being left in a large mansion with Alfred as a primary caretaker, makes Dick uncomfortable, while Batman is investigating the crime.

Batman tracks down Zucco at his uncle Arnold Stromwell's mansion, where Stromwell berates his nephew for his stupidity and rashness in murdering the Graysons and causing Batman to turn attention to them (He confronts Stromwell earlier as Zucco listens behind a doorway). For that, Stromwell disowns Zucco. Their argument is short-lived when the guards are alerted to Batman being detected on the property. After a car chase, Zucco is able to slip out of Gotham, while Batman feels haunted for not catching the Graysons' killer. As he returns to the Batcave, Alfred reminds him that Dick is feeling unloved and scared, which prompts Bruce to realize he must spend more time with him. He later comforts the boy and tries to make him feel better, but Dick breaks down in tears and explains that he saw Zucco before the murder, thus making him responsible. Bruce points out he felt the same way when his parents died, but the pain will go away in time, at least for Dick.

After discovering the crook's identity and reliving the tragedy, Robin realizes that Batman left him out of this to keep him out of the way. Vowing vengeance on the man who murdered his parents, he sets out on his RedBird motorbike to find Zucco, while Alfred remains at a loss about what to do.

Part II

Batman tracks Tony Zucco while, secretly, Robin seeks to find Zucco to avenge his parents' death. As the investigation narrows to an abandoned amusement park, a series of flashbacks finish Robin's origin story.

Following a number of days, Bruce and Dick bond very well, engaging in a playful fencing match. Alfred then tells Bruce that Jim Gordon is convinced that Zucco might strike there to get the boy, prompting Dick to take matters into his own hands. After running away from Wayne Manor, he unsuccessfully tries to track his parents' killer. While searching a run-down section of Gotham and avoiding Batman, who, unbeknownst to Dick, is also searching for Zucco, Dick rescues a prostitute being threatened by her pimp. Using his gymnastic skills he defeats the full-grown attacker, finishing by jumping to grab hold of a fire escape, luring him up the ladder before kicking him into the dumpster below, knocking him unconscious. The prostitute treats Dick to dinner in a local diner. A waitress identifies Tony Zucco as the object of Dick's search but cautions him to avoid Zucco. This warning goes unheeded as Dick soon after finds himself fighting Zucco, who throws him into the spillway. Batman rescues him before he can go over a waterfall and brings him back to the Batcave, revealing himself, with the help of Alfred, as Bruce Wayne and explaining that he was already searching for Zucco. He then suggests that Dick's "temporary" stay become indefinite and offers him a place as his crime partner, to which Dick eagerly accepts.

As the flashback ends, Robin voices a warning to Zucco, proclaiming he, Robin, was "trained by the best", a reference to his years of training under Batman, and he takes off on his motorcycle to continue the search. He uses a phone tracer to obtain Zucco's address, but unfortunately the call, though silent, worries Zucco, and in a fit of paranoia, he fires a sub-machine gun repeatedly into the ceiling, worried about a noise. Unfortunately the noise was Batman, who, injured, falls through the weakened ceiling. Using a smoke bomb as a diversion, Batman is able to limp from the room. Hiding in the amusement park, he hardly has time to treat his wounds before being attacked by Zucco's pursuing henchmen. Though limping, he is able to pick off the thugs one-by-one through the heavy use of stealth, fighting several on the carousel. Unfortunately, he is unable to defeat Zucco in his weakened state. As he lies staring up at a gun-wielding Zucco, Robin, still riding a motorcycle, crashes through the fence, rides straight at Zucco and, grabbing him by the collar, drags him behind the cycle to the end of a pier where he holds Zucco over the edge, threatening him with death. Batman convinces him to show mercy rather than become a murderer to appease his desire for vengeance. As police sirens are heard in the distance, Batman explains that he distanced Robin from the investigation because he didn't want Zucco to hurt him any more.


Actor Role
Kevin Conroy Batman
Bob Hastings Commissioner Gordon
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. Alfred Pennyworth
Paul Eiding Dolan
Loren Lester Robin
Eugene Roche Stromwell
Joey Simmrin Robin-Age 10
Thomas F. Wilson Zucco

Additional voices from Ed Gilbert, Diane Pershing, Brion James, Roger Rose


  • Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale have stated that this episode inspired a great part of their later successful comic Batman: Dark Victory.
  • The Grayson parents' deaths, according to producers, was originally far more graphic than what was shown in the episode. They were to be shown swinging on the ropes, which would break, and they would fall to the ground as Dick watched from above, traumatized by what he had witnessed. Due to thoughts of scaring children, the scene was changed to show them leaping out of the frame, Dick staring in shock with horrified eyes, the frayed rope swinging back, and the audience gasping as the music came to a climax. In the DVD commentary, Bruce Timm thanked the network censors for giving them a list of what, at the time, he felt were ridiculously restrictive rules for that scene; in retrospect, he felt that it forced them to create a far more effective scene.
  • In a flashback, Jim Gordon appears as a Lieutenant with red hair, a reference to Gordon's appearance in Batman: Year One. Harvey Bullock also appears in a minor cameo as a skinny police sergeant, suggesting he is new on the force.
  • Strangely, after the episode aired, a minor controversy about the scene where Batman (undercover) gambles with a bunch of hoods for information on Tony Zucco came up. Timm states that he and Paul Dini are still confused as to why censors were upset at the scene.
  • Bruce Timm often said that the scene where Dick says goodbye to his circus friends before leaving for Wayne Manor has made him cry several times.
  • Dick's design while in his circus costume is similar to that of the Golden-Age circus performer Dick Grayson and Astro Boy, particularly his white-pupiled eyes.
  • Originally, the second part of the story arc would include a flashback towards the end, involving Bruce make young Dick swear a candlelit oath to uphold the law if he would join him. There would also be a scene in which he appears in full Robin costume for the first time, but Timm and Paul Dini cut this for time constraints. Dini has often admitted that he wished they would have used more of "Young Robin" flashbacks to show his beginnings and growth into the teenage Robin of today.
  • Tony Zucco's voice is reminiscient of John Travolta's, quite possibly as a reference to the similarity in names between Zucco and Travolta's character in Grease, Danny Zuco.
  • According to the book Batman Animated, Batman's costume in the flashback sequence was a cross between the original Bob Kane design and the Batman: Year One design.
  • Near the end of part 2 when Robin skids on his bike, the combination of the pose and the electricity coming off the motorcycle is very much reminiscent of a scene from Akira.
  • During one of the flashbacks, Tony Zucco drives his car at Batman, stating, "Now I got you, you lousy stinkin'..." Batman leaps onto the car itself. A similar scene occurs at the beginning of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

See also

External links

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