‘Birds of Prey’ TV Rewatch, Episode 4: ‘Three Birds And A Baby’
Shortly after the debut of Smallville, but long before comic book superhero TV shows were as commonplace as they are today, the WB launched a live-action Birds of PreyTV series that lasted just one 13-episode season, and seems little mourned today. In an effort to determine just what went wrong with the seemingly before-its-time show, our Bird Watching team of Meredith Tomeo and Caleb Mozzocco are watching and dissecting every episode. You can watch along with us on DVD or digitally on iTunes or Amazon.
In this episode, the Birds face their greatest challenge to date: babysitting. Complicating matters is the fact that the baby in their care is no ordinary baby... and Harley Quinn can't wait to get her evil psychoanalyzing hands on it. "Three Birds and a Baby" originally aired on October 30 of 2002, and was written by David H. Goodman and Julie Hess, and directed by Craig Zisk.
Caleb: After Ian Abercrombie's Alfred’s now super-tiresome recap of the decade or so of back-story, we open in that one alley where all of the crime in New Gotham seems to happen. Maybe that’s Crime Alley? There we find a lady and man fighting over a tightly-swaddled baby on a fire escape, as sometimes happens.
Meredith: Fake baby! This might be worse than the American Sniper baby. Wow, they are just tossing that baby around. It falls four stories or so into the arms of Huntress (Ashley Scott). She fights off a buncha goons, with the baby in tow. She is really manhandling that infant while she fights, too, throwing it from hand to hand; she even runs up a wall and does a ninja flip while holding it.
Caleb: Huntress may have saved the baby from the fall and the goons that were after it, but not from shaken baby syndrome. After chasing all the bad guys away, she looks up to the woman who dropped the baby, only to find her stabbed to death on the fire escape.
Meredith: Helena doesn’t know what to do with the baby, so she takes it back to The Clocktower. Barbara Gordon's response is basically, “Cool, free baby.” I’d say take the baby to New Gotham Child Protective Services, but we already know how good they are at their job, having previously placed young Helena Kyle in the care of Barbara, just when Barbara was recovering from massive spinal trauma. Helena might as well dropped the baby off at Dr. Quinzel’s Psychiatric Help and Child Care.
Caleb: At least Helena knows enough about babies that when she pokes it with a pencil, she uses the side with the eraser.
Meredith: The Birds determine its gender (male), give it a name (Guy) and make plans to take care of him. What the heck you three; you can’t just take babies! This episode is already ridiculous.
Caleb: I like how Barbara (Dina Meyer) says she’ll hack into the coroner’s office to try to determine the identity of the murder victim. Couldn’t Helena have just like, looked to see if the lady had a wallet or something when she was at the scene of the crime…? I think computer hacking is Barbara's answer to every problem.
Oh wait, she says the police couldn’t ID the body. Mysterious! So to get a positive ID she has to send Helena to the dimly-lit morgue for a tissue sample she can run the DNA on... and also to pick up some diapers.
Harley Quinn (Mia Sara), who sat last episode out, is back, and is currently holding a scientist by the throat while info-dumping about how she paid him to genetically engineer a baby for her. This is one Doctor Melfin (Kevin Rankin). The lady wrestling over the super-fake baby with a bad guy on the fire escape was a lab assistant with a conscience, trying to rescue the doll--- er, totally real and not the least bit fake at all baby.
Meredith: The baby belongs to Harley anyway, and she wants it back ASAP.
Caleb: I think “My biological clock is ticking... and it’s a bomb!” is a pretty colorful description. She says “The Joker and I always wanted kids," but apparently whatever jail he is currently in does not allow conjugal visits, so she's had to turn to mad science.
Meredith: Nothing says “this is a show about empowered ladies” like having a psychotic woman wax poetic about her aching womb.
Caleb: In the morgue, sexy Detectve Jesse Reese (Shemar Moore) appears behind Huntress, mid-tissue sampling, quite suddenly, which is apparently the way everyone in this show enters a scene. When he once again complains that he keeps finding her over dead bodies and doesn’t know anyhthing about her other than her codename, she says, “Are you angling for a phone number, Detective?”
"Would it help if I said I was?" he answers, and she replies "I doubt... but I’d enjoy watching you try." Oh, the banter! Shemar Moore and Ashley Scott are like the Tracy and Hepburn of early-aughts WB.
He lets the fact that she’s cutting into the corps --- to remove the embedded bio-chip Oracle has remote-detected --- slide, because he’s so curious as to why she’s carrying a package of “Supremes”-brand diapers and... a pacifier.
Man, he must think she is so kinky…
Meredith: Helena returns to The Clocktower with the diapers and it is chaos. Dinah (Rachel Skarsten) is boiling water, Babs is attempting to diaper the baby with a roll of paper towels, and Alfred doesn’t care enough to get involved.
Caleb: I thought people on TV only boiled water when one of them has to deliver a baby?
Alfred is there, just standing back and gingerly holding a cup of tea, taking it all in. "What are you, off-duty?" Huntress asks, and he replies, "Might I remind you Miss Helena, I'm a butler, not a nanny."
Meredith: Alfred’s too old for this @#$%. He’s just gonna go eat cookies.
Caleb: Biscuits, Meredith. His people call them biscuits.
Nanny or not, Alfred did bring a bassinet over from "the manor." Aw, is baby Guy sleeping in Batman's old bassinet...?
Helena is the only one that Guy seems to like, and so she’s able to put him to sleep with a lullaby. Oracle, "master of the cyber-realms,” as Alfred tells us at the beginning of each episode, was able to crack the bio-chip and trace it back to Generic Evil Corp.
After hearing this plot development, Helena goes back to check on the baby and---aaaaaaah!
Meredith: Noooooope. Nope. The baby can talk now and has clearly aged into a toddler. I don’t like this at all.
Wait, is he gonna age into a teenager and flirt with Dinah?
Meredith: They’ve figured out that Guy is a metahuman with a rapid growth rate. Babs thinks that if they can’t figure out how to stop it, he’ll die of old age in a few days.
Caleb: Yeah, so he's got a "neural mesh" that allows him to grow and learn crazy-fast, and despite the combined skill-sets of the Birds, from computer-hacking to butlering, they can't take it out without killing him. They do find an identical bio-chip to the one they found in the dead lady, giving them a solid lead.
Meredith: Harley is in the middle of job interviews. She’s looking to hire some mercenaries to retrieve the baby. An ideal candidate is someone with five years of experience, who is proficient in Microsoft Office Suite and assassination.
Caleb: At the Clocktower, Dinah is reading a storybook about a giraffe's birthday party to Jake Lloyd--- I mean, to Guy. He has a lot of questions about this whole "birthday" concept, apparently aware that he's growing up without ever getting any cakes, presents or parties.
Without ever contacting the police, the Birds have decided they are going to take Guy to Generic Evil Corp themselves, as that may be the only hope they have to save their baby-turned-toddler. During the car ride to the lab, we hear all kinds of weird stretching sounds off-screen, and then the camera pans over and Guy is, what, 10 or 11...?
Meredith: Barbara determines that Guy ages while he sleeps? That... doesn’t even sound like good fake science.
Caleb: So the plan is for Barbara and Dinah to go in alone first, and use Dinah’s psychic super-powers to warn them whether or not they are walking into a trap. And it works; Dinah discovers that it is a trap... but not until she touches Doctor Melfin. So it’s not a very useful early warning system. Basically it gives her and Barbara a one-second warning that they are about to have guns drawn on them.
Meredith: Melfin points a gun with a laser sight at Babs. Does he really need a laser sight when he’s standing a foot from them?
Caleb: He’s a scientist, not a sharpshooter. That’s when Huntress and her guitar-shredding theme music make their entrance to save the day, or at least the afternoon.
Meredith: Finally! Babs gets in on the action. She beats down some henchman with her collapsible baton. Yeah, that’s awesome.
Caleb: And then Guy jumps in through the door, kicks Dr. Melfin into... some kind of panel of science stuff that totally electrocutes him, and the Birds get the hell out of there.
Harley arrives with her mercenary, and we see that he is wearing a dumb black knit cap, like a cartoon burglar might wear, and an all-black outfit that screams, "I'm a bad guy! Someone arrest me!"
Meredith: It’s worth noting that Harley just said she wants Guy back, because he’s the prototype for her “army of baby assassins.”
Caleb: While Harley is admiring her grown-up baby assassin's handiwork at the lab, Huntress is pushing Guy on a swing set in a park and talking about fighting, killing, hunting, the stars, morality and being different. Mother/son stuff, really.
"We have to be responsible with our power, because that’s what being strong is all about, she tells him. Or, put another way, "With great power comes great responsibility." She promises Guy a birthday, even though he's only got, like, a day or so left to live.
Meredith: Alfred was also kind enough to bring some old clothes from the manor for Guy. I can only assume they belonged to one of the Robins. Guy interrupts Helena and Babs discussing what they can do for him, only to discover he’s aged again. Now he’s Michael Welch from Twilight. And he’s a throwing a grumpy teen tantrum. “I hate you!” he shouts as he storms out, like his mom forgot to buy pizza rolls from the grocery store.
Caleb: The Birds split up to look for their teenage runaway, and luckily Dinah is a teenager too, so she too goes directly to Club Slippery.
Meredith: She knows it’s the hottest discotheque in Burnside.
Caleb: I have a feeling that if it were in Burnside, it would have a cooler name than "Club Slippery."
Meredith: Ew, TV show, I was just kidding about Guy flirting with Dinah. Please stop.
Caleb: A bully with piercings comes up to Dinah and tells her to "dump the punk" and dance with “some real men." When she declines, dissing him in the most predicable fashion, he not only doesn't take the hint, but proceeds to... pet her coat? If there are any teenage boys in the reading audience, let this be a lesson to you: Don't pet girls' coats without their permission.
Naturally, Guy's killer instincts kick in. Meanwhile, Huntress has decided to go to the police for help in locating her lost teenage surrogate son. And there is only one police officer in all of New Gotham --- seriously, their police force is about the size of Mayberry's --- so that means she gets an excuse to pay a visit to sexy Detective Reese.
Conveniently, he gets a call on his police radio about a riot at Club Slippery... which is totally on fire when Huntress arrives.
Meredith: What the heck did he do? The place is engulfed in flames. OMG! He aged into Riley Smith from Motocrossed!
Caleb: Okay, so the now young adult Guy is back at the park with Huntress, and while he's aging out of his teenage angst, back at the wreckage of Club Slippery, Harley uses what appears to be a garage door opener to turn on Guy's assassin mode. So he starts beating the crap out of Helena. Man, her metahuman cat powers make her hella tough, as he wails away at her, pretty much all of his blows landing, but he fails to do so much as smear hear mascara or lipstick.
"You don't have to be what people expect," she tells him. "It's not genetics or programming that defines who you are, Guy. It's you. I've faced my demons every day. There's only one thing I know to be true. You can be anything you want to be."
Following the rephrased version of, "With great power comes great responsibility," that's two morals in this episode!
They hug it out, when the knit cap-wearing mercenaries arrive for a playground brawl in which Huntress and Son defeat them handily with a variety of kicks, punches and well-timed see-saw jumping-on, all set to music.
Meredith: Creepy, now he’s a middle-aged dude.
Caleb: Is it me, or does he look like Rob Lowe now…?
Meredith: What? No, he is super-old now.
Caleb: Aaaa! Yeah, this is definitely the scariest episode so far. So now he appears to be in his nineties or so, and he's lying on a couch in The Clocktower, and talking about being "ready to go." As in die. Of old age.
Huntress, true to her playground promise, tells him that today is his birthday (actually, yesterday was, but whatever) and she gives him a cupcake with a candle and asks him to make a wish. He says he wishes for her to be happy, smiles, regards the cupcake, and then totally dies of old age, having never gotten to taste a cupcake. In fact, I think the macaroni and cheese Dinah fed hims shortly after he became a toddler was his first, last and only meal.
Meredith: Back in her office, Harley rips her mercenary a new one for failing to bring Guy back to her. She wants to learn the identity of the mystery woman who keeps thwarting her plans. The woman who doesn’t wear a mask. The woman whose path she crossed at Club Slippery that very night. The woman who literally sits three feet from her every week during their therapy sessions. Who could it be?
Caleb: Aw, I like the part where they say Guy's programming was over-ridden by the power of friendship.
So Helena returns to the swingset, where she and Guy had a heart-to-heart and then later beat up a bunch of guys together, in order to mourn for her dead sorta son. Reese shows up, and while he still has no idea what in the world is going on, he pats her on the shoulder and tells her he’s sorry... "about everything."
I think he means the his irrational hatred of and prejudice against metahumans for about two days as seen last episode, and pulling a gun on her. All that stuff. Aw, I think things are gonna work out between these two crazy kids after all.
Meredith: Later, Barbara says that Helena got a look at a mystery woman at Club Slippery who seemed to be on Guy's trail, but didn't get a look at her face. How is that possible...?
Caleb: Her cat eye-powers can’t see through smoke…?
Anyway, we close as we always do, with the Birds hanging out on The Clocktower's patio, discussing the events of the episode in front of an extremely fake looking background. Barbara is starting to get a bad feeling about all the stuff that's been happening lately, and is beginning to wonder if someone isn't making a play to re-organize organized crime in New Gotham.
And then Helena brings out the death cupcake, with its candle still burning. Or maybe she relit it. Either way, creepy. She then blows it out. She stole Guy's wish!
So, um, who gets to eat the cupcake now…? And, more importantly, what do they do with the body...?
Well, after the previous episode with all its weird, on-the-fly facts about metahumans and its strained-to-breaking metaphors, I thought this episode was a welcome return to form... or, at least, a form. Plus it had Alfred and Harley in it; I miss those guys when they're not around, I guess.
The baby business made for some of the funniest parts of the show so far, intentionally, as during the Clocktower chaos scene, and less so, as in the fake baby fight scene at the beginning. I think the whole sub-plot in which Huntress's mothering instincts click in and she grows so attached to Guy, seeing herself in him, was a little forced, but then, the aspect of her emotional life I'm most interested in is her inevitable romance with Reese.
Maybe the series will end with their wedding, and someday she and Reese will have a baby of their own, only one that grows at a normal rate?
Meredith: I give Birds mad props for committing to its weird premise involving a rapidly aging baby assassin. But I wouldn't say it even cracks the top five weirdest things to happen on Smallvile, which if you recall, once involved Amy Adams eating roadkill.
The show also seems to be really pushing Helena as the character who carries the narrative arc, but Ashley Scott doesn't have the chops to give these storylines any sort of emotional weight. She's supposed to have sympathy for Guy or feel connected to all of "her people" being murdered by last episode's bad guy, but it comes off clunky and cold. I also think it's weird that Helena's emotional beats come mostly from interacting with characters other than Babs and Dinah. We're only four episodes in; I think they could be doing a better job making the Birds more of a team.
Caleb: Maybe they'll make some strides next episode, which is entitled "Primal Scream," and seems to promise a moment we've been waiting for, given that one of the comic book version of Birds of Prey's members is well-known for her screaming...