This episode proves that a colorful and deranged villain is not necessary for a solid story with mystery and thrills. Mob bosses Rupert Thorne and Arnold Stromwell find themselves nearing the end of a mob war with Stromwell approaching defeat. Batman believes Stromwell can be persuaded to mend and "turn stoolie" for the police. An unnamed priest's aid is sought in the matter.
The story contains two surprises, of which I will reveal only one. Stromwell's son has gone missing, and he believes Thorne is responsible. However, Batman reveals that his son has overdosed, making him a victim of his dad's business.
Tom Ruegger reveals Stromwell's back story piece by piece: what inspired him to become a drug lord, his family situation. The real gold nugget is saved for the end.
With exquisite pace, Ruegger's story starts slow with a careful and metered exposition, leading to several scenes of intriguing development and clarification, and culminating in a pretty long action sequence where Stromwell's final decision is made in a moment of heartbreaking drama.
Action and drama is balanced occasionaly with humor, like Detective Bullock and Commissioner Gordon's funny crime-scene banter.
This episode has all the right elements to establish it as a classic in this series, like the 1930s pulp atmosphere, intellgent dialogue, strong characterization, subject relevance, fantastic scoring and sound effects, and a delicate balance of action, drama, and wit. And, it was all accomplished without the appearance of a zany villain.