Gotham Episode 16 Review: “The Blind Fortune Teller”
***As always, this review will contain spoilers. You have been warned.***
This week’s Gotham promised to give us our first look at Batman’s arch nemesis, The Joker. It seemed like it might be a premature introduction, considering the show is only in its first season, but I’m happy to say that it worked. The writers were able to introduce The Joker in a way that was both subtle and satisfying. No, there’s no clown makeup yet. Instead, we get to know a mild mannered boy named Jerome, whose mother is a snake dancer in the circus. When Jerome’s mom is found murdered, Detective Gordon brings all of the circus performers into custody and has an awkward conversation with Jerome about his mother’s sex life. It’s no wonder why this kid becomes a lunatic! In fact, we actually do get to see his crazy side come out towards the end of the episode. Cameron Monaghan totally nails it as the future super villain, right down to the signature laugh. His last monologue is very reminiscent of something that Heath Ledger’s Joker might have delivered in The Dark Knight, yet it still feels like a fresh take on the character. The only thing I’m a little iffy on is his origin story. Basically, he kills his mom for being a “whore” and discovers that his real father is actually a blind fortune teller from the circus. It’s not the most inspired back story, but I have a feeling this won’t be the last we see of Jerome.
Thanks to this week’s circus theme, Jerome wasn’t the only new face to pop up. We’re also introduced to the “Flying Graysons,” which any Bat-fan will recognize as Robin’s parents. Yes, as in The Boy Wonder. We don’t see the yet-to-be-born Robin, but we do get a funny gag from Mr. Grayson, who jokes that they might name their future son after Gordon. It’s hard to say if the Graysons will ever show up on Gotham in the future, but I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to it. Of course, every circus needs a ringmaster and this episode features James Monroe Iglehart filling the role. This name may not seem familiar to some of you, but Iglehart won a Tony Award for his portrayal of the Genie in Aladdin. It’s always nice to see Broadway stars transition into onscreen work and Iglehart does a great job playing the shady master of ceremonies. It may not have been the biggest role, but it’s a nice testament to the show’s casting choices.
Unfortunately, this episode also features the return of a character that no one has missed: Barbara Kean. I’ve expressed my distaste for her in previous reviews and I’ve been dreading the day when she would finally come crawling out of the woodwork. Well, that day has arrived. It’s nothing against the actress who plays her. Erin Richards does a fine job and she’s got legs for days. No, what really irks me about Barbara is the way she’s written. When she’s not whining about Jim’s job, she’s being the damsel in distress. This episode continues the trend as she returns home and immediately goes to work on choosing a revealing outfit to help her win back her boyfriend. This might make some sense if their relationship was even worth saving. We should be rooting for them to get back together, but it’s almost as if the writers want us to hate Barbara. It’s also worth mentioning that when she found Selina and Ivy hanging out in her apartment, she just sat on the couch next to them like it was no big deal. Most people would probably call the police or at least have some sort of reaction, but not Barbara. Rather than ask them where their parents are, she decides to ask them for fashion advice. Way to go, Gotham writers.
The one good thing about Barbara’s reappearance is that it set the stage for her to walk in on Gordon and Dr. Thompkins getting frisky at the GCPD. I know that sounds terrible, but what can I say? I ship it. Morena Baccarin is undeniably likable as Dr. Leslie Thompkins and Ben McKenzie plays off of her so well. Hell, even their bickering is adorable. The blend between Gordon’s gruffness and Thompkins’ fun-loving free spirit makes for perfect chemistry. If only things were going that well for poor Bruce Wayne. He finally lands a meeting with the board at Wayne Enterprises and they still don’t want to take him seriously… until he threatens legal action. (A classic Bruce Wayne power move.) We’ve come to expect this show to explain how Gotham came to be, but seeing Bruce attempt to expose the corruption within his own family’s company is proving to be equally exciting.
Our other villains get plenty of action too, as Fish Mooney continues to plan her escape from the mysterious prison and The Penguin gets some help with his struggling nightclub from an unexpected source. Butch is back, but he’s no longer loyal to Fish Mooney. Victor Zsasz has brainwashed him somehow and now he does whatever Penguin says, including dance like a goober. It’s one of the more ridiculous things to happen on the show, but we’ll have to see how it plays out in future episodes. I’m not a stickler for seriousness, but I’d hate to see things get too over-the-top.
Overall, this episode of Gotham fits right in with the rest of the season. It was a solid hour of television that put a fresh spin on some classic characters, yet managed to maintain their integrity. The addition of The Joker was a risky move, but the writers were able to pull it off. If they could do the same with Barbara then we might have a damn near perfect show. With only 5 episodes left until the finale, it’s safe to say that the rest of the season will be pretty exciting.