On the D/L – Gotham
Season 1 Episode 16 – “The Blind Fortune Teller”
The flying Graysons and potentially The Joker turn up this week in Gotham and things are as overblown as they normally are.
Kicking off the story this week is Gordon’s date with Leslie at the circus. They’re having a good time and acting all coupley when a murder happens because Gordon can’t go anywhere without a murder happening. I guess this is Gotham City and these sort of events are more common than in other cities but it’s all a little convenient.
It turns out that the Graysons -who will eventually spawn Dick Grayson, the first Robin- are involved in a long standing feud with another family named the Lloyds and this murder is merely the latest symptom of that. The investigation that follows is a slew of coincidences that lead Gordon to the answers he needed. It even has a blind fortune teller (as per the title) with a message from beyond that turns out to be an over the top way of telling Gordon where to look. Some of the contrivances were really funny such as Gordon releasing a snake like a sniffer dog. I can’t believe that’s actually a thing but it’s hilarious.
The investigation such as it is does give Gordon and Leslie’s relationship time to build but in really strange ways. Gordon dismisses the cryptic message from beyond as crazy which is fine but Leslie takes it seriously which creates some very small conflict between them. Gordon basically backs down at the slightest challenge to his assertions and the plot moves forward. Is this how all of their disagreements will turn out? If so then it will prove to be quite the time saver. It is a little odd that Leslie wants to act on her hunch in the middle of a dinner that she probably spent quite some time putting together but I guess that’s how things work in Gotham.
Of course this murder mystery only exists to introduce us to Jerome (Cameron Monaghan) who turns out to be the murderer with the added complication of being her son. From here we get a really strong hint that Jerome is actually the younger version of The Joker. The episode never explicitly states it -to be honest I find that to be really restrained of them- but he looks quite a lot like how you might expect the Joker to look, he talks a lot like you’d expect him to talk and he laughs like almost every version you’ve seen. If this is the introduction to this character then it’s not much of an origin story since it boils down to a few lines of dialogue detailing how he has become insane. If he is The Joker then he’s already fully formed.
Actually this is symptomatic of a major problem this show has. So far we’ve had lots of canon characters introduced in one form of another but the show seems to rely on audience recognition of those iconic characters in lieu of character development. It’s a really lazy approach but other shows have gotten away with it in the past by expecting the audience to fill in the gaps. I don’t think I’ve seen it done well but it does happen. It certainly doesn’t work here but it can sort of be carried by the strong performances from the main and guest actors. In this episode Cameron Monaghan was very good and partially evoked a Heath Ledger style Joker who was obviously not at that stage. It was a nice homage to that performance with being a copy or a parody so I did like what I saw I’m just not convinced it was the right thing for the show to do.
The inclusion of John and Mary Grayson (though Mary is Lloyd at this point) felt a little tacked on. Of course there are two characters in these conflicting families who are in love but cover it up with hate. If they’re trying to go for Romeo and Juliet then they are way off base here. It was another example of namedropping to remind us that this is a Batman prequel.
I think what this show needs to start doing is really exploring Gotham City and giving us a meaningful insight into what makes this city tick from the bottom rung to the top. Any Batman character cameo should feed into that in some way. There’s nothing to stop the Grayson story being more like Romeo and Juliet with John being seen as a circus freak by her wealthy family and having a class divide situation. Structuring it like that would let the audience know that Gotham City has a major class divide possibly held in place by the criminal element being dominant. It’d be more compelling than what we currently get certainly.
I have no interest in Fish Mooney’s story at the moment. Her ruling of the prison is just beyond ridiculous and it’s clear that they’re throwing her into the episodes out of some kind of contractual need to keep Jada Pinkett Smith around with lots of screen time. Her inspirational speech about family didn’t work at all given how little time she’s actually spent there. Similarly I have little time for Penguin at the moment. His running of the club isn’t living up to the potential it had and I’ve had quite enough of seeing his mother sing.
Barbara made her return in this episode. It felt completely out of place as usual and I wonder what the point in her last appearance setting up her living with her parents was. It was ridiculous that she was completely unphased by Ivy and Cat squatting in her place. If this is how they handle rock bottom then they’re way off in terms of making it interesting. She was only really put there to be jealous of Gordon and Leslie I suppose but the episode didn’t need her.
One thing that did really interest me was Bruce Wayne directly questioning the corruption within Wayne Enterprises. It was dismissed by the board but I actually look forward to seeing that explored. If the writers can pull it off then Wayne Enterprises could be a good villainous force.
A fairly uneven episode of this show that clumsily referenced two major piece of Batman lore in lieu of telling a good story.
The main murder plot was weak and full of contrivances that only seemed to exist to bring in the Graysons as well as lead us to a possible appearance by The Joker. Cameron Monaghan was great with what he was given but I don’t think it was the right thing for the show to do. Likewise with the introduction of the Graysons.
Gordon and Leslie’s relationship continues to develop but it’s not really all that interesting when it comes down to it. The actors are OK together but in general the way the relationship progresses feels a bit strange. I am amused that Gordon instantly acquiesces to everything they disagree about.
Fish’s story in the prison is terrible. I don’t buy the family angle for a second because she’s not been there for long and it all feels so forced. Similarly Penguin’s nightclub story seems to just be killing time.
Bruce Wayne investigating and directly questioning Wayne Enterprises is a promising story with lots of potential for development in the future. I like the idea of that organisation being a monolithic villainous presence in the overall arc.