Last week Gotham brought us the best episode of the New Year. This week, it brings us the absolute worst. The Blind Fortune Teller’s sub-standard plot is consistently brought down by tedious subplots, bizarre character developments, and a disappointing introduction to one of the greatest villains of all time.
Let’s get this out of the way, The Joker isn’t that bad in this episode. Cameron Monaghan looks a lot like Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach from Watchmen, and whenever the script requires him to turn on the creepiness he does it effectively, if not memorably. Monaghan was bound to come up short to the likes of Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger, but for all the odds stacked against him he doesn’t fare too bad. At the very least, he packs a pretty impressive laugh. No, what makes this joker a disappointment is a script that regulates Monaghan to play the naïve, mourning son for the bulk of the episode. Rather than boldly dive into Gotham’s take on the Joker, the episode waits over forty minutes before revealing their villain. This wouldn’t have been as frustrating if FOX didn’t go completely overboard hyping the Joker’s three minutes of screen time leading up to this episode. There’s always the possibility that Jerome isn’t really the Joker but instead a red herring, which is something I’m not even sure the show runners have decided on yet.
The main plot kicks off with Gordon finally taking Leslie out to the circus. Alas, poor Gordon can’t catch a break as the performance turns into a brawl between the Grayson’s (trapeze artists) and the Lloyds (clowns). Turns out the fight is over a woman, and a murdered woman at that. What’s more, the woman is a single mother of Jerome, a boy who acts a bit too sympathetic for his own good. After comically arresting the entire circus, Gordon and Leslie eventually center their suspicions on the titular “Blind Fortune Teller”. After discovering an all too convenient murder weapon with Satanist symbols painted on it, the skeptical Gordon is able to deduce the murderer. Turns out the fortune teller, played by veteran character actor Mark Margolis, is secretly the father of Jerome. After the aforementioned reveal of Jerome’s Joker, both are locked up. There are elements to a compelling story here, but there’s no energy behind it. Gordon and Leslie are never in any physical danger, and the audience is always aware who the real murderer will be so there’s nothing they can do but twiddle their thumbs until the inevitable end. A shame, because early in the episode the ringleader of the circus informs Gordon that his people “have their own way” of finding and punishing those who murder their performers. It’s an interesting moment, and would have been better if Gordon followed this word and actually had to team up with the Circus culture in order to find the murderer. It may even have given some opportunity for a few references to The Killing Joke.
Meanwhile Penguin languishes on the sideline for much of this episode, only popping up to welcome Butch Gilzean as his new, literal dancing monkey. Supposedly he’s been fixed up real good by Zsasz. Should Fish Mooney ever return to Gotham, it will be interesting to see how Butch will react when he has to fight his old friend and master. Barbara returns to re-stake her claim as the most confusingly written character on the show. Upon seeing that two children have been squatting in her clock tower apartment, Barbara simply shrugs it off and kindly welcomes them to remain there without asking the basic questions of who the hell they are. To her credit, conversing with the two tiny criminals makes the character more caring than before and gives us a chance to see her relax for a change. Fish Mooney continues her irrelevant conquest for power in a prison, world’s away from the main action of the show. It’s almost as if Fish is to Gotham what Daenerys is to Game of Thrones, only without a single compelling trait.
The episode concludes with one of the most palm to forehead inducing idiocies of the series: Throughout the episode Thomas Grayson and Mary Lloyd (future parents to the boy wonder) have a bickering relationship where either can’t stand the other, mostly due to the family quarrel. Nevertheless, the next time we see the two is at the end of the episode where the two thank Gordon for his help in stopping the feuds between the families. It turns out that not only do these two suddenly like each other but are engaged to boot! First off, Gordon didn’t end the feud, he just discovered that neither family killed Jerome’s mother. There is still a hundred years’ worth of grudges between these two families. Second, when the hell did these two get together? I can understand suddenly dating, but jumping straight into marriage just because neither family is guilty of murder this time? I assume this would make sense if we had a look at the footage on the cutting room floor.
Next week takes a crack at the Red Hood storyline. With only five episodes left, this could kick off a pretty solid plotline. A figure like the Red Hood could draw together the GCPD, Falcone, Maroni and The Penguin into one large battle. Should that happen (and I hope it will) it may wash out the bitter aftertaste of this stinker.