This Gotham review contains spoilers.
Well, “The Blind Fortune Teller” is a potentially big episode for Gotham for reasons you’ve probably already heard. I’m going to address all of that in the “Gotham Central” portion of this review because it’s too big a deal to address with the rest of the episode. So, in short, my usual ranting and raving up top, followed by an analysis of this week’s big reveal down below.
“The Blind Fortune Teller” is basically what happens when the circus, namely Haly’s Circus, comes to Gotham City. Needless to say, nothing good ever happens when the circus comes to this town. At least the body count was reasonably low.
What the circus angle did this week (other than the elephant in the room and the introduction of the Grayson family) was add another element of much-needed weirdness to the show. I often advocate for a certain amount of subtlety on Gotham. I’m never going to get it, and there certainly wasn’t any this week, but I do think that the show can embrace the inherent weirdness of the setting without everything needing to be an obvious callback to well-known Bat-mythology. The circus is one of those inherently weird things, and there’s some great visual incongruities, as these performers are marched into the GCPD station.
Why are there circus performers being marched into GCPD HQ? Well, this is kinda the problem…
It’s a case of “murder at the circus.” That’s fine. A “snake dancer” named Lyla was found dead, and the prime suspects are two of her lovers, a clown and an acrobat. The acrobat is, of course, one of the Flying Graysons. If I’m following this correctly, he’s Dick Grayson’s great uncle, right? They did say he was John Grayson’s uncle?
Anyway, I would have been completely down with the idea of Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock investigating a murder at the circus for forty-five minutes. There’s endless potential for good crime procedural storytelling with a hefty dose of batty surrealism. The problem is that, as usual, Gotham has too much to do, and it’s the usual dreck-y subplots that bring things down and take the focus off the case at hand.
First: Barbara is back. This is enough to give me that sinking feeling on its own, but the fact that she just strolls into her apartment to find the Urchins of Gotham chilling there, and in the very next scene she’s trying on outfits and getting romantic advice from them was just…well, I’d say it was the height of stupidity, but this show has probably done worse this season.
See also: Barbara walking into the GCPD locker room to find Jim and Leslie making out like sixteen year olds in the back row of a movie theater.
Second: I do not know what is going on with Fish Mooney at the moment, and I certainly don’t care. This stuff plays like a discount store version of the Amazo flashbacks on last year’s Arrow.
Third: We learn this week that the Penguin’s new club isn’t doing too well, probably because he didn’t hire that awesome Stranglers cover band from last week. Now that the threat of all out gang war in Gotham City seems to be off the table (for the moment), I’m worried that Penguin’s story, which has been the season’s most compelling bit, has lost all momentum.
Fourth: Jim Gordon’s entire arc this episode wasn’t that he wanted to see this woman’s murder solved, it was to finally, finally get in bed with Leslie Tompkins. Their romantic banter is insufferable, their onscreen chemistry is minimal (although not as nonexistent as it was with Barbara), and Morena Baccarin deserves much, much better dialogue than the crap they’re saddling her with. Is there a single female character on this show who isn’t an over the top cartoon (Fish) or a sexist caricature (Barb…and possibly Leslie)?
These four things add up to well more than half of the forty-four minutes they had to tell a supposedly important story. Folks, this week, Gotham wanted to show us to the seeds of the Robin legend and introduce the Joker. These are two big deals that deserved the show’s undivided attention. Instead, it was too lightweight to be of any consequence. The episode title is “The Blind Fortune Teller,” named after a character (played by Mark “Hector Salamanca” Margolis, who recently showed up on Constantine as Felix Faust) who is suddenly a crucial part of this show’s history. You’d think he’d get the spotlight. Wrong. He shows up in two brief scenes.
Ok, I do have some more nice things to say about this episode, and they’re below…
Life with The Waynes
Once upon a time, Gotham showrunner Bruno Heller expressed his absolute faith in David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne. Mazouz earns that faith yet again this week. If you would have told me that the highlight of this episode would be the moment that Bruce goes to the Wayne Enterprises board room to confront those stuffed shirts, well, I’d have rolled my eyes.
Mazouz delivers that scene with every bit of quiet authority that you would want from a young Batman. “I would be sure that Wayne Enterprises was run honestly,” he tells them. I believe him.
The only problem here is this: I feel like we’ve already seen Bruce get the brush-off regarding his concerns about Wayne Enterprises’ shady dealings. They can’t just keep having Bruce be an impotent little kid while this stuff is going on. This was a well-played scene, but there needs to be some payoff, and it needs to happen this season.
– Yes, that’s John and Mary Grayson, Dick Grayson’s parents. You didn’t need us to tell you that, right? I wonder if Dick ever found out that his mom once referred to them as “the Flying Douchebags?”
– So, let’s talk about the Joker, shall we? Cameron Monaghan plays young Jerome, the son of the free-spirited snake dancer and the blind fortune-teller of the episode’s title. I think he does a fine job, actually. He’s got the right kind of features for the part, and he pulls the right kind of faces.
Of course, this doesn’t mean anything. Acting like the Joker for about two minutes of screen time isn’t the same as actually bringing the character to life over an extended period, but it’s a start. I had no expectations, but he’s got my attention. If they want to revisit this at some point (could they possibly tie him in with next week’s “Red Hood” episode, by any chance?) I’m willing to see what they come up with.
And, of course, this might still turn out to not be the guy…but I can’t imagine they’re going to un-pull that trigger after the way they showed him off here and in the promo materials. It’s cool, though. I suppose I could get behind this. So, right now, the guy who will one day be the Joker is tied up in the Gotham City criminal justice system.
Does Jerome even have a last name? His Dad’s last name is Cicero, but his mom’s is…Oleska? Walesca? If it’s Oleska, then Jerome Oleska is an anagram of “same Ole joker.” Same old Joker! (Adam West voice: “Precisely, Robin!”)
But seriously, can you imagine how much more they could have done if the episode’s entire focus was actually solving Lyla’s murder? They could have tried to, I dunno, maybe establish and/or eliminate Jerome as a viable suspect. We could have had all kinds of circus-y flashback goodness and had a little more time with this creep before he makes his big J-turn.
– Just a final reminder: Dick Grayson’s great uncle was giving the ol’ Flying Grayson special to the Joker’s mom. Hell, in theory, this means that the Joker could be a distant cousin of Robin. Oh, god…I’d better not give them any ideas.