Gotham “The Blind Fortune Teller” Review Season 1 Episode 16

Gotham The Blind Fortune Teller Episode 16 02

On the latest episode of “Gotham,” we finally got the biggest baddie of them all, The Joker, in “The Blind Fortune Teller,” and he was…the gay bipolar stripper kid from “Shameless”? What the what? Okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. First, we’ll talk things through and see where we come out on things in earnest later on.

It all began with a seemingly innocuous date to the circus between Gordon and Dr. Thompkins. All is well until two of the performers get into a fight right in the middle of their act. Then others join the fray, with the audience not sure whether this was supposed to be part of the act or what. Gordon knows better and steps in to break things up. He discovers from the ringmaster (James Monroe Iglehart, “Memphis the Musical”) that all the fuss is about the missing Lila, the “snake dancer.”

Gordon talks to her son Jerome (Cameron Monaghan, “The Giver”), a sweet-natured, mild-mannered kid who admits that his mom is a free spirit, and has slept with a few of the men in the circus, including members of the eternally-feuding Grayson and Lloyd clans- hence the fighting. However, when Gordon notices that the reptile from Lila’s act is agitated, he orders the snake to be let out of his cage and follows it, right to Lila’s body.

Realizing it’s the real reason everyone is fighting, Gordon arrests nearly every member of the circus and brings them in for questions. The chief suspects include the two guys involved with Lila, each of whom thinks the other did it. A blind psychic from the circus, Cicero, comes in and tells Gordon a cryptic message, which Dr. Thompkins puzzles out the meaning of- I’m sure Ed Nygma will love her ability to figure out riddles. It turns out to be a reference to the Gotham Bridge, which the killer has thrown his axe off of, which Gordon brings back to be analyzed. The axe also has the initials of a long-thought dormant satanic cult on it, but Gordon isn’t convinced.

He has both Cicero and Jerome brought in and confronts them both with his theory of what actually happened: Cicero had someone plant that axe on his behalf, in order to throw Gordon off of the real culprit, which was Jerome himself. That’s how Cicero knew what direction to point Gordon in, not because he had any genuine psychic abilities. As for why, that was simple- Cicero was Jerome’s real father and wanted to protect him. Jerome feigned ignorance at first, before Cicero confirmed it was true, that he was in fact Jerome’s father, which is why he covered it up in the first place.

At this point, Jerome finally breaks character, laughing like a possessed hyena and admitting he’d done it because his mother was a total nag and he’d finally reached his breaking point with it. I was admittedly a bit taken aback at first, not having seen it coming- even though, mind you, I knew the Joker was scheduled to make an appearance on the episode. But the turn was so out of left field and actor Monaghan played it so well up until the moment he broke character as the docile, humble Jerome that it kind of caught me off-guard.

Granted, a large part of that was having just seen the same actor play the aforementioned character on “Shameless,” who himself (spoiler if you don’t watch that show) was checked into a hospital for erratic behavior after he kidnapped a baby and went a little nuts, getting himself arrested in the process. Monaghan has been killing it on that show all season, laying the groundwork for his complete mental breakdown, so that it was a bit jarring to think of him as one of the craziest villains in the Batverse, but in retrospect, it was actually perfect casting- and timing, for that matter, for those of us who saw both performances. It was actually very reminiscent of (another spoiler) Edward Norton’s similar performance in the movie “Primal Fear,” as opposed to the other actors I could name that have played the role over the years, like the Oscar-winning Heath Ledger or Jack Nicholson.

By sort of casting both against type and with it, “Gotham” pulled off a neat trick: it hid the most iconic villain of them all in plain sight by going a completely different way with it. I’m sure viewers will recall the appearance of a stand-up comedian earlier in the season, which seemed like it was going to end up being the Joker as well, but was not- a nod to a previous incarnation of the character for fans. Here, we also had suspects that were circus folks, such as clowns, which made it easy to believe it would be one of them. After all, a clown isn’t that far removed from the Joker we all know and love, right?

But Monaghan played it perfectly, and I must admit, even knowing what I knew about his “Shameless” character, I still didn’t see it coming, which is the sign of a great performance in my book. Will it hold up in the long run? Hard to say. After all, the character still has to make the transition, like many of his peers on the show, from a “normal” human being to a madman (or woman, in some cases, i.e. Selina and Ivy). We caught a brief, tantalizing glimpse of what he would become here, and I must say, it worked for me, in spite of my initial dubiousness.

As such, I think it bodes well for the future of the character, which I now suspect may end up following the “Red Hood” trajectory, where he first becomes a criminal under that moniker before an accident turns him into the Joker we all know by heart. They could also easily fold in the plotline that leads to Barbara’s own disfigurement and leads to her becoming the Oracle, albeit much further down the line.

Granted, in the comics, it’s actually Barbara’s daughter of the same name that becomes Batgirl and then Oracle on down the line, typically at the Joker’s hands, but having Gordon’s future wife become one or the other, then the daughter the other of the two could be clever. Although both, I expect will be much further down the line for the show, as in this incarnation, Gordon and Barbara aren’t even a couple at the moment, much less expecting a child- that we know of. (That might explain some of Barbara’s more erratic behavior as of late, though, wouldn’t it?)

Although, another plotline in the comics has Barbara, the daughter, being adopted by Gordon, so that could be another way to go with it- the elder Barbara dies, and Gordon names the adopted one in her honor, and she goes on to become Batgirl. Or elder Barbara is disfigured by the Joker, becomes Oracle, while younger Barbara does the Batgirl thing later on. Obviously, there are lots of ways to go with it, and it’s not as if the show has to follow the comics to the letter. After all, the comics have also mixed things up from time to time over the years as well.

Whatever the case, I really enjoyed this take on the Joker character, not in the least because it had the sweep of reveal that the Scarecrow one was lacking for me. Interestingly, they had two episodes to set up that character, while this time around, there was just the one. Pretty much the entire thing depended on Monaghan’s performance, but IMHO he killed it, which was why it worked for me. That’s not an easy thing to do with such an iconic character, but to his credit, Monaghan played it perfectly, so that you didn’t know it was coming until the moment it did, and you were like oh! I get it now! Well played Monaghan, and well played, “Gotham.”

On other fronts, speaking of Barbara, she made her first appearance in some time on the show, and was clearly trying to pull herself together to win Gordon back. But, at the same time, she was still a mess, to the point that she barely blinked when she caught not one, but two waifs squatting in her apartment, Selina and Ivy. Selina put in her two cents as to how to win Gordon back, or at least how to dress for it.

Alas, she never got the chance, as she walked in on Gordon and Dr. Thompkins kissing towards the end of the show, and backed out of the room before she had a chance to try anything. Clearly, those two hooking up again is going to be an uphill battle, but it’s not as if the show has to rush all that. There’s plenty of wiggle room for Barbara to get there eventually, and she still has to get herself together, which is a long way off at this point.

Fish, on the other hand, is establishing herself nicely at her new digs, having rising up the ranks in record time, in order to use her place within the pecking order to rise further up the ranks by getting the best of her immediate superior Thomas Schmidt (Elliot Villar, “The Good Wife”) in order to see his own superior. Her way of going about it was pretty hardcore, as she had the prisoners kill one of their own in order to show that they’d sooner kill their own than give their captors the satisfaction of doing so, one by one.

She ostensibly did it to improve the living conditions of her fellow prisoners, but Fish is never one to not have a hidden agenda, so I suspect it was all a ruse to use as a means to an end and get herself out of there. Once she talks to the real boss, I imagine she won’t care as much about her fellow prisoners being treated fairly. Instead, she’ll try to leverage herself out of there by either promising to keep the prisoners in line in the short term, or saying she’d only cause more trouble if he continued to keep her there- and she’s already planted the seeds of revolt as it is, so that situation is already a pot waiting to boil over. This could easily backfire and end in her getting herself killed, but I don’t think that will end up being the case.

Beyond that, we got a brainwashed Butch being instilled at Penguin’s club at his disposal so that he could have more muscle to keep patrons in line and improve the status of the club, which is faltering at the moment. (That may have something to do with the talent, which included an amusingly off-key Carol Kane warbling onstage as Penguin’s mother.)

We also had Bruce laying down the law at a board of directors meeting, threatening them that he was going to get to the bottom of the corruption in his business, so they’d better watch out, because if they didn’t help him weed out the bad apples, he’d see to it that the shareholders found out about what was going on at their next meeting. Expect this to have some serious repercussions in the short term, as we already know that Bruce is right on the money thinking that.

All in all, a fine episode all around. This was “Gotham” at its best, tweaking the conventions of the genre, while also adhering to others in clever ways. The handling of the Joker so far is great, and I look forward to how they continue the story in the future, as well as others in the Batman canon. I also got a kick out of the circus storyline, which was itself a sort of variation of the recent season of “American Horror Story: Freak Show.” (Note the bit about how the circus takes care of in-house crimes their own way, while leaving other crimes committed by outsiders to the police.)

What did you think of the latest episode of “Gotham”? Did you, too, enjoy the way the Joker was handled, or were you disappointed? Or were you disappointed in the short term, but think there’s hope for the future in the long term, depending on how they go about it moving forward? How about the stuff with Barbara? Which way do you think they’ll go with that? Or the business with Fish, for that matter? Sound off down below, and see you next time!