Tonight’s episode of “Gotham” was very important, if only for one vital introduction of a fan-favorite and iconic villain – The Joker. Ever since the pilot episode, each week is greeted with the same anticipation as to whether this will be the week to introduce viewers to The Clown Prince of Crime. “The Blind Fortune Teller” was the episode to do so and will certainly have fans collectively gathering in comic stores, at work, and on message boards to discuss if Jerome is really The Joker.
“Gotham” has been riding a great wave of success after pulling off three fantastic weeks of quality entertainment. After the past two weeks of introducing us to Johnathan Crane’s father and the birth of The Scarecrow, we have been given an episode that, while isn’t as straightforward as the past two weeks, is as good. “The Blind Fortune Teller” opens with Bruce Wayne sleeping on the couch inside his manor. We see that he’s fallen asleep with his notebook. We can’t quite make out what his scribblings say, but we immediately recognize the continuing notion that he’s plagued by nightmarish demons and monsters since the death of his parents. Bruce Wayne’s story has shown us his drawings of creatures and a rotting city that have suggested not only his psychological state, but his deep need to strike fear into the cowardly and superstitious lot in order to bring justice. We also see the continuation of his obsession with how his father’s company works, along with the corruption that Gotham is filled with.
Elsewhere, and unbeknownst to the young Bruce Wayne, is Oswald Cobblepot making his own way through the city. Cobblepot a.k.a. The Penguin has been operating a club which used to belong to Fish Mooney. But in her absence, Falcone has given him free rein to operate as he chooses. Apparently it’s not going very well as hardly anyone attends and his main performer is his own mother. This doesn’t go over to well with the crowd, and the heckling doesn’t go over well with Cobblepot as we see him kill the man off-screen as a young female onlooker gets blood splashed on her face. It’s a pure comic book moment that remind us we are not quite in Christopher Nolan’s Gotham nor are we in Burton/Schumacher’s. No, we are most certainly in Bruno Heller’s Gotham as this is his show (BTW, he wrote this week’s script.)
Fish Mooney isn’t faring as well and is probably at her lowest as she is held captive in an extremely seedy and nearly abandoned prison. We don’t know who her captors are just yet, but we do know she is beginning to pull rank and make a name for herself. Fish is determined to gain power and has managed to rally the people she now occupies space with. She does manage to rally the crowd and promise that she will get some of them out alive. They support her as she addresses them while standing on the back of a man. It’s a great moment that Jada Pinkett-Smith pulls off and only adds to the mystique of her character. She’s not from the comic books, but will her character soon be added to the Batman stories in a similar way to that of Arrow’s Felicity Smoak? I suppose only time will tell, but I have a suspicion that we may very well see this happen.
“The Blind Fortune Teller” does venture into significant DC Comics/ Batman territory as we deal with a young character named Jerome and the death of his mother. He appears to be a young man resolved to living as a carnie. Oh, and did I mention that the Haly Circus is in town? Oh yes, and we are introduced to The Flying Graysons. Det. Gordon and Dr. Thompkins are on a date watching the circus performers (the scene brings to mind the circus from Batman Forever) and works as a fun way to introduce us to the eventual parents of Dick Grayson. We see them perform, bicker, and become characters that are enjoyable enough to warrant more appearances in a later episode and remind us that sometimes a small (if glorified) cameo works better than a full intro such as Harvey Dent. I liked The Graysons and felt that “Gotham” works best when we casually run into the people on the streets of the city as opposed to having a long and drawn out conversation with them. Their introduction also helped springboard us into the character of Jerome who may or may not be a literal red herring for The Joker. (Jerome has red-hair.) While Bruno Heller has remained non-committal on his stance on whether or not Shameless‘ Cameron Monaghan will indeed become the character once played by Caeser Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and soon to be Jared Leto, we have a few clues that he may be The Joker. Well, for starters, he’s a murderer. As Gordon continues his investigation into the murder of Jerome’s mother, he comes into contact with Cicero, played by Mark Margolis who also played Felix Faust on NBC’s “Constantine.” He’s a sideshow psychic and gives him a few clues which eventually lead Gordon and Thompkins to discover that he is Jerome’s father, along with the person responsible for helping cover up the murder. Jerome switches the innocent act in an almost schizophrenic like way and begins to resemble his possible comic book counterpart that partially resembles the Nicholson Joker. If Cameron Monaghan is in fact The Joker for Bruno Heller’s “Gotham” it could work and it’s clear that the price to play the game for this series is extreme attention to the spirit of the characters when dealing with the major rogues gallery members.
We need to shine the bat-signal on a few excellent moments. First, “Gotham” recognizes they have a hit with the creepy Victor Zsasz and they have not overused nor underutilized his appearances. He makes a return in “The Blind Fortune Teller” when he arrives at Cobblepot’s club. He brings his “house-broken” and “domesticated” Butch (Fish’s right-hand man) who will now dance at Cobblepot’s command. Trust me, the scene works better if you watch it. It also plays into how dangerous and frightening Zsasz is and you do fear for whomever he is encountering. Yes, even Cobblepot.
The second highlight is David Mazouz and Sean Pertwee as Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth. They have been given the opportunity to redevelop the two famous DC Comics characters and approach them in a way that’s only been hinted at in the films and video games. David Mazouz is a terrific Bruce Wayne and his consistently given us a performance that has challenged us to really think about who Bruce Wayne really is. When paired with Pertwee’s Alfred, well, we could only hope that there are more scenes with the both of them. In very much the same way that Mazouz has given us a nearly defining portrayal of young Bruce Waybe, Pertwee has done the same for Alfred. It’s an interesting new take that may be familiar to fans of the Alfred appearing in Geoff Johns’ “Earth One” series. His performance may also suggest the kind of Alfred will be seeing in Jeremy Irons performance in next year’s “Batman v. Superman.”
“The Blind Fortune Teller” is a four out of five-star episode. “Gotham” has been a fun show and only has five more episodes left in its first season. It will be interesting to re-watch all season one episodes again once this concludes as I have a feeling that this will quickly pick up momentum with repeat viewings and find an even larger audience through Netflix and other services.
“Gotham” airs Monday nights on FOX at 8pm. Check your local listings.