Gotham Season 1, Episode 16: ‘The Blind Fortune Teller’
Written by Bruno Heller
Directed by Jeffrey Hunt
Airs Mondays at 8pm ET on FOX
The season returns in stride with this week’s episode that is full of Batman mythology nods, with fun character moments that build momentum for the season’s subplots that are showing lots of promising development. At the center of the episode is the relationship of Gordon and Leslie, which is budding in interesting ways and is well integrated with the case of the week. The case of the week addresses two iconic Batman characters in one fell swoop, a bold attempt for the series that could’ve easily been a misstep. However, it is done efficiently enough that it will hold interest in the long run, as there are more stories that they could mine with the characters introduced here.
Fish’s plot is developing very quickly, as she has established herself leader of the inmates in last week’s episode, and is now taking charge to meet the mysterious manager who is keeping them captive. The payoff of who “The Manager” turns out to be can be very interesting, depending on whether it is a known Batman villain or a new one.
Penguin’s subplot is more character based, as his new role as Night Club owner is proving him less than capable. Every scene with him shows how arrogantly and self aggrandizingly he runs the club, which he egotistically named “Oswalds”, with the neon symbol of an umbrella as the logo. The more promising development in this story is the reintroduction of Butch, Fish’s loyal goon. Mind control is again utilized here, this time to keep Butch under Penguin’s power as he runs the night club. Having Butch here can be a lot of fun, with the Penguin making Butch dance for him as a sign of how strong the control is. Surely Penguin will have more interesting applications for Butch in the future.
Bruce’s storyline is beginning to build steam, continuing off from the plotline introduced in “Viper”, which showed Bruce taking interest in both the Arkham project and Wellzyne’s medical ethics. There is a lot of story that can be mined from Wayne Enterprises, and it’s very promising that they are finally addressing it here. Bruce is bravely taking on the Board of Wayne Enterprises and calling them out for their misuse of his parents’ company. David Mazouz is giving a very focused performance as Bruce, which is only reinforced by the look into his psyche via his notebook drawings of a city being consumed by a dark presence. Sean Pertwee as Alfred offers good banter with Bruce as he warns Bruce of the Boardroom staff. The actors in the Boardroom also do well in their scenes with Bruce, condescending to him without fear of him. We’ll be more than likely seeing more of them.
The blooming romance between Gordon and Leslie has been fun to watch on screen, and this episode gives them a really fun dynamic that shows how Gordon undermines Leslie as a partner in his investigations. Leslie is very exuberant to join Gordon and to help solve the case of the week, but Gordon would rather she simply take on the role of his girlfriend. This is interesting, as Leslie is a great ally and an asset in his cause to clean up Gotham, yet Gordon is still in the mindset that he wants to keep his romantic relationship separate from his work life. If Gordon continues in this mindset, he is bound to lose Leslie, and perhaps this is how Barbara comes back into play.
Speaking of Barbara, she returns to her apartment in this episode in the slowest subplot of the series. No one is in any hurry to bring Barbara and Gordon back together, but her presence is hinting that she will be causing trouble sooner rather than later. The fun of this storyline, though, comes from grouping her with Ivy and Cat. There are some funny moments here, but what this brings to mind most of all is the web series Gotham Girls, which had Batgirl in pursuit of Poison Ivy and Catwoman. The only character missing here is Harley Quinn, but we kind of get her represented a bit in this episode through the icon in the case of the week here, don’t we?
The Case File: Who murdered the Snake Charmer?
The case of the week foreshadows two of Batman’s most well known and beloved characters into the Gotham universe. First, the generation-long family feud between the Graysons and the Lloyds comes to a close in order to bring forth the one day to be orphaned sidekick Robin. This storyline is light and comical, and is resolved in way too pat a manner to be returned to at any later date, so it may be safe to say that Robin’s story is put to rest for now, and that is just as well. The more promising introduction is that of Jerome, who is made to be the early incarnation of the Joker.
It may seem like Gotham jumped the gun too early with this iteration of the character, but they have managed to present a version that is more than adequate, given the strong performance by Cameron Monaghan. The reveal of his Joker potential plays out like Ed Norton’s reveal in Primal Fear, and although it is an unwarranted beat for anyone unfamiliar with the Joker, it is still extremely effective. The characterization of Jerome comes off feeling like it draws from James Cagney more than Jack Nicholson’s impersonation of him in the ’89 Batman, and is not of any resemblance to either Heath Ledger’s punk portrayal or the campiness of Cesar Romero. It’s a character that shows a lot of promise, and will be fun to see develop on into the series.
This episode is credited to showrunner Bruno Heller, whose last script was with “Selina Kyle.” The episode is filled with clever nods to Batman mythology that are both obvious and subtle. The dynamic of Gordon and Leslie plays off like an interplay of the tonal mix of campy and gritty noir that the series plays to, with Leslie having the tendency to be open to the silly and exaggerated side of investigation, while Gordon is more grounded and pragmatic. Also, the jump to conclusion investigation rationale that Leslie displays in what the message from beyond the grave means is very reminiscent of the ’66 Batman TV series in how the hero often comes to his conclusions through a series of seemingly unconnected links. It’s extremely well done in the writing and how it plays out in the episode. The direction by Jeffrey Hunt is excellent, with Gotham being populated with very colorful characters in its background that fit tonally with each scene, be it at the ring top circus or at the Oswalds night club. The scenes by the bridge are shot beautifully, with great use of silhouettes and lighting. Overall, this is a very strong episode that shows a lot of promise for the final episodes of the season.
- So the Graysons considered naming their child after Detective Jim Gordon. They still may have because Dick is, after all, slang for Detective.
- Looks like the Flying Graysons costume got its cape inspiration from the Lloyd side of the family.
- Mr. Cicero (Jerome’s father) is given a wardrobe that brings to mind Joker incarnations from Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and The Killing Joke.
- It is interesting to note that comic book artist Jerry Robinson is known for having co-created (along with Bill Finger and Bob Kane) both the characters of Robin and The Joker.
- The stare that Jerome has during his transformative scene into character is a stare notably made by James Cagney, and was popularized by Stanley Kubrick as “the Kubrick stare.” Cameron Monaghan does a very good one in this episode.
- Fish standing on top of a goon as her podium is a very funny image. Jada Pinkett-Smith really sells her dominance though.
- “Who knows how it works?!?”- Leslie Thompkins to Gordon. Morena Baccarin is hilarious in this episode and her impression of Jim Gordon is priceless.