(Warning: Spoilers Ahead)
A show that has had many problems during its inaugural season, most of which revolve around its own refusal to give characters, other than the Penguin, anything resembling compelling storylines. "The Blind Fortune Teller" has a unique solution to this — make all the storylines so dumb you can't believe they're happening.
It's compelling like a car wreck is compelling, and even as I marveled at how terrible the episode was, I literally had a smile on my face as I sat and watched the insanity unfold.
I know, not the most uplifting way to start any article, but I’m sorry that’s just my general sentiment about Gotham these days. A show I went in with minimum expectations, disregarding the fact that it is a FOX show, and the liberties I already knew they were taking with the characters. Then this changed from an origin on James Gordon, to a full blown multiple origin of every Batman character in existence. Now don’t get me wrong, else world non-cannon stories can work if given the right story. Hell there’s a three part graphic novel trilogy that involves Batman turning into a vampire and killing everyone, that was so perfectly put together I would recommend it to any Batman fan (Red Rain Trilogy, check it out). But this show just can’t seem to figure out what it wants to do with its characters. With this season still two episodes to go before its season finale, I simply have to get this off my chest, and this is namely about Monday night’s episode "The Blind Fortune Teller" that gave away a big character reveal that was completely ruined by some of the most ham-handed promotion ever. Let me give you guys some background with this Twitter Post from the Gotham official Twitter:
“The circus is coming to #Gotham,” the show’s official Twitter account read yesterday. “One way or another…it’ll put a smile on your face. No joke, ya know?”
In other words, “WATCH TONIGHT’S EPISODE, NERDS. WE HAVE THE JOKER. HINT HINT!”
Between this and the promos for the episode, the fact that Gotham was (allegedly) debuting The Joker was anything but a surprise to me, which it would have been, had viewers simply been allowed to watch the episode as an (also ham-handed) introduction to the Flying Grayson’s, the circus troupe who would eventually spawn Robin/Nightwing in a few more decades.
And yet, the focus of this episode is mainly on young Jerome, a redheaded lad who finds his snake-charming mother dead at the circus. In the show’s final moments, it’s revealed that he did the deed, angry with his mother for being a nagging, drunken “whore,” as he called her, and his circus psychic long-lost father (played by Breaking Bad alum Mark Margolis) helped him cover it up.
So anyways, when the truth is finally revealed, little Jerome slips into an unnerving smile, and does what I consider his best attempt at a Nicholson/Hamill/Ledger impression, talking about how she had it coming, and laughing hysterically in a way that creeps out both Gordon and his doctor date. His take on The Joker pulls a bit from all the old favorites; I’ve heard some say it was a direct parody of Ledger. Personally, I think it was more Nicholson than anything close to what Ledger did for making the character his own, unlike this cut and paste attempt that I saw.
In any case, was this supposed to be the show’s final, ultimate revealing of The Joker? Yes, but if you suspected otherwise, I wouldn’t blame you.
First, why could it not have been him? Well, despite the fact that the show has gone out of the way to scream at us “it’s him!” it’s also been the plan throughout season one to tease at different characters who could potentially become The Joker: a balloon salesman, a comedian, and so on. The idea was originally to go the whole first season simply teasing at the character ahead of a debut in the finale, or in season two.
But this kind of debut? We’re still more than a few episodes away from the end of the season, and this was just a random episode, and it just seems like a poor place to debut the most famous villain in Batman lore. But given that this is FOX’s Gotham, decision-making isn’t really their strong suit. And while the past “Joker-esque” characters hinted at the clown, this version practically jumps up and down on the table screaming, “I am The Joker!”
So either Jerome is the Joker or he's not. He's either got a pretty shitty origin in that an old dude knocked up his mom and he worked at a circus for a while, or he's not the Joker but a kid who acts exactly like the Joker will act in 15 or so years. I do not believe there's a winning answer here. Now people that watch the show say to me that this is still another misdirection. So with that said, we’ll just turn to the show runner for the official answer. And yes, it’s him.
“It’s not a bait-and-switch or red herring,” says Bruno Heller. “That character is the true beginning of the Joker saga — the first page of the first chapter of the story that brings the villain known as Joker to life. And that’s what I’ll say about that!”
Straight from the horse's mouth people. Choosing to debut The Joker in such an anti-climactic way is already deflating, even if the performance by Shameless actor Cameron Monaghan wasn’t half bad. But these are big shoes to fill people. When you’re the first representation of a live-action Joker since Ledger, whether it's TV or Film, there’s going to be a microscope on you regardless, and to me this just felt like one big ultimate throw away of what could have been a very good reveal.
And yet, Gotham once again blunders through a villain’s origin story, this time about a villain that isn’t really supposed to have an origin story in the majority of his incarnations. I could do a 5-page article on this but I will just sum it up here.
To put it simple for you The Joker simply…is.
His inexplicable appearance and capacity for chaos and evil is scarier when we don’t know the roots. Nolan understood this, and rather than go the Hollywood route and try to give some kind of origin to this character, he created the Joker as this enigma that simply exists.
But now, The Joker gets a familiar sob story, a Norman Bates-esque history of a floozy mother he ends up killing, and the circus connection explains the clown thing. I’m sorry but this is clumsy, even for Gotham. Then again I suppose it’s not the end of the world because this show is so far outside canon (we now have scenes where teenage Poison Ivy and Catwoman are giving Barbara Gordon fashion advice on how to impress Jim Gordon). However, Gotham is still becoming overloaded with poorly told origin stories for most of its villains. The only good ones have really been The Penguin, whose origin has been practically the focus of the show, which kind of makes me wish the show was just about young Oswald and his assent through the ranks, and also maybe Zsasz, who we know almost nothing about.
So in summation, if this truly is the final Joker reveal for Gotham, it was more than a little underwhelming, and I draw a complete blank on where the show takes the character from here. Personally, I thought they missed a huge opportunity for Joker/Jerome to stick a hidden knife in the neck of his newfound father, as that seems like something the Joker that I know would do, but again this is FOX TV. And it was also total ball-dropping to make his reveal part of the freaking promos for the show rather than letting it be a surprise. For now, I guess he’ll just be rotting in Arkham like The Joker’s supposed to the majority of the time. It’s unclear when he’ll turn up again, and in what capacity, as the accident that turns him full crazy-clown has always been near or around the era of Batman himself. But given that Gotham really does whatever it wants, maybe not. All I know is this is the last episode I will watch. Unless I read some review down the line saying how they’ve completely 180’d this show, maybe I’ll give it a second chance. Until that day comes, my view on the show stands. You know, if Gotham was secretly a plot by the Joker to discredit Batman and his allies before murdering all its viewers, it would explain a lot. I guess if Smilex gas starts emitting from your televisions in the season finale, you'll know for sure.
Final Verdict: Go watch Arrow and The Flash instead.