Review: Gotham – Ep. 16 “The Blind Fortune Teller”

Gotham has introduced yet more characters from the Batman canon in ep. 16 “The Blind Fortune Teller.” Last week teased a trip to the circus, and this episode was definitely a circus, in more ways than one. “The Blind Fortune Teller” introduced us to a character we believe to be the Joker, while also introducing us to the Flying Graysons. (You know where Batman’s sidekick Dick Grayson got his mad acrobatic skills from, right?)

So, that circus I was talking about… Detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Dr. Leslie Thompson (Morena Baccarin) go on a date at the circus. But the fun quickly turns into an all out brawl as the clowns and acrobats rumble. Bad blood between families in the circus has existed for decades and breaks out in the open, with an audience to enjoy the spectacle. Gordon calls in the GCPD and following various leads finds that a murder had occurred. The dancing snake lady has been killed. How do we find her body? Gordon releases a snake and follows it like a blood hound, of course. Because that’s just how Gothamites roll, right? All said and done, eventually Gordon follows the clues with his M.E. girlfriend dragging him along the way to ultimately solve the mystery of the snake charmer’s murder.

This episode was so out there, I’m truly not even sure where to begin. I think “circus” may be the best word to use. I’d love to think that the plot of the episode purposely bled to become the overall theme of the episode of Gotham this week. However, I can’t help but feel that episode simply put a name to the blunders of the writers of the show. Too much going on during too short of a time, all feeling just a little disconnected. I constantly feel the roots that they are attempting to lay, which I truly appreciate, but if you try to plant too many trees in too small a space, some are sure to wither and die. The introduction of characters and villains in Gotham can be likened to this forestry example.

This episode we had (possibly) the Joker at the circus (along with some Graysons). We had Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) in some kind of purgatory, ruling the mysterious place and making deals to meet the manager. We had Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) at a business meeting. We had Penguin doing… not much of anything except playing puppet master. And nowhere to be found are Falcone or Maroni.

The part that I have absolutely come to despise is the “love” story between Dr. Thompkins and Jim Gordon. There seems to be little genuine chemistry between the actors for this particular dynamic. Furthermore, the good doctor essentially treats Gordon like her plaything. (When I say plaything, I mean that she is training him and making him her bitch). Leslie emasculates Gordon, which is a detriment to the show and the establishment of his character as a steadfast, justice-driven detective. When she is around, I have a difficult time taking him seriously. On the subject of Dr. Thompson – her excitement in the face of crime and a murder confession lead me to believe that there is a reason we found her character at Arkham Asylum. (If she turns out to be some kind of psycho, I’m just saying I called it, here and now.) She can’t be all that great considering the writers continue to persist with Barbara (Erin Richards) as a player in the show. They must be keeping her around for some reason.

Now, on to the Joker. It’s what everyone has been waiting for. We’ve seen Penguin. We’ve seen Riddler. Joker is the other big villain in the Batman universe in the cinema. And we’ve (possibly) seen him in “The Blind Fortune Teller” this week. (Show runners are still being vague about the character Jerome this week, saying only that it’s the start of the story of how the Joker came to be.) As much as I want to fangirl, the critic in me is groaning. While I admit that Cameron Monaghan gives a haunting performance, it is also clearly pulled from Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the clown-faced villain. While Ledger’s portrayal was wonderful and unrivaled, it was his. The mark of a creative actor is the ability to take a character that has been played before and make it their own. One should pay homage, but should not copy. In my opinion, this is where Monaghan went wrong. Enjoyable? Yes. Original? Not so much.

I’d like to leave things on a positive note this week, however. The first thing Gotham is getting right is costuming. Seriously… every character has a distinct look from head to toe. Each look fits with the personality and feel of the character and blends with the film noir feel of the modern show. Secondly, Gotham is getting casting right. I don’t necessarily need all these characters introduced each week, but by golly when they cast, they do it well. Each actor truly embodies the role they are filling. There’s the look, the mannerisms, the walks, the talks… They know what they are looking for and they get it.

And Gotham is getting something right with Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz). Batman in the comics is a masked crusader in the night, but he is primarily a detective. The writers are staying true to this comic book root, showing the investigative skills of Bruce, even at a young age. While the choice to play him as such a proper and poised boy may border on unrealistic, the child who seeks to set the world right after the murder of his parents is true to form. Wayne has an understanding of his family’s company and from his investigations has deduced that the company may be taking a part in the dark undertakings of an ultimate dark plan for Gotham City. And he is tenacious. With the support of his guardian, Alfred (Sean Pertwee), he goes forth into the business world with quiet confidence, and shakes things up. Those Arkham ideas were planted near the start of the season and perhaps this particular plot line will serve to further that and open up the case to the viewer again.

has only a few more episodes until the season finale. Keep watching Gotham on Fox on Monday nights at 8/7c.

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