Oh Gotham…where do we begin? They finally introduced a literal circus into the one we watch each week on Fox. “The Blind Fortune Teller” was a dull, convoluted, poorly-written hour of television, and it’s so frustrating because the potential for a very good, if not great show, is there. The main issue has been the lack of consistency, and this episode shines a light as bright as the Bat Signal on all the issues Gotham has as a show. I have to remind myself that people are getting paid to write and produce this for television.
Usually I try and recap the episode before getting into the criticism, but I feel we need more room to explore the issues of Gotham and don’t want to waste time, so here it is in a nutshell: The episode follows Gordon investigating a feud between circus performers, a dead snake charmer, and a potential “Joker”, while Fish Mooney attempts to negotiate her release, and Bruce brings accusations to the Wayne Board members.
Let’s start with Barbara. UGH!!! Barbara!! She seems to have done nothing of any value at her oppressive parent’s mansion, and after months away, she has arrived drunk back in Gotham. She is completely unfazed with two homeless kids taking residence in her apartment, and immediately starts to bond with them. She asks their opinions on what dress she should wear to win Jim back, and takes fashion advice from a street urchin in goggles. Barbara is just a complete waste of time on the show, and I keep hoping against hope that the show runners will just kill her off.
One of the bright spots all season has been Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney, and I was interested to see if the writers would let her disappear for a few episodes, let her get out of Gotham, and plot her vengeful return. Instead, she has been thrown into an organ-transplant prison camp somewhere in the Gotham underground. She tells her captors that they have to bring water, fresh fruit, and blankets, or else the prisoner they have come to collect/harvest will allow himself to be beaten to death by other prisoners. The captors WHO ARE ALL CARRYING GUNS, allow this to happen and look at each other with mouths open, and vacant eyes, unsure of how to stop the beating. Fish tells them that they can take her to see the “Boss” and in exchange the lead guard must stay behind. Again, all the guards have GUNS, but they agree to this negotiation, because of course they do.
Penguin has been another one of the bright spots, but once again we have issues of consistency and theme. Oswald has his mother (Carol Kane) sing, and the audience that consists of a 1920’s flapper, a 1970’s businessman, a 1980’s punk rocker, and a few token “goths” don’t appreciate her. There is silence after the performance, until Penguin gives her a standing ovation, and everyone else follows. That is, except for one heckler which Penguin promptly kills and blood splashes upon a club goer’s face. She seems surprised, but not outraged or horrified, rather more inconvenienced. Zsaz returns, and now he has achieved some kind of brain washing technique where anything he or Penguin tell Butch to do, will be done immediately and without hesitation. This includes a really bad dance routine. HOW DID ZSAZ ACHIEVE THIS? Nothing in any of previous episodes suggested that he knew how to do this, but suddenly he can.
Again, people are getting paid to make this.
Gordon was inadvertently responsible for Robin, as he helped the future parents of the Boy Wonder overcome a feud their families have had for over one hundred years. This century long feud was over a horse, because of course it was. They wear future Robin’s green and yellow tights, because that is foreshadowing on Gotham.
Let’s talk about what counts as police procedural for Gotham. A snake dancer has gone missing, and the ring leader tells Gordon that she is a whore, and often disappears at night to visit men and always returns the next morning. The son of the snake dancer suggests that her snake is upset, so Gordon tells him to let it out of its cage. The snake slithers across the ground and leads them to a truck with her dead body in the back. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? We have a bloodhound snake now? The writers try to excuse this ludicrous bit of storytelling with Gordon telling Dr. Thompkins that snakes have an advanced sense of smell. I’ve allowed a lot of leeway for the Gotham Police Department that relies on a series of coincidences that eventually lead them to solve the crime rather than any actual investigation. The weekly investigations should tell the audience something about the city, the people, the detectives–after all, this is meant to be a show about the city and its people, and how its political and cultural structure led to Bruce Wayne becoming Batman and Jim Gordon becoming the Commissioner. We are sixteen episodes in, and we know next to nothing about this city.
The show still can’t decide if it’s a reality based universe like Nolan’s Batman trilogy, or over the top like Joel Schumacher’s vision. This inconsistency is killing the show, and now we have psychics giving Gordon hints about how to solve the murder. Gordon doesn’t take him seriously, but Thompkins does for some reason, and she somehow in the middle of dinner solves the riddle told by the psychic, and head to the Arkham Bridge. Once there, they find a hatchet inscribed with the symbols and alphabet of an old Satanic cult called The Hell Fire Club. Gordon immediately deduces the cult could not have been responsible, since they haven’t been actively murdering people for years. Somehow he has this key insight into Gotham and its history, even though he moved here less than six months before. We also can’t forget that the phrase “if someone threw something from the bridge, this is where it would land” is an actual line of dialogue spoken here. Gordon then suddenly deduces that Cicero the psychic was trying to protect the snake charmer’s son, Jerome, who is the murder. Why is Cicero trying to protect Jerome? Because he’s Jerome’s father. Because of course he is. But if he wants to protect Jerome, why did he give Gordon a clue to find the murder weapon? Oh wait, I’m asking Gotham to make sense in its plotting again.
NONE of this is important though, because it’s just a drawn-out way to suggest that Jerome is the Joker. He is crazy, he has a large smile, and he laughs a lot. This is known as subtle character shading for Gotham writers. All they needed was to paint Jerome’s hair green, and give him a “I Heart Cesar Romero” shirt, and make it completely obvious. I’m hoping it’s a ruse, and Jerome is not really the Joker, as his character illustrates all that is wrong with Gotham. The show ignores character development and story arcs, and instead relies on character “reveals,” as if the adding of every Batman villain forgives 43 minutes of bad police procedurals.
The producers wanted a selling point for this episode as they know Gotham isn’t good television. The show runner Bruno Heller promises that we will return to the Jerome character, and that we will have a “Joker saga” in the future. The three scenes was a shameless ploy, and Cameron Monaghan was awful. There are five episodes left, and Gotham took a major step backward with this episode. Here’s hoping that something great is coming, and maybe this will be the show we deserve, because this certainly isn’t the one we need right now.