I’ll admit I was fully prepared to begin this review by wagging my finger at Bruno Heller and company over pulling another fast one. At the beginning of this season, the producer warned us he’d introduce more than one red herring (of the kind featured in the pilot episode) before finally introducing the Batman’s greatest nemesis on Gotham. It’s the kind of tease that made sense — after all, how do you top the Joker? So I was fully prepared to wait at least until, say, the middle of the show’s second season before meeting the Clown Prince of Crime. Yet it looks like we may already have our Mr. J in “The Blind Fortune Teller.” If so, I’m not disappointed. Twenty-one-year-old Cameron Monaghan delivers an absolutely chilling performance as Jerome, the son of Lila, the snake dancer of Haly’s Circus, and the son of Paul Cicero, the Blind Fortune Teller who gives this episode its name.
Haly’s Circus also provides Gotham with an opportunity to introduce the Flying Graysons, the family of trapeze artists whose murder leaves Dick Grayson an orphan on the path to becoming the first Robin. Here the Graysons are said to be feuding with another circus family, the Lloyds, whose daughter Mary is in love with John Grayson. Per Gotham‘s tradition, the couple already sport a variation of the Boy Wonder’s traditional garb — green tights and yellow capes. And sure enough, by episode’s end, they are engaged, thanks to Jim Gordon solving Lila’s murder, of which John is accused.
The procedural elements are thankfully minimal this week. Instead of another intensely gray crime scene opening with Gordon, Bullock, and Nygma, we’re treated to the detective enjoying a date with Leslie, which turns into a full-on circus brawl when the two clans tussle. That leads us to a direct meeting with Jerome, at first depicted as a soft-spoken mama’s boy, distraught at losing his one and only friend when Lila’s found murdered. After Cicero pays a visit to GCPD, however, Gordon — who grudgingly allows Leslie to join him in his investigation despite believing it’s “no place for a woman” (Gotham is set in this century, isn’t it?) — puts two and two together and outs Jerome as the killer, prompting a most disturbing grin and guffaw. If this is Gotham‘s Joker, I can’t imagine tiring of that laugh anytime soon. And with his shock of Danny Elfman hair, pale skin, and mile-wide smile, Jerome’s already halfway to becoming the clown we love to hate.
“The Blind Fortune Teller” also finds room for Gotham‘s other heavies. Fish Mooney is still imprisoned underground, but wins the support of her fellow prisoners by convincing them that they’re a “family.” With the inmates firmly under her thrall, she manipulates them into supporting her to the point of death as she challenges her jailers in order to win an audience with the facility’s “manager.”
Meanwhile, at Fish’s old club, Oswald has, to the disappointment of his patrons, given his mother a gig as a chanteuse — dispensing swift, bloody justice to anyone who disapproves of her vocals. Unfortunately, his numbers disappoint Don Falcone, who sends Zsasz and his newest project, a disciplined Butch, now obedient only to the Penguin.
Barbara also returns this episode, and finds Selina and Ivy squatting in her old apartment. Drunk, defeated, and in need of company, she doesn’t throw them out, but instead asks their advice on the appropriate outfit to wear in order to win back Gordon. Sadly, she visits her ex as he’s locking lips with Leslie, and walks away in shock.
As for Bruce, he once more rejects Alfred’s advice and addresses the board of Wayne Enterprises, announcing his suspicions of chemical weapons manufacture and underworld involvement in the Arkham project. After hearing their patronizing response, Bruce tells the board members that while he may be too young to chair them, he’ll raise the issues at the next shareholders meeting…
– As comic devotees know, Jerome is the name of the Joker’s creator, artist Jerry Robinson, who began his career as an inker to Bob Kane, and based the iconic villain’s appearance on a playing card.
– Cicero is a play on “Cesar Romero,” the name of the first actor to play the Joker in the 1960s Batman TV show. But just in case we need more clues, veteran character actor Mark Margolis wears the Clown Prince of Crime’s trademark purple hat.
– Fish proves a surprisingly effective motivational speaker. If she ever rejects her life of crime, she’d make a killing on the lecture circuit.
– The Hellfire Club, best known to comic books fans via The X-Men, was in fact an actual organization of eighteenth century ne’er-do-wells, most often based in England and Ireland.
Next week: The “Red Hood” comes to Gotham, and the Wayne Enterprises board decides to “make a move on the kid.”
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).