Circuses get a bad rap on television. They are associated with horrible misfortune and dark, disturbing secrets. Maybe it’s because many people are afraid of clowns, or because circuses were plagued with scandals for a very long time. Whatever the reason, it is rare to see a circus depicted in a wholesome light. Gotham is no exception.
But in spite of that pallor, “The Blind Fortune Teller” is a fun episode. We get a glimpse at the famous Flying Graysons, a pleasant cameo for all Batman lovers. The circus is still dark, which Gordon (Ben McKenzie) quickly learns on his date with Dr. Thompkins (Morena Baccarin), offering some tonal balance. The episode still features rudimentary writing and an unclear narrative, but the characters and the circus theme work together to create an enjoyable hour in Gotham.
The circus setting brings some much-needed lightheartedness to the show’s dark vibe. The vibrant tent clashes with Gotham’s dark skyline, an obvious visual representation of the shift in tone. This burst of color doesn’t last long; a fight quickly breaks out. This scene is juxtaposed with Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) killing a man who booed his mother’s performance at his club. Despite these two acts of the violence, Gotham feels lighter than normal.
Cobblepot’s fall from power makes for great television. Watching him manipulate and control everyone around him for weeks and weeks was starting to lose its entertainment value. He is losing confidence and becoming more emotional and reckless. This gives Taylor the ability to show his range, which he most certainly has. Just as he can deftly play menacing and cunning, he can play vulnerable and weak. This shift has allowed for Cobblepot to evolve into a more fully realized character.
Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) shows her captors who’s boss. She rallies all of the prisoners to take control and she doesn’t back down when the time comes to do so. Her absolute control and assertive behavior also helps make “The Blind Fortune Teller” a success. Mooney has developed in nuance and realism, and for that I applaud Pinkett Smith. Her performance is mesmerizing every episode. You can write complex characters, but it takes an excellent actor to make the role truly great.
Barbara Gordon (Erin Richards) returns this week and is completely unfazed by Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) and Ivy Pepper (Clare Foley) squatting in her apartment. Her almost instantaneous treatment of them as lifelong girlfriends creates mixed emotions. Barbara could have easily put the girls back on the street but doesn’t; it’s pleasant to see her treat the girls with such compassion. When she asks advice on what to wear when confronting Gordon, however, it comes across as depressing. Does she really not have any friends her age that she can ask? Or is it a matter of convenience?
Barbara also seems completely delusional. She abandoned her fiancé and hasn’t talked to him for weeks and now all of a sudden she has decided she wants him back. This train of thought might seem sane to her, but how can she rationalize breaking up a relationship that appears to be healthy for Gordon? It was entertaining to watch her walk in on Gordon and Dr. Thompkins kissing in the locker room without either of them noticing. Barbara appears to believe that even though she ran away from Gordon and never called him that he’d still be there waiting for him when she got back. Seeing that kiss was the jolt she needed to realize Gotham did not stop moving just because she left.
Jerome (Cameron Monaghan) is certainly a chilling character. After he confesses to the murder of his mother, he laughs maniacally. His demeanor and appearance have left viewers to speculate that he’s meant to be a young Joker. Bruno Heller played coy on the matter but I sincerely hope he is a nod to the infamous foe and not actually him. I prefer when the Joker’s mystique and persona come from his lack of a concrete backstory (as seen in The Dark Knight). It is interesting that the next episode is entitled “The Red Hood,” which references the most common origin story for the Joker.
Gotham is in love with hinting at well-known characters and story arcs (e.g. Grundy Street and Indian Hill). Jerome as a nod to Joker is fantastic and opens up the potential to explore Arkham Asylum a bit more. It is a shame Heller pulled Gordon from his reassignment so quickly; it makes one wonder about the episodes that could have been. Regardless, a new backdrop injected a fresher tone into the show and allowed characterization to shine. The show is at its best when character development is at the forefront.