The Weakest Link In The Batman Series
Last time, on Batman: The Telltale Series (Spoilers ahead), Batman had to contend with the overwhelming menace that was The Riddler. The Riddler of Telltale was no longer a simple guy that told riddles on how to solve his crimes. He was now a mass murdering lunatic that tells riddles and you might get to keep your limbs if you answer quickly enough. John Doe (i.e. Joker) cashed in on himself asking for a favor that he believes Bruce owed him from the first season and asked if Bruce could meet his friends. Lucius Fox solved one of the Riddler’s enigmas to a very explosive death. Amanda Waller was introduced as head of the ARGUS stand-in called The Agency and at the end, he reveals she knows that Bruce is Batman.
So, we’re caught up on everything going on. Batman: The Telltale Series – The Enemy Within: Episode 2 opens where the last episode left off. At the beginning of “The Pact”, Waller mentions her leverage over Bruce to his surprise. In what could have only been a half hour after Riddler’s death, multiple explosions happen across the city in view of the boat they were still on, prompting Waller and Batman to agree that he should head to the one that needs immediate attention, the Gotham City Police Department arsenal warehouse.
Hey! Bane has the right accent!
The heist is led by classic Batman villain Bane, which fully embraces his Cuban origin from the comics and a very sensible costume that feels more real than many of his previous iterations (Tom Hardy, I’m looking at you here.). Batman is able to gain the upper hand for a moment before Bane shoots a syringe gun into his neck. Instead of the tubes attached to Bane in the comics and television shows, the realism factor is that the Venom serum is injected this way, which works to Batman’s advantage later on in the episode. In any case, Bane beats the snot out of Batman after he’s bulked up and knocks him into a wall, causing the debris to fall on him.
Batman can either call on Commissioner Gordon or Amanda Waller to come help. Whoever you call will cause the other to be potentially angry with you. I called Waller in my play-through, which luckily set me up for a conversation later on with Gordon where I could smooth it over a bit more easily. In either case, you’re helped from under the rubble and head back to the batcave. This was the last time you don the cowl for the rest of the episode outside of the quick scene later on with Gordon and Waller.
World’s Greatest Detective On The World’s Most Obvious Mystery
Bruce heads back to his bat-computer to learn about the other two heists that happened concurrently with Bane’s. We are introduced to Dr. Harleen Quinzel, known to fans of the franchise as Harley Quinn, who caved in a lot of skulls during her heist with a giant sledge hammer, as opposed to her usual comical over-sized mallet. This design choice lends itself to that more realistic manner I spoke of before. The other heist involved people being frozen alive and the doorways being iced around the hinges, which they didn’t give a name for at the time, but was obviously meant to allude to Mr. Freeze.
The story of the first season relied on the players’ past knowledge of the Batman franchise to throw in strange and new creative differences to established characters like Vicki Vale, Joker, and Penguin, while telling a new story unlike any before. This season seems to be relying on the fact that you know nothing about Batman and are going into this blind. “Huh… This heist was caused by some sort of ice weapon. I, and those playing as me, are absolutely in for a surprise at who it is! Oh, it’s just Mr. Freeze!” The logical conclusion was that it would be Mr. Freeze due to his vast history with Batman, but the way twists work is they’re supposed to throw you a different way. They surely didn’t.
Bruce decides to take a less caped approach to meeting the villains, putting on the Bruce Wayne mask. In the previous season, Bruce learns that his father was a bad guy and just as corrupt as the rest, where it becomes public. He uses this to his advantage when meeting with the villains, making it seem like he wants to run Gotham, mobster-style.
A More Likable “Joker” For A More Elegant Time
He calls and meets up with John Doe, a friend he made during his brief stay at Arkham Asylum that laughs a lot, which dons pale white skin, a thin disposition, long face and chin, big grin when he smiles, and green hair. He may or may not be the Joker. I wonder. John believes Bruce owes him a favor from helping him get out of Arkham and Bruce uses it to his advantage to meet Joker’s, I mean John’s, new friends. John is absolutely the easiest character to like in the entire series because he’s so vastly different from his origin but so similar at the same time.
As flawed as you will soon understand that this episode is, the best moment of the entire season happened while in the bar. Again, this is the Joker, or at least a proto-Joker before being the Clown Prince of Crime. He’s unsure of himself and frowns just as often as he smiles. When he made friends with Bruce in Arkham in season one, he really attached himself to the fact that Bruce is the only person that he could really call a “friend”. In the bar, he apologizes for lying to Bruce in the last episode and swore not to again. He asked for a pinky swear. If you’re not a monster, you pinky swear with the hopeful John Doe, because you’re not a monster. He delightedly yells “Best friends forever!” and you move on after a laugh.
Rev This Harley
John tells Bruce that he’s in love. Once they enter a car that John hijacked sometime prior, Bruce informs him that he could just buy John a car. Bruce gets a pistol pushed into the side of his head as he meets John’s love interest, a brash, crazy Harley Quinn. The dynamic is 100% reversed in this series where Harley is obviously the lead in that potential relationship, whereas Joker is generally the lead in most iterations. As interesting as the change is, the clown motif seems strange when Harley wasn’t directly affected by Joker himself, which can throw off the more hardcore Batman fans.
As a test to prove Bruce is what he says he is, she puts him on a mission that just happens to conveniently be at Wayne Tower and was to steal an item that they needed for their next heist made by Lucius Fox in his secret lab. It feels very rushed in the story that everything fell into place in the exact same day that Bruce decided to randomly call John. The item they need is a special key device that can unlock any electronic lock ever. You know: A McGuffin.
Bruce is supposed to enter Wayne tower, head to Bruce’s own office and then down to Fox’s secret lab from there, grab the key, and go. In what would have taken Bruce just a few moments by himself, last second, Harley and John decide to join him, causing trouble on the way.
An Unraveling Story Slowly Unravels
They make Bruce open the secret entrance from his office, explaining that the Penguin talks a lot and told them all about it when he ruled Wayne Enterprises in Bruce’s leave. They head to the lab, where Bruce has to find residual fingerprints of Lucius to open the vault. Once Bruce heads into the vault by himself, it turns out Tiffany Fox, Lucius’ daughter, is in there waiting with the exact item they were coming for in her hands.
Considering this call to John was very random and Tiffany should know nothing about the secret lab or that Lucius worked with Batman at all, she may have just sat in a vault for days, waiting for someone to maybe steal this exact item. There was no reason for Tiffany to be there, especially since her father died not long (i.e. a couple hours) after Bruce and himself discussed bringing her into the fold. This isn’t even taking into fact that she was locked in the vault that said only Lucius had access. This entirely and completely broke the story immersion, yet again. She just happened to be holding the item that Bruce was sent to retrieve, because storytelling.
So Joker catches Tiffany in the vault with Bruce but agrees not to tell Harley because Bruce is his best friend. They do, however, take an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) machine from the lab along for the ride along with their McGuffin key. Bruce heads home, instead of to the bad guy hangout, and gets contacted by Amanda Waller and Gordon, where you can try to smooth things over with whoever you pissed off earlier.
A Pact Room Needlessly Packed
Bruce calls John and they head back to the secret hideout of the group of villains, which have been dubbed “The Pact”. Bruce meets the two other members of the pact, Bane and (surprise) Mr. Freeze. Bane nearly tries to kill Bruce because he doesn’t trust him and John sets off the EMP, prompting Bruce to have to turn it off. Each member of The Pact gets their own little spot in the hideout, where he talks with each one.
You’re meant to try to get on the good side of Freeze and Bane. Freeze is as simple as mentioning his wife and you have it, but Bane would involve you brutalizing someone in front of everyone. Taking the high road means you still get three out of four votes to be a part of their super cool warehouse villain club. You’re invited to join their next heist, which is to steal a crate being transported by The Agency. Bruce lets Waller know, but she sends zero back-up, which nearly ends badly for everyone.
In the final real choice of the game, players can choose to go with Harley or Bane, which inevitably will affect John or Freeze because the un-chosen one gets left behind in the get-away. Bringing the crate back to the hideout, the remaining member that you chose earlier will get the honors of telling Bruce to open the crate with the McGuffin key. The contents? Riddler’s frozen corpse. They explain that the next phase of the operation will arrive shortly. Approximately 10 seconds later, the next phase of the operation arrives. Catwoman, who was last seen at the end of Season One shows up with a piece of tech in her hand and Bruce looks surprised. The end.
Characterization is Important To Storytelling. So, Uh, Where Is It?
So, Riddler was set up in the first episode to not only be a member of The Pact, but their de facto leader. But, the storytellers at Telltale made it seem like he was killed by The Pact as well, which means that they killed him and now they’re using his corpse for something nefarious? Penguin was also a member of The Pact according to Harley in this episode. But, he was a member of the Children of Arkham, which were very anti-Bruce Wayne. So, every villain in Gotham seems to be a part of the same group, trying to achieve the same goals, which feels very forced, as most villains in Batman mythos squabble among themselves and inter-fight, only teaming up when absolutely necessary.
Harley’s personality is right from the comics, but it’s a very strange infrastructure to see her not feel a thing for John/ Joker and even go as far as try to seduce Bruce in front of him. She treats John very poorly and masochistically and he just takes it because he’s not dominant at all, especially compared to his other known iterations. It’d be more interesting if they BOTH didn’t have the clown motif attached to their names and characterization and still had a similar backstory to their origins. What has always made Harley a well-thought out character is the story behind her obsession with Joker and her eventual turn from him (in recent years) due to his abuse. This Harley seems to have gone crazy and taken on a clown-like persona due to her father dying, according to a throwaway line from Waller. It’s just bad writing.
On A More Positive Note…
I do love the innocent appeal they’re giving to John Doe, AKA The Joker, with this series. He genuinely thinks the world of Bruce and it’s going to break my heart when he finally has his world crumble around him to become the Joker everyone knows by the end of this series. Maybe Harley not liking him or Bruce betraying him will be the catalyst, but it’s coming and it’s going to be earth-shattering.
This marks the 7th episode of the Telltale Games line up of Batman and could easily be considered the weakest yet. The story had no depth and seemed to be too busy trying to set up expository for later episodes to actually mean anything. It was true Telltale fashion and told a story, but the writing was sub-par at best. Some of my qualms are nit picky and I understand this, but as a fan of Batman over the years, there’s just certain things that people that write Batman stories have to understand. If they don’t, inconsistencies happen.
I’m excited to see if Bruce takes on Tiffany as the new gadget maker in later episodes. Alfred keeps alluding that Bruce can’t do this alone. Maybe a Robin will get involved eventually. As rough around the edges as this episode was, it’s not going to stop me from being excited for the rest of the season as a whole. One bad episode doesn’t ruin a whole show. We’ll find out next time, on Episode 3: “Fractured Mask”, which I hope reintroduces Lady Arkham, since her body was never found.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, Playstation 4; Publisher: Telltale Games; Developer: Telltale Games; Players: 1; Released: October 3rd, 2017; ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: $24.99
Full Disclosure: This review is based on a PC review copy of Batman The Telltale Series: The Enemy Within Season Pass given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.