Release Date: 1/23/2018
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (played on PS4)
ESRB/PEGI: M/PEGI 18
MSRP: $4.99 USD (episode)/$24.99 (season pass)
Written by Rick Warren / Gfn2112
I’m someone who has thoroughly enjoyed this season of Batman, but having played many of Telltale’s games, I couldn’t help but feel less excited than usual when I started “What Ails You”. Even in their best work, Telltale has consistently struggled in one area: their fourth episodes. With so many different ongoing plotlines, the writers must work hard to connect them. Though they usually succeed, that success comes with a cost: a noticeably short episode that feels like little more than setup for the series finale. Does The Enemy Within suffer from this same fate, or does it subvert the troublesome trend?
The Penultimate Problem
Sadly, the answer to the question above is that Telltale has failed to break the cycle of short, setup episodes. My playthrough of “What Ails You” took just over an hour and fifteen minutes, a length that ended up causing a problem that this series has yet to run into: poor handling of its supporting cast.
Laura Bailey’s excellent Catwoman has a terribly small role in this episode, and it’s mainly due to the final choice in the previous one. I saved her, as any sane person would, at the cost of blowing my cover with The Pact. As expected, Bruce found a way to survive. Before taking down the group of foes, Batman reunites with Catwoman and she helps him in an amazing fight sequence. Yet, after the flashy showdown, Selina leaves with nothing more than a “see you around”. She doesn’t check up on Bruce or return to the Batcave, even though she essentially moved in during the previous episode. Further, her exit isn’t even close to being definitive like in the first season. It’s implied that she’ll be back in the season finale, which makes her complete disappearance for the rest of the episode puzzling to say the least.
A possible explanation for the problem is the other final choice from the last episode: choosing to let Selina die to keep your cover. Doing so creates a completely different opening, and one where you continue working with The Pact for a while. An extremely cold Bruce Wayne narrates the opening, saying “I can’t save everyone”. It’s a move that Batman would almost never say... and it’s one that I appreciate because of that. Though I would never go down this path myself, I love that it’s possible to let your Batman go dark enough to start accepting collateral damage. Players being allowed to go off the deep end and become just like Waller is a great example of player choice mattering. Yet, even though I appreciate it, creating such a wildly different outcome should not hurt another outcome. Since Selina “died” (it happened off-screen) in one version of the story, Telltale rushed the other and didn’t create more than the absolute minimum amount of dialogue with her. I hate that Selina was written out of this episode, and I truly hope that it doesn’t happen again in the finale.
The other noteworthy example of the supporting cast issues was with Jim Gordon, with the issue being that he wasn’t even in the episode. “Fractured Mask” left Gordon without a job and regretful of how he had been acting, and I would have loved to see how his firing had impacted him. Instead, I was disappointed that his plot thread was left dangling, as I don’t think it was something that needed to be saved for an already busy finale. One lengthy scene with Gordon and another with Catwoman would have not only padded the episode’s length, but also given two of the most important members of Batman’s supporting cast some time to shine.
It’s also worth mentioning that the loading screens in this episode were more frequent than ever before. They were short, but much like in the season premiere, they were distracting and broke up some big scenes. Despite these load times and the key scenes that didn’t happen, though, there was a lot to like in “What Ails You”. As mentioned earlier, the fight with Freeze and Bane was excellent, as was the conversation with Freeze afterwards. Alfred’s accelerating health issues led to a solid scene with him and Bruce, and Tiffany’s attempt at providing tech was a fun way of gauging how far players were willing to go as Batman. Little moments like the talk with Agent Avesta in the car and the hint that Waller may try to turn members of The Pact into the Suicide Squad were enjoyable. The reveal that The Pact didn’t have evil intentions was a nice change of pace from the norm, too. None of these could compare with the moment everyone has been waiting for, though: the origin of The Joker.
From John to Joker
He’s finally here, and he certainly doesn’t disappoint. In many ways, this episode is the final stand of John Doe. The mask he’s worn finally comes off at the end, and its removal is teased perfectly throughout the runtime of the episode. After being beaten by Harley and left behind, John comes off as truly heartbroken. As flawed and dangerous as he is, I couldn’t help but feel bad for him (much like I did for Harley in Batman: The Animated Series). He seems to be considering suicide... and then, something flips. He agrees to help Bruce track down Quinn and goes off on his own to do so. The next time John is shown, he’s no longer John...
The fun house sequence that follows is a perfect way to show the pseudo-Joker’s big leap into madness. From broken jack-in-the-boxes to jumpscares and the classic “HA HA HA” mantra written on walls, everything feels like classic Joker. After completing my journey through the hallways, though, I ran into John and was immediately reminded that this was not the classic Joker. Not yet. He was still trying to play the role of John Doe, but for the first time, he failed. When Bruce walked in, Joker could be heard trying to come up for a perfect explanation for all the dead bodies that surrounded him. It didn’t take much for the World’s Greatest Detective to see through his lies, but Joker soon fired back with a confirmation that he knew Bruce was Batman. Rather than shutting him down right there, though, I kept playing along. I was determined to keep him from becoming what he always does, and to my surprise... I was successful.
The episode concluded with a bridge standoff between Waller’s agency and Harley Quinn. Harley was threatening to kill everyone there, and of course, Bruce was asked to defuse the situation, and it didn’t go well. Enter the Joker. He offered to talk Harley into surrendering, and I let him. Waller was reasonably pissed off, but I honestly trusted her less than I trusted the Joker that I had tried to steer right for so long. It looked bad for a while, with Joker and Harley giggling and whispering to each other, but he came through. He took down Harley Quinn and delivered her to the police. He then proceeded to blow up Agency vehicles and (non-fatally) stab Waller... and I kept him safe while he did it. With everything I had been shown so far, Waller was the true villain. The episode ended with Joker laughing as he leapt from the bridge, promising to help Batman more in the future.
Then came the relationships screen. I had hopes that this system would create something special, but I never actually expected to see something as crazy as I did: my Joker was a vigilante. His new design was teased, featuring a different haircut, outfit, and what looks like a utility belt. I couldn’t be more excited to see this Joker in action. He’s still a murderer, sure, but he’s doing what he thinks is right. In his eyes, The Agency is evil, and he plans to get rid of them. This is a version of Joker that I can confidently say I’ve never seen before, and it’s an amazing twist on his obsession with Batman. I showed that I cared about him, and I guided him towards doing the right thing all season. Now, he's trying to help in his own way. I'm sure everything will fall apart for this anti hero Joker when he takes things too far, but until then, I'm going to enjoy working with him.
What makes this twist even better, though, is that this is only one possibility. If players consistently treat Joker like, well, Joker, they’ll get that. The bridge scene will be completely different, with Joker siding with Harley and becoming the classic version fans know and love. The duo dives off the bridge together, just after Harley calls him “Mr. J” and their kiss gives Joker his iconic red lips. This time, the relationships screen will instead show Joker as a villain, and he’ll have his classic hair and the iconic purple suit. With these different origins for The Joker, Telltale has crafted a perfect example of what makes their Batman universe so special. One series of events leads to something familiar, while another creates something brand new. Anthony Ingruber’s performance has been amazing thus far, and now he’ll get the chance to play two memorable versions of the Clown Prince of Crime.
For the first time in a long time, Telltale genuinely surprised me. I had held out hope that my relationship with John Doe would matter, and it did. The series has been advertised as allowing players to make their own Batman, but this season, just as much of my focus has been placed on creating my Joker. This episode’s troublesome run time led to some of my favorite characters taking a backseat, but Anthony Ingruber’s Joker kept it afloat. I cannot wait to see what a vigilante version of the character is like, and hopefully the wait won’t be long.
Short run time and numerous loading screens aside, The Enemy Within’s penultimate episode sets up a thrilling, Joker-filled finale.
The Two Jokers +5
Choices Matter +3
Great opening fight +1
Strong small moments +1
Disappointingly short -1
Characters written out/completely absent -1
Annoying loading screens -.5
FINAL SCORE: 7.5