In the season finale for The Enemy Within, an exhausted, bloody, and beaten Joker asks Batman a question: “Did you ever think of me as your friend?” It’s a spark of vulnerability in a character that is typically sowing discontent and wreaking havoc. Unlike many of the other decision-making points, there’s no timer pressuring you to respond, and in that moment I reflected on the choices I had made up until then. I asked myself whether I feigned friendship with him in the pursuit of justice, or if it was genuine.
Telltale’s Batman: The Enemy Within convincingly presented me with the idea that I could find salvation for the Joker. That I could use the Dark Knight’s unwavering sense of justice as a guiding hand, hopefully to shape him into something other than the maniacal Clown Prince of Crime. I was wrong, and I failed.
In the end, events played out as they always do: A cackling clown and a man dressed as a bat standing on different sides of the law. This is a disappointing bait and switch, but only because I let myself think things could be different–I saw hope where there was none. The fact that I bought into the idea speaks to the strength of the writing and performances throughout the series. Despite this letdown, Episode 5 remains a compelling end to a story in which Batman becomes a participant in the creation his greatest adversary.
While that’s not a unique concept, ‘Same Stitch’ takes the idea that Joker exists because of Batman and explores it more directly. Where comics allow subtlety and subtext to suggest the symbiotic nature between the two characters, Telltale’s take is more overt, and makes a stronger, clearer statement because of it: Maybe Batman is the reason villains exist in Gotham, and maybe his crusade is doing as much harm as it is good.
In possession of a deadly virus and being hunted by an out-of-control Amanda Waller, John Doe comes out of hiding as a vigilante calling himself Joker. That’s the person I shaped though my actions as Batman. Wherever possible, I put my faith in him, trusted him to do the right thing, and gave him the benefit of the doubt, hoping it would have a positive impact. In response Doe modeled himself after Batman, complete with Jokerangs, a grapnel gun with chattering teeth, and the overwhelming compulsion to see justice served.
But, despite my intentions, I had unwittingly placed Joker on the path to realising his villainous destiny, albeit with a short detour through vigilantism. The episode begins with Batman trying to recover the deadly virus in Doe’s possession and stop him from doing harm. Amanda Waller, meanwhile, wants to capture Doe and Batman, and resorts to using villains to get the job done, putting together a Suicide Squad of sorts.
Events quickly spiral out of control. Having been blamed for killing The Riddler, Joker becomes focused on proving that Waller is the real villain in Gotham. His morality becomes black and white, and Telltale does a great job of forcing Batman to admit there are shades of grey. As Waller argues her case, it’s hard not agree with her that Batman has taken similar measures in his crusade. This showing of sympathy, and Batman’s insistence that she face trial instead of suffering a more immediate fate frustrates Joker, making him lash out.
[Joker’s] morality becomes black and white, and Telltale does a great job of forcing Batman to admit there are shades of grey
Batman’s rigid code of conduct and unwavering morality erodes Joker’s sense of what it means to be a hero and conflicts with his need for reparations. The result is is a mentally unstable figure that acts on violent impulses and lives by a twisted sense of self-serving principles. Instead of dropping John Doe into a vat of green chemicals to create Joker, Episode 5 presents your influence as Batman to be one of the reasons Joker is born.
Same Stitch manages to be introspective and thoughtful, while also providing plenty of levity. Joker’s stint as Batman’s sidekick is incredibly memorable, thanks to excellent voice acting and more than a few funny lines. Joker behaves as you’d imagine any Batman fanboy would if given the opportunity to go on a mission with the Dark Knight, revelling in going back to back with his idol, running through the ridiculous superhero names he considered before arriving at Joker, joyfully riding in the Batmobile, and taking pleasure in being mended by Alfred. Sadly, the fun and games are short-lived, as before long he’s on the warpath.
Episode 5 also gives Alfred a more prominent and meaningful role. Having been there for every step of Bruce’s journey, from orphaned child to vigilante superhero, he’s begins to realise that perhaps he’s also been a negative influence, enabling Bruce’s destructive lifestyle and failing in his job as a surrogate father. Telltale takes some bold steps to change the dynamic between the two characters, and it will be interesting to see how this carries over into future seasons, if they happen.
Overall, Episode 5 of Telltale’s Batman: The Enemy Within provides plenty of thrills and is a satisfying conclusion to the story. Although there are a few set-piece fights that are dynamic to watch, much of the actual gameplay remains focused on walking around environments and interacting with points of interest. It’s a shame that the series as a whole didn’t offer more opportunities to solve puzzles, as it did in the earlier in the series, but given the satisfying story payoff that’s easy to forgive.
Over the course of five episodes, the Batman: The Enemy Within has delicately developed John Doe and pulled strings to position Batman as a key player in his transition into Joker. While Telltale’s first Batman season stuck a bit too close to established mythos and delivered an underwhelming ending, the second is a memorable Joker origin story that Bat-fans should make a point of playing.