Just when I think Telltale has run out of places to go, and that I’ve finally figured out the hook to their plans with John Doe and his eventual transformation into full-fledged Joker-dom, they pull Crazy Ivan and give me a gift like Episode 4. Titled What Ails You, this episode is less a set-up of the finale then a stack of C4 primed to take out every story thread that’s been built up so far.
For those not interested in spoilers of any kind, I offer this: Telltale continues to tell one of the best Batman stories out there right now. If you are at all interested in comics, or characters related to the Dark Knight, this is 100% not optional. Honestly, no one else should be sleeping on this either. And with that, on to the episode.
As stated before, there are a bunch of plot points that come to head in this episode. We learn why Amanda Waller and the Agency are so interested in the Lotus Virus (it’s not altruism), and how it relates to Riddler’s body. We also discover why the Pact was so interested in it, and that the road to Hell really is paved with the best of intentions. But there are a few more specific moments I want to touch on.
The first deals with Alfred. A rather quiet standby through the first three episodes of this season, Alfred is suddenly thrust into the limelight with some kind of mystery illness. While I think I understand where they are going with something like this, the moment felt a bit too much like Batman and Robin, when Alfred develops the same illness Mr. Freeze’s wife had, and in much the same way, downplays the illness until he is literally bedridden. Telltale’s Alfred doesn’t take it quite as far, but the inclusion of an illness this close to Bruce feels like one too many plates in the air, and I am anxious to see how this late season inclusion feeds into the ending proper.
Around the same time, Tiffany Fox makes her episodic appearance. After their last meeting, where Bruce brought her into the circle of trust regarding his identity, Tiffany is eager to both assist with Alfred and join in the crusade. She presents two ideas to Bruce; the first is a mock up of her as a superhero, complete with a techno-style suit, and the second is a machine gun. What follows is a set of dialogue options that lets you choose how you explain to Tiffany why Batman does things the way he does. It’s a poignant moment and allows you to solidify your relationship with Tiffany, and Troy Baker wonderfully delivers on the “Batman doesn’t kill,” “It would be easy to pull a trigger” moments.
The big kicker though, as it has been throughout this season, is John Doe. Three times he’s given nearly full run of a scene, and all three times he is fantastic as he builds momentum to the moment he becomes the Clown Prince of Crime. The first is a somber reflection on his relationship with Harley that ends with a rather damning critique of Bruce’s “friendship.” Remember, two episodes ago when I mentioned that I wished that there was a bit more subtlety in regards to Bruce using John Doe, well, he noticed. The second scene takes place at Harley’s fun house, which has been redecorated by John. He’s convinced that Bruce only used him to get to Harley, and he knows, KNOWS, that Bruce is Batman.
That revelation is a game changer and proves especially formative when it comes to John evolving into Mr. J. Based on earlier information regarding the Lotus Virus, I was sure, so sure, so absolutely sure, that I had pinpointed the turning point, the moment that John would change and embrace what we all know if coming. I was wrong.
That moment instead comes at the end of this episode, when John Doe, through the glorious logic games that his mind plays, believes that it is his destiny to join with Batman and rid Gotham of its corruption, whether that be criminal or cop. I really, really wanted to see where Bruce’s friendship with John went, to see if it was at all possible to save his mirror without destroying everything else. I never imagined that would translate into The Joker wanting to be Batman’s partner in crime fighting. It’s perfect, and I have NO IDEA where this goes.
What does all this mean going into the finale? Your guess is as good as mine. I imagine there will be closure regarding the virus and where it ends up. I would love to find out where Gordon is and how he is going to comeback from his dismissal at Waller’s behest. And there’s going to be blood when Batman tells Joker that he works alone. Copious amounts of blood. Regardless, as I have said before, this is, without a doubt, the best work that Telltale has been doing recently, and we’re an episode away from this season being done. If you’ve come this far, there is no reason why you wouldn’t finish it. And if you haven’t started it and have continued to read this… sorry about the spoilers, but you really need to get on board.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!