It’s been a long 2 months. With the entirety of Batman: The Enemy Within leading up to this point, and the end of Episode 4 making a promise that The Joker, come hell or high water, was close, the wait for Episode 5, titled Same Stitch, has been tough. I’ve heard it said though, that the best things are worth waiting for, and while it didn’t necessarily work out for Aaron Burr, I kind of had no choice but to wait for it.
It was worth it. Same Stitch presents one of the most well-realized depictions of the Clown Prince of Crime regardless of medium, and my playthrough’s Vigilante Joker easily places a strong second to Mark Hamill's virtuoso run as the Ace of Knaves. But I’ll get to that. First an announcement:
There will be SPOILERS. From here on down, in order to properly talk about Episode 5, I will need to spoil certain things. For those not wishing to read those yet, I offer this: Same Stitch is everything I wanted it to be. It takes some turns that were a bit unexpected in wrapping this season up, but overall, there is nothing that should keep you from completing this satisfying journey.
Ok, that’s done.
Any discussion of Episode 5 really needs to be split into two parts, with each dealing specifically with which version of The Joker John Doe eventually becomes. As my playthrough kept John close so as to maybe eventually save him from this fate, and ended Episode 4 with John’s loud announcement that he would be partnering up with Batman to bring JUSTICE to everyone in Gotham who deserved it, we’ll start with what Telltale calls Vigilante Joker.
Having been on the run from Amanda Waller’s Agency for the past three weeks, while also trying to find John Doe and the virus he took from Harley Quinn, Same Stitch begins by following a clown-themed Cadillac as it drives to the base of Riddler’s Water Tower. One slick camera cut later, and the Tower is decorated in the same clown motif, a less than subtle invitation to the Agency requesting their presence.
Batman arrives on the heels of Waller’s goons and makes his way into the walled off area just in time to stop an Agent from killing one of the clown decorated henchman. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Agents turn their guns on the Dark Knight. And then a metal Jokerrang comes out of the darkness, followed by laughter, and a swinging, purple form.
Dressed to the nines in a long, patchy purple overcoat, and sporting a *deep breath* utility belt, John Doe, or The Joker as he is now calling himself, proceeds to not only rescue the Batman himself from imminent danger, but teams up with him to take down Waller’s newest asset, a newly envenomed Bane. I was equal parts in awe and in stitches, trying desperately not to mess up a quick time event because I just wanted to watch this magical moment.
The best part of this moment is that it’s played honestly. Yes, it’s a bit absurd, as the concept of Batman and Joker being partners is not exactly well-worn territory, but it works because John Doe is just so earnest a representation that it feels like he’s earned this moment. Even though he takes justice just a bit to far, and doesn’t exactly cotton on to Batman’s code, he legitimately believes that he is a good guy, and rides that wave until he feels that the cause itself has betrayed him. That and Amanda Waller won’t stop saying that he killed Riddler.
Though John calls himself Joker, he uses the name in much the same way that Bruce uses Batman. It’s not until the “snap” that has long been expected actually happens that the true Joker joins us, and that scene is amazing in its level of both ferocity and feeling. Joker feels betrayed by Batman, betrayed by justice and loses his damn mind, killing three agents in the quickest of successions and beginning what is easily the most emotional action sequence Telltale has ever written. My Batman wanted nothing more than to save John, all the way until the end, and I could feel every punch, kick, stab, and slam as these two forces of nature had it out. The game continues on after that epic fight, bringing an earned closure to many of the plots hanging threads.
But what if you had gone the other way, driving John to the brink through your actions as Bruce Wayne. What if he snapped on the bridge, riding into the sunset with Harley Quinn and the virus? Villain Joker is far more in line with the Joker we’ve seen in the comics, willing to do anything and everything to prove to Bruce that he is his very best enemy. As opposed to Vigilante Joker, who in the course of the episode killed relatively few, Villain Joker happily murders THOUSANDS.
Where Vigilante Joker’s story kept Bruce mostly in the cowl, Villain Joker’s focuses on Bruce himself, as John feels that Bruce betrayed their friendship by not believing him in the Funhouse portion of Episode 4. While the episode hits many of the same points that the Vigilante story did, the set pieces and actual story beats are so wildly different that this may be the first Telltale game I straight up recommend a second playthrough on. Because I played this portion of the story with a save provided by Telltale, I was not fully in on all the choices that were made to get there, and as such, while excellent, the Villain Joker story feels more artificial to me, with some of the results feeling so far off that I have to wonder what crazy choices had to be made to get there.
It was also through the course of this game that I came to see the almost fluid nature of Batman’s no-kill code. It’s one that I had absolutely zero problems upholding as the Dark Knight, but I also found it necessary to forgive the act in others more than I think most incarnations of Batman would have. It absolutely felt like the central theme of the episode, with Batman having to not only defend his code and his way of imparting justice against the Vigilante Joker but also questioning whether or not it is possible for someone who has crossed that line to step back over the edge. I believe that it has to be, or else Batman’s reasoning for saving the Joker so many times falls flat, but kudos to Telltale for providing a perfect backdrop on which to test the Caped Crusader’s moral code.
Before closing, I would feel remiss not singing the praises of not only Troy Baker, who did a fantastic job as both Batman and Bruce Wayne, but also to Anthony Ingruber, who delivers an, pardon the pun, insanely good performance as John Doe/The Joker. He delivered heart and earnestness with every line, and the laugh he gives the Clown Prince when he finally breaks and lets loose is as scary as it is powerful.
With the ending of the episode, both Vigilante and Villain, pointing to a possible third season, I am excited at where else they feel they could take Gotham’s Dark Knight. It should come as no surprise, given my praise of it all season, that The Enemy Within is one of my favorite Batman stories, and the life they gave to the greatest of his enemies by making Bruce more than just the catalyst to his change should forever change the way the Joker is written and explored. Same Stitch is a fantastic end to a killer season. Batman: The Enemy Within is, in my mind, unequivocally the best thing Telltale has ever put to code.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!