The fourth episode of Batman: The Enemy Within, begins in rollicking fashion; a front-loaded series of chaotic, action-filled set-pieces with Bruce Wayne, Harley Quinn, The Joker, Bane and Mr. Freeze all getting stuck into a variety of violent pursuits. It's an audacious beginning to the penultimate episode in a season that has been marked by some tremendous character development, and not least, the evolution of certain characters beyond the personas that the comic books and movies have long established them with.
Batman: The Enemy Within Episode 4 effortlessly maintains the series quality
As has been the case for much of Batman: The Enemy Within, the maturation of John Doe (The Joker) has been nothing short of fascinating. Originally introduced as an overwhelmingly awkward, socially inept fellow who craves attention and companionship, What Ails You sees The Clown Prince of Crime break free of the yoke of his obsessions and begin a metamorphosis into a much more fully-formed and astute individual.
Brilliantly, What Ails You allows players to dictate the ‘version' of The Joker that eventually materializes – and if you thought that it was just a case of ‘Good Joker' versus ‘Bad Joker', you'll be pleased to know that the quality of writing enables a far deeper and sophisticated change of character than either of those outcomes. Simply put, the transformation of John Doe into a version of The Joker is a true highlight and wonderfully sets the stage for the final episode. Regardless of whatever Joker you create, What Ails You succeeds yet further in casting him as a layered tragic figure, and as such, I steadfastly maintain that he still stands as one of the better portrayals of Batman's longtime nemesis to come along in a good while.
Beyond The Joker, the other cast members of What Ails You each receive varying dollops of character development, too. Harley Quinn is arguably the next in line for a refresh, as cracks begin to show in her murderous exterior, revealing a tragic past that fuels her obsession with obtaining the virus from the SANCTUS labs during the beginning of the episode. Beyond that, Mr. Freeze gets a little bit of development, again erring towards the tragic, while Bane gets nothing and Catwoman ends up largely being a non-factor.
Essentially then, the penultimate episode of Batman: The Enemy Within is the Joker and Harley Quinn show and given the verve with which their characters and narrative have been written, such a relatively narrow character focus proves very welcome indeed; especially after the villain stuffed episodes that preceded it.
Perhaps the biggest problem with What Ails You, is that it's all over far too quickly. Clocking in just over 75 minutes long, it's commendable that the writers have managed to stuff a ton of character and plot development within the confines of the episode, but the flip-side of is that some characters who featured prominently in earlier episodes fail to show up at all. Nonetheless, the stakes are sky high in What Ails You and it results in a thunderous setup for the season finale of Batman: The Enemy Within and possibly beyond.
If you’ve missed our reviews of the previous episodes of Batman: The Enemy Within, you can catch them here: