Batman: The Enemy Within Episode 5 – Same Stitch
Telltale’s second season of Batman has a had a lot of moving pieces. The Riddler. Catwoman’s return to Gotham. Amanda Waller and Jim Gordon’s fight for control. Harley Quinn’s supergroup of villains and their mysterious intentions. At the center of it all, the crux of this story has been Batman and the Joker. If the first season was an origin story for Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, then the second is an origin story for his greatest nemesis. Telltale goes all-in on the relationship in the most spectacular fashion, culminating in a fantastic episode that carries the heavy weight of tragedy and made me feel like my choices mattered.
Same Stitch is effectively two episodes in one – an unprecedented move in Telltale’s adventure catalogue. Depending on your choices throughout the series, John Doe (a.k.a. the Joker) either becomes a vigilante to fight alongside of you, or he adopts the classic villain persona. These two paths create different stories for episode 5. And when I say “different,” I don’t mean minor changes; they are radically separate experiences with unique plots and themes. Somehow, they are equally satisfying.
The vigilante path finds you and Joker squaring off against Amanda Waller as she pursues the clown prince of..uh…do-goodness after the explosive events of the previous episode. Layering plot twist within plot twist, this episode also takes chances with Telltale’s version of Gotham. Bruce and the Joker make jokes with one another, bond, and fight rows of thugs as the Joker squeals happily when he gets to sit in the seat of the Batmobile. However, vigilante Joker still retains some of the menace and the insanity that makes him so memorable, like when he barks at Waller for threatening Batman. It’s a well-balanced act that ends with a barrage of sequences that filled me with dread and wonder, including one lingering shot that’s both grotesque and elegant.
The villain path pits you against an evil, cackling Joker looking to torment Bruce and Gotham for slights against him. While this might sound more boring than vigilante path, Telltale make sure the things that made John Doe so interesting, like his whimpering monologues and his desperate need for Bruce’s friendship, remain in this version of the story. The Joker is still evil, but he sees his villainy as an exercise to earn Bruce’s love, resulting in a twisted (and violent) game of cat and mouse. Several scenes indict your choices throughout the series without being clumsy about it. One of my favorites is a tense sequence in a dining room involving a game of Never Have I Ever. I won’t say more than that, but as a whole, the villain path is diabolical and ends with a devastating, explosive showdown.
Both versions of Same Stitch assault you in effective ways over your treatment of the Joker throughout the series. The Batman mythos has often presented the idea that Batman himself is responsible for bringing all the lunatics to Gotham city, which in turn makes his crusade a failure from the start – a rich boy’s hobby that makes everything worse. Same Stitch spins on that axis, critiquing Batman just as much as it celebrates him, resulting in a work that feels just as smart as it is earnest.
Not only are these episodes strong on their storytelling merits, but the criticisms often applied to Telltale games have been ironed out. No tedious puzzles or barriers exist between you and this well-paced story. The action sequences are still quick-time events, but they’re also choreographed well. Every encounter is laced with energy and creativity, like a deadly knife ballet with Joker, or throwing Harley through a tea party.
The finale of Batman: Enemy Within is a joy any way you cut it. I was on the edge of my seat during both paths, wondering what would happen next, feeling both dread and excitement all the way until the credits rolled. The episode drops some hints that Telltale isn’t done with Batman yet, but if the series continues, topping the beauty and brilliance of this finale will be difficult.