NOTE: This review is spoiler free of plot details.
What made Batman: The Telltale Series such a joy to play was how much it turned traditional Batman tropes on their head. You still had characters like Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Harvey Dent to remind you that this is still a Batman story, but a lot of things you came to expect from something Batman related were changed in Teltlale’s take on the source material, and if not for some great story telling, this could have upset a lot of fans. In the debut episode of Telltale’s second season, The Enemy Within, it looked like that trend was going to continue. The Riddler was introduced into the universe not as an escalated challenge to the arrival of Batman in Gotham City, but rather another reminder to Bruce about his parents dark past. The actions of the Riddler even went as far as to take a player off the table who we’ve come to expect to always be around. With the second episode of Batman: The Enemy Within, Telltale seems to be steering things more towards a traditional Batman story, but they’re still finding some great ways to keep fans on their toes by changing the expected.
There’s no way to get around talking about this as Telltale has been heavily promoting it leading up to the release of “The Pact”, so SPOILERS if you haven’t played through “The Enimga” yet: Harley Quinn makes her Telltale debut having been teased at the end of the last episode. Like how some villains had their origins altered in the first season, so too does Harley and it makes for a far more compelling character. Introduced in Batman: The Animated Series, Harley’s origin and other takes on the character have had her at best as being a henchman for the Joker, and at worst the tragic victim of an abusive relationship with the Clown Prince of Crime. As John “the Joker” Doe hasn’t fully adopted that persona, Harley is the dominant one this time around with John Doe pining over her and it’s great seeing Harley in charge. Harley has become her own character in comics, animated films and even video games separate from the Joker, she has had to in order to stay relevant, but never have I seen Harley portrayed like this and it makes her a bigger threat to Batman/Bruce Wayne than ever before. I’m sure there will be purists or those who won’t much care for it, and even label people an SJW for liking this flip, but for all we know it might go back to the way things have been in the past though I hope they don’t.
The villains that have appeared in the Telltale Batman universe have been a reminder to Bruce Wayne of the thin line he walks upon, in particular the Penguin and Lady Arkham who were both victims of the Wayne’s tenure at Arkham Asylum. Instead of being brainwashed by the Joker, Harley gets a similar tragic back story and it does a lot to humanize her after coming off a bit too in your face when you first meet her. In this season so far Bruce is being squeezed from all sides from Amanda Waller attacking both his public and secret personas with eyes still being on him in the city from the events of season one. What’s going to make Harley a great character in this series is that her being the ringleader of a gang of villains, some of which I was surprised got introduced so quickly, is similarly up against the wall in her situation.
Harley is not the only villain introduced in this episode as previously mentioned, and I won’t spoil who the others are, but one gets a pretty great introduction via a fantastic action sequence. People criticize Telltale games for how little you do, but when they do so much to invest you into the story and characters like they have done with their Batman series, something as mundane as hitting left+circle gives the same feeling as setting up a multi-hit chain in Rocksteady’s Arkham games. The duo of villains that make their debut don’t deviate too much from what you’ve seen of them in the past, however it’s okay to stick with the classics some time and at the very least, their tools and abilities are modernized will still retaining what makes them iconic.
As for problems I had with “The Pact”, it’s at its worse when it actually gives the player control. It’s normally the other way around with Telltale episodes, especially in the Batman series where you get to perform rudimentary detective work, but “The Pact” clips by a good pace until you’re forced to slow down and talk to a few people. This is not unique to Batman: The Enemy Within, as it’s also something Telltale has done in Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series and personally I’m not a fan. Bruce Wayne also gets into situations that are a bit too unbelievable for such a well-known public figure. I understand that this is very much Bruce early in his career, but he makes some amateur decisions where it becomes almost easy for anyone in the room to put together that he and Batman are one and the same. One such instance is conveniently retconned but another I’m sure will come up in a future episode when it should have been dealt with immediately by Bruce somehow.
Batman: The Enemy Within keeps the momentum going from the last episode and brings in a lot more of Batman’s rogues to make the lives of both Bruce Wayne and Batman complicated, but also really interesting, going forward. The story telling stumbles in a few parts when things take a minute to breath, but the episode has more than enough great parts to outweigh the weaker elements. One such thing is this universe’s Harley Quinn who is one of the more interesting takes on that character who you’ll want to see more of going forward. A word to the wise: avoid if at all possible looking at the episode thumbnails if you can to not spoil a reveal at the end. It won’t shock you that much if you’re a fan of this property from any incarnation, but it will get you excited for what will happen in this already tense scenario in part three.