Previously on Gotham ... Joker crime surged, Jerome re-emerged, and Gotham's about to get Purged.
Now on Gotham ... Jim's on patrol, Penguin bares his soul, and Jerome plays whack-a-mole.
Gotham has only been back a few weeks and already it's disappearing back into hiatus land. But before it leaves us in the lurch, Gotham also provides one of its best and most important episodes yet in the form of "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies." But before we can get to why, quickly Robin ... to the plotmobile!
- Jim Gordon and the rest of the GCPD get the power back up pretty quickly, but they've got bigger problems to deal with. After Jerome's broadcast, every crazy in Gotham (which is probably 50% of the citizens of Gotham) floods the streets with chaotic and violent acts of madness. The only way to prevent an already full lock-up from overflowing is to find and take down Jerome. Jim asks Lee what Jerome told her, and Lee remembers Jerome talking about killing Bruce Wayne.
- Jerome invades stately Wayne Manor, destroying the glass owl with the Court's mystery map, kidnapping Bruce and leaving Alfred to be killed by his minions. But while Gordon shows up in time to help Alfred take down Jerome's crew, Bruce is already long gone, leaving them unaware of both Jerome and Bruce's location. Worse still, Bruce thinks Alfred is dead. Jerome puts Bruce in sad clown/mime makeup at the local carnival, because carnivals are kind of Jerome's version of the suburbs. There Jerome tortures Bruce by forcing him to watch Jerome's gang use carnival gangs to torment the citizens of Gotham. People get hit with whack-a-mole hammers, stabbed with darts, and one guy is even dumped into a pool full of killer pirhana. That's not a thing, but, hey, it's Gotham.
- Gordon and Alfred eventually figure out where Jerome is keeping Bruce. As they take out the gang, Bruce and Jerome face off in a hall of mirrors. Bruce dodges Jerome's attacks as Jerome bloviates before Bruce finally lets loose a fury of punches, knocking Jerome to the ground. Pulling a broken shard of mirror from the ground, Bruce raises it for the kill, but as Jerome eggs Bruce on to do it, Bruce discovers he can't. Killing is not in his nature.
- Bruce escapes, discovers a living and breathing Alfred, and as they embrace, Jim Gordon literally punches Jerome's face off. Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred tells Bruce how proud he is, not just because he was able to fight and beat Jerome, but because he did so without crossing the line into murder. Alfred says he doesn't know what Bruce will do with the fighting techniques he will learn, but they both now know that Bruce has one rule that must always be followed no matter what -- never kill. And just like that, Bruce Wayne takes a huge leap forward to becoming Batman.
- Meanwhile, in a completely different story, Penguin rushes to find Ed, who is perfectly safe, of course. After dispatching Penguin's henchmen, Ed ties Oswald to the car Isabella died in. Rigged above Oswald is a vat of acid which will descend when the ice holding its chain taut melts. Very Batman '66 of him. Penguin escapes but gets kidnapped again, this time by Barbara and company. But as Barb demands Oswald give up Ed's location so she can kill Ed, Oswald refuses. Oswald realizes that even though his love has been selfish, he does love Ed enough that, even to save his own skin, he won't give Ed up. Oswald would rather die than further betray the man he loves. Ed, naturally, was in the shadows all along, wanting to take Oswald's own feelings from him, but is now flustered because he can no longer deny that Oswald's love is true. Out on the docks, Oswald makes his final plea, telling Ed that they are the only ones who truly understand one another, but Ed remains undeterred. Oswald killed the woman he loves. And so Ed fires a shot into Oswald's guts and shoves him into the bay and we close on Penguin's descent into the briny deep.
- Also, the Court of Owls allows Gordon to fight the good fight, but decides that a post-Jerome Gotham is the perfect time to take decisive by reintroducing the Bruce Wayne clone, freshly brainwashed. And we end the episode with Jim's uncle, a member of the court, showing up to talk with Gordon at his apartment.
All in all, a near-perfect episode for Gotham. It's so good, we're actually going to flip how we do things a little, by beginning with ...
- It's kind of a bummer that the cities lights going out lasted all of a few seconds in narrative time. The idea of Gordon and the GCPD having to creep through a darkened Gotham was such a good just based on the tension it could've created. Gotham goes survival horror is something I'd love to see.
- I wish we had a better idea of what the Court of Owls is up to. I'm in no rush for the story to play out, but their willingness to allow Jerome and Gordon to fight over Gotham was confusing. Why would they want that? Do they want that? It's a little too unclear.
- ANOTHER HIATUS?! C'mon, Gotham -- things were just getting good!
- Jerome's nightmare cirus represents everything great about Gotham's brand of madness. Bruce in clown makeup, Jerome's stapled face being punched out, and the games! Oh, the games were the best. People being whack-a-moled? A man being devoured by fish? Darts? Okay, the last one isn't as good, but everything else ... man! Gotham's best visuals always come from a marriage of Batman '66 with the Burton movies, and this carnival sequence was all of that and more.
- It's been a rocky road, understanding what Gotham's team is trying to do with Oswald and Ed's love story, but it has become something I think is worthy. Whether Ed's love for Oswald is romantic or not, he would never have been so angry and so willing to destroy Oswald this completely if he didn't love Oswald at least as much as he loves Isabella. And Oswald's love for Ed has transformed Gotham's once cartoonish caricature of the Penguin into one of the most defining versions of the character we've ever seen.
- But most of all, David Mazouz and Sean Pertwee got to show off their incredible father/son chemistry this week, which is something I've sorely been missing. If there's any love that is more true than theirs in Gotham, I can't think of it. And while we've been distracted this entire season from Bruce's path to Batman by the Court of Owls, the escape from Indian Hill, Jervis, Alice, Jerome, and all the rest, that journey is no less important. And I found myself feeling so relieved that the moral core of Gotham has been rediscovered through the guiding principle of Batman's heroism -- that no matter the crime, no matter the evil, death can never be justified in the name of peace. Jim Gordon doesn't have to follow that rule so long as Bruce does.
THE STATE OF THE GOTHAM WORLD
It's a funny time to be alive, isn't it? You watch a silly show to distract you from the world outside your window but, when you least expect it, that silly show reminds you that you can't turn away from life, even when you're scared or angry or losing your mind.
Gotham started this season very openly saying that Penguin's ascension to the mayor's office was meant as an analog to Trump's inauguration as the 45th President of the United States of America. "Make Gotham safe again," says Penguin, all but literally parroting Trump. And yet, Penguin ceased being a true parallel for Trump pretty quickly. After all, Penguin isn't nearly as obsessed with power as he is with Ed.
However, in these latest Gotham episodes and, indeed, in these first days of Trump's presidency, we have found a much more fitting analog in Jerome. Jerome is so charismatic he can turn a city against itself. Jerome can lie and lie until he makes chaos seem like the right choice. Jerome can turn a shining city on the hill to blackness.
And yet, in the midst of Gotham's Mad City series it finds hope in a child: Bruce Wayne. Bruce has endured a lot -- his parents are dead, there is a secret society bent on his death and the authoritarian control of the city he loves, and every once in a while complete strangers with dangerous super powers show up to his house and try to destroy him and those he cares for.
It would be very easy for Bruce Wayne to embrace the chaos and become a killer, wouldn't it? What hope does he have? His parents will never come back, the Court of Owls' power seems nearly without limit, and every time Bruce tries to fight, he discovers new consequences for himself and those he loves.
So why not just blow it all to hell? Why not beat men like Jerome into a sticky paste on the pavement? Why not start killing and never ever stop?
Because that's the trap. The moment you give into the chaos is the moment you lose all purchase on empathy, on family, on unity, and on peace. Bruce Wayne has every reason in the world to kill Jerome, save one -- if Bruce kills Jerome, then he doesn't just pointlessly chop off one head of an infinite and immortal hydra, he becomes the hydra. He doesn't save the world or even himself -- he helps end everything.
But Bruce Wayne, even in this very elseworld of Gotham, doesn't kill. Because that's the one rule. No matter how tested your resolve, no matter how many other rules you have to bend, there is one guiding principle that stands above all others -- we do not kill in the name of justice, because there is no justice in murder.
And so if, like me, you feel as though you are staring into the blackness of chaos, look to Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth to remind you that you don't need to jump into the inky madness, you don't need to be a part of it to change it. Whether it's a phone call, or a march, or even a recap of a silly TV show, there will always be a way to match apathy with empathy, to fight a closed fist with an open hand, and to trump hate with love.
I'll see you in April, Gotham fans.