The following article contains spoilers for Gotham Season 4, Episode 16: "One of My Three Soups,” which aired on March 29, 2018.
Writer Charlie Huston doesn't have a ton of TV credits to his name; he's written one Gotham episode, "Stop Hitting Yourself," and was the co-creator of the short-lived TV adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis' Powers comic. What Huston does have, though, in addition to a background crime and horror novels, is comic book credits — he's written for Moon Knight, the Punisher, Man-Thing, and even Wolverine.
That knowledge of comic books and shows benefited him in writing his second episode of Gotham, this week's "One of My Three Soups," which is easily the most classically "Batman" episode Gotham has ever seen. It introduces the perfect blend of classic Batman elements while still maintaining the originality Gotham fans have grown to love over the years.
Here are some specific elements from "One of My Three Soups" and what makes them so great.
The Ultimate Team-Up — Batman villains go it alone sometimes, but nothing is more fun than a rogues gallery team-up. Gotham already found strength on this front when it realized Penguin and Riddler could be funny, exciting, and even sexy together. Same for Penguin and Ivy 2.0 (R.I.P.), minus the sexy part.
But nothing can compare with the moment in this episode where Scarecrow, the Mad Hatter, and the (maybe) Joker broke out of Arkham together and immediately began wreaking havoc on Gotham.
Whether it's Tetch's hypnotizing guards, Scarecrow making explosives as easily as toilet hooch, or Jerome just being Jerome, the escape from Gotham is so gleeful it almost harkens back to the Christmas episode of Batman: The Animated Series when the Joker flew away on a Christmas tree rocket.
The Bat and Cat Chemistry — It has always been hard to think of David Mazouz and Camren Bicondova in terms of a romantic pairing because, you know, they're kids. David is 17.
But even I, a middle-aged old-timer, has to acknowledge that "One of My Three Soups" finally proves a romantic subplot between this incarnation of Bruce and Selina can be done well and without seeming all that creepy!
We've seen Bruce and Selina fight off enemies together before, but never has there been an occasion where we've seen their methods and attitudes placed into such complementary and contrasting relief. Bruce feels responsible for Jerome still being alive to torment Gotham and wants to stop him and Selina just wants Bruce to be safe. Okay, AND Selina doesn't really think a Gotham full of Jerome-flavored chaos is very good for her thieving ways.
Which brings us to another important success...
The Dark Knight Rises — We've seen Bruce wear a mask before. We've seen him skulk into the night before. But this is the first time we've seen him do that thing where, like a rich ego-maniac with a hero complex would, he starts blaming himself for everything.
Bruce really believes Jerome's existence is somehow his fault. He can't kill Jerome, but he does feel like keeping Jerome in jail is his responsibility. I think this is one of the first times we see Bruce ghost on the GCPD, and specifically on Gordon.
It's also the first time we've seen Selina call out Bruce for having an extremely over-inflated sense of self-importance. Part of why Catwoman isn't a straight-up hero in the Batman mythos is because she doesn't really see a benefit in it for her or for Gotham. And she's probably right! If she tried to save the day every time, she'd probably wind up doing more harm than good.
And that's exactly what we're seeing with Bruce. Jerome would've been killed by his uncle, but, no... Bruce stopped it. And Jerome could've been shot by Selina, but, no... Bruce stopped it. Bruce has his Batman rules (no killing) but also an obsessive need to enforce those rules on everyone around him. It's Batman 101 and we've never quite seen it in the flesh on Gotham before. But we have now — and it fits seamlessly in with the rest of the show.
The Gordon Gotham Deserves — James Gordon, in the context of Gotham, has always come up short in a way that's frustrating to a lot of hardcore Batman fans. Gordon is usually the consistent one, the guy you know you can rely on to do the right thing, the hero that functions in the light so Batman can operate in the shadows. But Gotham's version of James Gordon has never been that guy.
Until now. And what's so great is how Huston makes the turn in Jim's characterization feel completely natural. Yes, Gordon is responsible for the Pyg coming to Gotham; yes, he lied to cover it up so he could get the glory; yes, he has killed.
But carrying over from the previous episode where Bullock told Jim he'd have to quietly live with his sins, we're now seeing Gordon act the part of the hero. Here, we see Jim being both leader and cheerleader to the GCPD, inspiring them to keep the city safe in a way he's never done before: jump off buildings and insists that, if Jim tells them to save themselves, they'll just leap anyway. At which point Gordon says something that completely redefines his character on Gotham: "Save each other."
Huston found a way to show that Gordon could be a leader with the quick wits to save the day, but, more importantly, that he's the leader who can inspire everyone else around him. That's something Batman can't always do, which is what makes Gordon so necessary in the Batman mythology.
The League of Assassins — Dealing with the League of Shadows (aka The League of Assassins) is tricky for many reasons, not least of which because it already exists in a different form on the CW show Arrow. Of course, there's also the fact that you're dealing with a Gotham City crowded with maniacs, many of whom also have superpowers. But here is a place where Gotham's ability to reinvent really shines.
Barbara Kean is already a character who's very different from anything we've really known of Barbara Gordon's mother in the past. Who she might become is an X-factor. There's been some hinting that she might become Harley Quinn, but now we're seeing an alternate option — that Barbara Kean might be the Demon's Head, aka Gotham's version of Ra's al Ghul. Which, for a show that often gives its women characters the short stick, is pretty darn cool. I'm not sure how Batman it is, but having the League involved is certainly a cool step.
Is this the best episode Gotham has ever had? I mean... neither Penguin nor Riddler are in it, so I'm not sure I'm ready to commit to that. But Huston has built something that plays from the comics, the 1960s Batman show, and Batman: The Animated Series in a way Gotham never has before.
And, it should be said that Ben McKenzie, who plays James Gordon AND directed this episode, has found the perfect degree of overacting to push his performers to a point that perfectly fits what Gotham City really ought to be (at least in this humble fan's opinion.)