Three very cool things in this episode of Gotham, and none of them are the title soups (although one of those was cool in the temperature sense):
- Jerome is on the loose, along with a lot of Gotham’s Most Dangerous.
- We’re finally learning what’s been going on with Barbara, and there’s huge potential there.
- Bruce and Selina made for an amazing battle couple, and we’re seeing more and more of Bruce’s inner Batman coming out.
It all added up to a mega-dose of crazy, even by Gotham standards, in an episode directed by Ben McKenzie. It’s not easy to balance moving the plot along and developing characters, and McKenzie does a great job with that balance in his second directorial outing on the show.
The inmates are out of the asylum
We knew Jerome was planning a prison break. His ally of choice, Penguin, had already flown the coop, but Jerome found other partners in Jervis Tetch, AKA the Mad Hatter, and Jonathan Crane, AKA the Scarecrow. When they make their run for it, they also set free dozens of Arkham Asylum’s most dangerous inmates. It’s a ploy designed to keep the GCPD very busy, while Jerome and his new best buddies split up to wreak their own kind of bloody havoc.
And it was indeed bloody. One thing that does surprise me constantly is how far Gotham pushes the gore envelope at 8 p.m. on a broadcast network. But the most violent moments were telegraphed enough that somewhat squeamish folks like me and my hubby can look away in time.
Tetch is out to avenge his sister’s death by killing as many Gothamites as he can. To do it, he hypnotizes people over the radio, telling them to go to their rooftops and wait until the city’s bells ring at midnight – when they are to jump. It’s a seemingly unsolvable trap that even snares Harvey Bullock; Tetch has set up the hypnosis so that if anyone tries to save the people, they will jump.
I was a little surprised that Jim Gordon’s idea to broadcast “save each other” actually worked to break the spell. I had been expecting an order to turn off the bells so people wouldn’t know it was midnight. But in any event, the jumpers were all saved and Tetch captured again.
Or so it seems.
Those three soups
While Tetch is doing his thing, Jerome goes for a little family reunion with his uncle, a diner cook who does make soup. They chat a bit about the Jerome-flavored chicken broth Unc made once upon a time, and you realize the uncle is a pretty nasty piece of work himself who abused the young Jerome.
The diner scenes are far less gory than the show’s first minutes, and far more tense as you wait for them to unfold. They do so in Gotham’s usual twisted fashion, with reversals of fortune and a save by Bruce that surprises Jerome. “Billionaire Bruce Wayne, my savior. I did not see that coming,” Jerome marvels.
Not that he’s all that appreciative. “What the hell is wrong with you?” he wonders.
Well, let’s dig into that a bit.
‘Get over yourself’
We already know Bruce has been carrying a burden of guilt for the death of Ra’s al Ghul, after previously vowing never to kill. He also feels responsible for Jerome and believes he should be the one to take him in.
While he hasn’t put it into so many words, Bruce is developing a code that will guide his vigilantism. And if Jerome is indeed the future Joker (something that’s been open to question), Bruce is also laying the foundation for guilt that will haunt him through his entire life.
It’s a lot for a teenager to take on. Perhaps too much. But Bruce does have Selina around to take him down a peg or two with scornful observations like, “Your ego, Bruce. It’s huge.”
But along with the insults, she has some good advice. “Not everything is your fault, your responsibility.”
And this: “Don’t take so much responsibility that you get yourself killed.”
As always, David Mazouz and Camren Bicondova played against each other brilliantly, and I could watch an entire episode with just the two of them.
But there are other partnerships we still need to talk about.
‘There are no heroes here’
Harvey and Jim still have something of a prickly relationship at the start of the episode, all thanks to Jim’s involvement with Sofia Falcone. Harvey still won’t let him confess to it, telling him the GCPD needs Jim the hero cop.
But underneath it all, these two are still brothers. And while brothers can do truly rotten things to each other, usually they eventually work it out. Harvey shows his trust in Jim’s ability to work things out when he intentionally steps into Tetch’s hypnotic trap, later saying, “I can do this crazy thing because Jim Gordon will save me.”
That confession leads to Jim’s own admission that he used to look down on Harvey. The conversation feels like a true burying of the hatchet between these two, just in time because Gotham will need them. Arkham’s escaped Three Amigos (yeah, Tetch gets away again with the help of Jerome and Scarecrow, who’d been MIA through most of the episode) are not the only problem the city faces.
The new Demon’s Head
Remember when Ra’s al Ghul passed on some kind of power to Barbara Kean before he died? That wasn’t just a flashy light. It was the mark of the Demon. As if she wasn’t already an evil-minded badass, Barbara is now the head of the Demon, Ra’s chosen successor as leader of the League of Shadows.
Yes, this is the League of Assassins by another name, although just as sexist as the one in the Arrowverse. The male members aren’t too pleased to have their first female leader, but they aren’t around long enough to really complain about it. The female members make short work of the men once they’re satisfied with Barbara as leader.
So now Gotham has to deal with the Arkham escapees, Penguin and Riddler, and the League. And… let’s see… Poison Ivy, Victor Zsasz and Headhunter, Butch/Grundy… and who knows who else will climb out of the woodwork… or out of the grave… before the season ends?
Gotham airs Thursday nights at 8/7 Central on FOX.