‘Gotham’ 4×17 Review: ‘Mandatory Brunch Meeting’

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This episode is more than just brunch; after a literally explosive start, it’s a freaky feast with a main course of sibling rivalry, a side of strange alliances, and for dessert, a new chemical cocktail that bodes trouble ahead for Gotham – as if that’s anything new.

Sorry, couldn’t help myself there. This is Gotham’s second foodie title in as many weeks, and I had to go with the theme!

“Mandatory Brunch Meeting” is one of my favorite episodes of what’s been a very good season. The highlight was everything we learned about Jerome Valeska, the proto-Joker.

Or… is he?

Meet the Legion of Horribles

Jerome’s name for his band of merry madmen doesn’t quite have the ring of “Legion of Doom,” and it doesn’t have the pizazz of “Maniax.” But it’s pretty accurate. He’s collected many of the best of Gotham’s worst, with a plan to “paint the town crazy.” Besides Scarecrow and the Mad Hatter, his allies include Firefly, Mr. Freeze and the Penguin – who of course has an ulterior motive.

But more on that later.

Before he can make his madhouse happen, Jerome insists on tracking down a mystery man going by the name “Xander Wilde.” He wreaks havoc across Gotham while searching for Xander, in a race against Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock (and it is so good to see these two in sync once again).

Why is Jerome so obsessed with finding Xander? We find out pretty quickly, once Xander has Jerome locked up in an underground bunker. Xander’s real name is Jeremiah, and he’s Jerome’s long-hidden identical twin brother, also played by Cameron Monaghan.

Brotherly love/hate

Jeremiah has been in hiding for 15 years, cooped up in the bunker, seeing no one except one badass female assistant, and one point, Thomas Wayne. He’s stayed in hiding out of fear of Jerome, certain his brother is out to kill him.

It’s all very Cain and Abel. But from the conversation between the twins, you can’t quite be sure which one is Cain, and which is Abel. Jeremiah seems stable and sane – well, apart from his extreme paranoia and obsession with mazes – but some of the things Jerome says when it’s just the two of them make you wonder if Jeremiah is what he seems.

Well, this is Gotham. Nothing and no one is what they seem.

“Gotham” Season 4 Episode 17 “Mandatory Brunch Meeting.” Source: FOX

The Gotham team has long been coy about whether Jerome is the eventual Joker. In this episode, he certainly has the look, and recites one of the classic Joker’s observations that “we all can go insane with one bad day.”

But perhaps Jeremiah will end up as the one to have that one bad day, to eventually become Batman’s greatest enemy. Either way, it appears pretty certain Gotham’s version of the Joker is indeed one of the Velaska brothers.

Monaghan turned in an amazing performance as Jerome and Jeremiah. He has always been frighteningly creepy as Jerome, but somehow he was even more so as “mild-mannered” Jeremiah, who ends the episode in the protective custody of the GCPD.

We can only hope they don’t need to be protected from him.

“Gotham” 4×17 “Mandatory Brunch Meeting.” Source: FOX

Riddle me this

One notable absence from Jerome’s Legion of Horribles is the Riddler, who’s gone game show host in the Narrows. There’s no TV camera, but he’s got contestants, a cheering crowd, cold hard cash for prizes, and a Wheel of Misfortune for those who can’t win his riddle game.

It’s just the sort of thing Lee had been trying to stop when she took over Cherry’s Place, and the Queen of the Narrrows steps in once again. While she’s challenging Riddler, though, she’s really looking for the man deep inside the green suit: her friend, Ed Nygma.

Perhaps I should be worried that my husband immediately figured out the answer to the riddle presented to Lee. She figured it out too, which is good, since the Wheel’s Bag of Rabid Rats does not look like fun. She manages to beat the Riddler at his own game, not because he doesn’t know the answer to her riddle, but because he simply can’t bring himself to say the words, “I love you.”

Lee’s victory shuts down the Riddle Club, but that wasn’t Lee’s goal. She wants Ed’s help in running the Narrows. Ed’s help, not the Riddler’s, and we last see them in a liplock.

It’s a bit of a surprising turn. Earlier in the season it had seemed that Ed’s feelings for Lee would go unrequited, and it had also seemed like the Riddler was finally interested in Penguin, who has long been interested in Riddler. An interesting love triangle might be ahead. Or maybe quadrangle… Lee, Ed, the Riddler and Penguin.

Yeah, it’s weird. This is Gotham. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

Reunited

Oswald’s not thinking about the Riddler right now, though. He’s got his eyes on reclaiming Gotham’s underworld. He’s certain Jerome will flame out, and Penguin is positioning himself to pick things up once that happens.

But he needs help to do it, and turns to Butch, his former henchman.After a bit of, ah, vigorous discussion, Penguin promises to help get Butch turned back to normal. Butch accepts the deal and Penguin brings him into the Legion, just as Scarecrow perfects a spray to turn people into Jokers.

Gotham is about to have one very bad day.

Random observations

  • The Riddler and Penguin subplots don’t get a lot of time because of the focus on Jerome/Jeremiah, but what they do get is used well. The Riddle Club was absolutely insane, and Penguin’s machinations are always fun to watch.
  • We also got only a little bit of Bruce and Alfred here, but there was the sense of the future relationship between Batman and Commissioner Gordon. Jim doesn’t know if he can trust Bruce; in the future he won’t always be certain he can trust the Dark Knight. These little foreshadowings are wonderful.
  • I need more Alfred.
  • We’re still missing some potential Horribles: Victor Zsasz, Headhunter, Poison Ivy.
  • And will there be a confrontation between Jerome’s Legion and Barbara’s League? Or will there be a teamup?

Gotham airs Thursday nights at 8/7 Central on FOX.

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