“One Bad Day.” Three words that are the foundation of the Joker’s philosophy, that just one bad day can drive a person insane. In the comics universe, the idea is also the foundation of “The Killing Joke,” one of the most shocking Batman stories ever told.
With the title “One Bad Day,” the penultimate episode of Season 4 has a huge legacy to live up to.
And it delivers.
“One Bad Day” has some of the most shocking moments of the season, and cements Jeremiah Valeska as the most terrifying of Gotham’s villains.
No short-sighted psychopath
Every time I think Cameron Monaghan can’t possibly top himself, he goes and does it. Back when we first met Jeremiah, I thought he was scarier than his twin. Tonight, he proved it, with a meticulous plan to destroy Gotham with a carefully planted series of bombs and remake it in his own image – one that happens to correspond to one of those mazes that so obsess him. Along the way, he also wants to prove that he’s Bruce Wayne’s best friend – by making him insane.
Jeremiah is a very different kind of madman than his twin: cool, collected and analytical rather than impulsively homicidal. He repeatedly tells everyone not to call him crazy, even as he stares them down with one of the most frightening gazes I’ve ever seen on television.
Even when things don’t go according to plan, he doesn’t lose control. He just chooses a different path.
And litters the old one with bodies.
But those bodies thankfully do NOT include that of Jim Gordon. (As if anyone thought Jim had really died when the bunker exploded!) But Jim’s story was not the most interesting one out of the GCPD in this episode. That honor goes to Harvey Bullock.
From zero to hero
This has been a TOUGH season for Harvey. The deal with the Penguin, the officers wounded or killed in the line of duty, the falling out with Jim – It’s been surprising that Harvey hasn’t just crawled into a bottle and stayed there.
But tonight Harvey really stepped up – and saved Gotham.
I’m not going to get into all the mechanics of the plot. Suffice to say that at the beginning of the episode, Gotham’s cops are not willing to trust Harvey. But after he risks his life to successfully disarm Jeremiah’s bombs, they applaud him as the hero we’ve always known he had the potential to be.
For me, that was only topped by Harvey’s joy when Jim turns up alive at the precinct. I really hated the time this season when these two were at odds, and I’m so pleased to see them together.
Allegiances shift like tides in Gotham. This week’s teamups:
Penguin and Butch, along with Barbara and Tabby – They try to take on Jeremiah, with the idea that they can make some money and come out heroes. Doesn’t work so well. The one thing I wondered in all of that (besides how long it would take for this bunch to turn on each other again – and the answer was “not long”) was what happened to Barbara’s pet assassins. They could have been a big help.
Lee & Riddler/Ed – Lee wants to try to stop Jeremiah, believing the people of the Narrows will suffer most from his plot. Ed does help in one respect, solving the mystery of where all of Jeremiah’s bombs have been planted. But he’s more interested in knowing whether Lee really wants him – or if she still wants Jim. And she seems conflicted herself. There’s a lot of messy history between these three one-time colleagues, and knowing the Riddler’s history, it could get even messier before Season 4 closes out.
And then there’s the one thing scarier than Jeremiah in this episode: Jeremiah teamed up with Ra’s al Ghul. Both of them want to transform Bruce; Jeremiah just wants to make him crazy, while Ra’s wants to turn him into a Dark Knight in order to fulfill his vision.
Along the way, the two people who are dearest to Bruce are in harm’s way. First, it’s Alfred, who was kidnapped by Jeremiah’s goons an episode or so ago. There are some very shocking moments as Bruce tracks Alfred down, but the real chiller and heartbreaker is in what happens to Selina.
“I’m gonna be here whenever you need me”
I have loved Bruce and Selina from the instant I saw these two youngsters on stage at the San Diego Comic-Con premiere of Gotham back in 2014. Even then, you could see the magic, and while Gotham was supposed to be Jim Gordon’s story, I’ve always been more interested in watching Bruce and Selina grow up, moving from an odd friendship to something more.
It’s been a long, torturous road for them, with arguments and decidedly different lifestyles coming between them. But tonight, Selina gives Bruce one promise: to be there for him whenever he needs her. Coming from Selina, it’s a promise that means a great deal, because very few people have been there for her unless they needed something from her.
And she is there for him, watching his back and saving him from Scarecrow’s hallucinogenic gas. The look on her face as she tries to soothe and reassure him says everything that she hasn’t been able to say out loud. Perhaps it says what she hasn’t even quite realized: she loves him. And Bruce, as damaged as he is, as much as he wonders if he’d already had his “one bad day” when his parents were shot and whether that made him a little insane long before he ever met Jerome – Bruce loves her, too.
It was such a sweet, happy moment when they got back to Wayne Manor and settled in the study, Selina putting her feet up on Bruce’s lap before he finally, finally leaned in for an uninterrupted kiss. This was an earned moment that we’ve been waiting for all season long, and it was just adorable.
And we all let our guards down.
Just in time for Jeremiah to swoop in and destroy that moment of peace with a single gunshot aimed at Selina.
This, rather than the show title, was the actual tribute to “The Killing Joke,” with Selina suffering the same type of injury the Joker had inflicted on Barbara Gordon. We know by the previews for next week that Selina wasn’t immediately killed, but what will the long-term impact be?
Will we ever get a chance to find out? As of this writing, FOX has not announced renewal plans. But we do know that next week’s finale will be a game-changer. Does it mean all of the current loose ends will be tied up?
The Gotham Season 4 finale will air Thursday night, May 17 at 8/7 Central on FOX.