‘Gotham’ 5×07 Review: ‘Ace Chemicals’

“Ace Chemicals” is loaded with chemistry. There’s the sizzling kind between fan-favorite couples, the soothing kind between friends who have become family, plus the explosive kind between deadly enemies.

And then there was the big explosion that leveled Wayne Manor!

Continuing their “pull out all the stops” approach for this final season, the Gotham writers loaded “Ace Chemicals” up with action and interactions between the characters we’ve enjoyed so much over the years.

Let’s break down the formulas!

Jim And His Exes

As if Jim Gordon didn’t have enough trouble trying to get the government to reunite Gotham with the mainland. Now he has to deal with one ex-fiancee who is pregnant with his baby, and another who has agreed to provide the prenatal care.

Talk about awkward!

Barbara doesn’t really want anything to do with Jim. In fact, if she can escape Gotham with Penguin and Selina, she’ll do it. But for now, she wants the help of the best doctor left in Gotham: Lee Thompson.

The pregnancy gives Lee and Jim the chance to talk about their own lost child, and to wonder what might have happened if that baby had lived. It’s the first honest conversation these two have had in literally years, and it reminded me of why the pairing initially worked for me. It also gave me hope that I’d like it again.

Bruce and Selina

Selina’s been working with and against Penguin in his escape effort. She lets Barbara know about it, because she also wants revenge for Tabitha. But she also lets Penguin known about Jeremiah’s tunneling project, which might be an escape route. (It isn’t.) She’s been playing both ends against the middle, trying to get the best advantage. She drops that game, though, when she learns Bruce is in danger and Jeremiah is still alive.

Last season, Selina told Bruce she’d always be there when he needed her. She lived up to that promise in this episode. And she apologized to him for not doing something the night his parents were killed. It was a sweet moment that makes me wonder whether Ivy’s root is losing its power over Selina’s personality.

Bruce and Alfred

I have been saying all season that I want more moments with these two. “Ace Chemicals” gave it to me. It wasn’t long, but it was so heartfelt to see Bruce hug Alfred in relief after they escaped from Jeremiah’s trap. Here’s the reaction in my show notes: “THIS IS THE MOMENT I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR!”

The relationship between Bruce and Alfred has been one of my favorite things about Gotham since the very first episode. We have watched Alfred lead Bruce into manhood for five years. They have been through some very tough times, from the murder of Bruce’s parents to his self-destructive spiral last season. They have built a strong family bond, and I’m always delighted to see it on screen.

Now I hope we get to see at least a little bit more!

Bruce And Jeremiah

Personal chemistry, personal connections, are not something you can force. They happen or they don’t. For all of his genius, Jeremiah doesn’t understand that. The events of “Ace Chemicals” are his design to try to form a bond with Bruce.

The ironic thing is that Bruce could have been friends with the Jeremiah he’d first met; the one who hadn’t been gassed and turned psychotic by his twin. This version of Jeremiah is not and can never be Bruce’s friend. Not after all the bombings and murders and attempted murders. Recreating the worst night of Bruce’s life is not the way to his heart.

Before falling into a vat of chemicals, Jeremiah tells Bruce, “I’m the answer to your life’s question. Without me, you’re just a joke without a punchline.” Bruce tells Jeremiah that he is nothing to him. But we all know that these two are indeed permanently bound… not by love or friendship, but by hatred.

Other Notes

  • Ed Nygma made a brief but delightful appearance in this episode. I loved the dialogue between Ed and Penguin, acknowledging that each tried to kill the other, but they need to work together to escape Gotham.
  • How did Ed know Barbara was pregnant, really? Glowing?
  • Pregnancy seems to be gentling Barbara’s desire for revenge. Or maybe it’s something else? She wasn’t pregnant yet when she couldn’t shoot him at Haven, and now she agrees to work with him and Ed on an escape.
  • Nice to see the Jervis Tetch back in his top-hatted glory. And I really enjoyed watching Lee and Jim push his buttons, teasing him as an errand boy for Jeremiah.
  • It was also nice to see a fairly taut focus for this episode. No sign of Walker or Eduardo/Bane tonight, aside from a mention. And that was fine. “Ace Chemicals” focused on the characters we’ve gotten to know so well. Gotham has sometimes been dragged down under the weight of too many characters. This season the roster is a bit trimmer, and it’s made the storytelling better. Other DCTV shows, please take note.

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

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