This Gotham review contains spoilers.
Gotham Season 3, Episode 13
Tonight’s episode of Gothamreminded me how enjoyable this show can be when its respective storylines stick to what they’re good at. “Smile Like You Mean It” saw a disturbingly stellar return of Jerome, while also effectively balancing some smaller, plot-progressing “B” stories. It did this by letting each story line do what it was best at and ending with one hell of a cliffhanger…
All hail the return of the Joker…
The Gordon/GCPD plotline is at its best when it is disturbing, funny, and violent, but doesn’t try any social commentary or romance and doesn’t try to convince us that Jim Gordon is the Commissioner Gordon we need. (Though he might be the Commissioner Gordon we deserve.)
Carrying over from last week’s introduction of the Cult of the Joker, Gordon and Bullock opened the episode on the hunt for Dwight, who (temporarily) resurrected some random woman last episode. Any detective worth his salt could have figured out who the Joker-worshipping former coroner would be looking to resurrect next: Jerome. The GCPD are understandably nervous about having the teen serial killer back in their lives, though surprisingly tight-lipped about the power of resurrection Dwight has apparently managed to harness. Only on Gotham.
Dwight’s first attempts to bring Jerome back don’t go so well and, with the GCPD ready to storm his compound, he goes to Plan B: cut the face off of Jerome’s corpse, wear it over his own, and win the Cult of the Joker over that way. Seeing Dwight take the stage wearing someone else’s face while he tries to convince the biggest Joker afficianados on the planet that he is an acceptable substitute for their lord and savior is disturbing stuff.
Meanwhile, back at the GCPD, Jerome is starting to come to. From death. The person he goes to for answers (with the help of a gun, of course) is poor, long-suffering Lee Thompkins who is so hilariously over a) being held at gunpoint and b) explaining things to the men of Gotham City. This is one of the instances in which the GCPD/Joker storyline shone with its humorous tone that was especially fitting in an episode that saw the Joker back on center stage.
Across town, Dwight has taken over the local news studio and is broadcasting a message to Gotham City. Basically, he is trying to be Jerome. But no one but Jerome can be Jerome and he wants his face and platform back. After the GCPD successfully take down Dwight, Jerome kidnaps him, steals his face back, staples it back on, and broadcasts his own message.
The gist of Jerome’s message? It’s time for the people of Gotham to take their city back, to do whatever they want. Basically, it is Gotham: The Purge. Jim makes it to the rooftop of the GCPD just in time to see Jerome’s massive explosion of the power plant (that kills Dwight — yep, Jerome was mad that he stole his face) that plunges the entire city into darkness. Oh, geez. Gothamis bad enough in light.
Best Gothamcliffhanger ever?
Selina is sick of being lied to…
Meanwhile, Selina and Bruce are practically on a different show, one with completely different strengths and interests. The Bruce Wayne/Selina Kyle stuff can pull of the tugging of heartstrings much more effectively, probably because the teenagers are the only characters left on this show who have done nothing to deserve the heaps of misery that have been thrust upon them. “Smile Like You Mean It” was the perfect example.
When Bruce and Alfred are approached by the man blackmailing Maria Kyle asking for $200,000, Bruce barely bats an eyelash, but Selina isn’t so comfortable giving this man any of Bruce’s money. She thinks he will be back for more. Besides, this hits all of her sensitive spots: She’s never liked to benefit from Bruce’s money or privilege. She hates bullies. And she doesn’t trust her mother… even if she desperately wants to.
It’s that last fact that is the most cutting. Selina accuses Bruce of knowing all along that her mother was in cahoots with the blackmailer and would skip town as soon as they got the money, but she seems more angry with herself. Because, let’s face it, she knew, too. Why else would she follow the blackmailer back to his hotel? She wasn’t very surprised when she learned the truth, though she was disappointed. She wanted to believe that her mother would choose her, would love her enough to stay.
Selina is pushing Bruce away because she is terrified he will do the same. The other person she loves doesn’t deserve her trust. Does Bruce? From a viewer’s perspective, he seems very trustworthy, but it’s understandable why Selina has reservations. Perhaps the blackout will force these two to talk some things out. Or Bruce will spend the entire episode running around Gotham in a proto-Batman outfit. I’d take either. Or both.
Penguin is so screwed…
Lastly, we have the Criminals of the Underworld stuff, featuring Oswald, Ed, Barbara, Tabitha, etc. This is where Gothamcan go big on its campiness and tonal strangeness and really get away with it. Surprisingly, this storyline was the weakest of “Smile Like You Mean It” when it is usually the most reliable due to its delightful characters.
I blame the lack of quality on the plot line’s current shaky foundation. We’re still seeing the fallout of Oswald’s murder of Isabella play out and, like I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, the romance between Ed and Isabella was far too brief to make this plotline seem like anything other than a lazy swerve of the Nygmobblepot relationship — a way for Gothamto have its cake and eat it, too (or, to try to appease its shippers, while not angering any homophobic fanboys). But, hey, we’ll see. Feel free to surprise/impress me with this storyline, Gotham.
Whatever happens, Penguin is currently walking into a trap. After eliminating all of the criminal bigwigs who might have supported him (after convincing Penguin that they were out to get him anyway), Ed faked his own kidnapping to lure Oswald out to some old factory. This does not bode well for Penguin. I hate that, after years of working to pull himself up to the king of Gotham, he will be undone by his heart. (The fact that I feel bad for a murderous criminal is a testament both to Robin Taylor’s performance and to how twisted this show’s version of morality is.)
Though I was frustrated by the Ed/Oswald elements of this plotline, the Barbara/Tabitha stuff in “Smile Like You Mean It” were totally delightful and cathartic. After seasons of watching Barbara and Tabitha get pushed aside by the men in their lives, they are taking charge of the Gotham underworld. Also, the understated manner in which Gothamcontinues to depict the Barbara and Tabitha as a couple is maybe the only subtle thing Gotham has ever done. They should try it more often.
All in all, “Smile Like You Mean It” was one of the best episodes we’ve had in a while. As always, the presence of Cameron Monaghan as Jerome/the Joker automatically ups the episode of roughly 75%. Monaghan brings a frightening, vulnerable unpredictability to the character, while also delivering some lines that made me laugh out loud. On Gotham, Monaghan manages to make a mark in the long, rich legacy of this iconic character, and that’s endlessly impressive to watch.