This review of Gotham contains spoilers
Gotham Season 4 Episode 16
Say one thing for Gotham, say that it’s not afraid to juggle. This week, a number of incongruent plot lines jam together at super speed to create a potpourri of madness. That’s right, in all the Joker appearances across many forms of media, Jerome’s escape was the first time I can remember where the almost cliché comic book trope of Joker escaping comes to life. But that’s not the only bit of chaos happening this week on Gotham.
Joker arranges an Arkham breakout and frees Mad Hatter and Scarecrow. This little triumvirate of terror should be fun to watch, but Jerome and Hatter take center ring this week as Gotham brings a bit of the ultra-violence with them, which is one of the endemic problems with Gotham this season. There is no control when it comes to the gore or horror. I mean, Batman villains are scary, I get it. The Bat rogues gallery is filled with serial killers, psychopaths, assassins, spree killers, and other terrors, but, Gotham seems to have this need to play the villains heinous acts for comedy. Was it necessary to show a newlywed couple crushed by a wrecking ball while being mind controlled by the Mad Hatter? I’m no shrinking daisy (got a full Fulci collection on DVD, me), but what’s with the gleeful and perverse brutality? It really takes a viewer right out of the narrative.
And the narrative is pretty engaging. After the Arkham breakout, Jervis Tetch tries to avenge himself on Gotham for the death of his sister Alice. Tetch hypnotizes hundreds of Gothamites to throw themselves off their rooftops. Gordon and Bullock must figure out a way to save the doomed jumpers while bringing down Tetch. The fix is pretty clever to be honest. Tetch makes it so if Gordon tells the victims to get off the roofs or save themselves, they will jump.
So Gordon brilliantly tells the potential street pizzas to save each other and happy day! It’s pretty cool to see Gordon defeating a classic Bat baddie with his wits instead of his fists. Did I mention that one of the victims is Bullock whom Gordon saves with his quick thinking? This helps continue to heal the rift between Gordon and his BFF.
While the Tetch drama unfolds, Jerome is also loose on Gotham City. He tracks down his abusive uncle and tries to kill the man in the uncle’s dinner. It turns out that when Jerome was growing up in the circus, Uncle dickhead used to abuse Jerome. The man turns the tables and ends up torturing Jerome by pouring scalding soup in Jerome’s scarred mouth.
Which brings me back to my point of perverse and unneeded violence; the creative types behind Gotham were so proud of the soup bit that they named the episode “One of My Three Soups.” The whole soup thing isn’t clever, or engaging, or cute. Nor does it have lasting consequences. It’s a throwaway gag that isn’t even mentioned once Jerome wipes his mouth. The scene should have focused on Bruce saving Jerome and refusing to allow the perhaps, maybe, possibly Joker’s murder. This establishes the legendary Joker Batman dynamic of no killing that has defined the characters for decades. It is a powerful foreshadowing into the future of both icons and really, having some throwaway uncle character torturing Jerome with smoking green soup just lessens the moment.
So Bruce saves Jerome, but Jerome has no such kind feelings for Bruce and tries to end his life. Thankfully, Selina makes the save and no doubt, the Bruce and Selina scenes are the best part of this week’s Gotham. First, Bruce and Selina break into GCPD HQ to find a lead on Jerome. In a hilarious scene, Bruce goes into his vapid playboy act and starts crying to distract the cops from Selina’s burglary. Later, Selina saves Bruce from Jerome in a fun little scene.
This is the first time Bruce’s unfaltering altruism is truly on display, as Bruce will not even kill a maniac like Jerome. The maybe Joker escapes and helps Tetch escape once again as the new terrible trio of Jerome, Scarecrow, and Mad Hatter are reunited. What did Jerome want with his uncle, you ask? The answer is the address of a school to find an unidentified female. Hmm, can this be the intro of the one Gotham City gal we’ve been waiting four years for? We’ll have to wait and see, puddin’.
Not as effective, like, at all, is the plot involving Barbara becoming the head of the League of Assassins. Yeah, we’re recycling Arrow plots now. The episode really doesn’t address the big, fat, hanging question of- why Barbara? She’s cunning, yeah, but really, she’s not a martial artist, trained combatant, or really anything of note outside of her little circle of crime in Gotham City. She hasn’t even really run her operations all that well.
But Ra’s Al Ghul resurrects Barbara and chooses her to lead the League for reasons. Hell man, I would buy Tabitha in the role, but Barbara has done what exactly to make her an equal to Ra’ s? Silliness, I say. Anyway, so the ladies of the League kill all the men and endorse Barbara as leader because her hand glows for some inexplicable purpose. This better be going somewhere because honestly, it feels random and aimless.
So I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for Jerome and his crew and I’m celebrating the absence of affluenza Bruce. Sadly, the Penguin doesn’t pop up this week because I was looking forward to more Jerome and Oswald action. But, the Barbara stuff just derails everything as it seems hastily tacked on and forced. So here’s hoping for more rogues and less jammed in mysticism next week.