Gotham Season 4 Episode 21 Review: One Bad Day

Jeremiah Valeska becomes the opening act for The Killing Joke in Gotham Season 4's penultimate episode.

This Gotham review contains spoilers

Gotham Season 4 Episode 21

I don’t think even the most ardent fan of Gotham will fail to admit that this season of Gotham has been incredibly disjointed.

 At times, the season has seemed more like a series of vignettes rather than a cohesive narrative. While Gotham has always been chaotic because the concept of the series is somewhat forced and artificial (that’s not to say it isn’t fun), there has always been an attempt, for good or for ill, for a sense of cohesiveness. Not this season though. 

That is, not until tonight. Because as I’ve been saying, as goes the Valeska twins, so goes Gotham. When Jerome or Jeremiah have gotten involved in Gotham, the series steps up its game, and that is proven once again with “One Bad Day,” an episode that manages to somehow tie together the narrative chaos of Gotham into a cohesive whole, and even delivers a severe gut punch of an ending that will leave fans begging for more. 

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Last week, Jeremiah set off one of his newly made bombs and the ensuing blast seemingly killed James Gordon. This week, the GCPD, Bruce Wayne, and the Gotham City Underworld must deal with the fall out of Jeremiah’s terrorist actions while the threat of more bombs becomes very real. 

I’m kind of in love with the foppish, cold as ice Jeremiah Joker. Visually, Jeremiah has cues from many classic Batman comics such as Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke. But The Killing Joke parallels don’t end with Jeremiah’s fashion sense, as we’ll look at in a moment. 

Jeremiah’s plan is to systematically blow up select Gotham buildings in order to turn the city into his own private labyrinth. It’s ironic; Jeremiah feels that he is so superior to Jerome because he claims to be in control of his faculties. Jeremiah is calm, collected, controlled in all he does. He even has transformed Jerome’s cadre of circus minions into a polished militia.  But in reality, his plan is squirrel nuts. Jeremiah loves the womb-like confines of his underground liar so much, he wants to transform Gotham City into a gigantic version of his safe space. 

And he demands that the city be evacuated so he can pull it off. With Gordon seemingly gone, Bullock is in charge of the resistance. Of course, Bullock is a disgraced cop these days because of his actions during the Professor Pyg affair, so Harvey has lots to prove as the Jeremiah crisis turns into a redemption story for ‘ol Harv. 

Meanwhile, and this isn’t the biggest spoiler in creation, Gordon is alive and well thanks to the much unexpected intervention of Edward Nygma. That’s right; Ed Nygma saves Gordon, which leads us to one of the few ineffective directions of the episode. Lee Thompkins and Nygma figure out Jeremiah’s plan. Nygma puzzles out that Jeremiah has a master detonator device and if they can find it, they’ll be able to earn a pardon from the GCPD. I just don’t buy that Lee Thompkins would need an award for saving the city. Not a woman who has flat out refused to allow harm to come to even the most vile of Gothamites. 

I also don’t buy that Gordon would indulge in a dick measuring contest with Nygma over Lee. I mean, as Gotham stands on the precipice of cataclysm, Ed and James Gordon fire barbs at each other over the likelihood of the Riddler/Thompkins romance. Gordon manages to sucker punch Riddler and make off with Nygma’s maps, but really, both in a story sense and a logical character sense, that whole thing is a waste of time.

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Happily, Gordon’s actions provide Bullock with the location of the main bomb, but hold up: The Penguin wants to get in on the act as well. The Penguin allies himself with Barbara Kean and Oswald.  Barbara and her loyal League of Assassins all confront Jeremiah and try to blackmail him into sharing the fifty million the neo-Joker is trying to get from the city. 

Penguin’s plans go south pretty quick as Jeremiah always has a plan B and is able to fire back against Penguin and company. Unlike the improbable Riddler plot, the Penguin portion of this week’s proceedings is a great little villain war with the layer added of Butch losing patience with Penguin over the promised Solomon Grundy cure. See, a huge amount of plotlines coming together in one nutty but improbably coherent tale of madness.

And madness brings us to Bruce Wayne. Bruce is guilt ridden over the fact that he helped Jeremiah build the bombs. In addition, Jeremiah has abducted Alfred and wants to use Bruce’s closest friend to drive the future Batman into the realm of madness. 

Whether Jeremiah is truly the Joker or not remains to be seen, but the Bruce/Jeremiah confrontation this week feels like an appropriate first clash between the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime. Perhaps that’s because Jeremiah’s plan for Bruce mirrors one of the most horrific moments in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s classic comic ,The Killing Joke

In that unforgettable one-shot, Joker shoots and maims Barbara Gordon. Later, Joker forces James Gordon into a fun house ride of horrors and projects images of his daughter’s broken, bleeding body on the walls of the twisted carnival ride. This week on Gotham, Jeremiah does a similar thing with Bruce Wayne. As Bruce searches for Alfred in Jeremiah’s maze, the neo-Joker projects images of Alfred being tortured. You have to give Gotham credit, the images of poor Alfred being tortured with Tasers and drills are truly colon clenching. 

The plan is to drive Bruce mad, and when Bruce finds Alfred carving a smile into his gentlemanly face, it looks like Jeremiah’s plans for Bruce are coming to fruition. Thankfully, Bruce has Selena along for the ride, and after the young woman survives an awesome battle with Scarecrow (see, it’s all coming together), she manages to unravel Jeremiah’s plan. The suddenly insane Alfred is not real; the whole thing is a hallucination brought about by Scarecrow’s gas. Alfred is saved, Gordon is revealed to be alive, and with the help of Lucius Fox, Bullock dismantles Jeremiah’s bomb. 

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Jerimiah is disgraced and is forced to kill his minions. Bruce, Selena, and Alfred are celebrating their victory when Jeremiah meets an ally of his own. The weakest part of this season has been the shoehorned Ra’s Al Ghul stuff. That all changes this week because as I said, the Valeskas lift anything they’re involved in, so when Ra’s shows up to forge an unholy alliance with Jeremiah, for once, it makes the Demon’s Head inclusion on Gotham intriguing and welcome. 

With a new friend, Jeremiah strikes; he goes to Wayne Manor, and in another homage to The Killing Joke, Jeremiah shoots Selena point blank. The episode ends with Alfred pounding on Jeremiah while Selena bleeds out in Bruce’s arms. Wow, huh?

So with the season finale next week, we must absorb Gotham’s most intense moment, as Jeremiah’s punchline to the Killing Joke continues to be told.


Even though the episode is not actually The Killing Joke, this week’s Gotham is the closest thing we’ve ever gotten to a live action version of the Moore/Bolland classic. The shooting of Selena really did have a similar gut punch to the unforgettable moment where Barbara Gordon was victimized by Batman’s most heinous villain.

If the Birds of Prey are a thing in the world of Gotham, they’ll need a new HQ sometime in the future as Jeremiah blew up the Gotham Clock Tower. As comic fans know, Barbara Gordon, Black Canary, and Huntress make their HQ in that famed structure. Perhaps they dwell in a newly constructed tower after Jeremiah’sattack. 


4 out of 5