Gotham Season 5 Episode 7 Review: Ace Chemicals

Gotham Season 5 Episode 7 lives up to its "Ace Chemicals" name as a classic Batman comic moment finally comes to pass.

This Gotham review contains spoilers.

Gotham Season 5 Episode 7

Last week Gotham Season 5 was all about the coming of Bane, but this week, we have a Jeremiah focused bit of madness. Things kick off with James Gordon finding out via short wave radio that the madness of No Man’s Land will soon end as help and reunification is on the way. Unless something else happens to destabilize Gotham City, that is. Whoomp whooomp whooomp. That’s a bit sledge hammery, isn’t it? 

Speaking of plot sledge hammers, we have Barbara and Gordon’s baby drama. Last week, it was revealed that Jim Gordon knocked up his ex-fiancé, current crime boss, and sometimes crazy murderous ex-girlfriend Barbara Kean during a fit of passion. Now, I’m sure we have all made questionable relationship choices in our lives, but are we really buying that the pragmatic Jim Gordon is hooking up with a woman who tried to murder him? More than once? Really? I know Barbara bravely came to Gordon and the GCPD’s aid during the No Man’s Land saga, again more than once, but really, Jim? Unprotected sex? With a woman who tried to horrifically murder you, all your friends, and Lee Thompkins?

 Anyway, whether we buy it or not, Barbara is pregnant and she wants the best doctor in No Man’s Land to care for the baby, and of course that would be Doctor Lee Thompkins. Now, this is all very silly, but I have to admit I am very intrigued to see if this baby is going to be Barbara Gordon, the future Batgirl. Or will the child be James Jr., future serial killer? If Barbara Kean doesn’t make it out of NML, is it possible that James names his newborn daughter after her fallen mother and Batgirl begins? As I said: silly but intriguing. 

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Compared to main arc this week, the Gordon baby drama is just background news because we finally learn Jeremiah’s master plan and it is really the cruelest trick. Remember, Jeremiah has tunneled underneath Wayne Manor and has kidnapped Alfred. This week, Bruce finds his way through the tunnel and into his family home- his birthright. There, Jeremiah is waiting with two poor victims who have been surgically altered to look exactly like Thomas and Martha Wayne. Alfred has been brainwashed and the illusion of Wayne domestic tranquility has begun. 

You see, Jeremiah is jealous that he had nothing to do with the death of the Waynes, that Bruce’s greatest enemy, his worst nightmare, will always center on a nameless, faceless gunman and not Jeremiah. Jeremiah is going to reenact the Wayne killings so Bruce will always picture the pale faced madman as the cause of his worst evening. There are tons of references to the comic book origins of Batman including a wonderfully crafted reenactment of an old Zorro film to torment Bruce, but this bond, this obsession that Jeremiah has with Bruce makes us bring back the ‘ol question: is Jeremiah actually the Joker? And you know what, that question does get answered this week – more on that in a minute. 

First let’s check in with two other rogues. Penguin and Selina are planning their great escape using Jeremiah’s tunnel. Penguin has a poop ton of stolen swag and Selina wants to escape Gotham City with the loot and begin a new life. So the Cat and the Bird take to Jeremiah’s tunnels to make their way out of the increasingly dangerous No Man’s Land. Who do they find in the tunnels? Bruce Wayne, of course.

further reading: Gotham Debuts First Glimpse of Batman

After Jeremiah reveals his plan, he sets off a series of bombs in Wayne Manor. The concussion of the blast knocks Alfred back to reality and the two must race to prevent the farcical Wayne murder. Oh, I forgot to mention, the murder will also trigger the launch of Mad Hatter designed poison into the atmosphere. Yeah, remember when we said Gotham City will only receive help if it remains stable? Jeremiah’s about to eff that all up in a big bad way while reenacting Bruce’s greatest horror. 

So the Wayne murder is happening again and this time the only witness, Selina Kyle, can help. She is still guilt ridden that she didn’t help the real Waynes on the night of their murder. This is a wonderful plot convergence and a well-crafted chance of redemption for Selina who told a lovelorn Bruce Wayne last week that she didn’t care enough to help his parents that night. It turns out the world weary Selina still has the soul of a hero (plus, she still really wants to kill Jeremiah for shooting her) and forgoes an escape with Penguin to help Bruce save Gotham City. We knew you had it in you, girl! 

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And what might trigger the Mad Hatter bombs, you ask? Oh, the pearls. The pearls! The dangerously close to becoming a tired cliché pearls. As Selina, Alfred, and Bruce converge on Jeremiah’s murder LARP, we have many converging plot lines. Selina is there for redemption, Bruce is there for justice, and Jeremiah is there to forever live as Bruce Wayne’s brother in blood. Even Ecco Harley shows up to join the fun. As Jeremiah’s plan begins, the maybe Joker reveals that the Waynes are not two nameless saps forced to undergo plastic surgery, no; he put those two out of their misery. 

further reading: The Joker Returns in Batman Beyond #28

The new Waynes are Lee Thompkins and James Gordon, the closest thing young Bruce has to parents (well, there’s Alfred, but Alfred and Lee as a couple really wouldn’t make story sense- just go with it people). When the faux Waynes are shot, the clichéd pearls will hit the ground trigger Mad Hatter’s gas and Gotham will be cut off from all aid from the outside world. The dominos begin to fall when it all goes wrong for Jeremiah, thanks to Selina. Gordon and Lee are freed of Jeremiah’s control, and Bruce chases maybe Joker into- guess where. Just guess.

Hell yeah, Ace Chemicals: The iconic comic book locale where the Red Hood fell into a vat of skin bleaching chemicals and became the Joker! Jeremiah and Bruce reenact the comic book origin and of course, Jeremiah plunges into the vat. And we cannot call Jeremiah the maybe Joker anymore because now that he has crossed the threshold into Ace Chemicals, Jeremiah is officially the Joker. This is a moment Gotham fans have been waiting five years for, the answer to the question of who is and will be Batman’s greatest enemy. Ace Chemicals answers that long burning question. What a punchline. 

Gotham Easter Eggs and References

Now, I want everyone to look at the metatextual element of Jeremiah’s plan. In Batman (1989), it was Jack Nicholson’s Joker that killed Bruce Wayne’s parents. In all other versions it is a nobody gunman named Joe Chill. Gotham’s Joker, Jeremiah, wants to become Jack Nicholson’s Joker by killing the “Waynes” while acting like Heath Ledger’s Joker only to become the comic book Joker inside of Ace Chemicals. That’s some gymnastic plotting, right there. 

Oh, we forgot to mention, Jeremiah also destroyed Wayne Manor. We know it will be rebuilt but will Jeremiah’s tunnels become the Batcave? There is a lot to play with this episode as Gotham finally delivered on some long promised teases. There are all sorts of forced melodrama like the surgically altered Waynes, but when put under the lens of Batman (1989) and comic book history, man, is there tons to unpack with this episode. 

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We are left with Penguin partnering with Riddler as they plan to build a sub to escape Gotham City. They need the pregnant Barbara’s help and these three should be hilarious as Barbara forgoes killing Penguin for a chance to escape No Man’s land. Meanwhile, Jeremiah is now brain dead, but he gets a small victory as No Man’s Land continues. Jim manages to drive the Mad Hatter gas into the river, but the toxic chemicals were still released as the federal government now refuses to come to the cancerous city to help end No Man’s Land.  

With all that effective drama, we end with a bit of romantic nonsense as Lee smacks Jim then kisses Jim as none of this romance makes sense because I really cannot buy that any human, during a dystopian crisis, would sleep with a woman that tried to kill him during a dystopian crisis. Maybe it’s just me.  But let’s forgive all that because we now have witnessed the Gotham origin of Batman’s greatest enemy and we don’t have to call Jeremiah maybe Joker anymore.

Ha Ha Ha.

Read more about Gotham Season 5.

Marc Buxton is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.


3.5 out of 5