“Gotham” – Episode Three (S2) Review

gotham_header_h_2015 season two banner
The Last Laugh
**Spoilers Throughout**
[This review contains BIG spoilers regarding the ending, so only read if you (a). have seen the episode in its entirety or (b). you don’t mind being spoiled.]

What again critic ugh gross huh
That was…well…interesting, to say the least. Shall we get started?

I tell you, Theo Galavan is staring to get under my skin and we’re only the third episode in. That’s not a complaint, mind you, at least it’s not a huge one. After this episode’s events, I’m interested to see how he intends to become Gotham’s savior, yet at the same time he’s a fairly easy bad guy to spot, which irks me to a degree. I was afraid of this, but it seems like he’s toeing the line into becoming a trope. He has some sort of ancestral claim on the city, so he wants to take it over (of course). He wants to eliminate anyone who might/will interfere with this plan (of course). And he wants everyone to think he’s an awesome, super, wonderful guy (of course).
Good grief not again eye roll bored meh
Uh, huh. Sure. We’ll see how long it takes before someone sniffs him out. ‘Cause he’s already stinky if you ask me.

This was another Jerome-heavy episode, which is cool because he’s becoming one of my favorites (more on that later though). He exudes just the right balance of creepiness and charm and is fun to watch. Seriously, why do we even need someone like Galavan? Just let this season be about how Jerome goes nuts and tries to kill everyone in sight! (Again, more on that in a minute.)

Most of the action this week centers on a charity event and a (botched) magic show to benefit the Gotham Children’s Hospital.
I-Love-Magic
But apparently Bruce Wayne is not a fan, and I doubt he will be after nearly being killed when Jerome comes disguised as a magician. Nothing like the threat of death to shake up a party. Except if it was a Deathday Party (sorry, Hogwarts-related humor; just keepin’ with the theme, folks).

At the event, Jerome’s disguise name is Rodolfo, which is Spanish for “famous wolf.” Naturally, he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing here, but it goes deeper than that. I can’t say whether or not the “Gotham” writers dig into these things ahead of time or are consciously aware of these choices, but I thought this name was a fitting description of Jerome’s character. Wolves are predators and reside at the top of the food chain. Symbolically, especially regarding American Indian beliefs and folklore, the wolf was a creature to be feared and revered as it represented strength, craftiness, and leadership as well as ferocity. Hence, this serves as a mini-snapshot of Jerome’s character: he’s a criminal, a predator, and possesses a strong sense of resolve, cunning, and an ability to lead (as he was the leader of the Maniax). He is vicious, unafraid of consequence, and utterly heartless, yet he’s not so insane that he can’t try to reason (using his own brand of logic) why he does what he does. And, of course, Jerome makes a name for himself through his various atrocities. So his stage name here is a perfect fit.

But before we get into what happens to Jerome (and we will – trust me!), I want to call your attention back to Theo Galavan, who uses the staged events at the gala to cement himself as Gotham’s savior-in-waiting.

Theo Galavan
In his own words, Gotham needs a hero and he speaks the truth. But Galavan’s concept of heroism and Bruce, Alfred, and Jim’s ideas about the same are quite different. Galavan, like what we explored last week, believes evil can stop evil. By unleashing chaos upon the city, he hopes the city will cry out for a savior and that’s when he will make his move. Not for any benefit to Gotham’s citizens, mind you, but just to secure himself a seat of power.

At the gala when he stands up (in a purposely over-the-top moment) to call out Jerome’s actions, Galavan labels Jerome a “small, vicious man with a pathetic need for attention.” Hmm…et tu, Brute? Translation: speak for yourself, Theo. (No, that’s not what et tu, Brute literally means.) Galavan needs to take a good, long look in the mirror because he could easily turn those words back on himself. He’s small in terms of being small-minded as he’s only out for personal glory. He’s vicious because he uses criminals to pave his way to the top. And he has obvious ego issues where he wants to make a show of things to prove he can save the day.

Thus, in the aftermath of the gala, it’s interesting to see Galavan standing on the outside of the inner circle of Jim, Leslie, Bruce, and Alfred – the real heroes here. Their efforts to protect strangers, friends, and loved ones show true bravery, which requires a lack of concern for one’s self and a willingness to sacrifice personal comfort and safety for the protection of others. It’s not as flashy as Galavan’s outbursts and orations, but it’s genuine and comes from a morally-attuned heart, not a cold, calculating mind.

And speaking of calculating minds, one mind that refuses to rest is Penguin’s. Though I’ll admit I’m disappointed to see how little his character is being used thus far. (As a sidebar, I can see how Penguin gains his, um, fluffy physique if all he does is sit around and watch TV. Just get him some Ring Dings and Pepsi and he’ll be set! Oh, and that’s the best TV he could get? Seriously? Penguin, as King of Gotham, you deserve a plasma screen and at least an 85 inch.)

Penguin made a scant appearance in the first episode, nary a show in the second, and a brief confrontation with Bullock here. Though it was fun watching their dynamic as Penguin hasn’t had much one-on-one time with Harvey. But this isn’t a friendly chat. Bullock has choice words for Penguin and seems intent on not forgiving him for killing Fish. (Though, to be fair, she didn’t have to drown. Her name was Fish, after all.) This adds an interesting level of tension between Bullock and Penguin that, until now, didn’t really exist. Granted, Bullock’s disposition towards Penguin bordered on flagrant mistrust and disdainful dislike. Now he seems to have thrown down the gauntlet and dares Penguin to ask further favors of Jim. So I hope these characters have a few more run-ins down the road; and you can trust that Harvey won’t be happy to lend a helping hand should Penguin need one.

Though, I’m happy to note, it appears Penguin finally got himself a throne…
King Penguin 22
a la Scarface‘s Tony Montana, whom I have labeled Oswald’s fictional cousin. (For more, you can check my character analysis here – http://wp.me/p3XAIW-EQ) Sadly, this throne doesn’t appear to be monographed. Still cool though.

Now for the not-so-cool moment of the night (get ready – BIG SPOILER) – Jerome’s far too early exit. As a deviation from the “plan,” Galavan stabs Jerome in the throat, thus ending the mad young man’s short-lived reign. So Jerome is dead. I honestly figured Jerome was going to be a front runner guest star, but, as it turns out, his character only got a three-episode gig.
no bad ugh kill it sad
‘Cause if I had known, I wouldn’t have had so much fun watching him!

On one hand I’m really, really annoyed by this…
Angry 1 critic frustrated mad
Jerome made the perfect Joker – he looked the part, he was nuts, and he had that laugh. That signature, crazy laugh. Not to mention a few homages to The Dark Knight and other Jokers had been sprinkled throughout. But, alas, it wasn’t to be.

I’ll confess – even though it was never confirmed that Jerome was the Joker, I still feel like this was one big tease. And I do agree with one review of this episode I read – “Gotham” is going to have to really offer a big, compelling character (or characters) to fill the void and I teeter on calling this kill-off a mistake. Granted, we don’t know the season’s story arc, but still – it felt like we had been punked.

On the other hand, there were hints that Jerome’s actions would simply inspire who would eventually become the Joker and he did seem a bit too obvious. In that way, it reminded me of how I finally concluded that Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series (another reference – they don’t stop, do they?) was not a bad guy. In chapter two of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (“Spinner’s End”), Snape, whose allegiances were always in question, dialogues with Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange, followers of Lord Voldermort. Bellatrix demands to know where Snape’s true loyalties lie, with the Dark Lord or with Albus Dumbledore. Snape gives a lengthy answer but it’s so obvious that he’s trying to be portrayed as a bad guy that it’s actually obvious that he’s not a villain. Rowling was never that direct in her writing, so to have a whole chapter try to convince readers that Snape was bad actually convinced me he was one of the good guys.

I bring this up because I had similar feelings about Jerome not being the Joker. All of the connections, from his look and mannerisms to his criminal antics, seemed a bit too on the nose. After all, the other super-villains in this series were clear from the start: no one was guessing who Penguin was, or the Riddler, or Catwoman. We knew who they were. As for Jerome, he was always just Jerome. This lack of subtly, as well as having no confirmation from the writers and show’s creators, made me wonder if Jerome wasn’t a lead-in, an opening act if you will, to the real Joker.

Cue music…
have your attention look eminem slim shady
So won’t the real Joker please stand up, please stand up, please stand up….

However, Jerome is not entirely gone. His father, the blind circus fortune teller, asserts before he dies that Jerome will become “a curse upon Gotham. Your legacy will be death and madness.” True to his words, Jerome’s demise inspires young men around Gotham to emulate his laugh and engage in senseless, bloody violence. Thus, his legacy is one that will encourage heartlessness and cruelty. Even Penguin, who once made it a habit of stabbing people who were of no use to him, isn’t keen on this kind of criminality. He claims Jerome “has no interest in building things. He’s chaos for chaos’ sake.” In other words, Jerome’s brand of villainy doesn’t care about making carefully executed power plays and laying down a legacy. It’s unbridled violence and madness without reason, methods even a criminal mastermind like Penguin would deem far too crude.

But this comparison between subdued villainy and full-on insanity proves that these characters become who they are and get to where they end up through their choices. In the real world, we aren’t born evil but we all have the penchant to sin and to be selfish. Even Bullock observes, “Every evil [person] in the world was a kid once,” meaning everyone starts from the same place – young and innocent. It’s only through living and making choices that we develop our inner character, whether for good or bad. Again, to defer to some Potter insight (the last – I swear!), as Dumbledore remarks to a young Harry, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” All of the characters on “Gotham” – the good, the bad, and the in-between – make choices to do what’s right, what’s wrong, or nothing at all. These decisions have ramifications, and it’s these consequences that form the backbone of the stories we see, whether or not we always agree with the direction they take.

But still – just when I was starting to like Jerome’s character!
why what for huh confused meh no

Though this final shot…
Smiling Jerome
Opened pits of hell critic scared

“The plot thickens” indeed.

Until later, fellow Gothamites!

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