Monday, May 27, 2024

A Joker is Born

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When we were last in Gotham we learned Jerome had a long lost twin. He organized the most eccentric brunch group—the Horribles—to help him plan a family reunion. In this episode, we get another family reunion, and it’s even more gruesome, as one does on Gotham.

It begins with Gotham’s new mayor having a meeting with the leaders of the city. Naturally, something bad is about to happen to them. Right on cue, the lights go out and the room’s temperature drops. The Horribles waltz right in to take them all away. Jerome has big plans, so big that he won’t even tell the rest of his crew the whole thing. Oswald doesn’t like not being in charge and even he’s wary of what’s to come. He goes to Jim but he doesn’t know the mayor’s location. He can only warn Jim about the laughing gas Jerome has.

Meanwhile, Jerome has put the next phase of his plan into motion. It includes taking over a music festival with Firefly and putting bomb collars on the mayor and the other captives. There are still two empty chairs on stage that he’s reserved for his brother and Bruce Wayne. He demands that Jim bring them to him or Gotham will have to find a new mayor yet again. To prove his point he blows the head of the police commissioner. Mr. Freeze and Crane can’t join the party because they’re breaking into Wayne labs, forcing the workers to make more laughing gas.

At Wayne Manor, Bruce and Alfred are celebrating Bruce’s birthday. Alfred got him a bulletproof Mustang for his gift and Selena shows up just in time to help blow out the candles on his cake. She swears she didn’t know it was his birthday though. The celebration is cut short when Jim and Fox arrive to inform Bruce about Jerome. They watch on the TV as Jerome blows up another of his captives.

Fox has a plan to plant devices on Bruce and Jeremiah that’ll disrupt the signal of Jerome’s detonator and Jim has snipers getting ready to take out Jerome and the rest of his team the moment he gives the signal. Bruce doesn’t need to be asked twice.

Jeremiah, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with their plan. It’s a good thing Jim went to Bruce first because he gives a speech about standing up to show Gotham it’s possible to face the terror. It’s enough to inspire Jeremiah. He goes with them to Jerome, he and Bruce walk onto the stage together. Things don’t go quite to plan, though, because the snipers are killed by Jerome’s men.

Jerome taunts his brother. He believes Jeremiah to be just as a crazy as he is, that he has the same killer lust.

The rest of the Horribles have the laughing gas and are stealing a blimp. Crane kills one of the pilots and Tetch hypnotizes the other. They also knock out Oswald, knowing he went to Jim. Oswald wakes up on the blimp as it starts to approach where Jerome and everyone else is.

On the ground, Jim makes the decision to take out Jerome himself. The arrival of the blimp causing all hell to break loose with the crowd. Jim uses it as a cover to get close the stage, shooting Jerome in the shoulder. Bruce breaks free of his bindings disarming Firefly. Fox’s device proves to work when Jerome fails to set off the explosives.

Even with a bullet wound, Jerome tries to make his escape. As Jim is chasing Jerome, Oswald calls from the blimp, demanding Jim gets him down. Jim turns the tables on Oswald though, convincing him to help stop the laughing gas from being released. He knows just what to say to get to Oswald: there’ll be no one to rule if everyone is rendered insane. Oswald fights the pilot, taking control of the blimp. Oswald Cobblepot saving Gotham.

Jim follows Jerome to the roof. Jerome is standing on the edge with nothing lose, even as his plan falls apart in front of him. His last-ditch attempt to get the hypnotized pilot to drop the chemicals makes Jim shoot him again and he slips over the side of the building. Jim finds him clinging to a pipe. He offers a hand to pull him up, but Jerome has other ideas. His final words are a promise that he’ll ‘live on in the shadows with Gotham’s discontent.’

He falls, laughing all the way down. He dies with a grin on his face.

In the wake of the chaos, everyone seems to be responding to Jerome’s death with a measure of disbelief. Jeremiah even seems to have a moment of remorse for his brother. Bruce offers Jeremiah the opportunity to work with Wayne Industries.

While all this was happening, Barbara was learning more about Ra’s Al Ghul with the members of the league. Ra’s, as it turns out, had a house in Gotham where he kept mementoes and records from his extensive life. Oh, and there’s a portrait of him and a woman who looks remarkably like Barbara that seems like it could be from the renaissance era. Barbara finally believes she’s found her calling. Tabitha is unimpressed by it all. It leads to a falling out between the two that ends with Tabitha being dragged out to the street by the league members. After they leave her battered and bruised, some other members of the league show up. These guys are loyal to Ra’s even in death and see Tabitha as an ally, or maybe as leverage. Either way, they kidnap her.

Jeremiah returns to his bunker and finds a gift, addressed from Wayne Industries.  But of course, it’s not. Its Jerome’s last joke from beyond the grave. His main goal all along, was to make his brother as insane as him. Jeremiah opens the box and a jack in the box pops out, giving him a face full of laughing gas. He grips his hair and starts laughing, the wide-eyed, crazed grin on his face one that’s all too familiar.

Farwell Jerome, Hello Joker

Jerome Valeska was truly a special member of Gotham’s rogues. He was the exemplar of everything that makes this series’ villains entertaining. He had wit, ingenuity, and a flair for spectacle that leaves you on the edge of your seat waiting for his next move. Jerome may be gone, but his last words to Jim couldn’t be truer. He’ll live on as a philosophy that will haunt the city. Even beyond Jeremiah, he has inspired a certain brand of chaos in Gotham. His Horribles are still at large. There could be parts of his plan that have yet to come to light.

As for Jeremiah, the twist as the episode’s end was inevitable. Jerome and Jeremiah didn’t have much interaction, but what little they did have revealed Jeremiah isn’t Jerome’s complete opposite. There are things about Jeremiah that are still unknown. We may not learn what those things are explicitly, but the laughing gas will surely bring to the surface the side to him only Jerome seemed to know.

The last image of Jeremiah laughing could have been ripped out of The Killing Joke. Just a tease of what’s to come.

Speaking of what’s to come, let’s talk about Barbara. Oh, Barbara. You’ve always been great. Even before some dude died and made you his heir. Seeing her order that Tabitha be thrown out wasn’t the easiest thing to watch. In a show that’s filled with amazing dynamic duos, their relationship could easily be overlooked. To say they’re the best pairing would be a stretch, but they are one of the best. They’re also a relationship that’s so rarely seen in media. Two women who were in a romantic relationship, broke up, and then managed to work together and become friends. That never happens. As much as I loved them as a couple, I’ve loved them as friends all the more because of how unique and refreshing the progression of their relationship has been.

It’s a little hard to believe this is the same Barbara who marched into a gang’s hideout and whipped out a gun to save Tabitha and Selina. But at the same time, Barbara’s always been attracted to power. The last time she made a big power grab, it didn’t end very well for her. Let’s hope this doesn’t end with similar results.

Next time promises assassins, more Barbara and cryptic prophecies to Bruce to becoming the Batman.

Images courtesy of  Fox. 

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