Wednesday, May 30, 2018

'Gotham' Recap: "No Man's Land" (4x22)

If you’re still in your right mind, then you probably haven’t seen Gotham’s season finale yet. If that’s the case, stop reading. NOW. Go and watch the episode, then come back to this recap. Gotham’s fourth season ended the same way all of its others did: with a bang, bodies hitting the floor, epic betrayal, crazy cliffhangers, and a whole lot of questions. And every time, the show finds away to escalate the drama.

At then the first season, Barbara went crazy, Penguin took over the underworld after having a hand in the deaths of two of his rivals, and Bruce found the Bat Cave. At the end of the second, Strange’s monsters were released, Gordon left Gotham to find Lee, and Bruce realized there was a secret organization controlling his company. And the third? The third season finale seemed impossible to top—with Penguin getting his revenge on the Riddler, the city almost falling to the Tetch Virus, Ra’s al Ghul appearing for the first time, Selina getting her whip, and, most importantly, Bruce deciding to fight crime.

Last season’s finale was a tough act to follow—but “No Man’s Land” set the stage for season 5 in an episode that was insane, brilliant, intense, and dramatic.

But enough gushing. Let’s get to the recap. Like last week’s episode, this one is pretty interconnected, so I won’t be dividing it up into separate plots (mainly so that the timeline of events is clear). Suffice it to say that “No Man’s Land” revolves around Jeremiah’s and Ra’s plans to transform Bruce and the city of Gotham, Hugo Strange’s efforts to cure Butch, and Ed’s attempt to win over Lee once and for all.

Warning: the episode itself contains graphic violence and profanity. The following recap contains massive SPOILERS. So the faint of heart might want to back out now.

Plots A, B, and C: Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn.

The episode opens with Selina being rushed through Gotham General Hospital on a gurney. A doctor explains to Bruce that they’ll do their best to help her, but the hospital is down to a skeleton crew thanks to the evacuation order. Selina asks if Bruce is going to leave her, and he promises to stay with her in the hospital.

Meanwhile, the GCPD watches Jeremiah as he casually sits in one of their holding cells. Alfred tells Gordon he’s not sure why he brought Jeremiah instead of killing him, but Gordon says Alfred did the right thing. Alfred then leaves to meet Bruce at the hospital.

Bullock tells Gordon that the bomb squad has been visiting the bomb sites, deactivating the bombs, and putting them in a warehouse. He adds that the mayor wants to lift the evacuation order, but Gordon says to tell the mayor that they can’t lift the order until all the bombs are found.

Jeremiah addresses Gordon, saying that he wants to talk to Bruce.

Gordon refuses and adds that Jeremiah failed to kill Gordon and destroy the city, just like his brother. Jeremiah replies that he’ll tell Gordon where the other bombs are if he brings Bruce. Gordon says that they’ve already found all the bombs, but Jeremiah claims that there other bombs hidden around the city as a redundancy. Gordon says that he’s bluffing, but Jeremiah asks how many lives he’s willing to bet on that theory. Jeremiah adds that he didn’t realize before what vision he was working towards, but now his eyes have been opened. He tells Gordon to bring Bruce once it’s clear that he’s not bluffing.

Elsewhere, Hugo Strange (who was apparently so easy to find and convince that they did it offscreen) has Butch on a makeshift hospital bed. He remarks that Butch has no heartbeat and tells Tabitha that the chemicals from Indian Hill preserved his organs. Strange’s plan (which he promises will work) is to flush out the chemical with antitoxins, infuse Butch with fresh blood, and give him an electric jolt to the heart.

Tabitha then gets a call about Selina being shot (from Bruce, I suppose) and decides that she’s going to kill Jeremiah. Butch tries to come with her, but Strange says that the procedure can’t be interrupted, and Penguin promises to stay and make sure everything goes right. He adds that he's doing this for Butch's sake, not Tabitha's.

Next, Lucius Fox tells Gordon, who’s at the GCPD, over the phone that there’s no way of knowing how many bombs Jeremiah made. Harper lets Gordon know that the mayor’s on the phone and Gordon says to tell him that they still can’t lift the evacuation order. Gordon then notes that all of Jeremiah’s schemes have been a reflection of his brother’s, even his obsession with Bruce. He wonders aloud what Jeremiah could’ve meant about his eyes being opened to the vision he was meant to serve.

Over in city hall, the Mayor has had enough of waiting and decides that it’s time to lift the evacuation order. Suddenly, one of his employees looks out the window and spots a man staring at them from a nearby building. The man is Ra’s al Ghul. Seconds later, one of Jeremiah’s bombs goes off, blowing city hall to smithereens.

Back at the GCPD, Gordon slams Jeremiah against a wall and demands to know how many bombs are left and where they are. Jeremiah simply says that he wants to talk to Bruce. Gordon punches Jeremiah and tells him he will never see Bruce. Jeremiah says that more people will die if he doesn’t.

Bullock then enters and tells Gordon that he’s needed. Gordon enters the lobby of the precinct, where he’s met by soldiers. Their leader introduces himself as Major Rodney Harlan from Fort Henry. Harlan explains that the government has declared martial law in Gotham and sent him in to take over command until the crisis is resolved. Gordon isn’t pleased by this development but tells Harlan about Jeremiah’s original plan and the secret bombs he has. He adds that it’s not clear who’s helping Jeremiah; rumor has it that his followers turned on him.

Gordon explains that Jeremiah wants to talk to Bruce and notes that he’s most likely planning a trap. Bullock adds that Jerome tried the same thing when he took over the music festival. Harlan tells them to get Bruce. Gordon refuses. (Remember in season one when everyone kept pointing out that Gordon was an army veteran? How did he not get discharged? How?) Harlan has his men arrest Gordon, saying that he can’t let insubordination jeopardize the city’s fate.

The men take Gordon away to a parking garage. Suddenly, the soldiers are shot down. The Riddler enters, holding a gun. He asks Gordon a riddle before shooting him with a tranquilizer.

Gordon wakes up, tied to a table with a heavy weight suspended above him. He tries to tell the Riddler that Jeremiah has more bombs and that he needs to let him go. The Riddler says that he and Lee already tried to save the city and are still fugitives. Gordon replies that he gave Lee a way out by returning the money, but the Riddler points out that it was never an option, as she already dispersed the money throughout the Narrows.

He then begins to lower the weight onto Gordon’s chest and remarks that he should be feeling 50 pounds of pressure. The Riddler explains that a similar device was used to get a confession from prisoners in the old days, but often ended up killing them. He ups the pressure to 100 pounds and says that Gordon is a dead weight, holding Lee to her past. Once he’s gone, she’ll become the person she was meant to be.

The Riddler ups the pressure to 150 and says that he saw Gordon and Lee together. He notes that his plan is to make sure Gordon dies—and dies painfully.

Over at the Sirens’ Club, Barbara tells the female League members that the evacuation has left a lot of the city undefended, making it the right time to take over territory. Suddenly, the lights flicker off, leaving someone to take down all of the League members in the darkness. The lights flicker back on and Ra’s appears. He says he just came to talk, but needed to take out the assassins as a precaution.

He tells Barbara that he’s leaving Gotham and wants her to come with him. He admits that his initial vision of the city being destroyed in fire didn’t come true and theorizes that he doesn’t have the full power of the demon head. She gleefully guesses that some of the power is left in her and asks if he’s come to kill her for it.

Ra’s says he’s not. He tells her that the woman in the tapestry from his vault was not a whore but a woman he loved. He claims that he offered the woman immortality, but she turned it down. He offers Barbara the same gift, adding that they can rule the league together. He tells her to think about it. When she asks about his vision of the city’s destruction, he says that he’s taking measures to ensure it comes to pass. He adds that the disaster will cause the rise of the person who brought him to Gotham in the first place: his heir.

Back at the GCPD, the soldiers bring in Bruce and Alfred. Bullock tells Harlan that someone attacked his men and took Gordon, but he doesn’t seem to care. Harlan turns to Bruce and tries to tell him that they need his help, but Bruce isn’t too happy with the situation. He says that Harlan’s men took him and Alfred from the hospital against their will and adds that while he’ll do what they’ve asked, he wants to get it over with so he can get back to Selina.

Bruce enters the interrogation room while Harlan, Bullock, and Alfred watch on a video feed. Bruce asks Jeremiah where the bombs are, and Jeremiah tells him to come closer. When he does, Jeremiah asks how Selina’s doing. When Bruce glares at him in silence, he says that the two of them are destined to be best friends because they’re alike. Jeremiah says that Bruce is still at war with his own nature and claims that he’s trying to help him embrace it. Bruce, however, isn’t having it. He says that nothing Jeremiah has done has been to help him, and adds that while both of them have darkness inside of them, Bruce knows how to control his demons.

Jeremiah says that Bruce could be strong, and adds, “He sees it too.”

Bruce asks who he’s talking about, but Harlan tells him (through an earpiece to go back to asking about the bombs. He does so, but Jeremiah replies “What bombs?” He tells Bruce that the bomb planted in city hall was the only one and notes that it served its purpose: to bring Bruce to Jeremiah.

Bruce asks again who Jeremiah meant by “he.” Jeremiah replies that “he” is the one who opened up his eyes and made him realize that he wasn’t working to create a new Gotham for himself, but for Bruce. He says it will be the “dark island” Bruce needs and that it will come to pass that night. Bruce asks again for a name, but Jeremiah redirects the situation to Selina, cruelly asking if she’s paralyzed.

Bruce demands a name, and Jeremiah replies that Bruce already knows his name, as Bruce is his heir. As the truth dawns on Bruce, the lights flicker off in the entire precinct. When the officers rush to the interrogation room, they find that it empty, except for the dead corpses of a few guards.

Meanwhile, the Riddler has increased the pressure on Gordon to 350 pounds. He says that they should be able to hear his ribs crack soon. Lee enters and states that 450 pounds is what it takes to crack a grown man’s ribs. The Riddler tries to tell her that it’s not what it looks like, but Lee knows that it is. He says that he’s only doing it to keep Gordon from holding her back. Lee says that the Riddler is insulting her if he thinks that she’d be weak enough to be held back by Gordon.

She tells Gordon that the woman he loved is gone, and then tells both of him and the Riddler that her work in the Narrows is done; the neighborhoods are free from landlords and gangs, and each family has enough money. Lee says that she’s leaving and tells the Riddler that she wants him to come, but not unless he spares Gordon. After she exits, the Riddler interprets her ultimatum to mean that she loves him and decides to let Gordon go, saying that he can have Gotham.

Over at the Sirens’ Club, Tabitha tells Barbara about Jeremiah’s escape. Alfred enters soon after her and asks where Ra’s is. Barbara says that she doesn’t know where he is, but knows where he’ll be before he leaves Gotham. She says that if they work together, Tabitha can kill Jeremiah, Alfred can save Bruce, and she can kill Ra’s. Barbara says that she has a surprise for him and holds up an ornate box.

Not to be left out of the fun, Penguin enters. He explains that the only way to keep Butch on the table was to promise to help Tabitha.

Barbara lets him join and tells the motley crew that it’s time to roll out.

As Gordon stumbles out the Narrows, Lee tosses him the keys to her car and tells him to ice his ribs. He asks if it’s true that she’s leaving the city. She replies that it is. When he asks if she’s taking the Riddler with him, she says that it’s not his business.

Gordon reminds her of how he said in the station that he wished he could change things between them. He says that he’d change everything that led them to this point. He’d run away with Lee as soon as they met.

Lee says if Gordon had done all of that, he wouldn’t be himself. She says that she doesn’t want to change herself either, but admits that a part of her will always care for him and kisses him. She then tells him goodbye and to save Gotham.

Gordon calls Bullock, who informs him that Jeremiah kidnapped Bruce and stole all of the bombs from the warehouse.

Elsewhere, Jeremiah and League members bring Bruce to a building. Once he’s inside, they pull the bag off of his face and take him to Ra’s. Bruce asks how he and Jeremiah found each other, and Ra’s replies that they had a mutual interest in Bruce. Jeremiah asks Ra’s if his league members got the bombs. Ra’s confirms this and adds that the bombs are en route to their new positions. He says that they can watch the destruction from this building (as one side is basically a giant window).

Bruce says that they’re both insane, but Ra’s says that they’re doing all of this to help him. He says that after the destruction, Bruce will rise as the dark knight that both Ra’s and the city need. Jeremiah admits that he could care less about prophecies; he just realized that his plans to remake Gotham and Bruce were interconnected.

He says that the two of them will create a legacy in the city; when it falls, the they will rise.

At the GCPD, Bullock explains that 12 transport vans were stolen, which must be how Jeremiah’s new allies are carrying the bombs. He tells Gordon the locations where the bombs have been spotted, causing Gordon to realize that the bombs are being moved to the outskirts of the city.

Major Harlan arrives and asks Gordon what happened to the men escorting him. Harper follows soon after and informs them that there have been two more sightings along the highway. Gordon, recalling what Bullock told him about Jeremiah’s interrogation, realizes that he’s going to literally make the city into a dark island by targeting the bridges.

He tells Harlan that they need to cancel the evacuation order and get everybody off of the bridges, but Harlan refuses. He tells his men to arrest Gordon, but Bullock pulls a gun on Harlan. When Harlan commands them to arrest Gordon as well, all of the GCPD cops pull their guns on Harlan.

Gordon grabs Harlan’s radio and gives an order to clear the bridges.

Meanwhile, Ra’s tells Bruce that the city will soon be every man for himself. Barbara arrives and says that it sounds like fun. She tells Ra’s that Gotham is her home and she doesn’t plan on leaving. She says that she doesn’t want to let him leave either and pulls out the case from earlier. Inside is the dagger that Bruce used to kill Ra’s (and the same one Ra’s broke in “To Our Deaths and Beyond”).

Ra’s notes that she’s reforged it. Barbara replies that she suspects Ra’s will try to return to the city and doesn’t want to worry about looking over her shoulder. Ra’s reminds Barbara that she already tried using the knife and states that she’s outnumbered. She replies that his powers of foresight must not be working, and Penguin enters with the rest of her allies, leading the fight against Ra’s men.

Elsewhere, Bullock and Gordon work on clearing the bridges. Harper calls Gordon to let him know that while the bridges have been officially closed, the stolen vans have been spotted on each bridge. Gordon, realizing that the bombs could go off at any time, quickly runs after a little girl who’s still on the bridge.

At the same time, Ra’s manages to hold his own, fighting against both Barbara and Alfred. Tabitha fights Jeremiah. He manages to get the upper hand and holds a knife to her throat, but Penguin shoots him in the shoulder. Bruce gets loose and kicks the man guarding him. He then tries to attack Ra’s, but his hands are still tied and Ra’s easily deflects his attacks.

Barbara, however, has a better idea: she thrusts the dagger into Bruce’s hands and then rams him forward to stab Ra’s in the chest.

We get Ra's al Ghul back for four episodes only for him to die again because of that stupid dagger.

(Thankfully, in this instance, I don’t think Bruce’s actions count as murder. Barbara was using him as a passive and unaware tool to commit murder. In a way, he was the weapon as much as the dagger.)

As Ra’s begins to die, the bridges blow up. Jeremiah watches through the windows and smiles. Gordon, still on one of the bridges, grabs the little girl. He watches the others blow up and quickly runs off of the bridge and behind a car for cover.

Side note: I was hoping that Gordon was extra worried about the girl because she was his niece or something—in certain continuities, Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, is his niece rather than daughter. And it’d add even more relevance to Jeremiah’s line about Gordon not being able to hold on to the people he cares about. Sadly, I think this character is just a regular girl.

From the building, Penguin and the rest of Barbara’s team watch the destruction, dumbstruck. Ra’s, who’s fading away into fiery ash, tells Bruce with his last breaths that the choice is his: to stay Bruce Wayne, or become the dark knight this city needs.

Over in the Narrows, the Riddler notes that Jeremiah fulfilled his threat to detonate the bombs. He also theorizes that, as a result, Lee no longer plans to leave Gotham. She admits that he’s right; thanks to the devastation, the Narrows are worse off than before. The Riddler asks what her decision to stay means for the two of them, and she replies that it’s “the end of the road.”

The Riddler, clutching a knife behind his back, says that he was an idiot to believe her. She never wanted to leave with him, she just wanted to save Gordon. Lee says that he and Gordon are more alike than he’d like to admit; they both think that they understand Lee, and both men want to change her. She replies that neither of them see the real her . . . and then stabs the Riddler in the gut.

Lee tells him that her offer was real, but also that she knew that, once the Riddler realized that she’d never be the person he wanted her to be, he’d kill her. “It’s just what you do,” she says. He admits that she might be right—before mustering up the strength to turn and stab her in the gut as well.

He then says that she’s wrong; he does see the real her. The two of them kiss, before collapsing on the ground in agony.

Meanwhile, Tabitha and Penguin go to Strange, who has managed to turn Butch back to normal. Tabitha is overjoyed to see him looking like his old self and says she loves him. He says he loves her as well. Penguin, smiling from the side, seems oddly pleased at this interaction.

Butch says that he’ll never forget how Penguin helped him and promises to return the favor. Penguin thanks Butch, says that he truly considers Butch a friend, and then apologizes. “For what?” Butch asks. Penguin responds by shooting him in the chest.

Penguin then turns to Tabitha and asks if she’d thought he’d forgotten how she killed his mother (back in season 2). He says that he lived with the pain every day and wanted to pay her back, eye for an eye—by killing the one person she loved and letting her live with the grief. (Guess we’re not counting Barbara and Selina? Okay, whatever.)

Tabitha tries to attack Penguin, but he shoots her in the leg. She then realizes that everything he did—recruiting Butch, promising to help him, tracking down Strange—was just to kill Butch in front of her. (It becomes even more twisted when you realize that Penguin saved her life from Jeremiah just to lead her to this moment). Penguin says that, after he feels like she’s suffered enough, he’ll kill her as well. She swears to kill him, and he says, “You’re welcome to try.”

Elsewhere, Selina is wheeled into an ambulance. Bruce runs after her and asks the doctor how she’s doing. The doctor replies that Selina’s surgery went well, but the bullet severed her spinal cord, so the damage is most likely permanent. The doctor also states that the hospital is shutting down and Selina is in their last ambulance. They have room for Bruce, but he needs to get in immediately so they can leave.

Alfred moves towards the ambulance, but Bruce looks back at the city. He tells Alfred that he can’t leave, because Ra’s was right. He’s meant to defend Gotham. Alfred says there’s nothing more that Bruce can do, but Bruce says that Jeremiah is still on the loose. When Alfred insists that neither Jeremiah nor the city is his responsibility, Bruce replies, “I’m making it mine.”

Alfred wants to stay with him, but Bruce tells him to stay with Selina and make sure she’ll be okay. Alfred agrees, but says that once she’s safe, he’s going to come back and find Bruce.

Back at the GCPD, Bullock tells Harlan that they can’t give up on the city. Harlan replies that there could be other bombs left, the power’s out, and the water supply is damaged. He states that the evacuation process is continuing overnight and by boat. Everyone is to leave the city, including the police, as the governor has declared the city off-limits until the situation is under control.

Gordon refuses to leave and says that if Harlan is going to arrest him, he should do it now. Harlan, who’s too stressed and or tired to care, simply leaves without even trying to cuff Gordon. Once he’s gone, Bullock admits that Harlan’s right. Now the the government has given up on the city, the gangs will take over and turn it into a battle ground.

Bullock is proven right in a montage that really has to be seen to be believed.

In summary:
  • Penguin gets a new base of operations.
  • Freeze takes over a gang’s territory.
  • Firefly and a team of arsonists mark their territory.
  • Scarecrow decapitates a man for wandering into his lab.
(Unfortunately, there are some villains we don’t see in the montage. We don’t know what Mad Hatter or Poison Ivy are up to, for example. And there’s no Jeremiah in the sequence either. Maybe we’ll see more of them next season.)

In the midst of the chaos, one of Penguin’s men brings Strange the corpses of the Riddler and Lee. Penguin’s request is simple: to “fix them.” Strange, however, smiles and wonders aloud what to do with the two of them. (While I know that human experimentation is Strange’s M.O., I hope he doesn’t try to give either of them powers or something. That’d just be too much).

Over at the Sirens’ Club, a male member of the League (joined by his brethren) tells Barbara that, because she defeated Ra’s, they have decided to follow her leadership. As they kneel before her, Penguin’s men bring in Tabitha, still wounded from her encounter with Penguin. She tells Barbara what happened. Barbara, deciding that men are what’s wrong with Gotham, decides that the city needs a man-free zone and orders the female league members to kill their male counterparts. They oblige, and hang two corpses next to a banner that marks Sirens’ Territory as women-only.

At the precinct, Lucius turns on the lights. He explains to Gordon that he took one of Jeremiah’s battery bombs before it went to the warehouse and was able to restore it to its purpose as a generator. Bullock tells Gordon that he told Lucius they were staying, and Lucius adds that there are others on the way. Gordon says that there’s something he needs Lucius to do.

In an alleyway somewhere, Bruce beats up two men (who I assume are criminals) and demands to know where Jeremiah is.

They don’t know, and he replies that if they see Jeremiah, they should tell him that Bruce is coming for him. After the men run away, Bruce notices something in the sky: a searchlight.

The searchlight is mounted on top of the precinct roof, where Gordon stands in a trench coat. Bruce (having followed the light) approaches him, and Gordon says that Bruce isn’t supposed to be here. Bruce points out that Gordon and the 12 cops downstairs aren’t supposed to be in the city either, and surmises that they stayed to fight for Gotham.

Gordon says they’ll have to go block by block and admits that, while he’s not sure what they’ll find, he expects the worst. The show then cuts to two disturbing scenes. The first is of a man in an old church with horrific bat wings descending on people. The second is of a masked woman approaching a masked boy who’s killing someone with a hatchet.

Back on the roof, Bruce notes that the searchlight seems like it’s daring the criminals to come after the remaining cops. Gordon says, “Let them come,” and explains that the light is there to let the good people know that there are still people willing to fight. Bruce, agreeing, recalls what Gordon told him after his parents were murdered: “However dark and scary the world might be right now, there will be light.” The episode ends with the two of them staring at the searchlight, looking for all the world like a young Batman and Commissioner Gordon.

The Verdict

For the Episode: As I said earlier, “No Man’s Land” is a killer way to end a season. It’s an episode with a lot of moving parts, but most of those parts work. I’ll start with the few that don’t.

Like the story of Lee and the Riddler. I was glad that Lee got some closure with Gordon, but otherwise, I wasn’t that invested in their relationship towards the end of the season and it was hard for me to sympathize with either character. As the season’s progressed, both characters have become more manipulative, selfish, and (in some circumstances) downright unlikeable. I think the scene of the double murder had some poetic value in it, but no enough to justify the relationship OR two more resurrections of major characters.

Which brings in Hugo Strange, who’s also a bit of a weak link. At this point, Strange is a walking deus ex machina—he’s just someone you track down if you want a virus cured, a person de-Grundy-fied, or two lovers resurrected. And if you thought that someone who crossed the Court of Owls would hard to find, you’d be wrong. In season 2, Strange was a menacing and cunning villain, but ever since season 3, he’s just been someone for other characters to use when they need a problem solved. He doesn’t have his own goals or motivations anymore, apart from the love of human experimentation.

Still, I’m willing to allow a Strange-Ex-Machina because it led to Penguin’s betrayal. I wasn’t too interested in Penguin recruiting Butch in earlier episodes, but now that storyline has retroactive value—because Penguin wasn’t trying to get Butch to be his henchman again (at least, not for good). He was working towards the larger goal of paying back Tabitha for his mother’s murder.

The question is: has Penguin’s revenge on Tabitha been a long time coming, or did it come out of nowhere, since Gertrude’s been dead since the first half of season 2? I lean towards the latter, but maybe that’s a good thing. We don’t expect it and neither does she.

But it’s not as satisfying as his revenge on the Riddler at the end of season 3, and I’ll tell you why. Penguin’s arc in season 3 was about trying to gain the approval of others and the love of Ed Nygma. His revenge on the Riddler completes the arc, as Penguin decides that he’s done letting “love weaken him.”

In season 4, Penguin’s arc isn’t tied to Tabitha. It’s mainly tied to his rivalry with Gordon and Sofia Falcone and his need for control of the city, and the continuing theme of his weakness being love (as seen in his friendship with Martin and his early trust of Sofia). It would make more sense if the episode had focused on him exploiting the chaos to find Sofia in a hospital and kill her once and for all.

Still, Penguin’s revenge wasn’t a bad twist. I just felt like it could’ve been built up more, you know? As for Butch, as much as I’ve loved Drew Powell’s performance, I feel like it is time to lay the character to rest. The crazier and more comic-book-esque the show gets, the less characters like Butch fit in. He’s become almost anachronistic, as he’s a holdover from the old-fashioned days where the mob ruled in Gotham. He never evolved, like Penguin or Fish Mooney.

And I don’t think the show’s version of Solomon Grundy was worth keeping around for another season; there are only so many stories you can tell about a zombie with super strength Given how many storylines Gotham likes to tell at once, it makes sense to shed the ones that aren’t as compelling.

Speaking of compelling, let’s get to Bruce’s storyline (which I guess is more or less also Gordon’s, as they’re both racing to stop Jeremiah, but let’s be honest: it’s more about Bruce than about Gordon). As you can probably guess, I loved it.

One of the best parts of this episode was Bruce’s tranquil fury in the interrogation scene and how Jeremiah played off of it, pushing all of his buttons. There’s got to be a kind of chemistry between Batman and the Joker—not a romantic chemistry, of course, but a rivalry. A rivalry that has evolved over the course of almost eighty years.

A rivalry where the Joker wants to bring out the worst in Batman, and Batman strives to stop the Joker without killing him so that he can prove there’s a difference between the two of them. A rivalry where the Joker can’t just kill Batman because that’d take all of the fun out of his escapades. A rivalry where the Joker is the chaos that challenges Batman’s need for order.

That relationship relies on a chemistry that’s hard to achieve. Some of the best portrayals of this relationship are seen in The Dark Knight, Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker and Batman: Under the Red Hood. Gotham raised the stakes by entrusting this relationship to two young actors: David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne, and Cameron Monaghan as the Joker (call him what you want, Warner Bros., but that’s who he’s been playing all along).

In my opinion, they couldn’t have chosen anyone better for the task. Mazouz’s portrayal of Bruce as serious, determined, stubborn, and temperamental played well off of Monagahan’s portrayal of Jerome—an over-the-top, unpredictable, psychotic showman. But the relationship between Bruce and Jeremiah is even better because they’re so oddly alike. They’re focused, intelligent, pragmatic, single-minded and determined. And both characters slip easily into other roles—Bruce playing the role of a drunken billionaire brat when he felt like it, and Jeremiah portraying both his brother and an innocent version of himself.

But I digress. My point is, Bruce and Jeremiah are a big part of what make this episode work. What also makes this episode work is that it sets up an amazing premise for the final season. It sets up a Gotham City that needs Batman more than ever, one where Bruce can’t afford to take a break from vigilantism, as he did in this season.

This is a Gotham where the villains (one of the show’s greatest strengths) have the run of the city—and, for once, the season doesn’t end with Penguin back in control. He’s scrambling for power as much as any of his rivals, which sets up a new status quo. For once, no one is the “king” or “queen” of Gotham. It’s anyone’s game.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t point out some of the parallels between Bruce and Gordon in this episode. Gordon voices his regrets about not leaving the city with Lee, but she says that if he’d done that, he wouldn’t be himself. That’s who this version Gordon is: someone who wants to save Gotham. Someone who, almost invariably, puts that mission before anything or anyone else in his life.

And that’s who Bruce chooses to be by the end of the episode. He breaks his promise to stay with Selina because he feels the calling to save the city.

Bruce has now chosen, for better or worse, to take responsibility for the city in its darkest hour. And that’s what he’s always going to choose. No matter how much he cares about people, they come second to that mission.

And maybe that’s what this season was about, really—not Bruce acting as Batman by going out as a vigilante, but him learning what it means to to be Batman on a mental level. What it means to take responsibility for the entire city—for the lives you take, like Ra’s, and the lives you spare, like Jerome and Jeremiah.

In the same vein, Gordon learned what it meant to be a leader this season. He couldn’t get anyone to follow him until he demonstrated (in “A Day in the Narrows”) how much he was willing to risk for his fellow officers. He also learned that being a leader might mean carrying the weight of your own mistakes and moving past them in order to be an example to others. This was the season where Gordon really began to feel like his future self—older, wiser, and more capable of leading the GCPD.

And that’s why the ending scene of this episode works. Because even though Gordon wasn’t using the searchlight to call to Bruce, he came anyway. That’s who Bruce is—Gordon’s ally in the fight for Gotham, whether Gordon realizes it or not.

Come to think of it, the scene is a microcosm of what makes Gotham work. The search light is not the bat signal, but it might as well be. Bruce is not yet Batman, but he’s growing closer than ever to that identity. Gordon is not yet commissioner, but he’s the only man willing to lead what’s left of the police force against the city. Everything is in a tantalizing state of “already-not-yet.”

You see with Bruce and Gordon standing on a rooftop, but that’s not what you feel. You feel that this is the first of many meetings between the caped crusader and the future commissioner. You feel that, at long last, Gotham has its dark knight.

A Final Word About Season 4:

Season 4 was difficult because I felt like so many of expectations were subverted—namely, I expected to see Bruce working as a vigilante the entire season, but that didn’t happen. And I used to feel disappointed about that. I used to feel cheated.

But not anymore. As I said earlier, this episode made me realize that season 4 wasn’t about Bruce acting as the dark knight; it was about him becoming the dark knight. He had to learn to make peace with the darkness within himself before putting the mask back on—if he hadn’t gone through that turmoil, he could’ve lost control (especially after Jeremiah shot Selina).

Putting Bruce in a suit and mask wasn’t enough to make him Batman. I see that now. In order to complete the transformation, he had to learn, like Gordon, how to live with his own mistakes and focus on helping others.

So this is it, folks. The end of season 4. I expect you won’t hear from me for a while, as season 5 doesn’t begin until 2019, according to Still, schedule permitting, I should be back to writing recaps as soon as Gotham returns. Until then, I’ll probably reread Batman: The Long Halloween to cope with the withdrawal.

It’s been fun for me to comment on the show this season, and I hope you’ve enjoyed my unique mix of commentary, theory, and rambling. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts on the finale, theories, questions, and hopes for season 5 (I personally, would like at least one scene that takes place in the future).

Until next time, have a good year. And remember:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

'Gotham' Recap: "One Bad Day" (4x21)

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably chosen either to spend your summer in the great indoors or to bring your devices outside and suffer the scorn of your parents. Either way, it’s time for another Gotham recap—believe me, this is one episode that ends in a bang.

This week’s episode, “One Bad Day,” focuses on Jeremiah Valeska’s two goals: first, to blow up the city, and secondly, to drive Bruce Wayne insane. Given that the episode centers on Jeremiah, I’ve decided to ditch my usual plot-splitting format. While this episode can be divided up into different plots by character, these plots are extremely interconnected and each one impacts the others as Jeremiah’s schemes unfold. Because of that interconnectedness, it makes more sense to discuss this episode as a whole than to divide it up.

Warning: the following recap contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Gotham. The episode itself contains violence and self-harm.

Plots A, B, and C: V is for Valeska’s Vendetta.

The episode opens with a TV news reporter explaining that Captain Gordon was at the scene of the bunker explosion and is still missing, though feared dead. Harvey turns his attention from the TV to Lucius, who says that search and rescue haven’t found any signs of life at the bunker. Harvey tells Lucius to order them to keep looking and insists to everyone that Gordon is still alive.

Harvey tells the first responders to head out, along with the CSIs, and says that everyone else needs to look for Jeremiah and Bruce. One cop points out that the last time they followed Harvey, Professor Pyg killed several cops, but Harper cuts in and says that Gordon trusted Harvey, so that should be good enough for them.

At that moment, Detective Alvarez rushes in and tells Harvey that Jeremiah wasn’t in the bunker when it blew up. Harvey asks how he can be sure, and Alvarez replies that he’s outside the precinct and he’s not alone. Harvey follows him outside, to where Jeremiah stands with Jerome’s former followers, who are now uniformed and stand in position, awaiting commands.

Jeremiah explains that his brother’s former followers are now loyal to him, as he did something his brother never could: he killed Captain Gordon. He then explains to Harvey that he has bombs planted all over the city, which will go off the second he hits the detonator—or loosens his thumb to activate the dead man’s switch.

Harvey calls Jeremiah more sick than his brother, but Jeremiah denies it.

He then tells Harvey that he’ll detonate the explosives in six hours, so they’d better start evacuating the city. Harvey says it’s impossible to evacuate the whole city in that time, but Jeremiah insists that no one has to die . . . except for everyone at the nearby clock tower, which he blows up as an example for Harvey. Harvey sends officers to the scene, and Jeremiah leaves, but not before reminding Harvey that he only has six hours.

Meanwhile, at the Sirens’ Club, Barbara muses over the clock tower’s destruction and Gordon’s apparent death. She says that he always wanted to die a hero. At that moment, Penguin arrives with Butch.

Penguin explains that Jeremiah Valeska is behind the bombings. He adds that he and Butch learned more about Jeremiah’s plans by torturing the knife thrower (who was among Jerome’s followers). Penguin tells Barbara that there’s an opportunity for money and glory in the midst of the confusion but admits that he doesn’t have the manpower to execute his plans alone. He offers her a 50-50 split of the profit, but she doesn’t go for it.

Penguin then adds that he’d hoped to use the money to cure Butch with Strange’s help. Tabs, wanting to help, insists that Barbara go along with the plan and reminds Barbara about how she (Tabs) almost got killed by Ra’s. Barbara reluctantly agrees and asks what Penguin has in mind.

Back at the GCPD, Harvey pushes the mayor to make the evacuation order and reminds him that they’ve got five and a half hours left to evacuate the city. Harvey then notices Bruce, who’s just entered the precinct. Harvey rushes over to make sure he’s okay. Bruce asks if it’s true that Gordon’s dead and tells Harvey not to lie to him about it. Harvey admits that the chances of Gordon being alive aren’t looking good. He then asks if Bruce saw Gordon, as well as how he and Jeremiah escaped the blast.

Bruce explains that they’d already left the bunker and adds that Jeremiah was sprayed with his brother’s insanity gas. Harvey asks if Bruce has heard about the clock tower explosion. Bruce admits that it’s his fault, as he funded Jeremiah’s plans to create generators. Harvey almost loses it after hearing that Wayne Enterprises built the bombs, but Bruce adds that there are schematics for the generator batteries in his company’s R&D labs. Harvey insists that Gordon would want Bruce to be safe and tells him to go home.

After Harvey walks away, Bruce gets a call from Alfred’s number. He answers it, only to hear Jeremiah on the other line.

Bruce demands to know where Alfred is, but Jeremiah says Bruce shouldn’t be so angry and ungrateful after all Jeremiah has done for him. Bruce points out that Jeremiah lied to him, used his company to build bombs, and tried to kill him, but Jeremiah insists that if he wanted Bruce dead, he’d just shoot him. Jeremiah reminds Bruce that he sees him as a best friend and says that he’s going to prove it to Bruce. He tells Bruce to meet him at an address within an hour or Alfred dies. Jeremiah adds that he’ll know if Bruce tells the police . . . and he also knows that Bruce is currently with them.

The idea of Jeremiah watching Bruce is highlighted by a graffiti drawing of evil eyes and a grinning smile made up of the words “HA HA”, left behind by Jerome’s followers in their riot. You might recognize the design as a recurring motif in season 2. It often appeared as graffiti around the city, reinforcing the belief that Jerome would live on after his (first) death.

Meanwhile, Gordon wakes up in a bed with an IV attached to his arm. Lee walks in and explains that the Riddler sent people to follow Gordon (while he broke her out of the precinct), and they saved him from the blast. Gordon says he’s surprised Lee didn’t kill him. She admits that she is too, and says she’s not sure what she plans to do with him.

Gordon insists that he needs to return to the GCPD to stop Jeremiah, but Lee says he’s not going anywhere. He tells her to grab his jacket. She does; inside one of the pockets is a paper he grabbed from Jeremiah’s bunker. It displays a kind of maze diagram that might be a clue to Jeremiah’s plan. Gordon says he needs to get it to Harvey, but Lee takes the paper and locks the door behind her, leaving Gordon to get some rest.

Elsewhere, Bruce and Selina walk down an alley. Bruce explains that Jeremiah’s followers must’ve taken Alfred while Bruce and Jeremiah were at the cemetery. He thanks her for agreeing to help him out and admits that he knows he’s asking a lot. Selina simply says she’ll always be around whenever he needs her.

The two of them peer around a corner to scope out the address Jeremiah gave Bruce. They don’t see anyone, and Selina points out that it could be a trap. Bruce says that Jeremiah still wants him alive for some reason, so he needs to look for Alfred, even if the address is a trap.

Selina scales the roof, while Bruce enters through a door into a dark room. He calls for Alfred, and a video projector turns on, displaying a video feed on the walls of Alfred being beaten and tortured.

Back in the Narrows, Lee tells the Riddler that if they can solve Jeremiah’s plan using the paper Gordon found, they can trade the information for clemency. The Riddler, however, asks if there’s something more going on, some other reason she wants to work with Gordon. Lee insists that she and Gordon aren’t together and that she’s trying to protect and she and the Riddler have built. The Riddler says that he’d prefer to use Gordon as a hostage, but Lee points out the leveling half the city will destroy resources and hurt the Narrows. The Riddler gives in, saying that he’ll go along with Lee’s plan for her sake, and she kisses him.

Over at the GCPD, Harper updates Harvey on the ongoing evacuation. The roads are full of people trying to drive out of the city, the national guard’s coming in, and some people just don’t want to leave. Lucius then arrives with the generator schematics from Wayne Enterprises. He says that the generators, when supercharged, turn into bombs capable of blowing a city block. He explains that the bombs are connected by a central nervous system; if they find the core relay, they can stop all the bombs.

Meanwhile, Jeremiah watches a video feed of Bruce wandering through the building. He remarks that Bruce is about to have a “very transformative experience.” He then tells one of his henchmen to call “our friend” and let him know that he should kill Alfred, as he’s no longer necessary.

As Jeremiah walks down the stairs into his hideout, he sees Penguin, Barbara, Tabitha, and Butch . . . along with the knife thrower, who has a grenade in his mouth and the core relay in his hands. Penguin tells Jeremiah not to get any closer and says that the four of them have their own demands to make.

Namely, 50 million dollars to return the core relay. Jeremiah says that he doesn’t have that much money lying around, but Penguin says that all he needs to do is call the mayor, give him another hour, and add the money to his list of demands. Jeremiah notes that this plan casts him as the Villain, while the rest of them get away rich, but he agrees to the deal.

Barbara says that, having met (and worked with) Jerome, she expected a crazier reaction. Jeremiah tells her that he’s both sane and intelligent, which is why he’ll succeed where his brother failed. He then calls the mayor and adds the 50 million dollars to his list of demands.

As he talks on the phone, Tabitha asks if they’re really going to let him blow up the city. Penguin says that they won’t; his plan is get the money, kill Jeremiah and his henchmen, split the money, and be seen as heroes by the citizens of Gotham. Tabitha reminds him that they also need to cure Butch, and he hastily adds that the to-do list.

Jeremiah turns away from his phone and remarks that the mayor’s office put him on hold. He says that it’s time for a change of plans . . . i.e., grabbing a rocket launcher and blowing up the knife thrower.

Penguin asks if he’s insane, but Jeremiah says it’s not crazy to have a backup plan. He tells them that the building they’re in is within the blast radius and notes that he plans to detonate the bombs as soon as he’s within a safe watching distance. He remarks that it’s their fault he moved up the timetable and tells his men to kill Penguin and his allies before they can escape. The henchmen whip out guns and the shootout begins.

Meanwhile, Bruce continues to wander through the building and call for Alfred. A recording of Jeremiah answers him. He says that his brother claimed that “One bad day is all it takes to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy.” Jeremiah says that Jerome gave him what the thought was the worst day of his life but adds that losing everything made Jeremiah face what was inside of him.

Jeremiah says that there’s something inside Bruce as well, but in order to free that “something,” Bruce has to lose everything he holds dear. The video feeds reappear on the walls. Bruce watches, horrified, as Scarecrow sprays Alfred with the Joker gas.

Over in the Narrows, the Riddler sends for Gordon so they can discuss Jeremiah’s plan. The Riddler tells Gordon that he’s not doing this to save the city; he’s doing it because he’s with Lee now. When Gordon says “Fine,” the Riddler says that he’s just pretending to be nonchalant, but Gordon replies that he wants to save the city; he could care less if the Riddler thinks he’s in a relationship with Lee.

Gordon says that the Riddler is a psychopath and a murderer, and the very fact that he wants Gordon to recognize that Lee loves the Riddler means he doesn’t believe it either. Gordon then states that stopping Jeremiah is what matters, but the Riddler says that since they’re on his turf and not the GCPD, they’re going to talk about Lee before addressing Jeremiah’s plans.

Gordon states that Lee has changed and that she might not be the person he used to know, but she’s not the person the Riddler thinks she is either. He adds that Lee is with the Riddler because she wants something from him, and once she gets it, she’ll get rid of him.

The Riddler points out that while Gordon seems to believe that Lee can’t love him (the Riddler) because he’s a murderer, Gordon is a murderer himself. Gordon admits that he’s right and says that might be the reason Lee and him aren’t together anymore. He then asks if they can move on to discussing Jeremiah’s plan.

The Riddler agrees and pulls out the diagram. He explains to Gordon that most labyrinths are built around having one way in and one way out, but this isn’t like that. So maybe it’s not the plan, but the end result, Gordon realizes. The Riddler pulls out a model of the maze, with each of the red lines depicted as a little tower. Gordon identifies each as buildings around town, such as the headquarters of Wayne Enterprises. The Riddler explains that when the bombs go off, the buildings will collapse to form the labyrinth.

Gordon tries to leave, but the Riddler won’t let him. He says that Lee and him plan to send the information to the mayor in exchange for clemency. The Riddler’s about to lock Gordon in, but Gordon calls him back, saying he made one mistake in the model. The Riddler leans in to examine it, and Gordon punches him out.

Back in Jeremiah’s hideout, Penguin’s side wins the shootout. Barbara chews Penguin out for almost getting them killed and Butch says that everything that’s going wrong is Penguin’s fault. Penguin promises to fix it. He then calls Harvey and informs him that Jeremiah plans to detonate the bombs early by “rewiring the bombs to connect with each other in a direct sequence.”

Harvey hangs up on Penguin and relays the info to Lucius, who says that the direct sequence is a function from when the bombs served as batteries. He says that they can disrupt all of the bombs by disarming them first, like how breaking one Christmas light breaks the whole strand. Harvey wishes that they knew where the bombs were . . . and who should walk in but Gordon, who happens to have the location of every bomb. He hugs Harvey and the two of them get to work.

Elsewhere, Selina walks down a set of stairs from the roof the building she climbed up earlier. She hears Bruce yelling and sees two men watching him on camera monitors. Scarecrow appears behind her and said that Jeremiah thought Bruce might bring a friend. Selina claims she just wandered in, but he doesn’t believe her and the two of them begin to fight.

Over in the GCPD, Lucius and Harvey explain the bomb sequence to Gordon. Lucius says that he still needs to figure out the best way to neutralize the bombs. Harvey tells them to have the bomb squad meet him at the first building (not sure how he figured out which one was the first; maybe they were numbered on the map). Gordon says that Harvey should let the squad meet him there, but Harvey says he needs to go.

Meanwhile, Selina fights against Jeremiah’s thugs. When she gets the upper hand, Scarecrow sprays them with his fear toxin and turns his attention to her. He swings a scythe at her. When she dodges, he says that it doesn’t matter that she’s winning, as Bruce will soon be driven mad. Scarecrow then leaves her.

Bruce runs through the building, still surrounded by the projected video of Alfred screaming he inhales the gas. Bruce is so focused on finding Alfred that he doesn’t notice the green gas being pumped out of pipes around him. Everything begins look fractured in his mind and his vision distorts. He runs out of the hall and screams.

Bruce then comes to a room where Alfred sits with his head down. There’s the sound of laughter, and as Bruce draws closer, he realizes that the laughter is coming from Alfred (much like that one scene from Joker: Death of the Family).

Alfred is both laughing and crying. He sticks a knife in his mouth and slices the sides of his lips to give himself a Glasgow grin. Bruce begs him to stop, and Alfred, still laughing, attacks Bruce with the knife. Bruce holds his own but begs Alfred to stop. Alfred tackles him, but as Selina looks at the video monitor, she sees Bruce fighting someone, but it’s hard to make out who. She figures out how to turn off the gas pipes and then hears footsteps. She opens a nearby door, and an unknown figure stumbles through with a sack over his/her head.

In the fight, it seems like Alfred has the upper hand. He’s got Bruce pressed up against a rail and holds a knife to Bruce’s mouth, telling him to smile. Bruce begs him to stop, saying that Alfred is stronger than whatever Jeremiah has done to him. Suddenly, someone shoots Alfred in the head and he tumbles over the railing to his death.

Bruce watches in horror as the blood pools out of his body. Selina grabs Bruce and tells him to breathe. She explains that Scarecrow used his fear gas on Bruce to make him see what what he was afraid of. She then shows him the real Alfred (presumably, the guy in the sack). Bruce scrambles to get a better view of the man who fell over the rail, and realizes that he was never Alfred at all. The real Alfred tells Bruce that he’s fine.

Gotham, you need to stop acting like you’re about to kill off Alfred. It’s too much for me to take.

At the same time, Harvey tells Lucius over the phone that he’s at the bomb site. Lucius tells him that the evacuees have jammed the streets and the bomb squad is still en route. Harvey says they can’t afford to wait, as Jeremiah could detonate the bombs at any time. Lucius tells him to unscrew the antenna and deactivate the kill switch. Before Harvey can begin, the bomb starts to glow red and hum. Harvey tells Lucius, who replies that Harvey needs to work quickly.

As this happens, Jeremiah enters a room full of his followers. He says that they’re about to share in the dawn of a new Gotham where they’ll all be free.

Lucius tells Harvey that after he unscrews the antenna, the kill switch breaker should appear. Harvey tells him that there’s two identical breakers, and Lucius says Jeremiah must’ve changed the design on the bombs. He tells Harvey not to break both of the breakers, as one of them might be a failsafe which detonates the bombs.

Jeremiah is about to detonate the bombs when he’s distracted by a newscast where Gordon announces that he’s alive. Jeremiah initially denies it, but Gordon happily declares that Jeremiah failed and calls him a poor copy of his brother.

Jeremiah’s followers say he lied to them about killing Gordon, but Jeremiah says that it doesn’t matter, as the new world will still be born when he hits the switch.

Harvey, torn between the two breakers, ends up deciding by the most scientific method at his disposal: eeny-meeny-miny-moe. He chooses a breaker and breaks it.

At the same time, Jeremiah flips the switch, but nothing happens. He fiddles with the trigger and his followers call him a fake and a liar. He yells at them to stop, before laughing quietly to himself. He says that their fickleness is hurtful . . . and predictable. He quickly runs out of the room and locks them in, before hitting a button marked “PURGE.” After he does so, the room fills with fire and screams.

Back at the Sirens’ Club, Penguin tries to convince his disillusioned allies that his plan was worth the risk. Barbara tells him to leave, and Penguin acquiesces, telling Butch to come with him. Butch refuses, saying that since they teamed up, everything’s gone wrong. Penguin insists that he knows where Strange is, before adding in that he only found out recently. He also reminds Butch that they still don’t have a way to pay Strange, but Tabitha says she can persuade him (read: torture him).

Elsewhere, Jeremiah looks over his schematics. He surmises the Gordon must’ve stolen his blueprints and sabotaged the sequence. He ruefully admits to himself that he’ll have to start over. Suddenly, a man’s voice says that Jeremiah is "tenacious." Jeremiah turns, looking for its source. The voice says that he had a vision of Gotham in flames. The speaker, Ra’s al Ghul, appears, and says that together, he and Jeremiah can make that vision a reality.

Jeremiah replies that he’s decided to work alone from now on and shoots at Ra’s. Ra’s disappears before the bullet can hit him and reappears at another spot in the room. He tells Jeremiah not to be foolish. Jeremiah shoots at him again, but he disappears again before appearing right behind Jeremiah, much to the latter’s annoyance. He asks why Ra’s thinks Jeremiah needs his help. Ra’s replies that both of their plans aren't about Gotham. They're about Bruce Wayne.

In the Narrows, Gordon walks in on Lee. She asks if he’s there to arrest her (which, you know, is his job), but he says that he’s there to thank her and give her an offer. He tells her to leave Gotham and and start a new life somewhere else. Alone. Gordon says that they can’t change the past, but whatever happens next, he’ll always care about her. He walks away, not realizing the Riddler has been listening to the entire conversation.

At the GCPD, Harvey reenters and orders the cops to tell the Mayor not to lift the evacuation order until all of the bombs are secured. He also reminds them that everyone needs to be looking for Jeremiah. They all stare at him silently, until Lucius begins to cheer and the rest of them join in.

Over in Wayne Manor, Alfred tells Bruce that he’s about to take a long hot shower, and then he’s going to fry up some dinner. He asks if Selina’s joining and she replies that she has no other plans. Alfred asks if Bruce is alright, but he doesn’t respond. After Alfred leaves, Bruce and Selina sit down on the couch. He thanks her, says that he doesn’t know what would’ve happened if she hadn’t been there . . . and kisses her.

It took 21 episodes, but we finally got a Bat-Cat kiss this season! Let’s just sit back and enjoy that for a second.

Okay, second’s over.

Selina asks if Bruce knows why Jeremiah is obsessed with him. Bruce repeats what Jeremiah said about one bad driving a person insane. He admits that watching his parents die might’ve made him a little insane and theorizes that Jeremiah wanted to bring out that insanity. Selina says that Jeremiah failed.

Jeremiah, however, begs to differ. He shows up, says he's not done yet, and shoots Selina in the stomach.

Alfred tackles Jeremiah and beats him, while Bruce cries over Selina and tries to stop the blood as it spills out of her.

A Brief Interlude:

Before getting into the verdict portion of this recap, I should point out that “One Bad Day” borrows heavily from Batman: The Killing Joke. That being said, it’s difficult to discuss the episode without drawing comparisons between it and the aforementioned graphic novel. In order to make the comparisons clearer, I’ve included a summary of The Killing Joke below, along with a comparison between it and the episode (separate from the verdict). If you’re unfamiliar with the plot of that story and want to know more, read on. However, if you plan on reading The Killing Joke and/or watching its film adaptation and do NOT wish to have its plot spoiled, please skip ahead until you see a picture of a stop sign.

The Killing Joke: A Summary

Batman: The Killing Joke tells two stories. The first takes place in present day, as the Joker enacts a plan to drive Batman insane. The second takes place in a series of flashbacks. This second story tells what the Joker claims to be his origin. Supposedly, the Joker used to be an average man, down on his luck, who got mixed up with a gang of robbers in order to make some money to help his pregnant wife. In the span of a single day, several things go wrong for him: his wife dies, the gang frame him as the leader, and, while running from Batman, he falls into a vat of chemicals that forever alter his appearance and sanity.

Because of this, the Joker claims that, “All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to a lunacy” and sets out to prove that he's right. In present day, he escapes from Arkham Asylum and shows up at the house of Commissioner Jim Gordon and his daughter, Barbara (aka Batgirl). Barbara opens the door, only to be shot in the stomach by the Joker. The Joker then has his men take away Commissioner Gordon while he starts the next (and arguably the most horrifying) phase of his plan.

Warning: the following paragraph contains references to both physical and sexual abuse.

So what’s the Joker do? Leave Barbara to bleed out? No. No, he strips her down, beats her, and takes pictures of her naked body. And here’s the thing: when you’re reading the book, this is all spelled out for you by the Joker, rather than being displayed as actual pictures. On the one hand, that’s a relief: you don’t have to watch Barbara get violated by the Joker. But on the other, you don’t know the full extent of what he did to her. You don’t know if the Joker went so far as to rape her, and that ambiguity haunts the story.

From there, Barbara’s out of the picture. (Later comics show that the wound didn’t kill her, but instead damaged her spine and paralyzed her legs, which put her in a wheelchair.) Commissioner Gordon gets taken to a demented circus set up by the Joker, where he is stripped down, put in chains, and forced to look at the pictures the Joker took of his daughter.

Batman eventually arrives to save the day, but the damage to Barbara and her father sets him on edge. On the final page of the comic, after Batman has caught the Joker, the Joker tells him a joke about two lunatics. Batman responds by laughing . . . and then grabbing the Joker. The panel is framed as a kind of silhouette, so it’s hard to tell whether or not Batman is putting his hands on the Joker’s shoulders to steady himself or if he’s strangling the Joker.

This presents another ambiguity for the reader to puzzle over: has Batman finally snapped and killed the Joker, or has he simply been turned into a laughing lunatic? While I don’t care for the story, I tend towards the first possibility. I think it’d be out of character and downright awful for Batman to simply share a laugh with the Joker after all his friends have endured. So as much as I hate to think about Batman killing anyone, that option makes more sense.

My personal view of The Killing Joke:

I don’t think it should be praised as heavily as it is. My main problem with the story is that Barbara Gordon is objectified, both in and out of the context of the story. She’s treated as leverage against Batman. The Joker violates her as part of his plan to drive Batman insane. In other words; the story isn’t about her. She gets beaten, possibly raped, photographed naked, and almost killed . . . and the story still isn’t about her. No. It’s about Batman and driving him insane. Barbara is violated (which is wrong in and of itself), and the story doesn’t even focus on that as a primary plot. She’s treated as a minor character, a cog in the Joker’s machinations.

And then there’s the Joker. If the purpose of his backstory is to make me feel sympathy for the guy, then it failed. So the Joker lost everything he cared about and went insane. That’s supposed to make me feel sorry for him, after what he did to Barbara?

Let’s be honest: the story isn’t about Barbara, or even about Batman. It’s about the Joker. If you like it, that’s fine, but don’t call it “a great Batman story.” Call it “a great Joker story.” It’s all about his supposed origin, his ideology, his view of Batman.

As it relates to Gotham:

“One Bad Day” isn’t the first episode to borrow from The Killing Joke. “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies” also centers on the idea of madness (and takes place at a twisted carnival, much like the comic book). Jerome argues that all it took was a blackout to make normal people show their true insanity and drive the city wild. Bruce, however, argues that there are still good people in Gotham, though Jerome tells him there are no heroes left in the city.

In that episode, Bruce proves himself a hero, as he takes down Jerome, but resists the urge to kill him, even though he thinks Jerome had Alfred killed. It’s also the episode that makes Bruce realize his training is leading him to a greater purpose.

The interesting thing about “One Bad Day” is that it borrows events from The Killing Joke but switches them out of order. Jeremiah’s plot starts with forcing Bruce to watch Alfred get beaten and ends with shooting Selina right in front of him. This change of order almost lulls the anyone who’s read The Killing Joke into a false sense of security.

Since the shooting of Barbara is the inciting incident in The Killing Joke, you’d expect a parallel moment to happen early in the episode. So you’re tricked into thinking that they’re just going to focus on Bruce having to watch Alfred get tortured and fight Jeremiah’s madness. You don’t expect someone to get shot after that, and you certainly don’t expect it to be Selina.

And yet, it makes sense, as Bruce takes Gordon’s role from The Killing Joke, the role of a helpless viewer watching the torture of a loved one. So it makes sense that he’d be the one to lose someone close to him. And since it’d be overkill (I’d be lying if I said “no pun intended”) to have Alfred almost killed twice in the same episode, it makes sense that Selina would be the one to get shot.

You don’t expect it because, up until that point in the episode, she’s been untouchable. Jeremiah was seemingly ignorant of her presence in the building, Scarecrow can’t beat her, and she’s the one to save both Bruce and Alfred. You don’t expect her to get hurt in the slightest, and that makes it all the more devastating.

So what do I think of this episode, as someone who was never a fan of The Killing Joke? I’d say I like it better—not necessarily in terms of writing or quality (as Alan Moore is no slouch), but in terms of the bare bones of the plot. As I said, The Killing Joke is all about the Joker, and this episode makes it clear that Jeremiah’s the central character.

Also, while I’m not a fan of shooting characters (female or otherwise) for the sake of drama, I’m not as upset over what happened to Selina as what happened to Barbara—mainly because she didn’t get violated in the same manner. What happened to her was still wrong, but there’s less magnitude in what happened (less implication of sexual abuse, especially). And let’s be honest: people get shot on Gotham all the time. Some even survive a shot to the head. I doubt they’d kill Selina off, given her chemistry (and future) with Bruce. Will she end up in a wheelchair, a la Oracle? It’s hard to say. But a recovery arc, at the very least, could be an interesting turn for her.

The Verdict

The weak points in this episode are definitely the respective subplots of Lee and Penguin’s allies. While I wasn’t opposed to a relationship between Lee and the Riddler, it’s really starting to drag on. The more she leads him on, the dumber the Riddler seems. This storyline is turning Lee into a manipulative jerk and the Riddler into a lovestruck fool, and that’s not fair to either character. And let’s be honest: after two seasons of will-they-won’t-they, the relationship between Lee and Gordon is also getting old.

As for Penguin, I could care less about his plans to take back the city. Lately, they’ve been predictable and easy for other characters to outmaneuver. I’m hoping that will change in the finale. Typically, Penguin’s best gambits are revealed near the end of the season (like when he made the Riddler think he had the upper hand before having Freeze turn him into an ice sculpture).

When it comes to the GCPD part of the episode, I was happy to Harvey get some recognition, but I feel like he should’ve already gotten that after he nearly sacrificed himself in “One of My Three Soups.”

And then there’s Bruce. At first, I found Jeremiah’s plans for Bruce to be underwhelming. However, in retrospect, I’ve come to see that the video feed of Alfred getting tortured wasn’t the main element of his plan; it was merely a distraction to keep Bruce from noticing that the fear toxin was being pumped into his system.

I like that distraction; I also appreciate how the episode tricks you into thinking Alfred’s “death” is the climax of that plot, only for Jeremiah to come back and shoot Selina (I wonder if Ra’s gave him that idea). Do I think she’s gonna die? Nope, absolutely not. Too many people survive gunshot wounds on this show for her not to be one of them. But will the bullet damage her spine? I don’t know. I think it should—not because I want to see her hurt or immobilized, but because I think there should be some lasting consequence of what Jeremiah did.

Overall, it was a decent episode, and not a bad way to lead into the season finale. Still, it did feel a little underwhelming, especially since Jeremiah’s plan to destroy Gotham was foiled in this episode, rather than leading into the next (or actually succeeding). I’m interested to see what his and Ra’s next plan is and how it affects Bruce. And again, I hope Penguin pulls out a good plan next week. I could honestly care less what happens with the Lee-Riddler-Gordon love triangle; I just want it to end at this point.

Speaking of endings, I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that Gotham has been renewed for a fifth season, according to Variety. The bad news (depending on your point of view) is that it will be the final season.

I personally think that it's good that Fox was upfront about the fact that season 5 will be Gotham's final season. It ensures that the writers will do their best to create a satisfying ending that provides closure. I think that it could also encourage everyone involved with the show to make sure that the final season is the best, as it could be the one they're most remembered for. Will I be sad to see the show end? Sure, but it's better to go out with a plan than to stretch on for too many seasons and run out of original ideas. I'd rather have closure than a stream of lackluster episodes.

Feel free to comment below with your questions, comments, and theories. What do you think will happen to Selina? Do you think this was a good adaptation of The Killing Joke? What do you want to see in 4x22? Until the next recap (which will be a little late) have a good week or two, and try to avoid psychos who like building massive labyrinths from destroyed cities.