Wednesday, April 25, 2018

'Gotham' Recap: "To Our Deaths and Beyond" (4x19)

Welcome back to another recap of Gotham, or as I like to call it, serialized episodes of characters making as many terrible decisions as they can in about 45 minutes in the most entertaining way possible.

This week's episode, "To Our Deaths and Beyond," is no exception. The episode revolves around two plots: a battle for the powers of the Demon's Head and the Riddler's inward conflict over whether or not to continue working with Lee.

Plot A: The Future is In the Past

The episode opens with Barbara staring at the painting in Ra's vault. Suddenly, she's attacked by masked assassins. She manages to beat a few of them but is ultimately overpowered. One of the assassins then unmasks, revealing herself to be Lelia. Lelia says that Barbara should've seen them coming, as one of the powers of the Demon's Head is to see the past, present, and future (pretty sure that's not an ability Ra's al Ghul had in the comics, but whatever). Barbara asks if they attacked her in an attempt to jump-start the power, and Lelia explains that the powers of the Demon's Head are triggered by intense emotion. Barbara then tells her and the others not to go easy on her next time.

Meanwhile, Bruce drives through the streets of Gotham in his new almost-Batmobile with Selina in the passenger seat. She sarcastically asks if it has a covert mode, and Bruce responds by changing the settings to "quiet" with a smirk. Bruce then asks why Tabitha needs to see him and Selina. Selina replies that all she knows is that it's about Barbara and it's important. 

After parking, they meet Tabitha in the street. She leads them into a dark building. Bruce asks why she wanted him to come, and the room is suddenly lit by torchlight to reveal several male members of the League of Shadows, who grab Bruce. Tabitha explains that Barbara is going to get herself killed unless she gets rid of the mark of the Demon's Head. Selina asks why they need Bruce, and the League members bring him to a coffin, which holds the skeleton of Ra's al Ghul. 

Bruce begs them not to bring Ra's back and insists that he wanted Bruce to kill him. But the League insists that they need Ra's to live again and cut Bruce's palm with a knife. They spill the blood onto Ra's corpse and begin to chant. As they do, twisted flesh begins to reform on the skeleton. When they're done, a pale, withered hand grasps the edge of the coffin. Bruce insists that they don't know what they've done, and they knock him out to shut him up.

Selina says Tabitha should've told her about what they planned to do, since Bruce is her friend. Tabitha reminds her that she and Barbara are Selina's friends too and tells her to pick a side. As they watch, Ra's al Ghul now stands in front of the League, dressed in black with his head covered. Only a skeletal mouth can be seen under his hood. He berates the League for going against his wishes, as he did want to die.

One of the League members tells Ra's that Barbara has started a war, but Ra's insists that war is the only way for the League to be reborn and survive. He then kills the man, but another insists that Barbara is selfish and that the League will die if she keeps the powers of the Demon's Head. Tabitha, confused, asks why Ra's didn't get the powers back when he rose from the dead. He explains that Barbara has to give the power to him willingly. When Tabitha states that Barbara will never give it up, Ra's surmises he'll have to kill her to get it. 

Over at the vault, Barbara sips from a drink. She hears someone coming and turns to see Ra's. She asks what happened, and he replies that it's a long story. He then asks what she's done with his gift. Barbara replies that it's been hard to figure out what to do, since he didn't leave instructions for her or tell all of the League to obey her. He insists that she has to have a plan and asks if she read his histories. Barbara says that she did, but she wants to do her own thing . . . and rule Gotham. She says that the people will worship her like a god. Ra's doesn't like that and tells her to give him the power of Demon's Head back.

She says that he promised power, but Ra's said he was mistaken in choosing her. She refuses to believe it and points at the painting. Ra's says the woman in the painting wasn't Barbara; she was just a prostitute that he killed out of pity. Barbara insists that being the Demon's Head is her destiny, but Ra's says that if it were, she would've already unlocked her powers. He mocks her for thinking she's special. 

He tells her to give him the mark of the Demon's Head, or he'll take it by force. She refuses, and the female members of the League come to back her up. However, they're no match for Ra's. Barbara manages to stop him from killing Lelia, and another female assassin helps Barbara escape onto the street. Ra's follows and kills the assassin, but before he can do the same to Barbara, Bruce pulls up in his car with Selina and Tabitha, who tells Barbara to get in. 

Once the four of them are back at Wayne Manor, Alfred bandages Bruce's hand, while Tabitha and Barbara argue about whether or not Barbara should've given Ra's the mark of the Demon's Head. Selina tells them both to shut up, and Alfred agrees, saying that they're wasting time. Barbara says they should just kill Ra's; if Bruce did it, how hard can it be? Alfred points out that they had to use the knife to do it and tells Barbara that, after Ra's died, he and Bruce gave the knife to the Nanda Parbat embassy. 

Tabitha says it's not a problem for them to steal it back, but Bruce insists that he has to be the one to hold the knife. Alfred, naturally, is against that plan, and Barbara is as well. She theorizes that maybe killing Ra's will unlock her powers. Bruce tells her that they can decide who kills Ra's later; first, they need to get the knife. Alfred, as it turns out, has an idea about how to do it without anyone getting hurt.

He goes into the embassy with Tabitha and explains that he wants the knife back. The ambassador states that it was never Alfred's to begin with; it belongs to the people of Nanda Parbat. By giving it to the embassy, Bruce was returning a valuable cultural treasure. Alfred says that Bruce merely meant to loan it to the embassy. He tries to bribe the ambassador to give it back, which leads the ambassador to ask if Bruce knows that Alfred came to the embassy. He then tells Alfred to leave and to take his "chippy" with him. Alfred uses this as an excuse to make a scene (a la National Treasure: Book of Secrets). 

He yells at the ambassador for calling Tabitha a chippy and begins to cough violently. Tabitha says that he might be having a heart attack, and Alfred falls to the ground, "accidentally" knocking over a vase in the process. It sets off an alarm, and the ambassador tells someone to let security know it was a false alarm. While he's preoccupied trying to make sure Alfred is alright, Selina lowers down from the ceiling on a harness, grabs the knife, and goes back up before anyone can see her. 

Once they regroup with Bruce and Barbara, Barbara insists that she'll be the one to use it and tells Selina to give it to her. Bruce argues that only he can kill Ra's. Selina looks torn, until Barbara pulls a gun out. Selina gives the knife to Barbara, who then shoots out a tire on a nearby car and gets into Bruce's car with Tabitha (you'd better return that Batmobile, missy). They tell Selina to get in, and she does. 

Once the three of them are back at the Sirens' Club, they're met by the female members of the League. Tabitha asks what the plan is, and Babs replies that it's simple: make her hand glow, summon Ra's, fight him, and stab him with the knife. Selina isn't impressed by that strategy and asks how Barbara expects to beat a zombie that studied martial arts for thousands of years. She says she'd be more reassured if Barbara actually knew how to use the Demon's Head powers and suggests that they call in Bruce for backup (since he was able to kill Ra's before). 

Barbara points out that Selina took the knife from him, but Selina says she only did that because she thought Barbara had a plan. Tabitha asks if Selina's in or out. "Out," Selina says, "if the plan is suicide by Ra's." Barbara yells at Selina to leave and she does so. Once she's gone, Barbara wonders aloud if Selina's right; if she's just a nightclub owner who can't control the power Ra's gave her. Tabitha encourages her, saying that Barbara has never doubted herself, and now's not the time to start. Barbara, empowered, lights up her hand and waits for Ra's.

Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred says that the bright side to all of this is that Bruce doesn't have to kill Ra's again. Bruce says that he's the only one who can, but Alfred remarks that, to be fair, Ra's told him that. It might not be the truth. Bruce says he can't believe that Selina gave Barbara the knife, and Alfred replies, "At least we know where she stands." At that instant, Selina shows up, as if to say:

She explains that she only gave Barbara the knife because she thought that if Barbara could kill Ra's, Bruce wouldn't have to. Bruce says that he would've done what he had to do, but she replies that killing Ra's a second time would turn him into a jerk again (amen to that, sister). Bruce tells her to leave because she picked her side already, but Selina says it's not about sides. It's about stopping Ra's, especially because she doesn't want her friends to get killed. 

Over at the club, the male members of the League enter and line up to face the female members (plot twist: they're actually about to create the dance-off from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers). The lights then flicker off and on to reveal Ra's. He asks if Barbara has reconsidered. She says that she's done some thinking, especially about what was between the two of them before he died. Barbara says that she'll give Ra's back his power if he admits that they had a connection. He says that she is indeed special and that he's sorry it had to come to this. Barbara agrees, before stabbing him with the knife . . . which does absolutely nothing. 

Ra's then pushes Barbara through a glass wall. She gets back up and begins to fight. Lelia holds Tabitha back, saying that Barbara has to defeat Ra's on her own. Barbara's hand begins to glow, just as Bruce runs in. He punches Ra's but is immediately restrained by assassins. Lelia reiterates that Barbara must fight alone. Ra's suddenly stabs Barbara in the back. It seems like she's done for, until, suddenly, her hand glows . . . and she's back to seconds earlier (the first sequence was a vision of the future).

This time around, Barbara stops Ra's from killing her, but he grabs Tabitha and holds a sword to her throat, threatening to kill her unless Barbara gives him the power. She says she can't give it up, and he slits Barbara's throat. PSYCH! That was another flash of the future. In the present, Ra's tells Barbara to choose, and she agrees to give up the power. They touch hands and the light transfers from her to him. He then bends over, groaning and retching. When he comes back up, his flesh has fully reformed, and he throws back his hood. 

Bruce tells Ra's to give him the knife so that he can kill him again, but Ra's refuses. "Today is not the day that I die," he says, before snapping the knife with his bare hands.

Later that night, Barbara sweeps the floors of the empty club. As Tabitha looks at her sadly, Barbara says it's okay because she knows that Tabitha would do the same for her. The female members of the League suddenly reenter. Lelia says that, Demon's Head or not, Barbara fought for her friends, which makes her worthy. "We follow you," Lelia says. "To our deaths and beyond."

Meanwhile, Bruce tells Selina that they can use Barbara's knowledge of the League to find the locations of their safehouses, as Ra's is probably hiding in one. When he says that they'll fix the knife in the meantime, Selina snarks that they can just take it to "the magic knife shop." She tells Bruce that if Ra's wanted him dead, he already would be; the fact that he hasn't killed Bruce means that he likes him. Bruce says it's not about him; it's about the city. Selina tells Bruce that Gotham survived long before Bruce was around. He can take one night off. They almost kiss but are interrupted by a visitor. 

Ra's al Ghul, the ultimate moment-killer. (And don't give me that "poor timing" B.S., Ra's. You just regained the power to see the future, you knew what you were walking into.) Ra's tells Bruce that he only came to talk to him alone. Selina, however, refuses to leave. Ra's, unfazed, says that she's right; he does like and respect Bruce for who he's become. "You have no idea what I'll become," Bruce warns. Ra's says that he does—or, least, he knows who Bruce could become. 

Ra's says that he owes Bruce an explanation for why he chose to live. When he took back the power of the Demon's Head, Ra's saw a vision of a cataclysmic event. He calls it a fire that will destroy and purify Gotham. (Uh, your subordinates tried that in season 3, Ra's. Look how that turned out). And Ra's will use the fire to mold Bruce into "a dark knight of Gotham" . . . if it doesn't kill him first.

Plot B: The Guy's Only Doin' It For Some Doll

Over at the GCPD, Gordon, Harvey, and Harper discuss a recent string of crimes: five banks robbed in one night. Harvey says that whoever did it is trying to prove a point, and Gordon surmises that if the point is to show how smart the culprit is, the Riddler's probably behind it. He tells Harvey to put a BOLO on the Riddler and also decides to visit Lee to see if she knows anything helpful.

Meanwhile, Lee distributes the payoff from the bank heists to the citizens of the Narrows. She tells the Riddler that it went well. He scoffs and says that the people of the Narrows are probably just going to spend the cash on drugs and alcohol, but Lee says they'll also use it to buy food and medicine. 

She then notices a weird look on his face and asks what's wrong. The Riddler asks, "What am I to you?" She replies that he's a friend and a partner. leading him to sarcastically ask if she's that close to all of her friends. Lee says that she cares about the Riddler and depends on him, but they need to focus on the matter at hand (i.e., the bank heists) before focusing on other things (i.e., their possible relationship). 

He asks if she's stringing him along, and Lee says that if that's a riddle, he'll want to wait and figure out the answer. She asks if he's ready for the next part of the plan. The Riddler replies that he will be, as soon as he gets a few details straightened out. At that very moment, Penguin barges in with Butch and says that they want in on the bank heists.

Lee asks why she should cut them in, and Penguin replies that he and Butch made both her and the Riddler. Without Penguin, the Riddler persona wouldn't have reemerged, and without Butch, Lee wouldn't have had the muscle to take control of the Narrows. Penguin says they need the money from the heist to pay off some of Sofia's capos and says they'll take 50% of the take. Lee, however, refuses.

Lee tells Penguin that she doesn't appreciate being bossed around or told who made her. When the Riddler comments, "Well said," and grins at her, Penguin reacts with disgust. He says that he assumed the Riddler was immune to Nygma's affection for Lee, but it must've spread to him as well. Penguin tells Riddler that Lee's using him. Lee tells both him and Butch to leave. Penguin agrees, but not without some parting advice to the Riddler: "Be sure to skim some off the top when she tosses you aside."

Later on, Gordon approaches Lee in the Narrows. She notes that he doesn't look like someone who got shot four times, and he replies that his recovery is thanks to her help. Lee replies that she'd been in a good mood after shooting Sofia. Gordon, unsure how to reply to that statement, tells Lee that he's looking for the Riddler, who might be involved in a string of bank heists. She replies that she hasn't seen him in weeks. 

Gordon pushes, saying that while Lee might feel loyalty to the Riddler, he's still sick. Lee replies that they've all got their flaws, but Gordon says that there are other ways to get rid of her own guilt besides leading the Narrows. She says that she doesn't own the Narrows; only the slumlords do. She adds that he should be trying to protect the poor and the innocent. 

Gordon then asks about the bank robberies again, this time remarking that none of the guards were killed (which is unusual, as the Riddler has no qualms about murder). He theorizes that Lee's involved and says that whatever's going on, she can talk to him about it. She replies that he doesn't understand what's going on.

Elsewhere, the Riddler can't get the Penguin's comments about Lee out of his head. As he sorts through them, he sees a familiar face in the mirror—Ed Nygma. Nygma mocks the Riddler, saying that he's still around. The Riddler insists that Nygma is "too stupid to know when he's lost," but Nygma says he hasn't lost. He points out that the Riddler is acting more like Nygma, particularly around Lee. 

Nygma says that he's still inside the Riddler, influencing his feelings. He points out that the Riddler has been giving money away to the poor and going along with Lee's plan to support the Narrows. When the Riddler insists that he doesn't care about the people of the Narrows, Nygma replies that that's true . . . because the only person the Riddler cares about is Lee. And if he keeps it up, there'll be no telling where the Riddler begins and where Nygma ends. The Riddler, however, says that he refuses to let that happen.

The Riddler then meets with the Penguin and concedes that Penguin was right about Lee trying to use him. He says that he needs Penguin's help to drown out Nygma's influence over his feelings. Penguin agrees to help and asks if he brought a half share of the profit from the heists, but the Riddler explains that it's already been distributed throughout the Narrows. He says that the heists were only part of a much bigger scheme. Penguin remarks that he suspected as much, which was why he and Butch had originally planned to rob the Riddler. 

Butch asks if the money from the scheme is enough to get him cured, and the Riddler replies that the take is a hundred million per person, as long as they help him deal with Lee.

Back at the precinct, Gordon questions a female employee from a bank whose five branches were targets of the robberies. He asks why her banks were hit. The woman replies that she has no idea and asks why Gordon's interrogating her as if she's the criminal. He points out that the bank she works for has been accused of several crimes, including usury. She replies that the bank was cleared of all charges, but he says it's just because they had good lawyers.

Harvey, who's been listening, takes Gordon aside into a hallway. He asks what Gordon thinks he's doing, and Gordon replies that the woman is a bigger crook than whoever robbed her. Harvey says that Gordon's only saying that because Lee is probably involved with the robberies. He reminds Gordon that they need to focus on stopping Lee and Nygma before things get worse. 

Gordon then re-enters the interrogation room and asks the woman which branches of the bank are most vulnerable. She says none of them are, as all of the bank's assets from each branch have been moved to a secure location since the five robberies. Gordon surmises that the Riddler plans to rob that location and asks the woman where it is.

Meanwhile, Lee and the Riddler enter the "secure" location and knock out the guards with tranquilizer darts. Lee asks how the Riddler plans to get into the vault, and he replies that they'll have help from some friends. He then asks her a riddle. The answer? "Betrayal," says Penguin, who appears with Butch.

The Riddler, Penguin, and Butch get into the vault with the Riddler holding Lee at gunpoint. After filling up the getaway truck, Penguin tells the Riddler that all that's left in the vault is worthless deeds for property in the Narrows. The Riddler then repeats his riddle to Lee . . . before throwing a lighter onto the property deeds and triggering a set of bars that keep Penguin and Butch in the vault. 

Butch says he'll break out, but the Riddler says that he and Lee will be gone by the time he manages that. He also informs Penguin that, as they've been through thick and thin together, the betrayal isn't personal, but if Penguin comes against Lee, that means he has to deal with the Riddler. As Lee and the Riddler exits, Penguin screams that the Riddler is a fool for trusting her.

After they leave the vault, Lee asks why he brought Penguin and Butch only to lock them up. He explains that he needed Butch's strength to open the vault, and also that Penguin had planned to rob them anyway. Lee asks if the Riddler doesn't think she's using him, but he replies that he knows she is. 

She asks why he betrayed Penguin and asks if she's talking to Nygma. He replies that he's still the Riddler. When she asks how he can be sure, the Riddler replies that he understands her in a way that Nygma never did. He understands that the Tetch virus woke up a dark part of her, and that darkness returned when she shot Sofia. He says Lee loves that darkness, and so does he. That's why he's confident that even though she doesn't love him yet, she will. 

The moment is interrupted by sirens. Nygma asks how the police could've arrived so fast when he just triggered the alarm. Lee replies that Gordon had his suspicions. Nygma says they need to sneak out the back, but Lee says that she's going to stick around to distract Gordon. She tells the Riddler to take the money to the Narrows. He asks if Lee trusts him, and she replies that she does. She then kisses him and tells him to go.

Lee then exits through the front of the building and gives herself up to the police. "You know your rights," is all Gordon says before cuffing her and leading her into the back of a police car.

The Verdict

Plot A: This episode delivered three things I'd been waiting for: the return of Ra's al Ghul, the (partial) downfall of Barbara Kean, and Bruce interacting with the League of Shadows again. (It also gave us the second almost-kiss between Bruce and Selina, so I'm hoping the third time's the charm.) 

It was pretty satisfying to see Ra's put Barbara in her place. She's been trying to act like a kingpin since season 3, but Ra's sees her for who she is: a petty criminal with an antisocial personality disorder and a need for attention. 

As for the woman in the portrait, I think Ra's was probably telling the truth about her. (I also considered that he might've had the portrait commissioned after meeting Barbara as a ploy to make her think she was special, but someone with her experience in art would be able to date the work). Do I think Barbara is some sort of reincarnated version prostitute? No. I feel like, at this point, the painting was just a red herring.

I do feel like Bruce could've gotten more to do in this episode, but I'm glad he didn't kill Ra's again. Firstly, because Bruce killing anyone is a mistake, and secondly, because I want to see more interactions between Bruce and Ra's (you know, in the three episodes we have left).

As for the League mythology, Gotham's seems to be inventing a lot of it as they go along. (The dagger, the blood ritual, the mark of the Demon's Head, the clairvoyance . . . yeah, none of those have been part of the League in other media). I don't feel like it's necessarily a good move to make up this much, but I don't think they've done anything too terrible. Yet. 

Also, shoutout to Alexander Siddig. The man has only played Ra's for a handful of episodes, but he's wonderful at it. He's powerful, commanding, and unnervingly polite at times. I can't wait to see how Ra's tries to influence Bruce as the season continues.

Plot B: I'm glad to see that my suspicions that Lee's using the Riddler aren't incorrect. I'm not sure how I feel about him going with along with it, but I'm interested to see where their partnership goes. Of all the love interests Nygma (or the Riddler) has had, Lee is definitely the most intelligent. She's one of the few people who can match the Riddler for wits (and ruthlessness, at times).

Also, I think it's safe to say that even though the Riddler claims to be completely himself at the end of the episode, Nygma's still lurking around. The scheme—to seemingly double-cross Lee, use Penguin and Butch to open the vault, and then double-cross them instead—was obviously the work of the Riddler. But the part of him that defended Lee and decided to continue working with her? That was Nygma, no doubt. 

The question is, what will Lee do in GCPD custody? Will she try to escape on her own, have the Riddler break her out, or just wait? Will Gordon be able to get through to her at all, or will she refuse to listen to him? I have no idea, honestly. 

I enjoyed Plot B's exploration of Lee and the Riddler's relationship. It felt a little more grounded than the events of Plot A, which, while exciting, was rather mystical and outlandish.

Overall, "To Our Deaths and Beyond" was an alright episode. It's not one I see myself rewatching a lot, but it's not an episode you could skip, as it accomplishes a few important things—like finally bringing back Ra's al Ghul, for one. I do think the episode could've been a little less Barbara-centric, but there are worse characters to focus on. 

Episode 21, which will air on May 3, is entitled "That Old Corpse." Expect to see a familiar, grinning face when the show returns. For now, feel free to comment below with your thoughts on the episode. Are you glad that Ra's is back? What or who do you think will cause the cataclysm? How do you feel about the Riddler's scheme?

Until next time, have a good two weeks. Study for your finals, hang in there, and, most importantly, don't raise the dead. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

'Gotham' Recap: "That's Entertainment" (4x18)

Welcome, Gotham fans—the few, the crazy few, we band of lunatics and unorthodox Bat-fans. It's time for another recap of Gotham: A Dark Knight. This week's episode, "That's Entertainment," revolves around two plots: Jerome's scheme to turn all of Gotham City insane and Barbara's quest to find answers about her role as the demon's head.

Warning: this episode contains major spoilers, violence, and suicide. This is another episode with a big impact on Gotham's version of the Joker mythos, so don't read it if you haven't seen the episode and want to be surprised.

Plot A: Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn.

The episode opens with the interim mayor of Gotham and the police commissioner addressing members of a moral society (read: middle-aged women with too much time on their hands) over a formal candlelit dinner. One woman tells the mayor the society has been disturbed by the crime and corruption in the city, and he insists that his administration has done its best to improve the city.

Suddenly, the candlelights blow out. Security staff goes to check out what's wrong. Not long after, the women hear screams and gunshots from inside the house. Mr. Freeze then enters, along with Mad Hatter. They take the women, along with the mayor and commissioner, to a van. Inside are Jerome, Firefly, Penguin, and Scarecrow. The mayor tries to appeal to the villains with offers of pardons and payoffs, but they turn him down. Even Penguin claims that he's "behind Mr. Valeska, one hundred percent."

The mayor warns Jerome that every cop in the city is after him, but Jerome snarks that the mayor's seriousness must be why his approval rating is so low. He says that no one in the city knows how to have fun anymore, but Scarecrow's new toxin will fix that. Scarecrow sprays a woman with the toxin. She begins to laugh and her mouth widens into a deranged, unnatural smile. Meanwhile, Penguin looks on, as if thinking:

Over at the garage of Wayne Manor, Alfred wishes Bruce a happy birthday and hands him a box. (For those of you who are tracking the fluid timeline of this show, Bruce Wayne and David Mazouz have the same birthday: February 19. So that's when this episode probably takes place.)

Alfred reminisces about Bruce's seventh birthday party, which, he recalls, was a nightmare. Alfred says that there were several kids, but Bruce went outside because he was obsessed with a red wagon his father had bought him. He reminds Bruce of how he loaded the wagon down with rocks and told Alfred he was going to make a secret place to hide his wagon.

Bruce opens the box and finds a set of car keys inside. He clicks a button, and a sportscar revs to life. Alfred informs him that it's got a lot of horsepower and anti-reflective matte black paint that makes it hard to spot at night. And the kicker?

It's completely bulletproof. I think it's fair to say that Gotham just revealed its first version of the Batmobile, and I love it. (Although, let's be honest: does Bruce really deserve another car after acting like a jerk for half of the season? I guess you could argue that his renewed interested in crime fighting necessitates the use of such a vehicle.)

At the GCPD, Gordon informs Harvey that the mayor and commissioner have been kidnapped by Jerome. Gordon then receives a phone call from Penguin, who says he's out back and needs to talk. Once Gordon is face to face with him, Penguin demands to know what Gordon's doing to stop Jerome. Gordon asks if Penguin knows where Jerome is. Penguin says that even if he knew, he wouldn't necessarily tell, as Gordon would just go in "guns-blazing." 

Penguin tells Gordon that Jerome has all of the other villains under his thumb and has gotten Scarecrow to create a new gas that turns people into "violent, cackling animals." When Gordon asks what Jerome plans to do with it, Penguin replies that he doesn't know; each member of the team has been given separate tasks, so no one knows the whole plan. He doesn't even know what his role is going to be. 

Gordon then asks why Penguin would come to the GCPD for help. Penguin admits that Jerome "scares the living hell" out of him and that he only played along with Jerome's plan because he'd hoped it would benefit him, but now he sees that nothing good can come of it. Gordon suggests that Penguin just doesn't want to compete with Jerome for the city, but Penguin vehemently denies it, saying that he and Jerome are two different kinds of criminals.

Penguin then tells Gordon that he doesn't know where the gas is; he just knows that Jerome needs to be stopped.

A little later on, Gordon hears that Jerome has been spotted in Paisley Square. What's in Paisley Square? A music festival, apparently. Over at the square, rock band is in the middle of performing "Time Has Come Today" when Jerome jumps onto the stage. He punches out the lead singer and begins to beat him with the mic stand. Firefly joins him onstage, and Jerome introduces his crew as the "Arkham Asylum Lunatics." 

He then has the mayor and commissioner brought onstage along with one of the women from the moral society. Each one is tied to a chair and fitted with a bomb collar. Next to them there are two empty chairs. Jerome announces that he's still waiting for two guests of honor. If the guests don't arrive, he'll use a trigger to blow up the hostages' heads. He also informs the crowd that if they try to leave, they'll also die. Jerome then turns to a nearby camera crew and tells the video feed that he's calling Jim Gordon, the one person who can get him what he wants.

Meanwhile, Freeze and Scarecrow enter a Wayne Industries lab. After incapacitating the guards with a freeze grenade, Freeze informs the scientists that he and Scarecrow need their help. Scarecrow says they need to make more laughing gas. When one frightened scientist asks how much, he points to several barrels and says, "This much."

Back at the music festival, Jerome prances around the stage while the remaining band members play—I kid you not—the original theme from the 1960s Batman TV show. 

So yeah, that happened. Jerome cuts off the song as Gordon enters the crowd. Gordon says he's not speaking to Jerome until he can check to make sure the hostages are okay. Jerome replies that Gordon is in no position to make demands. He tells Gordon not to come any closer, and Firefly sends off a warning with her flamethrower. Jerome then informs Gordon that his trigger has a dead man's switch. If it falls out of his hand, the hostages all die. He then asks Gordon to guess who his two missing guests of honor are. Gordon quickly realizes that one must be Jeremiah, but isn't sure who the other is. Jerome says it's obvious: Bruce Wayne.

While Gordon seemed to consider handing over Jeremiah, he draws the line at Bruce and refuses to give him over. He tries to persuade Jerome to take him as a hostage instead, but Jerome doesn't take the deal. He wants Bruce and his brother, and he wants them now. When Gordon tries to argue again, Jerome says that Gordon's still not listening. He then blows up the commissioner's head using a switch on the detonator. After the blood has settled, Jerome reminds Gordon of what he wants: Bruce and Jeremiah, right away.

Meanwhile, Alfred sings "Happy Birthday" to Bruce while presenting him with a frosted bundt cake. When he goes to get plates, an unexpected guest sneaks up and blows out the candles.

Alfred greets Selina and hands her and Bruce plates. Bruce thanks Selina for visiting him on his birthday, but she claims she was just in the neighborhood and didn't know it was his birthday. He says that it's still good to see her and cuts her a slice of the cake. As they begin to eat, Selina blurts out, "I knew it was an act." When Bruce asks what she's talking out, she replies, "The brat, and the drinking. The friends. It was an act." He replies that she seems more sure of that than he is.

Alfred then re-enters the kitchen and informs Bruce that he's got two visitors. (Because we couldn't just have another thirty minutes of Bat-Cat fluff. That would just be asking for too much, wouldn't it?) Gordon and Lucius Fox enter with a television that shows Jerome onstage at the festival. Gordon informs Bruce of Jerome's demand for hostages. Alfred vehemently refuses to put Bruce in Jerome's hands, but Gordon insists that he and Lucius have a plan. On the TV, Jerome says that he's still not being taken seriously and blows up another hostage.

Alfred insists that Jerome can't be trusted, and Selina says, "For once, I agree with Alfred." Gordon says that their plan can prevent more deaths, and Bruce decides to hear him out. Lucius gives Bruce a device that, once in range, can short out the signal sent out by Jerome's detonator. All Bruce has to do is hide the device on his person and get close enough to cancel the signal, and then the GCPD's snipers will take out Jerome. When Gordon asks if they're sure it will work, Lucius says that he's "99% positive."

Meanwhile, Harvey tells the snipers on the rooftops to hang tight until they get an order. Over at the precinct, Gordon, Lucius, and Bruce approach Jeremiah, who's been hanging out in protective custody and sketching designs for inventions. Jeremiah refuses to risk his own life and doesn't seem to trust Gordon's plan.

Bruce then introduces himself to Jeremiah. Jeremiah says it's nice to meet him, he just wishes that the circumstances were better (sadly, this is probably the best circumstance they'll ever meet in). Bruce asks what Jeremiah's been working on. He replies that it's a compact electrical engine that can power several buildings. Bruce tells Jeremiah that he's got a brilliant mind and that what Bruce, Gordon, and Lucius want is for Jeremiah to be able to continue his work without looking over his shoulder for Jerome.

Bruce says that he trusts Gordon and Lucius's plan and admits that even if it fails, he still believes that by facing Jerome, he can set an example for the people of Gotham.

Jeremiah admits that Bruce's speech is well said and agrees to give the plan a try. Gordon then gets a call from Harvey, who informs him that Scarecrow and Freeze broke into a Wayne Industries chemical lab. Gordon then tells Harvey and the others about Scarecrow's new laughing gas.

Over at the lab, Harvey and a few other cops walk through the ice-covered halls. One scientist, still deranged from laughing gas, tries to stop them, but Harvey takes him out. Harvey then asks another scientist what happened. She says that Scarecrow and Freeze forced the scientists to make tons of the gas and then took it away when they were finished.

Back at the music festival, Jerome spots Bruce and Jeremiah in the crowd and tells them to come onstage. Bruce is the first to make his way to the front. Jeremiah follows but looks noticeably more scared. Lucius tells Gordon that the device is activated; Bruce just needs to get a little closer to the stage. Once he does, Gordon tells the snipers to fire. But before they can do so, another group of snipers shoots out the GCPD snipers.

Current mood:

Jerome informs Gordon that he had his men scope out the best vantage points the night before, and they've been watching the GCPD SWAT team all day. He then tells Bruce and Jeremiah to come onstage.

Elsewhere, Penguin, Scarecrow and Hatter enter an aircraft hanger. A security guard tells them that it's a restricted area, but Scarecrow quickly doses him up with fear toxin. Hatter then hypnotizes a pilot. As this happens, Penguin realizes the plan. He says that they mean to use a blimp to drop laughing gas on the crowd. He insists that it's madness. Scarecrow says that Jerome predicted Penguin's betrayal and berates Penguin for going to Gordon. Penguin gets knocked out, and Hatter tells the pilot to tie Penguin up and take him on the blimp since Jerome wants him to see the chaos in action.

Back onstage, Jerome's got Bruce and Jeremiah tied up and wearing bomb collars along with the rest of the hostages. Jerome tells the crowd about how Jeremiah was always his mother's favorite, how he got adopted by rich kids and Jerome was left to do his mother's chores at the circus (causing one audience member to yell, "WHO CARES?"). Jerome then turns to his brother and says that they're more alike than Jeremiah cares to admit.

Jerome then cuts his brother loose and hands him a knife. He tells Jeremiah to stop fighting the fact that he's a killer. Jeremiah initially shakes his head, but after Jerome tells him to give it his best shot, Jeremiah screams and tries to stab his brother. He fails miserably, and Jerome punches him out.

Meanwhile, Harvey asks Gordon what happened. Gordon explains that the snipers are dead and Harvey tells him that the chemicals are on their way. Gordon realizes that Jerome's been stalling and begins to evacuate the crowd. The police then shoot out Jerome's men, and Gordon even manages to shoot Jerome in the shoulder. At the same time, Bruce gets loose and begins to fight Firefly. Jerome tries to use his detonator to blow up the mayor's head, but it no longer works, thanks to Lucius's device. As Jerome runs offstage and Bruce unties the mayor, Gordon sees a blimp in the sky heading towards the festival.

Inside the blimp, Penguin wakes up and finds him zip-tied to a railing. He wakes up and looks out the window. He then asks the pilot to help him get loose, but the pilot says he needs to get the blimp into position. Once he's over the square, he'll use a lever to release the laughing gas. Penguin manages to get loose and demands that the pilot turn the blimp around. The pilot, however, points a gun at Penguin and refuses.

As the people below run for their lives, Jerome uses a walkie-talkie to tell the pilot to get the blimp into position. Gordon chases after him and tells his fellow officers to focus on evacuating the crowd. Harvey pulls out an RPG and says he can take down the blimp with one shot, but Gordon reminds him that doing so could potentially release the gas.

Gordon then gets a call from Penguin, who explains that he's in the blimp and needs help. Gordon says that it's actually Penguin who's going to help him. He tells Penguin that he needs him to steer the blimp over the river (not sure you want that stuff in your water supply, Jimbo, but whatever).

Gordon tells Penguin that if he doesn't get the blimp out of the way, thousands of people will die or else be turned into raving lunatics. Gordon then hangs up, follows Jerome onto a rooftop, and shoots the walkie-talkie out of his hand. Jerome just laughs and says it doesn't matter. "Bombs away," he says, before letting out another chuckle and falling off the edge. 

At the same time, Penguin and the pilot fight over the gas-releasing lever. Penguin punches him out and begins to steer the blimp, frantically trying to get it to the river.

Back at on the rooftop, Gordon races to the edge, only to find that Jerome is still hanging onto a flagpole. Jerome remarks that Gordon's got a dilemma: he can either let Jerome fall to his death or save him. Gordon reaches down to take Jerome's hand, but Jerome just laughs at him. He says that Gordon is always playing by the rules, and that's why Jerome will outlive him. Gordon points out that it's a long way to the ground and asks how Jerome thinks he'll outlive him. Jerome replies that he's more than a person; he's an ideology.

He's right. Every version of the Joker leaves a legacy behind him, whether it's the people who take up his mantle, the deaths left in his wake, or the victims he's traumatized.

Jerome tells Gordon that he'll see him again soon . . . and with that, he lets go of the flagpole and falls to his death, crashing on top of a car.

Later that night, people gather around Jerome's corpse, which has a grin plastered on its lifeless face. The GCPD tells the citizens to get back and begin to examine the body themselves. Jeremiah stares at it briefly before walking past the cops. Bruce stops him. He tells Jeremiah that he meant what he said about his inventions being important to the city and offers to fund his work with a grant from Wayne Enterprises.

Jeremiah thanks Bruce, and the two of them go their separate ways. Gordon then gets a call from Penguin, who's still flying over Gotham in the blimp. Penguin yells that he wants to get down and Gordon lets Harvey know. Harvey suggests that they let Penguin stay up there for a few hours before helping him down. Gordon seems to agree and tells Penguin that they'll contact the standby pilot and have him advise. He then hangs up, leaving Penguin to scream "JIIIIIIM!" as the blimp continues to float above Gotham.

Back at his bunker in the woods, Jeremiah pours himself a drink. As he takes a sip, he notices a present on his desk. The tag reads "From Wayne Enterprises." Jeremiah unwraps the present and finds a painted box. He opens the box, and a jack-in-the-box pops out. A dose of laughing gas comes out of its mouth and sprays Jeremiah. As he begins to transform and struggles to stop the change, he hears a recorded message from Jerome. Jerome says that he had a special variation of the laughing gas made, one designed to set Jeremiah over the edge so that he'd finish what Jerome started. As Jeremiah laughs uncontrollably, he hears his brother's final message: "Burn it down, brother. Burn it all down."

Not sure how I feel about the special effects in this scene. Jeremiah's mouth looks noticeably unnatural in the above gif, but I also feel like that's the point. Still, it seems a bit cheesy, especially when combined with his yellowish eyes.

Plot B: If You Live Long Enough, You See the Same Eyes in Different People.

Over at the Sirens' Club, a gang leader tells Tabitha that her and Barbara's disrespect of Gotham's gangs will no longer be tolerated. He gripes about how she kicked out his brother, but Tabitha points out that his brother hit on other customers and didn't pay his tab. He replies that his brother deserved respect. Barbara enters and asks if an apology will do. When he replies that the only way to settle things is by force, she says, "Thought so." Cue the female League of Shadows members entering and shooting out the gang. Tabitha insists that she could've handled it, but Barbara reminds her that they've got an army at their beck and call.

One of the female assassins from the last episode (Lelia, according to IMDb) seems frustrated by Barbara's use of her power. She reminds Barbara that Ra's chose her and insists that she can't just stay in Gotham. Barbara needs to carry out Ra's legacy. Barbara says she wants to do so and that she's ready to be shown more of the League's secrets. Tabitha says nothing but seems frustrated by Barbara's new calling.

Lelia takes Barbara and Tabitha to a house and explains that Ra's has owned the property for as long as Gotham has existed (not really sure why he'd be interested in the city prior to the existence of Batman, but one TV Tropes user speculated that he was drawn by the presence of the Lazarus Pit). Lelia says that none of the assassins have ever seen the secrets Ra's kept, as his chamber remains locked. The key? Barbara's glowing hand, of course. (When is that mark of the demon's head going to wear off, anyway?) She presses her hand to the door, and it slides away. She steps into a room filled with books, busts, helmets, paintings, and all manner of relics.

Barbara stops in front of a painting from the seventeenth century. The two subjects are Ra's al Ghul . . . and a woman who looks exactly like her.

Barbara says, "All my life I've known that I was meant for more, that there was something deep inside of me that I couldn't explain. I'm home." As she says this, tears well up in her eyes, and the assassins kneel.

What's this mean? I'd say there are at least four possible options:
  1. The woman in the painting is one of Barbara's ancestors who just happens to look identical to her.
  2. The woman in the painting is Barbara in a past life.
  3. Barbara is some sort of clone of the woman in the painting. (Yes, I know she had parents in season 1, but they could've adopted her and hidden the truth).
  4. The writers have no intention of telling us how Barbara is connected to the woman in the painting, just like they have no intention of telling us why Isabella just happened to look exactly like Kristen Kringle. 
I'll reserve my full judgment on the twist until I find out exactly who the woman is. Still, I feel like this season has taken Barbara's character a little too far. She was more believable in season 2, as you could see the trauma peaking out behind her villainy, and season 3, where you could see her ambition growing as she got more power. But this season would have us believe that Barbara is some sort foretold chosen one, instead of who she really is—the former owner of an art gallery who was fairly innocent and naive in season 1 before she got traumatized and abused by a serial killer, then turned to a life of crime and attempted several murders, and is now vying for control of the city. 

But I'll admit that I like how Barbara's connection to Ra's was revealed through a painting. It's a nice callback to her role as a gallery owner and even suggests that her passion for art may have something to do with a possible past life (maybe even an unconscious search to find that life again).

As usual, I'm digressing.

Back to the episode. Barbara reads through one of Ra's books, remarking that it explains how he influenced history. Tabitha insists that he was a cult leader who brainwashed his followers, but Barbara argues that the texts she's reading will change the way people view the past. She says the book she's reading contains the work of shamans and mystics, with everything from spells to potions. Tabitha says that the old Barbara would've sold all of Ra's junk to the highest bidder, but Barbara says it's part of her destiny. 

When Tabitha asks if that destiny no longer includes her, Selina, and the club, Barbara points at the painting. She says it's definitely of her and Ra's 400 years ago. Tabitha says that the woman in the painting looks nothing like Barbara, but Barbara won't listen. She says that she's found her true purpose and she won't let Tabitha spoil it. Barbara then tells the assassins to take Tabitha away and "teach her a few manners." When Tabitha asks why she doesn't do it herself, Barbara replies that it's beneath her.

The assassins drag Tabitha out onto the street, and Lelia tells her to leave the city and never come back. Tabitha tries to put up a fight against the assassins, but they beat her up spectacularly. (League of Shadows: 1. Order of St. Dumas: 0.) As this happens, a man watches from a nearby car. Lelia then tells Tabitha that they'll kill her next time. 

After the female assassins leave, the man walks over to Tabitha and offers to help her up. Two more men join him. Tabitha asks who they are. He replies that they've been watching her and the "imposter." He says that he and his men serve the one true master, Ra's al Ghul. When Tabitha says that Ra's is dead, the man replies, "Death is only an illusion." He then tranquilizes her with a syringe and drags her into his car.

So does this mean that Ra's faked his death to test Bruce? I'm hoping that's what it means. Either that or he did want to die, but this man's group of assassins might try to resurrect him next episode with Lazarus Pit water. If that's the case, I wouldn't want to be in their shoes when Ra's wakes up and finds out he's cursed with immortality again.

The Verdict

Plot A: So that's it. That's how the Joker is born on Gotham. I do feel like they could've slowed down Jeremiah's arc a little bit; I don't think he should've transformed straight into the Joker on his second appearance. I would've liked to see more of Jeremiah slowly growing into the part, showing hints of a darker nature here and there and struggling with the desire to give into violence before he got dosed with the laughing gas.

That being said, I did love the transformation. It felt appropriately tragic. While other versions of the Joker were still criminals before undergoing their transformation (such as Jack Napier in the 1989 Batman), Jeremiah was a civilian. Sure, he was cowardly, and he may have lied about his brother, but he lived most of his life in fear that he'd be murdered by Jerome. All he wanted was to live without looking over his shoulder. But as soon as normalcy was in Jeremiah's reach, Jerome took it away from him again. 

While Cameron Monaghan was definitely the star of this episode, I need to give a shoutout to Robin Lord Taylor as Penguin. This episode was a great reminder that there are some lines Penguin won't cross, and it also showed what happens when he gets in over his head with other criminals. The highlight of Taylor's performance was definitely watching Penguin try to steer a blimp with zero experience.

Also, while this isn't central to the plot, I feel it necessary to mention Bruce's birthday scenes. The kid rarely gets a break, so it's nice to see a few scenes of him having fun and genuinely celebrating with the people he loves. And Alfred's story about the wagon was the most adorable thing ever, especially since, in time, Bruce will find his own "secret place" to keep his car (read: the Bat Cave). It was also cute to see Bruce and Selina getting along again and goofing off. I know that it can't last, though. Every time the two of them make progress, something or someone always gets in the way (whether it's Silver St. Cloud, a magic knife, or Bruce's own stupidity). Still, I'll enjoy the Bat-Cat action while I can.

Plot B: I'll be honest. I'm not really enjoying watching Barbara lead the League of Shadows. I don't think she should've been involved with them much, after Ra's' death. You know who should be getting more screen time with the League? Bruce Wayne, that's who. You know, the guy who Ra's called "an heir to serve as my knight in the darkness."

This isn't a gender thing. This is about how Bruce spent the back half of season 3 training under Ra's shaman, only to get a handful of episodes with the League in this season. I feel like having Barbara get involved with the league is another one of this season's missteps. 

Still, I find comfort in the promo for next week. It indicates that Bruce's connection to the League will be coming back to haunt him.

Overall, I think this episode was middling. It served as a decent way to introduce the Joker, but I think they rushed the story arc. As for Barbara, I'm having a hard time taking her seriously as the supposed demon's head (and possibly also a reincarnated chick). I hope that the rest of the season makes up for these missteps. When Gotham's at the top of its game, there's really nothing like it on TV. I'd hate to see it get canceled because of low ratings. 

And while there have been a few annoying things in season 4 (such as Bruce's jerk phase, Barbara's arc, and a mediocre version of Solomon Grundy), there have still been several amazing things (vigilante Bruce, the Sirens kicking butt, Gordon acting more like his future self, Professor Pyg, the villainous team-ups, and Jeremiah Valeska). I don't see how someone could watch the previous seasons and think of season 4 as decreasing in quality; I think it's a definite upgrade. 

I'll be back next week to review episode 19: "To Our Deaths and Beyond." Until then, comment below with your thoughts. How do you feel about Jerome's death? The Joker's birth? What do you think is the truth behind the woman in the painting? 

Have a good week, and remember—don't unwrap a gift from someone you just met, because it was probably sent by the minions of your dead evil twin.