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.


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