Wednesday, April 4, 2018

'Gotham' Recap: "One of My Three Soups" (4x16)

Riddle me this: what do you get when Ben McKenzie directs an episode of Gotham that includes Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, Jerome, Bat-Cat dynamics, the first official appearance of the League of Shadows, and three bowls of soup? Answer: an amazing rollercoaster of an episode that just doesn’t stop.

4x15 was excellent, but this one tops it with the beginning of a villainous team-up that will likely continue until the end of the season. If “One of My Three Soups” is any indication of how great season 4’s final story arc would be, choosing not to renew the show would be crazier than anything Jerome Valeska's ever done.

“One of My Three Soups” revolves around three plots: Gordon’s race to stop the Mad Hatter from leading several citizens to their deaths, Bruce’s search for Jerome, and Barbara’s realization of what Ra’s al Ghul’s parting gift to her actually meant.

Warning: this episode contains excessive violence, on-screen suicide, and mentions of child abuse. If you haven’t watched the episode yet, be advised that the following recap contains massive spoilers and massive fangirling.

Plot A: We’re All Mad Here

The episode opens in Arkham Asylum. A guard notices an alarm going off, sighs, puts on a pair of headphones, and starts listening to R&B on her Walkman as she walks down the halls. But don’t worry, she’s not being irresponsible—she’s actually going to check on Jervis Tetch (aka the Mad Hatter). The music is to keep her from being hypnotized.

The guard tells Hatter to get back in his bunk, but he gestures angrily and yells at her in response. She replies that she can’t hear a single word, but he says “I wasn’t talking to you.” Another guard, Tortuga, appears behind the first one—and Tortuga’s not wearing headphones. Tortuga, stuck in a hypnotic trance, slits the other guard’s throat, leaving Hatter free to walk out of his cell.

Hatter then goes to Scarecrow’s cell. Inside, Scarecrow is busy mixing some sort of thick, black mixture in the toilet. Once he’s finished, Scarecrow uses a jar to contain some of the mixture. After he and Hatter exit the cell, Scarecrow pours the mix over a fuse box, causing a nearby set of doors to open. The smoke then clears to reveal none other than Jerome Valeska.

Hatter tells Jerome that they’re not his lackeys, which leads to a bit of bickering in the group. Jerome smooths things over by pointing out that their escape is what matters now; they can stab each other in the backs once they’re out. For now, they’ve got to stick to Jerome’s plan. Jerome tells Hatter to get rid of Tortuga. Hatter tells her that her work is finished, and she slits her own throat (every time I think this show can’t get any bloodier, it proves me wrong). Jerome, Hatter, and Scarecrow then exit through the front gates, followed by several cheering inmates.

Later that night, the GCPD arrives at Arkham. Harvey asks if Gordon is really up to dealing with the breakout. Gordon insists that he can handle going back to work. Harvey then tells him that 87 prisoners have escaped from the violent ward. He says that the guards think Hatter was the ringleader, but Gordon disagrees. He says that anything this big and crazy has to be Jerome’s handiwork.

As Gordon glances over at the other cops, Harvey reminds him that he can’t tell them the truth about Sofia. He needs to be the “hero cop” for others, even if it’s a lie. This is actually a very interesting concept. Ever since killing Galavan in season 2, Gordon has gone down a dark road. It’s almost put me off the character at times, since he did things I never thought the future Commissioner Gordon would do. Gordon, in most Batman media, is the one cop untainted by corruption, but in Gotham, his hands are unspeakably dirty.

But this episode provides an interesting answer to the discrepancy: perhaps Commissioner Gordon, in this future, only appears heroic and incorruptible because other people need him to be that way. The GCPD needs Commissioner Gordon needs to be a beacon of hope as much as Gotham City needs Batman to be a symbol of terrifying justice for criminals.

But I digress. The other cops welcome Gordon back, and he addresses them, saying that their top priority is locating Scarecrow, Hatter, Jerome, and their allies. He also warns the cops to have each other’s backs. After giving his speech, Gordon gets a call from Hatter. He asks what Hatter wants. Hatter says that Gordon needs to meet him at Whit Street. "Do it, or I'm gonna kill someone," Hatter adds. "In case you had any doubts."

Harvey says it’s bound to be a trap. Gordon agrees but says they can’t afford to miss a chance at catching Hatter. Harvey says to send someone else, but Gordon says the GCPD is already spread thin. Gordon needs to go himself. Harvey decides to come with him, saying that Gordon was right: they need to have each other’s backs.

As they make their way to Whit Street, Harvey wonders if Hatter hypnotized them through the phone, or if they were just dumb enough to walk into a trap.

Once they arrive on Whit Street, Gordon and Harvey see a married couple in wedding attire standing stock-still in the middle of the road. Men begin to exit the cars and approach the cops. Gordon warns Harvey not to shoot, since the men must be hypnotized into working for Hatter. The men restrain both Gordon and Harvey, and Hatter emerges from the shadows.

Gordon tells him to let the couple go. Hatter says that, originally, he only came to Gotham to do one thing: help Alice. Gordon asks what Hatter wants and what he wants Gordon to do—in the past, Hatter’s traps always made him chose between two equally terrible outcomes.

Hatter says he wants his sister back, but since Gordon stopped him from getting Alice, Gordon doesn’t get any more choices. He then uses a remote to drop a wrecking ball on top of the couple

Once again, this show doesn't stop piling on the gore. Hatter then promises that more people will die and leaves Gordon and Harvey with a rhyming riddle to decipher.

After Hatter’s gone, Harvey and Gordon realize that the riddle means that more people are hypnotized—and they’ll all jump off of the rooftops at midnight. They climb a building, only to see that several citizens have already lined themselves up on the edge—and there are several more lined up on rooftops across the city.

Harvey wonders how Hatter could’ve gotten to hundreds of people at once. Gordon says he must’ve used a radio station. They search all of the citizens’ nearby abandoned cars, but each one is on a different station. Gordon realizes that Hatter’s last command to the people must’ve been to change the station so that Gordon and Harvey couldn’t figure out which one he was broadcasting from.

Harvey, however, has a solution: he locks himself in one of the cars, much to Gordon’s chagrin, and begins to flip through the radio stations, searching for the right one. It turns out to be WZPZ. Gordon tells him to turn off the radio immediately, but it’s already too late. Harvey gets out of the car, punches out Gordon, and joins the rest of Hatter’s victims on a nearby rooftop.

Once he wakes up, Gordon drives to WZPZ and calls Harper to tell her which station Hatter’s using. He tells her to wait for his signal once he starts broadcasting. Once inside, Gordon puts a gun to Hatter’s head. He tells Hatter to command the people to step away from the edge. Hatter refuses (even after Gordon shoots him in the hand) says he couldn’t even if he wanted to—he hypnotized the people so that they’d jump if anyone told them to save themselves. Hatter then rushes forward and tells his audience to obey the next voice they hear. He tells Gordon that he can say anything he likes and they’ll still die.

Gordon approaches the microphone and admits to those listening that he can’t save them. He tells them to save each other. The people on the rooftops near the edge, but as they prepare to jump, each one stops and holds the others back from the edge. They begin to wake up, and Gordon smiles, relieved.

My basic reaction:

This is actually a big learning moment for Gordon: he’s always trying to save the day, but it’s time he learned that he can’t always save everyone. He needs to show them how to save each other and trust them to do that.

Back in Gordon’s office at the GCPD, Harvey remarks that while Hatter won’t talk about Jerome’s plans, they still managed to arrest him and other 47 escapees. He says that Gordon needs a drink. Harvey pulls a bottle and glasses out of a nearby filing cabinet that he hid during his time as captain.

As the two drink, Gordon says he doesn’t belong in the GCPD and doesn’t deserve to be there either. He should be in jail. Harvey agrees but says that if Gordon had been in jail that night, hundreds of people would be dead. Gordon insists that Harvey was the hero and that anyone can be. Harvey says the reason he risked his own life was because he knew Gordon would save him if things went wrong.

Gordon says he still feels like the ideals he believed in have become a lie. He says he judged Harvey for too long. Harvey says that what Gordon knows about Harvey is just the tip of the iceberg.

Plot B: And Thus Begins the Grand Tradition . . . 

After the Arkham breakout, Bruce and Selina walk into the GCPD. And let’s just take a moment to appreciate the new suit Bruce is rocking.

It’s definitely a step up from his bulkier suit from the beginning of the season. This one even has the beginnings of an emblem. I only have three questions:
  1. Where’d he get it? Did he call up Lucius and say, “Hey, I burned the military-grade suit you gave me because I was going through a teenage angst phase. Can you make me a new one?” Or is there a Vigilante Outfitters I don’t know about? 
  2. Where’s the mask? Is Bruce just going to go around fighting crime as himself and not even try to hide his identity? 
  3. Why would he walk into the GCPD with the suit on? Even without a mask, that leather getup practically screams “vigilante in training.” 
Anyway, Selina asks why they had to come to the precinct. She says she wouldn’t have asked him to return the jewelry for her if she knew he’d ask for a favor back. They bicker about why his intentions, and Bruce says that once she helps him out, they’ll be even.

They walk right up to Gordon’s office (which is empty, thanks to Gordon’s race to stop Hatter). Selina stands with her back to the door and unlocks it without looking as she and Bruce talk. He tells her to get Jerome’s file. She asks why, and he says he needs to get him back in Arkham ASAP. She then sneaks inside to get the file while he stands watch.

After a few minutes, Bruce gestures through the door window at Selina to hurry up. Harper notices him standing in front of Gordon’s door and, after recognizing him as Bruce Wayne, asks what he’s doing there. Bruce, desperate to distract Harper from seeing Selina, goes into billionaire brat mode. He demands to know where Gordon is. He claims that he needs protection, because Jerome clearly escaped to get revenge on Bruce for helping stop him last year.

Harper tells him he’s being irrational, and Bruce begins to get out money to pay for protection. She asks if he wants to be charged with bribery. He stammers, as if the thought had never occurred to him, and then breaks down into fake tears. He says he’s just scared and worried. As Harper tries to get him to calm down, Selina sneaks out. She makes a bit of noise getting out, causing Harper to look back at the office. Harper starts to tell Bruce that he can stay at the precinct, but the second she turns back, he’s already gone.

Bruce’s (the character, not David Mazouz) acting is hilariously over the top here, and I loved every second of it. Is it a bit cheesy? Sure, but I think Bruce knew exactly what he was doing. He was being as obnoxious and arrogant as possible because he knew that Harper wouldn’t be able to ignore his tantrum. It’s nice to see him weaponizing his “billionaire brat” act again (and not just using it as a way to ignore his true self).

After leaving the precinct, Bruce meets up with Selina in his car and reads Jerome’s file. He says Jerome’s uncle owns a diner in Gotham. He needs to go there and see if it leads to finding Jerome. Selina asks again why he’s so obsessed with stopping Jerome. Bruce replies that, because he chose not to kill Jerome last year, he feels responsible for everything Jerome does from that point onward. Selina just laughs.

She says that not everything is his fault or his responsibility. She advises him to get over himself, especially since it would make him easier to be around. Bruce stares at her, leans in . . . and pulls a Tony Stark.

Bruce thanks her for the advice and Selina asks if he needs any more of her help. Bruce says Selina doesn’t owe him anything and that she never did. He then drives off.

Over at the diner Bruce mentioned, cops ask the owner if he’s seen Jerome. The owner insists that if he had, Jerome would be dead, since he (the uncle) hates Jerome for killing his mother, the owner’s sister (Lila Valeska). After the cops leave, Jerome pops up from under the table, with a gun and a hilarious one-liner.

A little while later, Jerome tastes three soups from the counter. One’s too hot, one’s too cold, and the third one’s just right. He says Uncle Zack was always a good cook and tells a story about how, as a kid, Zack caught him trying to steal a snickerdoodle. That day, Zack made a really good soup. The secret ingredient? Jerome’s hand, which he dipped in a boiling pot of chicken stock. Jerome laughs and says that it’s almost as good as the soup he’s eating now.

Zack asks if he’s curious about the soup. Jerome asks if it’s poisoned. Zack says it’s not—he set out three soups so that he’d have enough for all of his guests. A man then grabs Jerome from behind. Zack introduces him as a strongman from Haley’s circus. Zack called him after the breakout so that he’d be there to take Jerome down. Zack tells Jerome that the “just right” soup is for the strongman, the cold soup is for himself, and the hot one is for Jerome.

After heating up the hot Gazpacho soup in a microwave, Zack pours it over Jerome and forces it down his throat.

(Gotham, why must you constantly make me feel sorry for psychopaths?)

He says Jerome’s mother should’ve dropped him in the river. However, this . . . touching family moment is interrupted by Bruce entering the diner. He asks what’s going on and Zack tells him to leave. Zack says Jerome is a psycho who’s getting what he deserves.

Bruce says no one deserves to be tortured and tells them to call the cops. Zack tells the strongman to let go of Jerome . . . and get rid of Bruce. Bruce begins to fight the strongman, but his combat skills aren’t much use against brute strength. As Bruce struggles, Jerome picks up a gun that his uncle dropped in the confusion and holds it to Zack. He says Zack should tell him what he wants to know and says Zack knows why he came.

Zack tells Jerome that the name of the school is St. Ignatius. (The school for what? I don’t know, but apparently St. Ignatius was the patron saint of soldiers and education, as well as the founder of the Jesuit order, according to Catholic Online.) Jerome has Zack write down the school and its address so he won’t forget it. After Zack hands him the note, Jerome shoots Zack in the head.

He then watches Bruce, who’s still struggling against the strongman. He claps. “Boy billionaire, Bruce Wayne, my savior,” he laughs. “Wow, I did not see that coming.” Jerome tells Bruce that his uncle beat him constantly in childhood.

Jerome says the only thing funnier than Bruce saving him would be if he saved Bruce . . . or if the guy Bruce saved him from chokes Bruce to death. He decides the latter option is better and tells the strongman to continue.

As Jerome laughs at Bruce, Selina whips the gun out of his hand and distracts the strongman long enough for Bruce to get loose and punch him out. “Still don’t need my help?” she asks. Selina then cocks her gun at Jerome.

Jerome leaves, and thus begins the grand tradition of Batman letting his villains escape. Selina says Bruce should’ve let her shoot, but Bruce insists that Jerome is his responsibility and he can’t let him get shot. Selina says he’s not her responsibility and tells Bruce they need to leave before the cops show up. Bruce says it’s not over yet. Selina says he can do what he wants but warns him not get himself killed.

After she leaves, Bruce find’s Zack’s note on the ground—which makes me wonder if Jerome forgot to grab it before he left, or if he purposefully left the note because he wants Bruce to follow him.

At the GCPD, Harper tells Gordon that Bruce is on line three. Bruce tells Gordon that he saw Jerome and that Jerome killed his uncle. He adds that Jerome was looking for information about a school, St. Ignatius. Bruce says that he’ll meet Gordon there. Gordon insists that he stay out of it, but Bruce says Gordon can yell at him at the school.

After Bruce hangs up, Harvey and Gordon set out to find the school and keep Bruce from getting in over his head.

Meanwhile, Scarecrow stops the police van carrying the Mad Hatter. He gasses the driver and frees Hatter with the help of Jerome. Hatter expresses glee at fooling Gordon, and Jerome agrees—Hatter provided the perfect distraction for the GCPD while Jerome got the information out of his uncle and Scarecrow got his fear toxin. Jerome says that there’s more to do and gets in the driver’s seat.

Plot C: A League [of Shadows] of Their Own.

As a radio in the Sirens’ Club announces news of the Arkham breakout, Tabitha remarks that the city is going crazy. She says they could be out taking advantage of the situation and doing business while the cops are distracted. Barbara, however, yells at her to turn the radio off. She takes a pill for her migraine and Tabitha asks if she really thinks the pill will help her hand too. Barbara looks at her still-glowing hand and says she’s been researching Ra’s al Ghul to figure out how to fix it.

Tabitha insists that Ra’s al Ghul was “a charlatan,” but Barbara doesn’t think so. She wonders why Ra’s chose to bring her back from the dead. Tabitha points out that Barbara might not have been dead since she can’t remember the events of her resurrection. Barbara says it hurts to remember. She’s been seeing glimpses of memories, but when she pursues them, it hurts. Tabitha says she needs to push through and get to the memories, but Barbara says it hurts too much. Tabitha insists that Barbara is whining and that she needs to push through the pain because that’s the kind of tough person Barbara has always been.

Barbara shuts her eyes and her hand begins to glow brighter. She remembers things going dark after she was electrocuted. She sees her own death and then sees Ra’s al Ghul set her down on a table. He says that the world has been cruel to her and that she curses it. He takes a vial of the Lazarus water and pours it into her mouth. Barbara gasps and wakes up. Ra’s says she has a poisonous mind and that people hate her for it. She agrees. Ra’s understands and says Barbara is exactly who he’s been looking for.

(I’m just saying, I thought that if anyone was the chosen one, it was Bruce.)

Ra’s says he’s got a secret present for Barbara: she’ll become the demon’s head. His army of assassins, the League of Shadows, will be hers to command. Ra’s says that the world is weak and Barbara is strong. She needs to use the league to make the world more like her.

Babs then wakes up from her memory and sobs. She says that Ra's understood her. Tabitha asks if she remembered anything. Barbara says she did, and says that the gift Ra’s transferred to her—the reason her hand’s glowing—is a beacon. It’s calling the League of Shadows to Gotham, and soon they’ll arrive.

Later that night, Tabitha asks if they should do anything to prepare for the league. Barbara says they’ll show themselves soon. The lights flicker off. After a few seconds, the lights come back on to reveal several armed men and women. A man at the front of the group says they’ve come for the demon’s head. He asks where he is. Barbara replies, “She is right here.” She shows him her hand, and a female assassin steps forward from the crowd and says it’s the mark of the demon’s head.

The man says Barbara doesn’t understand what it is. Barbara says she understands enough to know that she’s their new leader. He says that’s not all of what it means and insists that no woman has been allowed to lead the league before. Women can serve in the league, but they don’t get to lead. The female assassin says it’s a stupid tradition and insist that they need to honor Ra’s decision. The man agrees that they’ll have to follow Barbara as long as she has the mark . . . which is why he’s going to cut it out of her.

Looks like someone's about to pull an Oliver Queen.

(But seriously, there have been way too many hand casualties on this show.)

As the assassins draw their weapons, Tabitha remarks that Ra’s gift is more of a curse. Barbara insists that Ra’s chose her for a reason and steps forward. When no one attacks, she tells them that they’re all weak. That’s why Ra’s chose her: she’d see the weakness and fear in them. She tells them that she’s the new Demon’s Head and that they’d better bow down. They do so, and the lights flicker off.

In the darkness, several gunshots go off. When the lights come back on, every man in the room lies dead on the floor, while the female assassins, still standing, hold machine guns. The woman who spoke earlier says that they were weak and that the league’s mission is to “cull weakness.” Barbara says it’s not much of a league now, but the woman insists that the female members of the league are hers to command and that hundreds will follow. Tabitha warns that Barbara doesn’t know what she’s getting into, but Barbara says she’s taking what’s hers. She then asks the woman to tell her everything she needs to know.

The Verdict:

Plot A: While I’m not usually a fan of Hatter-centric stories, this one served three important purposes. The first is that it reminded Gordon even though he’s failed in the past, he can still save people and be the leader the GCPD needs. The second purpose was to keep the GCPD from going after Scarecrow and Jerome. Nothing like the threat of mass suicide to get the cops’ attention.

The third purpose was to put Harvey and Gordon on equal ground. Gordon’s past failures prove that he’s no better than Harvey, and Harvey’s actions in this episode prove that he can be as much of a hero as Gordon. Both characters serve as each other’s conscience. Gordon pushes Harvey to seek truth and justice, and Harvey holds Gordon back from his more violent impulses (and from satisfying them in the name of justice). Gordon has finally realized that, because of his involvement with Sofia, he can no longer think of himself as above Harvey.

Plot B: If you’ve been reading my recaps since “Pax Penguina,” you probably noticed that I’m typically more interested in Bruce’s storylines than anyone else’s. This episode was no exception. Every scene with Bruce was pure gold—from acting like a jerk to Harper to working with Selina to saving Jerome.

The last action of that list in particular shows serious character development—it’s one thing to not kill Jerome himself. But to save Jerome at his own risk? Bruce wouldn’t have done that earlier in the season, especially in his brat phase. Saving Jerome marks a serious acknowledgment that Bruce has to take responsibility for his actions, good or bad. Whether or not sparing Jerome in season 3 was the right choice, Bruce has to live with its repercussions . . . even if that means Jerome could become the Joker and do unspeakable things to Bruce’s future allies.

As for the Bat-Cat interactions, I love how Selina still helps out and saves Bruce even though she thinks his priorities are skewed. This episode does a good job highlighting the difference between the two characters. Bruce believes that his responsibility is to keep Jerome from hurting anyone else by returning to Arkham. Selina, while she doesn’t agree with the idea of Bruce being responsible for Jerome, thinks the best way to stop Jerome from hurting innocent people is by killing him herself. I think this is a direct result of her recent interactions with Ivy—Selina, even if she doesn’t admit it, feels responsible for the people Ivy killed. I think her decision to shoot Jerome was born out of regret that she didn’t do the same to Poison Ivy before things got out of hand.

The only complaint I have about this plot is that it’s been two episodes since Alfred returned to Wayne Manor and we haven’t seen him at all. What was he doing this whole episode? Making tea and worrying about Bruce’s safety? We may never know.

Plot C: This was probably the weakest plot in the episode, but it was still interesting. I’ve been wondering for most of the season why Ra’s would go to the trouble of resurrecting and recruiting Barbara. This episode provides an answer, though it’s not what I would expect. In “Heavydirtysoul,” Ra’s called Bruce his heir. Are the writers going back on that, or is Ra’s letting Barbara think she’s his heir as the means to an end? (On a more minor note, couple of fans on Reddit have pointed out that Ra’s originally said he bathed Barbara in the Lazarus Pit, so that’s a bit of a continuity error as well.)

While I’m still annoyed that we might not get a live Ra’s al Ghul back after all, I was pleased to see the League of Shadows. Ever since he showed up in season 3, I’d wondered if Ra’s was still the head of the league, or if the writers had decided to make him only connected to the Court of Owls (and even to someone as lax with canon as myself, that would’ve been a major mistake). And while we’ve seen a couple of Ra’s assassins in the past, this was the first episode to show several at once in a true league.

It’s a bit of a letdown that Barbara seems to only have command of the female half of the league, but I doubt the assassins we saw in Sirens are the whole league. As for Barbara and her league, I don’t know what they plan to do next—apart from “culling weakness.” I suppose she’ll probably try to use the league to take over the city.

Overall, this was a great episode. Scarecrow did get pushed to the side for most of it, but hopefully he’ll get more time to shine in coming episodes. Then again, if the promo is anything to go by, next week’s episode is probably very Jerome-centric:

Is Jerome the Joker? Only time will tell. If not in name, he’s certainly been the Joker in spirit for the past four seasons. If the Joker is as much of a symbol as Batman, then Jerome has a right to be called the Joker. He symbolizes everything the Joker stands for: showmanship, a sick sense of humor, sadistic violence, and pure chaos.

Have a good week. And until next time, steer clear of Gazpacho soup.


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