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. 


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