A Look at Gotham- Season 2, Episode 3: “Rise of the Villains: Last Laugh”

Who fancies a visit to the circus?  No Flying Graysons this time, though.  Just a joker, a Barbara, a Selina, a gala in the midst of chaos, and James Frain standing tall as the hero we deserve.  Sort of.  This is “Last Laugh.”

Last Laugh- Jim and Harvey interrogate a guy to find out about Jerome

The episode begins with Jim and Harvey interrogating random men on Jerome’s whereabouts.  But this guy in particular claims to know nothing, prompting Jim to strike him.  And he’s furious.  This Jerome kid hurt someone close to the GCPD, and anyone hiding him will go down, too.  The guy offers to spread the word, but all he gets is tossed through the window.

Last Laugh- Theo interrupts a moment between Tabitha and Barbara

Tabitha prepares to head off to tie up loose ends.  The quick moment between her and Barbara is interrupted by Theo, as he wants to speak with Barbara alone.  First off, he’s glad that Tabitha has a friend in Barbara, as Tabitha can be strange, yet fragile.  Anyway, Theo congratulates Barbara on a job well done in Jim’s thrashing.  He then waxes on about his family, which built Gotham, but has since had its legacy erased.  Theo wants to reclaim what’s his.

How?  Well, Barbara thinks that Theo’s plan ends when he’s managed to take over the city with a group of loonies.  That’s just part one.  Part two will have Barbara in a starring role.  As he mentioned, he can make a person’s dreams come true.  When Jim Gordon has outlived his usefulness, Theo will help Barbara not kill, but destroy Jim- body and soul.

Last Laugh- Jim addresses the GCPD to discuss the recent deaths

At the GCPD, Jim is in a foul mood.  He isn’t on board with Harvey’s idea of seeing Penguin.  Not that Penguin would have anything to do with this, but he still has eyes and ears in the city.  Jim then gets an update from Alvarez, who has been in touch with Jerome’s circus contacts.  They’re upstate, so next step is to find Jerome’s father.

Jim even tells one officer to not remove the police tape from the captain’s office, since that stays up until the killer is in custody.  He takes this opportunity to address the squad: Commissioner Essen and nine others were killed in their house and the killer laughed.  Never forget that.

Last Laugh- Leslie comforts Jim, tells him about the gala

Leslie then checks in on Jim.  He’s fine, but not in the mood for her well-intended, but unnecessary words.  She’s just there to say that the Gotham City Children’s Hospital is holding a gala that she helped organize.  A few hours could do Jim some good, but he’s too busy for a distraction tonight.  Jim is trying to stop beating himself up, but it’s hard.  The two eventually kiss.

Bullock pops by to interrupt this kiss- the second kiss interrupted so far in the episode.  Alvarez was in touch with the circus manager.  The blind fortune teller bailed on Jerome and is still in town.  There’s an address available.

Last Laugh- Paul will miss Jerome's big night

At said address, Paul Cicero returns home, but he’s taken hostage by Jerome and Tabitha.  Jerome strolls down memory lane by telling his father about Kansas City when the circus would go through town every spring on Jerome’s birthday.  Jerome would be subject to beatings after his mother and her lovers drank and finished having sex.  One time on Jerome’s ninth birthday, after mom had finished round one, she took a break.

As Jerome tells his tale, he grabs a knife.  He continues.  Outside the trailer, he found his father, who asked why he was crying.  After all, it’s his birthday.  Dad said that the world doesn’t care about him or anyone else in it.  Better to realize that now.  And that was it.  Jerome tells his father about this guy who believes in him.  Tonight, Gotham will see that, but not dad since he’ll be dead.

When Jerome removes his father’s gag, he anticipates an apology.  Dad admits he was a bad father, but he still loved Jerome.  Funny.  Jerome has a plan in place: he presents blueprints of Arkham Asylum, as well as letters between himself and Paul.  One has bumps on it- a hidden message in Braille that discussed Jerome’s escape.  And the kicker?  Knockout gas that put out the orderlies.

See, Theo doesn’t want anyone to know that he broke inmates out of Arkham.  But the cops will find these letters and think that Paul really loved his son.  It’s unfortunate, Jerome says, as Paul will miss his big night.  But he asks his father if he knows why he kills.  Paul’s response is that Jerome will be a curse upon Gotham.  Kids will wake up screaming at the thought of him.  His legacy will be death and madness.

Last Laugh- Jim and Harvey find Paul dead

Before Jerome can land a killing blow, Jim and Harvey knock at the door.  After hearing a noise, the two force their way inside and find Paul with a knife through his eye.  As Harvey moves one of Paul’s hands, he activates the knockout gas which, you guessed it, knocks him out.  Jim manages to pull him out of the room and into the hallway.

Last Laugh- Jim strangles Jerome

And that’s where he’s ambushed by Jerome.  Jim manages to get his hands around Jerome’s neck, ready to kill him, but Tabitha knocks him out before that can happen.

Last Laugh- Bruce and Alfred officially meet Leslie at the gala

So the gala takes place.  I have a problem with this, but we’ll get into that later.  Bruce considers this all a waste of time, but Alfred reminds him of the deal they made: Bruce would resume a normal lifestyle.  His parents were patrons of the hospital, so by extension, so his Bruce.  And Bruce hates magicians, so he doesn’t have that to look forward to.

In the meantime, the two officially introduce themselves to Leslie.  Bruce asks on Detective Gordon’s condition since the attack, as he thought to call him.

Last Laugh- Bruce finds Selina at the gala

To my irritation, Selina Kyle is here and Bruce spots her.  She’s still pick-pocketing, despite working for Penguin.  Like me, Bruce didn’t expect to see her, but she follows the rich to seal from them, even though the attendees are here for a good cause.  Selina doesn’t care.  After all, she stole for Bruce, but he considers that different and things didn’t go how he planned them.  Selina cuts Bruce’s attempts at small talk short.

Last Laugh- Barbara wants to know Theo's plan

Barbara wants to know the rest of Theo’s plan.  He knows what the people of Gotham want, and that’s a hero.  He will give them just that.

Last Laugh- Jerome the new magician

Back at the gala, Jerome prepares to take the stage after the intended magician suddenly vanished.  Or got stuck in a coffin, as is the case here.

Last Laugh- Theo introduces Tabitha to Deputy Mayor Harrison Kane, played by Norm Lewis

Still at the gala, Theo introduces Tabitha to Deputy Mayor Harrison Kane, played by Norm Lewis.  Kane is intrigued in the mystery surrounding Theo, this handsome billionaire that just appeared out of nowhere.  People get curious about folks like him.  All Tabitha has to say is that Theo is a monster in the sack.  Keep in mind that we were told these two are related.  No word on Mayor James yet, but preparations for tonight are ready.

Last Laugh- Alfred tries to sweet talk Leslie, Bruce wants to leave

Leslie and Alfred continue their conversation.  She’s intrigued by his past, but Alfred laments that he rarely gets nights off.  He offers her an invitation to dinner at Wayne Manor.  And he happens to know the head chef at Chez Parnes.  That gets Leslie’s attention, as she’s been trying for so long to have dinner there.  But then Bruce shows up, announcing that he wants to leave.  Before that, it’s time for the night to begin.

Leslie, Master of Ceremonies, heads to the stage and thanks the crowd for their support before welcoming The Great Rodolfo.

Last Laugh- The Great Rodolfo and his assistant

Indeed, Jerome and Barbara take the stage and dazzle the crowd with a few tricks, but they soon require a volunteer for their first act.

Last Laugh- Bruce picked as magician's assistant

And who should be brought up on stage but Bruce Wayne himself?  Jerome places himself in a box to saw him in half.

Last Laugh- Jim and Harvey consider whether Jerome killed Paul

At GCPD, Jim advises Harvey to go home since he’s still dealing with the effects of the knockout gas.  Harvey refuses to leave, especially since this case isn’t solved.  The evidence points to Paul, but Jim isn’t sold on that.  Plus, why didn’t Jerome just kill him?  Could it have been part of a bigger plan?

As Bullock prepares to leave, he reminds a still tense Jim that he knew Essen longer than him and she saved his life.  It’s time for Jim to go home for a bit, too.  Jim eventually decides that the two of them will pay Penguin a visit tomorrow morning.

Back at the gala, Bruce emerges from the trick just fine.  When the magician’s assistant blows Bruce a kiss, Leslie notices something off about that.

Last Laugh- Kane brought to the stage

But then Jerome calls Deputy Mayor Kane to the stage for the next trick.

Last Laugh- Barbara revealed

However, after the assistant reveals a table of knives, she takes a bow, revealing her face in the process.  Barbara winks at Leslie, who now tries to call Jim before being abducted.

Last Laugh- Jerome tells the crowd that no one is getting out alive

On stage, Jerome tells the audience that no one is getting out alive.  And to prove that, he starts by throwing a knife right into Kane.  This kicks off a shootout, though the henchmen fire their guns into the air instead of at anyone.

In the midst of this frenzy, Bruce spots Selina and chases after her.

Last Laugh- Jim arrives at the gala, gets phone call from Jerome

Jim, having heard the first part of Leslie’s frantic call, arrives outside the gala and learns of the situation.  So who’s in charge?  The officer says that it’s Jim himself.  He gets a call from Jerome, who has Leslie placed in a 1960s Batman-esque death trap, but she’s unharmed.  Jim confirms this when he watches the live feed inside the gala.  Jerome has simple demands: a helicopter, $47 million, and a few other useless things.  In 10 minutes, people start dying.

Last Laugh- Theo the savior

But inside, Theo Galavan declares that enough is enough.  The city is sick of him.  Theo introduces himself to the citizens of Gotham City and offers himself in exchange for everyone inside the gala.  Barbara, bored of this, knocks out Mr. Galavan.

Last Laugh- Bruce and Selina part

Selina leads Bruce through a corridor she used to sneak into the party, which, I guess, explains why no one questioned how or why a young girl entered a benefit gala by herself.  She’s not returning, but Bruce needs to go back and help Alfred.  Plus, he didn’t expect Selina to go.  Oh, and Bruce misses her.

Outside, Jim’s backup aren’t equipped for this kind of situation, but after spotting Selina, he decides to head in alone.

Last Laugh- Barbara and Leslie talk about Jim

Inside, Jerome screws with the crowd while Barbara talks with Leslie.  She asks how Jim is doing.  After being called a crazy bitch, Barbara spins the wheel.  She predicts that in a year’s time, she and Jim will be back together.  Why?  Because they both have a dark side.  They’ll talk of how a man eating harpy almost tore them apart, but love conquers all.  When Leslie gets an opportunity, she knees Barbara in her lady parts.  That shouldn’t hurt, should it?

Jerome stops Barbara from killing Leslie.  It hasn’t been 10 minutes yet, after all.  Jerome’s first victim will be Bruce Wayne.  Why?  Well, they’re both orphans, so they’re linked.

Last Laugh- Jerome brings Alfred up for the kill

But when Bruce doesn’t present himself, Barbara suggests that Jerome kill Alfred instead.  Before Bruce can come through the curtains, Jim stops him for a second.

Last Laugh- Jerome takes Bruce hostage

As Bruce heads out, he quickly arms and informs Alfred of what’s going on before being taken hostage by Jerome.  But when Jerome sends a henchman to check, Jim emerges and shoots the henchman.  Neither Alfred nor Jim have a clear shot of Jerome, so we’ve got ourselves a standoff.

Last Laugh- Theo stabs Jerome

Or Theo can emerge and stab Jerome in the heck.  Yes, he admits to Jerome that this move wasn’t rehearsed and that he has real talent, but now the plot thickens.  Enter the hero.  Jerome dies with a smile on his face.  Barbara, though, makes her escape.

Last Laugh- Bullock confronts Penguin to talk about Jim

In his one scene of the episode, Penguin watches Jerome’s antics in disappointment.  A kid like that has no interest in building things or being part of a tradition.  But then Bullock enters, proud of how Fish Mooney’s umbrella boy.  The feeling is mutual, as Penguin is glad that Bullock rejoined the force.

However, Bullock does have a reason to be here.  See, he knows that Jim did Penguin a favor and there are rumors flying that someone died as a result.  Bullock thinks that Jim is worried.  Penguin was the obvious person to speak with, but Bullock figures that Jim was reluctant.  No worry, Penguin says, since they’re still friends.  Even still, Bullock would love nothing more than to beat the hell out of Penguin right since he’ll always be an umbrella boy.

Bullock promises that if Penguin wants to get at Jim, he’ll have to go through him.  After all, he still owes Oswald one for Fish.  With that, Bullock leaves.

Last Laugh- Debrief after gala attack

In the aftermath of the gala, Jim calls Bruce brave for his efforts.  The two, along with Alfred, congratulate each other on a job well done.  Alfred takes the opportunity to thank Theo for saving Bruce’s life.  And if there’s anything he or Bruce can do to help, they will.  Jim also introduces himself to Theo and thanks him for his help.

Last Laugh- Jim removes police tape from Essen's office

At GCPD, Jim finally takes down the police tape from the captain’s door before he and Leslie leave.

Last Laugh- Theo and Barbara watch news report on gala attack

Theo and Barbara watch the news report covering the gala and coverage of Theo’s heroism.  The people of Gotham City have had enough.  Now, Theo says, the real fun begins.  Jerome was a compelling character, but limited and wouldn’t last very long.  Barbara laments a bit.  The kid had a hard way about him.  Barbara kisses the bump she gave Theo…and just out of frame, Tabitha watches.

Last Laugh- Jerome's grin

The episode comes to a close with various citizens in Gotham watching and laughing at Jerome’s antics.  We end on a shot of Jerome’s smiling face as his body sits in the morgue, like some kind of joker.

Well, “Last Laugh” was interesting.  I keep saying that in regards to this show and this season in particular.  It’s the word I find applicable since I don’t find this season so far to be terrible, but I don’t consider it great, either.

But I’ll be positive at first.  Again, I like the serialized approach of this season and how the events of one episode lead right into the next with little to no filler.  GCPD is in short supply due to the massacre of last week, which was smaller than I believed if just 10 officers, Essen included, were killed.  It seemed like more, but I wasn’t keeping count.

Last Laugh- Jim reminds the GCPD of the recent tragedy

We see the effects Essen’s murder have taken on Jim.  He normally has a short temper when it comes to the GCPD, but now he barks orders and gives a speech about not forgetting that their commissioner was killed.  This doesn’t seem out of character since Jim has been prone to rallying the other officers to action, but a reminder so soon seemed like a way for him to vent his frustration.

Last Laugh- Jim chokes Jerome

If anything, he didn’t get in over his head.  He wanted answers and was willing to cross a line by committing violence and almost killing Jerome.  He took a chance at doing what Bruce said he wouldn’t do- sacrifice his integrity for the greater good.

Last Laugh- Jim tells Leslie that he's fine

And he refuses to let down his defenses for long, even around Leslie.  With Essen gone, Gordon looks to be taking charge at GCPD.  A season ago, I wouldn’t buy this since the officers were not keen to making friends with this hotshot detective.  But now, given Gordon’s actions and willingness to put himself in danger, I could buy that the GCPD would be more receptive to him.  If the head appears weak, then the body will crumble.

So if Gordon came off as soft in the aftermath of the commissioner’s death, someone else would have to take lead.  Sure, this responsibility could have fallen to anyone, but this being Gotham, the show dictates that Gordon assume a leadership role.

Last Laugh- Bruce, Alfred, and Jim after the gala incident

At the end of the day, he, Bruce, and Alfred banded together to help overtake Jerome and Barbara at the gala, but this is where the episode gets a bit sloppy for me.  I enjoyed the gala setup, but I have some problems.

Last Laugh- Jerome fires gun

First off, the Maniax didn’t just go away.  They are still at large and could strike the city at any moment.  Who thought it would be a good idea to still have a gala?  And even then, why would the organizers, or Leslie, for that matter, agree to continue holding this event?  Postpone or hold it in a safe location.  But to go forward with this well-publicized charity gathering when there are maniacs terrorizing the city seems pretty ridiculous.

Last Laugh- Jerome calls Jim

But let’s get onto Jerome.  Cameron Monaghan’s presence will be missed if only the energy he brought not just to his performance, but the season so far.  Not the Joker, but this show was on and off about Jerome’s identity.  And the show was more than willing to paint him as such: the laughing, grins, love of chaos, connection with Bruce Wayne, and the one bad day.  Not to mention the vindictive sidekick in Barbara.

Last Laugh- Jerome dies

So he was as close to the Joker as the show had so far, but with his death, his legacy is cemented in the city through the laughter he spurred in the citizens.  If Gotham ever does introduce the Joker as a character instead of an imitation, there’s a chance it could be someone inspired by Jerome’s actions.  But that would make him a rehash of a character who was already assumed to be the Joker.  In hindsight, I think you could have just introduced Jerome as a young psychopath without the Joker winks and nods.

Last Laugh- Theo kills Jerome

What’s worse and a bit unfortunate for Jerome is that he did want to make Theo happy.  He spoke of him with such enthusiasm that he wanted to make him happy.  And from the start, Jerome was interested in Theo’s idea of making Gotham tremble, so he had a role model in his mind.  But in the end, Jerome was part of a much larger plan.

Last Laugh- Barbara and Theo

And that’s where the next part of Theo’s plan continues.  He’s managed to become the hero that Gotham wants.  He put himself in harm’s way, knowing that a loose cannon like Jerome could have snapped, and managed to emerge as a savior.  I’m uncertain whether he always intended to kill Jerome or if this was all the grand idea, but I like that he changed things up from what we expected.

Last Laugh- Bruce and Jerome

The gala setup was both entertaining and frustrating.  The campy mixed with the sinister felt like taking a page from Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher’s Batman films.  I liked the moments with Leslie and Alfred, as well as how Jerome and Barbara played the crowd.

But then you’ve got things like henchmen shooting at the ceiling instead of at the people or Jerome actually giving Jim a time limit before he started killing people.  Given Jerome’s wanton love of pathos, I’d expect him to just kill at random.

Last Laugh- Selina's brief chat with Bruce

I also wasn’t a fan of Selina’s brief appearance because she didn’t have anything to add.  She’s still pick-pocketing, but she works for Penguin and can wear fancy dresses to ritzy galas, so she shouldn’t have a need or want for money.  Old habits die hard, but I would think that she’d have better things to do now that she’s under Penguin’s wing.  And she and Bruce still have some feelings for each other.  We’ve already known that.  Things haven’t changed.  This is the same Selina who kept badgering Bruce to kiss her.

Last Laugh- Penguin's not a fan of Jerome

Penguin’s scene, also brief, felt a bit more integral because Jim and Bullock had been talking about seeing him, so there’s some payoff to that.  In the end, no, Penguin has nothing to do with the Maniax or the attacks, but Bullock still had a bone to pick due to Fish’s apparent death.  He’s not one to make idle threats, so it’s unlike him to live up to his promise to make Penguin pay.  That and he further solidified his bond with Bullock by declaring to stand by him should Penguin come calling.

“Last Laugh” was a bit uneven compared to “Knock, Knock.”  Gotham holding the gala in light of the chaos was ridiculous, even for this show.  And the idea of Jerome potentially inspiring someone to become the Joker feels uninspired because we’ve already seen somebody inhabit that role in everything but name.  Unless Gotham does something very different, the actual introduction of the Joker would just feel like a retread.

That said, there was still plenty to enjoy.  Jim taking charge to avenge Essen, his collaboration with Bruce and Alfred, and the crazy antics of Jerome and Barbara kept it entertaining.  And with Jerome dead, the madness is far from over since all of the Maniax have not been captured or eliminated.  Theo has place himself as a hero of Gotham after freeing six lunatics from Arkham Asylum.  Now we just wait for phase two of his plan.

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