A Look at Gotham- Season 3, Episode 6: “Mad City: Follow the White Rabbit”

After a revisit to the Red Hood Gang, Gotham puts the Mad Hatter back front and center as Jervis Tetch comes back to further torment Jim Gordon by taking him on a chase.  Can Jim make the impossible decision when put in what appears to be a no-win scenario? This is “Follow the White Rabbit.”

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The episode begins at a chapel with a newlywed couple celebrating their marriage.  Probably the happiest thing to happen in Gotham City, but the couple’s limo driver is none other than Jervis Tetch.  The couple wants to get the reception, but Tetch tells them that they won’t be attending because they are needed elsewhere.  And their fate depends on James Gordon.  Also, there’s a kid in the passenger’s seat.  Jervis Tetch steals kids.

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Over at Penguin’s manor, Oswald tells Olga that he plans to confess his feelings to Ed.  Life only gives you one true love, after all.  When you find it, you run to it, so Oswald is going to do that.  Also, Olga needs to learn English.

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Valerie and Jim talk about Leslie running tests on Alice’s blood.  She wants to sit down with Leslie, but it’s complicated for Jim.  You know, since Leslie is his ex, after all.  Jim is confident that Leslie won’t help, but Valerie has her ways.  Despite Jim’s setbacks, he’s happy with where he is right now.  Valerie heads off, still insistent on a sit-down with Leslie.

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Then, Jim is approached by a frosty man who has a message from Jervis Tetch. The man is played by Kieran Mulcare…hey, it’s Ruben from Jessica Jones.  Frosty leads Jim to a phone booth, where Jim answers and receives a call from Jervis.  Tetch put his time in hiding to good use by learning about Jim’s history.  He knows all about Jim’s web of lies to keep his psyche intact.  He will force Jim to confront who he is and drive him mad.

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He then tells Jim to look at the overpass, where the married couple will jump in 30 seconds.  Also, Shane, the little boy, is about to be hit by a truck driven by one of Jervis’ associates.  Who to save?  The choice is Gordon’s.  As slow motion kicks in, Jim rushes for Shane and saves him, but he’s unable to stop the couple from jumping leap to their deaths.

Jim goes to answer another call.  Jervis taunts Jim, saying this was his choice.  He gives Jim an address and tells him to meet there in five minutes without police backup or more people die.

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Leslie and Mario look at their marriage announcement in the paper when Mario tells Leslie that Carmine called about throwing an engagement party.  Mario turned down the offer, but Leslie likes the idea since she’s rebuilding her life in Gotham.

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Nygma delivers some announcements to Oswald, but he also came up empty in his search for Butch.  He apologizes for letting Oswald down, but Penguin says that he would be lost without Ed’s help.  Penguin then tries to tell Ed something very important, but he loses his words.  Never happens to Nygma, of course.  Nygma then prepares for the two to visit a school for some media attention.

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So GCPD arrives at the scene, with Bullock telling Barnes that Jim saved the kid.  No response from Jim on the phone, though.  Bullock notices that Barnes isn’t using his cane, but then spots the frosty man who found Jim.  The two approach him, but he’s just repeating the same mantra over and over about his message for James Gordon.

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James, meanwhile, arrives at the address that Jervis supplied and finds newspaper articles and photos about Gordon and his family.  He also finds yet another ringing telephone, where Jervis tells Jim that he’s cutting it close.  Jim looks through the telescope and spots Jervis, who wonders what Jim has against married couples.  Well, Barbara did have a shotgun, if that matters.

Then Jim starts hanging up the phone, realizing that this is about Alice.  He taunts Jervis, saying that Alice hated him.  Jim offers to come down, but Jervis promises that if Jim hangs up again, she will die.  And that’s when Jim spots some of Jervis’ henchmen making off with Valerie.  This is why journalists shouldn’t just leap at just any story.

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Tabitha and Barbara wonder how soon it will take for Penguin to figure out that Tabitha sprung Butch.  In enters Jim, who asks Barbara where Tetch is, given that Jervis kidnapped Valerie and knew things about Jim that only Barbara could have told him.  Since Jim is short on time and patience, he starts breaking glass, but Barbara doesn’t know.

However, Jervis did come in a few days ago to ask about Jim’s history, especially the women in his life.  Barbara even told Jervis that Jim is still in love with her.  Right.  She also mentioned Leslie.

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Jim calls Leslie’s phone, but gets Jervis instead, who gives Jim another address and nine minutes to come to him.  Jervis introduces Valerie to Leslie, telling them that they are two halves of Jim Gordon’s heart.

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At GCPD, Barnes speaks with the frosty man, who repeats his mantra about Jim Gordon’s message.  Barnes begins to react to Alice’s blood when Bullock tells Barnes that Jim has been spotted.  Barnes heads out, so he’ll crush the chair another day.

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Jim arrives at the location, where Jervis greets him via television monitors and says that they must build up to the confrontation.  Up above on the railing are a pediatrician and a journalist.  Only one gets to go free, the other must be killed, but Jim won’t kill anyone.  Bullock and GCPD arrives on the scene just as Jervis, unsatisfied with Jim’s lack of decision, electrocutes and kills both men.

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At the aforementioned public school, Penguin points out a kid sitting by himself- Luke, who is new.  Penguin goes over to Luke and asks why he isn’t playing with the other children.  Luke fears that the kids won’t like him, but Penguin says that if the kids don’t like him, wait until their backs are turned and then push them down the stairs.  Oswald Cobblepot should not go into teaching.

Anyway, attempt number two, as Oswald wants to talk with Nygma about a private matter over dinner tonight.

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Jim tells Barnes that Jervis has Valerie and Leslie since Tetch blames Jim for what happened to Alice.  His goal is to drive Jim insane, but Barnes tells Jim that he did all that he could and won’t let Jim blame himself for two innocent civilians being killed.  Those deaths are on Jervis’ hands.  He believes that Jervis will make him choose between Leslie and Valerie or they will both be killed.

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Leslie and Valerie are chained together in Valerie’s bathroom.  While Leslie searches for a way to free herself, Valerie finds it all ironic since she wanted a sit-down with Leslie.  Now she has it and talks about her story on Alice’s blood.  Leslie doesn’t want an interview in this location, though Valerie feels that Jim is being protective.  Valerie offers a way for Leslie to pick the lock, but only in exchange for an interview.  Valerie is a dick.

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Over at GCPD, Jim tells Barnes and Bullock about an ‘old friend’ apparently coming to give him an invitation.  Barnes addresses the GCPD, telling them that Jervis Tetch is treating Gotham City like his playground.

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Jim goes over to the frosty man, who has a message for him about getting to the end.  Jim fetches a pen and paper so the man can write down the instructions that Jim needs about the true test.  The tea party will begin once Jim walks through Leslie Thompkins’ door.  Mario arrives and Jim tells him that Barnes doesn’t know because if GCPD storms in, Jervis may kill Leslie and Valerie.  Well, Mario can always help.

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As Leslie picks her locks, Valerie asks her why she moved back to Gotham when she could have moved anywhere.  Leslie doesn’t want to answer that, but she does admit that she didn’t return for Gordon.  Soon enough, Leslie frees herself.  As does Valerie in no time at all.  Then Jervis enters and beckons the two to join him in the dining room to await the guest of honor.

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Indeed, Jim soon arrives and finds Jervis, Valerie, and Leslie waiting for him at the best tea party ever.  He’s hesitant, but the alternative is that Valerie and Leslie die, so he surrenders his gun.  As the Tweedle Brothers serve the tea party, Jervis toasts to good health, but only Jim decides to drink.  Jervis tells the party a story about a brother and sister- a story with a sad ending.

Yes, Jim found Alice, but he poisoned her mind and turned her against Jervis.  He says that Jim has run away from choices all of his life.  And now, the woman he loves is going to die, but which one?

Leslie thought she could save Jim from the darkness, and in return, she just got pain and sadness.  Jervis sees that Leslie still has love for Jim.  And then there’s Valerie Vale.  She still has hope for Jim, but what will happen when she learns about the real Jim Gordon?  These are the choices.  Who does Jim love more?  Jim will choose only after the Tweedle Brothers and Jervis lower their guns.

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Meanwhile, Mario sneaks in through another entrance, retrieves a gun, and heads upstairs.  He enters the tea party, but Jervis has switched the magazines in the gun, and indeed, Mario’s gun is empty.  Jervis, now out of patience, tells Jim to decide.

Jim turns it around and talks of Alice being terrified of Jervis, who did disgusting things to Alice when she was a kid.  She killed herself instead of being with Jervis.  And when she died, she smiled because she was finally free of Jervis.  Jim says that he’s the one who Jervis wants, so Leslie and Valerie should go free.

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But Jervis won’t allow Jim to confuse him.  Jim will go on to suffer without his love.  At the count of three, instead of Jim saying who he loves, Jervis wants Jim to decide who dies.  If he doesn’t, Jervis will just kill both Leslie and Valerie.

Jim picks Leslie to die, with Jervis figuring that Jim chose her because he loves Valerie. With that, he shoots Valerie in the stomach.  Well, good thing that Leslie is a doctor.  As Leslie gets to work to stop the bleeding, Jervis makes his escape.

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Valerie is soon brought into the emergency room.  Mario tells Jim that he’ll take it from here…wait, how did Mario get free?  Didn’t Jervis’ henchmen take him hostage?

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Back at Oswald’s manor, over dinner, Penguin practices his speech about a man being at a crossroads and making a hard decision.  Tonight, Oswald chooses courage.  He tells the chair across from him that he loves Nygma.  Of course.

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Nygma, though, is too busy picking wine when a woman nearby gets his attention. This is Isabella, played, interestingly enough, by Chelsea Spack in another role.  Nygma tells the woman that she reminds him of someone he knew a long time ago.  Isabella approaches Nygma with a riddle: you struggle to regain me, when I’m lost, you struggle to obtain me. The answer?  Time.  Nygma introduces himself to Isabella.

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Bullock catches up with Jim, who tells Valerie that she’s still in surgery.  The entire GCPD is searching for Jervis.  Jim tells Harvey that he thought he could save both Leslie and Valerie.  In the end, Jim did just what Jervis wanted.  Bullock, though, isn’t so certain about that.

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Jim then joins Leslie, who assures him that Mario is a good doctor and will do his best with Valerie.  As for what Jim said, Leslie isn’t in the mood to talk about that right now.  And the episode ends right there.

Well then, that was fun.  I do mean that.  Not just because this was another episode focusing on Jim and the consequences of his actions, but also because Gotham has made more good use of the Mad Hatter.

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But we’ll get to Jervis and his games in a second.  Let’s talk about Penguin in love.  Now this is an interesting, but not out of left field move for Gotham.  Oswald hasn’t shown much interest in women and Robin Lord Taylor himself is gay, so at least having Penguin be gay himself is consistent.  And given Gotham having that almost-kiss last time, I suppose it was inevitable that this friendship would grow into a romance.

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But while Penguin spends most of his time working up the courage, he may not get anywhere now that there’s a new woman in Nygma’s life.  And to have her played by Chelsea Spack makes me curious how much, if at all, Nygma is going to think of Miss Kringle when he’s with her.  And she’s into riddles, so there’s an instant connection with Nygma, so now to see how this develops and conflicts with Penguin.

Plus, hey, Chelsea Spack is a beautiful woman, so I’ll take any excuse to have her back on Gotham in any capacity.

But one of Gotham’s flaws is its inability to balance multiple storylines.  We don’t get that this week, as there’s no Ivy, Bruce, or Selina, while Barbara and Tabitha are in just one scene to point Jim towards Jervis.  So outside of procedural stuff with the GCPD- and Bullock noticing that Barnes isn’t using his cane- we’re either with Jim and his chase after Jervis or with Penguin and Nygma.

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And Jervis almost serves as Jim’s Joker due to his mental games and attempts to drive him insane.  Jervis seems to relish the challenge and Benedict Samuel continues to bring a lot of presence to his take on the Mad Hatter.  He’s been in Jim’s head, knows what he’s lost, and is driving him to make impossible choices while still trying to protect those close to him.

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In the end, he fails to protect the two people from being electrocuted and his decision to have Leslie die ends up with Jervis shooting Valerie instead.  As Leslie said, Valerie and Jim are made for each other, and just like Leslie, there’s good chemistry between the two of them.  And both Jim and Leslie have talked of moving on past their relationship- Jim has even said that he’s happy for Leslie and Mario.

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I like how much Jervis is testing Jim, if just as a way to torture him after already leading him on a game of cat and mouse.  Although Jervis’ death traps and games were very reminiscent of Batman confronting the Riddler near the end of Batman Forever.  You saw it too, didn’t you?

And with Jim picking Leslie to die, that not only led to Valerie being injured, but harmed Jim’s bond with Leslie, even if she did end up living.  That’s a no-win scenario where Jim would end up in tragedy either way.

“Follow the White Rabbit” was a good episode.  It pushed Penguin to discover his true feelings for Nygma, but also introduced conflict with giving Nygma a love interest in Isabella.  With Valerie in surgery, Jim’s relationship with Leslie further damaged, and Jervis Tetch still out there, Gotham has brought James Gordon to another low point.  How will he recover from this?  And can he?  We shall see.

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