You know the thing about chaos? It’s fair. And in Gotham City, the everyday citizens just need a little push to embrace their darker sides, assuming most people in Gotham even have good sides to them. Point is with Jerome switching off the lights and mass hysteria in the city, it’s a dangerous night to be in Gotham City. Let’s jump into the winter finale with “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies.”
The episode begins with the GCPD precinct under attack. Jim, Harvey, and the rest fight off as many people as they can, but the crazies continue to stream in with no sign of Jerome in sight.
Penguin and two flunkies arrive at a garage and find an unharmed Nygma. Oswald is overjoyed to see his friend, but Nygma has other plans, as he quickly guns down Oswald’s two cohorts. He then shows Isabella’s wrecked car to Oswald and admits that he knows what Oswald did. Now it’s Nygma’s time for revenge.
With panic in the streets, Kathryn- remember her?- speaks with an unnamed man named played by James Remar. Remar’s character has a name, but we’ll get to that later. The two discuss the current panic in Gotham, with Kathryn noting that the city will bend long before it breaks. The man believes that the GCPD can fix this mess, and Kathryn notes that this faith in Gordon could be dangerous.
Back at the GCPD, power is still out and there’s no word on Jerome’s location. Mobs have taken over the city and now ordinary citizens have taken Jerome’s words to heart. This would be a good time to have a leader calm things down, but Mayor Cobblepot is currently missing.
However, Jim figures that if Jerome is taken down since he’s the symbol, the public might calm down. The task now is finding out what he wants since he wanted to plunge the city into darkness. Jim goes to find Leslie.
Nygma secures Oswald to Isabella’s car and tells him all about his plan, including stealing the remains of Oswald’s father- which now rest in a dumpster. Oswald forgives Nygma, saying that killing him isn’t the way, and soon confesses to killing Isabella. Hell, he thinks Nygma should thank him. Ed counters that he could’ve been happy, but Oswald is certain that Ed would have eventually killed Isabella, just as he did with Miss Kringle.
After, Ed would’ve hated himself, but then Oswald admits that he did it for love. Ed doesn’t believe that. To him, love is about sacrifice and putting someone else’s needs before your own, and Ed believes that Oswald would sacrifice anyone to save himself.
Nygma then shows off his death trap, which looks more to the point than the one he had in Batman Forever. Suspended above Oswald is a cauldron of acid that’s being held in place by a chain. Once the ice block melts, the chain will loosen and the acid tips. Oswald pleads for his life, saying that his love for Ed proves that he can change, but Ed believes these are the words of a desperate man about to die.
Back at GCPD, when Jim asks Leslie if Jerome said anything vital, Leslie responds that Jerome did say that he wanted his face back…and that he asked if Leslie was still with Jim, so of course Leslie brought up how Jim killed Mario. When Leslie is done being an ass, she eventually admits that Jerome didn’t tell tell her his plan, but he did remember that the last thing he planned to do before he died was kill Bruce Wayne.
As if on cue, we cut to Wayne Manor, where Alfred and Bruce get a phone call. Before Alfred can answer, he senses someone else in the room and is knocked out before he can stop Jerome and his cronies from entering the room. They start trashing the place and Jerome soon gets his hand on and smashes the owl figurine.
Jerome tells Bruce that he’s here to kill him. Bruce remembers the night that Jerome took over the benefit. He’s not afraid, though- just disappointed. After Jerome comes back to life and makes this spectacle, killing Bruce in Wayne Manor when few will see it lacks flair. This isn’t some regular kid. Bruce Wayne’s death should mean something, damn it!
So yeah, maybe Jerome should have an audience. Jerome figures that Bruce is stalling to buy time, but he does agree that it’s time to take this murder show on the road. Jerome knows the perfect spot. He takes Bruce with him, but Alfred is to remain at the manor.
Back at the death trap, Oswald’s life hangs in the balance and acid drips between his legs when a lone officer enters the area. Oswald pleads for help, but the officer demands to know what Oswald did. Since there’s no time for an explanation, the officer cuts through Oswald’s ropes and frees him just in time as the acid spills over and eats through the car.
Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred taunts and distracts the henchmen long enough for Jim to enter so he and Alfred can overtake them. Alfred then tells Jim that Jerome has taken Bruce hostage.
Where at? Some theme park from hell that is apparently the one spot in Gotham City that still has power, despite Jerome cutting the power, but whatever. Jerome’s goons put Gotham’s citizens in the games and royally screw with them. Jerome beckons Bruce for some fun before the main event.
At GCPD, Jim and Alfred discuss Bruce’s situation when Bullock enters and tells them that Jerome and his followers have taken over a few places over town, including the Boardwalk Circus. And remember that Jerome was raised in a circus. The three head off with a strike force set to meet them at the location.
Back at the circus, Jerome isn’t a fan of Bruce’s new paint job, so he fixes it by stabbing one of the clowns and smearing fresh blood on Bruce’s face.
Oswald returns to the manor and finds Butch and Tabitha waiting to finish him. They were instructed by Barbara to not kill Oswald, but Butch doesn’t see Barbara as his boss. Penguin taunts Butch, saying that his days of being someone in Gotham are over.
But Tabitha reminds Oswald of when she put a knife in Gertrude’s back. Penguin had a chance to get revenge by killing Tabitha, but didn’t, so he shouldn’t try to turn her and Butch against each other. The two take him hostage.
Back at the carnival, Bruce asks Jerome if there’s a plan to this madness, but Jerome insists that the people don’t want a plan- just an excuse to do terrible things. All they need is a little push. Bruce is confident that a few maniacs won’t hold the city hostage forever, and that’s true, but Jerome’s point the average people in Gotham City have shown their true colors now that the lights are out. That’s the point.
Bruce is confident that there are good people in Gotham, but Jerome believes otherwise. In his mind, Gotham has no heroes. Before Jerome can go through with the dunking game, Bruce pushes him. He’s ready to fight, but Jerome just pushes the button and drops the man into into the vat of piranhas.
As Jerome staples his face, he then his staple gun on Bruce, who soon buckles under the pain. Time for the main event. At the same time, Jim, Harvey, and Alfred arrive at the carnival with backup still two minutes due to the riots. The three soon head in.
Under the big tent, Headmaster Jerome is ready to begin the show when he silences one goon in particular for being too loud. He congratulates his followers on successfully bringing chaos to Gotham City and thanks them by presenting Bruce Wayne himself. As Gotham’s billionaire playboy is brought out, Jerome begins loading a cannon with a cannonball and sharp objects. Of course.
As Jerome loads the cannon, Bruce manages to pull one of the staples out of his arm and uses it to loosen the handcuffs. As Jim, Alfred, Bullock, and the rest of GCPD arrive, Bruce drops one of the staples, but he makes use of another one and escapes just before the cannonball fires.
At the nightclub, Oswald is brought before Barbara and deconstructs her entire plan to turn Nygma against him and destroy everything that Oswald created, all ending with his death. And now that Barbara has what she wants, there’s no need for Nygma. As for Oswald’s options: he can either help Barbara find Ed and live or stay quiet and die.
As Bruce escapes into a hall of mirrors, Jerome follows him. Bruce steps out and admits that he wanted Jerome to follow him. It’s time for Jerome to pay.
Barbara orders Oswald to call Nygma and say that he’s alive now that Ed knows Oswald isn’t the head of the underworld anymore. Oswald won’t give up Nygma to save himself. He thinks back to Ed’s words about selflessness. Sure, Oswald should want Nygma dead, as Ed betrayed him, but Oswald now doesn’t even know if he ever loved Nygma. Ed just happened to see Oswald as no one else had since his mother.
But Oswald killed Isabella because he wouldn’t share him. Oswald should’ve been ready to sacrifice his happiness for Ed’s, so he’s now ready to die. It’s so insane that even Ed can’t believe it, as he soon enters the scene. Oswald now sees that Barbara and Ed were in this together because Ed wanted to take what Oswald believed, not just what he had.
He wanted Oswald to die knowing he was incapable of loving another person, but since Oswald has just proven that he can, Ed is unsure how to proceed from here.
Back in the hall of mirrors, Jerome sets his gun down and beckons Bruce to come. Bruce, believing that Alfred has been killed, is ready to do what’s right. He tackles Jerome from behind- not Jerome’s favorite move- and punches Jerome over and over, but Jerome just laughs and taunts Bruce to keep letting out his anger. Before Bruce can deliver a killing blow, he looks at the mirrors and sees what he’s about to become.
He leaves Jerome and heads outside to reunite with Alfred. When Jerome stumbles out of the mirror hall, Jim takes the opportunity to punch off Jerome’s face.
The next day, word of Jerome’s arrest has spread and the streets of Gotham are quiet again. Once Jerome’s is reattached, he’ll be sent back to Arkham. Harvey offers to buy Jim breakfast while Leslie takes her leave.
While Alfred stitches up Bruce, Bruce tells Alfred how he feared for Alfred’s life. Alfred, though, is proud of the man Bruce has become, but Bruce admits that he almost killed Jerome. Yes, he controlled his anger, but after all the pain that Jerome caused, the idea of killing him felt right to Bruce. Hell, it felt like justice.
Alfred tells Bruce that there’s a fine line between justice and vengeance, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Tonight, Bruce didn’t cross that line. That’s the first rule of Alfred’s training. Bruce is unsure what he’ll do with this training, but Alfred says that if Bruce is to continue, he’ll need rules that he must never break. And what is the first rule that comes to Bruce’s mind? He will never kill.
If anything, Kathryn is at least pleased with the recent turn of events. Gotham could have been lost for good, but soon, the Court will act and the Bruce clone will be called upon. The clone is unsure how he’ll help, but he’s just a part of the plan. Things could go wrong if he refuses, but no one refuses the Court. No one.
Jim pours himself a drink when he gets a surprise visit from the man speaking with Kathryn, who we can now identify Uncle Frank Gordon.
At the docks, Nygma holds Oswald at gunpoint. Oswald pleads for his life yet again, saying that murder will change Nygma. While Nygma has killed before, this murder will be the death of someone that Nygma loves, even though Nygma is adamant that he doesn’t love Oswald. The point is that Oswald still killed Isabella, so Nygma still wants Oswald to suffer, and there’s no way to talk out of this.
Oswald reminds Nygma that when they met, Nygma was just a loser working at the GCPD. Oswald is the one who created Edward Nygma and he sees Ed for who he is and can still become. It seems like Oswald is getting through to Ed, but Nygma admits that he still loved Isabella. And since Oswald killed her, he must suffer, so Nygma fires. Before Oswald can react to the bullet in his stomach, Nygma pushes him into the water.
So here we are at the oddly timed Gotham winter finale and it was a good one. Granted, a lot of that has to do with Jerome managing to elevate an episode, even if I think he leans too much on Ledger’s performance. To the show and Monaghan’s credit, Jerome does come a bit into his own here and he begins to feel like his own incarnation instead of one that falls heavily on what’s come before.
There are shades of Joker plans here, whether it’s putting on a spectacle at a carnival, taunting his enemy to kill him and lose himself in a blind rage, or throwing a city into chaos. Gotham is a campy show, but when it goes dark, it does so very well when it hits the mark. This is one of those times, as you have the city plunged into darkness, all citizens in danger, and mass chaos in the streets. Should make for a good watch.
And that’s a downside of this finale: we don’t get the human element or see how ordinary citizens are affected by this darkness or Jerome’s words. We know that mobs have taken over the city and people have bought into Jerome’s message, but only because we’re told. If need be, a quick snippet or montage of seeing how regular folks have been impacted would have been nice.
Not that Gotham often deals with the everyday citizen of the city, though we did get a bit of it in the first season, but for an event as big as killing the power and imploring people to do what they want and kill who they want, it would have made the stakes seem bigger if we saw that widespread panic from a citizen’s perspective.
For example, think back to The Dark Knight Rises when Bane told the people of Gotham that the city was now theirs. We saw scenes of folks taking up arms, breaking into and tearing the rich out of their homes, and Jonathan Crane holding trials to judge Gotham’s elite. Sure, we didn’t get an entire movie’s worth of this, but we did see the impact Bane’s words had.
We’re talking about all power cut. The scope of Jerome’s plan is huge. He turned off the lights and gave people the push they needed to reveal their true selves. This doesn’t take away from the episode, but it’s that old adage of Show, Not Tell. Don’t have Jim just tell the audience that there’s mob rule in Gotham City- let us see that so we can feel how this has led to disarray for the average people in the city.
That aside, what we got was very good with the Bruce and Jerome confrontation. While I’m still iffy on why Jerome is fixated on killing Bruce just because it’s the last thing he remembers- keep in mind that these two have only had one encounter prior- it did allow Gotham to give us a sort of Batman/Joker face-off without these two actually being those characters yet.
It hit all the familiar notes: the Joker tempting Batman to cross a line, Bruce establishing that there is indeed a line between justice and vengeance, and admitting how much a psychopath like Jerome deserves to die for all he’s done. It has what you’d expect from and even though we’re looking at kid Batman and kid Joker, David Mazouz and Cameron Monaghan have good enough chemistry that I could see this rivalry lasting.
Plus, this is significant growth for Bruce. In “A Dead Man Feels No Cold,” he told Selina that he hoped that committing a murder would change him, much to her warning.
Here, even though it’s a bit on the nose with him saying this early in his journey that he would never kill, not to mention the swelling musical score accompanying this declaration, this is a who will will later don the cowl and become Batman. All the scene between Bruce and Alfred needed was for a bat to fly into the room, but his act does prove that Gotham has its heroes, big and small.
Also, Bruce’s motivation was that he thought Alfred had been killed. It’s not an unfair assumption and the motivation comes from a good place, given how Alfred had been left alone with Jerome’s followers, but come on: Alfred has taken plenty of beatings, has been stabbed, and outnumbered before in a fight, but came out just fine. No reason to think Alfred couldn’t get out of this situation as well.
Then there’s Jerome, who I’m guessing wants fame and attention since he did agree that Bruce Wayne’s death should mean something. At the same time, like in The Dark Knight, he sees madness in people. Like gravity, it just needs a little push and Jerome here is an agent of chaos. He just has to kill the lights, give a message on television, and then watch the fireworks when the chips are down.
Jerome seems to see society for what it is: harsh, cruel, and unusual. The people walk around wearing masks, but dream of doing terrible things to one another. Granted, the people of Gotham City are already awful, corrupt citizens, so Jerome probably just hastened their bloodlust.
And the carnival is a hellish, yet cartoony sight, I’ll admit, and appropriate for Gotham. Though I’m still left wondering how Jerome found the time to orchestrate this or how the carnival has electricity, it was a nightmare that fits the tone of this show. Using citizens in the games, smearing a goon’s blood on Bruce’s face, and stapling his arm, it was gruesome at times.
With Jerome out of commission and locked Arkham, though, it seems like peace may return to the city, but his message and impact have no doubt been left on Arkham, if his followers are any indication of anything. And given how easy it is to break into almost anywhere in Gotham City, I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Jerome.
Moving onto Oswald and Nygma, I’m wondering whether Nygma intended for Oswald to survive. After all, he wanted to see if Oswald had what it took to put someone else’s needs above his own, and that wouldn’t have happened if Oswald had died, so maybe that one inept cop who wasn’t helping control the riots was just a plant. Who knows?
Oswald is smart enough to see through most of Barbara’s plan except for her working with Nygma, and it makes me wonder what happened to the cunning and calculating Penguin from the first season. I don’t want to say his emotions have blinded him to logic, but if he saw through Barbara twice now, it’s unfortunate for him to still fall into this trap.
He seemed desperate enough to do or say something to save his own ass, but he did refuse to give up Nygma, so perhaps he has gained a bit of selflessness, as he admitted that he didn’t want to share Nygma with Isabella. Despite that, and even though it looked like Nygma might have reconsidered, he shot him anyway.
First, I don’t think that Oswald is dead not just because he ended up in this same situation in the pilot, but because I don’t see Gotham killing off The Penguin in this way, even though there’s precedent with the show killing Maroni and Sarah Essen. But second, I’m curious what’s next for Nygma, given how Tabitha and Barbara still want to kill him. But if Nygma could mastermind this entire plan, these two should be no issue.
It’s strange that Gotham just returned in the new year and we’re already headed for another break until April. Even still, despite my minor issues, this was a very good and, at times, dark episode of Gotham that explored the Batman/Joker dynamic without actually having those characters at the moment.
With Jerome headed for Arkham, our not-Joker is out of the picture for the moment, but don’t forget about the Court of Owls, as the organization is still a major player behind the scenes. And with Uncle Frank apparently in cahoots with them and paying his nephew a visit, the Bruce clone, and the owl statue now shattered, I expect the Court to play a larger role for the remainder of the season.