Everyone just wants to be wanted. Love is in the air on Gotham, in its best and worst forms. Jim and Lee are struggling to find what comes after it. Penguin seeks out the adoration of the masses. One lonely clone of Bruce Wayne comes to understand that he’s missed out on the most bittersweet facet of the human experience. And if Jervis Tetch’s love won’t be returned willingly, he’ll have to force it.
“Secure lair” is the next step in Jervis Tetch’s supervillain checklist, and he finds one ready-made for a bad guy with his twisted interests. While his beloved Alice is being questioned by the GCPD, her brother hypnotizes and then smashes in the head of the caretaker of a warehouse full of amusement park cast-offs. The Mad Hatter shares his joy with the man before he compels him to lay his head on the base of a “test your strength” scale; he’s reuniting with Alice that very day, and now she has a home to come home to.
Alice isn’t placated by the bars of her cell or the dozens of cops milling around her. Jervis is coming, and none of those barriers will stop him. Alice tells Jim that her brother used to put thoughts into her head as a game — “thoughts a brother should never have.” Last week, I wondered if the show were following the comic book version of the character by making Mad Hatter a sexual predator and having him lie about his relationship to the girl he’s pursuing. But Gotham did us one worse: Alice is Jervis’ sister. She lived with her abuser so long that Hugo Strange’s lab looked like a significant improvement.
Alice doesn’t know much about the blood disease she was born with, but Jervis’ explanation seems sound. Her brother called the siblings “two sides of a coin”: his brain is destructive, her body is a weapon. Unfortunately, Alice wasn’t able to use that weapon against Jervis, though she has no moral hesitation about killing him. She knows she’ll never be free until his obsession subsides, a condition that’s unlikely to the point of impossibility. And indeed, Jervis is gathering the muscle he requires to overtake the GCPD and break his sister out. He propositions and then hypnotizes five barrel-chested wrestlers in luchador masks. These are the Terrible Tweed brothers, and they’ll cause the necessary havoc.
It was Jim Gordon who brought Alice into the precinct, but Barnes isn’t giving him full permission to go after the Mad Hatter. He issues an empty threat; Gordon reminds him that it’s not illegal for private citizens to speak to each other. In fact, he finds that an audience with Jervis is necessary to his survival. An auditory trigger sends him back into that delusion that Jervis created last week and suddenly, Gordon wants nothing more than to die. A stranger pulls him back when Jim drifts into a busy street and almost gets flattened by a semi-truck. Shaken, he pays Barbara another visit to ask after her new entertainment. Barbara doesn’t appreciate her new role as on-call informant to the man whose rejection nearly defined her, but she does take joy in stirring s— up. She tells Gordon that Jervis was recently in the market for muscle, plus a little something extra. “It’s Gotham, baby,” she crows. “We’ve all got flair.”
Still desperate, Gordon opens up to Barnes about his suicidal thoughts. As it turns out, the chief is sympathetic to this perpetual thorn in his side. He even imparts a little advice. Barnes has noticed how buried Gordon seems by regrets (i.e. one of the Mad Hatter’s favorite access points) and can see how that’s ruining the ex-cop’s life. “At some point, you’re gonna have to make peace with the decisions you’ve made,” Barnes says, and he grants Gordon five minutes with Alice. She confirms Gordon’s fear, that the spell her brother placed on him is a permanent passenger with a common trigger: any kind of ticking that’s reminiscent of the Hatter’s pocket watch. “He’s made you a prisoner in your own skin,” she says ruefully.
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