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.
NEXT: The main event
Jervis and his Terrible Tweeds choose that moment to crash the GCPD. The wrestlers body slam officers while the Mad Hatter makes his way to his prize. Gordon pulls his gun on Jervis, but his target reminds Gordon that killing him will secure Gordon’s own death sentence. The Mad Hatter pulls out his watch. Gordon tells Alice to run and turns his gun on himself with a shaky hand. Barnes knocks him unconscious.
When Gordon wakes, he’s restrained and looking at Dr. Lee Thompkins, officially back in her old job. And she’s not going to waste this opportunity to have her ex as a very captive audience. “I don’t know what I would do if something happened to you,” Lee says and is rightfully offended when Jim suggests that she’d be “fine.” She dismantles the victim narrative he’s made up for himself. Lee was the one who lost a child developing inside her. And even though Gordon left her alone to deal with that trauma, she never stopped hoping that they’d somehow reconcile. Mario was a lifeline; Gordon doesn’t get to treat her like she picked out a new boyfriend just to get back at him. By the way, he’s on a 48-hour suicide hold.
Bullock squeezes some information out of the one Tweed the GCPD was able to take alive and conspires with Lee to get Gordon to Jervis’ location. The Mad Hatter is right where Bullock expects to find him: in his funhouse of horrors, playing with his doll. Dressed in the literary character’s famous pinafore, Alice is back in her nightmare and this is the darkest Gotham has been yet. He and his sister are opposites in more ways than one. Jervis has no regard for human life, but he uses Alice’s compassion to keep her tied to him. He takes several syringes of the girl’s “poison” blood and threatens to spike the water supply with it if she ever leaves him.
Bullock and Gordon approach with guns drawn. If he lets Alice go, the Mad Hatter will live. But Jervis presents another deal: If they let him and his sister be, he’ll pluck the suicidal impulse from Gordon’s brain. There’s no agreement on either. A giant metronome starts a tick-tock rhythm, and a firefight ensues between the cops and the luchadores. Jervis urges Gordon to let it all go. But in his haze, Gordon recalls his life with Lee as well as their most recent conversation. “There’s a difference between moving on and letting go,” she had said. Gordon taps into that will to live and puts a bullet through the metronome. Jervis is thrilled that someone broke one of his spells. But Alice is priority No. 1, and he grabs her wrist as she tries to flee. They belong together forever, he pleads. Alice twists out of his grip, falls off of the catwalk, and is impaled on a carousel spike. It’s a tragic and poetic end for a young woman who was the forced object of a little girl fantasy.
Barnes calls Bullock out on being the Thelma to Gordon’s Louise. “James Gordon is gonna get you killed some day, you get that?” he asks, totally done cleaning up their messes. “Maybe,” Bullock replies. “But I will never turn my back on him.” The chief has a point. The men failed to save Alice, and Jervis got away. Instead of being driven to be reunited with his sister, the Mad Hatter will be seeking revenge for her death. So besides Gordon’s flashback epiphany, this little stunt left matters much worse — even before Barnes takes a drop of Alice’s blood in the eye.
NEXT: Vote with your gut[pagebreak]
Meanwhile, one villain is successfully leveraging the murder and mayhem happening in the street to legitimize himself in the eyes of the people. The mayoral race is nearly over, and Penguin’s message is an irresistible one. If his familiar-sounding campaign slogan wasn’t specific enough for you, Robin Lord Taylor confirmed at New York Comic Con this weekend that any resemblance between the political fear-mongering of Oswald Cobblepot and Donald Trump is entirely intentional. But Oswald isn’t confident in his ability to manipulate panic alone. Newly “sane” Edward Nygma spots Butch handing over wads of cash to elections board officials and calls his partner on it. Nygma believes that Oswald has the people’s trust and can win fair and square. Oswald doesn’t want to take that chance, and Butch is indignant that some “skinny loon” is taking over his role as the Penguin’s “right-hand man.” The dynamic between the three of them is as much about pride and jealousy as it is about power. The Edward/Oswald alliance is so interesting because their motivations are very human, whether their methods are or not.
Nygma betrays his friend in order to prove something to him. He handily outsmarts Butch to take the bribes back from the elections board. Furious and hurt, Oswald turns on him. While he’s weighing Butch’s offer to kill Nygma for him, the election results come in. Penguin won by a landslide. And Nygma was right: It feels better to win an election than it does to steal it. Oswald feeds off of affection. We saw how desperate he was for it when he found his father. He let his vendetta against Fish Mooney go when she insinuated that she loves him. “I can’t be bought, but I can be stolen with one glance,” Nygma’s riddle says. “I’m worthless to one but priceless to two.” Oswald’s eyes light up when he comes to the simple answer: “Love.”
And Bruce’s doppelgänger is chasing something similar. Last week, he snuck out of Wayne Manor and took off in the Rolls just to take Selina on a date. It doesn’t take long for Bruce’s best friend to realize that she’s in the presence of someone else. Clone Bruce rescues Selina from some gangsters who catch her stealing. No only does he fight them; he fights dirty. This isn’t the painfully polite boy she knows. That boy is sitting in his kitchen with his butler bemoaning the fact that his lookalike mustered up more courage with the girl he likes in one day than Bruce has in years.
While she stitches up a nasty-looking knife wound, Selina asks the clone why he was created. He doesn’t know, but he (reasonably) thought that meeting the boy he was modeled after might illuminate his purpose. But knowing Bruce also stoked some envy. He has a big house and nice clothes, but he also has companionship and love. The clone has never known that. He didn’t want to run away with Selina or hurt her in any way. He wanted to be Bruce for a little bit and bask in her obvious fondness for him.
Bruce and Alfred find the clone waiting for them on Selina’s roof. He bids them goodbye. He hasn’t solved his impenetrable existential crisis, but he’s done here. At the risk of making a bad pun, Bruce’s clone held a mirror up to his life. “For someone who has everything, you have no idea what you actually want,” he says before leaping off the building and out of their lives. He also drops a little challenge in Bruce’s lap. He asks Bruce to tell Selina goodbye and thank her for the kiss. Is this the kick in the ass Bruce needs to finally act on his feelings? The clone already took half of the risk for him. (“I bet she thought it was me.”)
Before he can leave the city for good, the clone is intercepted by his “parents.” The Court of Owls have come to collect the progeny they sponsored. The snag of his escape hasn’t spoiled their plans completely. And with their absolute power in jeopardy, a Bruce Wayne doppelgänger is a very handy tool.
Odds & Ends:
- “Take in a show; do a little bit of shopping; have a facial. I mean, where do pain-resistant clones of multibillionaire teenagers usually go?”
- The symbolism of Oswald framing his and Nygma’s certificates of sanity is really wonderful.
- Barbara’s response to Jim asking for a favor: “Well then, you must be monumentally screwed.”
- “I doubt it. Neither of you has a sense of humor.”