The night of “the awakening” is messier than second-rate anarchist Dwight Pollard hoped, but the deed is still done. After months of anticipation on the part of fans and teasing on the part of Fox, Jerome Valeska is breathing again. And if he’s breathing, you better believe he’s causing trouble.
“Smile Like You Mean It” obliterates any remaining doubt that Cameron Monaghan’s character is Gotham’s Joker. Jerome was killed off in season 2 in what appeared to be the end of a massive fake-out but has now been revealed as just a postponement of the inevitable. And even as he slept, Jerome’s acolytes were growing their ranks and paving the way for his return. It was a thankless job for Dwight, who let his own buy in to his “we are all Jerome” mantra. He also let fear of the mob whose fervor he stoked be his undoing.
While the neo-Maniax Harvey and Jim run into are sporting the kind of killer clown painted faces that would keep anyone from getting a job at the mall, the detectives learn in this episode that Jerome’s belief system has infected Gotham like a cancer. (“Could be more than one group. Could be multiple chapters.” “Like the Elks.”) The guard at the warehouse where Jerome’s pod and the rest of the Indian Hill evidence was being kept, a decorated GCPD officer, and who knows how many other plainclothes neo-Maniax are walking among the normals, waiting for direct instructions. Those instructions are promised to them by Dwight, but technical difficulties lead him to miss the deadline for getting Jerome off of the slab to deliver them. (“Is everything plugged in? Try turning everything on and off.”) Like Tabby and Barbara do at Sirens later, he resorts to his own plan B: scalpel-ing off Jerome’s face and wearing it as a mask. The prophet’s public can’t be disappointed. If you disappoint a bunch of bloodthirsty malcontents, they tend to turn on you.
Lucky Dr. Tompkins ends up in possession of Jerome’s faceless corpse. Dwight’s strategic electrocutions have a delayed effect, and the twitch of Jerome’s hand while Lee’s back is turned gives the scene some serious monster movie vibes. Meanwhile, Dwight is acting his heart out in front of the gang, somewhat successfully convincing them that the physical presence of Jerome isn’t even a necessity anymore. If they carry out his wishes, they all have become him.
Harvey is still acting captain of the force, and from the way he reacts to the discovery that they have a Jerome-friendly mole in their midst, he holds himself accountable for not sniffing out the bad apple. Fortunately, the bad apple is also a twitchy one. Jim smokes him out with a bluff, and he ends up in interrogation with both detectives. Officer Dove was seduced to Jerome’s way of thinking the night Jerome attacked the GCPD, and he’s lain in wait all this time. “Good Cop/Bad Cop doesn’t work on cops,” he sneers at the boys’ attempt to get information out of him. Sickened, Jim and Harvey both go into “Ass-Kicking Cop” mode instead. Lee strolls in and calmly injects the man with truth serum, with perfect comic timing. Jim can’t believe that this woman, who’s always believed that the means are as important as the ends, would do something so unethical. But Lee reminds her ex that she’s not there to be a paragon of righteousness for him. She’ll deal with her husband’s death as she sees fit. Anyway, the serum breaks Dove’s will and halts his maniacal laughing. He tells Harvey that Dwight and his crew are on their way to a news station to make a live announcement.
The cops warn the station to start evacuation procedures, but it’s too late. The neo-Maniax make a loud show of taking over, mowing down anyone who stands in their way. Dwight rehearses his speech, which was certainly meant to be made by Jerome. But the face doesn’t make the man, and Dwight can only mimic his absent leader for so long.
It’s a full-blown hostage situation when the GCPD arrives. Dwight is thrilled by how it compares to the standoff between the cops and Jerome at the children’s hospital benefit. He even repeats Jerome’s half of his conversation with Jim Gordon. In response, Jim hits him where it hurts: by cutting down the man as an “understudy pretending to be the star.” The detective usually doesn’t have much of a sense of humor, but he can deliver a sick burn. “You’re doing one thing Jerome never did,” Jim says before hanging up on Dwight. “Boring me.”
Lee has always been capable, but she’s newly fearless in the wake of Mario’s death. She’s not the shrieking damsel Jerome would have probably preferred to wake up to, but her nonchalance does lead to a morbidly hilarious conversation between the two of them wherein Lee gets Jerome up to date on what’s been going on in Gotham since he died, including her breakup with Jim. (“I really liked you guys … What happened?” “He killed my husband on our wedding night.”)
NEXT: He’s going to need a bigger stapler