“Face it, kid. Gotham has no heroes.”
The winter finale of Gotham brings Bruce and the show to a turning point. With Jerome and his neo-Maniax running amok all over the city and recruiting formerly innocent accomplices, it’s up to Master Wayne to decide not only to be a hero but what kind of hero he wants to be. He’s guided in that pursuit by his own moral compass and one very proud butler.
It’s basically Purge Night. And the GCPD can’t put out the fires or cuff the clown-faced thugs fast enough. The only course of action that could possibly have a trickle-down effect is finding Jerome, the ringleader and ringmaster of this violent circus. But how do you predict the movements of a man who prizes disorder above everything? Jim turns to Lee, the only person on their side who’s conversed with the awakened madman. Her instinct is still to blow Jim off, but Lee gets serious when she remembers one important detail from their little talk: Jerome mentioned Bruce. He didn’t remember why he wanted to kill him, but he trusts that past-Jerome had a good reason. Jim instructs Lee to call Wayne Manor and gets over there to prevent a blue-blood bloodletting.
Bruce and Alfred are sitting ducks, but smart ones. They’re not able to save the enigmatic secret weapon that’s supposedly the only way to bring down the Court of Owls, which Jerome smashes to pieces. Their lives are another matter. Bruce appeals to Jerome’s flair for the dramatic. Why would he kill Bruce in Bruce’s own home, with no cameras or fanfare? Wouldn’t it propel the movement more if he made a spectacle out of it? (“I’m Bruce Wayne.” “I am aware.” “I am the ruling elite.”) The ploy works — even if Jerome sees straight through it — and so does Alfred’s cool-headed play. Jerome runs off with Bruce, ordering his minions to kill Alfred and taking note of Bruce and his butler’s emotional farewell. (“Strangely intimate.”) But before they can strike, Alfred sees Jim arrive and has the wherewithal to describe exactly where everyone is in the room and what weapons they’re holding. That’s the thing about riots: They are unorganized by their very nature.
Jerome is much more predictable than he thinks. Jim is able to determine quite quickly which of the reported active sites he’s chosen as the setting for Bruce’s murder. It’s the Boardwalk Circus, a symbol of Jerome’s big top childhood. The fairground has become a carnival of nightmares, the games reconfigured with Gotham citizens as human targets. Jerome makes sure the little prince gets his own clown makeover, then adds the finishing touch: a frown drawn with the blood of the lackey he just butchered. All Bruce can do is bide his time and listen to his captor’s nihilistic stump speech. Jerome and his followers have freed the allegedly good people of Gotham, and they subsequently revealed their violent and selfish desires. But all around him, Bruce sees innocent people being tortured. As far as he knows, Alfred sacrificed himself for him. He probably has an idea that Jim Gordon is tracking him down as they speak. Jerome’s theory doesn’t hold water. Bruce knows heroes; he lives among them.
Bruce is still wearing his bloody grimace when Jerome takes the center ring in his top hat and tails and produces the star of the night’s biggest act. And his target was right; Jerome is having way more fun hamming it up for an adoring audience than he would have eliminating Bruce in private. He dumps buckets full of knives and nails into a circus cannon, aims it right at Bruce’s face, and lights the fuse. Jim, Harvey, and the GCPD tactical team show up in time to see the show, but still too late to save the boy. Bruce does that himself by digging out the staple Jerome had shot into his arm and using it to remove his handcuffs.
Bruce and Jerome’s final showdown happens in that reliable circus set piece: the hall of mirrors. Bruce uses misdirection and his training to get a jump on Jerome. He’s close to killing him, too, but the criminal’s jubilant reaction to that prospect snaps him out of it. (“Let it out.”) Jerome’s own life is secondary to him. He’d gladly give it to provoke Bruce’s turn to the dark side. If Gotham’s paragon of youth, purity, and philanthropy falls, the rest of the city will follow. Bruce drops the shard of mirror he was going to use on Jerome and walks out into the night. His non-violent response is rewarded when he sees that Alfred made it through the evening and is incandescently proud of his boss/surrogate son for showing courage and good judgement. Jerome is soon on his way back to Arkham, probably to start a new gang.
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