Gotham recap: 'Mad City: The Gentle Art of Making Enemies"
“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.
NEXT: Not the kind of shower Oswald wanted
While Jerome runs a very public attempt at a takeover, the real tug-of-war over the underworld is happening in abandoned warehouses and through hushed conversations. When we last left Oswald, he was off to save Ed, guns a-blazing. His former chief of staff doesn’t keep the ruse up for long, though. When they arrive, Ed swiftly takes out Oswald’s companions and tells Oswald the real reason he was called to this corner of town. The visions, the desecration of his father’s remains, the goading from Ed’s replacement — all of it was revenge for Isabella’s death.
Oswald has convinced himself that killing Isabella was for Ed’s own good, carried out as a symbol of Oswald’s love for him. Ed’s unchecked passion and jealousy would have killed her in the end. This way, she’s still gone, and he should feel no guilt. Oswald can’t admit the selfishness of the act, which gives Ed the last push he needs to see this plan through to the end. He’s rigged up an acid shower for his old friend. Oswald’s cries of “I can change!” can’t break Ed’s icy visage.
A night watchman is Oswald’s unexpected savior. (“I happen to be the mayor of Gotham.”) Now Ed is the one is danger. With Oswald pretty much ruined, Tabitha, Butch, and Barbara are no longer in need of his services. Funny how alliances between godless backstabbers don’t last very long. Tabby and Butch collect Penguin and bring him to Sirens to make an offer. If he calls Ed and helps Barbara and the rest smoke him out, they’ll let Oswald live. It ought to be a simple choice, to give up or not to give up the person who very recently tried to burn his skin off his body. But Oswald remembers what Ed said to him about love: It’s selfless and it’s sacrifice. Oswald’s love wasn’t real because it was ravenous and greedy. But with a very clear path to vengeance, Oswald can’t find it in himself any more to act in his own self-interest. He’s almost giddy with it. He doesn’t want to give Ed up, not for anything. I think Pinocchio just because a real boy.
Ed hears all of this — because he and the rest are still in league, despite the show. Part of the plan was to prove to Oswald that the chemical feelings he called love were just a part of his insanity, but that part failed. It took a blood feud between the two to get here, but Oswald’s devotion to Ed is real. Ed is unmoored. This wasn’t what he was expecting, and his all-business malevolence falters, just for a moment. (“Does that mean I passed?” “I don’t know… what it means.”)
Gotham really did it. It cast the Penguin and the Riddler in a twisted, woeful love story. It ends for now with the two of them alone on a pier. Oswald begs for his life. He tells Ed that this kill will “change” him. It’s not committed for power or in a loss of control. Ed has proof now that Oswald really cares for him — and is, in fact, the only person in the world who does. Is revenge more important than that? Ed hesitates. But it was Isabella’s murder that changed Ed and made him capable of this. Oswald has made the decision more difficult than it was supposed to be, but that’s all. Ed insists that he doesn’t love Oswald in the same way, but this entire pursuit has been too charged and too personal to make that ring true. (Also, hello, they spend nearly this entire episode within kiss-or-kill distance.) Ed shoots Oswald in the stomach and pushes him into the water, not with glee but with resignation. Could this be it for the Penguin?
If it is, the Court Of Owls never had the opportunity to use Oswald as Kathryn once said they would. The organization watches Jerome’s rise and fall with interest and a little bit of fear. And as the city cools down, Kathryn and a stoic confidante prepare their secret weapon. Bruce’s doppelgänger is back and ready to be deployed at the same moment when the real Bruce decides to take a more proactive crime-fighting stance. Jim Gordon is also crucial to this next step, so Kathryn sends her man — Jim’s uncle Frank — to make contact.
Gotham is a different show now than it was at the end of season 2, and the transition has been smooth. The violence and gore have been amped up to resemble the Gotham City we know from the movies. And these machinations of the town’s underworld players are putting them on the brink of a war. While Oswald and Ed played out their Greek tragedy, Tabitha and Barbara were quietly killing all those “old dudes” who used to call the shots. The crown is up for grabs. Justice is malleable. And Bruce Wayne is ready to get off the sidelines.
Odds & Ends
- “So what does he want?” “A puppy? How the hell should I know?”
- I assume Selina’s absence means she’s taking a break and hiding from Bruce.
- Speaking of absences, where’s Ivy?
- Bad guy problems: “You realize you have to carry him now?” “Son of a bitch.”
- “At least you get to say you punched a man’s face off. That’s something, right?”
- Many kudos to the costume department for outdoing themselves every single episode.