Jim Gordon is forced to make a terrible choice, and Penguin puts his heart on the line
Last week, Benedict Samuels’ deranged Mad Hatter only showed up in one bloody tableau. In “Follow the White Rabbit,” every other story save one takes the episode off so that Jervis Tetch can get his revenge on James Gordon. Shocker: Playing dress-up with a doomed young women hasn’t turned out to be the healthiest method of grieving his sister. Plan B involves constructing an elaborate scavenger hunt for his nemesis so that Gordon will feel the same pain that Jervis does. It gets him out of the house, I suppose.
The plan commences outside of a big church wedding, where a nattily dressed chauffeur informs the happy couple that their guests will be celebrating their nuptials without them. The small, unidentified boy in the passenger seat has nothing to add. Jervis’s envoy — the titular White Rabbit — shows up after Valerie and Gordon finish their diner breakfast banter to relay his message. The operative part of it being that people will die if Gordon doesn’t follow him. People will also die if he does, but that bit of information didn’t fit into the rhyme scheme.
Gordon jumps down the figurative rabbit hole because he doesn’t have a choice. Outside, he picks up the receiver of a ringing pay phone. It’s Jervis, explaining the rules of his game. The hypnotized newlywed couple stand on the edge of the overpass, ready to step off. And the similarly entranced little boy loiters in the middle of the street, waiting to be struck by a semi-truck driven by one of the Tweeds. Jervis tells Gordon that he’s been studying him, digging into the “tragic” events of his past to add to what he already knows of the ex-cop from being inside his head. The Mad Hatter wants Gordon to confront something essential and dark about himself. He forces it by setting a 30-second timer. Gordon will only have time to save the boy or the couple. He races across the street to push the boy into safety. The newlyweds crunch onto the pavement below. If Jervis was trying to prove that action isn’t without regret or that no human can be an unimpeachable hero, well, Jim Gordon already knew that.
Happy with his work, Jervis gives his playmate an address and another time limit. When the GCPD arrive at the crime scene, Gordon is long gone. But the child credits the bounty hunter for saving his life. Barnes gets the feeling they’d better find him, and fast. The only clue left is the White Rabbit, muttering the dispatch that the Hatter placed in his brain. He’s not in possession of himself, so an interrogation is useless. In his frustration, Barnes puts two hand-prints into a steel chair frame. The poison from Alice’s blood puts him permanently on the cusp of roid-rage, but at least he doesn’t need his cane anymore.
Gordon arrives at the address Jervis sent him to; inside, he finds a corkboard covered with press clippings from his police career and articles covering the death of his father. Given that Gordon is already riddled with guilt and constantly questioning his own self-worth, this touch puts a bit too much gild on the lily. But Jervis has shown a penchant for elaborate arts and crafts, so this is more about him than his target. The phone in the room rings. Jervis directs Gordon to look through the telescope in the window and proceeds to taunt him about the decision he just made. Saving an innocent child would be the obvious move for a lot of people, ex-police officers in particular. Jervis tries to twist and mold the outcome into some proof of Gordon’s subconscious vendetta against happy couples. It’s a stretch. This is all a stretch.
Hilariously, Gordon tires of the games and hangs up on Jervis. Twice. When he picks up again it’s to force Jervis to face his own role not only in his sister’s death but in the constant fear in which she lived. “If you want revenge,” Gordon sneers, “kill yourself.” But the Hatter has his attention again when he points out a key figure in the next phase of this stupidly elaborate scheme: a restrained Valerie Vale being loaded into a van. “Poor girl,” he sing-songs. “She had no idea who she was getting into bed with.”
NEXT: Ladies in waiting