‘Gotham’ certainly had a surprise in store for us this week. I guess this answers at least one lingering question.
Ever since Cameron Monaghan was introduced as psycho nutbag Jerome last season, show-runner Bruno Heller referred to his storyline as “the beginning of the Joker saga” but refused to come out and confirm that Jerome was in fact the Joker. I had my suspicions of where this was leading, and this week’s episode validates them.
We start with Jim and Harvey scouring the city to find Jerome. Jim has taken a dark turn since Commissioner Essen’s murder. He’s abusive and violent. He throws perps out a building window (onto a pile of trash bags below) when they don’t give him the answers he wants to hear. He’s full-on ragingly pissed off all the time, and even gets snippy with girlfriend Lee, who asks him to attend a charity benefit gala with her.
Meanwhile, Jim’s ex-fiancée Barbara is, ironically, in a much happier frame of mind ever since she went crazy. She’s currently hooking up with Galavan’s sister Tabitha. (Incidentally, Tabitha wears a black leather catsuit and carries a whip. She’s clearly going to be a big influence on Selina.) Galavan is pleased that Barbara lured Jim out of the police station before Cameron shot up the place. He informs her that he has plans not to kill Jim, but to destroy him.
Although the circus has left town, Jerome’s father, the blind fortune teller, has remained behind in Gotham. Jerome and Tabitha pay him a visit, but they’re not so interested in quality bonding time. Jerome plants evidence to frame his dad for breaking him out of prison in order to divert attention away from Galavan. He then kills his father by stabbing him through the eye just as Jim and Harvey arrive to question the old man. Jerome rigs up the body with knock-out gas and doses both cops. He and Tabitha let them live and slip away.
Later that night, Bruce and Alfred attend the gala for the Gotham Children’s Hospital. A magician has been scheduled to perform, but Bruce thinks he’s too mature to be interested in that. Not realizing that she’s dating Jim Gordon, Alfred flirts aggressively with Lee. Bruce spots Selina in the crowd picking pockets. He says hello but she snubs him.
It turns out that the magician had to cancel his appearance due to being murdered. Luckily, a last-minute substitute is available. The Great Rudolfo and his assistant take the stage wearing masks. Hmm, isn’t something about them awfully familiar? Rudolfo calls Bruce Wayne up on stage to be his volunteer, and the boy reluctantly agrees. They perform the old “put him in a box and slice him in half” illusion. Alfred gets a really bad feeling and tries to stop it, but everything turns out OK. Bruce is fine.
Rudolfo next calls the city’s Deputy Mayor on stage. The assistant’s masks falls off for a second and Lee recognizes Barbara. Rudolfo must be Jerome! Lee calls Jim to tell him to get down there. On stage, Jerome throws a real dagger into the Deputy Mayor’s heart. “Ta da!!!”
Chaos erupts in the crowd. Selina tries to help Bruce sneak away and escape, but he turns back to help Alfred. Jerome calls Jim back using Lee’s phone. He makes ridiculous hostage demands, including $47 million and a pony. From the audience, Galavan stands up and very theatrically plays hero, telling off that naughty Jerome for scaring these good people. Barbara conks him over the head with a mallet.
Outside the building, the cops refuse to go in. Jim has to do this on his own.
Jerome calls out for Bruce Wayne again. When Bruce doesn’t appear, he threatens to kill Alfred. Before Bruce can walk out from his hiding place behind a curtain, Jim grabs him. A moment later, Bruce steps out. He slips a gun that Jim had given him to Alfred. Jim comes out blazing and Alfred joins him firing away, but Jerome manages to grab Bruce as a hostage.
Suddenly, Galavan stands and dramatically stabs Jerome in the neck… for real, apparently. Jerome is confused. This wasn’t the plan. As he sinks to the floor, Galavan whispers in his ear: “The plot thickens. Enter the hero.”
Jerome dies with a sickening, blood-stained grin on his face. Barbara escapes through a trap door in the stage.
In the aftermath, Galavan’s face is plastered all over the news, the great hero of Gotham. Back in his penthouse, he tells Barbara, “Now the real fun begins.”
Also replayed constantly on the news is footage of Jerome being full-bore loony. His maniacal laugh inspires other crazies in town to imitate him and commit crimes inspired by his, including murder. Jerome may not be the Joker, but the real Joker will be born as a result of his actions. We just don’t know whom that is yet, and may not for a while. The episode ends with a close-up of Jerome’s terrifying visage in the morgue.
I liked this episode a lot, but have some mixed feelings about the final twist. On the one hand, I liked Cameron Monaghan in the role and thought he was a fun presence on the show. On the other hand, I agree that it’s too early for the real Joker to be unveiled. I like the idea that Jerome’s madness will spread and inspire others, but I don’t like the idea that the eventual Joker will essentially be a copycat of someone else. If the show truly does introduce the Joker at some point, it will need to be handled delicately.