Although I still have a lot of reservations about ‘Gotham’ bringing all of the show’s old villains back from the dead, I will admit that this week’s return of a former foe handles this plot device better than previous attempts have.
That may largely be due to the fact that Jerome is a more fun character than, for example, Theo Galavan or even Fish Mooney were. Even if he doesn’t turn out to be the real Joker, actor Cameron Monaghan plays him like he will, and The Joker has always been a juicy role for any actor to go to town with.
Episode ‘Smile Like You Mean It’ opens with a group of Maniax, the deranged followers in the cult that worships Jerome, invading a warehouse storing all the equipment confiscated from the Indian Hill lab. One of the guards working at the facility turns out to be an acolyte too and kills his partner. Their goal, of course, is to steal Jerome’s cryogenically frozen corpse so that Dwight, the cult’s current leader, can revive him.
One of the Maniax was injured in the raid and left behind. Jim Gordon arrests and interrogates him. When Jim demands to know where Jerome’s body was taken, all the lunatic will cackle is, “We are everywhere!”
In addition to being a coroner, Dwight is also a mad scientist. He brings the corpse to a kooky lab straight out of the original ‘Frankenstein’ movie, complete with dangerous electrical arcs shooting between machines. In order to revive Jerome, first he must unthaw him, which gives Lucius Fox a few hours to locate the lab by identifying power surges in the area. As Jim and Harvey race to the scene with a tactical unit, a dirty cop in the precinct calls Dwight to warn him that they’re coming.
Dwight’s efforts to revive Jerome appear unsuccessful. With the police approaching, he comes up with an alternative idea and uses a scalpel to slice Jerome’s face off. By the time Jim gets there, all he finds is the faceless corpse, which he ships off to the GCPD for Lee to examine.
Dwight, who had promised the return of Jerome to his followers, stands before them wearing a mask of Jerome’s skin. For a moment, the mob goes silent, unimpressed with what they’re seeing. However, when Dwight begins dementedly chanting that “We are all Jerome!”, he quickly gets them all on board with his idea. Jerome doesn’t need to return from the dead. His madness is already inside all of them.
Jim determines that a mole in the GCPD must have tipped off Dwight, and roots the man out with a bluff about tracing the call from Dwight’s cell phone. The officer quickly transitions from seemingly sane into a cackling madman. This infuriates both Jim and Harvey into beating him, which in turn only makes him act more nuts. Lee marches into the room and injects the man with sodium pentathol. Even though she made Don Falcone call off the hit against Jim, she’s still upset with him about killing her husband.
Dwight and the Maniax take over a TV station in order to broadcast a live message to all the people of Gotham. Meanwhile, the real Jerome’s body twitches to life in the GCPD morgue. He kills a uniformed cop and grabs Lee, then makes her catch him up with everything that happened while he was dead. Lee is sour and sarcastic, and doesn’t seem to give a crap about anything anymore, so she tells him what he wants to know. Jerome is disappointed that he won’t get to kill Theo Galavan himself, and slightly perturbed about not having a face, but is ready to have some fun again. Upon hearing about the cult devoted to him, he enthuses, “Lunatics AND Idiots? My kind of people!” However, when he sees Dwight on the news calling himself Jerome, he’s very critical of the poor showmanship. Jerome slips out of the police station and steals a cop car, then heads to the scene.
Jim, Harvey and a bunch of cops infiltrate the TV station and capture Dwight live on the air, but not before he gets his message out about a “Night of the Awakening.” After Jim takes Dwight into custody, Lee calls to warn him about Jerome. By that point, it’s too late. Jerome kills a cop and sneaks away with Dwight in a stolen TV truck.
Jerome staples his face back onto this head and tells Dwight that he’s not upset. “What’s a cut-off face between friends?” This proves a lie as he then ties Dwight to a chair with a bunch of bombs strapped to him. Jerome uses the equipment from the truck to broadcast his own message out to Gotham, which triggers a rash of looting and fires throughout the city. He concludes by blowing up Dwight on camera. As Jim stands on the roof of the GCPD waiting for a helicopter, he sees a massive explosion in the distance. This is rapidly followed by a series of blackouts that plunge the entire city into darkness.
Penguin & Barbara
As Penguin wallows in misery after his public breakdown, his approval rating naturally plummets. Barbara insinuates herself as his confidante and berates him for losing his grip over not just the mayorship, but more importantly over his criminal empire. She urges him to call a meeting of the heads of the five crime families to bring them back in line.
Of course, this is all part of Barbara and Nygma’s plan to gaslight Penguin. When he arrives at Barbara’s club for the meeting, nobody else shows up. She then encourages him to send a message by punishing one of the families for their disobedience. Penguin, however, sees through her deception – or at least thinks he does – and accuses her of never calling anyone to attend the meeting. Barbara is prepared for this, however. As if on cue, she takes a call from a crime boss named Tommy Bones, who tells Penguin off and claims to be holding Nygma hostage. Penguin flies into a rage and promises war.
On the other end of the line, Tommy Bones is being held at gunpoint by Tabitha, who shoots him dead when the call is done. In short order, the other crime bosses flee to the haven of Barbara’s club to escape Penguin’s rage, whereupon she and Tabitha murder all of them.
As Penguin grows more and more frantic, Nygma calls him, pretending to be a hostage, and begs for his help. He tells him that he’s being held at the Kane Chemicals plant (a nod to Batman creator Bob Kane, obviously). Penguin rallies his troops to go rescue the man he loves.
Bruce & Selina
Bruce and Alfred take a meeting with Cole Clemens, the thug who claims that Selina’s mother, Maria, owes him $100k. He threatens to release information on Maria’s criminal activities that will get her thrown in prison unless Bruce pays him. (The amount inflates to $300k in the process.) Selina distrusts her mom and thinks this is all a scam. She urges Bruce not to pay and storms out of the room.
Bruce pays anyway. Sure enough, Selina catches her mom and Cole planning to abscond together with the money. Maria feels really guilty about using her daughter this way, but Selina refuses to listen to her.
Later, Selina is really pissy with Bruce for paying the blackmail even though he knew full well it was a con. He says that the money meant little to him and he was trying to spare her feelings, but that doesn’t make her feel any better. She storms off again.
It’s really hard for me to be interested in the Bruce and Selina storyline, which serves little narrative purpose other than to fill time. Poor actress Ivana Milicevic (whom I still remember as Mrs. Riley on ‘Buffy’) has been given nothing to do on this show since her introduction except look pouty and vaguely guilty.
The Jerome stuff, on the other hand, is all pretty good. I like the idea that his madness is contagious like a virus. However, if he’s really to become The Joker, introducing him while Bruce Wayne is still young seems like a poor decision. Unfortunately, the temptation to bring on more and more future Batman villains will be increasingly harder to resist the longer this show is on the air. I expect that we’ll see all of them before Bruce graduates high school.