Fox’s “Batman-without-Batman” soap opera is the most amazingly weird show on television. For every episode this season, Deadshirt’s own Sarah Register, Kayleigh Hearn and Max Robinson discuss the good, the bad…the beginning? of little Bruce Wayne, skinny Oswald Cobblepot, and Jim Gordon sans ‘stache as they try to find their way in the misery-soaked, work-a-day world of…GOTHAM.
Max: Holy crap, so much happened in this episode! Let’s talk about it.
JOKER DAD PSYCHIC PROPHECY
Max: So this heavily Jerome-centric episode saw him and Tigress rolling up to his blind carnie father’s apartment so they could frame him for busting out the Arkham Maniax. Tigress is constantly doing odd jobs on this show? There’s a ton of dialogue between Jerome and his well-meaning father, who is then sorta possessed and says a bunch of cryptic shit about his wayward clown son. I’m out of breath just typing all this.
Sarah: Man did they wave the Joker flag over Jerome in this ep. The gas, the showmanship at the magic show, threatening bb Bruce… all to just pull the rug out.
Kayleigh: Jerome’s monologue to his father was the weakest part of the episode for me. Cameron Monaghan sells the hell out of it, chewing the scenery like a sweet, sweet brisket, but “I want to kill people because my mom and her trick beat me up on my birthday” is pretty flimsy, cliche material.
Sarah: Jerome’s weak motivation for being a bad guy is kind of exactly why none of us really bought him as the Joker, I think.
Max: He does, however, embark on a plan involving knockout gas and dressing up like a magician at a children’s hospital benefit. Which is Extremely Joker.
THERE’S SOME SERIOUS THE DREAMERS SHIT GOING ON WITH BARBARA AND THE GALAVAN TWINS HUH?
Max: Polygamy is cool and all, but you guys gotta set some ground rules.
Sarah: I feel like Barbara is trying to cover her own ass by seducing Theo. She just saw him stab Jerome in the throat after all. The Maniax (exclamation point) are expendable.
Max: Barbara is literally the only one left!
Kayleigh: Bizarrely, right before I saw this episode, the Deadshirt Date Night crew talked about how the Galavans reminded us of the evil, leather-clad, incestuous brother and sister from The Crow. I thought the odds of the show going in that direction with Theo and Tabitha were pretty good (that seems like the kind of twisted VC Andrews stuff this show would gobble up gleefully), but wow, perfect timing.
But as excited as I am about Tabitha/Barbara, my face turns into a 😐 emoticon when I think about how all the queer and queer-coded characters on the show—excepting Montoya, whom we haven’t seen in a million years—are evil. Maybe be careful there, Gotham. Or give us an Alfred/Lucius makeout scene. Something like that.
Sarah: It could happen. Alfred kept going on about tucking Lucius in. Or something.
BABY BRUCE AND BABY SELINA, REUNITED
Sarah: This season needed more Selina.
Kayleigh: I don’t think the show knows how to integrate young Selina with the rest of the adult cast. (Crimelords Fish and Penguin both took her in as basically a mascot?) But her scenes with Bruce are genuinely sweet, and the actors have a good connection. I like how Selina is constantly drawn to protect the weird little rich kid with a strong sense of honor, against her better judgement.
Sarah: They know how to write her and Bruce together for sure. I like her slinky, sideline presence in this episode and that she was how Jim found a way into the party. Her and Jim’s kind of begrudging respect/annoyance for each other is also kind of endearing.
Max: Bruce being like “why are you robbing these people this is a charity benefit :(“ and Selina laughing him off for being a naive twerp was great. Also, I really liked the Bruce/Gordon bit in this episode where they team up to stop Jerome. Bruce is a nice, dumb kid.
Max: Alfred hitting on Thompkins, oblivious to the fact that she’s Gordon’s girlfriend and like 30 years his junior. What a horndog.
Sarah: Jim’s “is this really happening right now?” look to Bruce, a twelve-year-old child, and then Bruce calling Alfred off like a horny puppy.
Kayleigh: Gotham: the show that gave us Horny Alfred Pennyworth.
Max: I kinda feel like this show is leaning toward breaking up Gordon and Leslie? Between Gordon kinda flaking out on the ball and the sultry London Fog temptation that is Alfred. Nobody gets to be happy on Gotham, calling it now.
Sarah: I’ve been so afraid of Leslie (Lee) getting murdered this season. I don’t think I can take it after Essen.
Kayleigh: Since Ben McKenzie and Morena Baccarin are a couple in real life I’m kind of like, “Aw c’mon Gotham, be nice to Jim and Lee.” I hope the show doesn’t kill Lee, but for now I think there are female characters with bigger targets on their backs–like Ms. Kringle.
Max: Kringle has to live long enough to be fed to Audrey II by Edward Nygma.
BULLOCK SENPAI VS. PENGUIN-KUN: THE INITIAL CONFRONTATION
Sarah: Uncle Daddy Harvey looking out for his beloved partner nephew. I love that this relationship has already reached comic book heights. And Harvey continuing to carry a torch for Fish is beautiful.
Max: Bullock holding a heavy grudge against Penguin because he genuinely cared about Fish is a great detail. I love how this scene is Bullock throwing Penguin’s bullshit niceties right back in his face. “Nice place! I’m going to destroy you!”
Kayleigh: Loved Penguin’s contempt for Jerome, the new little supervillain on the block vying for Gordon-Senpai’s attention.
Max: “He thinks he’s so cool but you know what he’s not!!”
MOURN YA TIL I JOIN YA, JEROME
Max: So, spoilers, Jerome gets hardcore stabbed to death by Galavan on live television so he can look like the Social Justice Warrior Gotham City needs. Jerome’s genuine surprise is excellent. Honest to god, the implication that Jerome’s televised death inspires a bunch of new potential Jokers is a really clever and interesting wrinkle on the usual Joker origin stuff. If he can be a mobster or Heath Ledger, he can be a vaguely supernatural curse on the city of Gotham.
Kayleigh: I’m torn on Jerome’s death. I wasn’t shocked; the writers kind of gave it away with all their previous “there will be multiple candidates for the Joker” talk, and unlike Jessica Lucas and James Frain, Cameron Monaghan was only ever listed as a guest star. But I really liked Jerome. His scenes at the masked ball as the deranged fake magician were fantastic. I loved how he looked like a horror movie ventriloquist dummy that turned into a real boy, and pretending to shoot an apple off a man’s head—but really using a water pistol—is such an assholish Joker move. And he was way more charismatic a character than Theo Galavan.
But the idea of the Joker as this kind of poisonous, mass hysteria that infects people like contagious laughter, could be really brilliant if the show handles it right. (It reminds me actually of the Grendel comics by Matt Wagner, where a masked criminal inspires others to take his identity after his death, and the spirit of “Grendel” is implied to be a kind of living, demonic force of violence.) If in season five we’re dealing with, like, the sixteenth giggling possible Joker candidate I think I’d rather the show just kept Jerome.
Sarah: Yeah, while the immediate Joker “infection” hitting the streets was a little heavy-handed, I like the idea of Jerome’s insanity being a kind of symptom of the dark, crazy environment Gotham has created. And as much as the Monaghans’ performance really won me over, I feel like the rise of the Joker should come alongside the rise of Batman (not that Gotham cares a lick about comic book canon). Oh well. Goodnight, sweet clown prince.
Kayleigh: Oh, and how fantastically sick and perfect was it when the blood pouring out of Jerome’s mouth formed the red, ghastly Joker smile?
Sarah: Very Jack Nicholson 1989.
Max: Gotham. So good.
Gotham airs Monday at 8pm eastern on FOX.