There are two moments in this episode that send shivers down your spine. Two moments that shock and throw you off-guard. Two moments that make sure this will always rate as one of the best episodes of Gotham’s first season.
Most shocking of all, one of those moments involved Fish Mooney. But even her arch-as-a-Vulcan’s-eyebrow acting couldn’t ruin it. Bizarrely, it enhanced it.
But first… we have our Joker. Apparently. The producers, who’ve been teasing us about the introduction of the Joker all season with a number of red herrings, still haven’t confirmed that Jerome Valeska definitely is Gotham’s Joker. The Joker’s origins in the comic books are shrouded in mystery and misinformation (even his real first name hasn’t been 100% nailed down, though there are hints it may be Jack) so the show pretty much has a blank canvas to play with. That means that misdirection is even easier than with the other villains.
Cameron Monaghan is so damned good as the Joker it would be criminal negligence not to make him the show’s bona fide Joker. His switch from Jerome to Joker is stunningly spooky (even Gordon looked genuinely freaked out). His full-on Joker mode is perfectly deranged. The smile is supremely unsettling. Monaghan was great as the nerdy, nervy teen; he was a force of nature as the Joker unleashed.
So, crossed fingers, eh, that showrunner Bruno Heller has stopped toying with us and we have our Joker.
Duet For One
The Penguin gives his empty club a solo performance of “Heart And Soul”, an oddly melancholic moment as the 1938 Hoagy Carmichael/Frank Loesser song has become famous as a beginners’ piano duet.
Then we had Fish commanding her new followers in the body farm to kick a man to death just to send a message to their captors. This was so brutal and bleak it was like you were suddenly watching Game Of Thrones or The Walking Dead. In fact, in the middle of such a normally cosy show as Gotham it came across as even more brutal and bleak.
Quite where this plot strand is going is still unclear – every time we shift back to the subterranean cell it’s like you’ve inadvertently channel-flicked to another show – but it’s certainly not dull. Even Jada Pinkett Smith’s impression of a Skeksis from Dark Crystal contributes to the nightmarish surreality of the scenes (though the moment when she uses a lackey as a footstool looks very silly).
The episode didn’t rely on shock tactics alone. There were fun nods to DC continuity with the appearance of Dick (Robin) Grayson’s parents. Bruce was back on form after last week’s Millet’s North Face advertorial, taking on the shifty board members of Wayne Industries and wiping the patronising smiles off their faces. Penguin, meanwhile, appears to have created the worst nightclub in the world, which is almost squeamishly embarrassing to watch. Gordon and Thompkins' flirting is still hugely fun to watch.
Sadly, Barbara showed up to let the side down. Her appearance here was so perfunctory and dull it felt like a contractual obligation; or maybe a reminder that she’s still alive because she’s a plot device needed for a vital development later in the season. Surely nobody actually cares about her relationship with Gordon any more?
Admittedly, the main A-plot is a little thin (once again, suspect leaps in logic replace any real sleuthing) but as a heady combination of somewhat random memorable scenes it delivers magnificently.
Comic Connections 1
Dick Grayson’s parents worked for Haly’s Circus before they were killed (their trapeze having been sabotaged when the circus was in Gotham). This was all established in the first ever appearance of Dick Grayson in Detective Comics #38 (1940), though the legacy of Haly’s Circus has recently re-emerged with DC’s New 52 event.
Gordon: “Why did you kill your mother, Jerome?”
Jerome: “Oh, you know how mothers are. She just kept pushing. And I’m like, ‘Be a whore. Be a drunken whore even. But don’t be a nagging drunken whore.’”
Comic Connections 2
John Grayson and Mary Lloyd will get married and they will have a son, but he won’t be called Gordon. He’ll be called Richard John Grayson. Dick to his friends.
Hang on! Has Bruce suddenly developed precognitive powers? That doodle at the top of his text book looks incredibly like certain versions of the comic book villain Killer Croc.
Mark Margolis, who plays the eponymous Blind Fortune Teller, Paul Cicero, is one of Darren Aronofsky’s regular troupe, having appeared in Pi, Requiem For A Dream and Black Swan. However, you may know him from Breaking Bad in which he played Tio Salamanca in eight episodes. Paul Cicero is the second character in Gotham named after a character from Goodfellas: a Frankie Carbone appeared in “Arkham”, “Viper” and “The Penguin’s Umbrella”.
A Complete Stool
God knows how Fish inspired such loyalty when her words say one thing and her actions say another…