[This is a review of Gotham season 3, episode 13. There will be SPOILERS.]
Even after Gotham killed fan-favorite Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan) in the middle of season 2, the character's presence continued to linger on in the series. Last week, viewers finally experienced a far closer glimpse of his influence on the city, as an entire cult was revealed to have sprung up since Jerome's reign of terror ended. It was a payoff that Gotham had long been hinting at, with sporadic appearances of Joker-esque characters and graffiti suggesting Jerome's impact on the city's criminal element. Now, after delving so heavily into reanimation last season, the show is ready to bring back arguably one of its best villains in the flesh, even if we're still unsure whether Jerome is indeed the Joker.
Elsewhere, Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) finds his power and position continually slipping away, completely blind that it is all an elaborate revenge plot orchestrated by Ed (Cory Michael Smith). That character relationship has, of course, been central to this season as a whole and continues to be one of its most compelling narrative threads. Likewise, the tenuous romance between Selina (Camren Bicondova) and Bruce (David Mazouz) is intensely challenged by the arrival of the former's mother (Ivana Milicevic). This week's episode -- titled 'Smile Like You Mean It' -- does largely feel like its focused on setting up a better story to come, but for now, let's discuss what went down, starting with Jerome's long-awaited return.
The moment fans have been waiting for finally came to pass. Jerome is once again among the living and wreaking havoc on Gotham. As alluded to above, the show went a long way these past couple episodes to justify his absence. The cult inspired by Jerome -- which has even infiltrated the GCPD, likely the first of many such twists -- has brought some truly chilling moments and given actor David Dastmalchian the chance to amp up the crazy as Dwight even moreso than he did as a Joker lackey in The Dark Knight. Moreover, Monaghan slips right back into the role, despite spending much of his screen time this week covered in performance-dampening bandages. Next week will ultimately be a better test for whether Gotham can make Jerome as engaging as he was last season.
In fact, the entire taking-of-Jerome's-face story just felt like a ham-fisted excuse to reference the comics, in which Joker at one point reattaches his own face like a mask. Jerome's resurrection should have been a more exciting event, but the way it was presented this week undercut some of the impact his return may have otherwise had. The cult's "We are Jerome!" chants therefore came across as more absurd than thrilling, especially since Dwight -- as Jerome rightfully points out -- has "no stage presence." He was a pale imitation of Jerome (which, yes, was the point), but he also stole the entire focus of the episode as a result. At least Jerome shared some memorable moments this week with Lee (Morena Baccarin) of all people. Their interaction proves why Jerome has remained such an unpredictable favorite among Gotham's fanbase. In particular, watching Jerome get caught up about all that's happened since his death was a blast. Now that he has cast a darkness (literally) over Gotham, this whole "Mad City" element of season 3 will certainly live up to its namesake. Glad to have you back, Jerome. Now let's turn you into the Joker already.
PLANNED TO PERFECTION
Following Ed's brilliant breakdown of Penguin last episode, their storyline gets decidedly less play this week, but it's no less satisfying to watch. This time, Barbara (Erin Richards) takes control of the plan, leading Penguin to believe that his enemies are rebelling and have kidnapped Ed. One has to admire the sick genius in Ed exploiting Penguin's feelings for him in this way. The latter's weakness has always been his emotion -- as initially exemplified by his love for his mother -- and Penguin all too easily falls for the scenario presented to him, especially already having fallen into a place in which his positions as both mayor and crime lord are being threatened. It's almost uncomfortable to watch him flounder so much, since somehow Penguin still has the audience on his side despite being among the most despicable characters on the show.
Speaking of despicable characters, Barbara was really on the top of her game this week. The character continues to be a wild card, but the series seems to have realized she's at her best when she's being devious. Long gone is Gordon's (Ben McKenzie) mopey fiancée. This woman has a sharp wit (her comment about that "disco vampire thing" Penguin does with his hair) and a proclivity for violence that have made her a prime candidate for the show's take on Harley Quinn. That being said, it's very doubtful that she and Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) will so easily be able to double-cross Ed once this Penguin revenge plot is complete. By the looks of it, we'll know for sure how that goes when Penguin tracks down Ed next week.
A FAMILY DRAMA
Any momentum the Bruce and Selina storyline may have had earlier this season has all but slowed to a crawl. The Court of Owls is barely mentioned these days, and the burgeoning romance between the two has cooled dramatically, especially with the arrival of Selina's mother. This episode we see Cole (P.J. Marshall) going to Bruce to demand the $200,000 that Selina said he would pay to get Cole off Maria's back. Considering how little we know about the elder Ms. Kyle and the wily ways both she and her daughter share, it wasn't the least bit surprising that she and Cole were conning Bruce from the start.
The only part of the Selina storyline that saved this arc from being a total waste was Bicondova's strong performance in confronting her mother about her lies. Little by little, we're starting to see why Selina shuts off her emotions even moreso, embracing her identity as Catwoman. Her encounter with Bruce soon afterwards about whether he knew the truth -- while it was scripted far too much like Captain America: Civil War -- was emotionally shattering in some ways. Her attempts to fight him and his refusal to do so really felt fundamental to the complicated relationship the two will ultimately share as Batman and Catwoman. Well done, Gotham. Now let's get back to other, more interesting matters regarding these two. Whatever happened to emo Bruce, for instance?
Gotham continues next Monday with 'The Gentle Art of Making Enemies' at 8PM on FOX.