Gotham: "The Last Laugh" (Season 2, Episode 3)


Well I'll be darned--three decent episodes in a row. Now that it's given up and accepted it will be a comic book when it grows up, Gotham has found a groove. The writers even take an actual chance by not being hacks at the end of this episode.

As in the previous stories this season, the through line is simple. Like a typical comic book. There's a fancy charity gala for some Children's Hospital and the Maniax are going to take it hostage. We have Bruce and Alfred, Gordon's girlfriend Leslie Tomkins, and Lil Selina in the crowd. Crazy Jerome and Barbara, masquerading as a magician and his assistant, light the fuse. Lethal high jinks ensue.

TV can work with that. There's lots of color and movement. Barbara continues to shine as the crazy chick, though the sexual rivalry for her favors between evil billionaire Theo Galvan and his sister Tabitha is an unwanted bit of complexity. Still, even that is comic booky. And yeah, Jessica Lucas still looks great in leather as Tabitha.

There's a little more hint of Theo's back story tonight. He believes his family built Gotham, that not a trace of bedrock doesn't hold their blood. He wants what is rightfully his. Okay. That's adequate motivation for a comic book villain.

The setup is agreeably short. An enraged Gotham PD is tearing the city apart looking for Jerome to avenge his devastating attack at police headquarters last week. Finally, someone's scheme has consequences, and people actually respond to that in the follow-on episode. That's a big improvement over last year. Gordon and Bullock ultimately cross paths with Jerome at his blind father's apartment, too late to stop either patricide or to prevent themselves from being overwhelmed in a gas attack. Then it's on to the gala.

Jerome is a charming enough magician, albeit one with an awful fake beard. His first volunteer is Bruce, who gets cut in half for some harmless fun and then sent back into the crowd. His second volunteer is the deputy mayor, who gets dead. Thugs start corralling the crowd with automatic weapons. Alfred takes one down. This gives Selina a chance to drag Bruce to safety. Being a thief working the crowd tonight, she knows a way out through the basement.

Gordon arrives in time for Leslie to take a spin on the magician's wheel. Theo Galvan comes out of the crowd to face off with Jerome, getting knocked out for his trouble. While all that's happening, Bruce tells Selina he can't leave Alfred behind. He has to go back. She says she isn't going back with him. So be it.

Before dispensing with Leslie, Jerome decides it would be fun to revisit that Wayne boy. Bruce doesn't answer his call, so Jerome decides to kill the butler instead. Bruce is about to reenter to give himself up when Gordon grabs him from behind. Selina showed Gordon the basement entrance. Next thing we know, Bruce is running up to Alfred, but he's carrying a concealed weapon. He slips it to Alfred as he's being dragged away. Alfred and Gordon proceed to take out the thugs quite expeditiously. Jerome proceeds to hold a knife to Bruce's throat.

Alfred thinks he can take Jerome. Gordon thinks he can take Jerome. Before either can, however, Theo rises up to stab Jerome himself. It's a nice twist. Theo is kind to Jerome as the lunatic dies in his arms, explains how they're both heroes now. It's a gutsy move for Gotham. Last year's show would have kept drearily presenting Jerome as baby Joker week after week. This year's show says "**** it" and cuts the cord before he goes stale. They'll have to find a new source of some energy, but if they're willing to take that chance, maybe they've got the creativity to do it.  

Barbara escapes through a magic cabinet. Everyone thanks Theo who is now a new hope for the city. It's what he planned all along.

Poor Jerome. Life is short when you trust evil people.

It's not profound, but this story fired on all cylinders as simple entertainment. Just like a good comic book should.