The 95th episode of Gotham is probably one of the most anticipated purely because of its title “Ace Chemicals.” Gotham writer and supervising producer Tze Chun and executive producer and this weeks director John Stephens proves to be a another great team up.
Tim Burtons ‘Batman’ film first brought Ace Chemicals to my attention as the birthplace of The Joker. Gotham certainly pays tribute to one of my favourite Batman films. It made me feel uneasy just like I felt after reading The Killing Joke.
Cameron Monaghan who has proved time and time again just how versatile he is as an actor in creating the journey of Jerome, Jeremiah and now Mr J.
This twisted tale starts with the unsuccessful finding of Alfred Pennyworth. He has been missing for 5 days. Captain James Gordon and Detective Harvey Bullock are concerned about Bruce because he has been doing double shifts with search parties and getting little sleep. Even Jim’s words of confidence in how Alfred can look after himself don’t offer Bruce any comfort or understanding what has happened to him.
Detective Harper has radioed through a bit of a weird case. Four men look like they have breathed in some kind of chemical, Harper thinks airborne. The letter ‘Z’ slashed in their chests were there before their deaths. Harper asks Jim to check out their moustaches, which are fake. The setting behind them is a film set which looks like they escaped from. Bullock suggests maybe the ‘Z’ could be a Zsasz connection but chemicals isn’t really Zsasz style. Jim notices a mark on the upper arm of one of the men and identity’s him as part of The Chessmen gang. They are a long way from their territory as they live in The Narrows. Both Jim and Harvey know who they can ask.
Bruce walks deep in his thoughts kicking paper as he walks. One of the newspapers that gets Bruce’s attention has the headlines of his parents murder. The start of the twisted mental torture starts here as Bruce sees a wall covered in the same headlines. A woman laughs as she walks with her husband. Has Bruce just seen his Mother and Father, Martha and Thomas Wayne?
The couple enter the subway and Bruce follows and he ends up back at the entrance of the tunnel that Jeremiah has dug. Lightbulbs light the way and one single pearl catches Bruce’s attention.
This is the where the Bruce/Jeremiah, Batman/Joker story begins in Gotham. Bruce following the path into Wayne Manor where he hasn’t been for months. Bruce watches the couple who look like his parents enjoy a private joke. Alfred welcomes Master B home and complains about the mud on his clothes and it’s soon obvious the magic of hypnosis is in play. Bruce asks Alfred who the couple are? “We’re your parents Bruce.”
Alfred insisting Bruce gets spruced up because they have a guest. Jeremiah raises a glass and welcomes Bruce home. Genuinely shocked that Jeremiah isn’t dead, a satisfying laugh comes from Jeremiah as did Bruce really think Selina would be successful in killing him? Jeremiah let them think it so he could finalise his project. Bruce goes to attack Jeremiah but Alfred grabs him and reminds Master B of his manners. Jeremiah came baring gifts, he pulls back a sheet to reveal explosives. Alfred under his hypnotic state sees the explosives as Italian meringues. Jeremiah agrees slowly and explains that a lot more meringues are scattered throughout Wayne Manor.
Jeremiah kidnapped an innocent couple based on their bone structure and build. With a touch of plastic surgery, Jeremiah created The Wayne’s. Bruce realises they are all hypnotised. Today is a very important day as it’s the night that Bruce’s parents where killed. Jeremiah is giving Bruce a chance to experience it all over again. Why? Jeremiah sees this as the most important day of Bruce’s life and he didn’t get to be part of it. This is the part where I felt unfortable at Jeremiah’s sickening project.
Jeremiah announces they are on a tight schedule. Alfred prepares dinner as Thomas Wayne lights the candles in the kitchen. Seated next to Bruce, Jeremiah is excited to share what bits of Bruce’s childhood Alfred has told him. How eating with his family in the kitchen was homely and intimate. A grilled cheese and Branston pickle sandwich is placed in front of Jeremiah as this is a favourite of Master Bruce. Jeremiah smiles widely, Bruce watches as this emotional torture unfolds. Jeremiah laughs hysterically as he thinks this is a pretty weird food for a twelve year old. Bruce is playing Jeremiah’s game but wants Alfred and the couple to be let go. It’s so important to Jeremiah to get every detail correct including the pearl necklace that Martha Wayne wore on the night she died. As Jeremiah asks what was it like loosing his parents, Bruce gets flashbacks of the ally where it happened. In sorrow Jeremiah talks about how he lost his family too and the wound never heals. Bruce knows none of this is real and Jeremiah is trying to manipulate him. Jeremiah is pleased that Bruce is thinking about that night but in anger he grabs Bruce as Jeremiah offered to be his best friend. Jeremiah decides if they can’t be friends then they can be connected in other ways. With a bite of the grilled sandwich Jeremiah approves and decides to cut things short as he has a date with destiny. The explosives are activated, Jeremiah suggests Bruce leaves with his butler quickly.
Bruce manages to persuade Alfred there is a gas leak and they need to leave Wayne Manor through the tunnel straight away. As visual treat and horror in this episode as Wayne Manor explodes. Alfred hurts his leg but he is awake from his hypnotic state and he remembers everything. Jervis Tetch better stay away Alfred because he will stick his watch so far up his…nose. In an emotional moment between these two fantastic characters Bruce admits he thought he lost Alfred. Never Master Bruce.
Jim arrives at the hospital to speak to Leslie. She is in mid conversation with Barbara over whether she should be her baby doctor. With a history of Barbara being trying to kill Lee twice and Lee having her own devastating baby history with Jim, you can understand Lee not really willing.
Leslie is willing to help Jim with Narrow business. The Narrows descended into chaos when the bridges fell. Lee’s work in The Narrows was all for nothing. Jim sees another gang ahead of them which Lee knows as The Leopards, rivals to The Chessmen. Lee notices a mark on the wall which is a symbol left by The Chessmen for their members of where to meet. This symbol they have found is heading North-North East.
Ace Chemical is back in production and this is where the symbol trail leads Jim and Lee. Luminous green chemicals are bubbling and cooking away in large containers and then put into smaller test tubes. The workers from the way they are walking look like they are hypnotised. Jim grabs one of them and he starts saying in a trance “tick tock.”
Jervis Tetch makes a welcome appearance this week. I have enjoyed this character played so well by Benedict Samuel. Jim’s guess is correct that Tetch is involved. Tetch thinks it’s a thrill that Jim Gordon is with the woman he told him to kill! Jim and Lee are attacked by the hypnotised men. Lee manages to hold her own as Jim gets wacked across the head by roller skating Ecco.
Because Ecco is around Jim knows Jeremiah is alive. Ecco guesses that Jim found their test subjects all boiled and bubbled. It’s a secret in what Jeremiah is planning. Jervis is eager to hypnotise Jim and Lee but Ecco needs to wait to see what the boss wants to next. Jim apologises to Lee for getting her into this but she was aware of what she was getting herself into. Jim asks Tetch about being a errand boy for Jeremiah. Jervis doesn’t see himself as an errand boy but a simple way to have fun. Lee joins in and asks what exactly is he without his games and rhymes. A second rate person in a silly hat. Ecco whispers to Tetch and he asks Lee “you do intrigue me so. First, you were a doctor, then the narrows Queen. Tell me, please do are you running from your past when you become someone new?” With the tick tock of his pocket watch Jervis Tetch hypotises Lee and Jim.
There is a lighter side to this episode. Oswald Cobblepot and Selina Kyle provided some of that humour. The water beyond Gotham city has been mined by the government. Oswald watches through binoculars as one of his men takes a small dingy out to see how far he gets before exploding. Selina finds it hard to believe that Penguin didn’t have a plan how to get off the island before he stole everything. The river is mined, everything that flies out gets blown down from the sky. With this Selina remembers Jeremiah was digging a tunnel under the river. Oswald sarcastically disbeliefes this. Selina asks if he has any better ideas, which Oswald doesn’t. Oswald was running out of guinea pigs so he agrees to check it with Selina when it gets dark because it’s in the dark zone. Penguin looks through his binoculars and is delighted when he sees the man swimming ashore. But with a sound of an explosion he doesn’t make it, Robin Lord Taylor does the best comedic ah he didn’t make it face.
Selina definitely has her own plan which becomes clear when she pays Barbara a visit. Selina still wants revenge like Barbara for the death of Tabitha. Also Selina’s plan to steal Penguins loot but she does need Barbara’s help moving the stuff. An opportunity for them to both leave Gotham, away from Jim Gordon, rich as Midas and Penguin dead in a ditch. Again another light tone to this scene happens when Barbara mentions they are both single ladies and a baby. Selina isn’t sure as Barbara is pregnant.
Like agreed Selina takes Oswald to the tunnel which Jeremiah dug. They can hear approaching footsteps, Alfred appears and asks what is she doing there and especially with Penguin. Oswald demands to know what is down the tunnel. Alfred gladly explains that it was Wayne Manor until Jeremiah blew it up. Which was the only way out of Gotham but now it is sealed. Selina stammers as she processes the news that Jeremiah is not dead, she didn’t kill him. Alfred continues with the twisted plans of Jeremiah wanting to re-enact the night Bruce’s parents where killed. Alfred knows Bruce could do with Selina’s help.
Selina goes to leave but Oswald stops her. With a knife to his throat Selina tells Oswald some truth. Because she didn’t kill Jeremiah that does not mean that Selina won’t kill Penguin. Selina makes it clear that she hasn’t forgotten about Oswald killing Tabitha and she thinks he deserves to die. Alfred calmly says her name and encourages her to put the knife down and reminds Selina that Bruce needs her. A rare scene between Alfred and Oswald as he supposes he should thank Alfred. Alfred would like help getting to the green zone. In his own sniping way Oswald points to the direction it in and leaves.
Bruce enters a movie theatre and shouts Jeremiah’s name. Music starts and a projector rolls out a movie. Already seated are the couple made to look like Bruce’s parents. The Mark of Zorro starring Douglas Fairbanks is the movie that Bruce watched with his parents the night they were murdered.
Jeremiah heard that Bruce was obsessed with this character as a child. He wondered what it was that intrigued Bruce. Was it because he struck fear into the heart of his enemies? Jeremiah is dressed like Zorro and re-enacts a scene from the film. Slashing the letter ‘Z’ into the chest which are The Chessmen. This was the scene where Bruce became scared and asked to leave the cinema. Jeremiah asks maybe if he hadn’t been scared and conquered his fear Bruce’s parents would of still been alive? The movie comes to an end as Jeremiah is ready to move on to the last stop of memory lane.
Bruce runs into the ally where his parents murder took place. He tries to convince Jeremiah not to re-enact the next part. Jeremiah has come to a realisation, if they can’t be bonded through brotherly love then they will bonded through hatred. Bruce assures that putting a bullet in two people that look like his parents won’t bond them. The other sickening twist in this tale is that Jeremiah has already killed them. So who is the couple behind him?
Jeremiah calls out to Thomas and Martha and asks them to turn around. A hypnotised Jim and Lee do as he asks. This was so clever in how it was revealed because you could not even see by the silhouettes the people had changed. Lee is dressed in Martha’s camel overcoat and wearing her pearls. Jim is also dressed in the clothes worn by Thomas. Jeremiah thinks it’s hysterical that fate has brought him Lee and Jim into his path. After all Bruce looks at Jim as his second father figure and Lee as a dear friend. So killing them will finally bond them together.
Ecco arrives with truck loaded up with fireworks which contain chemicals. Jeremiah knows that re-unification with the mainland hangs by a thread. With toxic chemicals raining on the city the government will cut ties with Gotham city.
The moment that Lee and Jim will wake up from their hypnotic state will be when the pearls hit the ground. Jeremiah wants Bruce to witness Jim and Lee realise what he has done them as the life drains away from their bodies. Jeremiah lifts the pearls with his gun and asks Bruce to never forget this is all for him. Bruce shouts “no” as Jeremiah goes to shoot Lee first, but Selina is quick with her whip and knocks the gun out of Jeremiah’s grip. This wasn’t in Jeremiah’s plan. Ecco presses the switches on the remote to activate the fireworks. Bruce knocks Jeremiah to the ground and tells Selina to remove the pearls to wake Lee and Jim from their hypnotic state.
A timer counts down as Jeremiah runs away with Ecco. Jim orders everyone into the green zone to take cover as he drives the truck away into the river. Initially a great idea from Jim but as the fireworks explode in the water he has contaminated Gotham’s water supply.
Bruce chases after Jeremiah who is heading towards Ace Chemicals. Bruce tells Jeremiah that this ends tonight but for Jeremiah now it begins. Bruce and Jeremiah begin to fight. Jeremiah smiles as his gun falls into the tank of green chemicals. He is convinced that Bruce can feel the connection between them. Bruce continues to punch Jeremiah in the face as Jeremiah asks again “tell me you feel it?” Bruce is head butted by Jeremiah when he tells him that Jeremiah means nothing to him. With sheer desperation in his words and on his face Jeremiah doesn’t know why Bruce doesn’t understand he is the answer to Bruce’s life question, “without me, you’re just a joke…without a punch line.”
Jeremiah has Bruce pinned against the metal bar railing and as he swings a punch at Bruce he ducks and misses. Bruce is not responsible for Jeremiah falling into the tank of chemicals.
Oswald Cobblepot in another interesting twist has gone to Edward Nygma for help. Nygma is genuinely intrigued as Oswald allowed Professor Strange to put a chip in his brain, attempted to sell Ed out to Jim Gordon and named his dog after him. Oswald has a answer for everything, he’s very fond of that dog. Oswald actually had Strange save Ed’s life and does Ed really think that Oswald didn’t have plans to save him from Gordon?
Ed is stood with his gun pointed at Oswald and here they are again, in a room together. Oswald sees this as fate has different plans for them. Ed lowers his guns as he wants to know what plans. Oswald asks Ed “Haven’t you realised what Gotham is yet? It’s no longer a city but a prison.” Ed gives Oswald his full attention when he suggests they escape.
I have always loved Jim and Leslie as a couple. Lee understands the role Jim has a cop and she gets just as intrigued over a homicide case as he does. With news of reunification of not happening, no action from the government until Gotham is declared safe. Lee wants to know what Jim was going to say to her before Tetch hypnotised them. Jim is honest he actually doesn’t know maybe what he said the last time they saw each other. He definitely wishes he could go back and do things differently. Better. Jim thinks nothing has changed but it has. Lee wants him to put himself in her shoes, Jim is having a baby with Barbara. Lee still can’t help but think what might of happened if they never lost their baby.
It’s Jim’s turn to ask Lee why she came to see him. Lee understands Jim has taken on a lot and she wants to be understanding. But Jim let Lee down. They can’t change the past so Lee is willing to live with it. Lee decides to leave but Jim stops her and she slaps him across the face. This honest conversation brings out the true feelings Lee still holds for Jim and they kiss passionately.
Selina can’t believe Jeremiah is still alive. He lays in a hospital bed with bandages around his face. The flesh of his skin that you can see still has a pinkness but almost transparent. Bruce has been told there is no brain activity and Jeremiah isn’t a threat to either of them. Bruce thanks Selina for coming to help him. Selina revisits the night his parents were killed and she knows she should of done something. Bruce doesn’t want to hear this as he thinks Selina has done enough. Looks like this friendship/ relationship has been repaired.
Ed and Oswald arrive back at City Hall. Barbara is waiting as she has had a look through Oswald’s treasure trove. Penguin realises Selina has told Barbara everything. She admits that herself and Selina were gonna go murder-halfsies to get Oswald back for murdering Tabitha. Having to do all the work by herself Barbara raises her gun to shoot Oswald when Ed can tell Barbara is pregnant. I instantly thought he had been given ultra sound powers like a dolphin by Hugo Strange. Barbara questions how Ed would know that, but it’s obvious she’s glowing. Oswald squints because he doesn’t see it. Barbara praises how observant Ed is and decides to get back to killing Oswald.
Oswald decides to invite Barbara to escape from Gotham as she surely doesn’t want to bring up a baby in a toxic waste war zone. Ed has found a way out of Gotham. Ed unrolls his blueprint of a submarine. It can track mines in the river using sonar. Barbara wants to know where the submarine is? Ed needs to build it first. Barbara decides to shoot Penguin but there is something that is stopping her. Barbara agrees that she will not shoot Oswald for the sake of her child but she will never forgive Penguin.
Gotham ends on punch line which has never happened before. Barbara tells Ed and Oswald to call her when the submarine is ready. As she leaves Oswald asks on a happy note who the lucky father is? Barbara tells him to “shut up.”
Another solid episode of Gotham. All the characters were used, great script and direction. It’s an amazing time to be a Gothamite.
An easy 10/10 for this episode.