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'Gotham' recap: Meet the likely Joker, the villain this show needs

'Gotham' recap: Meet the likely Joker, the villain this show needs
Theo Galavan (James Frain, left) and Barbara (Erin Richards) on "Gotham." (Nicole Rivelli / FOX)

It's a new day in Gotham.

There's a new commissioner and a new band of psychopaths hellbent on destroying the city.

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The recently formed Suicide Squad-esque group has its own name: Maniax. Sporting unfastened straight jackets and sawed-off shotguns, this group of bloodthirsty lunatics (seriously, one of them is a cannibal) is just the break "Gotham" needs from the one-and-done villain storylines.

Leading the pack is Joker-in-training Jerome. Before, it was just a wink. Now it's a nudge in the gut: Jerome is the Joker. Or at least an "idea" of the Joker, as Cameron Monaghan said.

Granted, the show is only in its second season, and they could kill off Jerome and bring in another Joker-esque character later. But for now, since he embodies the deliriously wonderful madness that is the Joker, he is the Joker.

And what a Joker he is! Cameron Monaghan nails Jack Nicholson's sinister smile and echos Heath Ledger's mesmerizing insanity, all while bringing his own devilish theatrics to the mix. He's the villain "Gotham" has needed for so very long.

The nods to Ledger's performance weren't the only references to the "The Dark Knight." This entire episode was an homage to Christopher Nolan's second Batman movie.

The Maniax taking the bus full of cheerleaders hostage? That's reminiscent of Ledger's Joker kidnapping the hospital victims in a bus. And the terrifying selfie video Jerome shot at the Gotham Police Department? It's hauntingly familiar to the ones Ledger's Joker sent the media for all of his threats and ransom demands.

As much as I love "The Dark Knight" tribute, I was glad to see Jerome find his own voice as the Joker, or at least the abstract Joker. Watching him pull the trigger four (four!) times during Russian Roulette and walk away unscathed was captivating and horrifying.

More Joker, less of the easily forgettable villains, please.

Then there's the Harley Quinn to Jerome's Joker. Barbara's fully committed to this "I'm not sick, it's who I am!" phase. Galavan sees this as an opportunity to take down Jim.

Before the GCPD massacre, Barbara lured Jim away as a part of Galavan's plot to frame him. It's not confirmed that's Galavan's intention, but what else could it be? To an outsider, it might seem awfully suspicious that Jim walked away with scratches when so many of his colleagues lost their lives.

It certainly doesn't help that his ex is a part of the Maniax, either. Yes, they're broken up, but what's to stop Barbara and Galavan from making it seem like she's still with Jim and pulling a Bonnie and Clyde?

What's more, she knows that Jim and Penguin are old friends. We'll likely see Galavan dig deeper into their friendship and exploit his darkest secrets, like that one where Jim shook down a crooked mobster then killed him. Those are two dirty deeds the audience won't forget anytime soon.

But why does Galavan want to frame Jim? Probably because Jim's the only good(ish) person on the force. That and he knows Jim aspires to become commissioner and clean house. Now that Galavan's killed off Commissioner Essen, Jim will quickly move up in the ranks — making some on the force or in the media find that too eerie to be coincidence.

But before outsiders break out the pitchforks and torches, Galavan will likely blackmail Jim so that he has him under his thumb when he's running GCPD. Or he'll force him to resign and enlist one of Galavan's own cronies to run GCPD. Either way, it's Jim Gordon — there's no way he'll stay off the force for long.

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There's still a major question the audience forgot in the midst of the chaos from the Maniax, and that's exactly what Galavan wanted: Why is he keeping the mayor hostage? Other than "to rule the world, blah blah blah," as Jerome put it. That begins with taking out the commissioner.

"It's a new day, Jim," Commissioner Essen says faintly before she dies. She left us too soon.

I wish the writers had given her and Jim more time in their current positions. Bruce hasn't even hit puberty yet, and Jim will likely be named commissioner in next week's episode. It's too fast.

I'm all for "Gotham" creating its own mythos, but there are only so many times Jim can get promoted then kicked off the force, then win his way back onto the force before they're forced to jump the shark.

And now that Essen's gone, who in the higher-ranked positions will have Jim's back? Gotham's a city where you need friends.

More "Knock, Knock" highlights:

Best Harvey one-liner: "We are who we are, right? No use fighting it." No zingers from Harvey this time. "Knock, Knock" was too serious for that.

Punniest line: "Now that's a headline!" – Jerome, cackling after the bodies thrown off the Gotham Gazette building form a perfectly straight line. I'd like it more if David Caruso didn't ruin puns with every intro of "CSI: Miami."

Mad for plaid: Dig those green pants, Ed. I like how Nygma's attire is gradually becoming more and more Riddler-esque. Gradually is the keyword. While Jim's plotline is always on fire, the Ed's insanity is slowly simmering on the backburner. Why can't more "Gotham" plotlines be like this? I can't wait to see level of crazy he serves up as the Riddler.

Most awkward moment: Jim showing a slideshow of the escaped Arkham inmates when Barbara's face comes up.

Computer repairs: I want to live vicariously through Alfred taking a hammer to the computers whenever mine starts acting up. Too bad I don't have a Lucius Fox to repair my computer should that happen.

Lost in translation: Anyone else scratching their head at Alfred's "kipper" speech? I couldn't find a Cockney translation of what Alfred said to Lucius, but here's the gist of what he said: "Can I trust you? Jolly good."

On the record: What did Jerome record Commissioner Essen saying before he killed her? Will this somehow be twisted and used against Jim?

Knowledge is power: Bruce: "This computer is my smoking gun!"

Alfred: "Exactly, a smoking gun. Guns are for grown-ups, aren't they?"

Bruce: "That's a metaphor, Alfred, not an argument." I get Alfred's trying to protect Bruce, but he needs to stop patronizing him. If Bruce knows the difference between an argument and a metaphor, and can break down Alfred's logical fallacies, then he's easily smarter than most adults. Bruce's intellect is just one of the many reasons why Batman is the best.

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