Jerome’s back, and all hell is about to break loose. In other words, “Gotham” is good again.
“Mad City: Smile Like You Mean It” was one of the best “Gotham” episodes aired recently. Sure, the bringing back villains from the dead trope has been played out more than Jerome’s laugh track, but this is a bad guy Gotham — the city and the show — has eagerly waiting for.
It’s not just the chaos and destruction that makes Jerome a universally loved madman. Cameron Monaghan’s portrayal of Jerome/the Joker is on par with Jack Nicholson’s in “Batman” and Heath Ledger’s in “The Dark Knight.” From the spine-tingling cackle to the sinister Glasgow smile, Monaghan doesn’t fail to deliver or terrify.
(Side note: The episode’s first scene had a close-up of a joker card, confirming that Jerome is the Joker. No backsies, “Gotham” writing team. If they don’t want to lose any more viewers than after the last time they killed him off, they should keep him around.)
But before Jerome can go back to destroying the city, Dwight must bring him back to life in his lab. Steampunk glasses, a heavy-duty switch plate and electrical shocks that ripple throughout the building — Jerome’s reanimation was a well-executed nod to the old-school "Frankenstein" movies.
But the high voltage sent through his system wasn’t enough to revive him. The Igor to his Dr. Frankenstein warns him that their followers won’t be happy.
“You have spent the last year telling everyone the prophet would return,” he frantically tells Dwight. “The others expect to hear him speak. They wanna see his face!” Dwight then shocks him to death.
Dwight takes that line about “seeing his face” a little too literally, and scalpels off Jerome’s face. In true over-the-top “Gotham” fashion, he crafts it into a mask that’s half Buffalo Bill’s skin coat from “Silence of the Lambs” and half Michael Myers’ the Shape Mask from “Halloween.” In other words, the “Gotham” writers and makeup team really didn’t want you to sleep last night.
He wears the monstrosity for his main announcement in front of the other Jerome followers. They’re not as grossed out as they should be. Instead, they’re angry that Jerome’s still not back from the dead as promised. Glad they have their priorities straight.
Not to worry, Dwight promises. Because like some corny Christmas special, the spirit of Jerome was with them all along. “Each you of is Jerome,” he shouts. “I am Jerome, we are all Jerome.”
Again, he takes that line about being Jerome too seriously. He takes it upon himself to carry out the role of their prophet in the Awakening — their plan to incite chaos and take over the city — and leads the band of heavy eyeliner, over-gelled, prickly hair misfits to the Channel 9 news station. After taking over the station, he sends a message to the other Jerome followers: They, too, are Jerome.
Watching Dwight's message on the news is none other than Jerome, who suddenly woke up on Lee's medical table at the GCPD. He is not impressed by Dwight.
"Look at that," he says to Lee, who he has restrained to a table. "No charisma, no stage presence." Jerome’s right. While each of his followers might embody some of Jerome's maniacal spirit, none of them hold a candle to his level of crazy, Dwight especially.
When he hears that the GCPD has arrested Dwight, Jerome heads to the news station to find the imposter who stole his face and his spotlight. Jerome then takes Dwight to his hideout and holds him hostage at his own livestreaming news conference. This, of course, is after he staples his face onto his head.
As he talks to the camera, he reveals about his time his time being dead (or “darkness,” as he calls it) and his rebirth. “In the darkness, there are no rules,” he says to his eagerly awaiting audience. “Gotham, do what you want [tonight]. Kill who you want. And when morning comes, you too shall be reborn.”
He ends his message with his infamous cackle, then sets off a massive explosion in the middle of the city. One by one, the city’s building lights shut off. What destruction awaits Gotham in the morning? And without a mayor the people can trust, how will Jim and the GCPD bring peace back to the city?
More highlights from “Mad City: Smile Like You Mean It”:
Best line: “Do that disco vampire thing with your hair,” Barbara orders Penguin before he meets with the other mobsters. Penguin thinks Barb doesn’t have it in her to be in charge of Gotham, but after seeing her and Tabby effortlessly take down Penguin’s lieutenants, running Gotham should be no problem for her. That is until she encounters Jerome and his merry band of maniacs.
Best headline: “Mayor Crumblepot,” for a story covering Penguin’s massive on-air meltdown last week. Never mind the wordplay. “Crumplepot” sounds like a dish featured on "Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party."
Cutting ties: Bruce needs to save his wholesome family reuniting crap for someone else. Selina wasn’t lucky enough to have loving parents like his. Instead, her mother left her as a kid, then returned only to swindle $200,000 from her rich boyfriend. “The only reason why she came back to Gotham, the only reason she tracked me down after 11 years was you,” Selina says, crying. Oof, that’s gotta hurt. Why would Bruce think having that conniving woman in Selina’s life would actually help her? No wonder she wants to fight him. That’s one way to end a relationship
Making Harley Quinn: It has been a long-running “Gotham” fan theory that Lee would become Harley Quinn. After last night’s episode, that theory is gaining traction. Since Mario died, she has inherited her in-laws’ mafioso traits by putting a hit out on her ex Jim. She called it off, but it’s not like she’s warming up to Jim anytime soon.
“Don’t let your hatred of me turn you into something you’re not,” he calmly says. “Or what, Jim?” she fires back. “You’re going to put two in my heart, like you did to Mario?”
Not sure what it is about Jim, but he turns every woman he loves into a baddie. Unlike Barbara’s flimsy and last-minute change from Stockholm syndrome victim to blood-thirsty psychopath, Lee’s progression toward the dark side has been more gradual.
I could see either one become Harley Quinn, but my money’s on Lee. She has the media background that Harley has, and the feistiness to take on his level of crazy. Either way, I don’t see her getting back with Jim anytime soon.