‘Gotham’ Post-Show Analysis, Season 3, Episode 12: ‘Mad City: Ghosts’
Welcome to Wayne's World, the latest ComicsAlliance TV recap series, jumping right into the middle of the third season of Fox's Gotham, the show about the childhood of Bruce Wayne, and the world of Batman before Batman. Your Gotham guides are Dylan Todd, an old hand at the recap game, but completely new to the show; and Tara Marie, a new recapper, but a dyed-in-the-wool Gotham fan.
In this episode, Gotham returns with a bang. We've got the return of the Joker, Penguin's descent into madness, and Zsasz shooting a bunch of different guns. "Ghosts" was directed by Eagle Eglisson and written by Danny Cannon.
Dylan: Uh so, okay, I think I got about half of that.
I should point out for our readers that I have never seen an episode of Gotham, so I’m jumping in, and hoo-boy there is a lot going on here. First off, the funeral for the hulked-out dude! Everybody has umbrellas and it’s very sunny outside! We also get a look at Jim Gordon and Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock, doing the stereotypical “attend the funeral, but way off to the side” thing.
What do I need to know about these dudes that I don’t know from the comics and movies and the “Previously on Gotham…” bit at the beginning?
Tara Marie: Well, first off, I would like to apologize to you for jumping in here, because this is a weird show that is just getting weirder. All right, oh boy, where to start?
Gordon and Don Falcone have had a weird pseudo father-and-son relationship since the first season. It’s weird, but kinda sweet. Gordon ruined that in the last episode after he killed the hulked-out dude... who is Don Falcone’s son.
Dylan: Do they make a Hallmark card for that?
Tara Marie: In Gotham? Probably.
Dylan: So I was gonna make a comment about how there’s no way an evil dude with weird hair, a beef with the press, and an odd way of speaking could ever be elected, but then I remembered, well, the United States, and I’m perfectly okay believing that the Penguin is the mayor, I guess. So he’s been jilted by the Riddler, I take it?
Tara Marie: Yes, sorta. See, Penguin was attempting to hide his feelings for Nygma but --- after Nygma made an easily misunderstood remark about being something “more” --- accidentally spilled them all. What’s incredibly bad about that, is Nygma had previously had a girlfriend who died in a mysterious accident. One of the other characters who... well, I’ll talk about her more later... suffice to say, one of Nygma’s co-villains told him that Penguin did it because of his love for Nygma. Nygma didn’t believe it until Penguin’s confession. So he quit and is now on a mission to ruin Penguin’s life. This show somehow manages to be weirder than sixty-some years of comic history.
Dylan: So to sort of recap Penguin’s story this episode: he’s got a new right-hand man and a media lady who’s out for his blood, and also he’s seeing his dead dad’s ghost, and and and...
Tara Marie: That about sums it up. I should probably also mention --- though it’s not super important for this episode --- that Penguin and Gordon have a pretty strong bond, as Gordon saved Penguin’s life and vice-versa. In fact, Gordon is partially responsible for Penguin becoming mayor in a weird, roundabout, only-in-Gotham kinda way.
Dylan: I just wanna point out that this show has only been on for two-and-a-half seasons at this point, and I feel like I just hopped into the last season of Lost! I love it. So who’s the hairless dude in Gordon’s apartment?
Tara Marie: All right, that’s Zsasz. Remember him from the comics? He’s the serial killer who kills just all the people, and makes a mark somewhere on his body for every victim? Well in this, he’s a stoic, weird hitman working for the Falcone family because, uh, Gotham!
Dylan: Ah, okay. His “you’re a good egg” thing at the end had me going, “Well, uh, they certainly took some liberties when they reimagined Egghead for this show.”
Tara Marie: This show takes so many liberties, it might as well be a fascist dictator.
Dylan: But for reals, I wanna see this show’s Egghead. And King Tut.
Tara Marie: Well, this is the same show that brought Flamingo and Doctor Pyg to the screen, so here's to hoping! Heck, later in this very episode, we get a tease of a villain who appeared in exactly one comic!
And yeah, Gordon and Zsasz have been down this road quite a few times before. This is maybe the eighth time one of them has been out to kill the other one? I also want to mention that Zsasz has these two unremarked upon helper twins, who to me at least seem to be Gotham’s version of the Kabuki twins from The Batman.
Dylan: We also get Baby Bruce Wayne and his Maltese Owl, and also Alfred, who in this iteration is very fond of guns, apparently? They have a chat with Selena’s estranged mom. So like Bruce and Selena are buds?
Tara Marie: My poor sweet child. I feel for you. Yes, Selena and Bruce are friends... because Selena witnessed the Waynes’ murder.
Dylan: Are. You. Kidding. Me.
Tara Marie: That brought her into contact with Gordon, who introduced her to Bruce. The two of them have gone back and forth, being friends, fighting, and then being completely confused about why the heck there was a clone of Bruce Wayne running around kissing people --- but they’ve settled into a sorta boyfriend-girlfriend confirmed romance. It’s kinda cute, in a weird... weird way.
Bruce’s ex is Silver St. Cloud, who was working as a spy for Theo Galavan, the previous mayor of Gotham. He was killed in cold blood by Jim Gordon (with the help of Penguin!) but later came back to life and became Azrael, before Penguin blew him up with a rocket launcher. So, to be fair, this is actually a much better relationship! Definitely a step up.
Dylan: At this point I have no choice but to believe that what you’re telling me is true. But let’s get back to the episode. Jim and Harvey go to an abandoned theater, in what I can only assume is the Abandoned Theater District of Gotham, find a bunch of high-end Juggalos watching an old-timey film of what I assume is this show’s version of the Joker, and then Jim gets targeted by Zsasz, who’s got this adorable “nothing personal but I gotta kill you” thing going with Gordon. Oh, also, the head Jokeruggalo is the guy who played the Russian hacker in Ant-Man!
I’m gonna regret asking, but what’s the deal with Jerome?
Tara Marie: Oh, Jerome. Sweet Jerome. All right, so when Gotham was first announced, the showrunners said, “We’re going to give you thousands of different possible Jokers!” And then there was an episode with a bad comic... and then Jerome. Jerome was so popular the show just decided, “Hey, he’s the official Joker, we guess, maybe? Who cares!”
So, Jerome and a few other villains --- including a possible Harley Quinn, who we’ll talk about later! --- broke out of Gotham during The Rise of the Villains arc, because each half season or so of Gotham has a different arc, with this one being Mad City. He died, but people still love him because he’s the Joker! Ever since he died, viewers have been waiting for him to come back and now, finally, it seems like he is!
Dylan: Good for him! Good old Jerome, he’s so resilient.
Meanwhile, in Arkham Asylum, Michael Chiklis is talking to the lady from Firefly, and he just goes full Rorschach. I’m guessing he made the Hulk serum?
Tara Marie: Oh if only it were so simple. No, he’s the former commissioner of the GCPD. The Hulk serum is a virus that comes from Alice Tetch, the Mad Hatter’s sister. Whoever is infected with it goes, well, mad!
After she died, killing herself so her brother couldn’t use her blood for his own nefarious purposes, Michael Chiklis visited the crime scene and a drop fell in his eye. What’s interesting is that towards the end of the episode he refers to himself as The Executioner, which is the name of a villain who showed up in one --- literally one --- single issue of a comic, letting villains out of prison only to kill them for the reward money.
Dylan: Oh man, I think I love this show. So back to Mayor Penguin, he uh, just kills a dude this episode after his dad’s ghost shows him where to find his exhumed corpse. I’m beginning to think that maybe this show is bananas.
Tara Marie: It is. In the best possible way. I also love the dude’s reaction to being murdered is to gingerly set down his plate full of cake. That’s how I want to react to being bludgeoned to death.
About this whole dad’s ghost plotline. Was it just me or was there a decidedly A Christmas Carol-esque tone to it?
Dylan: There was. And Hamlet, but like, Hamlet put on by people who had only read the Cliffsnotes on the night before the essay was due.
Tara Marie: To be quite honest, “read the Cliffsnotes on the night before the essay was due” describes Gotham’s treatment of Batman canon in general.
Dylan: Um so is this False Face?! Holy crap, this is False Face and he is the goofiest dude ever. Holy crap, I love this show. This third act reveal is so over the top and cartoony. Everybody is at 11 at all times.
So it turns out that this is all the Riddler’s plan to discredit Penguin.
Tara Marie: Ah! First, sadly, I must tell you that it is not False Face, but Basil Karlo, AKA Clayface.
Dylan: Oh bummer, but also, that’s equally insane, so I’ll let it slide. Who are these ladies who come up to Riddler after his ridiculous revelation flashback?
Tara Marie: Finally! The “some other ladies.” So. The blonde girl is --- according to some fans of the show --- going to turn out to be Gotham’s version of Harley Quinn, based on the fact that she’s blonde, absolutely mad, and has killed just so so many people. (Also the writers have hinted that their Harley has already been introduced). Her name is (pause for dramatic effect) Barbara Keane. Yeah, as in Jim Gordon’s fiance.
When the show began, the two lived together, then it slowly turned out that she was completely crazy. She killed her parents with the help of a serial killer, went to Arkham, and then broke out during the Rise of the Villains arc. She now has her own nightclub. She’s the one who told Nygma that Penguin was in love with him.
The girl she’s with is her girlfriend. Nygma once cut off the girlfriend’s hand when he thought the two had killed his girlfriend, but it got sewed it back on, so it’s... she’s fine...
Dylan: Wow. So okay, that end of episode sting: Head Jokergallo is Plan 9-ing dead people in hopes of resurrecting The Joker, then?
Tara Marie: Looks like. It’s not as weird as it sounds. Last season, the plot revolved around a place called Indian Hill (located under Arkham Asylum) run by Hugo Strange under the orders of the Court of Owls. At Indian Hill, they were dedicated to bringing people back to life. At the end of the last season, all of the people who were being experimented on were in a bus crash and let loose into Gotham. Including clone Bruce Wayne, because why not.
Dylan: Holy geez, this show. I can now clearly delineate my life into two sections: before and after I started watching this show. It’s bananas. I’m like the guy chained up in the cave in that Plato story: I can't be placated by the shadows on the wall now that I’ve seen the sun.
Part of me wants to go back and watch everything from season one, episode one, but a very large part of me also just wants enjoy being befuddled by every (literally) bat-crap insane turn this show takes.
Tara Marie: The show, surprisingly, started off very down-to-earth. It avoided anything overtly supernatural or even sci-fi as much as it could. Somehow, it was still about as strange.
Dylan: What else do we need to talk about? Elena’s mom’s sleazy dude-friend? How Ms. Kyle is so hot for Alfred despite just meeting him?
Tara Marie: Can you blame her? He is rather British! Oh, well, despite the show treating Bruce Wayne as the least important character, we should probably mention that the Owl McGuffin he and Selena stole from the Court turns out to contain an intricate map of Gotham. But only if held to the light like that one weird stone in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Speaking of, didn’t the place that Jerome’s frozen body --- along with about five others we should add --- look like Area 51 from the end of Raiders?
Dylan: Oh yeah, it was a total cliche in a show that apparently trades on cliches (umbrellas at a funeral, shootout in a restaurant kitchen, abandoned movie theaters).
I had no idea what to expect going in, but I am so very pumped to see where this insane thrill-ride is going. I just need to maybe try and divorce myself from the idea that this is a “real” canonical look at pre-Year One Batman, because it’s so obviously its own bizarre thing. Also, of course the crystal owl is a secret map to Gotham! Why not, right?
Tara Marie: It’s Earth-2. Nothing anyone can say will convince me this isn’t the origin of Owlman.
I think we should also note how the Gordon v Zsasz plotline ends, with all of the dedication and thought the writers put into unravelling it: with Bullock held at gunpoint, Falcone walks in and calls Zsasz off. Then Zsasz and Falcone leave.
Dylan: I... loved that? I haven’t even read anything with Zsasz, but I like this “It’s just business” iteration of him. It’s like that wolf-and-sheepdog Looney Tunes cartoon. He’s just punching a clock. No harm, no foul, right?
Tara Marie: Did you ever think you’d see a Batman movie where Gordon’s love interest calls him a virus who destroys lives... and she’s actually right?
Dylan: So am I correct in assuming that Jim Gordon on this show is Legitimately The Worst?
Tara Marie: Oh. Oh God yes. You saw how as soon as Zsasz was knocked out, he immediately tried to shoot him? That’s basically his entire MO. For awhile, he wasn’t working for the police, and he still was just going out beating people up.
Dylan: Jim Gordon has zero chill.
Tara Marie: By the way, the cryo-freezes that we saw in the show were made by Mister Freeze. Who is a character in this show. Anyway. Next episode, Gordon realizes that they’re going to bring back Jerome. And he is officially back. With his face cut off like in Death of the Family. Neat. Neat. Neat. Neat.
Dylan: Alright, we'll see you back here next week. Same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel!