‘Gotham’ Post-Show Analysis, Season 3 Episode 13: ‘Mad City: Smile Like You Mean It’
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, Barbara schemes, Selina gets played, and the proto-Joker's face gets taken out for a spin. "Smile Like You Mean It" was directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi, and written by Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt.
Tara Marie: Yes, the title is actually “Smile Like You Mean It.”
Dylan: I get it! Because the Joker! And like the song by Las Vegas’ own the Killers. Can’t wait for next week’s episode, “Are We Human Or Are We Dancer?”
Let’s kick this off by talking about the main plotline, which is the reanimation of the Man Who Would Be Joker, Jerome Okerson, or whatever this dude’s name is. His gang of cackling creeps, led by a legitimate mad scientist with its own Doctor Frankenstein lab, have stolen his corpse and are gonna Make Joker Great Again, right?
Tara Marie: Joker's always been great! Sorry, yes, that seems to be their weirdo plan? I’d also like to mention how weird it is that this Raiders of the Ark-looking place is actually a Wayne Tech place because, you know, why not?
Dylan: Bruce’s company owns a cryogenics lab? Wait, what am I talking about? This is Gotham, of course Wayne Tech owns a rat-infested corpse-freezing facility.
Tara Marie: I have to ask, regarding Lucius: How do you feel about the WayneTech Genius being turned into a completely normal tech? Oh, wait! You didn’t watch this show originally, so you don’t know that at one point Bruce, Alfred, and Gordon had him locked up, and then teamed up to go kill the then-Mayor, after which yadda yadda yadda Lucius lost his job at Wayne and now works for the GCPD.
Dylan: Yeah, that seems like a downgrade, right? I get the plot expediency of having him on hand to help Bullock and Gordon, but… he doesn’t get to do much, does he? The only thing he does here is be a net for Bullock to bounce an idea off about tracking down a GCPD mole, only to have Jim Gordon solve the mystery of the mole in maybe the dumbest and simplest way possible: hitting “redial.”
I also love how terrible Dwight/Jerome's henchmen are. Just a bunch of fanboys who left their “really good jobs at the post office” to follow Dwight. They’re like the world’s worst Juggalos.
Tara Marie: Hey! At least these guys don’t rap terribly. They just kill people. That’s much preferable.
Dylan: Well, they don’t rap… yet. Give it time.
Tara Marie: Maybe they know how magnets work. Oh! You weren’t watching when the Red Hood Gang was around! But I thought I should mention, in case you were hoping for it, the Red Hood Gang has already been done, and it was incredibly boring, and we were all very disappointed.
Dylan: This whole “cut Joker’s face off” thing is so gross, Tara Marie. I hate it so much. I hated it in the comics and I hate it here. Hate it hate it hateittt. Are you with me on this or nah?
Tara Marie: Nooooooooo. I love it. I love it so much. I felt like his reasoning in the comics (which seemed to be, “Let’s make a shocking issue one! Uh, I mean, he got bored, I guess?”) was a bit silly, but in the show I feel it works a lot better. Plus, it makes Jerome feel a bit more like The Joker, you know? After all, aside from his stapled-on face, he’s pretty human looking, whereas the Joker, er, isn’t.
Dylan: (Extreme Ron Burgundy voice): Agree to disagree. I’ll say this about this show’s Joker, he’s kind of great? His dialogue with Leslie in the GCPD morgue was a hoot. Even he can’t keep track of what’s going on in this wacky show. Is the Stockholm Syndrome kicking in or is he kinda great?
Tara Marie: Oh, no, he’s amazing. I mentioned last week that the writers had talked about a dozen different Jokers appearing, but as soon as Jerome appeared, all of those future Jokers disappeared. And that’s because Jerome is just that good. He channels the best parts of Heath Ledger and --- my favorite Joker --- Mark Hamill.
Speaking of Hamill, doesn’t this plot seem a bit Batman Beyond-ish? You know, we’ve got the Joker-worshipping gang, and now Joker is coming back. What’s next, a giant laser satellite destroying everything? I mean… can that come next? Please?
Dylan: I would not put giant lasers past these writers. They’re maniacs.
We also have Cobblepot’s story advancing, with Barbara doing her part to make him look completely nutters in front of all his crime friends. And it works! Mostly! I know there’s a lot to this plotline I’m missing, so do you want to fill in the blanks?
Tara Marie: To be completely honest, I feel the same way. I… I wish I could explain, but all I’ve got is, “Look, crime bosses. Watch them all die! Now the Penguin’s sad! Nygma’s mad! And Barbara’s got a plan.” Which seems to be about as much as we’re expected to get from this plot, to be honest.
The only other thing I caught was Barbara saying to Penguin, “Do that disco vampire thing with your hair,” and it is lines like those that keep me watching. How much longer you think Penguin can keep it up? He hasn’t been Mayor for a long time, and most of his best stuff came from Ed. I can’t imagine Penguin lasting too much longer.
Dylan: Oh no. Dude’s gonna crack, and soon. Poor Oswald. I did like the misdirection when we thought that he thought he was being played, only to be outmaneuvered by Barbara and… that other lady? What’s her deal?
Tara Marie: So so much happens in this show that I actually needed a brief refresher, but she --- aside from being Barbara's awesome girlfriend --- is Theo Galavan's sister, Tabitha. Remember the former-Mayor that Penguin blew up with a rocket launcher? The one Jerome mentions? That was Theo, and she is Theo's gun crazed, blood hungry sister. Remember how I mentioned Lucius and co. going to kill Galavan? That was in an attempt to save Bruce!
Silver St Cloud, his then girlfriend, stopped Theo, incurring his wrath. Tabitha saved her, stealing Theo’s parachute and jumping out the window. Since jumping out of this skyscraper was Theo’s only escape plan --- because this is Gotham! --- he was caught by Penguin, and then promptly killed in cold blood by Gordon. This show, man, this show.
Oh, and at one point Barbara was dating Renee Montoya.
Dylan: Of course she was.
Meanwhile, Selina’s Mom has got some trouble going on with some guy named Cole shaking Li’l Brucey Boy down for cash. Bruce folds. Turns out Mama Kyle’s just using Selina. Insert GIF of that “curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal” from everybody’s favorite one-season sci-fi show --- Firefly --- here. Turns out that Bruce knew, or at least suspected he was getting played, but went along with it becuse he’s a teenage boy who has the attention of a pretty girl. I’m not too familiar with their relationship, is this gonna be a rift that grows, or have they weathered worse?
Tara Marie: Hmmm. It honestly depends on the writers at this point. The duo have gone through worse, but I could totally see them not talking for awhile because of this. I hope they get back together because the next episode looks like it’s going to be a doozy.
God, this show is so weird it’s making me say stuff like “doozy.” I’d like to also point out that the grifter’s name is Cole. Like, you know, Cole Cash. AKA The Grifter. I don’t know if that’s what they were going for, but I see it.
Dylan: If they manage to somehow bring the Wild Covert Action Team into this show, I’ll eat my hat. My delicious, delicious hat.
Then there’s the GCPD stuff, where Jim Gordon continues to be the absolute worst. I feel like, were Baby Bruce were a grown man, he’s be tossing Gordon through a window for being a dirty cop. He’s such a jerk. He just straight up starts abusing the Joker’s inside cop. I know we’re living in a post-Jack Bauer world, but if I never see another “hero” torture a captive in comics, TV, or movies ever again I’ll be happy. Is he always this awful?
Tara Marie: Oh god. This is probably a much calmer, nicer, constrained Gordon. In this, instead of beating a dude until he needed to be in a hospital, he just stopped a gunshot victim from going to the hospital! Progress!
Remember Flask from Batman Begins? That’s basically a less cute Jim Gordon. Remember: he has a father-son relationship with Don Falcone! Of course, you have to note that he’s not the only one. All of the “good guys” in Gotham are morally grey at best. After all, Leslie comes in and injects their subject with truth serum --- my favorite fictional drug.
Dylan: Oh geez, yeah. A total comic book solution. I love it.
Tara Marie: I also just want to say that Bullock remains the best part of this show, and Donal Logue seems to be the only actor who is aware of what show he’s in.
Dylan: I’ve been a fan of his since his Jimmy the Cab Driver segments on MTV and Terriers. (RIP, Terriers. You were too beautiful for this fallen world. And hey, Firefly fans: if you want a prematurely cancelled TV show that’s really deserving of a fandom, let’s talk about Terriers, eh?) When he’s good, he’s good, and this is a nice pile of pulp for him to wallow around in.
So yeah, Jerome escapes, drives over some cops in a very hilarious scene, gets his face back, and blows up the electrical grid for Gotham, but not before going on the news and basically starting the Purge. This seems… like a bad idea. Also, how awful would it be to live in this version of Gotham? How do these people even live with this sort of insanity going on around them?
Tara Marie: I’m not sure. An incredible amounts of drugs and denial. How do we live in the world we live in? Although, I should mention, this season arc is called Mad City so, presumably, next week’s episode will answer your question, and it probably won’t be pretty.
Also, did you catch that the place that blew up was Kane Chemicals? God, I hope this show does a weirdo version of Batwoman one day. Gotham, please, oh please, give us a Batwoman.
Dylan: I guess turning on the TV to see a madman ranting and blowing stuff up is sort of basically what the 24-hour news networks are doing now, so I see what you’re saying there.
Tara Marie: Oh, did you catch that the guy who resurrected Jerome is (in addition to being in Ant-Man, like you pointed out last week) the same actor that played Officer Dent, the person Harvey beat up for information about Rachel in The Dark Knight?
Dylan: And apparently, he’s going to be in the Twin Peaks revival! David Dastmalchian’s had a good run lately!
Tara Marie: I’m not sure if you caught the teaser, but it showed Jerome, dressed as a Ringleader, in the midst of a carnival, having kidnapped Bruce Wayne. So, I guess, we’re going to see the best possible version of The Killing Joke next week. (By the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, in Gotham it’s pretty much impossible for there to be a Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon.)
Dylan: Oh thank goodness for small miracles. I don’t want to see a “real” adaptation of that comic ever in my life. Tune in next week, folks, for some unfiltered Joker-led Purging! Same Bat-time, same Bat-website!