NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of Gotham, including a major character death, are present in this review
After really stepping up the intensity last week with the superb “Knock, Knock”, Gotham stayed very strong this week with the equally shocking and brutal “The Last Laugh”, which yet again unleashed The Maniax on Gotham City in a big way.
The episode begins with Bullock wasting no time getting back into the swing of being a GCPD officer. Alongside Gordon, who is furious after the murder of Commissioner Essen last week, the two toss perps out of windows (though safely onto unseen garbage piles), in a very uncompromising bid to get information on Jerome and The Maniax. This doesn’t lead anywhere however, and they have no choice but to return to the precinct and figure out another move. Eventually, they settle on visiting the home of Jerome’s father, the blind fortune teller, Paul Cicero, with Mark Margolis once again returning to guest star from his appearance in “The Blind Fortune Teller” last season.
We also learn later at the GCPD, where Gordon has become quite authoritative in the desire to apprehend Jerome and honour Essen’s memory, that Amygdala apparently escaped The Maniax, and his whereabouts are unknown. Gordon’s comment on the issue was kind of amusing though, stating, “He’s 6’7” and has the brain of a five-year old. How did we lose track of him?!” Don’t worry, Gordon. Amygdala will certainly surface again when Batman begins to prowl the streets of Gotham!
We also get some backstory on the Galavan siblings, who are apparently the heirs to the original founders of Gotham City. Theo wants to exact some sort of justice on the city after his forefathers had some vague wrongdoing done to them, but much of his plan is still shrouded in mystery. Still, it was cool to see Theo and Tabitha start fitting more into the hierarchy of Gotham City, and not just feeling like they’re rich eccentrics who are implementing some evil plot for kicks.
Unfortunately, Jerome arrives at his father’s apartment first though, alongside Tabitha Galavan (who was engaging in some sexy smooching with Barbara in the previous scene, surprising no one), and proceeds to tie up and torment his father, over his new gig with Theo Galavan. It’s here that we learn that Theo was sending encoded braille messages to Jerome’s father, which looked like ordinary letters from Jerome, with instructions on how to break Jerome and the other Maniax out of prison. This was actually kind of a decent twist, even if it ends with Jerome’s father being murdered, and both Jerome and Tabitha escaping out the window, because Tabitha didn’t think there was anything good to eat in the apartment. Is that a thing with her? She doesn’t strike me as having an aggressive diet, if I’m being honest.
Anyway, once again left with no leads, Gordon is told by Leslie that she’s hosting a gala for charity, and coincidentally, Bruce Wayne is also a patron of the gala, forced to honour his condition to Alfred about adopting his parents’ legacy and wishes in the public eye, including their charity obligations. Gordon sadly doesn’t attend, but this does lead to an awkward and hilarious scene of Alfred attempting to flirt with Leslie, obviously not knowing that she’s in a relationship with Gordon. Alfred’s new tough, badass portrayal is awesome, but it was very entertaining to see his more sensitive side come out, even if his game needs a little work.
Apparently, a big incentive to come to this party was the fact that there will be a magician, which was part running gag, and part foreshadowing. Turns out, Jerome has taken the place of the magician, with Barbara posing as his masked assistant (in a neat nod to Joker and Harley Quinn from DC lore), and Theo in attendance at the gala as a guest, alongside Tabitha, who makes a bit of an uncomfortable suggestion that the two have a bit of an incestuous relationship. Fans probably inferred that already, but it’s still an unnerving idea, especially when we’ve seen how savage Tabitha is more than once already.
At first, the magic show proceeds as normal, but eventually, Jerome unmasks himself, after tossing a knife into the deputy mayor and killing him. The audience is forced to watch as Jerome toys with several guests, with Leslie quickly being able to sneak a phone call to Gordon before being captured and made to spin on a wheel by Barbara, though Theo makes a show of trying to talk the villains down, with the next phase of his grand plan for Gotham City no doubt beginning now.
Gordon manages to arrive, with a bunch of ineffectual GCPD officers outside, and Bruce is even snuck off by Selina, who snuck into the party to swipe money from the rich folks. Bruce refuses to flee the scene however, and turns back to reclaim Alfred, who got knocked out in the chaos, with Jerome now threatening to shoot him if Bruce doesn’t return. Gordon makes contact with Bruce before he arrives however, attempting to talk Bruce out of putting himself in harms’ way. Bruce ultimately refuses to back down however, so the two work together to try and make Alfred safe. Gordon then starts shooting up the bad guys, as Alfred helps him contain the situation. Seeing these three work together was incredibly satisfying I must say, and it did nicely foreshadow the alliance between Gordon and Batman in the future to great effect once again.
Theo is the one that gets to Jerome however, and, after disagreeing with Jerome’s plan to threaten Bruce in particular, he stabs Jerome in the neck. Jerome begins to bleed out as his face twists into a permanent smile, and then, suprisingly, Jerome dies. As I, and others suspected from his red hair, he was in fact a ‘red herring’, and not the real Joker. He certainly sold the part while he lasted though, and losing him so early is actually a bit unfortunate, since it may hurt Gotham’s increased sense of manic energy to have Jerome buy the farm, even if Barbara does get away, and Theo and Tabitha are still left to keep conspiring.
We also see just a bit of Penguin this week, as Bullock pays him a visit, resulting in a great scene where Bullock threatens to severely hurt Penguin if he ever tries to mooch a favour out of Gordon again. It was awesome to be reminded of how frightening Bullock can be to criminals, even when he started out the show as a corrupt cop, and his pointing out that he’ll always see Penguin as Fish Mooney’s timid umbrella handler, no matter how powerful he gets, was one of the character’s best moments yet.
As the gala is cleared out, Theo returns home to get a tantalizing kiss from Barbara, which appears to provoke jealousy in Tabitha. Is it over Barbara however, or Theo? Tabitha bluntly stated that she and Theo have a bit of a… Liberal, sibling relationship, after all. We also see the fallout of Theo killing Jerome, as several people around the city start cackling along to Jerome’s actions on the television, even being inspired to commit acts of violence, and the episode ends with a close pan up to the dead Jerome’s twisted, eternally grinning face.
This is obviously the first seed planted in what will likely be a very large and long-running Joker origin storyline for Gotham, especially since the boy or man that will one day become The Joker was probably not even glimpsed during the montage of disturbed Jerome fanatics that were shown. He is out there though… As for how Batman/DC fans will take this new direction however, it will no doubt be mixed. This is a novel way to begin setting up for The Joker, and it definitely avoids rehashing old and tired Joker origins, even ones as iconic and beloved as the one featured in acclaimed DC graphic novel, The Killing Joke. On the other hand however, it’s also evident that The Joker of the Gotham universe could simply end up being a Jerome copycat, and that somewhat diminishes the appeal of Batman’s future arch-nemesis. Like I said though, Gotham is no doubt just starting to lay the groundwork for a very grand, large-scale Joker storyline, and for all we know, we may not see any more Joker teases for the rest of the season.
Putting aside how you felt about the Joker foundation and Jerome’s unexpected death this episode however, “The Last Laugh” was thrilling, shocking, dramatic, and a great conclusion to the initial Maniax story arc, even if the Galavan siblings are no doubt just getting started. Gotham seems to be slowly finding its groove again, after the bumpy elements of Season One, though with Jerome out of the picture now, we’ll have to see if the show can keep up this sense of excitement.
- Intense gala takeover by Jerome and Barbara
- The Gordon/Alfred/Bruce alliance
- Theo's shocking murder of Jerome
- Some may not like the idea of The Joker possibly being a copycat