Ha…Ha | Gotham “Rise of The Villains: The Last Laugh” Review
Gotham has come out firing this season, and “Rise of The Villains: The Last Laugh,” continues the strong start to season two. But while the episode overall was great, it will certainly rub everyone one way or the other. Of all people, I am the one to always call shows too safe, and that is doubly so for network television. Of course, it being Gotham, we know that certain characters won’t die, but this episode features one of the most interesting deaths of the series so far. And I can’t decide how I feel about it.
As with all TV reviews, heavy spoilers follow. Jerome has always been positioned as being The Joker from the moment he was introduced, and he played the part extremely well. His killer laugh and creepy changes in emotion were just too perfect. The first two episodes were very Jerome-centric and really sold me on the idea that this could definitely be The Joker, a brilliant one at that. But wait, part of this episode’s title is “Last Laugh.” Yep, you guessed it, this is the end of The future Joker as we know it, in a physical form that is. See, earlier on in the episode, Jerome’s blind fortune-telling father was confronted by Tabitha and Jerome, and their aim was to make it appear like he was the one that broke his son out of prison. As they are talking, his father tells Jerome, “you will be a curse upon Gotham. Your legacy will be death and madness.” No truer words have been spoken in the show.
After Jerome is killed by the conniving Theo Galavan, we see various people across Gotham becoming enamored with Jerome’s laugh at the magic show (I’ll get to that in a minute). His laugh enrages them and makes them mad, and they just start killing people. Whether it be their friends or random people, it is spur of the moment killings for the fun of it.
Spoilers about the graphic novel, “The Killing Joke,” appear in this paragraph, if you don’t want to see them just skip to the next paragraph.
In what I can only assume as intentional, this really harkens back to the seminole Joker story, The Killing Joke. While the ending of the graphic novel is left very up in the area. Some debate that Batman killed The Joker, while others contest that The Joker was simply whisked away in the police cars. It’s the meat of the story that is so strongly relateable in this episode. While Jerome’s fate is quite certain, the crux of Jerome’s character and that of The Joker in “The Killing Joke” is that everyone is mad, and it only takes one thing to completely change them. Just one bad day. It’s interesting, however, that the random people around Gotham committing these murders were set off simply by his laugh.
Personally, I get that they were trying to go for the idea that it’s not just one person that’s The Joker. It’s not a physical form and is more of a thought, a persona. But, man am I going to miss Jerome. His acting was spectacular, and he is far more interesting than the ignorantly serious Theo Galavan.
The scene of the main crime is at a Gala event for The Children’s Hospital. All the big wigs of Gotham are present, and somehow Theo was able to get Barbara and Jerome to be the main act. Bruce Wayne is picked as a volunteer doing the whole, lay in the box and we are going to split you in half trick. Alfred nearly loses it, but it was all in good fun and one of the few times that Bruce actually has a laugh. But, from this point things get much more serious as they call up the Deputy Mayor. As they are getting him situated, Barbara leans over and her mask falls off. Leslie Thompkins instantly recognizes her, but it’s too late. Jerome kills the Deputy Mayor.
Similar to just about all superhero forms of media, one character recognizes that all Gotham needs is a hero, and Theo Galavan will be that here at the expense of Jerome. He was so sneaky that he was able to play everyone into thinking that he was righteous in stopping Jerome. Gotham is at the fingertips of Theo, and no one is none the wiser.
As for Barbara, she does get away, and I am starting to like her as a villain more and more. Throughout the episode, I am convinced that she is playing the Galavans. Early on in the episode, she’s getting romantic with a leather-clad Tabitha, and only scenes later she is hugging up on Theo. It’s clear that she plans on pitting the two against one another, but I’m curious to what end. Also, the suspicion that she could possibly be some incarnation of Harley Quinn is furthered in this episode when she hits Theo in the head with a hammer. With a hammer…
Alfred, once again provides some nice bits of comedic relief when he starts fawning over Leslie. He flirts with her before and after the entire ordeal at the Gala, and it’s insanely funny when he mentions sending flowers to her right in front of Jim. Bruce and Alfred have a little bonding moment when Alfred asks if Bruce knew all along that the two were a couple.