EPISODE REVIEW Gotham S4 EP17 – ‘Mandatory Brunch Meeting’

Jerome Valeska assembles a “Legion of Horribles” to help him find a secretive Wayne Enterprises associate as Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock race to find the same man. Lee Thompkins challenges the Riddler at his own game.

Gotham S4 EP 17 – “Mandatory Brunch Meeting”
Written By: Steven Lilien & Bryan Wynbrandt
Directed By: Maja Vrvilo

What You Need To Know:
Jerome Valeska, Jervis Tetch (the Mad Hatter), and Jonathan Crane (the Scarecrow) worked together to bust out of Arkham Asylum, along with many of Arkham’s worst criminals. Together, they have teamed up because they want to rule Gotham City. Ed Nygma has given back into his Riddler persona, and Lee Thompkins managed to take control of the Narrows back by putting Sofia Falcone into a coma. Bruce Wayne feels responsible for the damage Jerome Valeska causes in Gotham because he had an opportunity to kill him a year ago, but didn’t take it. Now he’s on Valeska’s trail to stop him before things get worse.

What You Will Find Out:
The episode picks up soon after last week’s ended, with Bruce Wayne appearing at the St. Ignatius school, hot on the trail of Jerome Valeska. Instead of finding Jerome, he finds the headmaster, who vaguely answers some questions- specifically the fact that Valeska is seeking out an old student named Xander Wilde – before revealing that he’s got a bomb strapped onto him. Hypnotized by Jervis Tetch, he’s ready to pull the trigger on the bomb, though Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock arrive just in time to try to stop him. They fail, though, and the headmaster blows himself up.

As promised in last week’s episode, Gordon admonishes Bruce for putting himself in danger by coming to St. Ignatius. He warns Bruce not to interfere with the investigation again, or he’ll be arrested for doing so.

Valeska, a step or three ahead of everyone else, arrives at the company that Wilde works for, only to discover that no one there has ever seen Wilde. Apparently, he works through a proxy, and after a lot of chaos and a surprise murder or two, Valeska’s able to get the name of the proxy. He tries to exit but is briefly stopped by Gordon and Bullock. They trade quips, they trade bullets, and then Firefly saves Valeska’s day by providing the distraction he needs to escape.

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After his escape, Gordon and Bullock do a little investigating at discovering that Wilde did some work for the Waynes, which means that they have to approach Bruce Wayne to dig up some information on the case…after having told him not to get involved.

Valeska waits for Wilde’s proxy – named Ecco – to return to her home, but when she does, she’s not surprised when he sneaks up on her. She asks if he wonders what the large, empty pet training cage in the room is for. When he makes it clear that he doesn’t, she says that it’s what she’s going to transport Valeska in when she takes him to Wilde – and then she knocks him out. Valeska wakes up later in a concrete room furnished with one CCTV camera that’s trained on him. Valeska proceeds to taunt whoever is watching him on camera – in this case, the mysterious Xander Wilde.

Gordon and Bullock arrive at stately Wayne Manor, where Bruce points out it’s interesting that they need him after having told him to butt out. When given information on Wilde having worked for the Waynes, Alfred does some digging on the bookshelves and produces a book about the project that Wilde was said to have worked on, and sure enough, there he is. They find Wilde’s address and Gordon and Bullock take off to go find him.

What they end up finding is a very small concrete building in the middle of nowhere. When they walk up and ring the bell, they’re greeted by Ecco, who leads them through a labyrinthian interior to meet Wilde or – as they discover in shock – Jeremiah Valeska, Jerome’s twin brother. Jeremiah explains that Jerome tortured and bullied him as a kid, so their uncle Zack – RIP – took him away from the circus and placed him at St. Ignatius, where he was given a new identity. He tells them not to worry about Jerome – he’s supposedly on a false trail and won’t be able to find Jeremiah.

Still, something seems off about Jeremiah’s story to Gordon. After all, CCTV cameras were watching their every move, but for some reason, all the television screens they’re feeding to are off. Gordon gets the monitors to work – despite Jeremiah’s protestations – and they see Jerome on one of the screens, taunting them. The detectives tell Jeremiah that he can’t keep Jerome; they need to take him into custody, though Jeremiah rightly points out that the GCPD and Arkham have never been good at actually keeping anyone locked up.

Before this conversation can go any further, Bullock notices that Hatter and Scarecrow have arrived and are inside Jeremiah’s hideaway. Since Jeremiah is the only one who knows the escape route, Bullock and Gordon have to follow him. While they try to escape, they run into Ecco, who has of course been hypnotized by Tetch. She gets into a fight with the guys but is eventually knocked out.

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Jeremiah finally reaches the end of the maze – shown by a giant neon sign indicating that the exit is there, but his twin brother stops his escape. Jerome threatens Jeremiah’s life, but as he does so, he hints at the fact that Jeremiah isn’t as innocent and pure as he makes himself out to be. Sure, Jerome’s the monster who killed their mother, but he wasn’t the guy who had pulled a knife on his twin brother. That was a lie. Of course, Jerome still wants to kill Jeremiah, but he’s going to drive Jeremiah absolutely mad first. Bullock and Gordon arrive just in time to save Jeremiah, and Jerome escapes, though he very likely will be back soon for his brother. Just to be safe, Jeremiah is brought to the GCPD to be placed in protective custody.

While all of that havoc is being wrought, the Riddler is having some fun of his own. He’s returned to the Narrows, where he hosts a live nightly game show. The winner gets cash, and that’s always great, but the loser? The loser gets to spin a wheel where they’ll be dubiously rewarded with any number of horrible consequences, like having your head put into a bag of rabid rats. Lee interrupts the latest round – this is going on in her turf, after all, and she wants to shut this down – and challenges Riddler at his own game. If she loses, she’ll take whatever punishment awaits her. If she wins, Nygma shuts the game down, permanently.

The Riddler gives Lee her question, but instead of thinking it over and trying to find the answer, she draws the answer out of the Riddler by manipulating him through a conversation. Clever, and infuriating for the Riddler. Luckily, that was only round one, and he’s sure she’s going to fail round two, where she has to give him a riddle to answer. Unfortunately for him, Lee knows the Riddler’s weaknesses and gives him a riddle with a wonderfully easy answer. Three words, eight letters. I love you. Unfortunately for the Riddler – who keeps on insisting he’s not Ed, who was in love with Lee – he can’t get past the first two words, thus forfeiting the match and losing.

After all is said and done, and they’re left alone, Lee asks the Riddler why he returned to the Narrows when he could have gone anywhere in Gotham City. When she intimates that it was for her, he threatens her with a knife. He won’t kill her though, he can’t. But that’s okay, because Lee does maybe the most surprising thing in the entire episode and turns around, pulling Riddler to her and kissing him.

Oswald Cobblepot has the C-story in this week’s episode – as well as Klarion the Witch Boy’s hairstyle – and is trying to recruit Solomon Grundy/Butch Gilzean/Cyrus Gold to his side. It doesn’t work at first because Grundy feels that he can’t get his old life back, considering he’s not really living at the moment. Eventually, Cobblepot comes to Grundy with a solution – a barrel of the toxic waste from Indian Hill. They’re going to track down Hugo Strange and get him to restore Grundy with the toxic waste. Surely that’s a perfect, flawless plan.

Having been won over by his old friend, Grundy accompanies Penguin back to his place, where the Legion of Horribles have gathered to experiment on an innocent man. Scarecrow gases him with something, but instead of freaking out and hallucinating and screaming in fear, the way one of Scarecrow’s victims usually do, he starts laughing. Wildly. His mouth is pulled unnaturally wide and he can’t stop maniacally laughing. This isn’t fear toxin. Oh no, it’s something else altogether. It’s laughing gas. Finally, an inkling of what Jerome has planned becomes obvious…

What Just Happened?:

Jerome having a twin brother in Jeremiah certainly seems as though it’s come out of nowhere before this arc, but it’s an interesting twist. The showrunners have been insisting that Jerome won’t turn out to be the Joker, but given that he plans to drive Jeremiah mad, I think it’s a safe assumption to make that something will go awry and by the end of the season, Jerome will be dead and Jeremiah will be the Joker. That throws out some fan theories where it was believed that Oswald Cobblepot would be morphed into Gotham’s version of the Joker, but this is probably a better way to go. It’s a little hard to ignore that this is the way they want to go with the character, given that Jerome’s plan to drive Jeremiah mad is akin to what the Joker did to Tim Drake, the second animated Robin, in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. Plus there’s the fact that Jeremiah’s fake identity was named Wilde, as in Joker’s Wild. Add to that the fact that Jeremiah is also an important name in the Batman mythos, given that it’s also the name of Jeremiah Arkham, and the outcome is almost a given. It’ll be interesting to see how Jeremiah differs from Jerome when he finally goes evil, and the fact that he has no history with Bruce Wayne – the way Jerome does – would introduce a new dynamic between the Joker and the fated-to-be-Batman.

Lee kissing Riddler was certainly a twist out of left field, and one wonders where they’re heading with that storyline. Somehow, though, Riddler manages to be an incredibly shippable character, and while I rather preferred the idea of Penguin and the Riddler, Lee and the Riddler will definitely have an interesting dynamic, based on where their relationship goes. Much like with Barbara Kean before her, Lee has managed to become a more interesting, unpredictable character the further she’s moved away from the source material. It’s difficult to surmise where the story is heading, but at least Lee has given up that godawful wig for a far more flattering hairstyle.

Hugo Strange is always a welcome character to have back, and the show is clearly setting up his return. There seems to be the possibility that he may play a key role not only in bringing Grundy back to his old self but also possibly working with the white hats of Gotham to create an antidote against the laughing gas. He’s too smart and interesting a character to only be brought back to revert Grundy to his old self, after all.

Rating: 9/10

Final Thoughts: This was a solid installment, with some great writing and some great character moments. The episode had fewer storylines to juggle, and so everything seemed clearer and more tightly knitted than usual. After a few missteps in past seasons, it seems as though Gotham is finally finding its stride and direction, and it’s definitely a fun one.

Gotham airs Thursday nights on Fox. Check your local listings for times.


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