"The Last Laugh" (S2/E3)
Author: Ricky Church (Follow RICHARDCHURCH16)
Date: September 29, 2015

EPISODE INFO: "The Last Laugh" originally aired on the FOX television network on Monday, October 5, 2015. GOTHAM is based on "Batman" characters owned and published by DC Comics.

SYNOPSIS: Gordon and Bullock track down a nemesis from the past, leading to a standoff between Jerome (guest star Cameron Monaghan) and Gordon. Meanwhile, a magic show at the Gotham Children’s Hospital gala turns into a hostage situation in the all-new "Rise of the Villains: The Last Laugh" episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, Oct. 5 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on Fox.

MAIN CAST: Ben McKenzie as Detective James Gordon, Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock, Michael Chiklis as Detective Nathaniel Barnes, Sean Pertwee as Alfred, Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin, Erin Richards as Barbara Kean, David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne, Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle/the future Catwoman, Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma/the future Riddler, James Frain as Theo Galavan, Jessica Lucas as Tabitha Galavan, Chris Chalk as Lucius Fox, Nicholas D’Agosto as Harvey Dent, and Zabryna Guevara as Captain Sarah Essen.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: S2/E2 "Knock, Knock" Review by Ricky Church (9.29.15)

For the second week in a row GOTHAM had a fairly solid episode. Is this a really sign of improvement or did they just happen to get lucky twice? Either way, “The Last Laugh” was a good episode that, much like last week, didn’t bounce between cheesy and dramatic tones. From start to finish it was a serious story that dealt heavily in the aftermath of Jokrome’s bloody attack on the GCPD.

A problem before in GOTHAM was a lack of motivation for the villains and heroes in a story, but all of the character’s motivations were clearly expressed in this episode. Gordon actually had a real reason to be broody this week as he took the death of Sarah Essen and other cops to heart. When he shouted at the precinct, reminding them of what they had lost, it was a believable outburst, especially compared to his prior outbursts in the show. Even Jerome’s motivations were clear as he finally found a purpose and something of a mentor/caring figure in Theo Galavan, though at times his arc felt a bit cliché and used the “he’s just crazy” excuse a bit too much.

Speaking of Jokrome, Cameron Monaghan gave a fun and entertaining final performance as the villain. It was surprising to see his demise in this episode, especially at the hands of Galavan, considering so much of the promotion to this season involved Jokrome and the build-up to The Joker’s origin in the show. Perhaps they really aren’t done telling Joker’s story, but I hope this was it. While I was never a fan on how Jerome was full-on Joker from his introduction onward, I will admit the idea they present here is an interesting one: much like Bruce will be with Batman, Joker is an idea himself, looking to inspire other villains like him to commit crimes simply for the fun of it, as seen (rather too on the nose if you ask me) in the final scene. In this vein, the idea “Batman can be anyone” is flipped around to “The Joker can be anyone,” an interesting parallel for these foes. However…

There’s something about the idea that The Joker would be have been inspired to act the way he does because of some kid he once saw on television that doesn’t quite ring true. No one quite knows why The Joker is the way he is and that is one of the big allures of his character. The idea that, after his chemical bath/scarring/whatever origin you think of, he would look to this kid as his inspiration seems unlike The Joker. After all, can you imagine a confrontation where Batman belittles Joker for simply being a Jerome copycat? The Joker is his own creation, not that of some kid named Jerome who acted like Joker. While this idea somewhat keeps the air of mystique around the character, its also rather disingenuous of the character himself.

The story’s plot did well, though, to draw many of the characters in without feeling too forced. Bruce and Alfred, who often get relegated to their own smaller plots, fit right in this episode with a good reason as Alfred forced Bruce to have something of a social life following their arrangement. Though Penguin’s brief appearance would not have been missed, even that served a purpose as he commented on Jokrome’s crime spree and sparred with Bullock, a welcome change from Gordon once again going to Penguin and making some kind of deal with him. The only character who felt out of place was Selina, though even she was doing her usual thing of stealing from the rich.

Though the story did deal with a serious tone all the way through, there were some moments that still felt a little goofy. One was Theo Galavan’s obvious grandstanding for the cameras in his confrontation with Jokrome and the other was Barbara’s make-out session with his sister, one factor that felt entirely forced just to add some sex appeal in the show. This was later used again as Barbara flirted with Theo, seemingly creating a twisted love triangle and sibling rivalry in the process. Overall though, "The Last Laugh" continued GOTHAM’s improvement and delivered a solid episode. Hopefully this trend continues.

STRAY THOUGHTS...
* I am very glad Bruce and Jokrome didn’t really have any dialogue with each other. Last thing we needed was them voicing some allusion to their destinies...

* Barbara filling out the Harley Quinn role wasn’t surprising, but it also wasn’t that bad either. She could use more motivation than “I want Jim back” though...

* It’s nice to see Bullock able to get under The Penguin’s skin...

* The Penguin’s distain for “chaos for chaos’ sake” is a very nice reflection of his actual relationship with Joker in the comics. AND...

* Theo Galavan is either Court of Owls or Gates of Gotham. Both stories were by Scott Snyder interestingly.

GRADE: B+


GOTHAM airs Mondays at 7PM CT/8PM ET on FOX.
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