There is a lot happening on Gotham this week. In years to come, you will remember this as being a three-parter but it is one episode in which everything happens. Jeremiah! The Fake Waynes! Mad Hatter! Zorro! A couple of iconic scenes from Batman history! Heck, the title alone should get you pumped. It’s time for “Ace Chemicals”!
We open on a movie set. Sort of. A bunch of injured men with Z’s carved into their chests are running away and then somebody in a protective suit launches fireworks that explode into green gas. The men collapse.
Gordon is on the radio to the mainland – somebody is explaining that Walker evaded capture, but he’s recommending they begin the process of reunification immediately. Unless something happens to destabilize Gotham again. I hope this general turns out to be, like, Sam Lane or somebody.
Bruce is, as you’d expect, obsessed with finding Alfred. Gordon makes him take a rest so he can be help and not a liability. Bullock reports that they found something weird – and yes, it’s four dead men with fake mustaches and Z’s carved into their chests. They died of the gas, and there’s also a movie set nearby so it’s weird indeed. Gordon would like to keep a lid on this since it can only hurt reunification. A tattoo on one man identifies him as a gang member from the Narrows.
Cut to Bruce, who is definitely not taking a rest. He’s walking the streets looking for crime. Instead he finds a newspaper with a front page detailing the Wayne murders. Then he sees them plastered al over the walls. And then people who look like his parents head down a subway entrance. Bruce follows and finds a single pearl on the ground. He continues through a freshly dug tunnel.
Barbara shows up at Lee’s clinic, looking for medical assistance in regards to her pregnancy. Lee obviously doesn’t want to help the woman who’s tried to kill her multiple times, but she also doesn’t want Gordon’s baby to suffer. And then Gordon shows up to ask about the bodies from the Narrows and it’s super awkward. Lee agrees to an appointment for Barbara next week.
Bruce continues through the tunnel and ends up in Wayne Manor. His parents are there, and they’re the same actors who played his parents in the pilot. Alfred is there too, and he seems to have been brainwashed because he’s acting like everything is totally normal. And then he introduces Bruce to their guest – Jeremiah. Jeremiah unveils a pile of explosives, which Alfred sees as a cake. He threatens to blow up Wayne Manor, so clearly it’s the real thing. Also, they didn’t have to tunnel under the river because it’s not part of Gotham proper – they had to tunnel to set a trap for Bruce. The under the river part may be a separate tunnel. This is the season of tunnels! Jeremiah explains that he created fake Waynes and they’re all hypnotized. Oh, I know who’s coming back!
They’re wearing the outfits the Waynes wore when they were killed because Jeremiah is going to force Bruce to relive that night. And here’s the bit I really like – it bothers Jeremiah that he wasn’t part of that important event.
Penguin watches somebody boat for the mainland, and then they hit a mine and explode. Apparently, that was the third attempt. Selina tells him that Jeremiah was digging a tunnel under the river and they can check that out. OK, I’m making sense of everything.
Lee leads Gordon through the Narrows and they hide from a gang, but Gordon really wants to talk about this Barbara thing even though he doesn’t know what he’s going to do. Luckily, Lee spots some graffiti that directs them to the gang headquarters.
Jeremiah and the Waynes sit down to dinner in the kitchen while Jeremiah continues to taunt Bruce. There’s a big deal about fake Thomas helping fake Martha with her pearl necklace and I can’t remember when the pearls became such an iconic element of the origin. If anybody remembers, give me a yell. Jeremiah explains that he wanted Bruce to be his best friend, but now they have to be connected in another way. Oh, he’s creepy. And then Jeremiah primes the bomb before leaving.
Gordon and Lee reach the Ace Chemical building, which is in full production. There are gang members there producing some green chemicals and when they try to question one, he just keeps repeating rhymes. They’ve been hypnotized. And then the Mad Hatter shows up, reminding them of the time Gordon told him to kill Lee. He sends the hypnotized men to attack them, and then Ecco joins the fight, pounding Gordon with a metal bar.
Selina goes to Barbara to tell her that Penguin is trying to get a way out of Gotham and she’d like Barbara to help with a doublecross.
Bruce desperately tries to get Alfred out of Wayne Manor and finally tells him there’s a gas leak. Alfred’s instincts kick in and he and Bruce escape through the tunnel just before the bombs destroy the house. I actually need a minute here. That’s Bruce’s family history up in flames, and it’s devastating.
The explosion woke up Alfred and he’s ready to kick the Mad Hatter’s ass. They agree not to worry about the manor just now. Bruce gives him a hug before heading after Jeremiah. Alfred follows slowly because his leg is jacked up.
Back at Ace Chemicals, Gordon and Lee are tied to a pole. Ecco won’t kill them because Jeremiah has plans. Gordon gets the idea to taunt Tetch, calling him Jeremiah’s errand boy. Lee makes fun of his hat, which really hurts. And then he leans in for some hypnosis as he wonders what Lee is running from.
Penguin and Selina work their way through Jeremiah’s old hideout to find the tunnel. And then Alfred comes out of the tunnel and tells them Jeremiah blew up the rest of the tunnel and the only way out of Gotham. He fills Selina in on what’s happening to Bruce, and she decides to go help. Penguin tries to stop her, but that doesn’t go well for him. Alfred asks if Penguin can help him to the Green Zone, and Penguin says “it’s that way” before running off. Hee!
Bruce reaches what I’m going to assume is the Monarch Theater. His fake parents are in the front row, watching The Mark of Zorro. Only this is the version Jeremiah shot, where he plays Zorro and he’s carving up those guys from the beginning of the episode. . Only this is the version Jeremiah shot, where he plays Zorro and he’s carving up those guys from the beginning of the episode. Jeremiah talks to the camera, reminding Bruce that he got scared and asked to leave, and maybe if he hadn’t, his parents would be alive. (Though in Gotham continuity, his parents were targeted for death, but Jeremiah wouldn’t necessarily know that.)
His fake parents get up and leave and Bruce chases them, pleading for them to stop. Jeremiah hates that it’s some guy in an alley who will haunt Bruce forever, and he wants to be the star of the show. Bruce says killing some lookalikes won’t do that, and Jeremiah explains the fake parents are already dead. And now we see who’s in their place – it’s the hypnotized Gordon and Lee!
And just to make it exciting, he’s going to launch more toxic chemicals from fireworks, only this time it’ll be big and loud enough to see from the mainland and end reunification for good. Jeremiah explains that they’re hypnotized to wake up the moment the pearls hit the ground, so they’ll know who they are as they die. As Jeremiah prepares to execute them, Selina whips the gun away from him. She got involved this time! Bruce tackles Jeremiah while Ecco arms the fireworks. Selina knocks Lee’s necklace to the ground so they wake up. Gordon can’t defuse the fireworks in time so he drives off in the truck. Bruce chases Jermiah and Ecco, a chase which ends, as it must, at Ace Chemicals.
Gordon drives the truck off the bridge, which should fix everything. Bruce and Jeremiah fight on a catwalk over a vat of Jeremiah’s toxin. Bruce gets the upper hand and tells Jeremiah he means nothing to him. Jeremiah rallies and insists he’s important. “Without me, you’re just a joke… without a punchline.” Jeremiah swings and misses, falling through the railing into the chemical vat. Meanwhile, the water separating Gotham from the mainland (which they sometimes call a river but I think of it as a bay) starts to turn green. Cool chemical spill! Bet nobody from the mainland will notice.
Penguin goes to Riddler for help, and Riddler is still mad about the dog name. (“First of all, I am very fond of that dog.”) But Oswald turns on the charm and they agree to work together one more time – to get out of Gotham for good. Over at GCPD, Gordon broods. Lee informs him that yes, the reunification talks are off for the moment. He tells Lee that back at Ace Chemicals, he was going to tell her that he wishes he could go back and do things differently. I love that the sticking point now is him knocking up Barbara and not all the various murders committed by both parties. They talk and she slaps him before kissing him.
Cut to the messed up body of Jeremiah in a hospital bed. Bruce tells Selina that there’s no brain activity. She apologizes for not doing anything the night his parents were killed, and he tells her she’s done enough.
Our favorite villains find Barbara waiting in Penguin’s office, ready to kill him. She points the gun at him and Ed exclaims “You’re pregnant!”. He says she’s glowing, which just makes it funnier. Penguin then sees the opening and offers to let her join them in the escape – she can’t raise a child here and Ed has a way to leave. A submarine. She asks where the submarine is. ED: “We have to build it.” BARBARA: “Yeah, I’m going to shoot you.” But she can’t bring herself to do it. She knows these goofs are the only way she’s leaving Gotham City. She agrees to join them, but she’ll never forgive Penguin. She tells them to call her when the sub is ready and as she leaves, Penguin asks “So who’s the lucky father?” in a way that makes it seem like he’s genuinely happy for her. Man, it kills me that we only have a few more episodes of these guys and I hope Robin Lord Taylor knows he’s the best Penguin ever, in any medium.
–Just a few notes because this episode was rad and I’m storing up a lot of my Gotham feelings in anticipation of the series finale. It occurs to me that I have no idea how Gotham City will rejoin the United States. In the comics, it was Lex Luthor pushing for it so he could buy all the land for virtually nothing, and that’s not going to happen here. Also, I was thinking about how in the comics, Riddler wasn’t even in No Man’s Land. He’s the one guy who left town before they blew the bridges and he just hassled other heroes for a year.
Ace Chemicals previously appeared in Season Two, when Mr. Freeze robbed it. It’s been the place where the Joker is born ever since 1951, when he was given an origin for the first time. They used the version of the sign that appears in the Arkham Knight game, which made me happy. Also, I should note that the 1989 Batman movie changed it to “Axis Chemicals” for no good reason and that’s irritated me for a long time.
This episode also fills in the details that the Waynes were watching The Mark of Zorro at the Monarch Theater. The movie and the theater have been fairly consisted for decades (except in Batman Begins). However, it also states that the Waynes were killed on June 27, when traditionally it’s been June 8. And I know that makes me sound super obsessed, but that’s my friend Lana’s birthday so it’s stuck in my head.
I really like Jeremiah’s need to be the most important antagonist in Bruce’s life – it’s such a nice summation of the Batman / Joker relationship. It’s why I think the standalone Joker movie won’t work – every real Joker story is a Batman story. And while the Joker is important, when Batman’s not dealing with him, he has to worry about Professor Pyg or the Ten-Eyed Man or Firefly or whoever. When Joker’s not in active conflict with Batman, he’s preparing for the next meeting. This is why, and I want to go on record with this, I’m predicting the movie is Joker’s episode of WTF? and he’s taken Marc Maron hostage to hear a tweaked version of his own story. That’s why he leaves Batman out of it – so he can be the central figure of his own story for a change.
And since I may never get a better chance to talk about it, you know how Martha Wayne’s pearl necklace breaking is this iconic image? I was trying to figure out where that first appeared, and it was in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. But! Pearl necklaces don’t break like that. They’re threaded so that if the string breaks, the pearls stay on rather than go flying everywhere. A few years ago, in Death and the Maidens, Greg Rucka has a hallucination of Martha tell young Bruce that they were fakes – she’d never wear real pearls to the movies. And then later in Grant Morrison’s Return of Bruce Wayne, a relative of Martha’s believes Thomas set up the murder and he switched out her pearls for fakes before they left. Part of her theory was wrong, but the fake pearls part remains.
It looks like we have two Barbaras next episode, and I’m hoping that means we get the long-awaited return of Clayface!