Review: Gotham S3E13 “Smile Like You Mean It”

by Nat Brehmer
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Well, Jerome’s back in Gotham and he’s officially the Joker. If you had your doubts about that, they’ve pretty much all been laid to rest. To be honest, the idea of continually teasing possible Jokers throughout the series always sounded cool to me. But I think it became clear both to the team behind the show and the viewers that subtlety was not and was never going to be the show’s greatest strength.

But, having said that, Cameron Monaghan’s Jerome is a pretty damn good Joker. He’s funny. He has fun, he likes to laugh, he’s completely psychotic and completely aware of it. Sure, Jerome plays a bit heavily into the modern idea of the very gritty, scary Joker—he even goes as far as to wear his own cut-off face in a nod to recent comics—but there’s a bit of the old Animated Series charm in there too. That’s what I like to see.

I love the idea of a group of Jerome superfans and the episode has a ton of fun with them. They’re led by the pathetic Dwight, who just wants to live up to the memory of Jerome, but can’t. He’s trying hard to be that guy, but he’s just not. It’s a fun twist on the idea of celebrity obsession. In general, it’s terrific that Jerome is thought of that way, that he has people trying to carry on his legacy in his absence.

Even though they’re not calling him the Joker yet, he’s already there. He’s gotten to that point. The very idea of this devoted, cult-like following is one of the most Joker-ish things about his character and it’s something that the movies never gave us. The Joker has always had people who look up to him, people who admire and want to be him. His kind of crazy is infectious. His total lack of morality, his disregard for societal barriers, these things all invite people to let go of their own inhibitions. It was an effect that the Joker has always had on Gotham, so I’m glad to see it show up in the show.

While there’s a good chunk of time spent on the people trying to be Jerome, the best scenes from the episode are those spent on the revival of Jerome himself. The opening, with his creepy resurrection and twitching hand—that’s all appropriately right out of a horror movie.

But the best scene is the one between Jerome and Lee. She’s proven to be much less fearful after recent events. She talks openly and bluntly with a monster and it’s a very intriguing, eye-opening scene. Jerome comes into it thinking he’s playing Hannibal Lecter with someone who turns out to be not much of a victim anymore. This, ideally, should mark a turning point for her as a character.

Overall, this episode shines for how dark it lets itself go. There’s a huge creep factor to it, but it never forgets to balance out the uncomfortable tone with strong character development, which makes it one of the better episodes of the season so far. The fans got what they wanted: Jerome is back. Let’s hope too much of a good thing proves to still be a good thing.

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