WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for this week's episode of Gotham, "Pena Dura," which aired Thursday on Fox.
A recent episode of Gotham, "Ruin," threw viewers for a loop. In this chapter of the series' fifth and final season, Jeremiah Valeska made his long-awaited return after being last seen laying waste to Gotham City in the Season 4 finale. There was a lot of hype surrounding the character as his return approached; star Cameron Monaghan not only repeatedly teased his colorful costumes on social media, he also hyped an episode that culminates at ACE Chemicals and revealed he would be playing a mysterious third character at some point in the season.
It was a surprise, then, that in the episode where the character finally made his big return, he was stabbed, seemingly to death, by Selina Kyle. We thought we had everything figured out about Jeremiah's inevitable transformation into the Joker, and Gotham pulled the rug out from under our feet -- again.
Of courser, Gotham fans have come to expect such twists in the unpredictable origin story of its Joker, and audiences couldn't wait to see what would happen next. Imagine the disappointment, then, when the next episode, "Ruin," revealed that Jeremiah was in not alive, but not by some miracle or crazy new twist. No, he survived Selina's attack because he was wearing... body armor?
By Gotham standards, this development commits a heinous sin -- it's boring. The show has traditionally leaned as heavily as possible into the outright insane twists. After all, we's already seen watched Jeremiah's brother Jerome, whom we then thought was the Joker, die, come back to life and then die again. We've seen a Bruce Wayne clone walk around the city. We've seen Barbara Kean manifest four different personas, from loving fiancee to deranged killer, from member of the League of Assassins to crime lord. We've accepted three different actresses playing Poison Ivy as she evolved from a child to an adult over the span of three seasons. We've seen the wonders and pitfalls of crazy science experiments, magic and mysticism.
What's more we went along with all of it -- and we loved it.
Of course, Jeremiah, or some semblance of him, was destined to come back to life. We expected perhaps something to do with the laughing gas that turned him crazy, Hugo Strange, a Dionesium-based resurrection like in the comic books or maybe even a third Valeska brother. But no, he's still around because he was wearing... body armor.
Making such a mundane revelation even worse is how nonsensical it is. How could Selina Kyle not notice that her knife, which she repeatedly stabbed Jeremiah with, never actually pierced his flesh? And how did Jeremiah arrange for only one of her stabs to make it through, allowing him to bleed just enough for her to buy it? Did he know exactly where she would stab him the first time?
The twist is disappointing because it doesn't make much sense -- not in the usual "Gotham doesn't make much sense but we're along for it anyway," at least. Of all ways the series could have made Jeremiah's death a truly surprising twist that led to something even more shocking and epic, we just have Jeremiah faking his death in order move on to the next step of his plan to destroy Bruce Wayne.
What's worse is that this twist was overshadowed by the episode's other big revelation, that the Riddler, whom we thought was the real villain of Season 5, is actually nothing but a puppet, a drone being mind-controlled by Eduardo Dorrance/Bane thanks to a chip placed in his brain by Hugo Strange. See? Now, that's impossible. That's crazy. That's Gotham, and we're totally into it.
This whole body armor thing just isn't the type of semi-real explanation we've come to expect from Gotham. Not this late in the game, not when we're so close to the birth of Batman and the Joker. The saga of Jerome and Jeremiah Valeska has been an inspired take on the Joker origin story, and hopefully this latest twist in just a bump in the road of an otherwise bonkers tale.
Airing Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox, Gotham stars Ben McKenzie as James Gordon, Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock, David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne, Robin Lord Taylor as Penguin, Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle, Erin Richards as Barbara Kean and Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth.