Gotham – S5 Ep7 – Ace Chemicals

Writer: Tze Chun

Director: John Stephens

Starring: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Cory Michael Smith, Erin Richards, Camren Bicondova, Cameron Monaghan, Morena Baccarin, Francesca Root-Dodson and Benedict Samuel

This final season of Gotham continues to surprise and delight. If you were excited by the title, then the rest of this episode is seriously going to make you very, very happy… whilst also making you feel sick to your stomach. Since his transformation Jeremiah Valeska has been on a killing spree, leaving no doubt as to whether he’d retained any shred of sanity. This episode proves, once and for all, his almost limitless capacity for evil.

Order And Chaos

I’ve always admired Tze Chun’s writing. This man is clearly a fan of the Batman mythos, character and history. “Ace Chemicals” shows us a version of the Dark Knight’s relationship with the Joker, that’s as good as many from my favorite comics. That’s about the highest praise I can give.

Gotham‘s detractors frequently bemoan timelines, and liberties taken with the characters. I applaud the way the essence and truth of all of them shines through. For me, Gotham is like one of the best ever “Elseworlds” tales. This is a world where Gotham City fell apart long before Bruce donned the cape and cowl, making the Batman of this Earth duty bound to save his city. This is a Dark Knight born not just out of a sense of loss, or from a profound case of survivor’s guilt, but because he’s a hero, and there are monsters out there. He’s more of a protector here, as well as a figure of dark justice and vengeance.

No Hope In Crime Alley

Cameron Monaghan and David Mazouz are incredible in this episode. I’ve said before that I’d love to see David and Camren Bicondova reprise their roles as Bruce and Selina on the big screen, in years to come. After “Ace Chemicals”, and knowing now that we will never see Ben Affleck’s Batman face Jared Leto’s Joker, I truly believe that David and Cameron’s versions could deliver one of the best ever on-screen Dark Knight/Clown Prince Of Crime rivalries. I’d definitely buy a ticket for that movie!

Jeremiah’s plot to gain Bruce’s attention is sick. The story mirrors the events currently unfolding in Peter J. Tomasi’s incredible Detective Comics. At the end of the last episode we saw Valeska facing a mysterious couple, leaving viewers with no doubt as to who they were meant to be. This scene is so hauntingly similar to the beginning of ‘Tec #994 that my thoughts of this being a parallel Earth to that of the comics, has been made that much stronger.

The Beginning Of The End

We are now into the final half of Gotham’s last season. While this still makes me sad, it also means that the gloves are off. Stories which may have been saved, aimed to run over multiple episodes, now have to be shot at us like bullets from a sub machine gun. Anyone who complained that Gotham was sometimes too slow in the past, cannot say that about season five. Every episode is a roller-coaster ride, full of action, drama, passion, flames and fury.

The version of the Ace Chemicals factory in this episode, and everything it entails in relation to the Batman/Joker dynamic, is beautifully realised. It evoked memories of Bill Finger’s original Joker origin from Detective Comics #168 (1951), Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel The Killing Joke (1988).

John Stephens’ direction this week is sublime. Atmospheric, hallucinogenic, dark and nightmarish. There are bright colors, yes, but they only help to more faithfully serve and elevate the darkness.

Conclusion

I could keep writing about this episode for days, but for my own clarity, your sanity (and that fact that it’s already run away from me) I’ll be brief.

We’ve had great performances and welcome returns this week; Francesca Root-Dodson‘s Ecco and Benedict Samuel’s wonderful Jervis Tetch. We’ve seen great interactions between David Mazouz and Cameron Monaghan, as well as a wonderful moment between Bruce and Alfred. Selina, Oswald, Ed, Barbara, Jim and Lee also got their time in the blood red sun.

The twist at the end, with the faux Thomas and Martha Wayne, was absolutely awesome.

Every actor, every line of dialogue and every scene of this episode stood out. I have nothing negative at all to say, and have no doubt the final five episodes will continue the excellence… especially when you see titles like: “The Trial of Jim Gordon”, “I Am Bane” and the series finale “The Beginning… ”

Count me in.

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