Gotham keeps stealing ideas from the comics and not quite doing them justice. The title “One Bad Day” is a reference to a major point in the classic Batman story (and later animated movie) The Killing Joke. That was a really important story that changed a character for decades. Speaking as a comic fan who values the original stories, this was a pale knock-off.
It starts off at Gotham Central, with Harvey barking orders and refusing to believe the missing Gordon is dead. The cops toss his failure with Pyg back in his face and aren’t about to start following his orders. Finally, Harper speaks up for him and appeals to them to at least do what makes sense. Alvarez then tells them they have company: Jeremiah is out front, and his followers aren’t rave rejects anymore, but all have grey uniforms on. Jeremiah makes some threats and claims, and then shows how serious he is by blowing up a Gotham landmark that’s a big part of a different comic book. Jeremiah sets a ridiculous deadline and leaves, the cops letting him go under threat of more explosions and dealing with the one that just happened.
Barbara muses she always liked the destroyed building and that Jim took her there on a date once, which is kind of two inside jokes at once. Penguin comes in with a plan to make them all rich amid the chaos as Tabitha and Butch exchange uneasy greetings. He shares what Jeremiah is up to, thanks to the prisoner they have who definitely has looked better. Penguin helps persuade them to consider his alliance by bringing up the cure for Butch he’s working on. Tabitha gets in a great point to help get Barbara to agree.
Harvey briefs the current mayor (they come and go so fast) and then sees Bruce wander in to the station, looking dazed. Harvey tries to make Bruce feel better, but Bruce sees through it and Harvey gives him a more honest assessment. Bruce tells him about the generators, and Harvey gets pissed off at him. I sort of get that, but it’s not the most rational or helpful reaction. Bruce offers help and Harvey sends him home, because THAT always works. Bruce gets a nasty phone call to divert him from going back to the manor, which he wasn’t going to do anyway
The missing man of the hour finally wakes up in weird lighting with an IV in him. Lee has him, somehow or other. Apparently the urchin Riddler had follow him went way above and beyond the call of duty. Lee and Gordon agree they’re both surprised Jeremiah didn’t just kill him. Lee’s care includes keeping Jim woozy from the drugs, and Lee tells him he’s not the only one that can save the city. She goes off to help, telling him to stay put, Doctor’s orders. He’s really not in a position to argue.
Bruce is going where he was told, but he brought Selina. She’s being a lot nicer to him these days, which I like. She even makes a promise and he looks stunned about it. They wonder what Jeremiah is up to with his weird claims about Bruce. Selina climbs up the side of the building, while Bruce goes in and gets a horrific surprise.
Lee goes to Riddler and they debate what to do next. Riddler wants to use Gordon as a hostage, while Lee has a different deal for them in mind. Riddler is suspicious of her motives, which is fair enough, and she explains her motives. She makes a heartfelt plea and he grudgingly agrees.
While the mayor goes on the news and makes a panic-inducing announcement, Harvey tries to keep control of everything else. Lucius finds him and eventually dumbs down what he’s learned from the Wayne Enterprises schematics of the generators. Jeremiah’s viewing of Bruce’s torment gets interrupted when Penguin and company show up and make demands. Jeremiah and Penguin haggle over details while everyone else strikes menacing poses. Penguin and Tabitha plot their double-cross, and then Jeremiah shows a brief touch of the random insanity the real Joker has in the comics. That degenerates into a general firefight.
Bruce tries to find a captured friend while Jeremiah watches via video. He has the place Bruce is in set up like a maze of horrors, again paralleling events in The Killing Joke with several of the characters changed, and an addition they didn’t do in the comics. Jeremiah has also recruited Scarecrow into this effort, which doesn’t bode well for anyone.
Riddler banters with a groggy Gordon. Riddler lays out exactly why he’s helping, and you have to give him points for being clear. They argue over Riddler and Lee’s relationship, because that’s what’s important with the city at risk. Gordon even makes some admissions about his own failed relationship with the lovely Dr. Thompkins. They finally move on to Jeremiah’s plan, and Riddler is back to his condescending self. Gordon takes a much simpler approach to his problem after Riddler explains things to him and moves on with his own plan.
Barbara, Tabitha, and Grundy all blame Penguin for their current problem. Penguin makes a call for help and gives Harvey some intel on recent developments. Harvey takes advantage of this, and of Penguin, as Lucius comes up with a new plan. This is when Gordon staggers in to a hero’s welcome and brings them the info from Riddler.
Selina stealthily slips in to try and help Bruce. She tries to bluff her way past the thugs and ends up fighting Scarecrow. Gordon, Lucius, and Bullock plan out how to deal with Jeremiah’s plot. Bruce finds his way through the maze, and things get much worse as the gas drifts in and Bruce sees something terrible. Bruce ends up in a fight with someone he really doesn’t want to hurt, and he finally overcomes the mind games with help from Selina and an ally.
Harvey gets to the pivotal generator ahead of the bomb squad, with the streets being clogged from the chaos. Lucius talks him through what to do, but there’s a difference from the plans. Harvey’s very low-tech descriptions about what’s going on are entertaining. Jeremiah whips up his troops with another speech and a flourish of the detonator. Gordon takes a different approach to foiling Jeremiah, and manages to rock Jeremiah’s followers. Jeremiah handles the unrest in a grim way and finds all this “disappointing.” Penguin, under some duress, reveals another step in the possible cure for Grundy.
On his own and on the run, Jeremiah makes an unholy alliance with someone that can’t be good news for Gotham in general and Bruce in particular. Lee and Gordon have a tense but honest scene, while Riddler lurks in the background. Harvey makes it back from his bomb mission and gets a surprise at the station.
The episode ends with what should be a sweet scene with Bruce and Selina. Alfred even seems to have accepted her being there. But they get a very unwelcome visitor and things take a dark and surprising turn I didn’t see coming at all. It’s a big enough surprise that it could have been a season finale, but there’s still one more to go.
What I liked: Selina was a big help and very capable on her own, which I enjoyed. Harvey was entertaining. Riddler got some great lines in, especially in his scene with Gordon. The bad guy factions clashing was fun to watch. The alliance near the end was surprising and should bring a host of new problems.
What I didn’t: The Killing Joke was a big story with decades of repercussions, and this was a really thin adaptation of it. I’m getting tired of Barbara just drifting along from plot to plot. Penguin is supposed to be brilliant, but he gets outmaneuvered every other episode. I’m really done with both Jerome and Jeremiah.
It was an uneven episode. I’ll give it a low 3 out of 5. I’m not sure how they’re going to wrap all this up in one last episode.
Taking The Week Off: Almost everyone turned up this week, but Ivy 3.0 is still off on her own somewhere, no doubt up to no good.