Release Date: January 23, 2017
Genre: Crime, Drama, Action
“Gentlemen, you had my curiosity… but now you have my attention.”
The above quote from Leonardo Dicaprio in Django Unchained may appear out of place. However, no other quote could describe what Gotham has done to me since its mid-season premiere last week. Ghosts had my curiosity and Smile Like You Mean It had my undivided attention. Furthermore, it represented one of the best of Gotham’s third season. The pacing was better, the character building was better and it delivered more on what we wanted. In addition, it made things I mocked in Beware The Green-Eyed Monster seem more bearable. When an episode can come along that makes a previous bad episode better, that is always a good sign.
The Jokers, led by Dwight Pollard (David Dastmalchian), found Jerome’s (Cameron Monaghan) body. Sadly, Dwight’s attempts to revive Jerome failed so he cut off Jerome’s face and wore it as a mask. As a result, Gordon (Ben Mackenzie) and Bullock (Donal Logue) had their hands full trying to stop him. Furthermore, tensions between Gordon and Lee (Morena Baccarin) rose to a new level. Meanwhile, Maria Kyle’s (Ivana Milicevic) true intentions were revealed, which forced a wedge between Selina (Camren Bicondova) and Bruce (David Mazouz). In addition, Barbara (Erin Richards) set her plans into motion to take down Oswald (Robin Lord Taylor) through good old fashioned manipulation. Oh and Jerome woke up without a face. Surprise!
Smile Like You Mean It had so much to juggle within its short minute runtime and yet delivered everything near flawlessly. First and foremost, the Jerome storyline. Ghosts disappointed me because the advertising promised us Jerome and never delivered on him outside of stock footage. The most we got was the introduction of The Jokers, which is what helped save that episode. We got more of The Jokers here and they establish themselves as an intimidating force. These aren’t just a ragtag group of misfits worshiping a psycho. These people are everywhere throughout Gotham, ready to strike at any given moment. They clearly establish that anyone can be one The Jokers… even a cop.
Dwight cutting off Jerome’s face and wearing it as a mask was a direct reference to Death Of The Family, a 23 issue arc in the batman comics. However, there are two flaws with Gotham doing this reference. The first is that it seems too early to be doing something like this. This isn’t something that happened to The Joker until long after he and Batman were established as enemies. It’s interesting, it just feels too soon. The second is that while David Dastmalchian is good as Dwight, he’s not the real deal. The Jokers call him out on it, Gordon calls him out on it and we the audience call him out on it. I was honestly worried when I saw this because I assumed that Jerome would not come back at all. I thought they’d just have Dwight wear the skin mask and have him be The Joker.
However, my prayers were soon answered. Not only did Jerome come back in this episode, his return was certainly worth the wait. Cameron Monaghan was as wonderful as ever and it was great to see him. He steals every scene he’s in. Whether he’s teasing Lee or being nice to a man he’s about to kill, he’s fantastic. This is The Joker and after the finale of this episode, I can’t wait to see what Gotham does with him. I really hope that they keep him around and don’t just axe him off in two episodes like any other random villain. Jerome is The Joker we deserve and Cameron Monaghan is the actor we deserve. It’s weird seeing him with a stapled on the face but if it means watching a performance this good, I really don’t care.
Lee returned to the GCPD, after grieving the death of Mario (James Carpinello) and almost getting Jim Gordon killed. Now they’re working together again and it leads to some pretty good drama. Again, I hated that Beware The Green-Eyed Monster just killed off Mario. It felt like a way to force drama we didn’t need. However, while I still maintain that it was forced and unneeded, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t done well. The tension between Morena Baccarin and Ben Mackenzie was great and a highlight of the episode. These two played off of each other beautifully and because of everything their characters had been through, their back and forth is very believable.
In addition, Lee seems like a much more rounded character in Smile Like You Mean It. She seems stronger and more confident than she did in the past. There’s a scene halfway through the episode where she just walks into a room randomly, with no introduction, and just injects a dirty cop with Sodium Pentathol. Then she just walks out the door like a boss. She doesn’t even crack a smile or show emotion. It showed just how much she’d been hardened by her experiences. I hated that Mario was killed to force drama but I have to acknowledge that it made Lee a more interesting character. Honestly, I hope this goes somewhere meaningful down the line.
Smile Like You Mean It also saw Maria Kyle’s plans come into the light. While the outcome was incredibly predictable, I was actually relieved it happened. It turns out the only reason Selina’s mother came back was to scam money from Selina’s friend, Bruce Wayne. Nothing to do with The Court Of Owls or even seeing her daughter, it was just to scam money. Really? The career thief only wanted to steal? Imagine that! Like I said, it was very predictable but I’m just happy to see this character gone. The reveal of her mother didn’t really add anything to the storyline at all. Yeah, it’s the most obvious thing they could have done but if it gets Maria Kyle out of the show to stop wasting my time, I’m all for it.
Also, I have to say that if you know who and what Selina will one day become, it makes sense that her mother would be this way. Selina hates and despises her mother but the fact remains that she will one day become a similar person. I made fun of Selina calling her mother a thief in the last episode because Selina is a thief herself. But, what is that all Maria Kyle is? According to this episode, Maria Kyle contains one of the greatest traits of Selina’s future alter-ego; Manipulation. Knowing that Selina will one day become the person she despises the most is rather heartbreaking when you think about it. So, while predictable, this strangely works if you know anything about Selina’s future. Good job, writers.
However, Maria Kyle wasn’t the only one doing the manipulating in Smile Like You Mean It. Barbara Kean finally stepped up to the plate and set her plans to rule Gotham in motion. This, of course, began with the manipulation of Oswald Cobblepot. She has him becoming increasingly more paranoid, making him believe that the other gangs of Gotham don’t respect him. On top of this, Oswald is desperately trying to find Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), not knowing that Edward is out for his blood. This causes him to make some bad decisions and for Barbara to sit back with Tabitha and enjoy the fun. I love any episode where Erin Richards is able to go nuts as Barbara Kean and Smile Like You Mean It was no exception.
Overall, Smile Like You Mean It was more than solid. Even the minor issues about it have something of value to them. The Death Of The Family reference was too soon but, as a fan, it was nice to see a clever nod like that. The Maria Kyle arc was predictable but what it meant for Selina’s character was great. That’s probably the best aspect of this episode is what it does for the characters. They actually appear to grow as truths are revealed and plans are set into motion. Smile Like You Mean It isn’t as wonderful as say Red Queen or Follow The White Rabbit. However, it doesn’t have to be. A wonderful episode is a wonderful episode no matter how it manages it. To paraphrase Leonardo Dicaprio, “Gotham, you had my curiosity… but now you have my attention”.
- Jerome's Return
- What Maria Kyle Means To Selina's Future
- Lee & Gordon
- Oswald's Paranoia
- Gripping Finale
- The Jokers
- Death Of The Family Reference Was Nice But Way Too Soon
- Maria Kyle's Reveal Is Way Too Predictable
A graduate of Full Sail University with a Bachelors Degree in Creative Writing, Adam is a Writer and Film Critic, looking to make his mark on the world. When he isn’t at the movies, writing for The Nerd Stash, playing Duck Hunt (respect the classics) or delivering pizzas to his neighbors, he is back at school earning his Masters Degree in Film Production.