Gotham season 5, episode 7 review: Ace Chemicals


The future Batman and Joker finally squared off in this week’s Gotham as Bruce Wayne and Jeremiah Valeska engaged in a shocking final battle. But did “Ace Chemicals” live up to expectations?

Throughout this year’s final season of Gotham, the titular city has seen itself ravaged by its very own No Man’s Land. But as the criminals quite literally ran the metaphorical asylum, there has been one storyline quietly playing out in the background, as one unhinged antagonist plotted his ultimate punchline against the city’s favorite son, Bruce Wayne. However, after months of anticipation, it all came to fruition for the unhinged Jeremiah Valeska this week.

“Ace Chemicals” was, in many ways, the moment that Gotham had been building to for years, as it saw the future Dark Knight and Clown Prince Of Crime face each other over the vat of chemicals that would alter the course of their story forever. And, in being so, it made for an exceptional outing of the series that is undoubtedly one of the finest interpretations of comic book lore in television history. But how did it all go down?

The Fall Of Jeremiah Valeska

“Without me, your just a joke without a punchline”.

Jeremiah Valeska’s quest to be connected to Bruce Wayne may just be the most comic-accurate plot thread that Gotham has ever pursued. It mirrors The Joker’s unusual connection to Batman and, as the above quote emphasizes, it’s incredibly important to him that he and Bruce are destined to collide forever. Well, it all began again for this pair in an episode that finally answered a five-year long mystery.

When a tormented Bruce, refusing to rest until he located the missing Alfred, was sent home by Gordon to get some sleep, he didn’t think he’d accidentally stumble upon his own butler in Wayne Manor of all places. But alas, upon seeing the lookalikes of his parents, Gotham’s young protector followed them through to the tunnels to discover Jeremiah in his very own living room.

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From there, Jeremiah revealed his plan to emotionally torture Bruce by forcing him to re-enact the night that his parents were murdered, only this time, he would be the one to pull the trigger. After destroying Wayne Manor and secretly murdering the Wayne lookalikes and replacing them with the hypnotized Jim Gordon and Lee Thompkins, Jeremiah was finally ready to set his plan in motion, becoming (in his words) the star of Bruce Wayne’s show by murdering his allies and unleashing toxins on Gotham via a truck of fireworks.

However, it all fell apart for him when Selina intervened and Gordon sent the truck flying into the water, leading to a showdown with Bruce in Ace Chemicals. Through one last attempt to make him see how they were bonded, Jeremiah roared at his chosen surrogate-brother, telling him that he was the answer to his life’s question. But in one fateful moment, he missed a right hand and ended up plummeting off the bridge and into the vat of chemicals below – giving us the answers we had all been waiting for: Yes, Jeremiah Valeska is The Joker.

With every ending comes a new beginning and, yes, while Jeremiah is technically still alive (his skin is burned and he has no brain activity), this marks the culmination of his story and has paved the way for the rise of Gotham’s true Clown Prince Of Crime. These two are destined to battle forever and, although this battle is over, the war between the Dark Knight and The Man Who Laughs has only just begun.

Doing The Right Thing

Selina Kyle has played a rather integral role this season, with the character regaining the ability to walk and obtaining new cat-like agility – all while experiencing morally questionable behavior. Following on from weeks of attempting to kill her enemies and pushing those she loved away, “Ace Chemicals” gave Selina an unlikely chance to turn things around – and it made for one of the season’s most fulfilling moments.

Jeremiah’s re-enactment of the Wayne Family murder presented her with the opportunity to overcome, not just her recent demons, but demons that had haunted her for the past five years. As we all witnessed in Gotham‘s series premiere, she never came to the aid of Thomas and Martha Wayne on the night that they met their demise and, as we all saw last week, claimed that she didn’t save them because she didn’t care enough. However, this week she proved that those comments were far from truth, as she rescued Gordon and Lee from the same fate in the same alley.

Not only did Selina prove that she did care enough to do something, she overcame her own fears by doing it. She not only faced a gun-wielding monster that threatened to take two lives, she faced her monster – the man who, at one time, took her ability to walk, and the very same man she tried to kill. She faced all of her demons to save Lee and Gordon. She faced all of her demons by confronting her attacker once more. And she faced all of her demons by choosing to help Bruce instead of killing Jeremiah – the perfect culmination of her character journey this season and, without a doubt, the perfect portrayal of the line-walking Catwoman that never dares to step too far over it.

Getting Out Of Gotham

The idea of escaping Gotham has been a running theme throughout the entirety of the season. With the city in pieces and various criminals staking claim to their own fragments of it, there hasn’t been a lot of hope for the heroes left fighting. And, with rogue agent Walker now in the wind, Gordon had a chance to finally liberate those who were counting on him as the government were preparing to save the city. Unfortunately, when Jeremiah and Jervis Tetch’s toxins polluted the bay, this brought an emphatic end to that hope as the government once again backed down, taking the GCPD Captain right back to square one.

What’s really interesting is that the city’s toxicity has even begun affecting the villains, with Penguin turning to Selina to help him get out once and for all. Unfortunately, their hopes and dreams went up in the same Jeremiah-shaped smoke as Jim Gordon’s when the Joker-in-the-making destroyed Wayne Manor – flooding the tunnel out of Gotham with debris and ultimately sealing everyone in the city once more.

However, that desire to escape took Oswald to new levels of desperation as he turned to his longtime friend/enemy/frenemy, Edward Nygma, for help. Though the pair hit a brief speed bump when Barbara showed up and wanted to finally killed Penguin for murdering Tabitha (so many vendettas here people!), things worked out surprisingly well as the soon-to-be-mother was unable to channel her killer instinct any longer. Just like that, the three of them agreed to work on a submarine and, together, leave Gotham behind once and for all.

Gothic Getaways

  • This episode was five years in the making and it was a masterpiece. Without a doubt, the season’s best and quite possibly the strongest episode that the series has ever produced. A phenomenal work of grim comic book-inspired art.
  • Cameron Monaghan’s performance as Jeremiah Valeska has been nothing short of sublime and it has been an honor to watch him perform. With his seductive voice and unnervingly calm demeanor, he channeled The Joker from The Dark Knight Returns beautifully – the perfect counterpart to his more unhinged performance as Jerome. The only question now is: What kind of brilliance will he bring to The Joker in the series finale?
  • The scene between Bruce and Alfred in the tunnels following the explosion of Wayne Manor (in which Alfred used the word “never” when reassuring Bruce that he had no plans of dying) was a little nod to 2005’s Batman Begins, where Christian Bale’s Batman and Michael Caine’s Alfred shared a similarly touching moment below Wayne Manor following its fiery destruction, with Alfred also using “never” in a similar fashion.
  • Jeremiah’s whole plan of re-enacting the Wayne Family murder took place in the Monarch Theater – a reference to Tim Burton’s 1989’s classic Batman during which it was revealed that Bruce Wayne’s parents were also killed outside of the Monarch Theater.
  • The fight between Bruce and Jeremiah above the vat of chemicals was also reminiscent of Burton’s Batman in which a brief duel between Michael Keaton’s Dark Knight and Jack Nicholson’s Jack Napier at Axis Chemicals results in the latter falling into a vat of chemicals below – leading to the birth of The Joker.
  • The romantic reunion of Jim Gordon and Lee Thompkins is interesting, especially considering Barbara’s pregnancy.
  • The closing scene was rather unusual, but its genius comic-timing, not to mention the direction it promises to take the show, sure made a strong case for why it was chosen to end the episode.
  • On a similar note, Ed figuring out Barbara’s pregnancy was hilarious – a little out there in normal circumstances but totally believable in this unorthodox world of Gotham.
  • How on Earth will Gotham even attempt to top that? Find out next week: Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel!

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Gotham returns to Fox next Thursday, Feb. 28, at 8:00 p.m. ET. Did you enjoy Ace Chemicals? Are you excited to see Jeremiah become The Joker? Let us know in the comments below!