Sunday, June 23, 2024

Bruce Goes on a Vision Quest

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Last time we were in Gotham we learned Ed’s split personality had returned with a murderous gusto. Alfred moved to the narrows while Bruce was living up to the title of billionaire brat in the newly reopened Sirens Club. Also, Ivy returned with some new killer abilities.

This episode begins with Selina’s joining Ivy on what she thinks is a good ole’ crime spree. But Ivy’s choice in target goes beyond a random family on the rich side Gotham. She’s after a Wayne employee who does experiments on plants. With a perfume, she places the family in a trance that makes them unable to resist her. She kills the employee, which doesn’t sit well with Selina.

The next day Jim and Fox head to the crime scene. It’s mentioned that Ivy’s toxin, beyond making poison ivy grow inside the person, also affects their mind, making them hallucinate. Fox recognizes the dead man from his days at Wayne Enterprises. He also recalls something about what the man used to do at the company, but he doesn’t mention it to Jim. Instead, he calls Bruce with a warning.

Unsurprisingly Bruce can’t answer because he’s sleeping off another party. Ivy is already in the manor when he wakes. Like an evil, sexy Lorax she says she speaks for the plants. She wastes no time putting him in a trance to get the information she needs about a Project M. She poisons him as a parting gift, promising it will be slow.

At Arkham, Oswald is miserable and Jerome’s essentially running the place. It becomes increasingly clear as the episode progresses just how far his influence extends in the asylum. Right from the start he’s bragging how he put another inmate into a vegetative state because he bored him. Jerome is convinced Oswald can be entertaining and he just needs help to unlock it.

Bruce’s vision quest begins with Ra’s Al Ghul. Or as he likes to be referred to in this fever dream, Dr. Green Thumb. He cuts off Bruce’s face, leaving a dark gaping emptiness in its place.

Going off the description from the victim’s family, Jim heads to the Sirens Club looking for Selina. Instead, he finds Sophia. When he refuses to release one of her men she reminds him she can release the truth about the Pyg. It could ruin him if it got out. He calls her bluff, knowing Pyg would hurt her position as much as it would his.

The conversation is cut short when he spots Selina coming into the club. She tells him what she knows about Ivy. Despite some initial disbelief, he takes her to help look for Ivy.

Ivy, meanwhile pays a visit to the GCPD looking for Lucius Fox. Bruce didn’t have all the information she needed, but he knew Fox did.

Back in his hallucinations, a faceless Bruce comes across a party where he meets Jim, with facial hair! And Barbara Kean on his arm? Can Bruce’s subconscious predict the future? He tries to explain who he is, but they have a hard time believing him because 1) he doesn’t have a face and 2) Bruce Wayne is already at the party. The two Bruce’s confront each other, the one with a face prevails while the other crumples into a pile of clothes.

Jim and Selina find all of the GCPD under Ivy’s influence. Jim figures out where Ivy took Fox by rewinding a tape to the precise point with the information he needed. Just in time before the entranced cops force him and Selina to flee.

Oswald’s day is going just as well as theirs. Jerome’s lackeys take him right in front of the guards and force him to put on a clown show. The visitor he gets isn’t a reprieve from the humiliation either. It’s Ed, there to taunt him. Or it might have been Ed’s other half because he leaves a riddle that makes it seem like he wants to help him escape. Later that night Jerome’s lackeys grab Oswald again. Only it’s not him. It’s the inmate Jerome turned into a vegetable. Oswald gets the jump on Jerome this time. He tricks him in to get close enough for him to land a punch by playing mime. Their fight endears Jerome to him.

Bruce’s vision quest takes a turn when all the guests disappear and Alfred comes bursting into the scene as a tactical agent. He takes Bruce to the alley where his parents were murdered. It’s here Bruce first sees ‘him,’ the Batman.

Meanwhile, Fox leads to Ivy to Project M, which turns out be Lazarus water. They’d been studying its effects on plant growth. Jim catches up with her, but she reveals she’s poisoned Bruce. She gives Jim the antidote, buying herself the time she needs to escape.

The final leg of Bruce’s trip takes him into the depths of a cave. He realises the caped figure is a version of himself. As the figure burst into a cloud of bats Bruce awakens to Fox and Jim, the latter of whom just gave him the antidote. Bruce confides in Jim the darkness he saw in the hallucinations. Jim reminds him he doesn’t have to face it alone, that he has people who care about him. Jim’s words along with what he saw are enough to get Bruce to call Alfred, asking for his help.

Jim returns to the GCPD, where Ivy’s effect has worn off and everyone returned to their right mind. He gets a call from Sophia. She warns him she doesn’t need to hold Pyg over his head to keep him in line, there are other ways to do that. We then see her having a drink with Lee Thompkins.

Back at Arkham Jerome reveals he hasn’t escaped yet because he’s planning something big and he wants Oswald’s help with it. But Oswald is already planning an escape with the path Ed presented.

At Ivy’s, the owners of the apartment she commandeered arrive home. Their return is short-lived, however, as she uses a flower she grew with the Lazarus water to kill them.

The Beginning of the Batman

Ivy as a villain thus far has me wanting more, especially since it seems like she’s going to be a main adversary for the back half the season. With Gotham already brimming with compelling antagonists, she’s still finding her footing among them. Her abilities may be terrifying but there are many other terrifying figures roaming the streets. She’s charming, but Gotham has no shortage of charismatic players either. It might be because she’s coming into her own as a true villain so late in the game that she doesn’t seem as awe-inspiring as her fellow rogues.

Maybe it’s her isolation since her re-emergence that leaves something to be desired. Gotham excels at developing poignant relationships between the characters, both as allies and enemies. It’s one of the main draws of the show for me. I can only hope going forward she can reforge the relationships she used to have or gains some true rivals.

Speaking of developing relationships, Jerome and Oswald showed the beginnings of a truly twisted partnership, even if Oswald turned him down. For now. It’s doubtful that will last for long. They seem so different in the dynamism of their personalities. Jerome existing in a constant state of chaos while Oswald is the kind of person to have plans months in advance. Yet, Jerome’s absolute control over Arkham shows a cunning similar to Penguin’s own. Similarly, Oswald has had unhinged moments in the past. They’re two sides of the same coin.

Jerome is the Joker in everything but name at this point. The playing card he flicks towards Penguin pretty much confirms it. If he truly is Gotham’s Joker, it generates that much more anticipation for whatever he has planned.

Now, on to the big moment of the night. The Batman appears. At least Bruce’s subconscious mental projection of the Batman appears. As brief as it was, it was thrilling to see the cape moving through the shadows. It’s what the series has been building towards since it opened in that dark alleyway. As the Batman says himself, it’s where he was born. As sad as part of me is to see Bruce moving past the billionaire brat phase, it was always going to be just a phase.

Batman and his rogues have always had a chicken and egg thing going for them. Many of Batman’s classic rogues became the villains they are to step up to the standard Batman set. The most engaging part of Gotham has been watching how both Bruce and his future adversaries have grown into versions of themselves that could exist on the comic page. Gotham has created a city that needs a hero as eccentric as the members of its underworld. And I’m excited to watch Bruce take those final steps to become the caped crusader.

Next week promises more Ivy, more Riddler and more crazy. So, a typical day in Gotham.

Images courtesy of Fox

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