Thursday, June 20, 2024

Gotham Returns with an Eerie Calm

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When we were last in Gotham, James Gordon made a deal with a devil, a.k.a. Sophia Flacone. It got him the title of captain, but cost him his friendship with Harvey Bullock. He thought Sophia was the lesser of two evils. Turns out she’s worse…much worse. She was the person behind the Pyg, the serial kill Jim spent the first half of the season chasing after. Jim wasn’t the only one in the city destroying his relationships. Bruce’s dark spiral of all night partying culminated in him firing Alfred. On the other side of town, the ladies of Gotham’s underground are doing much better for themselves. Lee Thompkins, backed by Ed Nygma and Grundy took over part of the narrows, while Barbara, Tabitha, and Selena’s role in helping take down Penguin re-secured their own status. And Ivy drank some drugs that knocked her out for most the first half of the season.

In this episode, some unfortunate teenagers come across her body, covered in vines and encased in a sack. She emerges, with a new face and a mildly different personality. One of the teens gets a little too friendly and is rewarded with a face full of poison that kills him in seconds.

Elsewhere in the Narrows, Alfred is getting acquainted with his new neighbourhood.  And, because it’s Gotham it doesn’t take long for some of his new neighbours to try to mug him. He’s more than a match for them, but Jim shows up in time to stop the fight from escalating.

It’s a busy day in the Narrows because at the same time, Lee is holding a meeting in an effort curb the violence and crimes committed by those struggling to live in Gotham’s slums. It goes off with a bang, metaphorically, right before it goes off with a bang, literally: a toy plane, loaded with explosives guns right for Lee. But it’s redirected by Grundy at the last moment. The blast still knocks out part of the building. Jim and Alfred are on the street outside when it goes off and they rush to help the injured.

Alfred’s heroism earns him the respect of the people in the Narrows, including the same man who tried to mug him earlier. It also earns him the eye of the waitress at the diner he’s been going too. He notices a bruise on her forehead. She brushes it off as an injury from a fall, but it doesn’t take much deduction to guess how she really got it. Alfred comes to the same conclusion I did and decks her boyfriend seconds after meeting him. The fight is broken up by the waitress and Alfred can only watch, helpless, as she gets into his truck, sealing her fate. The boyfriend leaves with her, but not before he pockets Alfred’s ring which fell off during the fight.

Jim, meanwhile, is on the search for the bomber. He’s joined by Lucius Fox, who discovers the remnants of the plane at the crime scene. It leads them to a toy shop with the name Krank on it. Inside they talk to the owner’s son, but when they try to speak to the father they’re met with a nutcracker with a gun for an arm and a robot with dynamite on its back. Jim manages to stop both, but before he can apprehend Krank the son stops him.

They learn from the son that his father had been hired by someone to kill ‘The Doc’. The Doc, of course, is Lee and Ed isn’t happy someone tried to kill her. He vows to find out who’s behind the attack. He’s so distracted that he doesn’t notice Grundy going through his own dilemma.  He remembers he’s Butch Gilzean, memories from his life returning.

Ivy’s making her way through the town when she sees a couple leave for a trip and judging by the number of suitcases they have, it’s going to be a long one. She makes herself at home in their apartment. While channel surfing she sees a commercial for the Sirens’ Club (which is outrageously campy and Selina looks miserable at having to be a part of it. I loved it). She recognises Barbara, Tabitha, and Selina and decides to check the club out.

When she gets there they all vaguely recognise her, but only Selina is able to put a name to the face. But before she does there’s another familiar face for her to greet, Bruce Wayne. He’s out for another night of partying with an entourage accompanying him. He invites Selina to join, but she isn’t having it. The Bruce she knows wouldn’t just fire Alfred or go on all night benders.

Back at the GCPB, Fox learns from the coroner a body was found in the building where the bomb went off. It’s the boy Ivy killed. Turns out the toxin she used to kill him did more than that. Poison ivy has started to grow inside his corpse.

Jim shows up at the Sirens club, looking for information on where to find ‘The Doc’ from Barbara. She gives him the location, conveniently forgetting to mention ‘The Doc’ is his ex. On his way out he gets a call. The waitress Alfred was with earlier turned up dead and he’s the prime suspect. Alfred knows it’s the boyfriend who did it and Jim’s promise to bring him in for questioning isn’t enough for Alfred. He slips away to search for the boyfriend himself.

At the Siren’s Club, Butch shows up, looking for Tabitha. He remembers her and that he loves her. It’s clear when she doesn’t return the sentiment that her own feelings are a bit more complicated.

Speaking of complicated feelings, Jim arrives just in time to catch Lee giving a rousing speech on the need for solidarity in the Narrows. She has my vote if she decides to run for mayor. Although, considering the history of political figures in the city it’s for the best she doesn’t.

Ed supplies the quote of the night, “That is so Gotham,” when he learns the bomber is a toymaker and an assassin for hire. Jim tries to offer protection to Lee, but she refuses. When they both leave Ed notices Krank in the crowd. He chases after him into the alley where he learns he was the one to hire to Krank. Or at least his crazier half, the Riddler, did.

Jim finds them, shooting Krank dead when he draws his gun. Ed hides the fact he was the one to hire Krank as the Riddler laughs down at him from a hallucination in a mirror above.

Selina, meanwhile, followed Ivy home when she left the club, breaking into where she’s staying. Ivy poisons her to demonstrate her powers. But she gives her an antidote before she becomes a grow bed and offers her a partnership.

In a little bar in another part of the city, Alfred finds the man he’s looking for. But this time he has friends and they overpower Alfred with numbers. Luckily, it turns out Harvey is the bartender. He comes to Alfred’s recuse with a bat in hand. He talks Alfred down from taking justice into his own hands and calls the cops on the men.

Jim shows up at the bar when he learns Harvey was the one who called it in. He tries to convince Harvey to come back to the GCPD. But Harvey knows Jim only wants back because wants someone to confess to. He’s not going to be that person for him anymore.

Is this the Mid-season premiere?

This episode dives right back into Gotham with all its muddy eccentricity. Although, with not as much intensity as I was expecting. After the continuous high strung pace set by the Pyg, and Sophia and Oswalt’s war, a slower pace isn’t unwelcome. It still feels more like a season premiere than a mid-season one. As classically Gotham as the Toymaker plot was there was no connection to the major plotline of the first half of the season, no Sophia or Oswalt. And after promising Jerome at the end of the last episode there wasn’t a whisper of him in this one.

The revelation that Ed was the one to hire Krank was a delightful twist. It will be interesting to see how this re-emergence of the Riddler plays out. Which side of his personality will win out? It was a surprising turn for his character to see him bond with Grundy and Lee acting as their hype man and second. It’s hard to say how much of him wanting to help the narrows is influenced by his feelings for Lee, but it is the kind of morally grey complexity that makes Gotham so much fun to watch.

Alfred and Ivy’s storylines this episode seem more like set-up than anything else, Alfred’s, in particular, felt out of the place. The waitress storyline felt like a detour from the rest of the episode and Alfred isn’t someone who has to learn how unforgiving the streets of Gotham are. But here’s hoping he becomes the new straight-man to Harvey’s weary cynicism.

The Sirens Club returning was a personal delight. As was that commercial. The relationship between this trio has been fun to watch develop and the return to their club will hopefully keep them at the heart of Gotham’s on-goings. I do wonder if the ladies are still going to be running their weapons racket. The Club also gave us the chance to see Bruce this episode. He’s still deep into a continuous run of partying. Selina calling him out may not have been the kick he needed to snap out of it but at least someone other than Alfred is trying to get him to shape up.

This episode feels the calm before the storm. Even the lighting of the episode, awash with reds and yellows, seems like carries a forewarning to it. We’re going to have to wait a little longer to see the repercussions of Sophia’s revelations on Jim. He’s too good of a man to let it go unspoken forever. We’re also going to have to wait a little longer for the return of Jerome and Penguin. Next week’s promo promises Arkham and drug-induced future visions for Bruce.

Images courtesy of Fox

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