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Westworld Asks and Answers All Your Questions

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This week’s episode of Westworld was easily my favorite of the season so far, as well as Lisa Joy’s incredibly strong directorial debut. The episode entitled “Riddle of the Sphinx” makes use of its title as it tackles the ultimate question. In the classic Oedipus tale, the Sphinx puts forth the riddle, “What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three in the evening?” Oedipus answers correctly, “Man,” defeating the Sphinx and avoiding death. This is essentially the same riddle Westworld is posing. What makes a man? Can it be replicated? Can it be created?

Lisa Joy onset

The Delos Experiment

The episode opens with a breathtaking 360 one-shot pan around a starkly white, circular room, as we start to piece together items that might indicate who the occupant is. We see a flurry of looping imagery, including the shot itself,  and not limited to a record player and an exercise bike. We see a goldfish in a bowl. In hindsight, this shot tells us literally everything, but on first watch—until a few minutes in when the identity of the man is revealed—the viewer is still just taking it all in.

It’s eventually revealed that this room belongs to James Delos…well, kind of. The first hint that everything is not what it seems is when he starts pouring himself a drink and his shaking hands spill the liquid outside the cup. It’s reminiscent of a common host glitch we’ve seen before, and immediately had my mind jump. He’s a host. Young William then arrived and the two begin to talk, Delos believing he’s there for treatment and should be able to leave soon. William tells him he has to wait a little longer, there’s a conversation test as well — to test his responses. Delos doesn’t understand the use of such a test starts to grow agitated, glitching out. William hands him a folded paper and Delos looks at it confused.

We see this scene repeat again for another test of the next model. William talks to the tech this time, who tells him they’ve made progress but they’re just not there yet. He has this model terminated and they start all over. In their last meeting, it’s Ed Harris’ Bill that meets with the new Delos model. Things are supposed to be going better but Delos starts glitching again. Bill hands him the paper once more and it’s revealed to have their whole conversation on it, word for word. Delos can’t handle it and starts breaking down. Bill leaves, defeated, and tells the tech not to terminate him, that his decay could be worth observing over the next few days.

I loved this sequence, which shocked me considering the post-park trip William and Delos don’t particularly interest me. They essentially shot what could have worked on its own as a short film. It’s brilliant. With the introduction that they’re trying to “bring forth Lazarus” as Ford suggested the future leaning towards in season one, and combine host with human, the showrunners push forward the concept of what truly makes us human and further blurring the lines between hosts and humans. The idea is that they use the DNA to make a host body replica of the human and somehow craft their consciousness to insert into the host. I’m not entirely sure how this works for the immortality concept, because your old mind is not just waking up in this new body, it’s a replicated mind. Presumably it would just be for the people you’re leaving behind? I’m not sure but I’m excited the show is getting farther in its exploration of the grey and questionable areas of AI.

The worst part of this is we learn that Logan overdosed a long time ago. Guess that means no more dreaming of who will play old Logan on the show. But yeah, William and Delos might want to take a look at all the devastation their business has earned them.

The Return of Elsie

Clementine drags Bernard all the way to the mouth of a cave and leaves him with a shotgun. He stumbles around, clearly still not doing well, and walks into the cave. There he finds Elsie, her foot chained up to the rock, a bucket, and protein bar wrappers scattered around. She shrinks away from him as soon as she sees him, reminding him that he attacked her and put her here the last time he saw her. Bernard tells her that it was only under Ford’s instructions, that she knew too much.

He starts fritzing out and she takes the gun from him, walking away. He hurries to follow her, holding out the tablet as he shakes, begging her to help him. She hesitates but when he falls to the floor she relents. She rushes over and it’s revealed that her mentor and friend is a host. Her reaction is pretty chilled out for someone having this shocking truth dropped on them, but maybe after her current situation and working with hosts all day, it would take a lot to shock her. He updates her on everything that’s happened since. She tells him he need cortical fluid but there’s nowhere nearby.

That’s when Bernard remembers that he’s been there before—or rather goes into a memory of having been there before. There’s a lab there. In what I imagine what Disney World’s secrecy policy on hiding the work behind the scenes, he flips up a rock to open pull the lever opening the door to the elevator.

Once inside, they find corpses everywhere. Dead scientists and dead drone hosts. Except for one. Elsie has never seen anything like it before and thrusts her gun at it before Bernard can warn her not to threaten it. The drone host runs at her and she shoots it down. Bernard walks through the space, lost between his memories and now. He tells Elsie he’s been here before but starts convulsing again. Elsie, now equipped with the tools, injects some cortical fluid into him and revives him.

As they walk around, they see host building facilities and code they don’t recognize. Bernard says he’s seen it before; in Abernathy’s head. They also see red versions of the mind eggs we saw in episode 1, and Bernard recalls being sent here by Ford. They see a locked door that Elsie insists on breaking through. Inside, they discover James Delos’s testing area and observation quarters. It’s a mess and the techie is dead. Elsie slowly approaches the circular chamber when Delos, gone mad, attacks her. Bernard rescues her, knocking Delos out. Once safe and far away, Elsie terminates him.

Bernard tells her that was James Delos, who died so many years ago. She says it’s impossible, but he now knows what they were doing in the facility: they were trying to impart human consciousness into host bodies. Bernard gets lost in memory and remembers the last time he was here. He takes a mind egg on Ford’s orders but can’t recall who it was for. It’s revealed that it was Bernard who ordered the drone hosts to kill the scientists and then snap their own necks in a brutally eerie scene. For all of Ford’s talk of letting them be free, he has made Bernard do so many fucked up things on his behalf. Bernard kills the last scientist.

Now the big question is…who is actually a host? Who is the mind egg that Bernard stole? My guesses (as is I’m sure most of reddit) reach toward something to do with the quest the Man in Black is on. The door. Will this mind egg be on the other side of it? If this is the case, and it seems to be because this is quite a Man in Black personally centric season, the person has to mean something to him, has to illicit a change. Perhaps Juliet? A direct effect of his actions. Or as I’ve heard thrown around and also think could be plausible, a young version of himself? Or, which wouldn’t really work but my selfish desire for him to come back is taking charge, LOGANNN (just kidding).

Possibly Racist Woman Learns Native Language

We see the woman who escaped from Raj World last week back and captured by Ghost Nation. She’s set down beside Stubbs who assures her to just wait for back up to arrive. She tells him she has no intention of sticking around and starts translating what the Ghost Nation tribe are saying. Stubbs remarks that people don’t usually pay attention to their narratives, let alone learns the language. She says she hates people. I think this is meant to be an endearing moment, but I’m not going to forget the fact that this is a woman who found pleasure in minority subservient and oppressive Raj World where she could hunt tigers for a hobby. Doesn’t really scream moral compass to me, but maybe they’ll explain more later.

Stubbs tells her they aren’t killing the humans, just rounding them up. Ghost Nation take their captives to a shore where they present them to the First One. The woman grabs a flaming staff and escapes, while Stubbs looks on helpless. The First One nears him, telling him he’s only alive so long as the last person who remembers you is. Then they disappear and the humans are free to go. I’m excited to see what they do with Ghost Nation because I know Lisa Joy has talked a lot about them subverting the racist park narrative they were assigned this season, but I can’t say we particularly have seen that yet.

The Man in Black Finds A Conscience? 

The man in Black is still on his journey with Lawrence when they pass by a railroad track being built by Chinese laborers. However, instead of normal ties, they are using people. A mix of hosts and guests, the hosts that forced them to work the railroad and the hosts that participated in the oppressive narrative.

Noticing the new direction of the tracks, the Man in Black declares they must make their way through Lawrence’s town to get where they are going. Once they get there they are greeted by the Confederados Teddy let escape last episode (come on Teddy, don’t let men who fought for slavery just run rampant). They have taken over the town to find their weapons that were stored there somewhere. Lawrence says he knows where they are, that they should use it as a bargaining chip later, but the Man in Black stands up, telling Craddock exactly where they are. This is just insurance; his real bargaining chip is that they don’t know where it is that they are looking for, but he does. He promises to lead them there.

Craddock agrees after torturing some townspeople. He has a drink with the Man in Black and monologues about being death. He calls over Lawrence’s crying wife, as a beat up Lawrence sits tied up outside in the rain, and tells her to carry a shot glass full of Nitro to her husband. She shakes, and it recalls a scene of the Man in Black similarly torturing her in Season One. The Man in Black gets up, frustrated, and declares himself death. He shoots Craddock and then takes out the remaining Confederados. Taking the glass from Lawrence wife’s hands, he shoves it down a crawling Craddock’s throat and gives Lawrence the shotgun to shoot. Lawrence tells Bill that his family is thankful for what he’s done and his cousins want to come help them on their mission.

As the Man in Black rides out across the field at sunset with his men, a rider comes upon them and it’s none other than the Raj World woman, who is revealed to be Emily, his daughter.

I think a lot of people suspected that after last episode, and I’ll be interested to see how her inclusion in the group shakes things up. This episode was incredibly interesting for the Man in Black because it’s almost as if the danger of death has caused him to question his treatment of the hosts. Perhaps brought him closer to them now that everything is more real. I doubt we’re going down a full on redemptive arc for him, but some complexity akin to what I first felt for William would be good.

Overall definitely my favorite episode of the season so far and an astounding directorial debut by Lisa Joy! And next week…Shogun World!


Images courtesy of HBO

Currently a film major with a focus in directing and a passion for all things writing, film, television and theater, oh my!

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Star Wars Resistance: Episode 11, “Bibo”

Angelina

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Star Wars: Resistance

So…Star Wars: Resistance is back from its winter hiatus! Should we celebrate? Not yet, I’d say, because “Bibo” is more like a filler/breather episode meant to tune the audience in after holiday break. It has nothing substantial to add to series’ lore or to its overarching plot, yet it still manages to entertain and to help us dive back into familiar Colossus atmosphere.

Spoilers ahead!

Recap: Neeku Finds a Pet

So, we’re back at The Colossus, where Synara presents Kaz with a chance to loot a salvaged Clone Wars-era fighter for repair parts. All nice and good, until they find a small, cute but awfully stinky creature stowed away inside the rusty husk. And until Neeku decides this small critter would be his pet from now on.

Actually, Bibo is really cute

A bit of slapstick ensues, as Neeku tries (without any success) to teach his pet some obedience. It turns out the newly christened Bibo can (and actually will, if no one stops him) eat literally anything. Especially if it has something to do with starships.

By the by, Synara has a call from her pirate leader, who informs her about Kaz and Poe’s Resistance affiliation. The call is of course interrupted by Kaz appearing to ask for another repair part…or, rather, to spend some time around Synara. Who masterfully pretends not to see his advances, and I can’t really blame her for that.

They go on a salvage dive together, hoping to find other fighters from the same squadron as the first.

As Bibo continues to wreak small-scale havoc in Yeager’s garage, it turns out Neeku really loves his new pet dearly—so much so he’s ready to leave Yeager’s service if he insists on his “no pets”rule. Neeku’s devotion is so strong, Tam asks to cut Bibo some slack. And even goes on to support Neeku after he loses Bibo in the station’s maze of corridors.

And while Kaz is busy fighting sea sickness and Synara’s too pointed questions about his real identity, a big tentacled monster is leading its way to The Colossus, and of course it’s looking for Neeku’s pet. And, well, we learn the aptly named children from Tehar might be Force-sensitive, as the girl, Eila, turns out to have profetic dreams.

Meaning, she dreamt something like this, poor soul!

All that results in Neeku having to choose between his pet and station’s safety, and of course he makes the right choice. however hard it is for him.

Review: On Caring for Each Other

While the episode doesn’t advance the story in any way, it managed to checklist/remind the viewer of all the plot-relevant details, while telling a cohesive self-contained story.

We have Synara playing an important role in the story, which reminds us she’s the primary Chekhov’s gunwoman of this show. Seeing her really care for the station and really enjoying her new work as a salvager, it’s obvious she will be made to choose between her allegiances very soon. On the one hand she has people who actually care–be it about each other or about common causes–and on the other hand she has her (high enough) place in pirate crew and a lifestyle she’s accustomed to…

I just hope Kaz with his inept wooing wouldn’t do anything with her decision.

Speaking about Kaz, this episode also reminds us both of his strengths and weaknesses. He’s still not good in either social interactions or actually not tripping on things, while still brilliant in flying and able to think and act quickly in a stress situation. Also it’s kinda sweet that he doesn’t really bother Synara with his feelings, trying to do something good for her instead. Well, “trying” is a key word here, but still: seeing a guy not forcing his niceguying down a lady’s throat is always a treat.

Also this episode went a long way to show us Tam Ryvora’s caring and friendly side. Which I really liked, and especially I liked that it was not treated as something special or unusual. She just is really a caring person who would look after her co-workers and help them any way she can. But when those co-workers act as jerks…well, she will call them out on it.

All the plot lines, in the end, converge on the main idea of the episode, which is: to love is to care for those we love. Which is actually quite close to being the idea of the whole series.

Neeku being ready to protect his “smallest friend” even at the whole station’s cost is equally ready to give it back to its mom even though his heart(s) is/are really breaking. Because he sees the critter really is better with his mom, not with him. All the while whole Team Fireball is ready to set aside their discomfort if their friend—Neeku—needs his pet so much. Even Yeager, the one most annoyed at Bibo’s existence, is ready to help Neeku find it.

Because he cares. Because they all care.

Thoughts, Moments, Theory Fuel

  • Neeku harboring so strong feelings for his just-found pet makes sense if we remember he has no close friends and is mostly isolated because of his quirky behaviour.
  • Tam Ryvora calling Yeager out for making such a fuss about Neeku’s pet while never really reacting with due severity on Kaz’s (much more destructive) mistakes was great.
  • The girl from Tehar, Eila, having profetic dreams must be a Chekhov’s gun. I look forward to see how it goes off!
  • Will the tentacled creature return in the series finale, like the wolves and the space whales did? We’ll see!
  • Synara now knows how to set the alarm on.
  • The Are you trying to incite panic? – Yes! Exactly! Everyone needs to panic right now! moment was really funny.

Images courtesy of Disney

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Game of Thrones Season 8 Teaser Really Wants to be Meaningful

Kylie

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2018 was a magical, Throne-less year, even if it officially won its Season 7 Emmy for Outstanding Drama in September. I’ll admit—I may have taken it for granted. Because here we are, less than a fortnight into 2019, and HBO has decided to grace us with the news that the biggest critical darling (for reasons still unexplained) is going to be back on our screens April 14th. April 14th. That’s basically 4 minutes from now.

Of course, HBO didn’t simply tell us the date; no no, we needed a Teaser Trailer of Extreme Significance to accompany it. And this one is…special. Look, I may not have been amazed at the three-second exchange between Dany and Sansa from the Golden Globes teaser, but at least that involved what was obviously an actual clip from the new season! In fairness, it’s not exactly unheard of for season release dates to be dropped in some kind of weird CGI ice and fire video featuring old dialogue. But this one was clearly planned and staged, it features three main actors, and the budget is certainly better than that of “people sit in chairs” from last year. Here, just check it out for yourself:

There’s a little here we can talk about, though I’m guaranteeing you the millions of hot takes that are currently clogging up Twitter will place far too much significance on this. “Oh my god, does that mean the Starks are all going to die?!” Probably not. There’s a reason I picked the Hall of Faces promotional picture for this piece—sometimes showrunners Benioff and Weiss just like to play up the idea that anyone can die, before shrouding Jon in plot armor so thick that he can survive plunging into freezing cold waters in full furs whilst surrounded by the army of the dead without an eye-blink.

They’ll probably be fine.

I do feel like I’m being uncharitable. In concept, this is not a bad teaser. Jon walks by the statue of Lyanna, and we hear a Lyanna quote. Good stuff, seeing as that’s his mom, which I’m assuming Bran will get around to telling him at some point (even if he never passed that on to his sisters). Jon also gets the last walk-by quote when looking at the Sean Bean statue, about how he’s still a Stark since he has the blood. Relevant, I think.

Sansa and Arya, meanwhile, are both shown walking past Cat’s statue with her voice-over, and here’s where my eyes began rolling to the ceiling. For one, it’s a little odd that Cat has a place in the Winterfell crypts at all, but you know…small potatoes. Then, the one Cat quote they picked was her awful, self-flagellating monologue she gave to the walking anachronism. There was a bit more to her character than not being instantly welcoming of the child that bore a significant political risk to her own children! A thing that bothers me too is that Sansa and Arya are shown in association with this quote. I guess they’re both girls, so manly, slow-clapping Ned couldn’t possibly have said something that stuck to them. But Cat’s quote had diddly squat to do with them (these are actually all about Jon), and it’s only going to further push the ridiculous notion that Sansa is somehow struggling with her loyalty and support of Jon. Hopefully Arya’s presence neutralizes that reading a bit, but I know this fandom pretty well.

Finally, the Starks meet up together in the crypts—which is nice and reminds me of that time Sansa, Bran, and Arya had happy bonding and trial-planning times together completely off-screen—only to see statues of themselves! Lost twist ending confirmed! This is purgatory!

Or, I don’t know, something about danger and stakes and “no one is safe on this show” (except everyone who clearly is).

Then the trailer just gets unabashedly Weathertop-esque as what’s likely to be the Army of the Dead approach. Maybe Uncle Benjen can be a last-minute Strider for the third time in a row. But you know, it’s more or less the same thing as Cheryl‘s minty-fresh breath from that trailer for Season 7. There’s a bigger threat, and every teaser is going to end with it.

All in all, I’m not particularly over or under-whelmed. This was a very expected trailer, and probably a long day for Sophie Turner, Kit Harrington, and Maisie Williams. I love that Bran was excluded for ~reasons~ that I’m sure are as difficult to explain as his three-eyed crow nature. But frankly, can we take that alone as proof that Season 8 is not, in any way, going to have the “same ending” as A Song of Ice and Fire? This show is going to do what it wants, as it sees creatively fit to do so. Which is why any “meaning” to be found in it falls flat. It’s conceptually fine and technically lovely. But as has been the case, if a plot point needs to happen, even for something like a Stark death, it just will. If they need to randomly prosper instead, then they will.

And now we have only three months to prepare ourselves for the millions of articles on why that makes for the most compelling TV possible.


Media courtesy of HBO

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It’s the Beginning of the End for Gotham

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Gotham’s final season is here. The city connections to the outside world have been sundered. The land carved up by gangs. The first moments of episode one open more than a year after the city has been turned into ‘No Man’s Land’. The Riddler and Penguin putting on their best threads join Jim, Harvey and the rest of the GCPD in an all-out gun battle.

This is a just glimpse into the future, as we’re taken back to day 81. The government is offering no help to Jim.  When the bridges to the city blew, not everyone had been evacuated. The GCPD took in any civilians who didn’t escape. With people to protect and not enough food or ammo to do that they’re running out of options quickly.

Meanwhile, everyone else has been adjusting to life in the new Gotham. Penguin has made City Hall his seat of power and with a factory in his area is the only person producing more bullets. The Siren’s Club has become a safe haven for women, with men only allowed in if they bring information of worth to Barbara. Scarecrow, Firefly, Mr. Freeze, Zsasz and some other gangs have all claimed their own territories. The Riddler is alive and has been suffering from blackouts in his memory.  He’s sure it’s the softer Ed who’s been taking control again. Still unaccounted for are Hugo Strange, Lee Thompkins and the enigma that is Jeremiah Valeska.

Selina wasn’t evacuated because of the bombs. Instead, she’s been at a clinic in the zone protected by the GCPD, paralyzed after her gunshot.  Bruce and Alfred have been at her side. Even with surgery, Selina has no chance to walk again. For someone like her, defined by her independence and mobility, its soul-crushing. So much so she’s willing to kill herself. One nurse whispers to Bruce that doctors aren’t going to help Selina, but ‘the Witch’ can.

Scarecrow and his gang raid the GCPD and clinic for food and medicine, drastically cutting down their rations. With supplies in desperate need, Bruce makes his own arrangements for a drop. But the helicopter is a huge signal flare for everyone in the city. Within moments of entering the city limits, it’s shot down by an RPG. Penguin and his gang try to claim the supplies, but Tabitha still devastated over Oswald killing Butch shows up, looking for revenge. Oswald, however, turns her own blade back on her, stabbing her in the heart.

Jim and the GCPD are also trying to take the supplies. Bruce, having made his own way there, steals bullets from Penguin’s men giving the GCPD the extra firepower they need to turn the fight in their favour. They claim the supplies, buying themselves a few more weeks’ worth of time.

Fresh from the victory, Jim gets some more good news, in the form of a mysterious radio message from the mainland. They don’t say much beyond they are allies and help will be coming soon. The moment is uncut when he finds graffiti, a message from Jeremiah, on his desk.

Jim is still arguing with the government on the mainland as the second episode begins. He doesn’t have time to listen to their bureaucracy because he has to save kids from enslavement. After learning about a gang using kids for free labour, he goes to Barbara for transport. She’s raw after losing Tabitha, but she still gives Jim the vehicles he needs.

Their rescue goes well, until one of the vehicles gets a flat tire in the crossfire, forcing Jim, Harvey and three kids to escape on foot. They find refuge in an abandoned hotel. Their rest doesn’t last long when Jim and Harvey encounter a child and a strange masked woman, (aka Mother and Orphan who were teased in the season four finale). The streets aren’t safer since there’s a bounty on Jim’s head. Just when it seems like Jim and Harvey are outgunned, Barbara rides in on a four-wheeler like a vicious angle of death. Her good deeds aren’t out of the goodness of her heart. She’ll need allies if she’s going to take Penguin down. She wants Jim to be one of those allies.

The Riddler hasn’t figured out to stop his other half from taking over. His nightly escapades this time included kidnapping a biker. The Riddler beats the information his alter ego wanted from the biker the night before. The information, the location of the gang’s headquarters, leads Ed to find the gang leader slaughtered with the blame pointing to Penguin. He’s not sure what his alter ego end goal is yet, but it seems like he’s trying to start a gang war.

Meanwhile, Bruce, following the lead on ‘the witch’ finds her being guarded by men who are waiting on backup to kill this witch. The Witch is actually Ivy, who’s been residing in a park since the city was cut off from the world. Bruce convinces the men to let him talk to ‘the Witch’ with a lie about a missing brother.

He lets Ivy out and she kills the men, threatening to do the same to Bruce. He reveals he needs help for Selina. She’s reluctant to help at first. The last time she’d seen Selina, she’s destroyed the Lazarus water Ivy was using to enhance her plants. But Bruce convinces her to help. She gives him a seed that should heal Selina, but, she warns that taking it could change Selina.

He returns to the clinic. The seed sends Selina into a shock, but hours later she’s walking again. But, as Bruce hugs her, her eyes shift colour and shape to become more catlike.

Review

Two episodes in, the final season is gearing up for an explosive ending. Gotham turned into this empty war zone takes the city to new lows. Gotham, both setting and show have always been defined by the criminals. ‘No Man’s Land’ creates the perfect opportunity for those criminals to wreak havoc to the full. But also creates the ideal conditions to give birth to the hero the city needs. Be that Bruce, or Jim, both men have grown into their roles as the city’s protectors. For Jim, that means being the face the people trust and respect. For Bruce, it’s being the one who works in the shadows without need or want for praise.

As for the criminals, the tease of the Riddler and Penguin months down the line is tantalizing. What draws them all together again? Jeremiah’s tease, though not as substantial still leaves one wanting more. Losing Tabitha was a devastating blow to establish to the stakes for the season. Gotham does have a tendency to bring characters back to life so I hope that tradition carries on at least one more time. Her death has pushed Barbara into action. Who’s to say where her character will stand when the smoke finally clears. She’s the one character I’m most curious to see since she’s the one major player in Gotham who doesn’t have a major legacy in the comics. I’m glad Selina’s recovery wasn’t drawn out. It was heart-breaking to see her so depressed and broken. But now she can join the final fight, as a fully realized Catwoman.

Mother and Orphan, on the other hand, didn’t have much of a presence. They were there and then the plot moved on. It seemed like it was going to be a compelling start to the characters, with a flash of Mother in the background of a shot that would make most horror movies jealous. It turned out to be underwhelming as Jim and Harvey escape before the pair could truly feel threatening.

But, there are still many things lurking the depths of Gotham, waiting for their moment to strike. These final episodes promise to be filling with new faces and old favourites as the series moves to its final curtain call.


Images courtesy of Fox

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