Gotham, Season 2, Episode 5, “By Fire”
Written by Rebecca Perry Cutter
Directed by TJ Scott
Airs Mondays at 8pm (ET) on FOX
The Firefly story comes to a close this week in spectacular fashion as Gotham balances some very campy elements with emotional truths that skirt the line enough to work as an overall episode. There are many great, genuinely touching moments, others that are pitch-perfect black comedy, and a few instances of weird kitsch ideas that for the most part work, as they are executed with full-on commitment.
Gotham throughout its run has mixed many genres into its mold and some are more successful than others. This season has been more of a city-set western, with how brutal the villains have been and how Gotham feels almost lawless, even among those wearing the badge. Captain Barnes brings in the ideals of civilization, which is what Gordon began with in season one, and in this episode, Barnes sees that Gotham is a different kind of war field and begins his own turn towards bending the law for justice. But this may not be the best route to go, as Gordon is now learning that justice should not be about avenging your team, but trying to maintain civility in a world gone mad, otherwise one can lose the respect of those who have put their faith in them. This is what happens when Gordon fails to secure Brigit’s safety for Cat.
Theo Galavan is now weaving Bruce more into his plan as he welcomes him to a family dinner with Silver St. Cloud and Tabitha. The arc in this episode is short but has some great moments, with Alfred training Bruce, teaching him to be a more creative fighter, and Tabitha creepily stating how she wants to eat the children. Although Bruce’s part in Galavan’s plan is coming along, it is going at a snail’s pace, which is okay because it appears as though Galavan will continue to be distracted, as next week The Penguin will be taking his thugs over to try and rescue his mother.
It is mostly in the plot line with Butch and Galavan that the campiest ideas come into play, some of which work well in a comedic sense and some of which are just baffling, yet par for the course of the show. The odd campaigning that Galavan utilizes here doesn’t make him look as smart as Gotham would want us to believe he is, because his lack of subtly in his campaigning leaves him open to discovery. Threatening the lives of potential voters reveals Galavan as a psychopath who doesn’t care who knows that he is hiring an ex-henchmen of The Penguin. It makes no sense, other than to show Galavan as a cartoonish villain. The cartoonishness also continues when Butch dons a mallet hand, which although silly, is a comedic shade that is enjoyable.
What “By Fire” does well, it does very well and where it goes astray is very minimal. The most interesting part of the episode is what it promises for the future of Gotham, as we finally learn what has become of that Indian Hill property that Falcone swindled away from Maroni in “Penguin’s Umbrella”. As it turns out, Falcone was perhaps still working with Wayne Enterprises, as it is revealed that they have secured the facility in order to do testing on people with unique properties or abilities, which will most likely bring on new villains as part of the Rise of the Villains season. Firefly’s return will be most anticipated, as it will be great to see her reunite with Cat; it also looks like next time we see her, she’ll be fireproof.
RIP Kristen Kringle.
This week, the Ed Nygma and Kristen Kringle romance arc comes to a harrowing end as Nygma finally decides to reveal to Kringle the murder he committed in her name. Out of all the recent episodes of Gotham that have featured Nygma and Kringle, “By Fire” does the best job of displaying the nuances of their relationship. Here Kringle truly does appear to be smitten with Nygma, as shown in scenes where she delights in his riddle-asking, quickly answering with glee, and when she overly praises his cooking. This sets up perfectly that Nygma would be comfortable to reveal the truth about himself and believe that she would accept him, thus making it more effective when she does reject him. She realizes that Nygma’s love may become suffocating, as he was not only stalking her but now killing on her behalf. This is made more literal as he ends up strangling the life out of her in order to keep her from leaving his side. It is perplexing that Gotham has chosen not to integrate Nygma’s alter-ego into this murder, rendering the early episodes that introduced the cooler Nygma split personality pointless. Chelsea Spack has been great throughout the show, doing her best with the character of Kringle, layering a curiosity about Nygma along with her revulsion of him in season one, up ’til now, where she falls for him and then falls backs out again. “By Fire” features the best range of Spack’s portrayal of Kringle and is a good send-off for the character. Have to give Gotham credit, they are not afraid to kill off characters and when they do, they do it very well.
This arc also has the best characterization of Cat as of late, because we get a sense of who she is, who she was, and what she’s willing to do. Whenever we see Cat interact with another character for a good stretch it’s always a ton of fun and here we see her relationship with Brigit, whom Cat is clearly looking out for. We know that Cat has a soft side for those she sees herself in, such as the little kid she was coaching on how to survive upstate in “Selina Kyle”, but she can also be very cold, which she does in order to protect herself from getting too close to someone and getting hurt. This is why it is that much more touching and significant when she does allow herself to let her softer side show and the scene where she hugs Brigit is very moving. Camren Bicondova is phenomenal and is given some great dialogue to play, which she delivers brilliantly. From when she’s robbing the women auction dressed like a Western bandit, reminding everyone there that they “suck” for what they’re doing, to when she is in a Mexican standoff with Gordon, telling him to back off, to when she’s holding a gun up to Lee and waiting to hear about Brigit, Bicondova shines brightly in this role. Cat is fun, complicated, and a total badass, which makes her one of Gotham’s most interesting characters.
Case File: To Catch a Firefly
The investigation for the cop-killing firebug takes Gordon on a bit of a rampage, using excessive force on a possible informant. This brings to mind the opening of “The Last Laugh”, but the key difference is that the Strike Force is present to remind Gordon that he is going against legal protocol. It’s a good use of this new dynamic wherein Gordon has someone to answer to. It’s also interesting to see that Gordon would be fine with them reporting him to Barnes, as he’s stated previously that he’s willing to answer for his actions. It’s laughable to find out, though, that all Gordon gets as a reprimand is a note in his file. The episode gives Gordon an arc with this investigation, as he begins seeking revenge for the murder of his team member only to discover that the culprit is a victim herself who has been coerced into her disposition. Ben McKenzie gives Gordon the right pathos to display this arc and has great interplay with Cat, first as he learns about Brigit and then when he tells Cat about her unfortunate takedown.
The Firefly arc has been very well presented in these two episodes and has been led by a very fine performance by Michelle Veintimilla. Brigit is a very sympathetic character despite her murderous tendencies, and she comes off as very innocent, as displayed by her naivety about committing a “Crime” in order to get money to leave Gotham City. There’s a complexity to Brigit as she sees the girls in the auction and wants to help them; this moment sets up nicely what she decides to do later. Brigit is also given a pretty great badass payback scene against her Pike brothers when she comes in with her flame thrower as they gawk at her in disbelief, enveloping them in flames as reflected in the glass eyes of her Firefly mask. This is a very satisfying sequence, especially following how awfully they treated her, flicking firecrackers at her. Brigit’s downfall is also spectacular and tragic and a great highlight to the episode.
This episode is written by Rebecca Perry Cutter whose previous Gotham credit had been the campier-toned “Viper” from last season. Cutter continues to indulge in some of Gotham’s more camp tendencies (such as giving Butch a mallet hand) but it ultimately works much better here than it was in “Viper”. One of Cutter’s best qualities is writing blackly comedic moments with dialogue that the performers can deliver well. The mallet hand looks cheesy as you would imagine it might, but it’s undercut with great wit by having Penguin remark uncertainly that, “It’s…useful!?”. Tender moments are also handled well with humor, such as when Cat retorts to Brigit “Maybe you remind me of me…if I was a doofus!”, deflecting her reason for being nice to her, and the comical scene with Bullock kicking a charred Pike brother, which is incredibly effective and hilarious as performed by Donal Logue.
These scenes may not have come out as well if not for the excellent direction of TJ Scott, who is often one of Gotham’s best. There are also many extravagant scenes with fire that are executed flawlessly by the special effects team. Firefly herself has a very impressively designed costume that is the best take on the look of the character in live action yet. The use of shadows in certain scenes are remarkable, and the sequence where Cat is fighting the Pike brothers in almost pure silhouette is beautifully framed, like a panel out of Frank Miller’s Sin City. Overall, “By Fire” is a visually stunning and well-performed installment of Gotham that burns comparatively brighter than the previous Firefly episode.
- Tabitha’s recommendation that Butch put a tiny chainsaw on his hand has to be a shout out to Ash from The Evil Dead, who actually does have a chainsaw hand in Army of Darkness. Plus the actress Jessica Lucas, who portrays Tabitha, appeared in the 2013 remake, Evil Dead.
- Really enjoyed the Bullock and Ivy interaction culminating in Bullock actually getting a chocolate bar.
- “And for the record: all of ya suck!”—Cat
- “Who cares, alright!? There’s a freaky firefly chick on the loose with a flame thrower. Let’s start there.”—Bullock
- “Yeah, my kicks did it? Well, maybe it’s because he’s fried like a Taquito!?”—Bullock
- Cat: “You’re cute for a doctor.”
Lee: “Well, you’re cute for a gangster.”
- “I ain’t never heard of a female firebug before. It’s mad rare like a- like a unicorn or something.”—Ex-Firebug hood
- The India Hill experiment rooms Firefly sees on her way to her operation room are super creepy. Not sure what villain the woman is supposed to be, but the muscle-bound physique of the man sort of looks Bane-like. Could he be taking the Viper drug upgrade Venom? We’ll just have to wait and see.