Gotham, Season 2, Episode 21, “A Legion of Horribles”
Written by Jordan Harper
Directed by Rob Bailey
Airs Mondays at 8pm (ET) on FOX
The ball keeps rolling this week with the penultimate episode of Gotham’s second season, which featured the return of a favorable familiar face, Fish Mooney, as other characters ruminate on the legitimacy of Thomas Wayne’s legacy. Even while exploring the crevices of what it means to be heroic and the challenging morality behind sticking up for what you believe in is right, Gotham also manages to include a lot of fun and surprises.
One of the many key factors that makes Gotham so wonderful and engaging is the excellent and eccentric performances by all within the cast. The seriousness placed on the absurdity of their increasingly chaotic situations aren’t lost on any of the characters, and it’s not only that they accept the surrealism, but that they also play right into them which makes for fun television. Gotham is a world where a character like Fish Mooney, a prime and perhaps one of the finest examples of that balance of camp and grim realism, can exist and flourish. The world of the show is expanding and the villains are becoming more unique and playful and to have Fish enter into her second life with the same personality as her former self is a grand development in the series and puts a fine point that this world is becoming much more exotic and fierce as the Gotham City that would need a Dark Knight to become its beacon of hope.
That beacon of hope is indeed the young Bruce Wayne, and he is faced against Professor Strange, an adversary that is worthy of him and one that he must overcome before he can enter the next stage in his progress of becoming Batman. The challenge that Professor Strange presents to Bruce here, is the conundrum that it was in fact his father Thomas Wayne that allowed his own death and that of his wife to come to pass for not sacrificing his principles. Strange explains that Thomas knew what he was doing and maintained to stand by his moral compass where he could’ve permitted the atrocities that Strange committed in the name of science, if only but to ensure he would continue to live. Following after his father, Bruce maintains valiant in his ideology against Professor Strange and counters that he will continue to fight for what he believes is right and isn’t afraid to die for it. It’s a pivotal moment in the construction of Bruce’s heroic persona that Gotham executes extremely well. The other side of that is whether he feels okay with bringing in other people into his fight, this is something that Batman in the comics struggles with quite often as he feels the need to protect those within his Batman family and when he cannot he reevaluates the dilemma again. Here, Bruce is still young and hasn’t experienced taking responsibility for fallen members in his team just yet, but the episode examines it really well with Lucius Fox’s response to Bruce that they are in the situation because they all chose to be there. Which alleviates the dilemma for now.
“A Legion of Horribles” gives more than enough attention to Bruce’s development while also giving the return of Fish Mooney the appropriate fanfare that will continue this series going as it goes into its possibly explosive season finale and well into its next season.
When we last saw Ed Nygma he was caught trying to escape Arkham Asylum, and this week we find him being punished for his effort. Nygma continues to be a true enigma when it comes to his allegiance, being that he really has none. He is rogue and this is great because he can interact with both sides to whatever capacity the show needs him to be. He can be oppressed by Professor Strange in one moment but then be working for him the next, which is what happens here. Nygma is enjoyable in both senses whether he is displaying his genius for his survival or for purely evil purposes, like threatening the lives of Bruce and Lucius. Cory Michael Smith continues to bring the joy in his performance and presents a grand impersonation of Professor Strange on the microphone for Bruce.
The resurrection of Fish Mooney has been a long while coming and it is finally done here to expediency, yet it’s still very good because Jada Pinkett-Smith is such a fantastic performer that she can pull of that the character is capable such a fully formed return, unlike all the other resurrected subjects. As the criminal element of Gotham become more and more colorful, we find that the resurrected Fish not only remembers her former life but also has gained abilities of persuasion that she did not possess prior. She has the ability to push people to her will with but a touch, something that could be considered a skill that she already did possess, but now she’ll have more absolute control over her subjects. It’s also interesting to hear Professor Strange muse on what could’ve possibly caused her perfect memory, might it be the coddle fish DNA or the extra voltage percentage or corruption from exposure to chemicals disposed within the river she was retrieved from. It could easily be any one of these things but it’s fun to see that the writers aren’t fully committing to any singular explanation just yet, leaving it open for much more fun possibilities next season.
What a relief it is to see Cat survive her attack from Brigit, aka Firefly. The tragedy of Brigit’s story continues to unfold as we are given full view via Cat’s devastation of seeing her friend Brigit become a victim of Professor Strange’s monster factory. This is a bit of a surprise to see Brigit become used like one of the resurrected subjects here, being that Professor Strange has implanted her with the persona of a Fire Goddess. The thing is, Brigit was not dead when she was brought in to Indian Hill and so she should’ve been left intact, but the writers have decided to go this way which may mean she had to be resurrected or they just simply manipulated her mind. Either way could work. The way Cat figures to resolve her conflict with Brigit’s new persona is a bit shaky too, but it could be cool depending on how they handle their current status as master and servant. Camren Bicondova is great, as always, playing Cat and does doubly well delivering her witty lines and presenting her jeopardy filled state with her facial expressions. Brigit is given a lot of likability by Michelle Veintimilla, who manages to play her evil personas stanchness well, but can also tap into Brigit’s innocence where needed, making for a great performance overall.
Case File: Rescue Selina “Cat” Kyle
With Bullock being instated as the stand in Captain of GCPD, he has found himself with his hands tied and unable to infiltrate Arkham Asylum to bring in Professor Strange for his hand in the whole Azrael debacle. Bullock now takes his role as Captain full hog seriously when previously he had taken to it rather tolerably. While Bullock is still a little rough around the edges, his scene in front of the camera shows him in fairly good light. Donal Logue displays Bullocks unease very comically yet true to character and it’s really fun to see him begrudgingly in front of the media. While Bullocks power is limited, it leaves Gordon to go freelance and aid Bruce in rescuing the captured Cat without GCPD aid. Gordon has about completely shed his police detective position and has appareled himself in blacks and greys, the colors of Batman which make it seem like he’s simply going vigilante. Ben McKenzie isn’t given that much to do here, other than play dress up as a guard to infiltrate Arkham premises, but with the introduction of Clayface who has taken up his visage, it seems as though we’ll be getting double vision with two Gordons running around.
Bruce and Lucius have taken up the plan of faking an inspection on Arkham Asylum in order to enter the building and confront their enemy. It’s great to see Bruce take up the incentive and face off with Professor Strange. Their meeting has been building for some time and to see them together now is so satisfying and well done. The tension of Bruce shaking Strange’s hand, while knowing he targeted his parents for murder, is given the appropriate weight. The performances of both David Mazouz and BD Wong in these sequences where Bruce and Strange discuss the Wayne Murders and the legacy of Thomas Wayne is very poignant and compellingly presented. They both are very engaging to watch and excel at displaying their emotions in their scenes together.
The episode is written by Gotham regular Jordan Harper, whose previous contributions include “The Anvil or the Hammer”, “Scarification”, and most recently “This Ball of Mud and Meanness”. The pacing is very well done as the momentum continues from last week without any kind of trip up. It’s a strong installment that perfectly sets up things for a very exciting finale with its explosive suggestion from the higher ups that’s sure going to lead to at least a rush to defuse a time bomb. The dialogue and long speeches are served well, especially between Bruce and Professor Strange. Director Rob Baily, has delivered another solidly well-made episode as has been his former work on “Penguins Umbrella”, “Knock Knock”, and “The Son of Gotham”. Harper gets really great performances from his actors and his camera eye offers very appealing compositions. One of the more notable sequences that delivers nice visual flourish is in the scene where Fish wakes up, which is as evocatively and stylishly done.
- “Man, Brigit! Someone sure scrambled your eggs!” -Cat
- “My Name is Fish Mooney, Bitch!” –Fish, the one and only.
- When “Clayface” stretched his cheek skin it felt somewhat reminiscent to Katherine Helmond’s plastic surgery scene in Brazil.
- The Court of Owls are clearly the ones prompting Professor Strange’s resurrection program, although they may not be that enthused about his other projects, they clearly want results and it’s going to be interesting to see how they enter in to things as the season ends and to see if they continue their story into the next season.
- “There’s nothing funny about my name?” -Ed Nygma.
- “I’m so relieved.” –Ms. Peabody. Tanya Pinkins gives such great deadpan, she really is a joy to watch, either with Professor Strange, Ed Nygma, or Lucius Fox.
- “I may not be the man that you choose second in a street fight, but I will do the best that I can to protect Bruce.”-Lucius Fox. Speaking of which, Chris Chalk is fantastic as this character, I only wish he had more screen time.
- “Why does your face look like that?” –Ivy Pepper. Clare Foley really brings Ivy to life with her delivery of her lines. Her scenes are so brief but are really great moments. It seems that Ivy may bit of a sociopath not able to pick up on facial cues.
- “This isn’t an island, is it?” –Fish Mooney. Mooney is referring to her time under the authority of The Dollmaker from last season.