“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.
Gotham really heats up this week as Azrael is unleashed onto the City causing everyone within his purview to scramble to try to avoid or try to end his rampage. There is Professor Strange covering his tracks, Tabitha planning her departure, and Gordon trying to take down Azrael before he can do any more harm. It’s a race to beat the clock in this week’s action packed hour.
On this week’s Gotham, the villains take the stage as they begin their reign of terror on the City. Continuing the “Rise of the villains” theme, this episode puts the spotlight on Jerome as the indisputable leader of the Arkham Asylum Escapees known as The Maniax!, as he stands to be, perhaps, the most terrifying villain that Gotham City has ever faced.
This week’s episode of Gotham follows up “Red Hood” where it seemed as though Bruce’s story and Gordon’s would meet up but instead this episode prolongs the separation another week so that Gordon could make some genuine headway in establishing order in the GCPD. This has been an ongoing process for Gordon in making a change to the corrupt system and the effect he’s had has been gradual as every time Gordon thinks he has effected change he finds that he has only cured a symptom and not the cause. This has been a beat that Gotham has repeated a few times during this second half of the season and it’s almost to the point of being overly repetitive, but it seems as though that this particular promotion to President of the Policeman’s union position may be the level where Gordon can be most effective and the season can finally move on without falling back to where Gordon has no results to show other than new allies.
Following the winding down of “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon”, the season continues with an episode that stabilizes the narrative with a case of the week hinting at the iconic Batman villain, The Scarecrow. Unfortunately his characterization is undermined with a poorly-executed exposition dump that feels unearned and unclear; the episode is much more concerned with reinforcing the shifted dynamics that were established in the previous episode. It’s not uncommon for a series to spin its wheels at times during a 22 episode season, but what is disappointing is that it does so here without giving a worthwhile character his due.
The season enters a new arc on Gotham as the fallout of last week’s episode, “Penguin’s Umbrella”, begins to take effect. Gordon tried to take down Falcone and failed, but managed to set an example of what a good cop is capable of and also shed a light on how inactive the Gotham City Police Department is, as none of his colleagues came to aid Gordon against Victor Zsasz. This brings out some interesting development between Gordon and Captain Sarah Essen, who regrets not braving the storm with him. The example that he has set has also affected Bullock, who’s now on Team Gordon, which is a highlight of the episode, in particular when Bullock gives a rallying speech to the GCPD.
Unlike last week’s “Viper”, this week’s Gotham turns in a case of the week that truly amps up the creep factor without going too far outside of the gritty reality that the show has set up. “Spirit of the Goat” presents an antagonist that not only fits well tonally with the series, but is entertaining, with a somewhat supernatural mystery whose answer falls in line with the noir style. One of the episode’s most pleasant surprises is that it places Harvey Bullock in the lead, allowing him some much needed character depth, as well as highlighting his skills as a great detective in his own right. This episode also provides a significant development in the ongoing Major Crimes Unit investigation of Jim Gordon and his part in the murder of Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, a plot that hasn’t progressed much since “Selina Kyle.”
Gotham has done fairly well, so far, at integrating its cases of the week with its overarching storyline, with last week’s “Arkham” being one of the most momentous episodes yet in moving the season narrative forward, but with “Viper”, the tandem plots fail to blend together with the same consistency. The campy concept of the Viper drug, which gives super strength to its victims before destroying their bone density, could’ve worked if only the writers had decided not to display the victims’ feats of strength with such poorly executed and cartoonish special effects. What Gotham has done well in previous episodes is present a campy idea with a truly gritty noir tone, but the way that these super powered victims are realized, they look more like they belong on the set of Smallville rather than the pulp setting that this series embodies.
Batman is one of the most iconic comic book superheroes of all time and has been amongst the pop culture zeitgeist for, at most, three quarters of a century, being adapted into all kinds of media from novels to video games and of course, to film and television. Strangely enough, as popular as the hero has been throughout the decades, the character has had very little time on the live action small screen. Even now, in this newest retelling of his origin story, Batman himself is not expected to make a full costumed appearance. Instead we are introduced to all the tangential characters that surround the Batman mythology and formulate Batman’s allies and foes.
A couple of seasons ago, Sons of Anarchy closed an episode with Juice jumping from a tree with a chain noose around his neck. As the SoA logo entered the screen, the sound of the tree branch snapping could be heard, removing the cliffhanger of Juice’s fate. When the curtain shuts on “Poenitentia,” we don’t actually see Tig get killed by Pope’s men. “Poenitentia” feels like a major death episode as it plays, echoing Opie’s prison death through Clay’s scenes (Opie’s death was in the third episode from last season).