While the cat’s away, the mice will play. And while Gotham City’s stringent police chief is locked up raving in Arkham, an opportunity presents itself. Word of Chief Barnes’ condition spreads quickly through the city, and plans that were perhaps on hold are set in motion. Penguin hosts a meeting of the five families at the mansion and proposes a steep increase in protection fees. The decrease in law and order makes half of Gotham vulnerable and the other half more than happy to take quick and lucrative advantage of that vulnerability.
Meanwhile, Lee and Mario are determined to go about the business of getting married. They have a pre-rehearsal tasting with Carmine at a restaurant operated by a former associate of the don. They haven’t chosen a honeymoon location yet, but Lee tells the men that she did take off of work. The timing is good; she liked and respected Barnes, and she knows enough about the virus to know that the man who committed those savage murders was not her boss. Mario looks at her with interest when she says that the lab has developed a test for the Tetch disease — one step closer to a cure. Later, the valet goes to pull Mr. Falcone’s car around and the vehicle explodes.
Fortunately no one is killed, but that was certainly the bomber’s intention. Jim has some questions for Falcone; all related to Lee’s safety. He fears that the attempted hit is a sign that Carmine is back in business, so to speak. The retired crime boss says he’s not and that the attack was probably provoked by an old disagreement. Jim pleads with Carmine not to retaliate. Whatever this war is, if it escalates, Lee will certainly be in more danger. Carmine grants Gordon one day before he does things his own way.
Back at the GCPD, Lucius approaches Jim and acting captain Bullock with information on the device that caused the blast. It’s professional stuff — a military grade explosive, not some clumsy homemade bomb. Bullock instantly thinks of a skilled ex-soldier gone bad. But when he and Gordon arrive at Fuse’s apartment, the man is already dead. His bedsheets aren’t pulled tight like one would expect of a military man; Jim reaches under the mattress and finds a file on his target. They all had it wrong. Mario is in the crosshairs, not his father.
So. Plan A: bomb placed in car. Plan B: machete-wielding motorcyclists attack busy hospital courtyard. Mario tucks and rolls, evading the assassins; Jim shoots at them until they drive away. Mario claims to have no idea who these people are nor why anyone would want him dead. Jim advises him to “lay low,” which would include not having a big church wedding with half the members of organized crime in attendance. Mario refuses to take Jim’s advice out of pride. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” he says, like Gordon invented this whole scenario to postpone Lee’s wedding a week or two.
Jim tells Bullock to keep a discreet eye on Mario (“Don’t look at him!”) while he goes to see the man’s father. Carmine also is at a loss for motive. “My son is the most decent person I’ve ever known,” he says to Jim. “He’s not like us.” Jim doesn’t buy it. Decent people don’t get moved to the top of a hit list for no reason; Mario must be keeping something from his dad to preserve Falcone’s sterling opinion of him.
Over at Alfred’s School for Wayward Children, Selina is poking at frittatas while Bruce searches the Wayne library for a match to the antique key they found in the emerald necklace Ivy pilfered. He’s also stewing about Selina denying their romantic whatever in front of Ivy. Both as a peace offering and to annoy the boy, Selina drops the key in a household rust-removing solution to see what’s underneath the grime. It’s the image of an owl, and Alfred and Bruce know immediately who the key belongs to. Alfred frets that Bruce’s possession of the key will be considered by Kathryn and the Court as a violation of the agreement they made to stay out of each other’s business. Just as they realize the danger they’re in, Ivy turns up missing, having used her wiles and her disorienting perfume on the butler in a deeply uncomfortable scene.
NEXT: Putting a pin in it
It doesn’t take long for Ivy’s friends to find her. She was taken for ransom, and the men who’d been chasing them down for that necklace in the last episode leave a note telling Bruce and the rest exactly where they’ll be waiting. Bruce stands stoically in front of the men and their crossbows and asks to have an audience with Kathryn to explain that the key came into his hands by accident and that he has no interest in nullifying their contract. But the men who took Ivy are not employed by the Court of Owls; they identify themselves as the Whisper Gang, a Ukranian smuggling operation that was almost completely driven out of the city after the Court betrayed them. They seek the key for revenge. Urban legend has it that it unlocks some device that the Court fears more than anything, though the gang doesn’t know what that is. Bruce holds up the key they’re desperate for and suggests an alliance. But just a few scenes later, two of the remaining Whisper Gang members are slashed to death by the Court’s masked assassin.
Bullock had one job, but he wasn’t able to keep Mario at the GCPD like his partner asked. Jim finds Mario at the jewelry store picking up his wedding rings and lectures him about common sense protocol for targets. The motorcycle bandits arrive right on cue, driving straight into the showroom. Jim and Mario fight them off, Mario showing a flair for violence when he gives one assassin a cameo pin to the eye. The assassin tells his target that Mario knows why he’s being hunted. And his “first, do no harm” oath flies right out the window as Mario chokes the man out.
Neither Mario nor his father claim to recognize the surviving assassin. And their interrogation time is cut short when a mysterious call orders the man transferred to a federal facility. Someone is exercising their influence to get this man out of the GCPD, and it’s not Falcone. After Gordon and Bullock fail to get anything useful out of the attacker, Falcone tries some underground interrogation techniques. He throws the man’s head into the metal table in front of them, then wrenches a tooth out of his mouth. As Falcone clearly expected, it’s branded with the symbol of the Court.
Falcone brings the tooth to a meeting with Kathryn and demands to know why Mario is on their bad side. Kathryn coolly references the “great many things” Falcone doesn’t know about his city and its people. And that’s an insult, since his universal authority is a point of pride. She says that Mario is safe “for now,” but not why that’s so. Falcone threatens that any harm to him will bring about a real war. But the war is already going on, and Kathryn is in full control of it.
Most of Gotham’s underground doesn’t know that their actions are being directed and anticipated by an ancient secret society. They think they are their own masters, and that’s a part of Kathryn’s plan. Barbara is beyond annoyed at still being out of that loop. She interrupts Penguin’s meeting to demand to know where Butch and Tabitha are. Tabby has been protecting Butch since his “summer stock revival of the Red Hood Gang,” and it’s led to a revival of their relationship, too. But she’s been missing her nightly check-ins with Babs, and that’s a bad sign. Oswald blows Barbara off, but she notes the presence of Olga, eyes and ears on every meeting that happens in that house.
Oswald calls Ed to tell him that Tabitha and Butch’s absence hasn’t gone unnoticed. He’s trying to be understanding of Ed’s “grieving process,” but he really needs to hurry the hell up. Ed hangs up on him and turns his attentions back to Butch and Tabitha, both bound and gagged and awaiting his chosen method of torture.
NEXT: Girl talk
Barbara shows up later to have a little girl talk with Oswald’s household help. She bribes the housekeeper with her cocktail ring and asks Olga what’s she’s heard. The woman describes her fondness for Oswald and her belief that he can “do better” than Edward Nygma. Babs notes that interesting piece of information. (“Wait, you mean like-likes? Wow. Well, we should definitely revisit that another time.”) But that’s not what she came for. Olga tells Barbara about a “special delivery” Ed was expecting and shows her the bill of sale. Babs pays the BDSM store a little visit and coaxes its poor, unsuspecting manager into some recreational stocks. (“Do you like role-playing, Todd? Good.”) She leaves him there, walking out with the delivery address of Ed’s order.
Part of Ed’s “grieving process” is not just to avenge Isabella but to destroy Butch emotionally before he kills him. To that end, he commissioned the production of a portable, hand-sized guillotine to present the woman Butch loves with a choice. Butch insists that he’s never heard of an Isabella, but that’s what he would say, right? Nygma proudly presents his set-up anyway. Tabitha’s wrist will be held in place by the guillotine while she grasps a device in her hand. If she pushes the button on the top of that device before the timer runs out, Butch will be electrocuted to death and she’ll be left intact. If she doesn’t push the button, the blade will drop and she’ll lose her hand. But Butch will live.
Butch has never wanted to believe that Tabitha is as ruthless as she really is, so there doesn’t seem to be much hope for him. As Nygma giggles, Tabitha tells Butch she’s not really in a “love place” with him at the moment. But maybe Butch isn’t as clueless about her nature as he always seemed to be. “Tabby, baby, the last few weeks have been the best of my life,” he says. “And it’s okay you don’t love me ’cause I love you. And for a guy like me, that’s enough.” Butch’s declaration puts his love in sharp contrast to Oswald’s. Butch didn’t think he’d be the kind of person who’d be able to feel what he feels for Tabitha, and he greets that feeling with gratitude. Oswald isn’t so easily satisfied. He needs to be requited and validated, even if he has to break Ed’s heart to get there.
Butch thinks he’s going out, so he screams at Nygma that yeah, he killed that girl. He shot her, in fact. Ed’s brow wrinkles; sure, Butch would deny killing Isabella, but why would he remember the manner of her death incorrectly? But Butch’s speech got through to Tabitha. “Hey Butch,” she says, looking over him. “You’re sweet.” She lets the device drop from her fingers; the blade falls; and she passes out when she sees the bloody stump where he hand used to be. Babs arrives in the aftermath. “I’d put that hand on some ice,” Ed tells her, and then leaves to process what he just heard.
At the hospital, Barbara puts together the misunderstanding that led to Tabitha’s injury. A pretty librarian could only be the enemy of one person: a person who loves Ed and doesn’t want to share him. The look of realization on Barbara’s face is delicious as she realizes she has leverage of the best kind. Penguin won’t be able to dismiss her so easily when he knows she has information that can take Ed away from him forever.
Speaking of forever, James Gordon is on track to keep silent on his feelings for Lee for about that length of time. Everything he did to keep Mario safe, he did for Lee. Bullock knows this, and tells his partner that he’s not protecting Lee by keeping his secret. He’s protecting himself. The night of her rehearsal dinner, Lee shows up on Jim’s doorstep. “I didn’t do it for him,” is as much as Lee can get out of her ex, even after prompting him for more. But Jim isn’t going to be that guy. He tells her sincerely that all he wants is for Lee to be happy, whoever that’s with. “Why does it feel like we keep saying goodbye?” she asks. “Maybe that’s all we have left,” Jim says. She kisses him softly and leaves.
Mario watches Lee exit Gordon’s building and get into a waiting car. “She loves him,” the whispers in his head insist. Alice’s blood enhancing his jealousy, he takes out his aggression on some would-be muggers. An earlier episode saw Mario fiddling with a bandage on his neck, so his contamination seems to have been intentional. If he used his own body to help the Court of Owls study and weaponize the virus, that would certainly be a reason for Kathryn to order the hit. Jim is stepping back because he thinks that Lee deserves a better man than him. But right now, she’s in danger of marrying a monster.
Odds & Ends:
- “Guy shot a cat last week.” “On purpose?” “Does it matter?”
- The persistent, low-key animosity between Selina and Alfred is my favorite.
- “What’s with the stupid mask?” “I like you.”