They don’t call it the “mad city” for nothing. Questions of sanity still abound in Gotham. Questions such as: Why did the Court of Owls chloroform Bruce and kidnap him to a meeting he himself requested? For the aesthetics of it all, probably.
The only Court shot-caller whom we’ve seen isn’t a complete stranger to Bruce. She’s been at Wayne Industries parties, confirming Bruce’s theory that the secret society isn’t so much secret as it is hiding in plain sight. Kathryn (if that’s her real name, and it probably isn’t) correctly assesses that Bruce’s parents passed their compassion gene to him; she counters his threat of bringing government attention to their shady dealings with a threat of her own. If Bruce doesn’t cease all investigation into their activities — including the murder of his mother and father — everyone Bruce loves will be at risk. With no ace in his back pocket, Bruce acquiesces. “Needless to say, you’ll not see me again,” Kathryn coolly offers, and we’ll see about that. Her manservant knocks out Bruce once more for the trip back home.
Bruce is returned to Wayne Manor unharmed, leaving me again wondering why they couldn’t have just sent a car. Alfred embraces him, obviously shaken he hadn’t been able to protect him in that moment. Bruce tells him about the deal and they’re both surprised he went for it. Bruce will keep his end of the bargain, he agrees, but Alfred wonders aloud if the Court of Owls will follow through on their own promise. Since Kathryn found Bruce’s ultimatum so boring, there’s no compelling reason why they should.
They’ve been wrapped up in their own business, it’s true, but Bruce and Alfred seem preposterously detached from what’s going down in the streets of Gotham. Meanwhile, Valerie is still looking to make her name on the Indian Hill escapees with her reluctant partner. She breezes into Gordon’s seedy bachelor pad (“You don’t bring women here, do you?”), interrupting his spiked morning coffee and offering him another chance to get the bounty on Fish. Val needs to find her source again and figures Gordon might have some advice on how to do it. “She’s a petty thief, a street kid,” Valerie says. “I like her, though, she’s got style.” Gordon does that smile-grimace thing, because he has a pretty good idea who’s been feeding Val her tips.
Unsure how to find Selina, Gordon takes Val to Sirens to ask his sadistic ex for the intel. Barbara could not be more delighted to see him walk through her door. “Oh. My. God,” she breathes. She snaps at Valerie as she would at any woman by his side, and pointedly asks Gordon how the absent Lee is doing. She’ll tell him what he needs to know about Selina, Barbara says, but only in exchange for a kiss. It’s the games that tire Gordon, even if he’s gotten better at playing them. He turns to leave, and the part of Barbara that can’t disappoint him surfaces briefly. She mentions something about an old bank. Suddenly desperate, Barbara begs Gordon’s attention a moment longer and recaps a disturbing dream where she had to push a crippled Jim around in a baby carriage. Valerie and Gordon don’t stick around to hear the particulars.
NEXT: In the garden of Eden
Valerie gets her revenge for last week’s misdirection by locking Gordon out of her car and handing over the lead to the GCPD without him. He pegged her as an opportunist from the jump; how did Gordon not see this coming? At the precinct, Bullock promises Val “first crack” at Fish once she’s in custody, per their deal. Without even casing the joint, the GCPD preps a raid on the abandoned bank. Bullock gives his St. Crispin’s speech to the cops and reminds them to look for Mrs. Peabody. They find her, quite dead, and their own riot gear is predictably no match for Dr. Strange’s creations. Cops die and Fish goes free. Meanwhile, Penguin whips the press — and subsequently, the people of Gotham — into a fear-driven frenzy over Fish and her minions. He wants her dead, and he doesn’t care how it happens.
Gordon is the last person Barnes wants to see right now, but with Bullock in danger, Gordon doesn’t matter that much. Lucius beckons Gordon into the morgue (Gordon’s inner monologue: “Lee’s morgue, *sigh*”) and shows him Peabody’s corpse. There was only one species above her in the Indian Hill food chain, and Lucius figures the freaks are headed straight to him. With Fish’s hand-picked hostage in their Scooby van, they’ll have his location soon enough.
Fish used to be able to influence Bullock with sex and bribes, and now her powers have increased to match his own increased integrity. One touch of a hand and he’s her willing accomplice again. An enraged Barnes offers to take Gordon to Strange’s holding cell himself, along with a few dozen officers. Fish, Bullock, and her mutated babies arrive at the decrepit, secret mansion (what else) and, after Gotham’s answer to Barry Allen takes out the guards blocking the door, find themselves outside Strange’s cell: a clear box akin to Loki’s prison on Asgard, only with more equations and sh-t on the walls.
Dr. Frankenstein, meet your monster. Strange is more pleased than Fish expected to be reunited with what he calls his “greatest creation.” While he’s shocked to hear she’s dying, he insists there’s nothing even he can do. “No” is not in Fish’s vocabulary, especially when it’s directed at her. “You’ll fix me, daddy,” she purrs. And he’ll fix the rest of them, giving her the “army” she desires instead of the afflicted one she has, cursed to lie in wait. He insists he would if he could; he’s a maniac, what does he care if Fish and the rest of them are running the city? At least while he wastes away in prison, he can be proud his work lives on. (“You’re the first of a new generation. A new Eve.”) Fish proves to Strange she hasn’t forgotten her old life. When she ran her club, she heard every excuse in the book from people who owed her. But when it came down to their life (or their genitalia), they could somehow scrounge up what she wanted.
Meanwhile, Gordon and Barnes get in touch with Bullock, who’s free of Fish’s mind control — but not free of her. Though she “loves him,” Fish says, he’ll “eat a bullet” the moment the cops come through the door. The press show up en masse, Valerie leading them like a general. Barnes is distracted; Gordon is free to come up with a plan that’s actually viable.
That plan comes with the Penguin and a mob of citizens who are just barely not carrying pitchforks. Oswald is experienced in how fear works and how it can easily be coaxed into anger. “Fish Mooney dies tonight!” he screams, and the mob cheers.
NEXT: Mama’s boy
But first, Gordon has to get to Fish. He runs around to the back of the estate while Barnes staves off the mob and the press. Sid (evil Barry Allen) wants to take him out. But with Bullock as her bargaining chip, Fish knows the only other person who cares about Bullock as much as she does could be of some use as well. Gordon makes his offer: Bullock for an assist on her safe escape. Throw in Dr. Strange (him: “Wait a second…”), and it’s a deal. When he gets some privacy, Gordon gives Oswald a call and asks him how he’d like a straight shot at Fish, no law enforcement goofs in the way. Jim gets his cool million; Bullock lives to drain another handle of cheap whiskey; and with their leader neutralized, the remaining Indian Hill escapees will be easier to round up. Vigilante justice at its finest.
There’s just one problem. Oswald is an emotional little bastard with serious mommy issues. And Fish can still play him like a fiddle, no mind control necessary. Let’s face it: Despite what he tells her, if Penguin were really serious about murdering Fish, he would have done it right away. But she’s the only mother he has left. To prove it, she claims him. Fish tells Oswald how proud she is of how powerful he’s become. “Of everything I’ve done in my life,” she says, “possibly the best thing is turning Oswald Cobblepot into the Penguin.” It’s a straight-up lie; Fish always wants to be the top dog. But he takes the bait. Oswald sends off his creator and her hostage safely into the night, demanding she leave the city for good.
Still, an angry mob needs a victim, lest it turn its rage towards its leader. Bullock and Gordon exchange a look as an anonymous mass in a black body bag burns on a pyre and Oswald is raised over the heads of the bloodthirsty throng. They’ve got a bad feeling about this.
Valerie has one, too. She shows up to Gordon’s apartment that night to find out what the hell happened in those woods. She’s dead-on in assuming her sparring partner had a hand in that sketchy exchange. And if that were really Fish in the flames, she posits, Oswald wouldn’t have obscured her identity. In lieu of saying, “Forget it Val, it’s Gotham,” Gordon puts an end to her questions the best way he knows how: one blisteringly hot kiss. But it’s a truth universally acknowledged that the moment you start to move on, your ex strolls down a steamy train track and back into your life, looking like a damn ‘40s movie star. What’s Lee doing back in town, and what happened to the assumed Mr. Lee? Jim Gordon’s got one more thing to drink about.
Odds and Ends:
- Alfred and Bruce can’t get a moment of peace. One minute it’s masquerade-ready Court of Owls muscle, the next it’s Bruce’s long-haired doppelgänger looking ghostly in a broken window. Maybe they should have stayed in Switzerland.
- Let’s appreciate Valerie suddenly remembering Barbara was the deranged bride who held her ex and his current girlfriend hostage in a church (like that’s something you could ever forget).
- Cheers to B.D. Wong’s reactions and Hugo Strange being the unexpected comic relief of the night.
- Happiness is Alfred Pennyworth doing a pirouette.
- “Harvey, no hard feelings.” “Fish, screw you.”
- Ivy is a hot adult now. She seduces men with her innocence and beauty, and then kills them for disrespecting plants. How this will tap into the broader narrative, I have no idea.