Thanks to his Red Queen trip, James Gordon has reconnected with his family’s motto of service: “While we breathe, we shall defend.” When he walks through the door of the precinct — hair slicked back and tie in place — Gordon is greeted with a familiar sight: the GCPD juggling a parade of lowlifes and career criminals. But his perspective on the job has changed. Instead of seeing himself as one man standing against a hurricane of death and crime, he sees himself as his dad: coming home from work every day satisfied that he’s at least done his part as a good man in a troubled city. Jim Gordon is a cop again, and something tells me this time, it’ll stick. (Canon. Canon tells me that.)
He’s about to have his hands full, however. Chief Barnes has been showing off his incredible expanding capillaries in every episode since a drop of Alice Tetch’s blood fell into his eye at the location of her death. Finally, payoff. Barnes spots something suspicious on his way home one evening: a creep in a workman’s van, carrying a rather ungainly rug into a basement of some kind. Barnes follows the man — Paulie Pennies, a known criminal “clean-up” guy — and catches him dissolving chopped-up body parts in some kind of acid. Barnes’s rage spins out of control and Paulie sees the blood lust in his eyes. He begs to be arrested and confesses that he’s working for some guy named “Toad.” “Just take me in, okay?” he pleads, as Barnes bears down on him. “Not tonight,” Barnes growls.
The next day, the GCPD are called to a very unusual crime scene: one victim melting away in an acid bath, the other, literally torn into pieces. “This wasn’t just business,” Gordon assesses. Paulie’s murder doesn’t have the mark of an organized crime execution; it was a crime of immediacy and passion.
In guilt and desperation, Barnes visits Jervis Tetch at Arkham. Tetch already knows that his “dear sister” resides in Barnes — he waves at her — and he’s the only person who may know how to cure him. As payment, he asks Barnes what arouses his inner darkness. It’s a similar crisis to Jim’s. There’s too much guilt in this city and not enough punishment to go around. Tetch is tickled by the admission, but he has no antidote to offer. If he did, he’d hardly give Barnes the means to destroy all that’s left of Alice, his one true love. The Mad Hatter asks if Barnes has heard the voices yet. The virus will be dormant sometimes and make itself known at others, but when the voices come, that’s when Barnes will be fully doomed to see “the world as it really is.”
You know that awkward moment when you’re forced to declare your love for your ex at gunpoint while at a tea party thrown by a psychotic Mad Hatter and his professional wrestling henchmen? Gordon is still living out the aftermath of that. Mario isn’t over it yet either, even though Lee endeavors to play down the significance of Gordon’s return to the GCPD and thus, the resumption of their working relationship. They’re friendly and civil when Gordon makes his first visit down to the M.E.’s office. He genuinely doesn’t want things to be strange between them or to derail her life, regardless of how he feels. Lee tells him that the face of the victim in the acid had been removed surgically, by someone with some training. She also gives him a heads up that her engagement party is happening that evening so he doesn’t hear it from someone else. They’re so polite that it hurts. But Lee is proud of Gordon for coming back to the job and says as much. “Once a cop, always a cop,” he tells her. “For better or for worse, this is where I belong.”