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'Gotham' recap: 'Mad City: Executioner'

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Jeff Neumann/Fox

Gotham

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
2
run date:
09/22/14
performer:
Donal Logue, Ben McKenzie, Jada Pinkett Smith
broadcaster:
Fox
genre:
Crime, ActionAdventure

In theory, justice is about absolutes. But rarely in reality is it uncomplicated. The good of Gotham City have killed and done other unsavory things, yet they’re still holding it down for Team Righteous. And in the best cases, our villains are three dimensional enough to inspire a great deal of empathy. Alice Tetch’s blood virus has turned Chief Barnes into a soul that can’t stomach the shades of gray that color the city and so refuses to acknowledge that they exist.

Barnes is a person of interest in Jim Gordon’s own investigation into the death of Dr. Symon at Lee and Mario’s engagement party. And why shouldn’t he be, when the man identified his killer with his dying breath? Jim can’t ignore it, even though “the last thing” he wants is for this to be the truth. He knows he can’t share this clue with the rest of the force yet, so he ropes Harvey into helping him look for evidence implicating Barnes. Harvey will do it, but only to clear his boss’ name. That’s good enough for Jim.

While Harvey goes back to the scene to dust for fingerprints, Jim takes a clandestine tour of Barnes’ office. He finds Alice Tetch’s file on the man’s desk and eyes it suspiciously. Barnes catches him snooping, fresh off of another unauthorized trial. Emboldened by his acts in the last episode, Barnes is on a role, taking out criminals who he hasn’t been able to punish with police work. As an added bonus, the virus also made him kickass at speeches. He delivers one about the whispers in his brain that “become roars,” calling him to his true purpose. Then he kicks out the chairs under a dangling sex trafficker, drug dealer, and murderer. Is the world a safer place with them out of it? Maybe, but Barnes’ carriage of justice is a whole new brand of recklessness. Playing god is its own crime.

Barnes heard from the witnesses to Symon’s death that Jim spoke to the man right before. He asks his detective point blank if Symon identified his killer. Jim lies and says he tried to and failed. Then Barnes spins a story about a trusty C.I. and a mob connection. His words invite Jim to tag along with him to pay the visit to a “mid-level enforcer” by the name of Sugar. (Killing it on the gangster names this year, show.) But his tone demands it. He prevents Jim from checking in with Harvey before they leave, but Jim calls him from the car to tell him to show up to the address, just in case.

I’ve had uncomfortable car rides with bosses before, but wow. Barnes is operating under the assumption that Jim already knows what he did, but that he doesn’t know why. (Though Jim did pretty much call his motive in his earlier conversation with Harvey.) He taunts him by ordering that the detective take his statement. And then the formerly by-the-book Barnes explains to an increasingly horrified Jim that their “cesspool” of a city is in the market for “good men” who aren’t bound by any badge. Jim tried that, thank you very much, but he’s back to coloring inside the lines. There’s so much more they can do, Barnes says. It’s up to Jim to decide if he’s willing to flout the law to protect and serve.

They arrive at the warehouse — at a different address than the one Jim repeated to Harvey — and approach Sugar with guns drawn. The man has an alibi for the night of Symon’s death, albeit a sleazy one. But one death is just specifics to Barnes. Sugar is guilty of a great many other crimes, so he gets a bullet to the chest. Barnes turns the gun on Jim.

NEXT: Join or die

[pagebreak]

Jim drags the body away at gunpoint while Barnes makes his case. The Tetch blood has mangled the mentor/mentee relationship between the two. Now Barnes wants Jim as his partner in distributing lethal vigilante justice. Jim is hopeful when he connects the dots between Barnes’ personality transplant and the Alice Tetch file. But Barnes isn’t interested in getting help and letting this new him go. If Jim’s not willing to cross over to the dark side, Barnes will frame him for this man’s death. Either way, Jim is screwed. And the last time he made the call to end a life, he “lost everything.” So he makes the noble decision and declines the offer. They’re interrupted by one of Sugar’s friends just as Barnes is about to pull the trigger, and Jim makes a run for it.

It’s easy for Barnes to spin their field trip into something very bad for Jim. Harvey sees Alvarez and other cops suiting up and learns that his boss called the precinct to say that Jim Gordon had lost it completely and killed an unarmed man. Harvey doesn’t believe it for a second, but he can’t stop the dominoes from falling. Jim calls to tell him what’s really going on: that Barnes killed a man in front of him and was now setting the GCPD against him. (“I was gone for like an hour.”) Harvey thinks fast and approaches Lee in her office. He needs proof that Barnes is infected and thus entirely unreliable. Even if she has to make it up. Jim’s life is on the line. “Right now,” he says, “you and I are all he has.”

Barnes chases Jim through the foundry and eventually catches up. He hears sirens and Barnes advances on Jim, explaining that he’s going to kill him and claim self-defense against a psychotic murderer. But when Harvey’s voice reaches them, he’s demanding that Barnes drop his weapon and come out with his hands up. Jim takes advantage of the distraction and body-checks Barnes. A struggle ends in guns drawn and pointed at each other. Barnes won’t drop his gun. If Jim is so adverse to killing guilty men, then he won’t shoot. But Jim won’t let him go either. Two shots ring out, and Harvey bursts in the room to find Barnes on the floor with a gunshot wound.

Jim didn’t shoot to kill. Barnes is alive, but the case against him is as straightforward and undeniable as he would have liked all his collars to be. He’s sentenced to Arkham, doomed to breathe the same air as criminals who didn’t get the execution they deserved. Jim lost a mentor, but he learned how far his friends would go for him. Harvey and Lee let their faith in Jim be their guide. They tap-danced all over the law, but in the interest of saving a life, not taking one. It’s major to Jim, to see that Lee would stake her reputation for him even now. (Mario should have a go-bag ready.)

Ivy may have the better philosophy than Barnes about giving creeps what they deserve. Aged up and lovely, Selina’s old friend has discovered a fundamental truth about the world: “When you look like this, guys just come up to you and give you stuff.” She’s getting by on her feminine wiles, and frankly, I’m rooting for her. But Ivy crosses the wrong man when she fleeces an antiquities dealer who pronounces “objects” the fancy French way. She shows up to Selina’s squat because her game isn’t fun any more. The anonymous man (“Like I learn their names”) attacked Ivy when he realized what she’d taken. Ivy comes to Selina for help, and Selina summons Bruce in turn.

NEXT: A shoulder to cry on

[pagebreak]

While Selina chastises Ivy for being a blatant thief instead of a stealthy one, a couple of men with steampunk crossbows break into the squat. The three duck them, but Selina’s residence is still made. Ivy assumes that the dealer sent these men after her. The solution is simple, Bruce supplies. All she needs to do is to give the emerald necklace back to him. Clearly, it’s important. But Ivy still has the stubbornness of a pre-teen, and she figures she’s earned the trophy. Bruce offers to buy it from her so everyone’s happy. But then the three arrive at the man’s house and find him shot in the eye by one of his presumed henchman’s arrows. Selina throws the necklace in frustration, breaking it and revealing a key. Perhaps the man was so enraged by Ivy’s theft because his ownership of that key became public. He died for it, and now the key’s new owners are the target. Bruce offers the ladies safe lodging while they figure out who these men are and what this key unlocks. Ivy doesn’t seem to get the gravity of the situation, but she does think it’s pretty hilarious that Bruce and Selina are dating, albeit in a very bizarre, clumsy way.

Attraction is just currency for Ivy. It’s the “nothing” she gives for what she takes. Turn that dial way, way up and you’ve got Edward Nygma: stressing about Isabella’s radio silence over a Bloody Mary brunch with Oswald. He gets a call from the GCPD and fears the worst. He worried from the beginning that their relationship was cosmically doomed, and the other shoe has finally hit the floor. When he identifies Isabella’s body, Oswald is right there to offer comfort. Ed falls into Oswald’s embrace right there. And though Oswald clutches him and beams like this plan to force Ed’s love is working, Ed looks completely vacant.

Oswald is so tragic because he is completely ruled by his feelings. He’s also a true narcissist; he wants to control how Ed mourns. He wants it to be all about him. When he put the hit out on Isabella, Oswald was picturing less of Ed wrapped up in blankets and listening to sad opera alone, and more restorative cuddles. He disguises his desire for Ed to just speed up the grieving process already by giving him some friendly advice: “Ed, I as much as everyone know how hard it is to lose someone. Even if you’ve only known them like a week. But this is not healthy behavior. It is depressing and if I’m being honest, a bit scary.” He counsels Ed to “move on,” and the “with me” is silent. Ed sits up tall and announces that he’ll say goodbye to his love at the scene of her death. It’s a start. And when Oswald gets her name wrong, Ed coldly corrects him.

At the tracks, Ed finds reason to question the events of her death as described by the police. Why would Isabella have fallen asleep at the wheel a mere four blocks from their home? Why was she screaming before the impact, as a homeless man remembered? He examines her car himself and finds the brake lines cut. Ed returns to the mansion with a fire in his eyes. He can’t even properly admire how Oswald instructed that Ed’s likeness be added to his mayoral portrait. Ed knows who murdered Isabella and then paid the police off to keep significant details of the accident out of the case file. Oswald’s life flashes before his eyes, and then: “Butch.” This was revenge, Ed says. Oswald is delighted to declare a new vendetta against his old body man and to have another reason to collude with his unrequited love. His crush already has a body count. What’s one more?

Odds & Ends:

  • Lee is sticking with her Jersey poof as long as she’s with Mario, and I love that detail.
  • “I can imagine librarian conferences can be hectic affairs.”
  • “I think this office is cursed.”

Episode Grade: B+

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