Gotham recap: 'Heroes Rise: The Primal Riddle'
This week, some of Gotham‘s strongest alliances are literally tossed out the window while others are being formed. Ed Nygma is back to do his worst as the Riddler — albeit with less vexing wordplay this time — while the Court of Owls is ready to take Jim under its proverbial wing. Meanwhile, Bruce’s doppelganger’s endgame is coming into view, and Penguin and Ivy are recruiting their “Army of Freaks” just in time for a busy day.
Let’s take it from the top.
Can we all start by agreeing that Penguin doesn’t deserve Ivy Pepper? Her bubbly personality runs hilariously counter to just how vicious the girl can be, so she’s delightful to watch, and if it weren’t for her, he’d be getting nowhere fast. To be fair, Penguin does manage to talk himself out of a jam of his own creation with Mr. Fries by promising that once he’s back in power, he’ll help undo the condition that’s caused him to be stuck on ice all this time, and Fries will no longer be a cast-out pariah. But it’s Ivy who manages to scurry up the suit he needs to return to Gotham City from his ice fishing cabin.
And Bridgit Pike would have nothing to do with Penguin’s plans if it weren’t for the fact that Ivy has a connection to Selina Kyle and knows just when to say assuring things like, “There’s nothing wrong with being a freak” to lure her out of the fire pits once and for all. Of course, there’s some obvious discord running through the new squad right away — Fries and Bridgit aren’t exactly destined to be besties — but Penguin’s able to refocus his team on the task at hand: getting revenge on his former friend who now calls himself the Riddler.
After Frank’s self-sacrifice, Jim has no trouble getting into the door with Kathryn. She’s interested in Jim taking his uncle’s place on the Court, but she has to be sure that his loyalties lie with them and this isn’t some grand revenge scheme for their hand in killing his father. Considering Jim’s looking at the bigger picture right now — stopping whatever weapon they’re bringing to destroy Gotham — it’s easy enough for him to make them believe he doesn’t hold them accountable for Frank’s death.
Where Jim is not so convincing, however, is pretending to be unaware of Frank’s death, which puts him directly on Leslie’s bad list. Both she and Harvey can see right through his thinly veiled surprise that his uncle was seemingly executed; only Harvey knows why Jim’s not concerned about it — but only because he tells him as soon as Leslie is out the door.
Jim and Leslie might have had a moment at the graveyard, but as far as she’s concerned, he’s public enemy No. 1 now.
When Nygma returns to the scene, though, Jim’s greater mission to earn entry into the Court of Owls becomes more important than Leslie’s tepid promise to expose him. See, Barbara has double-crossed Jim by revealing to Nygma one of the few things she gathered from her recon mission down at the docks: There’s a secret society that really runs Gotham, and this mysterious crate delivery might have something to do with it. Barbara’s threatened by this group because it means she’s not top dog in town, while Nygma’s merely curious and looking for an excuse to make a big scene.
He targets opening night of the local Hamlet production to get the attention of the bourgeoisie because he knows they’ll all be out en masse and are most likely to know who’s really got the key to the city. He kills the lead actor in front of everyone to show he means business and leaves a present for Jim that contains, surprise surprise, a riddle — this time in iambic pentameter, as a nod to the Bard.
I am a man who holds a high position
Who shows two faces to all he rules
A fraud, criminal and sometime politician
Gotham, my constituency of fools
Jim and Harvey quickly realize the poem must be describing the interim mayor, Aubrey James, and try to offer him some protection, but he’s too concerned with his citizen-donated danishes to concern himself with the threat. But as Nygma tells Tabitha, who’s not so keen on the idea of Barbara forcing them to work with the Riddler, his plan is to make the GCPD bring the mayor to him. And all he has to do is replace the mayor’s sugar-spike meds with some placebos (with the Riddler’s signature question mark symbol on them) to get him to the hospital. Barbara and Tabitha successfully create a diversion by way of a bomb at a biker bar that brings the brawlers to the hospital in fighting mode, and voila! Mayor James is all Ed’s.
Nygma and Barbara lean on the mayor at their hiding place, and while he’s not quick with too many details, he does warn them that they’re in over their heads when it comes to the Court of Owls. “These people, they’re like gods,” he warns them. “They see and hear everything. They’ll know I talked.”
Riddler, delighted just to have a confirmation that the Court even exists, makes sure they know what he’s doing by broadcasting their torture session on TV and putting an explosive device around James’ neck to prove they can make him talk (hence the electricity riddle: “You can see me, but you cannot touch me. With the flick of a switch, I enter your home. With another, I leave you alone”). Indeed, Kathryn gets a glimpse of this and decides to call in her loyalty favor with Jim, telling him she wants the commissioner to deliver Nygma to her instead of handing him over to GCPD.
Jim wars with the prospect of playing into the hand of the Court instead of aiding justice, but he ultimately finds a way to make it happen. He convinces Tabitha to interfere with the bomb’s radio frequency to save James (by promising that when this is all through, Barbara can have a get-out-of-jail-free card, even if it does spark a spectacular argument between the lady loves), which means that he’s able to foil the Riddler’s execution scheme when they meet. To keep Nygma from just using his pistol to finish what he started, Jim offers to answer his little question about who this Court of Owls is, because we’re quickly learning that unanswered questions are the Riddler’s Achilles’ heel.
Jim doesn’t have to force Nygma to go along with Kathryn; she’s able to play the same kind of mind games with him by promising to show him the answer to the question he had Bruce Wayne ask Lucius Fox at Indian Hill — something that’s been plaguing him, apparently — at which point he willingly turns over his gun and gets in the car with her and the dock assassin.
Jim, who’s feeling a little remorseful about potentially dooming his former friend to who knows what kind of treatment by the Court, asks her what she’ll do with him, but Kathryn assures him that someone of Nygma’s intellect has value to the Court, so they’ll find some use for him. Translation: We aren’t done with the Riddler just yet. Meanwhile, Jim earns his place on the Court, fit with the masquerade ball-ready eyepiece and everything, and he’s one step closer to stopping the weapon from destroying Gotham… in theory.
Welp. We might’ve expected Alfred to be able to see through 514A’s Bruce Wayne disguise, but the doppelganger is quicker than he seems. “Bruce” chalks his odd behavior up to being disappointed by Selina’s rejection, and Bruce’s trusted aide buys it hook, line, and sinker.
But that doesn’t mean 514A’s troubles are over just yet. He starts having nosebleeds again and returns to Kathryn to find out his future; he’s going to die, she confirms, but he doesn’t seem too upset about it. In fact, he’s grateful to the Court for giving him a purpose and reassures her that he’s still completely on their side during all of this, even if it means the total devastation of Gotham.
There is still one person he’d like to save from the fallout, though. He pays a visit to Selina and reveals his true identity. He pleads for her to leave the city and protect herself from what’s to come, but this only emboldens her resolve to stay… and her dislike for 514A.
“That’s the difference between you and Bruce Wayne,” she says. “He would try to save everyone. You can pretend all you want, but you will never be him.” That’s when she lays her disgust on real thick by saying, “You’re not even a real person. You don’t matter.”
She tries to leave the apartment with the intention of filling Alfred in on the disguise, but 514A meant what he said when he committed to the Court, and, despite his feelings for Selina, pushes her out the window to stop her in her tracks. She looks dead… but once the alley cats start swarming her body, it’s pretty clear where this is heading. If she wakes up as the Catwoman, my money’s on the “Army of Freaks” getting one more member.