Two pieces of the puzzle are quickly coming together for the Court of Owls’ plan to devastate Gotham, but there’s one wild card they seemingly were not expecting: the return of Oswald Cobblepot from his watery grave. With the Riddler currently indisposed, the Penguin has time to shill for the good guys with his Freak Army in exchange for access to his old frenemy. He even helps stop Kathryn from giving a portion of the town’s most powerful citizens some bitter medicine. But it all spins out a little too cleanly with Penguin’s help, doesn’t it?
Let’s start from the top.
The episode begins with Kathryn’s assassins paying a little visit to Arkham Asylum to see one very special patient: Captain Barnes. Kathryn might not be able to get ahold of Alice Tetch’s blood to extract that mad virus directly, but Strange can siphon it off of one of the most potently infected victims, and that should do the trick just fine. It’s now weaponized and airborne.
Lee’s still snooping around for further details on Frank Gordon’s death and has herself convinced that his COD was homicide, not suicide, based on the fact that the bullet in his brain was replaced — a classic sign of a cover-up, in her professional (and personal) opinion. Harvey asks her to stay away from the case and insists there’s nothing going on, but she can see through the ruse and takes personal offense to being lied to. But Harvey’s got no time to change her mind right now because…
Jim is attending the newest Court meeting, wherein Kathryn informs everyone that Gotham’s demolition is imminent. He’s out of time to play coy about it. He decides to find out what he can about Kathryn the old-fashioned way: by running a print off of her mask after the meeting is adjourned. Jim is almost caught in the act, but he thinks on his feet by playing dumb about the loved-ones rescue list that they’ve been asked to fill out and manages to get the prints to Harvey.
Once Harvey runs the print and gets Gordon an address, he decides he’s got to go to Kathryn’s house and try to find out what he can about the weapon in person. It’s a dangerous recon mission, but he’s out of options at this point. En route, though, he runs into the Penguin, who wants answers on what happened to Ed Nygma. Penguin has a sneaking (and accurate) suspicion that the Riddler didn’t so much escape his custody as he was handed off to the Owls. Gordon tries to pull a “not now” on him, but that’s not gonna cut it. Penguin hands Jim a phone with instructions to facilitate a meeting with Ed and/or this secret powerful society by the end of the day, or else he‘ll pull Riddler’s trick and try to smoke them out with a fiery publicity stunt.
Eventually, Jim makes way to Kathryn’s lavish townhouse and sees that it’s surprisingly normal — well, normal except for the secret drawer that contains a Wayne access badge, which he quickly pockets before Kathryn and her security detail walk in and find him. He has no means of escape, so he plays it off as though he’s only there to find out details about this grand annihilation scheme and what it’s all for.
Now, either Kathryn knows what he’s really there for, or she’s just that quick to pass positive judgment on these Gordon boys, but she decides to fill him on what she’s really after.
“Gotham is sick,” she says. “To heal the city, we have to force them to take notice by showing the people of Gotham the darkest part of their souls.”
Just from that, Jim’s heard enough to intuit that the Alice Tetch virus is somehow involved, and that’s when, boom, he connects that revelation to Barnes’ transfer to another facility. Jim and Harvey loop in Lucius Fox, who’s able to narrow down what the access card means — that there’s another offsite R&D lab where Barnes is probably being stowed away for blood sampling. With a shot of detective work, they’re able to narrow that list down to just one location.
It’s all coming together a little too conveniently for Jim’s taste, especially once they enter the facility with absolutely no security on site. It doesn’t take them long to discover, though, that the reason there are no guards at the gate is that they’ve been slaughtered by patient zero, whom Strange first tested the Alice Tetch plague on.
“I didn’t want to kill these people. I just lost control,” patient zero says. “I’m the good guy here.” Once they try to calm him down, though, his rage sets in again, and he accuses Jim of being “just like them” and “out to get” him. Now, this guy might be scrawny and outnumbered, but he easily takes down both Jim and Harvey and comes this close to choking Gordon out before Strange steps in and injects him with another agent.
Not for nothing, but it saves Jim’s life. Even so, Harvey’s ready to put cuffs on Strange for facilitating all of these murders, but Strange manages to talk him out of arresting the Court’s head scientist by pointing out that if they do, Kathryn will know that Strange spoke to them and knows about the weapon. If she believes his lab has been compromised, she’ll only be encouraged to disseminate the poison sooner. He offers up his research and a strain of the virus as goodwill for keeping the operation off the GCPD grid for now.
As luck would have it, Kathryn has an idea in mind herself and calls Jim to say she agrees that he has proven his loyalty to the Court and deserves to be brought into the fold of this weapon plan. Upon arrival, he’s stripped of his phone and weaponry and told that the Alice Tetch virus is about to be unleashed on a room full of about 200 Gotham socialites and their children. If he lets it happen, he’s in with the in crowd; if he doesn’t, her trusty assassin will execute Jim on the spot.
The timer reads 15 minutes, which gives Jim plenty of time to think about her proposition. We know as well as Kathryn does that Jim’s impulse is to protect people, but will he allow her plan to unfold without interference to save his own skin? Not a chance. Kathryn and Co. didn’t anticipate him having a second phone in his pocket — the one Penguin gave him for contact about Ed Nygma — so Jim dials that on the sly and starts talking to Kathryn’s hired assassin about their whereabouts, describing the building and the fact that there’s a bomb.
Penguin’s been desperately waiting for that call, and he’s smart enough to interpret what he’s being told, even if it isn’t directly.
Just as Lee is being told by Lucius and Bullock that no, Jim isn’t a murderer but is rather trying to prevent what happened to Mario from happening to anyone else, that’s exactly what instinct wins out. Jim can’t just hope Penguin will arrive on time with an army Jim doesn’t even know exists, so he starts a fight he can’t win with the assassin and loses, badly. This is the second time in the span of hours that Jim’s been handed his keister — after this is all said and done, he needs to re-enroll in the Academy’s self-defense training program.
Thanks to Penguin and Bridgit Pike’s timely arrival, though, Jim’s execution is thwarted by a furnace blast to the face of the assassin, who’s then thrown to his death through a glass window in the room with the bomb. The girls are then instructed to run before the Tetch poison begins to fill the room, and voila. They’re saved.
Penguin’s still not satisfied because he’s gotten exactly zero answers about the Riddler or the Court, but Jim assures him that with what he’s just done to the Court’s trustiest assassin, they’ll be in touch sooner rather than later. Indeed, as Penguin is transported to a jail cell, demanding to speak to the person in charge, he’s delighted to see that his warden is none other than Ed Nygma himself. It’s time for a reckoning, y’all.
In other news, Selina Kyle has risen from the dead, thanks to some tender loving care by Ivy Pepper and her parade of plants. But because no one can ever seem to show Ivy any gratitude, all Selina will offer when she wakes up is a cold shoulder. Everyone Ivy brings back to life is on a revenge mission right now, apparently, and Selina is no exception. Her destination of choice will be Wayne Manor, so she can go kill that impostor who’s running around with Bruce Wayne’s identity.
But her retaliation play might be fruitless anyway because the Owls’ plans for him are working out just swimmingly.
Sure, the shaman told Bruce (the real one) that Kathryn and the Owls were just a bunch of pawns in his game, but she’s the one he answers to when she dials in for a status check.
He’s successfully convinced Bruce Wayne that the hurt and anger that he felt after his parents’ passing is preventing him from being something special. “Your rage, Bruce, it blinds you. You seek to control it, and yet it controls you, and it has ever since that night. Rage and pain are two sides of the same coin,” he says. “I can release you from the pain of that night, and when I do, nothing will be able to stop you.”
What it takes for Bruce to win his fight against the no-name sparring partner he’s been paired with is feeling absolutely nothing at all.
So, while Kathryn is weaponizing a rage virus to be used on everyone else, she’s dimming the emotional lights on Bruce Wayne altogether. Coincidence? Nah. But what does it mean? Do they expect Bruce to come in and save Gotham from itself to create this artificial sense of heroism, or what?
As for how Jim fits into everything, well, Kathryn is ready to let Barnes off his leash provided he uses all that pent-up anger to take down her chosen target: Jim Gordon. “Someone I thought was loyal to me has been deceiving me from the start,” she tells him. “Jim Gordon threatens to undo what we both seek. I need you to kill him before he can do that.”
Barnes is all too delighted to have a kill list fashioned for him and agrees that he’ll indeed be Jim’s executioner. As if Gordon needed someone else to place a target on his back right about now.