Gotham recap: Season 3, Episode 8
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.
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.”
Bullock and Gordon deliver their findings on the acid vic to Barnes, who pulls rank and takes the lead on the case. When the detectives balk at that, Barnes lays down the law. “I give you an order and you follow it,” he says. They are to follow the physical evidence only — so Barnes can indirectly learn more about his condition — while Barnes follows the lead.
That lead takes him to a dive bar where the Toad hangs out. Cops don’t scare him. He’s been around. Toad knows the system and its flaws. Barnes can’t deal with the arrogance. He throws Toad onto a pool table and holds a broken bottle to his cheek. Toad tells him that he’s just another middle man. The killer Barnes wants is called Symon, a “big-time plastic surgeon” who makes a pretty penny giving Gotham’s most wanted new identities. The chief is on the verge of issuing Toad a death sentence for facilitating this work when the thug calls him on his obvious loss of control: “You’re a cop.”
Toad leads Barnes to Symon in the knick of time. The good doctor has a body on his table — one with supple, valuable skin. Dr. Symon is too well-connected to sweat; he’s barely concerned that Gotham’s police chief walked in on him about to perform a face-ectomy on a living and unwilling participant. “Guilty,” the voices whisper to Barnes. There’s a witness though, so he has no choice but to take Symon in.
On the night of Lee and Mario’s engagement party, Lucius Fox is tasked with delivering the medical examiner’s findings to Bullock and Gordon. Paulie Penny’s head was relieved of his body by someone’s bare hands, and it’s clear that the GCPD is dealing with two separate killers. When Barnes brings in Symon, he pledges to Gordon that he’ll find Paulie’s murderer as well, even though any collar is just a drop in the bucket that can be siphoned out by a well-placed bribe or a good lawyer.
Symon’s arrogance wasn’t unfounded. The GCPD can’t keep him for long; he’s out of their hands before they find a damning clue: an anesthetic in his office matches the compound found in the body of the anonymous acid victim. Bullock and Gordon head to the soiree sans invitations. Symon is on Carmine Falcone’s extended guest list for the party celebrating his son and future daughter-in-law. He may be retired, but he still sees to his former associates. Barnes is already there as another invited guest, and Alice’s blood boils in his veins to see a killer like Symon swigging champagne and making small talk.
It’s too late when the newly reunited partners get there. Barnes has cornered Symon in the men’s room, and the voices are hissing over each other. It’s a cacophony composed of one repeated word: a verdict. Above the law in a lawless town, Symon jokes with Barnes about his frown lines and offers him a free consultation. Barnes holds him against the bathroom wall by his neck and dismisses any remaining hints of his faith in protocol. Like Jervis Tetch promised, the virus has cleared his mind. Now Barnes can see that all of Gotham is guilty of birthing and harboring hoodlums and felons. The system has failed and a new law must prevail. “I am judge, jury, and executioner,” he snarls. He shoves Symon through the wall and out into the night. “Sentence served.” But Symon doesn’t die on impact. He lives at least long enough to answer Gordon when he ask who’s done this to him.
NEXT: Breakin’ up is hard to do
Mario and Lee’s engagement party doesn’t just provide the very public setting for Barnes’ breakdown. It also underlines the divide between the old and new guard of Gotham’s underworld. Notice that the mayor and his staff were not invited. Oswald is too busy for parties these days anyway, consumed as he is by getting the beautiful Isabella out of Ed’s life as quickly as possible. Ed is still ignorant of Oswald’s feelings for him and so expects his friend to be a helpful sounding board when relationship drama arises. Isabella and Ed have eased into an intimate romance and all the surprise breakfasts that one entails. But Ed is confronted by his old demons when he sees Isabella in her “back-up” glasses — a pair nearly identical to Miss Kringle’s.
Oswald is only too happy to provide Ed support during their break-up. (“You’re smiling.”) He heartily agrees that if Ed doesn’t feel he can trust himself not to hurt Kristen’s look-alike, then he must end things now. Ed puts the Dear John task in Oswald’s hands. What kind of blessing to get the okay from your crush to stamp on the heart of your competition on their behalf? But Isabella isn’t easily stamped. She reads Oswald like one of her books. “He loves me and I love him. Do you know how rare that is, Mr. Mayor?” she asks, after he tries to give her the boot. “Of course you do. Because you love him, too. I can see it. I’m not even jealous.”
She sees his desperation, but Isabella is either unaware of Oswald’s viciousness or thinks Ed is worth the risk. She’s not going anywhere. Instead of bowing out, Isabella dares Ed to regress by giving herself a Kringle makeover. She offers herself to him like that, and the combination of vulnerability and brazenness does the trick. Perhaps Isabella believed that Oswald’s love for Ed meant that the mayor would want him to be happy, no matter the circumstances. But Oswald’s love is possessive and it never learned to share. One of his employees cuts Isabella’s brakes. And if the train really met her car, that’s two Nygma girlfriends Gotham has fridged.
Odds & Ends:
- At some point, Lee is going to have to deal with Mario’s jealousy and Gordon’s relative maturity. Mario won’t come off well.
- “Don’t let the bastards haze you too hard, rookie.” The worst part of this Executioner business is that it’s interrupting the nice father/son dynamic Barnes and Gordon are developing.
- “You’re right. I don’t deserve him.” “Glad we agree, bye.”
- How many cans of hairspray had to die in the name of Carmine’s cocktail party?
- I just feel like Barbara has to have better things to do than hover on the edges of Jim’s life. Or at least more fun things.
- “I thought he might be at the bar.” Never fear, Harvey will never let an open tab go to waste.
Episode grade: B