Bruce Wayne finds his destiny as Gotham combats the Alice Tetch virus
This half of Gotham‘s third season has been filled with so many moving parts that, at times, it’s been a bit dizzying to keep track of who wants to kill whom and why. But tonight’s two-part finale sews up those dangling threads rather seamlessly and presents a new and, dare I say, optimistic vision for the future of this city.
It’s fair to say that Gotham has moved at warp speed through some of the developments in its most recent episodes — consider Bruce’s almost-overnight personality makeover with the Shaman, Jim’s blink-and-you’d-miss-it ascension through the Court of Owls ranks, and Ivy’s inexplicable allegiance to Oswald. Tonight, though, that breakneck pace feels almost like a bit of mercy because who wants to spend too much time with Gotham in shambles like this?
Yes, the city has fallen right into ruins, just as Kathryn wanted. As it turns out, the strand of the virus that Mario had were merely a prototype, and Strange has since developed something a lot more efficient at consuming its host. This is why the infected are already merrily running roughshod over the city and why Jim is struggling to stave off those effects in himself. The virus gives volume to that little voice inside a person’s head that tells them to act on their darkest instincts, and his is telling him he’s a killer, urging him to own his rage. Harvey knows that he’s trying to beat it back through sheer force of will, but with the department already overrun with looters and shooters swarming the entire city, Jim can’t be trusted with a piece just yet.
The good news is that Lucius Fox suspects that Strange made an antidote to the Alice Tetch virus (next season, this man needs more lines than just these convenient stroke-of-brilliance asides, guys). After being let go by Alfred in exchange for information on the explosive device that would’ve infected more people than it did, Strange is running scared, knowing full well what’s going to happen to Gotham. But tracking him down isn’t the real trouble Jim and Harvey will have when it comes to getting their hands on his cure.
See, there are competing factions of opportunists roaming about without any supervision right now. Fish Mooney has returned from the dead, courting the Penguin to join her ranks (which makes exactly zero sense, since he killed her, but for convenience’s sake, we’ll have to allow it). She wants control of the city and thinks the virus might be one way to get it. When she finds out there’s an antidote, her interests are even more piqued; that’s gold in a goblet right there. Same goes for Barbara, who’s been just waiting for a chance to truly seize the city. She convinces Ed to put his little vengeance mission against Penguin on the back burner so that he’ll help her “consolidate power,” but he’s still got his own, very singular mission in mind.
Fish manages to snatch Strange from the train station before he can board, and although she’s almost intercepted by Gordon and Harvey, her odd alignment with Penguin starts to pay off, since she’s able to make good use of his henchman, Freeze, to summon up an ice wall and steal Strange away.
Freeze (and Bridgit) are all too happy to help Fish and Penguin deal with Strange because they’ve both still got grudges against the man who made them into “freaks” to begin with. Penguin decides to deliver Strange a taste of his own torture medicine — or, as Strange calls it, therapy — by placing a device on his head that’ll make him feel like he’s having hot lava poured down his decapitated body. So it’s a fun day for everyone, basically.
It doesn’t take long for Strange to cough up the goods on where the antidote serum is located, and great news! There’s enough to cure every person in town. But Jim’s hot on their case, having partially submitted to his viral strength long enough to break through the ice wall, and although he knows it’s risky to keep letting himself be overcome by the virus, he uses his super strength again to fight off Fish’s goons and take her down (again), inadvertently destroying the cure vials in the process. This time, she’ll go willingly into that good night, even though she had aspirations of Gotham-wide domination not five minutes before. Harrumph. Oswald’s pretty upset about it, but Virus-Jim has no time to suffer his histrionics. He has Penguin cuffed and thrown in the slammer at the precinct, along with Strange, and since neither has been infected, they can’t just pry those bars away from themselves like others have…
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One person who does manage to escape his binds is Jervis Tetch, who’s sprung from his transport vehicle by Butch, who’s still a liege of Barbara but is this close to convincing Tabitha to defect with him. Why? Well, he thinks she’s a traitor for cozying up to Nygma and treating her real minions like crap all the time. Oh, and apparently he and Tabby have something romantic brewing between them, too, as odd as that might be. For now, though, they’ve somehow done the math on how vital Jervis Tetch is to Strange’s second cure, and Barbara wants to use him as leverage now (she’s got enough eyes and ears around town to know the existing cure has been destroyed, I guess).
All the while, Bruce has been en route to figuring out his place in this whole mess. Alfred offers him a pep talk at the station, conjuring up ooey-gooey memories to shake him out of his sensei-induced trance. Alfred assures Bruce that whatever the shaman/sensei told him about himself is a fiction and that his true self exists not in the pain that his parents’ death caused him, but in the love that they gave him during his still-short lifetime… and in the paternal love Alfred still has for him. And while it seems that his message might just be getting through to Bruce’s mind, without the use of those fancy hallucinogenic needles the shaman liked so well, a ruckus in the station from a turned officer gives Bruce the distraction he needs to escape the interrogation room and take to the streets.
He was told, once upon a time, to find the Yuyan, a “demon’s head,” to fulfill his destiny, and lo, he manages to find a random alleyway door that bears the exact phrase and has a secret passageway just waiting for his arrival. Once inside, he meets Ra’s al Ghul, an ageless demon who also goes by the name demon, saint, ghost, and every other imaginable creature of mythology. He’s the true leader who sent the sensei to train Bruce, and he wants Bruce to become his heir.
Bruce feels compelled to follow him, promising that he will not fail in this task like he did in triggering the virus bomb. But his mission is much more personal this time. Alfred followed Bruce to this darkened lair and has been captured by Ra’s al Ghul’s hitmen; Bruce has to kill Alfred to become worthy of his supposed destiny, and he doesn’t seem sure whether he will or won’t. But Alfred actually talks him into it. After reminding him, again, that he’s the man who held Bruce since his first day out of the hospital and would lay his life on the line for him, he says that if this is the occasion when he must make good on that oath, he’ll do it. Alfred might’ve been trying for some reverse psychology there, but Master Bruce takes him at his word and stabs him right in the sternum before realizing what a grave mistake he’s just made to kill the one person who truly loved him in this world.
As brainwashed as he may have been, though, to stab the butler in the basement with a sword (how’s that for a Clue combo?) it doesn’t take long for reality to set in for Bruce. He snaps right out of whatever spell the sensei and Ra’s al Ghul had him under and vows he’ll never follow the demon into whatever disaster life he’s lived all these centuries. But Ra’s al Ghul assures him it’s too late, now; he’ll summon Bruce when he’s ready for him, and he can use the vat of green water that’s been hanging out in the middle of the room to revive his trusty pal in the meantime. So, basically, a demon has Bruce on speed dial now, and there’s nothing he can do about it. Bummer.
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Barbara delivers her lengthy list of demands to the mayor if he wants to get Tetch to Strange to make a new cure. Harvey brings it to Jim, but his partner’s already on edge, because, ya know, he’s infected, and Lee’s been ringing him to try to convince him to scrape away what remains of his humanity and come be blissful with her in badness. Even despite his accelerating rage, though, Jim can see the sham that is Barbara’s apparent alliance with Nygma.
Jim knows that Nygma really just wants the Penguin, and he’d gladly give up Jervis Tetch in exchange for him. And since Penguin just so happens to be in Jim’s possession at the station, he believes he can effectuate a sly trade with the Riddler. Harvey’s not a fan of this idea — “Penguin, Nygma, and Tetch in the same room for a high-stakes hostage swap; what could go wrong?!” he muses. But, like always, he goes along with Jim’s plan because that’s what sidekicks do.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, Barbara caught a whiff of the subterfuge and followed Nygma to the meeting locale with Butch and Tabitha in tow. She bursts through in a fit of rage, and Ed throws a grenade to distract her. Somehow, Oswald manages to kidnap Ed from the scene — mostly only because Barbara turns her henchmen (and henchwomen)’s attention away from them and onto Jervis. But Jim, fueled by the fury of the virus that’s quickly overtaking him, thinks fast and drains Tetch of his blood to take back to Strange at the station, knowing full well that he and Harvey wouldn’t be able to get him out of there without a fight with Barbara.
This failure to launch her plot leaves Barbara on the run, as Butch and Tabitha finally figure out that neither one of them want to follow her into oblivion this time. They decide it’s time to take down their queen. But it won’t be that easy. Barbara’s seen them whispering, and she confronts Butch before he can get that far. To Butch’s credit, he tells Babs that Tabitha had nothing to do with his plot to kill her, and she puts a bullet in his brain as thanks. But Tabitha doesn’t care if Barbara knows she wanted her dead, and when Babs confronts her at the safe house, the two engage in a whip-versus-gunfire fight (and a kiss). Tabitha surprisingly comes out on top by throwing a massive lamp into a puddle Barbara’s standing in and electrocuting her to death. Bye bye, Barbara.
Penguin and Nygma are also coming to overdue blows. Penguin has Ed handcuffed in the back of a squad car, and he delights in his sudden fortune to be in the position to get revenge against the man who tried to kill him at long last. But while Penguin gabs away about his good luck, Ed’s hands are busy finding a pin buried in the seat cushion that he can use to unlock the cuffs. He uses his own verbal assault to get Oswald to pull over and open the door, derides him for being a liar and a phony, overtakes him (and his gun), and hops in the driver’s seat.
Where to? The docks, of course. By killing — or at least trying to kill — Oswald in the first place, right here, Ed Nygma was able to shed his name and become the Riddler, but ever since Oswald returned to his life, in non-hallucinated form that is, he hasn’t been able to embrace his new identity. So this is where he must end. But Oswald has no final words or last requests at the edge because, as it turns out, there are no bullets in that gun. Oswald removed them and planted the pin while Nygma was knocked out. And he anticipated Ed’s execution location of choice, calling his Army of Freaks to wait for him there.
“I may be driven by my emotions, but you are driven but something much more predictable: a desperate and compulsive need to complete what you started in exacting fashion,” Penguin gloats. But he’s not going to kill Ed Nygma — well, not exactly. Instead, he beckons Mr. Freeze to put him on ice so that he can remain as a monument to Penguin’s momentary lapse in judgment, a reminder to never make the same mistake again. To make the situation extra gruesome, frozen Ed is now a centerpiece at Penguin’s new tavern, cleverly called The Iceberg Lounge as a tribute to more than just his own nickname. Talk about a dish of revenge served cold.
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Back in Strangeland, the doctor is able to formulate a rapid-fire vial of the cure for Jim, but just one. That’s unsatisfactory for Jim, who wants to save Lee from herself first. He takes the vial, above Harvey’s protestations, to meet Lee, but she quickly disposes of the vial before he can inject her with it. She doesn’t want that; she wants him, consumed in full by the Tetch virus so that they can retreat from Gotham together and live a life of boundless lust and lasciviousness at long last.
After fighting it for so long, Jim has no choice but to concede. He finally lets the virus overtake him and is pure putty in Lee’s hands. The two break into the train station through the back way, so as to avoid the virus check points, but before they can board, Harvey shows up to offer one last-ditch effort to stop his friend from going to the dark side.
Showing him his badge, Harvey reminds Jim of who he truly is: a fine officer of the law. But Jim treats his old pal to a few wallops against the metal side of the train and boards anyway. Upon turning over the badge, though, he realizes that Harvey has slipped him two small vials of the cure and finally sees the light again. He injects Lee, who’s devastated by his decision to do so, and then, holding her hand, cures himself as well.
He doesn’t know that this will inspire Lee to take leave of the city, possibly for good, without him, but even if he did, he’d probably have cured her anyway because, yes, he does love her. She leaves him a goodbye note that promises this isn’t the end for them. “If having the virus allowed Gotham to embrace its worst self, the cure should remind us there is always hope. A chance to remember who we can be, rather than who we are. I don’t know if Gotham deserves saving, but I do know one thing. If anyone can save it it’s you, and in return, I believe it can save you as well, and then maybe one day, it will send you back to me,” she writes. But it’s the last we’ll see of her for a while, it seems.
For now, Jim will have to be content with having mid-afternoon brews with Harvey, who’s quick to forgive him his trainside trespasses.
Perhaps their first new mission will be to figure out the true identity of Butch, who’s still alive (albeit unconscious) and has another name on file: Cyrus Gold.
As for what becomes of Bruce, well, he fights with Selina (again) and sends her straight into Tabitha’s arms. Alfred pulls through and wakes up in the hospital, happy to discover that his old charge once again considers him family rather than foe. Bruce admits that he’s been so lost and has just been looking for his destiny all his life, and this shaman said all the right things at the right time — and let’s not forget, he also trapped him in an inescapable maze house until he submitted, whether willingly or not. Alfred easily forgives him for stabbing him in the chest. After all, he’s pledged his life to the boy, so what’s a little fatality? He tells Bruce that he just needs to find the one thing he cares about enough to give his life to it, and his destiny will present itself.
And as the news flashes by that Gotham’s on the mend again, he figures it out. Bruce is going to protect the city. He’s no weapon for the axis of evil; he’s a hero. And he starts off right where all of this began, by intercepting a would-be armed robbery in the alleyway that looks an awful lot like the one the Waynes went through so many years before — only this time, there’s someone to stop the child involved from becoming an orphan like himself.
As he stands on the rooftop, admiring the city he’s now sworn fealty to, a spotlight flashes by to assure us that, yes, Gotham’s knight has risen once and for all. Boom.