Bruce threatens the Court of Owls and Gordon chases down a scientifically enhanced Fish Mooney
Last time around, Gotham touted the “Rise of the Villains” in a season title that was both apt and not. The bad went worse, to be sure, but this city has never been home to sunshine and rainbows. In the end, that title was revealed to be somewhat ironic. The most powerful villains in Gotham took hold long ago and conduct their business in secret. Or at least they did, until their cover was blown by a major jailbreak.
When we last left that dingy metropolis, the monstrous denizens of the Wayne-Industries-funded mad-scientist playground Indian Hill escaped the “just kidding!” bomb their creator Dr. Hugo Strange kept as insurance and took off into the night. Fish Mooney 2.0 was their de facto leader and still is when we see her again. Master Bruce was made aware that the shadowy Court of Owls is the invisible hand that guides his parents’ company, though he doesn’t know much more about the organization than its name. And Jim Gordon tried to leave his depressive, swimming-against-the-current existence behind in order to find Lee and try to have to a happy life.
That happy life is out there, but Lee is living it with someone else. Even through a windowpane, Lee looks like she belongs in a tastefully decorated living room more than she belongs at the mercy of every gangster and weirdo in Gotham — and the father of the child she lost could not look more out of place on her suburban doorstep. Honestly, it’s like an extra from Donnie Brasco wandered onto the Pleasantville set during lunch. Still, Gordon doesn’t even give Lee the chance to see he tried. He leaves, and over a period of time Gotham skips over, reinvents himself as a methodical bounty hunter living off the GCPD’s per-goon fees.
Now Gordon hangs around the precinct with Harvey, like the dropout who still swings by to smoke a homemade cigarette on the bleachers after school. With the help of Lucius Fox — now employed by the department as a scientific analyst of sorts — Harvey and Jim begin to note the pattern in the robberies carried out by Indian Hill escapees. They’re on the hunt for medication and are quite obviously desperate for it. Jim thinks this sounds an awful lot like police work and excuses himself.
Oswald Cobblepot continues to be Gotham’s strongest character, and I like him best when he and Gordon are working towards some version of the same goal. This particular goal is a throwback to their shared mission in season 1; at least, Oswald would like it to be. The Penguin waddles into the GCPD in the middle of a press conference to demand the capture of Fish, his former boss and forever rival. Gordon is a more effective ally than the cops in that regard, or at least that’s what Barnes and the mayor are trying to downplay in front of the press. Oswald knows it. But Gordon isn’t about “saving Gotham” anymore; Fish has to be priced right for him to get involved.
NEXT: A very literal Bat-Man
For some reason, Oswald doesn’t directly offer Gordon a reward. It makes no sense, since Gordon isn’t on the job anymore and wouldn’t be morally averse to a bribe. But the plot purpose of Oswald starting an underground game of telephone to get this information to Gordon is really to get himself and Butch past the velvet rope and into Barbara and Tabitha’s new club. It’s a hard visit for Butch, who’s still lovesick over his Tabby. But Barbara and Tabitha have traded serving men for serving martinis to Gotham’s corrupt and powerful, and they look lethally glamourous while they do it. They’re the only villains living high when the season begins, and I can’t help but think they earned it.
Jamie Chung joins the cast in this episode as Valerie Vale, aunt to Vicki, a future Bruce love interest. Like her comic-book niece, she’s a journalist. When she tracks Gordon down at his favorite day-drinking bar, she brings the news about the $1 million bounty on Fish. She blocks his gruff and obtuse cop-speak like a pro (“So this is where you tell me things work differently here?”), but the newcomer still needs Gordon to vet Oswald’s Fish-y fear. Yep, he confirms. It’s legit. And if she’s really leading that army, Gotham is in for it. (When isn’t Gotham in for it?)
Fortunately, Penguin has one true friend to buck him up in this low moment. The premiere’s best scene didn’t do much to further the story, but went a long way towards illuminating the human shades of two cartoonish characters. And with the bad guys at Gotham‘s core, it’s necessary for some nuance to be tossed in with the mania. The similarities between Edward Nygma and Oswald Cobblepot have encouraged more than mutual professional respect. These men who have plotted and killed actually have a great deal of affection for each other, as evidenced by Oswald’s thoughtful and even motherly gifts to his incarcerated buddy. (“It was a lovely thought.”) Nygma reciprocates by reminding Oswald of his own power and how his hatred for Fish can make that power burn brighter. In other words, put that inferiority complex to work and destroy her.
Oswald has one advantage on Fish: He’s not dying. Jim runs into Fish and her crew raiding the warehouse that manufactures the drug they need to survive. (Don’t ask how they know what drug they need, because Gotham doesn’t tell us.) Gordon is too smart to touch Fish’s offered hands, but gets waylaid in her capture by a very literal Bat-Man — an Indian Hill escapee with actual black wings protruding from his body.
Selina is at the warehouse, too, still playing all sides. She’s been serving as Fish’s unmutated errand girl, but offers to sell her out to Valerie for a reward. Valerie passes the information on Fish’s future whereabouts to Gordon, assuming their partnership will be one of mutual benefit. Gordon collects the address they need from Harvey and locks Valerie in her car so she can’t follow him there.
NEXT: Mrs. Peabody, I presume
Alone, Gordon enters the apartment where Mrs. Peabody is protected by armored guards as she awaits testifying against Hugo Strange. Gordon doesn’t particularly want to speak to her, but he knows who does. The experiments Strange and Peabody performed on Fish and her people are killing them. Their last hope for some miracle sustainment would have to come from the scientists themselves.
Of anyone, Fish knows how to work the streets to her advantage. Selina’s tip was a plant; three Indian Hill escapees tailed Gordon right to Peabody’s door. Gordon is one step ahead of Valerie, who trusts the word of a pickpocket; otherwise, what was he thinking? That Fish would come herself? That she wouldn’t send enough muscle to overpower the ex-cop? Gordon can only handle the aforementioned Bat-Man; his two compatriots steal away with Mrs. Peabody, as anyone with half a brain could predict. Barnes gives Harvey and Gordon the reaming of their lives for letting the city’s star witness be kidnapped by her own victims. It’s the second embarrassment that week for the beleaguered GCPD.
But Fish doesn’t like what Peabody has to say. The only method the scientist knows for slowing the escapees’ deterioration is for them to stop using their powers. And, well, that’s just not an option for Fish. (“It’s just… I like the new me.”) Marv — Fish’s “fountain of youth in reverse” — touches Peabody, and she withers and dies in seconds. Ivy has followed Selina to the warehouse to try to get a cut of whatever her fellow urchin is getting for her work. She chooses this very poor moment to show herself, not getting the hint that intruders are not welcome. The escapees chase her while Selina screams at them to leave her alone. Marv gets a hand on her, but only briefly. She falls into a water main and Selina fears the worst. Goodnight, young Ivy.
Meanwhile, Bruce isn’t so much interested in the criminally insane wandering his streets as he is in the rich and powerful people who indirectly put them there. Fresh from a fact-finding trip to Switzerland, he returns to Gotham with Alfred to tell his board a thing. He knows a shadowy organization has infiltrated his father’s company, and he’ll expose them if they don’t come forward. The clear and simple threat to the Court of Owls sends a masked assassin right to the door of “Team Good Guys.” Even Alfred’s regular badassery is no match for this errand boy. He’s soundly knocked out. And when he comes to, Master Bruce will be gone.