“Better to Reign in Hell…”
Original Airdate: September 19, 2016
Gotham has had an interesting transition over the past three seasons. While the show first began as a standard cop procedural, it has wonderfully embraced its pulpy comic roots and is now one of the wackiest and most entertaining shows on TV. Out of all the comic shows on right now, this might be one of the most underrated ones.
The show has not been afraid to embrace a weird, madcap world. Since the introduction of Hugo Strange and his experiments at Indian Hill, Gotham has since made a transition into the more fantastical, which has made it much more interesting to watch.
The show picks up six months after the Indian Hill breakout, where things are not going well for our main protagonist.
FOR THE MONEY
After a brief interlude with Gordon, we discover that Lee has already moved on, and currently has found love with someone else. This comes across as surprising, as I was a bit worried that the season would spend time prolonging the romance (as charming as it is) between the two. Cutting this subplot within the first minute was an excellent move and gave rise to by far the most intriguing aspect of this season.
Six months later, Gordon is no longer a cop in the GCPD and acts as a bounty hunter, collecting criminals for cash. He spends his nights alone, drinking in bars. He also utilizes his skills hunting down the monsters that have broken free from Indian Hill, which leads to some rather amusing one-liners during the fight.
This character change might be the best aspect of the episode of the premiere, hands down. For the past three seasons, we’ve seen Jim become more and more cynical as things have progressively gotten worse around him. The only thing Jim’s ever held onto is his morals, and how he has to stay the good path.
This season finds him at the complete opposite end of that spectrum. Jim now takes the law into his own hands, instead of waiting for the bureaucracy. Jim has essentially become a vigilante, and that has the possibility of making him dangerous. We know that Jim doesn’t become the BIG vigilante in Gotham City, but seeing him in a different light is an intriguing prospect.
Later on, we see Jim get intel from plucky and nosy reporter Valerie Vale (relation to Vicki?) that leads him to approach Ethel Peabody, who was released from jail after testifying against Strange. Mooney’s monsters find them and one of them attacks Jim in broad daylight, revealing massive bat wings (possibly our first look at this world’s take on Man Bat).
The next part comes as a bit of a surprise, as Peabody is later captured and murdered by Mooney and her merry band of monsters (though the way that Peabody went, aging rapidly, is a bit of inspired creativity). The death was surprising as I knew she wouldn’t be in the season too much, but I wasn’t expecting her to... well, die.
ALL ABOARD THE TRAIN TO CRAZYTOWN
One of the strongest aspects of Gotham is its villains. While the show originally focused a lot on going, “HEY LOOK, VILLAINS FROM THE BATMAN UNIVERSE! WE’RE SETTING UP BATMAN’S WORLD. WE LOVE THE BATMAN UNIVERSE!... BATMAN,” it has since allowed the villains to have taken on a life of its own, allowing for some truly fascinating character arcs.
One villain who has been consistently engaging since the first season has been Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a. The Penguin. When we last saw him, he had been perhaps the slightest bit shocked that his former boss was alive and kicking. Cobblepot makes a surprise appearance at the GCPD with his partner, Butch, and announces the return of Fish Mooney as the leader of the monsters.
Part of what makes Cobblepot and Butch so much fun to watch is the camaraderie between the main actors. Both Robin Lord Taylor and Drew Powell have such an enjoyable chemistry together that it brings a smile to your face. The two come across as an incredibly psychotic Laurel and Hardy.
This kind of comic timing is demonstrated when both of them show up at the latest nightclub owned by Barbara and Tabitha. While Oswald offers them protection under his business, Butch starts blabbering like an idiot until Oswald tells him to go wait in the corner. This comes off as a silly, yet kind of darkly funny moment for the two. It balances the contrast for the characters.
Afterwards, we get an interaction between the Penguin and another wonderfully developed character: Edward Nygma, a.k.a., the Riddler. Nygma has also had a wonderful character arc for the past three years, as he’s grown from meek forensic scientist to complete madman. Cory Michael Smith and Robin Lord Taylor also have great chemistry, as they bond through their madness when Penguin seeks helps on how to deal with Mooney (this also gives way to the show’s best line: “Penguin. Eat. Fish”).
However, they’re not the only ones with the best moments in the premiere. Bruce Wayne also gets his own chance to shine.
THE KIDS ARE (KIND OF?) ALRIGHT
It works even better for David Mazouz as he gets to play two different versions of the character: billionaire child Bruce Wayne, and long-haired emo Bruce Wayne, a clone released from Indian Hill. It’ll be interesting to see Mazouz play two different characters this season.
After going into hiding following the events of last season, Bruce, along with Alfred, heads back to Wayne Enterprises for a meeting with the board members. Wayne issues an ultimatum: if the board does not contact him within 24 hours, he will reveal everything about the company’s connection to the Court of Owls. This displeases the court, and they send an assassin known as a Talon to capture Bruce.
In an excellent and well-choreographed fight sequence, we see Alfred valiantly fight off the Talon, but get knocked out by the assassin. The assassin then proceeds to take Bruce to an unknown location.
Elsewhere, Selina — who’s been working for Mooney — secretly passes on information about Mooney’s next move to Vale, who in turn relays it to Gordon. After Selina meets with Bruce (who warns her to be careful), Selina’s friend Ivy has an encounter with Emo Bruce and runs, thinking it’s the real Wayne (I genuinely can’t wait to see where this doppelgänger story goes and if it’ll be something like the character Hush).
Finally, Mooney catches Ivy following Selina, thinking Ivy may be a spy. In reality, Ivy simply wanted to see where Selina kept disappearing to.
After an elongated chase, Ivy is backed up against a hole in the floor that leads to the sewer. As she falls, the aging power monster that killed Peabody briefly touches Ivy’s arm before she disappears over the side.
We will see what happens to Ivy later in the season, since actress Maggie Geha will be playing an older version of the character and was promoted to series regular. It’s more than likely that Ivy’s transformation from the monster will be shown VERY soon, and that we’ll begin to see Ivy’s path to becoming Poison Ivy begin.
Gotham continues to be one of the most pulpy and delightfully macabre shows on TV. With this season immediately hitting the ground running, it’s going to be one crazy ride.