(THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE GOTHAM EPISODE "UNLEASHED")
Previously on Gotham ... Theo became Azrael, Gordon became a target, and Barnes became a victim.
Now on Gotham ... Nygma's trying to get out of Arkham, Selina's trying to get into Arkham, and Azrael wants to get into and out of Jim Gordon. With a sword, I mean.
After last week's damned near pitch-perfect episode, was there any way that "Unleashed" was going to match it? Probably not and, frankly, it doesn't. But that is okay! As you, dear reader, already know as a fine connoisseur of television, when a show starts building toward its season finale as early as Gotham has, some episodes are going to be fillery. And, indeed, there is a little more gristle than meat on the bone this week. But the groundwork Gotham's been laying with its character arcs lifts what might be a subpar episode at best to something downright enjoyable.
- Barnes lies unmoving in a hospital bed, his future uncertain, and Bullock and Gordon are mad about it. Which, I mean, you know ... fair. Chiklis hasn't even said, "It's clobberin' time" once yet! What if he dies before he wakes up? What kind of comic book TV show is this?! Anyway, B&G bust down the doors at Arkham ready to do what's gotta be done with Hugo Strange -- check to make sure his paperwork is in order! But too bad, suckers, because Strange has already shredded all the documents he wrote "mwa ha ha" all over, so now what are you going to do? Arrest him, right? Seriously, you've got some sorta kinda evidence against him and have absolutely held people for way less. No? Just gonna let him go? I mean ... this is a hell of a time to decide to follow the law is all I'm saying, guys. But okay, okay, instead Jim and Harvey track down Tabitha Galavan to figure out where Theo might strike next. Turns out the fake sword Strange made last episode has a real-life counterpart and Tabitha a) is pretty sure Azrael will want it and b) knows where it is. Yahtzee.
- Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is tired of waiting for Gordon to take down Strange by breaking into Arkham and discovering its secrets. So Bruce is going to do it himself! And by that, I mean Bruce is going to get Selina to do it for him! Yeah, you delegate that work, boy billionaire! Anyway, Bruce tells Selina that her friend Bridget, aka Firefly, might not actually be dead. She might be alive and held against her will in Arkham. So Selina sneaks in through the vents, where she discovers Nygma trying to sneak out through the vents. The two trade info, Nygma tells Selina how to get inside the secret basement, and Selina tells Nygma how to navigate the vents. It's kind of adorable. They should crime together more often.
- Back with Gordon, Bullock, and Tabitha, and they're chilling out in the Dumas crypt, just maxin' and relaxin' all cool. Also, they found that Sword of Sin. Also, also Azrael just showed up and is basically unstoppable, so he steals the sword and kicks Jim and Harvey out of the crypt. Alone with Azrael for a moment, Tabitha tries to remind him that he used to be Theo, her brother. Aww, they got that family love. Did I say love? Actually, it's more like a shared hate for Bruce Wayne which Tabitha reminds Theo of. So Azrael kind of has his memory back (sort of) and switches gears from trying to kill Gordon to trying to kill Bruce instead. But first he stabs Tabitha for some reason. Guess she was getting too much screen time. Doesn't anyone care about poor Tabitha Galavan on this show?
- Yes. Butch does. Bless him, Butch loves Tabitha so much that, instead of a hammer for a hand, I bet he totally has a big ol' heart there instead. Just ... bleeding all over the place. Gross. Anyway, Butch is watching over an unconscious Tabitha at the hospital when who should show up but Oswald Cobblepot, pimped out like crazy. Actually, they're both wearing some killer suits in this scene (more on that later). Oswald's like "Yo, wassup, it's your boy, Penguin," and Butch is like "I know you ain't about to do me like this, bruh." But, good news, Penguin is basically like, "Nah, nah. I'm about to lay it down on Theo, though. You want in on this rn?" Sure, I'm paraphrasing here, but you know the scene would be even better if I was writing the dialogue. Call me, Fox.
- Back at stately Wayne Manor, Bruce and Alfred are trying to circle the wagons and lock everything down. Cool. Except Galavan is already inside the house. Less cool. Galavan and Alfred sword fight (it's pretty baller) while Bruce runs down to the garage. Galavan chases after him, but Bruce gets in a car and hits Theo full force with it. Super cool. But Galavan is immortal maybe so he gets up and uses a whip on Bruce. WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?! Gordon shows up and shoots Galavan in the back, because killing him the one time wasn't enough for Jim apparently. But don't worry because Galvan gets up AGAIN and, just when you think nothing can stop him, Penguin and Butch show up with an actual factual rocket launcher and BLOW GALAVAN UP. I'd say you can't make stuff like this up, but someone did and we all owe them a life debt because this entire scene is amazing.
- Oh, and also Selina makes it to the secret basement but Bridget's mind has already been wiped and she thinks Selina has been brought down to test her willingness to kill. Oops.
- Also, Nygma escapes but the Arkham guards are already waiting for him. Double oops.
As you can see, this was another dense episode. But what worked, what didn't and what would you only find in the city of Gotham?
- Gordon and Bullock working together is great. In fact, Bullock stepping up to fill Barnes' shoes is really great. Harvey's come a long way and it feels earned. On the whole, even though Gordon isn't technically back with the GCPD yet, it's clear that's where he's headed and it's happening at exactly the right pace it should be.
- Seeing Penguin and Butch back together was also really cool. They've been way on the outs for a long time, but I absolutely believe they would reunite to fight a common enemy and, truly, the rocket launcher scene might be the best TV moment of 2016 so far.
- Even Selina and Nygma were a great duo. We haven't had a lot of scenes with these two actors together, but watching them acknowledge and understand why they have the differences they have in order to help each other out was kind of astonishing. TV characters stopping and listening to each other doesn't tend to happen very often any more. I wasn't expecting it on Gotham aka the craziest show on television right now, but I'll take it.
- Great action sequences all around. Sword play, gun play, car...play? This episode was action-packed and the visual narrative was on point.
- Tabitha Galavan is not a character. She is a mouth wot pukes up exposition. The only reason we seem to ever have to care about her is because Butch cares about her. But, real talk? Why does Butch love Tabitha? We haven't really seen them together and, in this episode, Tabitha was all ready to ditch Butch. Sorry to be a broken record, folks, but Gotham needs to get right with its women characters because this is just ridiculous.
- Azrael, we barely knew ye. Theo Galavan was a real hit-or-miss character to my mind, but Azrael was equal parts hilarious and dangerous. Whether he was beating someone up with a briefcase by accident or stabbing his own sister on purpose, I think the Gotham world could've used some more Azrael in it. But, uh... pretty sure he's dead for real this time.
- Remember when Selina had that banging curly hair? Now her hair is straight and limp and hiding underneath a hat. I know this sounds like splitting hairs (GET IT?) but this is me right now representing all those kinky-haired folks out there. Selina was representing us with some crazy curls and I think a lot of us miss that. #BringBackSelinasCurls
- Before Penguin reveals his literal rocket launcher, he casually mentions that last time he shoved his umbrella down Galvan's throat. And then Penguin's like, maybe next time I'll stick it somewhere else? Theo's ass. That's what Penguin meant. And I'd like to imagine Penguin found a piece of Theo's exploded b-hole and planted it, too. Oh, Gotham ...
- On the flip side of the hair debate, can someone please explain what is happening with Peabody's situation right now? Got some kinda Bram Stoker's Dracula thing going on. Oh, Gotham ...
- These suits. Where else would you find such suits as these? Literally. Penguin and Butch are BIG pimpin'. There is no other term for that. Oh, Gotham...
All in all, a slightly bloated but enjoyable episode. But next week. NEXT WEEK. Well, see for yourself.
YES! Fish Mooney returns, and so will I. So be sure to follow along as I live-tweet what might be the most completely insane episode of Gotham yet!
(CORRECTION: THIS REVIEW ORIGINALLY STATED THAT COMMISSIONER BARNES WAS DEAD. HE IS NOT)