(THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE GOTHAM EPISODE "MAD CITY: BURN THE WITCH")
Previously on Gotham ... a dying Fish Mooney is in search of a cure for her and the other escapees of Indian Hill. Gordon is on her trail with the help of a could-be-pluckier reporter, Valerie Vale, while Penguin uses the citizens of Gotham to track down and kill Fish instead. Ivy got zapped to death (but not really), Barbara and Tabitha own a nightclub now for some reason, and Bruce Wayne has just been kidnapped by the shadow organization that secretly runs Wayne Enterprises.
Now on Gotham ... the conclusion to basically all of those plot threads. "Burn the Witch" is a much more satisfying episode than last week's "Better to Reign in Hell," but that's mostly because it's obviously the rest of that story. If it were me, I'd have aired these episodes together. But, hey, just like that time the Titanic showed up to port in Ghostbusters II, better late than never!
And without being too political, it is interesting to keep in mind that "Burn the Witch" happens to be airing on the same night as the first 2016 Presidential Debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald J Trump. "Burn the Witch" is, in part, a story of how it is up to all of the citizens of Gotham to keep their world from plunging into complete and utter darkness. And they're all terrible at it. A fitting parallel to be sure.
But before we can bury ourselves, we must first be in ownership of ...
- Bruce Wayne finds himself the unwilling guest of Kathryn, a representative for the Court of Owls. She's basically like, "You know we're gonna kill you, right?" Bruce convinces Kathryn, however, that he is more valuable alive since his death would cause his shares of Wayne Enterprises to go to the state. He also implies that he will use the Wayne name in a way that will distract Gotham from thinking about the questionable goings-on at Wayne Enterprises. And then, because he's so agreeable after two seasons of fighting tooth and nail, Bruce also agrees that he will never look into the Court or Indian Hill or his parents' deaths ever again. And then Kathryn sends Bruce home. Wow! That was easy. Who says being a billionaire doesn't have its benefits? No one. No one says that. However, before Bruce and Alfred can celebrate and set up dance lessons for Bruce (a plot I am way ready for), Bruce's doppelganger shows up at Wayne Manor. Well, no one said Bruce couldn't investigate that specific situation, technically. They sort of did. But who's counting?
- Despite it not working out so great for either of them last week, Jim and Valerie team up again to find Fish Mooney. In order to find Valerie's source again (it's Selina, cuz duh), they need to visit someone who might know where she is -- Barbara Kean. It's delightful, and Barbara says some crazy things that include a nightmare/obvious fetish involving an amputated Gordon being pushed around by Barbara in a baby carriage. Barb, hmu, there's this thing called the Internet you have just got to see. Anyway, Valerie double-crosses Jim (wow, what a reversal) and takes the info she gets from Selina to the GCPD, which leads them right to Fish.
- Don't worry, though, because the GCPD are all terrible at being police officers and so Fish and her gang get away. Also, Fish kidnaps Harvey and makes out with him (which I guess is part of the Fish magic now) until Harvey reveals where Hugo Strange is. Jim also finds out where Strange is from Barnes. Valerie and the rest of the media also find out where Strange is ... somehow. And then Oswald sees on the news that Fish, Strange, Harvey, et al. are surrounded by the cops and a media circus, so he shows up with a mob of Gotham citizens out for blood. Oh, we have fun on this show.
- Jim sneaks in to save Harvey. He negotiates a killer double cross by convincing Fish he can distract the police so she can escape, but is actually using Penguin's mob to distract the GCPD in exchange for telling Penguin where Fish will be post-escape.
- Funny story: Penguin doesn't kill Fish because, when he asks Fish why she didn't kill him at the end of last season, she basically says that it's because she created him. And now that Penguin is the baddest dude in Gotham, Fish can't kill him because she kinda loves and respects him as her own. So Penguin, in total shock at this revelation, let's Fish leave with Strange so they can find a cure for Fish's condition and build an army of freaky super monsters. Keep swimming, Fish! See ya in the spring!
- After allowing Penguin's mob to seemingly kill and burn the bodies of some of Fish's gang, a weary Jim Gordon goes home. There, he is visited by Valerie Vale who, after explaining everything we already know happened, starts making out with Gordon. Because of course.
- And we end on Lee returning to Gotham at a very CGI train station. Because Arkham needs a new head honcho (I'm assuming, since they've mentioned it a few times) and Jim Gordon needs more angst, said nobody.
- Oh, and Ivy is a child in a grown lady's body now. So, naturally, she kills the guy who helps her out because he didn't water his flowers and now she's in a nice, green dress and knows how to expertly apply makeup. Yeah, we'll get to that in a minute.
So Fish is out, sexy Ivy is in. Bruce investigating his parent's death is out, Bruce investigating his twin is in. Lee is out, Valerie Vale is in. Oh, right, Lee is also back. Well, only one of them can foolishly be in an abusive relationship with Jim Gordon at once, right pleasepleasepleaseplease?
"Burn the Witch" has some greatness, some goodness, and some, uh...well they can't all be perfect, can they? Let's dish.
- It's hard to tell if this is on purpose or not, but it certainly seems as though Gotham is drawing influence for its stories from the real world. The most obvious parallel being Penguin: a man whose corruption is obvious to anyone with five seconds and an Internet connection. Oswald has really built up a following of Gothamites dissatisfied with how the current governing authorities are handling the new "monsters" of Gotham. And, naturally, he's had little trouble gaining influence and turning his new followers to violence against not just Fish Mooney, but anyone who stands between Penguin and Fish Mooney. It's not a perfect one-to-one metaphor, but "bad guy convinces citizens to attack a broken-yet-still-hard-working system for his own personal gain" seems kind of familiar, no? Whether it's intentional or not, there's certainly some added stakes when viewing Gotham through the lens of modern, American politics.
- Speaking of Penguin and Fish, their showdown is one of the best surprises Gotham has ever had for its audience. There are many ways Penguin holding a gun to Fish could have gone, but I can honestly say I did not expect "emotional reunion" to be where we'd land. And it works! After all, Penguin and Fish have always had a complex relationship since the very beginning, one of the primary ingredients of which was often begrudging respect. And much like Batman and the Joker, Fish and Penguin are kind of responsible for each other's present incarnation. And for all his bluster, without a mother figure, Oswald is still very much in need of a female mentor. It's heartfelt, it's creepy -- it's pitch perfect Gotham. Well done.
- And while positive female protags are still very much lacking on Gotham, I think we can say that Barbara Kean has finally turned the page and become an incredibly fun character, maybe even the most fun Gotham has at the moment. Ben McKenzie has claimed that Jim and Barbara will never rekindle their romance, but gosh, do I hope he's bluffing. The scene between the two of them, in which Barbara asks for a kiss in return for information before making disturbingly specific threats of violence and accusations that Jim plans to plow into Valerie Vale (which, well...) is just so entertaining. I don't know what Barbara wants out of life, but so long as she keeps me laughing, I don't care too much.
- I get that Jim Gordon is the best cop Gotham's ever gonna have, but does the rest of the force have to be this bad at their jobs? Letting Fish get away, getting kidnapped, easily revealing the location of witnesses in deep hiding, letting a mob completely take over a crime scene after utterly failing to contain the media...Barnes was supposed to be this control freak who follows the letter of the law, but he's just a bungling buffoon like the rest of the GCPD at this point. Is it so much to ask that Gotham have a few good cops other than Jim and sometimes Harvey? And good is a stretch, btw, given that Jim was happy to help a crowd of maniacs overrun a crime scene in order to save his one friend. Needs of the many this ain't.
- We were getting somewhere with Valerie Vale for about 40 minutes there. She was outsmarting Gordon, she was sharp, she was cunning, she was funny, she was... making out with Jim Gordon suddenly. Aaaaaaaand RUINED. Why must so many of the women in Gotham be romantically tied to Gordon? We know it means they'll either become damsels. Or psychos. Or both. This is just one of those things Gotham has not earned viewer's trust on. It's not that Valerie can never be with Gordon, but for heaven's sake at least give her some more screen time to be defined by her own merits, first.
- But nothing can be worse than Ivy. Sweet merciful Maximillian Zeus, what were they thinking? That we needed another psychotic killer lady on the show to wear tight, revealing clothes? Remember: inside that grown-up body is the mind of what I'm pretty sure is a thirteen year-old. So, it's pretty creepy that she immediately knows how to perfectly apply her makeup and chooses the most neckline-plunging dress she can find. And I get that Poison Ivy has a thing for plants, but could we get, I dunno, an emotional journey towards murdering in the name of ferns? Because, right now, Ivy is just a ridiculously oversimplified, hyper-sexualized shadow of her former incarnation's self. And as Sonic the Hedgehog is sometimes wont to say -- that's... no good.
- The man who takes in Ivy has seductive, sexy lady clothes that his "ex-wife left behind." Oh, like, I'm so sure. Dude, those are your dresses. We all know it. No shame here. Crossdressing is a perfect tame and common fetish. Just own it. Oh, Gotham...
- And speaking of fetishes, once again Fish's henchwoman, Nancy, is in some serious bondage wear. Someone needs to have a talk with Gotham's costuming department about the BDSM gear. And they should say "more of this, it pleases me." Oh, Gotham...
- There are some logic leaps on Gotham that never fail to amuse, like Fish making out with Harvey to activate her mind-control powers even though she absolutely does not need to do that. Or Barnes accepting that Harvey has been kidnapped because Harvey left his badge in the squad car. Yeah, I'm sure Drinky Winky did everything by the book up until that moment. Or Bruce giving up on his entire raison d'etre in favor of dancing lessons because the Court of Owls said so? Bruce never allowed self-preservation or his respect for other's safety to stop him before. But after a summer of preparing to take down the Court of Owls, it's time to say nay and then learn how to nae nae? That's weird. You're so weird, show. Oh, Gotham...
And that's all for "Burn the Witch." So, until next time, here's what we need to ask ourselves: Batman '66 style narrator? Take it away.
Can Bruce discover the secrets of his mysterious twin? Will Valerie Vale come to her senses and run screaming in the night from Gordon's damsel-making apartment? And can Ivy learn how to be something other than a sexy murder lady? Because that seat's taken. IT'S TAKEN, IVY. BARBARA IS ALREADY DOING THE THING BETTER THAN YOU EVER WILL. GET YOU A NEW THING.
All these questions (and that one pushy demand) to be answered next time -- same Gotham time, same Gotham station. Be there!