Gotham's Nathaniel Barnes gets GUILTY in Gotham's Mad City: Executioner

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Nov 17, 2016, 9:52 AM EST (Updated)

Previously on Gotham... Barnes goes full crazy, the rest of the plot is kinda hazy, probably because the writers got lazy.

Now on Gotham... Ivy is back, Barnes is on the attack, and someone pass the Prozac. This is depressing.


- Ivy finally turns up at Selina's place to reveal who she really is. Of course she's only there because she beat an old guy up, stole his gigantic jewel, and now people want to murder her. Fun side note: the writers have Ivy quickly mention she hasn't been sexually active with anyone. So that's swell. She's still got the mind of a child, except for all the, ya know, plunging necklines. MAKES PERFECT SENSE. Anyway, Bruce shows up and decides he wants to help Ivy by buying the jewel off of her and returning it. Surprise! The old guy Ivy stole it from is already dead. Bonus, surprise! The jewel is worthless, but there's a secret key inside of it. Did I mention the assassins who are on the hunt are pretty obviously with the Court of Owls? Don't worry, though, most of the plot is about how Bruce and Selina can't decide if they're dating or not. No, really, that's actually a lot more fun than anything else happening this week.

- Remember last week when Nathaniel Barnes was having this slow and emotionally powerful descent into madness? NEVERMIND! This week, he just takes Gordon on a fancy police ride around town before murdering rando gangster #12 and then demanding Jim join in the crusade. Because, you know, this is Jim Gordon's world, and the rest of us are just crazy props in it. So Jim gets to heroically denounce Barnes and his actions, jump out of windows, get the GCPD on the horn, and make sure Barnes is captured before he can do any more evil.

- Ed starts investigating Isabella's death, ultimately realizes it was a murder, knows that only someone with money and power could so successfully kill and cover up the murder so easily, which means he's figured out the secret -- Butch killed Isabella. Waaaaaaa? Wacky hijinks, lol.

- Oh, and Lee lied to save Gordon's life and now maybe they are in love again? Yup. Yeah. Mmm hmm. Sure.


- Uhhhh....?

- I dunno?

- I guess Bruce and Selina as a maybe-couple are pretty adorable?


- So much of this season has been dedicated to Barnes and his fall from grace. Things were going so well, all the polls said Hillary was going to win the election, but then... sorry, where was I? Oh, right -- Anakin Skywalker got a better resolution than Nanthaniel Barnes. In fact, it was hard not to think of that "YOU WERE THE CHOSEN ONE" scene from Revenge of the Sith while watching "Executioner." There's just so much room for moral grey with Barnes and Gordon. After all, Barnes points out that Gordon has killed. True. Barnes also points out that following the law doesn't seem to work very well. Also true. And yet, it's left as simple as Gordon now realizing that he was wrong to act as he did and  nwo needs to find a better way. Look. Hi. Hello. I get it. It's Jim Gordon's world and we just live in it. But it's such a disappointment seeing a rich character like Barnes we boiled down to a bad guy who kills things because he is bad. Even the idea that he's been infected with Alice Tetch's blood becomes more a part of Jim's story than it does of Barnes's. I just think that's an unfortunate way of sending a formerly interesting character down a cartoonishly dark path.

- I'm getting Ivy-related whiplash. Someone needs to herd the writers together and make them all agree on what her deal is. Is she sexy and grown up? Is she still weird and sexless? Who is this person? When Ivy and Selina quip at each other, there's one suggestion of who Ivy is. She seems like a naive person who likes to eat and cause choas. But there's also our notion of Ivy, the version we know as the plant lover who likes to manipulate and murder. And that's fine, but this version of Ivy cannot be both at the same time. That is not how humans work. And yet we get signs of that person as well. She acts sultry and makes her own perfume to control men's minds with. Which would be fine if that was the character we'd gotten on Gotham before. But it isn't. And now we seem to have one actor playing two different characters but not in the "Hugo Strange brought her back to life and gave her new memories" way and it's just all so very confusing.

- Gordon and Lee. No more. Stop. Why.


Here's the thing about Gotham's hyper cartoon violence -- it only works with characters who are, down to their core, designed to dance the wacky. Nathaniel Barnes? Yeah. He ain't that guy. Barnes has always been the straight man. That's kind of his charm -- he keeps everyone else in check. So when you have him tragically fall apart, piece by piece, it's kind of hard to sell him in Arkham Asylum shouting the word "GUILTY" over an dover again before lunging at the camera. That's just... silly. Was this supposed to feel serious, Gotham? Hoo boy, I hope not. Because if it was, then the only ones who are guilty are the people who make the show.

Even though I personally loathe the Oswald/Ed story, at least it makes narrative sense. I wanted gay romance, but it's not out of character for Oswald to view murdering the woman who stands in the way of he and Ed being together as romance. Oswald is an acid-soaked pie in the face kind of slapstick. I may not like the direction he and Ed are taking right now, I may think it's upsetting and hurtful to those of us looking for more nuanced LGBT portrayal on TV, but it's not something I can't believe Oswald would do.

But no amount of toxic blood can convince me that "GUILTY, GUILTY, GUUUUUUIIIIIIILTY" makes any sort of narrative or character sense for Nathaniel Barnes.

Not a great episode. Maybe next one will be better. See you then?