Gotham: Burn the Witch Review

Ivy Pepper's aged up storyline is just as creepy as you imagined it would be...

This Gotham review contains spoilers.

Gotham Season 3, Episode 2

After a promising season three premiere, Gothamtakes some missteps with “Burn the Witch,” proof that it’s a lot easier to introduce intriguing new plot and character arcs than it is to follow-through on them.

Gotham is still on the hunt for Fish.

The main plot in “Burn the Witch” focuses around Gotham’s continued hunt for Fish, and Fish’s continued search for Hugo Strange and a cure for her condition. It’s not meaty enough to sustain the plot two episodes in a row and, even when Fish kidnaps fan-favorite Bullock in an attempt to learn Strange’s location, it’s hard to get invested in this arc. Frankly, the stakes aren’t that high. We know that Harvey, Fish, and probably Strange will be OK. 

Eventually, Fish and a kidnapped Harvey end up surrounded by the GCPD and Penguin’s torch-and-pitchforks-level mob in the facility where Strange is being kept. Jim ultimately works out a deal to help Fish escape to save Harvey’s life — even though Fish doesn’t seem particularly keen on killing Bullock. (Thank god. He’s the best part of this show.)

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Jim, man of dishonor that he is, delivers Fish into Oswald’s waiting gunpoint, and this is where this storyline blips a bit on the interest radar. It helps that Jada Pinkett-Smith and Robin Lord Taylor are such forces of nature, but — more than that — seeing Fish and Penguin, two characters who used to spend a lot of time together, meet again is pretty rewarding.

Sure, the reunion relies a bit too much on what happened in season one (which, at this point, feels like lifetimes ago), but Oswald’s decision to let Fish live still feels earned. Whether Fish really meant any of the proud words she said or if it was just a genius attempt to save her life by playing on Oswald’s well-known mommy issues remains to be seen…

Jim and Valerie hook up.

The other big development tangential to the Fish Mooney search? Jim and Valerie continue their high-stakes flirting. Though Jim may be the one to double-cross Valerie in this episode, they are kinda, sorta even, and Jim likes the likeable Ms. Vale enough by the end of the episode to pull her into a passionate embrace… just as Lee arrives back in town.

I’m still a fan of Valerie Vale in this episode, and what she represents as a person who has neither allegiance to the GCPD or a toe in the Gotham supervillain underbelly. She is a free agent capable of thinking for herself and of asking such valid questions as: “Who the hell are you, Jim Gordon?”

Ivy grows into a curvy killer.

Well, the moment we have heard so much about is here: Ivy Pepper has grown into a 20-something overnight. But she didn’t just get boobs. She also got a killer instinct, murdering the kindly stranger who brought her back to his house to get a glass of water for trashing his dying plant. Remind me to take better care of my houseplants.

It really sucks to see Ivy’s character so mishandled. We’ll talk about the inherent creepiness of this decision in a bit, but, from a strictly character-based perspective, why is Ivy killing people? Yes, she presumably just learned about her new powers? But we haven’t seen her acting particularly homicidal before. Likewise, we haven’t seen her demonstrating any particular eco-terrorist tendencies before, either, other than an occasional scene of her tending plants.

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The way that Ivy’s new character was presented here gave me very little confidence in how this storyline will be handled moving forward. We don’t get to see how Ivy kills the man. Does she mean to take his life? Is she shocked and regretful or is this something she has always secretly wanted to do? The fact that we have very little idea where Ivy’s head at this pivotal moment suggests that this decision to age Ivy up isn’t at all about the character so much as about the need to have another sexy villainess on the show.

This isn’t exactly a surprise. When news first broke on the internet that Ivy would be aged-up in season three, it was immediately met with concern. There seems no other reason to age up the character other than to add some sex appeal. What makes this decision even creepier is that it is still Ivy’s 15-year-old brain inside of a 25-year-old body.

The implications here being that everyone else will be treating Ivy like an adult 20-something, while she will actually still be an impressionable, confused teen. There might be a world where this storyline could be handled in an interesting, respectful, insightful way. Knowing Gotham‘sstrengths and weakness as a show, I highly doubt that our world is that corner of the multiverse. I find this storyline infinitely creepy, and I don’t think I am alone. 

It was also a shame not to see Selina this episode. After all, last time we saw Ivy’s best friend, she was crying over Ivy’s assumed death. Making Ivy’s resurection immediately about her presumably new seductress powers instead of, for example, her established relationship with Selina, tells us everything we need to know about where Ivy’s storyline may be going… 

Bruce makes a deal with the Court of Owls.

Bruce’s turn in “Burn the Witch” is another confusing misstep for the episode. After the cliffhanger kidnapping by Talon in the final moments of the season three premiere, Bruce meets with Kathryn, a member of the Court of Owls. Basically, Kathryn threatens Bruce’s loved ones and Bruce agrees to give the Court his company, his good name, and his promise to stop looking into the death of his parents in exchange for their protection.

Presumably, there might be something else going on here, given Bruce and Alfred’s cryptic conversation about there being no turning back in the season three premiere. However, right now, it’s a little too much intrigue and not enough explanation.

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Never a dull moment in Wayne Manor, the episode ends with Dopple-Bruce wandering into the mansion and asking an understandably shocked Bruce and Alfred for help. What is Doppel-Bruce’s deal? Was he created by the Court of Owls for this very purpose? Or could he be a Wayne twin that Bruce never knew about?

Whatever the answers to these question, I have to admit that this doppelganger storyline is definitely not heading in the direction I thought it would. Not that it’s heading in any direction at all, really, at this point. Hopefully, the Doppel-Bruce’s collision with the Original-Bruce storyline will move things along. Your move, Master Bruce. 


2 out of 5