This Gotham review contains spoilers.
Gotham Season 2, Episode 18
What’s this? Two consecutive episodes of Gothamthat are not only cohesive, but totally compelling? Be still, my skeptical, TV-loving heart. Much like last week’s “Into the Woods,” “Pinewood” manages to bring together the disparate parts of this show’s plot in a logical way. While last week focused on the capture of Ed, this week focuses on (trying to) solve that darn Wayne murder case once and for all.
Bruce and Jim are on the trail of “The Philosopher.”
In watching this episode, I couldn’t believe that it took Gothamto get to this point in the Wayne murder case. Like, what have we even been doing for the last almost two seasons? Oh, yes. We’ve been watching Alfred brew Bruce tea and Gordon murder people in cold blood. Gothamgets back on track this week: Jim has decided not to return to the GCPD until after he solves the Waynes’ murder. Bruce is fully committed to looking for clues on his father’s computer, and boy is he ever good at working through a to-do list. Someone give that kid a multi-billion-dollar company.
Bruce’s efforts lead to Karen Jennings, a mysterious woman Thomas Wayne met just before his death to discuss “Pinewood Farms.” If you thought Karen might be a food justice warrior, hoping to combat Gotham’s food desert and bring healthy, cheap produce back to the city’s poor, then, sadly, you would be wrong. Pinewood Farms is not the kind of farm with cute, cuddly lambs; it is a Wayne Enterprises code name for a secret laboratory (to be pronounced: la-boar-a-tour-ee) where people get experimented on.
Karen, who has a claw for a hand after her stay at Pinewood Farms (and no cute, cuddly lamb friend to show for it), may hold the answers to Thomas and Martha Wayne’s murders. When Bruce and Alfred find her, Karen is living by herself in a secluded cabin. She eventually gives Bruce the truth: Thomas started Pinewood, but he didn’t realize that it was being used for such nefarious purposes and shut it down. When he began to suspect the head scientist of the project, “The Philosopher,” was at it again, he tried to stop him — and was apparently killed for it (as Michelle Gomez so kindly informs us).
This episode was greatly aided by the fact that Gotham’srandom-of-the-week is so well-rendered. Gothamisn’t always as interested in creating characters as creating cariactures — especially in its guest characters. Karen Jennings falls into the former category. She may have a claw for a hand, but she is no monster. No, we’ve met monsters on this show, and most of them don’t have claws for hands. They are ten-fingered sociopaths.
Speaking of sociopaths, it doesn’t take a discerning viewer to guess that “The Philosopher” is none other than Hugo Strange, current head of Arkham. Sure enough, by the end of the episode, Gothamhas confirmed it for us — and for Team Bruce. Of course, Karen doesn’t get to live to hear the good news. She sacrifices herself to save Bruce when Strange sends Mr. Freeze to keep her quiet. Bruce doesn’t take her death so well because, unlike every other character on this show, he actually values human life and reacts to the loss of it like a normal, IRL person might: with horror, regret, and questions about what he could have done to prevent the tragedy.
This reaction is hard for Gordon and Alfred to understand. Instead, for solace, Bruce must stare into the soul of the music box his father gifted to Karen, one of the many reminders Bruce’s father gave the young girl that she had something to live for. Apparently, that something to live for was giving herself over to an icy death in the name of a billionaire boy with a death wish whom she had just met. But, hey, basic human empathy and connection are in such rare quantity on this show, I’m willing to take it where I can get it.
This epsiode gave us some long-overdue backstory on who Thomas Wayne might have been as a father, businessman, and, you know, person, but can we talk about how no one ever seems interested in avenging Martha Wayne’s murder? Or even, like, discussing her as a person? It’s all Thomas Wayne this, Thomas Wayne that. But I’m pretty sure Martha was a person to, one who was ripped from this world in front of her only son in the same way as her husband. Maybe Alfred or Bruce could mention her from time to time? Maybe she could have sponsored a secret lab with terrible secrets? Maybe she liked music boxes?! OK, rant over (for now).
With a renewed focus on the Wayne murder case, Gotham seems poised to potentially dive back into the twisted, irresponsible world of Wayne Enterprises — a setting it has really only dabbled its feet in previously. But, for me, this is one of the more interesting paths of exploration for this show. A corporation so unwieldy and corrupt not even its CEO was able to control its goings-on? This seems topical, dangerous, and a potential meaty direction in general for Gotham‘s third season.
Barbara is back, and slightly less crazy?
We ended last week’s episode with Barbara at Jim’s door? I’m not gonna lie — I was worried about diving back into the Jim v. Barbara antics. But I enjoyed much of their interaction here, mostly because this version of Barbara may be my favorite version of Barbara. Here, Barbara is contained, but clever. Unpredictable, but driven. I am for a 1,000 percent increase in scenes featuring her and Michelle Gomez’ The Lady. That being said, I didn’t buy that The Lady would be tricked so easily into spilling the beans about who hired Matches to kill the Waynes. I am willing to overlook this fact, however, on the account of The Lady (sadly) not being a main character, and in my desire to give Gothampoints for sticking to a cohesive plot in this ep.
As much as I liked Barbara here, it’s annoying that Gothamcan never fully commit to Barbara being her own woman (villainous or otherwise). Jim asks her point-blank why she cares what he thinks. Though she gives some excuse about how his face was the first one she saw after waking up, I’m still not sold. Barbara could be a total badass. Instead, she is motivated by the interests of men — the same men who have ditched her, again and again.
This is a major, ongoing problem for Gotham,which hardly ever has female characters whose storylines aren’t in service to those of the male characters. The amazing Selina is the closest Gothamgets, but her storyline too often is subsumed by Bruce and/or Gordon’s. Except for that one, glorious time she and Firefly just burned things together. Great episode. (Come back, Fish Mooney.)
Even when Barbara is kicked to the curb (again) by Gordon, she must fall into someone else’s hand. Granted, this time it is not another dude, but rather Tabitha Galavan, but we’ll see how long it is before Penguin and/or Galavan shows back up and is running the show.
Galavan is back from the dead.
I do enjoy when Gothamgoes full-on science fiction. In the final moments of the episode, Hugo Strange and Ms. Peabody (aka my favorite Gothamdream team — sorry Gordon and Bullock!) succeed in reanimated their 44th test subject: one Theo Galavan. He is alert, preachy, and kind of kicky, taking out all of the lackeys in his experimentation room. This is probably bad news for Bruce Wayne. It might be bad news for viewers, too? I have to admit: I am kind of over the Galavan Tries to Take Over Gotham storyline. Then again, maybe this Galavan has completely different goals. If we’ve learned anything on this show, it’s that Arkham truly changes people.