This Gotham review contains spoilers.
Gotham Season 2, Episode 22
Gothamended season 2 by upping the irrationality factor — which is saying something for a show that has characters blowing up characters with bazookas in a “normal” episode. The season finale saw this show buckling under the weight of its own big picture moments, making its characters act especially stupid to maintain the latest zonky premises just a little bit longer. I want to blame the doppelgangers, but it’s not like this show didn’t already have a plot twist addiction before it started introducing doubles of the show’s main characters.
It’s this kind of plot-dictating-character manipulations that lead to moments like Harvey not realizing Jim has been replacing with a clay-faced doppelganger from the get-go. Or moments like Jim and Lucius apparently taking the time to lock Nygma back in his cell before heading downstairs to try to disarm a nuclear bomb. Or, my favorite, Hugo Strange waltzing in between two mentally unbalanced supervillains with temperature guns to try to make his daring escape.
It’s not that the season finale of Gothamwasn’t entertaining. Entertainment has never been Gotham‘s problem. It’s that the season finale is more interested in big moments and maintaining a bonkers tone than it is in crafting a consistent, character-driven narrative. Frankly, even when I roll my eyes at many of Gotham‘s choices, I can’t help but admire its commitment to a very specific comic book brand of storytelling. This show isn’t really like anything else on TV and, in an age where TV is a much more crowded place, that’s impressive.
“Transference” picks up where last week’s episode left off: with Bruce, Lucius, Jim, and Selina all trapped in Arkham, and Hugo Strange getting ready to blow the whole thing up to cover the tracks of his illegal, “monster”-making experiments. The first third of the episode is the hour’s weakest, with Hugo veritaserum-ing Gordon to discover what he knows (or, more accurately, doesn’t know about the Court of Owls). Of course, Hugo also takes the time to ask Jim how he’s feeling about Lee and the death of his unborn child. Because these questions are apparently relevant to his interests.
Elsewhere in Arkham, Nygma is conducting a similar kind of Q&A with Bruce and Lucius. They get the first question right: Who runs Indian River? Wayne Industries. But when tasked with the second question — Who runs Wayne Industries? — they fall short. This is all laying the groundwork for what will surely be a Court of Owls-heavy third season, something I am kind of looking forward to. Perhaps a more cohesive villainous force tied to the city’s larger institutions will garner some more grounded storytelling? Or season 3 will be overrun with doppelgangers. It’s hard to say. Easy money is on both because, let’s face it, when has Gotham ever made us choose between multiple plotlines?
Once Hugo confirms that Team Hero knows pretty much nothing about the secret leadership of the city they’ve been trying to save for the past two seasons (to be honest, they don’t know much about anything), Strange gets his orders from the Court of Owls: blow it all up. The Court of Owls is more concerned with the “monsters” from Indian River getting out onto the streets than anything else. Which is strange, given that Gotham is pretty much used to monsters, and the GCPD is incompetent when it comes to accountability and justice (and, you know, all other things). I’m not sure what the Court of Owls has to worry about here.
But Hugo does as he is ordered, setting the timer on the bomb and making his escape from Arkham. It isn’t so easy. Fish Mooney escapes her cell. Mr. Freeze and Firefly get in a spat over killing Selina. Eventually, Selina escapes and frees Bruce, Jim, and Lucius. (Though not, weirdly, until her second visit to their locked room. I enjoyed the conversation between Bruce and Selina as much as the next viewer who feels that the characterization of Bruce and Selina’s relationship is one of the only consistent ones on the show, but why didn’t she just free them the first time? An attempt to create suspense, I suppose, but inevitably another example of plot dictating character in obvious ways.)
The gang makes their escape, running into the Strange/Freeze/Firefly kerfuffle on the way out. Somehow, Strange survives a heat/ice direct shot to let Gordon know about the bomb about to go off in the basement. Bruce and Selina make their escape, but Gordon and Fox stay behind to try to save this corner of Gotham and possibly prevent a mushroom cloud. They employ Nygma’s help to get down to the secret basement lair, but, instead of telling him why they are on this urgent trip, just yell at him to help them. Personally, I feel like impending death is a motivating factor for most people, and letting Nygma know of the bomb’s existence might have made him move a little faster, but I have never tried to break into an asylum’s secret underground basement to try to diffuse a bomb that may or may not turn nuclear.
Ultimately, Gordon and Lucius manage to diffuse the bomb by pouring water on it, which is so totally stupid that it works perfectly within the internal logic of this show. Frankly, this is not the most absurd thing that happens in this hour of television. No, that would go to the introduction of a flowy-haired Bruce Wayne doppelganger that escapes from Arkham along with a bus-full of Strange’s experiments.
Why is there a Bruce Wayne doppelganger? Will he be better at mimicking Bruce’s signature style of brooding better than Clayface was at mimicking Gordon’s signature style of brooding? Will he even care to try? And how did he keep his hair so luxourius while in Arkham? Did Strange infuse the liquid in those stasis tanks with Pantene Pro-V? Hopefully, at least some of these important questions will be answered in season 3.
Doppel-Bruce hitched a ride out of Arkham with Fish Mooney, who is officially back on the streets of Gotham and presumably ready to use her new powers to seek revenge on Penguin, Butch (potentially), and anyone else who wronged her the last time around. I can’t say I am particularly looking forward to a rehash of her plot from season 1, but maybe she and Doppel-Bruce will join forces and start a hair metal band.
It is Gordon who truly comes out of this entire experience a changed man. It turns out that all he needed was a therapy session with Strange to help him work through his guilt issues and finally stop being a self-righteous jerk. The third act sees him stealing Harvey’s car to go find Lee, finally ready to leave Gotham behind (until next season, obviously). Presumably, he will be back. Hopefully, he will be a changed man — more like the level-headed, moral everyman we know from the comics and less like a sometimes murderer who constantly makes decisions for the people in his lives. Until then, friends.