This review contains spoilers.
2.6 By Fire
Holy cliff-hanger, Batman! Despite being placed as the sixth episode of the season, By Fire felt like a midseason finale. That’s mainly because of the whopping revelation at the end; that Wayne Enterprises are in the business of experimenting on ‘monsters.’ Crikey. How’s that for a shock?
We’ve always known that Wayne Enterprises were up to something dodgy, but a bit of insider dealing or black market arms trading or funding a few gangsters is all many might have expected. Deciding to bring them into the ‘testing’ of enhanced people sets them up as a potential equivalent to other evil comic book companies and a genuine overarching adversary for the show going forward.
In the same way that Ultimate Spider-Man wove Oscorp into Peter Parker’s past, Gotham seems to be teeing up a similar situation here. But this one comes with the added twist – Bruce actually owns the company that could become a factory for churning out super-villains. What a reveal that was. Introducing a shady lab is one thing, but to make it a Wayne subsidiary is a bold, ballsy move.
Even before that, this episode was clearly building to something. But the mastery of the script this week – only the second Gotham episode by Rebecca Perry Cutter (but hopefully not her last) – was that we didn’t know quite what that ‘something’ was.
Cutter lobbed curveball after curveball at us, creating a genuinely unpredictable and outright thrilling hour of television. Several times we thought the surprises were finished, and then another one came along to hit us in the face. Like Bruce, we let our guard down and allowed ourselves to be distracted. Simply great writing, there.
One strand that demanded attention was Ed Nygma’s romantic life. It’s so often a forgettable side story, but it was clear from the start that a big moment was brewing there. Kristen Kringle knew that Nygma was up to something, but his cutesy coffee delivery managed to diffuse the situation for a few minutes. Come the end of the episode, though, he was strangling her to death using both hands while professing his love simultaneously.
Nygma is surely on the verge of losing all control of his split personality, at this stage. Is the game up, or will he get away with it? Will he end up in Arkham or continue working at the GCPD? Only time will tell, but ripping him from his status quo could be interesting. Either way, Cory Michael Smith is improving every time Nygma inches closer to pure psychotic Riddler-ness.
Chelsea Spack was only just getting a chance to shine in recent weeks, with scripts finally giving her more to do. It’ll be a shame, then, to see Miss Kringle go before she really had a chance to become a fan favourite. Still, shock deaths like this (see: Jerome a few weeks ago) have taught Gotham fans to stay on their toes. It’s nice to have a show where you’re not sure which side characters are going to survive the season, or even the episode.
And, of course, the Firefly origin story was battling for screen-time too. Peeling back her character a little, the episode began with Michelle Veintimilla’s Bridgit shocked and saddened by her murderous moment last week. From there, she hatched a plan to become a twisted kind of superhero, with a mission statement involving the incineration of ‘pervs and bullies.’ This was a neat idea from the writers – pitching Bridgit somewhere between victim, villain and vigilante. Veintimilla can convey all three sides of that paradigm pretty well, and we hope it’s not too long before she comes back.
To get to Bridgit, the GCPD needed to do some actual detective work. Hitting the streets (and the suspects), bribing Ivy with chocolate to get a lead, trawling CCTV footage, and betraying promises to get closer to the truth. In an episode with so much going on, it would’ve been easy to give Jim and co. an easy clue and move on, making it all the more impressive that an actual investigation was woven into the episode instead.
With all this going on – and the Penguin/Butch/Galavan strand that I haven’t even had time to mention – the revelation of Wayne Enterprises’ Indian Hill facility came completely from the left field. We’ll be feeling the ramifications of this sleek reveal for a while, and it’ll be tough to top this week’s stellar episode.
Bravo to all involved.