This Gotham review contains spoilers.
Gotham Season 3, Episode 18
Bringing in the Court of Owls has been a strike of genius for Gotham this season. By giving both our favorite heroes and our favorite villains a common antagonist in Kathryn and her Court, they are allowed to work together and interact in a way we have never quite seen from this show. Surely, it cannot last, but, for now, the boundaries between the protagonists and antagonists of Gotham have never felt more permeable and I love it.
The Court wants to watch Gotham tear itself apart.
As with the Scarecrow in Batman Begins, the Court has a plan to expose the dark side of Gotham in a way the city can no longer ignore (how they could have ignored all of the previous crazy, messed up shenanigans that have been going down in this city for the last three years is beyond me). With the release of the aerated version of the Alice Tetch virus, Gotham will be cleansed… or something. No, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it does introduce Chekov’s virus into the end of this season. I can’t wait to see this show pull the trigger, so to speak.
Before the Court can release the virus, however, it has to test it… apparently. Kathryn uses the opportunity to also test Jim Gordon’s loyalty (two birds, one virus — as they say in Gotham). Now, the fact that Kathryn had any doubt whatsoever that Jim wasn’t a spy is an insult to the intelligence of a secret society that is meant to be pretty powerful and smart. Like, of course Jim is a spy. He’s not even a particularly good one, literally not even waiting until he’s gotten into his car to call Harvey and report his findings after being caught breaking and entering Kathryn’s apartment.
Has Jim ever seemed like the kind of guy who would work against saving Gotham? No. Who cares if he supposedly killed his uncle? What does that prove against the fact that he’s the killjoy at every single Gotham gathering, meeting, or gala who won’t stop talking about trying to save the soul of the city. He has made Doing The Right Thing (as defined by his own arrogant self-righteousness) into a personal brand. There’s no way this guy is joining a villainous, power-hungry secret society bent on killing hundreds to prove a point. It’s just not in Jim’s DNA (morally-questionable father and uncle, aside).
The only one who might believe Jim’s apparent villainy at this point is Lee, who spends the entire episode running around the GCPD like a crazy person, trying to get one person to tell her the truth. She comes off like a nagging girlfriend, which is frustrating because her points are all salient ones. Also, it’s unclear why Harvey, Jim, and Lucius won’t just tell her the truth. She could help. She’s trustworthy. She has a vested interest in bringing down the virus because, no matter how many times she tells Jim he ruined her life, it’s really the virus that mostly did that. (Though I’m not going to try to make the argument that Jim ever made her life markedly better, either.)
Oswald finds Ed.
Meanwhile, Penguin has stepped out of the shadows and demands an audience with the Court, intent on finding Ed. In another example of characters we don’t often get to see working together, Ed ends up saving Jim (and, by extension, a whole room of the Daughters of Gotham) frm the Court’s test virus. “Light the Wick” relied a great deal on previously-formed relationships, making the action in this episode feel that much deeper than many Gotham installments. When Oswald first confronts Jim, it seems like Jim might even be happy to see the villain. He seemingly cares enough about the Gotham villain not to deliver him to the Court until he absolutely has to. (An echo of Jim’s interactions with Ed and the Court.)
Ultimately, Oswald ends up exactly where he wants to be: by Ed’s side. Of course, they are both in Court cages. It’s a great cliffhanger that promises even better scenes in (hopefully) next week’s episode. Despite all of Oswald and Ed’s proclamations about wanting to kill one another, it’s unclear how they will interact when they first see each other again after Oswald’s presumed death. Oswald ultimately goes for a rage-fueled attempt to grab Ed, though you can’t convince me that these two aren’t happy to see one another.
Ivy saves Selina.
Elsewhere in the episode, Ivy goes looking for Selina, only to discover that her friend is in the hospital with a dire prognosis. That is unacceptable to Ivy (and to this reviewer) and the herbology wizard sets about making Selina better, using only the power of her plants. It’s another example of Gotham relying on an already-established relationship to make us care. Extra points for Ivy showing up at Barbara’s looking for Selina. It seems like a lifetime ago that Selina and Ivy crashed at Barbara’s super sweet apartment in Season 1, but we have not forgotten. And, surprisingly, neither has the show.
By the end of the night, Selina was alive and intent on killing Doppel-Bruce. That girl does not waste any time.
Bruce embraces his Batman training.
The only storyline of the night that didn’t meld as seamlessly as the rest was Bruce’s continued training with the Shaman. Though the connection would ultimately become obvious in the show’s final minutes when Kathryn called the Shaman (and addressed him as “sir”!), much of this story arc played along familiar beats. Repress your rage and you will be able to harness the power of your fists, etc. I’m all for Bruce continuing his Batman training, but this was all a little tired, not to mention a distraction in an episode that used the city of Gotham so well in its other storylines.
Hugo Strange is back! That man will always be a welcome addition to the cast. When he saves Jim from being strangled by the latest victim of the Alice Tetch virus, Jim almost seems more disturbed to see him than to suffer death at the hands of the psychotic Gotham resident.
Another note: Firefly killed Talon! This felt like a premature end to a character that was never fully utilized. However, Gotham has too many characters as it is, so it’s hard to feel too sad about the off-ing of one I didn’t care all that much about.
Barnes is back and ready to kill Gordon, per Kathryn’s orders, by the end of the episode. As much as I like Michael Chiklis, it’s hard for me to get to excited about this storyline. I’ve never really cared all that much about Barnes. Potential silver lining? Maybe Barnes’ return will convince Lee that she is in a little bit of denial about the virus’ role in Mario’s death.
In another example of an intriguing character interaction, Lee and Harvey get their own little subplot this episode when Lee goes to her boss with concerns about Jim and his role in his uncle’s death. She’s right to have concerns, but Harvey brushes her off. She is understandably frustrated with the ways in which the GCPD always covers Jim’s ass, telling Harvey that they used to be friends. This line would have hit a little harder if we had seen more of their relationship prior, but it was still a nice little moment between two characters we don’t often get to see together — an example of what this episode did so well.