Gotham Season 3 Premiere Review — “Better to Reign in Hell”

Gotham season 3 is off to a promising start...

This article contains spoilers for the Gotham season 3 premiere.

Gotham Season 3, Episode 1

Can Jim Gordon please stay a bounty hunter forever? This day-drinking, money-driven version of Gordon is about a hundred times more interesting than the uneven, self-righteous police officer we’ve had to hang out with for Gotham seasons one and two. This is what Gothamlooks like when the burden of being the primary protagonist is alleviated from Gordon’s character and, instead, he gets to be one part of a larger ensemble. Gothamhas never felt this well-balanced, and I hope it continues…

“Better to Reign in Hell” is very much a follow-up to the many crazy cliffhangers Gothamleft us with in the season two finale. Doppel-Bruces aside, the show somehow manages to spin the escape of the Indian Hill “monsters,” the introduction of the Court of Owls, and the return of Fish Mooney onto the Gotham scene into something coherent and entertaining. (Though the latter is decidedly this show’s specialty, the former often eludes it.)

Season three largely picks up six months following the events of the season two finale, with Gordon living the freelancer life and the GCPD characteristically in over their head. In this case, they are having trouble capturing the escaped Indian Hill inmates, who have taken to looting Gotham pharmacies in an attempt to find immune suppressants that will stabilize their new powers. Or something.

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Fish Mooney has recruited all of the Indian Hill escapees — plus Selina — to be part of her team and no one is more concerned about it than Penguin, who is seriously freaked out by the fact that Fish let him live in the season two finale. He offers a million-dollar reward for anyone who can bring Fish to him, dead or alive. The bounty immediately attracts the attention of our favorite day-drinking bounty hunter, so much so that he is willing to use Bullock for GCPD secrets and piss off Gotham reporter Valerie Vale to do so — and he isn’t even morally-confused about it. Yep, Jim Gordon is a new man.

Jamie Chung is great, much-needed addition to the Gothamformula as Valerie Vale, an emodiment of the people of Gotham — something this show has been sorely missing since its beginning. Gotham can’t just be about the supervillains and the crimefighters. We need an Everyman and, in Valerie Vale, we might just have, if not an Everyman, than a voice of the people. If nothing else, she is asking all of the questions we viewers are yelling at the screen? Namely: Why isn’t the GCPD better at its job? This audience surrogate perspective should immediately ingratiates her to viewers — it has for this viewer.

I am also 100 percent more on board with the Valerie/Jim relationship that will inevitably well up at some point. Morena Baccarin is a goddess incarnate, but the Lee/Jim dynamic has always been one of the duller parts of this show. Judging by the way Jim was staring at that picture of Lee while sitting on his favorite barstool in the way people only ever do in TV and movies, Jim still only has eyes for his former lady love who is still down south, seemingly in a happy relationship. For your own sake, Lee, stay far, far away from Gotham. Nothing good ever happens here. Save yourself. Jim Gordon isn’t worth it.

Speaking of Jim’s former ladies, Barbara and Tabitha Galavan have gone into the club business together — and they have a serious Harley Quinn/Poison Ivy thing going on. (Of course, Gothamalready has a Poison Ivy — a plot point we’ll get to in a bit…) When Butch sends some mob boss-type to threaten Babs and Tabby into submission, it doesn’t take. Tabitha slits some throats, while Barbara laughs (very Joker-esque) before bashing in the face of the lead mobster. Is the season three premiere the most women have ever had to do on Gotham? Between Babs & Tabby’s new club, Fish’s restored reign, and Valerie’s arrival on the scene, I think so. 

And speaking of villainous besties with simmering sexual tension, Penguin has apparently been visiting former roommate Ed at Arkham to vent about Fish’s rise to power. Nygma doesn’t seem overly concerned about Oswald’s fate, but he does offer some sound advice and support (not to mention some impressive origami) with the best line of the episode: “No matter was she’s planning, just remember: Penguins. Eat. Fish.”

While Oswald is hard at work trying to take Fish down, Selina has joined her team — seemingly the only non-Indian Hill member of her crew. Part of me wants to consider this out-of-character for Selina — she isn’t normally a team player, nor does she like to be part of a crew that kills without good reason — but she has pretty much worshipped Fish since she floated into the Gotham docks following her stint on Dulmacher’s Island. One wonders if this will change now that she thinks Fish is responsible for Ivy Pepper’s presumed death. Selina broke down in tears when she saw her friend fall into a Gotham water main, something we hardly ever see Selina do.

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Selina’s tough outer shell definitely didn’t crack when Bruce came to apologize for his six month absence from Gotham. He didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, and Selina is pretty pissed about it. The dynamic between these two continues to be one of the best developed on the show. Listen to me when I say this, Gotham: please don’t ruin all that you have built with a doppelganger.

Doppel-Bruce is stalking in the shadows for most of this premiere, only coming out once to chat with Ivy after having seen the aforementioned conversation between Bruce and Selina. Doppel-Bruce seems to have taken a liking to Selina after she gave him the money from Butch’s stolen wallet (yeah, she’s a total Robin Hood). If Gothampulls a Fringeand has Doppel-Bruce take Bruce’s spot and woo Selina, I’m not sure if I will be able to take it. But, frankly, I’m not sure where else Gothamwould go with this Doppel-Bruce storyline. In a strong premiere episode, this was on of the installment’s few major missteps.

While Doppel-Bruce spends the episode laying low, Regular Bruce does the opposite, marching into Wayne Enterprises and announcing to its Board of Directors that a) he knows the Court of Owls secretly controls the company (and, you know, Gotham) and b) he would like a meeting. Bruce is promptly chloroformed in his own home by Talon — the Court of Owls’ assassin — and carried out of his mansion like the the teenage bag of potatoes that he is. Looks like he’s going to get that meeting he requested…

Memorable lines…

“I don’t think Gotham’s running out of monsters anytime soon.” — Jim Gordon, on job security.

“He said sayonara to the Wayne Enterprises robots, and now he loves it here.” — Harvey on Lucius Fox, who is now working at the GCPD. I don’t even want to think about that paycut.

Lucius Fox awesomely describes the GCPD as a “fascistic meathead culture.”

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“Pancakes?” “Pancakes.” — Bruce and Alfred’s conversation post-Wayne Enterprises board meeting.

“If I could fly to Italy and eat pizza all day, I would, too.” — Selina is not impressed with Bruce’s apology.

“She was in Arkham, hello.” “Hello, so was I.” — Penguin reminds Butch that he’s crazy, too.

“Your body is beginning to reject the changes we made to your DNA.” — I’m pretty pissed that they killed off Ms. Peabody. There had to have been a better use for her character.

“Was a new alarm system really necessary?” “I don’t know, was it really necessary issuing a challenge to a shadowy cabal?” — Alfred, getting sarcastic. Ultimately, the point was moot as Talon easily slipped past Alfred’s alarm system and promptly knocked him unconscious.


3.5 out of 5