This review contains spoilers.
4.13 A Beautiful Darkness
It’s fitting that the current arc of Gotham is subtitled “A Dark Knight.” The latest episode, A Beautiful Darkness may have been the most Christopher Nolan this show has ever become… to varying results.
The most successful subplot of the evening came at Arkham Asylum, where Jerome made dressed Oswald up as a clown, physically and psychologically manipulated him, and then tried recruit Penguin for a big, mysterious plan he has. According to Jerome, the only reason he is even at Arkham is to find the craziest people he can to join his supervillain team and wreak havoc on Gotham. Yes, it’s a very Joker plan (even if Jerome is not technically the Joker), and Cameron Monaghan has never been better as the maniacal, seriously insane Jerome.
At one point, Oswald gets the upper hand on Jerome by miming himself into an imaginary cell and getting Jerome to come into it. It’s the kind of plot point that might not work if the show’s two most charismatic actors (which, for the record, is a very competitive category) weren’t working the material. It also might not work if Oswald didn’t have a glimmer of hope that he might get out of Arkham alive after all.
At the beginning of the episode, he explains to Jerome why he can’t escape—as he is more or less powerless, Martin’s safety depends on him keeping a low profile—but, by the end of the episode, Oswald has the beginnings of a plan. When Ed comes to visit, the Riddler gets a message to him. He’s still in there. What could this mean for #Nygmobblepot? Well, it means there is still some kind of connection there. In the mean time, it means Oswald has hope—hope for his future in Gotham, and for his future in general.
While Oswald and Jerome’s subplot was very The Dark Knight, Bruce’s subplot was very Batman Begins—more specifically the opening prologue when young Bruce falls down a bat-infested well and develops a fear of the mammal. It all starts when Ivy’s fruitarian vengeance tour lands at Bruce’s mansion. Ivy is desperate to find out more about Wayne Enterprises’ mysterious Project M, which she is convinced has resulted in the death and torture of poor, innocent vegetation. She uses her very convincing hallucinogenic perfume to get the info out of Bruce and then leaves him to die a slow death.
As the poison works its way through his system, Bruce goes a little crazy himself, stuck inside a hallucination of his own making where R’as al Ghul cuts his face off, Gordon has a moustache, and the Batman is showing up in the dark alley where his parents died. It scares Bruce, but there is one constant: Alfred is his saviour. The episode ends with Bruce leaving a voicemail for his former guardian. He seemingly wants to make amends, but how will Alfred respond? Will he pull a Harvey, and call Bruce out on his self-destructive pattern or will he realise that this confused teenager needs him now more than ever?
The least successful subplot of the night came in the proper reintroduction of Ivy. While Peyton List continues to be wonderful in the role, this character’s backstory and personality have become too muddled over the course of three actors to work. When Ivy kisses Bruce, I wasn’t sure how to react. This show seemingly aged Ivy up just so they could sexualise the character, but now we have a teenager in the body of a 31-year-old woman kissing a 17-year-old. It’s a lot to take in, and Gotham doesn’t even half-heartedly try to put any of this into context.
Ultimately, Ivy’s vengeance tour of Gotham leads her to a secret Wayne Enterprises facility on the outskirts of the city. There, she finds out that Project M isn’t about killing plants; it’s about studying the effects of the Lazarus water Lucius Fox pulled from the pit. It’s a lot of fuss for a payoff that isn’t particularly mind-blowing, but it does give us a bit more insight into what Wayne Enterprises is up to. Thus far, the show has only occasionally dabbled in how the company fits into this city and into this comic book world. Perhaps A Beautiful Darkness is a hint that there will be more to come.
A Beautiful Darkness was a bit of a filler episode, one that had its ups (the Arkham stuff), downs (the Ivy stuff) and its in-betweens (the Bruce stuff). This show tends to be at its best when it is at its most cohesive and, after last week’s grounded midseason return, which had Gotham feeling like a real place and its ensemble like a group of people who are actually connected, it was a bit of a let down to see such a disjointed episode.
That being said, Gotham continues to build its arcs in intriguing ways. In addition to the forementioned, we see Sofia moving in on Lee. It’s implied by Sofia, who tried to get Jim to fall in line earlier in the episode by threatening to tell the GCPD the truth about Pyg, that she is only reaching out to her sister-in-law to scare Jim. But might I suggest that, like so many people in Gotham, Sofia is underestimating Lee Thompkins?
Elsewhere, we see Sofia meeting with Barbara. Could she have been the one who suggested Sofia go after Lee? It certainly fits with her M.O. The longer this show airs, the more it becomes about Jim’s terrible relationships with his ex-girlfriends. This is not a criticism; just a comment. You do you, Gotham.