…a largely barren week, this was. I’ve already expressed my displeasure at how someone somewhere apparently decided to have Agents of Shield basically skip the entire month, but at least it’s returning thus upcoming week! As for the rest, I can understand The Vampire Diaries and Arrow skipping this week, though though the latter’s sister show, The Flash, delivered a powerful, emotion story in “Killer Frost,” where the terrible consequences of Barry’s ill-advised (aka, “stupid and senseless”) actions have caught up with him and his loved ones. The mystery for me is Once Upon a Time. I mean, sure, skip the day of Thanksgiving, and the days before and after. But why skip Sunday? Surely there aren’t that many people heading off that early! They’re showing this upcoming week, so why skip last week?
Meh, beats me.
So my lineup had a total of one appearance this week:
3.10 “Time Bomb”
Gotham has gotten into its groove. I’m just saying that, right now. It “really delivers” every week now. And that’s why we love it! 🙂
It may have been the only one in my lineup to make an appearance this week, but it was an intense episode!
I will admit, I didn’t quite put it together, the surprise that was coming at the end of this episode. I almost did, but “almost” carries no weight. It was when Lee listed the signs, the gradual symptoms which indicate the presence of the Tetch virus, that I felt something tugging at the back of my head. Something I should be seeing, but wasn’t. There was a reason they were telling us this now. The signs, by the way, included increased strength and emotional instability. The lab working on the blood at least has the means to detect it now. One step towards a cure.
So, with that looming in the background, we had, as has become fairly usual, three fronts in this episode: one following Gordon, one following Bruce, and one following everyone else. Working those in backwards order of mention…
As Barnes has been consigned to Arkham until a cure for Tetch virus can be formulated, the city grows ever more uneasy. A mayor, it is Penguin’s role to reassure and protect the people of Gotham. As king of the criminal underworld, it is his business to make a profit at doing so. He’s just instituting a fifty percent hike in their “protection” rackets when Barbara storms in, looking for Butch and Tabitha, convinced the Penguin must have them, because who else both would and could?
Barbara is both anxious about her friends and offended that she wasn’t invited to Penguin’s meeting, she being just a club owner, not a crime family head. She’s a vicious animal, and not accustomed to being anywhere but the top, so being so forcefully put into her place as if she’s nothing more than a rabid Chihuahua really rankles her. Still, it’s when she sees an opening, a hidden opportunity right under Penguin’s nose, that she withdraws her claws and fangs (and gun), and quietly leaves. Only to return, of course, to gather information from the maid, Olga, who, it turns out, does speak English. Said information gives her a trail to follow, through the purchase and deliver of equipment from a BDSM shop, to Nygma, and thus to Tabitha and Butch.
Yes, of course it’s Nygma who has them. He used Butch’s more predictable tendencies, like his appetite and his taste in cuisine, to drug both of them, and now he has them tied up and at his tender, nonexistent mercies. Butch tries in vain to convince Nygma that he’d never heard of Isabella, let alone had any chance to harm her, and just gets shocked a multitude of times for it. Then comes Nygma’s piece de resistance: he puts Tabitha’s right hand in a miniature guillotine, a timer counting down from one minute, and a button in that same hand. If she pushes the button, she keeps her hand, but fatally electrocutes Butch. If not, she loses the hand, and they both go free.
It is a very tense moment. …ok, no freaking duh, it’s a very tense moment! Nygma stands tall in sadistic glee over his supposed adversary, and how it turns out all comes down to Tabitha’s single choice. Butch, I have to say, behaved with much more dignity and feeling than I would have once expected of him. He did betray and murder one of his oldest, dearest friends all the way back in the first season, after all. But now, with his life on the line, he does not try to convince Tabitha with logic or reasoning or anything else. He just makes a simple, heartfelt confession: he loves her, even if he knows she doesn’t love him the same way, and he has been happier with her in hiding than he’s ever been in his entire life.
That’s what does it. As Butch faces Nygma in defiance, ready to die, Tabitha makes her choice: she lets go of the button, and gives up her hand. They manage to put it on ice and rush her to a hospital, but still, there’s a poetry to all of this. Butch lost his left hand to Penguin, in mimicry of Tabitha’s ancestor, and now Tabitha loses her right hand to the Riddler, for the sake of someone she loves, also much like her ancestor. Poetry. Somewhat gruesome poetry, mind you, but still, poetry.
So Tabitha gives up her hand, and Barbara stalks in, armed, not ten seconds later. But it’s what Butch said, in his supposed final act of defiance, that rocks Nygma to his core. Butch lied, confessing to Isabella’s murder, saying she told him she wished she’d been with a real man, just before he shot her in the head. Of course Butch would think that was the murder method. It is what he would have done, after all. But that’s not how it happened. And who on Earth, in their final, defiant moment, would gloat at their murderer, but get the details wrong?
Nygma follows evidence, but he is also quite aware of the human element. So when Butch gets that detail wrong, he detects the lie. He realizes that Butch really is innocent of Isabella’s murder. He’s got the wrong guy. He’s practically in shock as he walks out, leaving Butch and Tabitha to Barbara.
Once Tabitha is in medical care, Butch is practically a walking tower of anger, but Barbara’s mind is racing, putting pieces together… and she realizes the truth. It was Penguin, who loves Nygma and doesn’t want to share him, who killed Isabella. And in this truth… she sees opportunity! Butch is ready to go to war for revenge, but Barbara has a much better idea! All they need to do is help Nygma learn the truth, and then they can just sit back and watch the war start itself. She sees a future where Nygma turns against Penguin and the two destroy each other, giving Barbara, Butch, and Tabitha not only revenge, but a chance to rise to the top and take all of Gotham for themselves!
And that… that right there, is a major moment for the show, both for the plot and for Barbara especially. She’s been in the background for a bit, not really had an actual purpose for a little while now. But this is the moment where she comes back into the center of things, the puppeteer challenging both Penguin and Riddler simultaneously, by getting them to challenge each other.
To quote Darth Vader: Impressive! Most impressive! 😉
And all of that was just one of our three stages. 🙂
Now moving over to Bruce’s arena, he and Alfred have had Selina and Ivy holed up at Wayne Manor since the events of last episode, and the mansion is on complete lock-down. It’s safe, or safe enough, inside the mansion, as long as the security system is active, but they’re all stuck inside. Luxurious or not, a cage is a cage, and the girls are going mad from being cooped up. Well, Selina’s going mad from it. Ivy only cares about the plants, and in caring for them, she bespells Alfred into letting her out. Of course, the instant she’s out, the murderous thugs grab her and demand an exchange.
While that’s playing out, Bruce and Selina are trying to find a balance between themselves. Bruce would like to be a couple, the choice being as orderly as his character likes, but Selina is more free-spirited than that. Ah, Bruce, you have a very long and winding road ahead of you when it comes to your relationship with the future Catwoman! 🙂 But their discussion gets put on hold in favor of the crisis at hand.
Before Ivy’s captors call to ransom her, Selina manages to clean up the gunk off the mysterious key that was hidden within the jewel. She notices something that looks like a bird’s face on its handle, but Bruce recognizes it, and realizes they may have just stepped into the biggest, steamiest pile of crap in the entire city: the key has the face of an owl etched onto it. He very well remembers Catherine, with her owl mask, and races to tell Alfred, already planning how to explain the situation to their enemy and keep the truce going, lest they suddenly all find themselves suddenly dead.
When their foes call for an exchange, Bruce, Alfred, and Selina go not only to get Ivy back, but also for the sake of maintaining that truce. They show up, find themselves outnumbered and outgunned, but they keep their nerve. Bruce, the leader, reveals that they have the key, and says they’ve hidden it, their leverage to ensure their demands are met. They want Ivy, but Bruce also wants to speak to Catherine directly. And then their foes reveal that they are not with the enemy, but they are familiar with them: the Court of Owls.
Quick note: you know how perfect it is for Batman’s earliest enemies to be a flock of Owls? Creatures and predators of the night, both, but owls are generally one notch above bats, and this bat doesn’t even have his wings yet. Uphill battle, much? 😉
Upon learning that they share the Court as an enemy, both sides of this exchange cease threatening and begin explaining. The thugs are called the Whisper Gang, the most notorious smugglers in the city, and they were once a force to be reckoned with in Gotham, both powerful and growing ever stronger. That’s when the Court came to them, offered them a partnership, welcomed them into the fold… or flock, I suppose. But it was a deception. They betrayed the Whisper Gang, laid them low, nearly wiped them out. Most of the survivors fled overseas, to Ukraine, but a few have lingered, looking for a way to destroy the Court who deceived, seduced, betrayed, and murdered them.
To that end, they sought the jewel, and the key within. They have reason to believe that the Court fears what it might unlock. It’s one of two such keys, the Court possessing one, and the other having been lost and recently found again. It opens a safe kept within a building the Court owns, and within the safe is some manner of weapon which, the Whisper Gang believes, can destroy them.
I’m going to make an educated guess here and say that this “weapon” is information of some kind, something that can pull the curtains back and reveal them, every last one, for who they are and what they have done. That would most certainly be something the Court would fear: exposure. Once revealed, not only would the law be able to bring the Court down, perhaps even the main body of them if they’re lucky and swift, but all of their enemies, which are most assuredly numerous, would finally be able to strike back, destroy them, hunt down the stragglers, leave any last remnants scurrying for cover for a generation or more, just waiting to be killed.
That’s my guess, at least.
Whatever it is, Bruce recognizes the situation for what it is. The truce he has been hiding behind was never real, it was only a convenient way to muzzle him until the Court could destroy him at its leisure. That would most certainly be why Catherine picked up his doppelganger off the streets, to brainwash him and make him their servant, then arrange to replace Bruce with him. An accident, perhaps, one that would claim the life of his dear butler, Alfred Pennyworth, but leave “Bruce” alive, but really his double, parading around as if he really were Bruce Wayne, all while real Bruce’s body has been disposed of. But I digress. A lot. 😉
The truce is a lie, and Bruce only accepted it because he believed there was no means within reach to fight back and destroy the Court of Owls. They killed his parents, had Strange betray his father, and now they threaten the lives of everyone he cares for. Now fortune has delivered him the literal key to the Court’s destruction, as well as some unexpected allies in the form of the Whisper Gang. The time for peaceful idleness is over. Now is the time for war.
Bruce makes quite the impression on the Whisper Gang. Their leader is willing to join forces and bring all of their manpower into the fray. Unfortunately, he and another member are both ambushed and killed by Catherine’s lethal agent. It’s only fortunate that they refused to reveal anything to their murderer. They went down fighting, and there is something honorable in that, which makes their deaths all the more tragic. Even thieves can have honor, though the Court clearly has none.
So, thus far, we have the brotherhood of Penguin and Riddler about to dissolve in war, and Bruce, with whatever allies he has remaining, is also about to go to war with the Court of Owls themselves.
Moving over to Gordon’s story now, we have a GCPD that is barely holding together under Bullock’s temporary leadership. They are in a rather precarious position right now, so they really do not want anything that will rock the boat even further, let alone something that will make the whole city explode. It is very bad on many levels, then, when someone puts a bomb in Carmine Falcone’s car while he’s having dinner with Mario and Lee.
The obvious question everyone will ask: who is trying to kill Falcone, and why?
This being so obvious, it makes for a perfect cover, as no one would expect a bomb in his car to have been meant for anyone else who happened to be standing right next to him.
Gordon is on the case, naturally. He manages to convince the retired crime lord to hold off on his own search for both answers and, especially, reprisals. At least for one day, anyway. He and Bullock find the man behind the bomb quickly enough, but his employers found him first. Fortunately, said employer did not adequately find and dispose of all the evidence. Gordon found a file, and learned that the intended target was not Falcone. It was his son, Mario.
…which makes for a great, big “what?”
Mario struck me very oddly this episode. When we met him, he seemed like a fairly noble man, and not very aggressive. But he stepped up to help save Lee, so then his aggression towards Gordon last episode was more believable. And now that he has a target on his back, endangering Lee as well, I could believe he’d go above and beyond to protect her. But he was also being irrational, when he refused to delay anything to do with the wedding, when he practically accused Jim of trying to impress Lee and get her back, and especially when he wandered off on his own, going ring shopping in order to draw his would-be killers to him.
Something was just a bit strange, and I was too busy enjoying it to put it together, not entirely dissimilar to how I failed to guess the truth about Talia in Dark Knight Rises, though it would have taken a mere two seconds to put the pieces together if I hadn’t been so enthralled by the movie. 🙂
Still, Gordon caught up to Mario just in time, and they dealt with the assassins, Mario dealing with his lethally. They barely had the surviving assassin in custody before someone very high up pulled the strings to remove him from GCPD custody. Between the bomb, the knives, and the pulled strings, Gordon could tell this wasn’t just some sort of mob hit. He’s wondering what’s going on, what Mario is into, as are we all, when Falcone puts some pieces together privately. When Gordon and Bullock step away for some man-to-man talk, and Lee shows up to hear Mario’s explanation, Falcone steps into the interrogation room… and removes the tooth of son’s would-be killer. There is, on that tooth, the mark of an owl. Which he is familiar with.
Yep. I was wondering if Falcone had known about the Court, and now the question is answered. His ensuing conversation with Catherine intimates that he has long done the Court’s bidding, even at the cost of his own interests. It was with his assistance that the Court gained Arkham and Indian Hill, for instance, a debacle which nearly tore the city apart, making way for Penguin’s ascension, and ended with Falcone’s retirement. Which means the entire conflict of the first season, and much of the second, was due entirely to the Court’s puppet strings.
Having served so faithfully, Falcone is confused and affronted that the Court would target his son. Was it a mistake? No, Catherine assures him, it was not. So he presses, why? She refuses to answer him. He chooses, then, to threaten her, and the Court itself. If his son is harmed, it will be war between them. She is confident, tells him he’ll lose. But, as any parent, and anyone who truly loves another person, knows so very well… in the wake of that loss, winning is not the point. Which is even worse.
When you have an enemy bent on winning, it becomes a game of strategy, where one can predict what their enemy will do, and minimize the damage. But when the point of a war does not involve winning… well, then the point is simply chaos and destruction, making the gutters flow with your blood. Carmine would, most likely, lose, and lose completely, but he could certainly rain Hell down on the Court in the meantime. His threat is not empty. If Mario dies, then Gotham, their kingdom, the heart of their empire, burns beneath their very feet.
And I note, who knows how many of the Court itself will be claimed by the inferno.
And the Court already knows this. That’s why they tried to disguise their first attempt as a mob hit, and one which could potentially remove Falcone himself from the picture. They may not truly fear him, but they know better than to court open warfare with him. Only a fool would do so, and they are not so foolish.
Faced with that, Catherine backs down. Though, even in that, she has no appearance of weakness. Falcone just made a direct threat against her and Court, and so she makes it clear that they are the ones with the superior position here. They have their agenda, and will expect his assistance when called upon. Until then, his son is safe… at least, from them.
Falcone easily detects her meaning there, that there is something or someone else who will pose a threat to Mario, and is categorically denied any further information when he presses for it. She ends the conversation, and leaves him alone in the street.
She says something interesting, though. She talks as if the Court of Owls seeks to protect Gotham from falling into chaos. In fact, she seems to believe they are the only ones capable of saving the city. We are all the hero in our own story, but perhaps we have just gained a peek into the Court’s motivation. It would certainly behoove such a powerful elite, in the interest of maintaining their own power and influence, to maintain the order of the city, the status quo. But I wonder if they have something else on their minds. This “judgment” perhaps? Do they justify their lies, betrayals, and murders as something for the greater good of society? Do they think they are sacrificing a few for the sake of the masses?
Hmmm. That would pose an interesting theory. We know that Bruce must be driven to become Batman at some point, and by the time he does, the city has descended into madness, sinking ever deeper and deeper into the abyss despite his relentless efforts. Could all that, in this story, be triggered by the Court’s fall? In defeating the people who murdered his parents, is Bruce going to inadvertently condemn the city to such prolonged, festering agony? Where monsters and mad freaks practically run rampant in the streets, leaving entire graveyards in their wake?
Will the Court be proven right, in the end?
I rather think not. The madness has long been restrained in Gotham, and it was unleashed by the Court’s murder of the Waynes. Then it was stirred up by the war Falcone went to in order to do their bidding, then intensified again by the madness they unleashed on the streets in their efforts to conquer death itself. And now we have war brewing in every corner of the city, all because of the Court. If it’s not their enemies rising against them, it’s their pawns turning against each other.
Oh, and the episode ends on a heartbreaking note, with Lee and Gordon finally saying good-bye to each other, making it a nice, clean break, as they never had before. And then it ends on a horrifying note, with that surprise I mentioned way back at the beginning of this post, as Mario watches from afar, as Lee leaves Gordon’s place, only to be beset by a pair of thugs… whom he overwhelms with all the mad fury of the Tetch virus.
I saw that and I was like, “Oh no… no, no, nonono! He’s infected! …and that makes so much sense!” And everything snapped into place! The band-aid Gordon noticed a couple episodes ago, right after Mario saved his life when he’d been exposed to the Tetch-enhanced Red Queen drug. His gradually increasing aggression and jealousy, including physically punching Gordon right around the same time Barnes was shoving the criminal doctor through a wall, and when he overpowered and choked his assailant just a little earlier in this episode. Increasing strength and emotional instability!
Oh, and when Lee was commenting on those signs, they had Mario say, “Nothing he couldn’t hide.” Hah, I suppose he would know! Excellent foreshadowing of this episode’s cliffhanger!
So, we have Tabitha sans his right hand, Barbara and Butch poised to strike at their enemies and take over, the Penguin and the Riddler soon to go to war, Bruce seizing an opportunity to strike at the Court of Owls, hopefully with some new allies as well, despite two of them being murdered already, Falcone relationship with the Court becoming so strained that he threatens war as well, which would surely cause great suffering throughout the city, and, to top it all off, a jealous, Tetch-enhanced Mario is standing right outside Gordon’s front door.
…did I miss anything? 😉