And then there was one. 🙂
Gotham delivered a deep and powerful one-two punch with a two-hour season finale, rather perfect for leaving us satisfied while also making us look forward to next season.
Doctor Who didn’t exactly pull its punches either! We have five episodes left, and this episode was easily the equal of the standard season finale. And there’s still more to go! This is Capaldi’s concluding season, and they seem to finally be pulling out all the stops! 🙂
10.08 “The Lie of the Land”
So, the monks took over by making everyone believe they were already in charge, and always had been. Clever indeed, because while people automatically resist new things, especially new oppression, they automatically accept things as they have always been, if only because they can’t fathom the success of the change.
Of course, even when something is legitimately old, dissension is inevitable, and the monks have a huge facade to maintain. So, they are constantly beaming their psychic propaganda directly into every human mind on Earth, and even then, there are those who remember the truth. The human authorities, acting on the monks’ false authority, are very busy rounding up dissenters. And throughout it all, the Doctor himself is the face and voice of their regime.
Bill is just going about her life. She doesn’t remember what happened right after she consented, but her life is continuing, quite normal among all her fellow humans. But she feels the monks’ intrusion and resists, quietly, every single day. It ends with herself only because she has faith in the Doctor. Even with his face everywhere, advocating for the monks, she believes he must be cooperating only temporarily, that he’s planning and waiting for the right moment. So she waits for him, and doesn’t act out. Instead, she sits down, every day, and conjures a mental image of her mother to converse with. Bill tells her everything, sharing the burden with someone who can never tell.
It seems just going through each day is such a torment for Bill that she’s going crazy just so she can keep functioning.
And then Nardole arrives with glorious news: he’s alive! And he’s found the Doctor! The monks keep him on a prison ship, which Nardole and Bill pay the captain of a cargo ship to smuggle them aboard as part of his crew. They nearly get caught, first by soldiers asking for papers, then by a monk whose timely arrival ends the request for papers prematurely. And they’re aboard.
There they find the Doctor. Who immediately calls for the guards and calls the monks to come. Yes, it seems he is working for them, truly and genuinely. He has become jaded and angry in his frustration with humanity for accepting the fascist monks, blaming Bill for opening humanity up to this takeover, and siding with the monks because, in lieu of free will, at least they bring peace.
It’s the struggle of human nature. On the one hand, authority can bring stability but at the cost of freedom, while freedom brings chaos. Humanity has been fighting to find a balance between the two for the whole of its existence. The Doctor, it seems, has elected for the peace of humanity’s enslavement.
Bill is shattered. Her guilt is heavy and her faith is broken, but her choice is freedom, and in her volatile state, she does the unthinkable: she shoots the Doctor with one of the guards’ guns. He staggers, falls, and begins to regenerate… and then it stops as he grins, congratulating Bill as the guards applause.
Bill’s faith was well-founded after all. So much so, in fact, that as the Doctor has been planning, as well as recruiting and deprogramming the guards, he couldn’t take the chance that Bill had been corrupted by the monks. They tested her reaction to the Doctor’s seeming betrayal, switching out the bullets with blanks, and she passed with flying colors. They had to put her through the wringer, but now they know they can trust her. It was Nardole’s idea, which quite nearly earns him a thrashing at Bill’s hands, quite understandably.
Now the Doctor has his guards and his friends at his side, all that’s left is their emergency ace in the hole. After six months of patience, the Doctor acts out a little bit, driving the prison ship straight through any barrier between them and the shore, laughing maniacally. Yes, after that display, the monks are waiting for him at the university, but they aren’t anywhere near the Doctor’s destination: the Vault, and within it, their trump card.
The Doctor’s had his adventures, and Missy’s had hers. This is his first time meeting the monks, but she’s dealt with them before. In exchange for a few requests – which she justifies with a declaration that she could easily escape, but she’s here, partaking in the process of her reformation – she lends the Doctor her expertise.
It turns out, the monks take over by forging a psychic link with a human, one who asks for their help and consents to the price without any ulterior agenda. That bond is then projected out in a psychic signal, strengthened and maintained via the many monk statues, saturating every human mind on the planet. So, kill the signal, free humanity. Kill the living link, and the signal dies.
Small problem: this involves killing, and it involves killing Bill.
The Doctor refuses.
Missy keeps explaining that the link is passed on through the bloodline. Everywhere else the monks have invaded, the living link usually goes on to live a normal life, have kids, etc. Anywhere that has failed, the monks have just chalked it up to experience and left. Either way, the only way to save humanity is to sacrifice one human life, to kill the link as Missy once did.
The Doctor refuses.
He declares that Missy isn’t changing at all, and she responds with her ow recrimination. His definition of good is not the absolute measure, and even if she succeeds in becoming good, she’ll never be his definition of such.
Bill is for it. If it’s the only way to save humanity, then she, the one who brought this on them, should be the one to pay the price. The monks won’t ever hurt her, which means it has to be a friend.
Mind you, the monks made one small error in making a lesbian their living link, but Bill isn’t about to die of natural causes very soon, so the crisis remains.
Refusing to give up on Bill, the Doctor instead leads his men on a daring raid into the heart of the monks’ headquarter, right to the very seat of their power. After all, it’s not Bill but the signal that needs to die, and the signal is coming through her, but from the monks. She’s the link, not the source, and the Doctor goes for the source.
They have to record a looped message they can all listen to, to counteract the psychic propaganda signal. This leaves them unable to hear the monks coming at them from behind or from the sides, but it’s the only way to remember the what, how, and why of the mission when they’re so close to the signal. They make it, at a cost, and then the Doctor takes on the entire signal single-handed. He almost succeeds, pushing the lies out of the truth, but the monks rally and shove him out of the signal, nearly killing him as they reestablish their lies.
And then it’s Bill’s turn. She makes her case, overriding the Doctor’s protests, and goes in, ready to die. Either she shoves the monks out of everyone’s heads, or she dies, and the signal dies with them. Catch 22.
On the brink of psychic and physical collapse, Bill retreats to her sacred refuge: her mother. Which, as it happens, is a memory they were unable to corrupt. It’s pure and untainted, and the strength of it, of Bill’s love for her mother and her mother’s love for her, floods the psychic signal. The truth of that sacred relationship floods every human mind, and it breaks the lie. All around the world, all at once, all the people of the world rise against the monks, their minds clear and their hearts filled.
And the monks, highly interested in surviving, turn tail and run.
Though they do take a moment to erase themselves from human memory. Just a little something to, ah, keep the humans from uniting and coming after them.
Everything goes back to normal.
Life goes on.
Bill goes back to school.
The Doctor goes back to Missy.
Missy… who is crying. In her time and solitude and desire to live, she is remember everyone she’s killed. Every last one. And no matter how many she remembers, she’s always remembering more.
She is a mass murderer, now looking at every single face she’s murdered.
Such is the agony of learning empathy: truly limitless remorse.
Perhaps that is another reason the Doctor refused to kill Bill, to avoid adding another face.
3.21 – 3.22 “Destiny Calling” and “Heavydirtysoul”
Each of these episodes was packed, and both of them, back to back like this? Oh, there was a lot going on!
So, obviously, square in center stage is the great upheaval. Thousands of Tetch-infected victims are instantly rampaging through the streets, unleashing a scale of destruction yet unseen on the show, and likely never seem by Gotham at least since the last time the Court destroyed the city. Now the Court and the city both lie in bloody, burning, chaotic ruin.
Gordon himself stands at the very heart of the struggle. He is the walking embodiment of the city’s suffering. His darkness is his aggressive nature. He’s a killer, bull-headed, impatient, willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. He’s been wrestling with this for years now, and he’s fallen to it before and come back. Meaning, he has experience, and that’s buying him time, but he’s fighting a losing battle. He can’t sit this crisis out, but every time he fights, the darkness takes a stronger hold on him.
To make things worse: the city doesn’t have any idea how to cure the infected, a number of which are just being killed on the spot to stop their rampaging.
Fox, however, has good news: the house of the Owl leader, Bruce’s lying mentor, yielded files which indicate that Strange developed more than just the virus, the Court also had him working on an antidote. That, at least, was intelligent of them. They were rather interested in surviving, unscathed, the chaos they unleashed. They created a powerful weapon, and the first rule of such is to always include an off switch.
So, the city doesn’t need to create a cure, they need to find it, which means finding Strange. Gordon and Bullock accomplish that easy enough. Strange wants to flee, so they head for the train station, rather swamped with people who want the same thing: to run away from the danger. Unfortunately, Fish grabs him first. It’s close, Gordn and Bullock coming within spitting distance of Fish and Strange, but Fish has Freeze as backup, and quite nearly kills the two officers.
I couldn’t help remembering how Bullock once threw the gauntlet down to Penguin, when the man was “king of Gotham,” in the name of Gordon and Fish both, and now Fish really does try to kill him. It’s just Gordon’s quick thinking, ripping out an overhead pipe to intercept the ice gun, which saves their lives. Same thing slows them down long enough for Fish to escape.
Strange then finds himself in Penguin’s company. It seems Fish has forgiven him, and she has designs of taking Gotham back, in a new way. She has herself, Penguin as a loyal friend, Freeze and Firefly as bruisers, and armed men. They’re the freaks, and they intend to turn Gotham into a city of freaks. To which end, they need Strange to make that army he promised Fish once, long ago.
First thing’s first, though: having Strange means they have the means to find the cure and save the city, which they are certainly going to charge the city for. That doesn’t quite go as planned, as they are met by figures in black, with swords. (anyone else reminded of Arrow?) Ninja vs freak, the freaks have advantages, but they’re not out of the woods until Gordon and Bullock arrive and attack the ninjas from the rear. Gordon, especially, is cutting through them with the strength provided by the virus.
Unfortunately, he’s so lost in the battle fury that he doesn’t look before stabbing, and ends up running Fish straight through. She dies again, this time with Penguin crying over her as she tells him to take make the city his.
Fish Mooney, the last truly great crime lord of Gotham (making exception to how Falcone is still alive, but no longer a crime lord), is finally and permanently dead simply because she got too close to Gordon in a fight.
Oh, and the vials holding the cure all break. No instant saving of the city this time. But they do have Strange again, and he can duplicate it. He just needs one thing: the source. There is, in fact, one person who was rather obviously immune to the Tetch virus, and that would be the Mad Hatter.
Cue the entrance of Barbara on the scene, taking the Hatter in order to do what Fish intended: hold the hope of a cure for ransom.
Things are very unwell in the Keene camp, though. No house stands long when its foundation is left cracked, and the cracks in Barbara’s house are huge. Barbara has increasingly treated Tabitha and Butch like nothing more than hired muscle at her command. She’s used them, berated them, and broken her promises to them. Tabitha finds her own frustrations whispered back into her ears by Butch, and Lee herself drops by – we are overlooking how little sense it makes to throw parties in the middle of the worst crisis ever to hit the city in living memory – to threaten and possibly kill Barbara, but settles for pointing out how Tabitha is just Barbara’s minion, like she was her brother’s. True, the only one who’s always treated her as an equal, and someone to value, is Butch.
The final straw is when their plan to blackmail the city backfires.
Gordon has no limits right now, but he can still play to the human element. He calls Riddler, offering the man what he most wants, Penguin, in exchange for the Hatter. Riddler doesn’t hesitate to betray Barbara. Their relationship was ending anyway, as Barbara only convinced him to help her for one more day, in order to turn the chaos into an opportunity. Barbara relied on Riddler instead of giving him to Tabitha and Butch, and he betrayed her, and then she took it out on the two of them. They crash the exchange, and chaos erupts: Penguin manages to knock out Riddler and take him away in the cop car, while Gordon and Bullock grab the Hatter, drain his blood – they might have been less enthusiastic about that if the Hatter hadn’t made their lives Hell – and escape, leaving their pursuers with nothing but a useless hostage.
And that’s it. The bond is breaking. As Barbara flees to safe house, Butch and Tabitha decide to kill her. Barbara sees it coming, though, and gets the drop on Butch. For once, he’s actually got a moral high ground, as Barbara threw Tabitha away just to be queen for a day. Unfortunately, she’s got the gun, and shoots him in the head.
Then comes Tabitha, who is far more dangerous than Barbara in a fight. She arrives to find Butch’s metal hand in a box, asks Barbara if she killed him, and when she answers “yes,” that’s it. They fight, and Tabitha has the upper hand several times, but Barbara manages to stay alive a few times, until she happens to be standing in water when Tabitha knocks over a lamp. She’s dies from electrocution. And now Tabitha is alone without Butch, but free without Barbara.
The cure comes along at a brisk pace, but Gordon has a deadline. Lee is leaving the city, and wants Gordon to come with her. He takes the first dose of the cure and means to give it to her instead of taking it himself. It’s his darkness, that he’s willing to do anything, make any sacrifice. It’s consuming him, and it finally swallows him as he tries to save Lee. And then, at last, he falls to it when she seduces him with the promise of coming away with her, letting them be together as they both want. Don’t they deserve it? So… he falls. For her.
They could have made it, too. The could have left, been free and clear, and done whatever they liked, wherever they liked, living the rest of their lives in the dark.
But there’s still Bullock.
He catches up to them, and helps Gordon remember that this isn’t “who he is.” Who you are is a choice, and Gordon chose the badge. That’s who he is: the best Bullock has ever seen. So Gordon takes the badge, which he finds has two doses of the cure attached to the back. He gives one to Lee by surprise, then takes one himself.
I really love the poetry of this. Though Gordon was lost in darkness, and finally gave into it, he still had one friend left to help him back to the light.
And thus the city-wide crisis ends, the storm leaving behind a number of bodies.
Within and yet separate from this is Bruce Wayne. Still under the thrall of his deceased mentor, he manages to escape custody and go to the Yuyan building, as instructed. He finds the Demon’s Head, Ra’s al’Ghul, and the man is a freakish upgrade from the version of him on Arrow. Standing beside the green, glowing waters of life, he tells Bruce how he’s lived a long time, become a figure of legend, and yet never found an heir to succeed him. However, while the city may be in turmoil and the Court may be dead, there’s still the issue that Bruce hesitated twice, neither killing the Court nor unleashing the virus. The latter was only because Alfred interfered.
So, Bruce is given a final chance to prove himself, by killing Alfred.
Alfred has actually managed to put a dent in Bruce’s conditioning back at the GCPD. He talked about what was real, things that were more important than vengeance: love. He talked about the good times, the acts of love his parents did for him. Love, that’s real, and that love still lives within Bruce, so Alfred doesn’t give up on him.
Even now, with Bruce leveling a sword at his heart, Alfred expresses his own love and faith in Bruce, and he’s willing to die for Bruce. If this is what he needs to do, then he better. Bruce does. He runs the blade through Alfred, and the act, and Alfred’s words, finally break through his mentor’s conditioning. Bruce finally breaks free, and is left sobbing over Alfred’s warm corpse.
And Ra’s al’Ghul laughs. This is, in fact, the best thing that could have happened. It proves Bruce’s mind and will are strong, and though Bruce may defy him, he shall become the man’s “knight in the darkness.” His heir. And as a parting gift, he lets Bruce use the waters to save Alfred’s life.
It’s not a done thing, though, and Bruce spends the entire latter episode in the hospital, by Alfred’s side.
Selina drops by to support them, but… well, she’s made some mistakes, and Bruce is feeling the pain of that especially sharply right now. He speaks harshly to her, throwing her worst self in her face, because, I think, he can’t bear to rely on her again after she broke their trust. He doesn’t see how this is her prodigal return in his hour of need. And she is deeply hurt. So she leaves, and the bond between them is apparently severed, everything good they felt now buried beneath pain.
In time, Alfred wakes, to Bruce’s joy and delight. He’s able to give Bruce some words of wisdom, then. Bruce has lost himself in his quests for justice and revenge, forgotten who he is. Alfred advises him to do as he’s done, to find an anchor, something he truly feels strongly about, truly loves, and devote himself to it entirely. For Alfred, his anchor is Bruce.
And we all know what Bruce’s anchor will be. 🙂
Meanwhile, Selina, left alone, goes to Barbara’s club. Finding Tabitha there, alone, she shares how she’s had enough of mere survival. She wants more. She wants to move up. She wants to fill the hole left in her heart. She wants an anchor of her own.
Tabitha, also at a crossroads, sees something in Selina. She has Selina try using her whip and is duly impressed when Selina hits her target on the very first try.
It’s strange, how relationships shift and change and evolve. A number of sweet relationships have turned sour on the show, but the first time Tabitha and Selina encountered each other, the former was trying to kill the latter. Now they’re becoming teacher and student.
Oh, and then there’s Penguin and Riddler. Penguin was once obsessed with Riddler, calling it “love.” Now they’re bitter enemies. And as Riddler seems to get the upper hand on Penguin, Penguin turns the tables. He let Riddler have an advantage, one that he nullified before letting him have it. Riddler is right, Penguin is akin to a child throwing homicidal tantrums, but Riddler has his own weaknesses: he’s so precise and exacting that he can be predictable. When Riddler takes Penguin to the same spot to kill him again, he finds the gun empty, and Ivy and Freeze standing behind him. And Penguin doesn’t just kill Riddler: he turns him into an ice statue to keep around forever, to remind him of the weakness of love.
So, in ending the season…
Bullock is captain now, officially, and he and Gordon are just wanting a normal case so much that, as they go out for a drink, they go out looking for trouble to.
Lee has left Gotham again, and left a letter encouraging Gordon to save the city, and maybe be saved in return.
Penguin, with Ivy in tow, is opening a new club, the Iceberg Lounge, featuring Riddler as a trophy, as he tries to take the city back for the freaks.
Selina has found a teacher in Tabitha, both women looking to become more than they were before.
And a family out at night is mugged, in reflection of Bruce’s family, but this time there’s a figure all in black to defend them before vanishing into the night. Bruce moves atop a building, looking down on the city he will protect.
The Batman is coming.
There is always more to do, more story to tell, but this was a pretty good stopping point.
Whatever they do next season, I have no idea how they’ll top this.
Though, now that things between Bruce and Selina are ended, and Ra’s has selected Bruce as his heir, perhaps we will see a young Talia entering the scene?
…oh, and Butch isn’t quite dead. He’s in the hospital, where we learn his real name is Cyrus Gold.
…seriously? Butch is the young version of Solomon Grundy?!