[This is a review of Gotham season 2, episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.]

Now that Captain Barnes (Michael Chiklis) is running things at the GCPD, it stands to reason that Gotham would mark the increased police efforts in the battle against the rising crime throughout the city. As last week’s episode set up, Barnes, Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Bullock (Donal Logue) are gunning for the Penguin’s (Robin Lord Taylor) operation, even as Oswald Cobblepot finds himself under the thumb of the mysterious Theo Galavan (James Frain). Let’s discuss the latest episode.

FIGHT FIRE WITH FIREFLY

Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue in Gotham Gotham: Scarification Review & Spoilers Discussion


From episode one, Penguin has been a slippery character with a knack for manipulating those around him. So it’s an interesting reversal to see him at the mercy of the Galavans. In this week’s opening scene, he pays a visit to Theo to request that he serve him as an ally, claiming that “[he] knows who’s boss now.” Theo isn’t buying it and instead has Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) give Penguin his latest assignment, to burn down a series of buildings. Butch (Drew Powell) visits Selina (Camren Bicondova) to vouch for him with the Pikes, professional arsonists still loyal to Fish Mooney – and when one of their gang is killed by the cops, the Pikes force adopted sister Bridgit Pike (Michelle Veintimilla) to start the fires. After her first night with the flamethrower, Bridgit builds a flame-proof suit, essentially becoming Gotham‘s version of DC villain Firefly.

Thus far this season, the show has done a solid job of showing the cause-and-effect throughout the criminal underbelly in Gotham, as the Galavans’ arrival and Penguin’s reign as the “King of Gotham” have caused a trickle-down effect that will ultimately create the Joker – and has now led to Firefly’s emergence. Moreover, changing the traditionally male character to a female goes a long way towards the show’s goal of creating a new interpretation of established comic book lore, adding some much-needed diversity as it does so. Now that Firefly has killed one of the strike force members, it’s a safe bet that she will play a major role in upcoming episodes.

GALAVAN’S QUEST

James Frain in Gotham1 Gotham: Scarification Review & Spoilers Discussion


Finally, Theo’s plan — which, until now, appeared to be simply a mission to achieve power — has been revealed, albeit in part. In his efforts to find a weakness he can exploit, Penguin learns that the Galavans are actually part of the disgraced Dumas family that was exiled from Gotham by the Waynes. This explains why Theo wanted Firefly to steal an antique knife owned by the Waynes, why all of the attacked addresses are owned by Wayne Enterprises – and, in the episode’s closing moments, why the ultimate goal may mean Bruce Wayne’s  death. It’s unclear at this point if the Galavans — now a clear parallel to the comics’ Order of St. Dumas — were behind Thomas and Martha Wayne’s murders, though it’s certainly a possibility.

This power struggle between Theo and Penguin is fast emerging as one of the most compelling plot threads on the show at the moment. The entire first season of Gotham essentially serves as an origin story for Penguin to become the man in charge, and Theo’s multi-faceted plan to take over the city has quickly trumped Penguin’s ambitions. In just a few episodes, Theo has kidnapped the mayor, orchestrating mass death and destruction across the city (including the police commissioner’s murder) and announced his own candidacy for the mayoral seat, even going so far as to pull the wool over Gordon’s eyes (more on that in a moment). With Penguin taking Butch’s hand and sending him to infiltrate Galavan’s circle, the game is far from over, however.

OUR MAN GORDON

Morena Baccarin and Ben McKenzie in Gotham Gotham: Scarification Review & Spoilers Discussion


With the GCPD Strike Force hitting Penguin’s business hard, it’s inevitable that Gordon’s personal life would continue to take a toll, as Captain Barnes keeps the cops busy. However, while this episode hinted at trouble ahead for Gordon and Leslie (Morena Baccarin), the real crux of Gordon’s story in this episode centers on Theo’s desire for Gordon to endorse him for mayor. Initially, Gordon denies him, since he believes police and politicians should remain separate. However, after Firefly runs rampant on the streets, Gordon makes Theo promise he will support the GCPD’s efforts if elected mayor. He agrees, and Gordon says he will endorse him, clueless that the Galavans are actually the ones stirring up much of the crime the strike force is fighting.

More than ever, it’s becoming apparent that Barnes is likely a secret ally of Theo’s. After all, the strike force set out almost instantly to take down the Penguin, Galavan’s biggest competition for criminal supremacy, and it was Barnes’ emphasis that they would do everything legally in their power to clean up the streets that led Gordon to crack under Theo’s request for an endorsement. Needless to say, Gordon is in for a rude awakening whenever the truth about Galavan (and Barnes, if this speculation proves accurate) is revealed. In the meantime, thing are sure to get much, much worse before they get better in Gotham’s streets.

What did you think of “Scarification”? Share your thoughts on the episode in the comments section below.

Gotham returns with “By Fire” next Monday at 8pm on FOX.