[This is a review of Gotham season 3, episode 19. There will be SPOILERS.]
Gotham season 3 is racing for the finish line, with the show's long-running Court of Owls arc finally reaching some semblance of a conclusion. Of course, as with everything else in the eponymous city, even that storyline is far more complicated than it seems. The court's diabolical plans for Gotham collided last week with the Tetch virus that encompassed much of the season's first half, and now fans may already be getting their first glimpses of what's to come in the recently announced season 4. So, before we gear up for all the twists and turns that the final three episodes of Gotham season 3 will bring, let's review what went down in this week's edition, 'All Will Be Judged.'
JUDGE, JURY AND...
Given the way last week's episode ended (and the title of this week's), it's no surprise that Barnes, aka The Executioner (Michael Chiklis), chews up much of the screentime with his attack (yes, again) on Gordon (Ben McKenzie). Only this time Barnes is working on behalf of the Court of Owls and has gone full Winter Soldier on viewers, complete with cybernetic arm and black eye make-up. One of the few original villains created for the show, The Executioner is at least used in this episode for the one-dimensional muscle that he is. While Barnes' dark turn at first felt fresh, the limited range of his character has become tiresome. Gotham wisely opted to let its villains drive the plot forward, but this is one who sorely lacks the depth and appeal of some of the city's more memorable baddies. With any luck, either Barnes will be put down, or a cure for the Tetch virus will materialize by season's end.
Speaking of Tetch, have we mentioned lately how much we love Benedict Samuel's hammy, unpredictable take on the Mad Hatter? He re-emerged this week as well for a particularly intense scene with Lee (Morena Baccarin). The idea that Mad Hatter -- who was absolutely rocking that newspaper hat, by the way -- could so easily manipulate Lee to blame herself for everything that has happened is a bit hard to swallow, but seeing as the show has been persistent in convincing us that she's on the verge of a breakdown, perhaps we're willing to let it slide, especially now that she's injected herself with the Tetch virus. The writers have gone to that well more than enough this season, but we can't help but think that our hunch last week that Lee could evolve into Gotham's Harley Quinn may prove true. Baccarin has played the kind and honorable voice of reason long enough. She deserves to let loose a bit.
Although Gordon as usual anchors the police procedural element of the show, McKenzie is upstaged this week by Donal Logue, whose Harvey Bullock had a particularly strong batch of zingers and reactions to the insanity around him this week. From his admission that he is intimidated by Lucius's superior intellect to his disbelief upon learning about emo Bruce, Bullock has been a real boost to the GCPD side of things and one of the foundational rocks of Gotham. In many ways, Logue has the most thankless role as Gordon's bestie and the de facto exposition machine regarding everything the GCPD does. Yet, every once in a while, he manages to transcend those limitations and make a more lasting impression. This was one of those weeks.
BEST FRENEMIES FOREVER
Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and Riddler (Cory Michael Smith) started this season as two halves of Gotham's most inseparable bromance. Over the course of season 3, their relationship has involved a partnership in the city's mayoral office, unrequited love and several instances of back-stabbing and betrayal. With the show's tendency towards\ the ironic and absurd, it's only fitting then that the pair precede their epic-sounding war (don't let us down, Gotham) with a reluctant alliance to escape captivity by the Court of Owls. Both Taylor and Smith continue to nail their respective over-the-top characters, and their cat-and-mouse game has never been so much fun. Their gleefully sadistic and macabre senses of humor have made these two stalwarts of the show over these past three seasons.
Seeing them work together again -- even under these dire circumstances -- almost makes us wish we didn't have to see their respective armies face off in the coming episodes. Of course, as this episode makes abundantly clear, no one of significance ever dies on Gotham. So there's no risk that either will perish in the conflict, but we can only hope that, however their showdown pans out, the creative team behind the show keeps Penguin's and Riddler's paths intersecting next year. We'd be lying if we didn't admit that we're rooting for Riddler to wind up as "king of Gotham" by the end. Even with an army of monsters at his disposal, Penguin has his work cut out for him to topple the show's smartest character.
BEHIND THE COURT
Emo Bruce sure had a busy week, facing off against both Selina (Camren Bicondova) and Alfred (Sean Pertwee) in combat. The latter, of course, retreated back to her cynical, selfish ways, though her decision to dismiss the possibility that Bruce is still out there felt false coming from someone who was so vehemently defending Bruce last week. Meanwhile, Bruce's faithful butler finally launched an investigation into his master's disappearance. Pertwee doesn't get enough credit for the gravitas and quiet ferocity he brings to Alfred, but he definitely had a chance to show it off here, attacking Kathryn (Leslie Hendrix) before Barnes has the chance to behead her. We're interested to see how the dynamic between Bruce and Alfred will change once he eventually returns to Gotham.
While all hell is poised to break loose in his city, Gotham's future protector is still undergoing training at the hands of, well, we'll still not sure, are we? It's painfully obvious that the group behind the Court of Owls will be the League of Shadows, and the show's ludicrous attempts to stretch out the mystery have been repetitive at best and boring at worst. Yet, we can only imagine that Ra's al Ghul and his assassins (when they do finally reveal themselves) will have a much larger role to play in season 4. Hopefully, that won't include Bruce remaining under the command of the League of Shadows, since that would feel a bit too close to the deception of slipping emo Bruce into Wayne Manor in his stead. Give us the real Bruce, and show him actively moving toward the Batsuit, or don't bother with that story at all for now.
Gotham returns next Monday with ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ at 8pm on FOX.