[This is a review of Gotham season 3, episode 11. There will be SPOILERS.]
There you have it, Gotham fans. The first half of season 3 has come to a close, and as we pretty much expected based on the final moments of last week's episode, the love triangle of Gordon (Ben McKenzie), Lee (Morena Baccarin) and Mario (James Carpinello) takes center stage. This storyline has been simmering in the background for most of the season but really took a surprising turn with the reveal that Mario has in fact been infected with the Tetch virus that recently saw virtuous Captain Barnes (Michael Chiklis) devolve into a cold-blooded vigilante. Sure, the show may be leaning a bit too hard on this plot device to propel itself forward, but given how the Mario storyline wraps up this week, it's easy to see how the Tetch virus could be exploited to great effect when Gotham returns next year.
In addition to the Gordon-led investigation plotline, the episode -- appropriately titled 'Beware the Green-Eyed Monster' -- saw Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) finally uncover that jealousy was the motivation behind Penguin's (Robin Lord Taylor) murder of his beloved Isabella (Chelsea Spack). With one of the show's central relationships now in serious jeopardy, the rest of season 3 will certainly bring intriguing changes to the criminal underworld. Lest we forget, Bruce (David Mazouz), Selina (Camren Bicondova) and Alfred (Sean Pertwee) also took the fight to the Court of Owls, leading to the discovery of Selina's estranged mother. Lots to talk about this week. So let's get to it.
SUPER MARIO'S WORLD
Having recently seen Lee visit Gordon's apartment, Mario wastes no time to start his head-squashing mission to turn his bride-to-be against her former love. It's hard to ignore the similarities between Mario's reign of terror and that of Barnes', but thankfully, the motive here makes this storyline a bit more personal in nature than the GCPD captain's fall from grace. What we have here isn't so much a story about which methods the righteous in Gotham should employ to take down the burgeoning criminal element. Instead, it's a cat-and-mouse game in which Mario and Gordon attempt to outwit each other, with not only innocent lives in the balance but also Lee's favor. Not since Gordon went up against Nygma last season has the good ol' detective been so nearly foiled.
Even though Gordon does not manage to prevent Lee and Mario from tying the knot (in an interesting bit of editing that intercuts between their vows and Gordon slugging it out with Falcone's thugs), he reaches out to Falcone (John Doman) with proof that Mario has been infected. Promising that he will spare Mario's life, Gordon takes off to bring him in, only winding up having to kill Mario moments before his jealousy compels him to murder Lee anyway. While the premise of Gordon and Falcone's mutual trust being broken in such a devastating way has promise, this conclusion felt incredibly rushed. Perhaps if the credits had rolled just as Gordon was about to leave, this principal plotline would not have wrapped up with such an unsatisfying jolt.
As far as Gotham's fall finales go, this one is overall a far cry from the culmination of Theo Galavan's plan in last year's 'Worse Than a Crime.' Much of its weakness lies in the fact that this entire "Mario is infected" plotline is a blatant rehash of Barnes' story and was compressed into a single episode. The show spent little to no time laying the groundwork for Mario's infection with the Tetch virus, and considering how fast and loose the series can be with its logic, it's actually surprising that they managed to squeeze a credible excuse for how Mario got infected in the first place. At least this week we got to see the welcome returns of Benedict Samuels' Jervis Tetch (complete with newspaper top hat!) and Anthony Carrigan's Victor Zsasz, who rarely gets the credit he deserves for the chilling presence he brings to the show.
COURT IN SESSION
After teaming with the Whisper Gang to take down the Court of Owls, Bruce, Selina and Alfred prepare to steal an all-important item from the enigmatic organization. Unfortunately, the mystery surrounding the object in question doesn't do the story any favors. Without a clear idea of what our heroes hope to accomplish by snagging this "weapon," there's little reason for us to emotionally invest in the stakes. Rather than creating a compelling narrative to create dramatic tension, this subpar Bruce plotline relies on simply telling viewers how critical this mission is to taking down the Court. There aren't nearly enough details to substantiate the caper or keep fans invested in what may come next. We should be riveted that Bruce has renewed his quest to unravel the truth behind the Court, but this episode barely registers as a "meh" on that front.
Thankfully, the lingering question of Bruce and Selina's relationship looms large over their heist. Mazouz and Bicondova have long shared crackling chemistry, and while this episode wasn't the best example of that (aside from that adorable kiss on the cheek), the personal nature of the future Batman and Catwoman's tale is barely enough to keep viewers glued to the screen. The asides between Bruce and Alfred too are on point, and the latter's level-headedness amidst such a risky move underscores just how exciting Pertwee's underused version of Alfred truly is. The only truly exciting development with this group in 'Beware the Green-Eyed Monster' is the arrival of Selina's believed-dead mother (Ivana Milicevic). It remains to be seen if she is mixed up with the Court, but her introduction appears to be just the latest example of Gotham bringing core characters' family members into the fold.
That tricky Barbara (Erin Richards) has always been a wild card (a hint of things to come?), but this week the once-future-Mrs. Gordon really shook things up on Gotham. Whether Richards' approach to the character has changed or the writers simply know how to better utilize Barbara, the character has really come into her own this season. She seems to have a real motivation behind her actions, a fact that the actress herself has commented on recently. Given how her riddle (how great is it that she chose that approach to drop the news on Nygma) has changed the dynamic between Penguin and his chief of staff, it's starting to look like The Sirens may be poised to conquer Gotham in the second half of season 3. With Barbara's ambition and Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) already starting to reclaim her newly-reattached hand, the group is really just a Poison Ivy away from a pretty formidable group.
Naturally, Nygma's fierce loyalty and powerful friendship for Penguin initially blinds him from the truth, but eventually his strategic wording to Penguin manages to unlock his true feelings for Nygma. It's a moment that is both profoundly satisfying for how it will affect the story going forward but also bittersweet for what it will mean for the fan-favorite Penguin/Nygma friendship. It's safe to say that these two will be on a dangerous collision course when the show returns. If this first half of season 3 has centered on Penguin's road to legitimacy (at least in the public's eyes), the back half will see him fight to stay on top. If there's one things Gotham fans know well, it's that no character should underestimate Penguin when he's on the defensive. So pitting him against someone with the intellectual might of Nygma will certainly make for a hell of a rollercoaster ride next year. Let the games begin.
Gotham season 3 will return in January on FOX.