[This is a review of Gotham season 2, episode 15. There will be SPOILERS.]
Gotham takes a break from its ongoing Hugo Strange tale following the surprise reveal at the end of last week's episode to continue following the evolution of two fan-favorite villains. As the season continues to build toward the finale, the pieces of this second half are starting to fall into place, setting the stage for what could very well be the most explosive run of episodes the show has seen thus far. So let's discuss this week's new episode, "Mad Grey Dawn".
Considering that the first scene of Gotham's second half centered on Gordon's (Ben McKenzie) murder of Theo Galavan, it's fitting that this week finally sees the fallout of that decision in a major way. The episode opens with an art heist perpetrated by none other than Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), whose guilt and bloodlust have led him to believe that Gordon is trying to trap him for Kristen's death.
Far more than most of its rising villains, Gotham has really taken a slow burn with the evolution of Nygma from nerdy side character into full-on super-villain, and now we're finally seeing him not only embrace his darker side but develop his famous alter-ego. The appearance of a series of green question marks early on as well as the intricate circumstances Nygma designs to frame Gordon for Officer Pinkney's murder truly capture the intellectual threat The Riddler is known for - and if this is an indication of how the show will handle the character once he finally dons his green suit, viewers are in for a treat.
In the end, Nygma triumphantly watches Gordon get taken away to Blackgate Prison for the deaths of both Galavan and Pinkney, and the detective, Gotham's purported protagonist, pushes away Lee (Morena Baccarin) just as Barbara (Erin Richards) reawakens. Although Bullock (Donal Logue) vows to clear Gordon, it's likely that he'll remain behind bars until Hugo Strange's reanimation process brings Galavan back to life, as was hinted last week. In this way, Gotham has designed a plot that pits two intensely intelligent villains -- one in a position of power, one just starting to harness his -- against each other. In any case, we might be stuck with an unfortunate amnesia plotline for Barbara.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER
After being declared sane, Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) naturally makes his way to the doorstep of the two people who perhaps want to see him the least: Butch (Drew Powell) and Tabitha (Jessica Lucas). It's a bizarrely funny little scene; Taylor must be having fun bringing such a wide-eyed innocence to his ruthless, unhinged character. Plus, who knew Tabitha could pull off such a spot-on impression of Gertrude? While Gotham has featured an enormous supporting cast this season, Tabitha has perhaps been the most under-served. Hopefully, we'll see her take on a more active role in the remaining episodes.
Despite his rehabilitation, Penguin is lucky he simply gets covered in feathers for his crimes, and as if that luck isn't enough, he meets a mysterious man at his mother's grave who claims to be his father. The way Penguin crosses paths with Elijah Van Dahl (Paul Reubens) might just be one of the most ham-fisted encounters the show has featured to date, though the fact that Reubens -- back as the titular man-child in Netflix's Pee-wee's Big Holiday -- is playing Penguin's father as he did in Tim Burton's 1992 film Batman Returns is admittedly a brilliant example of stunt casting. Nevertheless, the way his character enters the show just feels off. Perhaps Elijah isn't being totally honest or maybe it's just shoddy writing. In any case, this subplot has some work to do next week.
BRUCE ON THE LOOSE
All those Gotham fans wishing that the show would delve more deeply into Bruce's journey to the Batsuit may be en route to getting their wish. Now that the "boy billionaire" (as Ivy calls him) is roaming the streets with Selina (Camren Bicondova), he's one step closer to developing his understanding of how the criminal underworld works, knowledge that is key to his role as Batman. The fact that Bruce and Selina find themselves crossing Butch's nephew of all people is an unnecessary connection, but the way in which Alfred's advice guides Bruce to (briefly) hold his own during a fistfight was a riveting way to thread the character's evolution into the master strategist fans know him to be.
As usual, Mazouz absolutely nails the inner turmoil Bruce is undergoing as he struggles to find his path. From day one, the actor has exceeded expectations and become one of the most interesting to watch figures on Gotham. Sure, Taylor and Smith are a blast to watch as Penguin and Nygma, respectively, but Mazouz is -- as one would expect -- the heart of the series. Now that Gotham has officially been renewed for season 3, the show would be wise to pivot more weight toward Bruce's journey and relegate Gordon into more of a supporting role, as the latter's struggle between light and dark has been far less compelling this season.
What did you think of "Mad Grey Dawn"? Share your thoughts on the episode in the comments section below.
Gotham returns with "Prisoners" next Monday at 8pm on FOX.