[This is a review of Gotham season 2, episode 19. There will be SPOILERS.]
Gotham finally pulled its wild card in last week's episode, with disgraced Mayor Theo Galavan (James Frain) raised from the dead to (presumably) wreak havoc on the city. The character -- who served as the big bad for the first half of season 2 -- even shouted out his new moniker, which sounded more than a little familiar to fans of DC Comics. In any case, it's little surprise that Galavan's return takes center stage in this blatantly-titled episode.
So let's discuss this week's new episode, "Azrael".
MAYOR ON A MISSION
As it turns out, Galavan didn't actually shout out "Azrael" as an introduction. Rather, his fractured mind has been regurgitating bits and pieces of Order of St. Dumas mythology, as he's returned with just a vague sense of his life. The show's way of tapping into the Azrael from the comics is actually pretty slick. Inspired by something Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) tells him, Hugo Strange (B.D. Wong) feeds Galavan the Azrael story as his own (along with an apparently shoddily constructed sword), using it to manipulate him to serve as his own puppet. It's a smart way to tie the character into the show without really betraying the comic books much. Plus, it allows for a Mad Hatter reference midway through the episode that is purely a stroke of genius.
Given how Galavan's return is by far the most clearly supernatural thing to happen on Gotham thus far, this easily could have been the show's true jumping-the-shark moment. However, the series instead embraces the fact that the city has gotten so insane -- necessitating the need for a Batman, natch -- and leans into the sheer absurdity of this town populated with all manner of wacky evildoer. Barnes (Michael Chiklis) notes it himself, and while it's unclear whether the GCPD captain will die on account of his showdown with Azrael, Gotham has certainly liberated itself of having to hold back from the fantastical nature of the Batman mythos. Clayface, Killer Croc and, yes, The Joker shouldn't be far away now.
First of all, can Gotham lock B.D. Wong down for next season already? His take on Hugo Strange has been one of the finest elements of this second half of the season, and more specifically, his scene with Gordon (Ben McKenzie) stands as perhaps this episode's high point. Of course, Strange "the Philosopher" had Gordon's motivation pegged, a given with his highly intellectual nature. However, Gordon's bluff was such a satisfying moment to watch, punctuated as it was by the reveal that his "court order" was really just an empty envelope. This game of cat-and-mouse between Strange and Gordon should be fun to watch in the last few episodes of the season.
With Azrael now looking over Gotham like a demented Batman (a fitting move, since the character takes over for the Dark Knight at times in the comics), it's likely that Strange will unleash more reanimated villains to wreak havoc on Gordon. We already know that Jerome and Fish Mooney are lingering somewhere in Indian Hill. All we need is for Strange to pull out a deck of cards and give the former the right story for the Clown Prince of Crime to be born. Regardless, Gordon will have his hands full, considering that Barbara's erratic behavior this week calls her sanity into question moreso than ever before.
Although Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) appears poised to resume his quest for vengeance against Galavan, it's another one of his "old friends" who is really on the move. Just a short time after being locked up in Arkham, Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) already has the inmates wrapped around his fingers. A gifted performance artist and master manipulator, the character wastes no time in hatching an escape plan. In fact, he does one better, as he is already inside Indian Hill by episode's end, thanks to some dimwitted inmates.
As usual, Smith nails every moment he's onscreen, and now that Nygma is in the belly of the beast, there's no telling what he'll do. It does seem a bit quick for the show to have him emerge from Arkham literally in the first episode where we actually see him locked up, but Gotham has been known to progress through characters and stories perhaps a bit too fast. Moreover, the show has a lot of narrative work to do and just three episodes left to do it in. Nygma has always been one of the most unpredictable and fun-to-watch fixtures on the show. So the fact that which way the story will go largely depends on him is an exciting prospect.
What did you think of "Azrael"? Share your thoughts on the episode in the comments section.
Gotham returns with "Unleashed" next Monday at 8pm on FOX.