[This is a review of Gotham season 2, episode 20. There will be SPOILERS.]
Gotham season 2 is winding down, and the show finally saw the return of Theo Galavan (James Frain) last week, as the former mayor returned in the form of legendary warrior Azrael. Meanwhile, Hugo Strange (B.D. Wong) has become the target of both Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Bruce (David Mazouz) for his crimes, namely human experimentation and the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne. With Azrael on the loose, the city is far from safe.
So let's discuss this week's new episode, "Unleashed".
AZRAEL ON THE WARPATH
Even though he's no longer employed by the GCPD, Gordon remains just as determined as ever to take down Hugo Strange, in part motivated by Azrael's attack on Captain Barnes (Michael Chiklis). Of course, Bullock's (Donal Logue) search warrant proves ineffective against "The Philosopher", but the circumstances surrounding Bullock's quest to take down Strange did give him the opportunity to deliver a rousing speech that reveals some untapped leadership potential in the morally complex detective.
Just as she is set to walk out on Butch (Drew Powell) (more on him in a bit), Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) is met by Gordon and Bullock, and she reveals -- quite randomly, it's worth noting -- that Azrael/Theo may be after their grandfather's sword, which is said to have supernatural abilities. This plot point didn't seem to really develop into anything significant, serving simply as a device for Azrael to cross paths with our heroes. The moment in which Tabitha tries to jog Theo's memory and instead reawakens his urge to kill "the son of Gotham", however, was a worthy one, even if it ended with Tabitha's injury. For the second consecutive week in a row, Azrael has stabbed one of the show's major players, neither of which will probably actually bite the dust.
From that point on, the Azrael storyline appears to pick up the plot thread left hanging mid-season. Conveniently enough, Bruce returns home just as Azrael arrives to kill him. Despite the cliched "over my dead body" line, at least we get a sweet swordfight between Alfred and Azrael. Of course, the butler's best efforts still don't pay off, and it falls to Gordon (again) to shoot the hell out of Azrael. Since we've already seen much of this "son of Gotham" angle play out, the Azrael storyline ends in part with an anticlimactic whimper. Thankfully, Gotham knows that Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) is its not-so-secret weapon. With Butch in tow and heroic theme music in place, the pair use a bazooka to defeat Azrael/Galavan for good. Doubtful that Strange can piece that resulting mess together.
VENGEANCE IS HIS
As the previous episode revealed, everyone in town knows that Galavan is back among the living, this time with a new identity and armored facade. Now back to his insanely unpredictable ways, Penguin is ready to seize this opportunity to finally claim his revenge for his mother's death. It's such a pleasure to have the character back to his nefarious ways after Taylor was forced to play the neutered version of him for a few episodes this season. In hindsight, the entire arc with his "rehabilitation" and reunion with his father feel even more of an incosequential tangent.
Take, for instance, Penguin's key scene this week. Butch pours his heart out to an unconscious Tabitha in an unforeseen moment of genuine sentiment, and while this gives Powell the chance to further develop his formerly one-dimensional character into something far more compelling, it also results in a great moment wherein the real Penguin returns to the outside world in all his glory. The show's erratic storytelling this season may have let viewers down in some respects, but the reluctant partnership between Penguin and Butch certainly was an unexpected move. More of that please.
Once Selina (Camren Bicondova) agreed to break into Arkham for Bruce, it wasn't hard to imagine that she might come across Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) in the process. Of course, their contrasting objectives result in a bizarre little moment of mutual assistance in the asylum's ventilation system, in which Selina will tell Nygma how to escape if he'll tell her where to find Strange. Considering that both will evolve into two of Batman's most memorable foes, perhaps this meeting will set the stage for even more partnership among the rogues gallery. After all, Nygma is already pals with Penguin. Moreover, the fact that Nygma's escape attempt fails so miserably was a fun nod to the villains' repeated escapes and returns to Arkham in other media.
As for Selina, her movements and general demeanor this episode was perhaps the closest she's ever been to the Catwoman she'll become. Her disgusted expression in response to Nygma's question of whether she can pick locks was pitch-perfect, and her stealth skills are virtually unmatched on the show so far, as they should be. Even better, her investigation into Indian Hill yielded what looked to be our first glimpse of the show's version of Clayface (who will play a bigger role in the subsequent episode) and the return of Bridgit Pike/Firefly (Michelle Veintimilla). The episode ends with Selina apparently on the business end of Firefly's flames, a blatant cliffhanger that likely won't hold any danger for Selina. Still, we hope she makes it out of Arkham before Strange sees some potential in her skills.
What did you think of "Unleashed"? Share your thoughts on the episode in the comments section.
Gotham returns with "A Legion of Horribles" next Monday at 8pm on FOX.