[This is a review of Gotham season 3, episode 3. There will be SPOILERS.]
The city is certainly headed for madness on Gotham this season. The "Rise of the Villains" may have been the driving force behind season 2, but it looks like the Gotham rogues gallery just can't stop expanding.
Last week's episode introduced viewers to proto-Poison Ivy in the form of new cast member Maggie Geha. Now "Look Into My Eyes" brings none other than the Mad Hatter to the forefront. The character was initially set to make his debut in season 2, but considering how jam-packed last year was narratively, perhaps it's for the best that Jervis Tetch (Benedict Samuel) didn't come into play until now. Thus far, it doesn't seem like the show intends to follow through on the brief Mad Hatter reference that snuck into the latter part of season 2. However, if there's anything we know to expect from Gotham, it's the unexpected.
In fact, the future Mad Hatter wasn't the only new character that joined the fold this week. Viewers also learned a bit more about Lee's (Morena Baccarin) mysterious new beau, who turns out to be the straight-laced son of Carmine Falcone (John Doman). Elsewhere in Gotham, Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and Bruce Wayne's mysterious doppelganger (David Mazouz) continue to key themselves up for what are sure to be two of the biggest storylines for this first half of season 3. "Mad City" indeed. Let's pay it a visit, shall we?
WE ALL GO A LITTLE MAD SOMETIMES
The Mad Hatter's origin has always been a tricky one to justify, considering the character's ties to Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Gotham's version of Jervis Tetch appears to be making a living as a hypnotist, using his abilities to leech off of others. The sequence in which the self-proclaimed "magic man" forces a doctor who attended one of his shows to murder his own wife and then kill himself so that he can take over the home is one of the most chilling to hit the show so far this season. With any luck, Gotham can sustain Mad Hatter's storyline for longer than a pair of episodes. In season 2, Mr. Freeze made a similarly notable arrival on the show, only to be relegated to one of Hugo Strange's puppets later in the year. Much like Freeze, his motivation is built out of genuine love -- for his sister (Naian González Norvind), who of course is named Alice -- and there's real potential in a villain who can control others. Sure, Fish Mooney has the same powers, but Samuel's performance as Tetch feels more in line with memorable baddies like Penguin and Nygma (more on him later). Plus, there's the added benefit that his arrival introduces magic into Gotham's anything-goes storytelling.
Elsewhere in Gotham, Gordon's (Ben McKenzie) love life once again becomes insanely complicated. Just hours after spending the night with Valerie (Jamie Chung), Gordon finds out that not only is Lee back in town, but she's engaged. Perhaps the soap opera elements of Gotham resonate with some viewers, but the show feels increasingly like it's trying to find reasons to keep Gordon around. Whereas the other two major storylines (grounded by Penguin and Bruce) are propelling the narrative forward, Gotham often feels like it's spinning its wheels where Gordon is concerned. The revelation that Mario (James Carpinello) is the son of Carmine Falcone is supposedly the recipe for great drama, but considering that Falcone is retired, it does feel like the show is reaching to transform this into something fans should care about, rather than letting interest flow organically from the plot. Now Gordon's near-suicide at the hands of Tetch, that's something that's more in line with what Gotham's "Mad City" is driving towards. Let's hope Mad Hatter continues to become more powerful as this season continues. Come to think of it, a prospective mayor could use a man with Tetch's powers of persuasion.
MAYOR THE BEST MAN WIN
Fans of Batman comics (and the 1992 film Batman Returns, for that matter) knew that it was coming. Penguin officially has his eyes set on the office of Gotham mayor, and already the show is moving full steam ahead towards what is certain to be one of the biggest storylines of the season. At the risk of consistently chalking up the best Gotham moments to Penguin, the face-to-face between him and Mayor James (Richard Kind) was precisely the kind of surprising reversal the show needs more of. Penguin's ingenuity and his ambition have always been his defining characteristics, and his pursuit of the mayoral seat feels like the natural progression for the former "umbrella boy" to really make his mark on the city. After all, as he points out to Butch (Drew Powell) at one point, Gotham has become so overrun by crime, it just might take a criminal to clean it up.
For now, let's set aside the fact that this whole criminal-running-for-mayor story is all too reminiscent of Theo Galavan's arc from this time last season. At least Penguin's candidacy stays true to the corrupt political infrastructure of Gotham and has some comic book roots to draw from. Moreover, while it's reassuring to see that the fan-favorite villain is getting the direction he deserves, what may be even more gratifying is that he's already using the power he has yet to acquire as mayor to treat Gotham as his own personal playground. As soon as he stepped foot in Arkham, fans certainly had a suspicion that Penguin was gunning to liberate his "old friend" Nygma (Cory Michael Smith). Together, they two demonstrated some dynamite chemistry last season 2. Perhaps this year we'll find get to see a proper villain team-up come to fruition.
THE BRUCE IS LOOSE
At the end of last week's episode, Bruce and Alfred (Sean Pertwee) discovered that the former's doppelganger -- henceforth known as emo Bruce, despite the show branding him 514A based on his Indian Hill ID -- had broken into Wayne Manor, presumably in search of answers. Well, it doesn't take long for emo Bruce to decide that he wants to go all Single White Female on the future Batman. We get some glimpses at the scars (both emotional and physical) that emo Bruce suffered at the hands of Hugo Strange, but despite Bruce's desire to help him, emo Bruce opts to cut his hair, perfect Bruce's voice and hit the streets in search of Selina (Camren Bicondova).
With this new doppelganger literally a blank slate, there's no telling where Gotham may be taking this storyline long-term. As emo Bruce has no memory and cannot feel pain, it's hard to tell whether he is Bruce's twin or a clone of some kind. Unfortunately, the show's dedication to veering away from comic book lore also means that there's little hope for answers in the source material. Props to Selina for instantly sensing that there's something off about emo Bruce. Chances are good that she'll realize that he's not who he says he is early in next week's episode. Maybe then Selina will have something to do this season other than stand behind Fish, worry about Ivy and provide information needed for the plot.
Gotham continues next Monday with ‘Mad City: New Day Rising’ @8pm on FOX.