[This is a review of Gotham season 3, episode 7. There will be SPOILERS.]
Gotham season 3 finally threatens to live up to its "Mad City" subtitle this week, as Jervis Tetch (Benedict Samuel) plots to release his sister's blood as a citywide virus driving Gotham residents into insanity. So far, four of this season's seven episodes have centered on the future Mad Hatter, and after last week's more focused revenge plot against Gordon, the character continues to grow more ambitious with each appearance. Naturally, that also means Gotham gets to squeeze into another reference to the works of Wonderland author Lewis Carroll. Oh, and Gordon takes a hallucinogenic trip of his own that may actually see the character evolve at long last.
Elsewhere, the show offers some forward momentum for two unlikely love stories, those being Penguin's (Robin Lord Taylor) unrequited feelings for Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) and the burgeoning romance between young Bruce (David Mazouz) and Selina (Camren Bicondova). The former connection has proven to be controversial with some fans due to its (even for Gotham) drastic change to the source material. Still it looks to be on the road to disaster, considering that Penguin doesn't usually react well to not having his way. At least the future Batman and Catwoman appear to finally be exploring their own connection, as had been promised before the season started. So let's buckle up and journey over to Gotham.
ALL HAIL THE QUEEN
Investigative journalist that she is, it took Valerie (Jamie Chung) all but two seconds to see through Gordon's blatantly lingering feelings for Lee (Morena Baccarin). Considering how predictable that particular twist was in last week's episode, at least the show had the wherewithal to have all the storyline's major players (minus Tetch, of course) see right through it. The show is never at its best when it wallows in soap opera threads like the whole Gordon/Valerie/Lee/Mario "love rectangle." So this week wisely kept that aspect of the storyline on the periphery -- that is until Gordon, much like Princess Peach, was rescued by Mario.
Tetch continues to confirm his status as one of the finest villains to ever hit Gotham and the overarching Big Bad of season 3, part 1. The Mad Hatter is quickly running through all the Wonderland references he can muster. So, at this point, it shouldn't be long until the Chesire Cat pops up in some form or another. That being said, the gimmicky side of the character works well with Samuel's gleefully sadistic performance, though his plan at the Founders' dinner would have made more sense if he merely poisoned the wine in secret rather than try to force guests to drink at gunpoint. Regardless, one has to admire Tetch's ambition. After all, his goal has evolved from Gordon himself to Gotham as a whole in just a week.
Speaking of the G-man himself, Gotham appears to have finally turned a corner with regard to his internal struggle between darkness-dwelling rebel and virtuous crimefighter for the GCPD. Tetch's Red Queen plunged him into a trippy journey of self-discovery -- that Gordon mask on Bruce is particularly startling -- that shares narrative DNA with the acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series episode "Perchance to Dream," in which Mad Hatter traps Batman in an idyllic alternate reality. Hopefully, the revelation Gordon found inscribed in his father's ring ("While we breathe, we shall defend") and his subsequent return to the GCPD is the show's way of finally moving on. Gordon has been stuck on this one subplot for what feels like ages. Let's just hope that the connection between Gordon's father and the Court of Owls presents a more worthy follow-up. On a side note, was anyone else almost hoping that hallucination Barbara would lead Gordon straight to David S. Pumpkins on one of those floors? Nope, just me? Fair enough.
Just as suspected, Penguin resorted to dastardly tactics to put the kibosh on Nygma's newfound affection for Isabella (Chelsea Spack). The Penguin/Nygma storyline is poised to be one of the most-talked-about of season 3 so far, and spending time with these two demented men has always been such a blast. This week, we got a significant glimpse at their twisted psychoses, as Penguin acts out like a jealous child and Nygma rationalizes to himself that his new love might offer his heart the second chance it yearns for. That latter part in particular feels out of character, given how Nygma declared that he was "free" without love holding him back last season.
Now that Isabella has all-too-readily accepted the fact that Nygma has a history of murdering his girlfriends, these two are apparently ready to continue getting to know each other. Her decision to so quickly brush this under the rug feels suspiciously convenient. Either the writers have a clever twist in the works to make sense of it, or they simply dropped the ball this week. In any case, expect to see Penguin take his anti-Isabella campaign to the next level in the coming weeks. Most likely, her days are still numbered, but we're excited to watch Penguin squirm for the time being. His spilling-the-beans scene with Isabella was pure Penguin. More of that please.
THE BAT AND THE CAT
Tetch' latest series of misadventures and the sailing Penguin/Nygma ship didn't leave much time for Bruce this week. At least young Master Wayne makes an appearance, however, as he was completely absent from the previous episode. In the pair of scenes we do get, Bruce is preparing a meal for a dinner date with Selina at Wayne Manor, though it's unclear if this is their first real date or if they've been going out for a couple weeks at this point. The writers really should have clarified this -- and why Bruce, as one of the richest people in Gotham, wasn't invited to the Founders' dinner -- since that distinction would better contextualize Selina's confession.
Regardless, the romance between these two has been incredibly sweet and endearing so far. Bruce cooking a meal for his date and their mutual admission that it feels "weird" to be seeing each other romantically felt very true to both characters. Of course, it's only a matter of time before their connection is compromised by Selina's less-than-pristine values. Most likely, this will happen when Ivy announces his return, as Selina will likely defend her friend's criminal actions. Until then, Mazouz and Bicondova are doing an excellent job capturing the chemistry between the two on-again/off-again lovers in the comics.
Gotham continues next Monday with 'Blood Rush' at 8pm on FOX.