[This is a review of Gotham season 3, episode 9. There will be SPOILERS.]
Barnes' (Michael Chiklis) explosive turn to the dark side continues in this week's Gotham. With Alice Tetch's virus coursing through his body, Barnes began taking the law into his own hands last week, but in this week's episode -- titled 'The Executioner' -- it's up to Gordon (Ben McKenzie) to prove that his superior is going too far in his pursuit of justice. After more than a season of playing the by-the-book policeman, Chiklis is finally able to let loose, turning one of Gotham's most honorable characters into a despicable force of vengeance. While there's no telling where Barnes will go from here, the show has certainly transformed him into a far more interesting character with its most recent string of episodes.
While Barnes and Gordon try to outwit each other this week, Selina (Camren Bicondova) and Bruce (David Mazouz) finally come face-to-face with the very different Ivy (Maggie Geha), and Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) begins to suspect that foul play may have been involved in Isabella's (Chelsea Spack) death. If last season was any indication, then this initial "Mad City" arc of the first half of season 3 only has a couple episodes left before it reaches a breaking point. Expect all the above storylines to come to a crossroads by then. For now, let's discuss 'The Executioner' in a bit more detail.
JUDGE, JURY AND...
As fans expected, Gordon is hot on Barnes' trail this week. As it turns out, the self-proclaimed one-man war on crime has been busy rounding up sex traffickers, drug dealers and murderers and doling out deadly punishment. While his actions are startling, this storyline does mark a stunning reversal for Barnes, as Alice Tetch's blood has seemingly unlocked his pure hatred of all things criminal. Of course, in his pursuit of justice, the character ultimately finds himself acting more out of self-preservation than his own twisted sense of righteousness.
Naturally, Gordon and Bullock (Donal Logue) are hesitant to believe that the honorable Barnes would go this far, but as we suspected, Barnes' willingness to kill criminals in cold blood has helped Gordon reaffirm his own desire to fight injustice the right way. This beat further confirms that Gotham may be finally putting Gordon's inner struggle between light and dark behind it. With any luck, the fact that Barnes is in Arkham will allow Gordon the chance to step up as captain of the GCPD. Either that or Bullock will likely take that post, since they're really the only cops on the GCPD end of things that we're invested in. At this stage, the show probably won't opt for another fresh-faced arrival like Barnes.
The other interesting development this episode was the combined efforts of Bullock and Lee (Morena Baccarin) to save Gordon's life. Although the GCPD's mounting mission to take down Gordon felt rushed, Lee's decision to lie about Barnes' toxicology -- which also raises the question of why she'd presumably have a blood sample in the first place -- will certainly have implications on her relationship with Mario (James Carpinello). It's pretty clear that Lee and Gordon still have feelings for each other, after all. The question is if they will reconcile, since it's a long shot that Gordon and Barbara are endgame as in the comics.
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER PUZZLE
The friendship between Nygma and Penguin is officially nearing its end. Now that Nygma has predictably gotten wise to the dark fate that befell Isabella (he is among the smartest characters on the show), it's only a matter of time before he realizes that Penguin is to blame. Of course, when that happens, it will only reinforce the love-is-a-weakness philosophy that Nygma espoused last season. Had he not been blinded by emotion stemming from his friendship with Penguin, Nygma would easily have been able to deduce that the new mayor had his girlfriend killed.
We've said time and again how Penguin and Nygma are two of the strongest villains (or character in general, for that matter) to ever appear on Gotham, and this storyline demonstrates precisely why. As two broken, highly damaged people (and they are incredibly psychotic and dangerous, to be sure), Penguin and Nygma somehow maintain the ability to send chills down viewers' spines but also retain their sympathies at the same time. In this situation, we empathize with Penguin's desire for love and belonging, though we fear his violent actions. Yet, Nygma's been clinging to his last shred of humanity against his better judgment, trying to keep his demons at bay but knowing it's a futile effort. It's going to be interesting to see how their dynamic changes in the coming weeks, especially since Taylor and Smith always deliver the goods.
STATE OF THE REUNION
Ivy finally reunites with Selina this week, and the two friends -- with Bruce in tow -- wind up on the receiving end of a group of mysterious figures they believe have been sent by an antiquities dealer Ivy stole from. In a surprising bit of stealthy storytelling, it looks like Gotham actually used this misunderstanding to re-introduce the Court of Owls storyline, since the men in question are tied to the Wayne murders. Just when viewers may have thought that the organization was taking a backseat to Barnes, Mad Hatter and the Penguin/Nygma storylines, the show appropriately slipped the secret society in there without any warning. After all, emo Bruce is due for a return, isn't he?
Even though the reason they were brought together ultimately is false, the dynamic between the trio has lots of promise. While Selina adjusts to her friend's new appearance, Ivy takes note of the fact that Selina and Bruce are sort of an item, depending on whom you ask. That coupling has barely been touched in recent episodes, and it would be nice if the show addressed their relationship status head-on. With the first half of season 3 coming to a close, we're betting answers are coming sooner than later. Speaking of answers, any guesses about what that key goes to?
Gotham continues next Monday with 'Time Bomb' at 8pm on FOX.