Gotham: The Primal Riddle Review & Discussion

The Riddler plots to uncover the Court of Owls, and Penguin and Ivy assemble an army to take him down in this week's Gotham: The Primal Riddle.

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[This is a review of Gotham season 3, episode 17. There will be SPOILERS.]


After building up its roster of iconic Batman villains over the past season and a half, Gotham is poised for all-out war to break out among the rogues gallery by the time season 3 comes to a close. Last week's episode saw Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and Ivy (Maggie Geha) launch a mission to assemble an "army of freaks" to take on Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), Barbara (Erin Richards) and the rest of the reigning criminal underworld. Now, 'The Primal Riddle' sees both Penguin and Riddler ready themselves for the battle ahead, as the latter closes in on the Court of Owls. It seems he may be ready to solve the greatest riddle of all, but how will the court's planned "cleansing" of Gotham affect the supervillains' agendas? Let's talk about what went down in Gotham this week.


Cory Michael Smith in Gotham

Having claimed responsibility for murdering his uncle, Gordon (Ben McKenzie) joins the Court of Owls by episode's end, with the shadow organization claiming that Gotham needs him more than ever. What exactly they have in store for him remains a mystery, though it doesn't sound like the show is done exploring Gordon's inner darkness yet. Unfortunately. Thankfully, this episode doesn't lean too heavily on the future police commissioner's storyline, using him more as a function of Riddler's far more compelling quest. Even so, it's always nice when Gotham gives the underrated Morena Baccarin a scene or two to sink her teeth into.

After learning that a mysterious weapon from Indian Hill is involved in the court's plans, Riddler goes on a mission to learn the truth. We're treated to some deliciously over-the-top acting from Smith, including a straight-up murdering of a stage actor in front of a packed crowd. Even more intriguing, however, is the in-fighting among Barbara, Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) and Butch (Drew Powell). This trio has been sidelined far too much these past few episodes, and the fact that Gotham is keeping them -- especially the latter two -- in play is reassuring. In particular, Butch's reflection that he's seen ambition and power is a nice callback to his days working for Penguin and Fish Mooney.

That being said, the Riddler's puzzle about a "two-faced" politician seemed like a missed opportunity. Mayor James (Richard Kind) has never been a particularly interesting character, and this could have been a good chance to bring Harvey Dent back into the fold, since Nicholas D'Agosto's character hasn't appeared since early in season 2. At this point, he's one of the only major Batman villains not playing an integral role in the storyline. Ah, well. There's always season 4, if the show is renewed, that is.


Robin Lord Taylor and Maggie Geha in Gotham

As soon as Penguin and Ivy showed up donning parkas, it should have been a red flag for viewers everywhere. Mr. Freeze (Nathan Darrow) is back in a big way. Freeze has been absent from the show since season 2 ended. So it's a smart move for Gotham to reel back in all the mythology it established last season to add narrative momentum to Penguin and Ivy's plan. It would have been very easy for the show to simply bring in some faceless henchmen to fill the ranks of their army, but bringing in established characters who we are already connected to makes it that much more engaging.

Freeze isn't alone, though. Firefly (Michelle Veintimilla) is also recruited to join her fellow freaks, even going so far as killing her boss to reclaim her life of crime. It seems that she's since come to her senses regarding the mind games Hugo Strange played on her, and the show's callback to her season 2 showdown with Freeze was a slick one. With these two now back, viewers may be wondering who else might be this twisted little "family." Gotham is nothing if not fearless in trying anything and everything to keep the show moving forward and building the world one supervillain at a time. Speaking of...


David Mazouz in Gotham

So whoever had money on Gotham essentially redoing the Catwoman origin story from Batman Returns looks like they're on their way to an easy payday. From the violent shove out of a window to the lingering alleyway full of cats, it looks like Selina (Camren Bicondova) is one saucer of a milk away from the supernatural resurrection that Tim Burton brought to the screen 25 years ago. To be honest, it's a disappointingly lazy move on the part of Gotham. This is one character they pretty much nailed from the pilot, and there's no reason to envelope her in the supernatural nonsense that has taken over the show since last season. Then again, that goofy origin certainly fits the anything-goes tone of Gotham.

The surprising element is that none other than emo Bruce (David Mazouz) is the one to try and kill her. Upon learning that he's dying, emo Bruce reveals his identity and warns Selina to leave town. He reacts, um, badly when she points out that Bruce would try to save everyone from the coming danger. It's a sweet moment in which Selina reveals once again her admiration for Bruce's inherent goodness, albeit one that's undercut by his violent response to her praise of his doppelgänger. We'll see what Selina is like when she returns to the land of the living, but we expect some purring and an obsession with all things feline will start to emerge. Oh, well. If we're really doing this, at least we know Gotham will tackle Catwoman in the same insane way they've handled so many classic Batman villains so far.

Next: Gotham: The Riddler’s Comic Book Origin Story Explained

Gotham returns next Monday with ‘Light the Wick’ at 8pm on FOX.

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