Evil has been on Gotham’s mind this season. The ways the show has addressed evil have been entertaining. Even the Easter Eggs are evil! The pot has been stirring around one element, though: Arkham. The Fox drama has asked some poignant questions about the nature of evil, especially when the show introduced B.D. Wong’s Hugo Strange some episodes back. The show was lacking for nothing at the going into the episode except for the threat posed by dearly departed Azrael but quickly offered “A Legion of Horribles” in his place.
Both old foes (Hugo Strange) and new foes (Clayface, a favorite of mine from the episode) played pivotal roles in the next to the last episode. Firefly offered a subservient role to her friend, Selina Kyle. His parents’ killer debated with Bruce Wayne. That same mastermind psychologically tortured Jim Gordon. Sanity was a concept Riddler couldn’t grasp. The first season arc of Fish Mooney’s was given bizarre, yet entertaining, new life. All these moments offered insights into how these dark heroes are just as much at fault for creating its villains.
The fiery weapon of Selina Kyle’s friend, Firefly had her jumping around like a cat on a hot tin roof. Somehow, like always, Selina still managed to stay cool and outmaneuver her brain addled adversary. Instead of coming out on top of this fight thanks to her smarts or acrobatics, this street kid who had to fight for every scrap she got after being forgotten by the system chose to debase herself to this fellow forgotten soul. The reasons for Selina’s ploy (become the servant to Firefly’s delusional fire godhood) might not make sense but it speaks to what happens to people the system turns away from.
The investment in the show really pays off in the episode’s main story. It is definitely B.D. Wong who shined brightest as villain Hugo Strange considering that the head psychiatrist not only toyed with Bruce Wayne and the current path that he is on to his own destruction, but provided a bizarre literal mirror to Jim Gordon’s own heinous forms of misconduct. The journeys these two characters have been on towards Arkham Asylum in search of the killer of the Wayne’s have been fraught with moral dilemmas that have led them further and further towards personal damnation, Bruce haphazardly walking the path of his Batman destiny and Jim Gordon getting his hands dirtier than the criminals he swore to fight against.
The way Bruce Wayne’s story comes to fruition, or at least on the verge of it, is when Alfred comes to the realization that Bruce is no longer a boy by acting more like his father in his pursuit of Hugo Strange and that comparison would happen again. Thomas Wayne gets name dropped again during Bruce’s face-to-face confrontation with Strange who likens Bruce’s trajectory to the one that eventually killed his father but you get the sense in the scene that Strange is really foreshadowing Bruce’s descent into vigilantism. The drama of that implication, along with Bruce and Jim’s investigation into Hugo Strange’s genetics lab, gets shortened by the twist that he was aware of the investigation into the entire time and thusly captures the two along with their companion, Lucius Fox. The fervor in Hugo Strange’s tone when he talks about legacy and treading lightly in territory that Bruce Wayne doesn’t understands when it comes to light that he is actually working for masters, whose identities are later revealed in the episode but adds a whole new twist on Strange’s experiments on bringing people back to life and imprinting new memories. Speaking of Strange’s experiments, we meet a number of new ones while also introducing a host, or court, of masked villains. Out of all the episodes so far this season, this episode had the widest range of villains who ran the gamut of very obscure to damn near game changing, on-screen and off-screen. Strange saved Ed Nygma from the jaws of cannibal villain Cornelius Stirk, a widely popular serial killer in the comics from the 1990s, by striking a deal.
The episode’s best introduction of all has to go to the Court of Owls, represented in this episode by a masked woman (though I am almost certain her portrayer is Michelle Gomez, who made appearances earlier in the season as the head of a mysterious ring of assassins).
The storyline that captured my imagination the most is when Hugo Strange used newest creation, Clayface, to offer a mirror image of Jim Gordon that allowed him a peek into the detective’s darkness and postulated that Gordon might actually be Gotham City’s most terrible villain ever.
Here is where the crazy train firmly stays on the tracks, but it is when the show decides to bring back Fish Mooney from the dead that the train jumps the tracks and provides a wild card. The Cuttlefish, something I never thought would ever play an important role in a comic story, actually was what allowed Fish Mooney to come back fully intact. The finale will be a fuller and more unpredictable experience thanks to Jada Pinkett Smith’s return to the character that made the first season such a treat, especially after she reveals to now have the powers to hypnotize people she touches.
The questions that linger after this episode (How far will Selina go to survive? Will Bruce embrace his Dark Knight destiny in the face of Ed Nygma’s death trap? What will an even darker reflection of Jim Gordon be like?) are what gets me excited for next week’s season finale. How changed will these characters be? What destinies are they going towards? Will the heroes lose their souls in the process? The audience is left to wonder whether they want Jim to win the day if it means continuing on the paths he is on, and if our star detective isn’t the villain.
When the finale airs next week, I want to see how the writers bookends these questions about who is to blame about the problem of evil: the perpetrators or the lawless men who pursue them? These ideas are entertaining to ponder. Metaphors are this show’s bread and butter. The battle in next week’s finale will put all these metaphors to the test. The point of the this week’s episode, the finale, and the entire season, will be the hopeful redemption of all the show’s heroic characters.