Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 27, 2017)
After two years of “pre-Batman” adventures, Season Three of Gotham allows us to see more about young Bruce Wayne and his friends/enemies. This Season Three Blu-ray set offers all 22 episodes. The synopses come from IMDB.
Better to Reign in Hell…: “Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) works in a monster-ridden Gotham as a bounty hunter and seeks to find answers about the Indian Hill escapees and why their powers appear to be killing them. Bruce Wayne's (David Mazouz) doppelganger roams the streets and Barbara (Erin Richards) and Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) open a nightclub called The Sirens.”
Season-opening episodes generally act to set up themes/arcs for the rest of the year, and “Reign” does that well. It also provides plenty of action and intrigue in its own right to become a show that launches the year nicely.
Burn the Witch: “Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) takes matters into her own hands to locate Hugo Strange (BD Wong), forcing Gordon to reluctantly team up with journalist Valerie Vale (Jamie Chung) to find her. Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) rises in popularity after criticizing the work of the GCPD and Bruce's investigation of the Court of Owls is compromised. Meanwhile, Ivy Pepper (Maggie Geha) is reintroduced into Gotham.”
While not as action-packed as the season premiere, “Witch” does move along various character domains. It creates intrigue with changes to Ivy and a few other topics, so it turns into a satisfying show.
Look Into My Eyes: “Hypnotist Jervis Tetch/Mad Hatter (Benedict Samuel) arrives in Gotham to search for his sister Alice (Naian Gonzalez Norvind) and hires Gordon to help find her. Meanwhile, Penguin decides to run for mayor and Bruce's doppelganger begins to channel him, causing some confusion around town.”
My gut says that the “doppelganger Bruce” plot will collapse due to silliness, and “Eyes” doesn’t change that impression. Still, I hold open hope that it’ll go somewhere, and the rest of the show works pretty well, as Hatter delivers a creepy villain.
New Day Rising: “Penguin gains leverage over Gotham City. Meanwhile Jim returns Alice to GCPD for the bounty and Bruce and Alfred (Sean Pertwee) look for Bruce's doppelganger.”
Season Two of Supergirl reflected the new world of Trump, and S3 of Gotham offers some connections as well. With “Make Gotham Safe Again” as his slogan and references to Penguin’s campaign being based around “name-calling and fear-mongering”, Oswald acts as a clear Trump stand-in.
This doesn’t become a dominant aspect of the show, though, as most of it looks at deeper character areas. The “second Bruce” theme intensifies somewhat – I remain unsure that it’ll work, but it adds intrigue. Throw in more about Hatter/Alice and this develops into a worthwhile continuation of the season.
Anything For You: “Crime in Gotham is at an all-time high, as Penguin struggles to uphold his promises to the city. Meanwhile, Butch (Drew Powell) goes down a dark path with the infamous Red Hood Gang and Bruce begins to investigate Ivy's whereabouts.”
Arguably the series’ most put-upon character, I’m glad to see Butch get some added screen time, and his pathetic attempt to “prove himself” to Penguin turns interesting. Throw in elements related to Penguin’s rise to power and “Anything” moves along the season in a successful manner.
Follow the White Rabbit: “Mad Hatter sets his eyes on his next victims, forcing Jim Gordon to make some tough decisions. Meanwhile, Penguin and Edward Nygma's (Cory Michael Smith) relationship evolves, and a familiar face comes back into Nygma's life.”
I’m surprised to see Mad Hatter as a continuing character – I figured he’d be a “one episode and done” role, not on ongoing threat. “Rabbit” makes him even darker and more compelling, though, factors that help this become an involving and especially dramatic episode.
Red Queen: “After coming in contact with a substance by the hand of Mad Hatter, Jim Gordon gets led on a psychedelic trip and must confront his past, present and future. Meanwhile, Penguin struggles with Nygma's new relationship.”
After the major events of “Rabbit”, “Queen” goes for a more introspective tone. Parts of this work fine, but the show’s emphasis on Gordon’s hallucinations causes it to drag at times and become a less than stellar program, especially after the excellent “Rabbit”.
Blood Rush: “Captain Barnes (Michael Chiklis) begins to feel the effects of a recent incident and starts to go mad. Meanwhile Nygma is out of his depth in his relationship with Isabella (Chelsea Spack), and Carmine Falcone (John Doman) throws his son Mario (James Carpinello) and Lee Thompkins (Morena Baccarin) an engagement party.”
“Rush” tends to concentrate on personal relationships, a choice that makes the show a little goopier than usual. I also admit I’m not wild about the thread with Captain Barnes, as that seems a bit stale. It’s still a decent program but it’s not especially exciting.
The Executioner: “Gordon and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) become suspicious of Barnes and go through evidence of a murder at Leslie and Mario's engagement party. Nygma goes to Penguin when he doesn't hear from Isabella. Ivy leads Selina (Camren Bicondova) and Bruce to trouble when she reveals her identity.”
Whatever intriguing plot points emerge from the Ivy thread, I heartily endorse the casting of Maggie Geha as “grown-up Ivy”. Wowzer – what a babe!
Pulchritudinous charms aside, “Executioner” continues the season’s recent run of semi-mediocrity, a trend I attribute to the emphasis on Barnes. I’m simply not wild about Chiklis as an actor and his character seems less than enthralling. At least the Ivy parts add spark to the show.
Time Bomb: “A threat to Leslie and Mario is exposed on the eve of their rehearsal dinner and Falcone comes to Jim for help. Meanwhile, Nygma plans his revenge and Bruce learns more about the Court of Owls.”
Aspects of “Bomb” promise intrigue, but I still feel semi-detached from S3. While I’ve enjoyed it overall, it seems a little too caught up in background grudges without as much real oomph as I’d like. “Bomb” becomes another good but slightly unsatisfying show.
Beware the Green-Eyed Monster: “Mario and Gordon face off before the wedding, Selina meets an unexpected face and Barbara comes to Nygma with information about Isabella.”
Frankly, the Gordon/Leslie/Mario love triangle leaves me cold, especially because it follows fairly predictable lines. Even with the wedding, the situation remains open-ended, a factor that drags down the episode to a degree. I do like the escalation of the underworld elements, with the potential for a massive feud on the horizon.
Ghosts: “Falcone goes after Gordan for his son's death. Gordon doesn't have any evidence that proves Mario was trying to kill Leslie. so she ends up blaming Gordon for her husband's death.”
In S3’s zeal to focus on blood infections and romantic situations, it’s tended to ignore some character arcs, so I’m happy to see a few of those boosted here. In particular, I like the view of Oswald’s mayoral reign, as it’s clever to make the corrupt Penguin into a beloved, successful politician. Throw in Selina’s sexy mom (Ivana Milicevic) and Paul Reuben’s guest spot as Oswald’s dad and “Ghosts” takes S3 on the upswing.
Smile Like You Mean It: “On the run from Gordon and Bullock, Dwight (David Dastmalchian) tries to revive Jerome (Cameron Monaghan) and activates his acolytes around Gotham City. Meanwhile, Selina's mom's intentions in Gotham are revealed, and the power play between Penguin and Nygma escalates as Barbara's plans are set in place.”
S2’s biggest disappointment came from the way the series dispatched Jerome, the man who seemed meant to become Joker. Monaghan’s take on the character worked tremendously well, so I was sad to see him go.
That makes me glad to see Jerome’s return – and even happier with the story evolution of “Smile”. Jerome’s resurrection lives up to my high expectations, as “Smile” comes packed with drama and excitement. It’s easily the best episode of S3 to date.
Footnote: I like the way Gotham maintains little connections to the various Batman movies. Some seem fairly obvious, like Reubens’ reprise of his Batman Returns role, but others will be clear only to “superfans”.
Into this category falls Dastmalchian’s appearance as Jerome’s minion. If Dastmalchian looks familiar, that’s because he appeared in Dark Knight as one of Joker’s henchmen. That’s a cool little “Easter egg” for fans.
The Gentle Art of Making Enemies: “Tensions mount as Nygma has Cobblepot captured and defeated. Gotham has been plunged into darkness as Jerome wanted. The streets are filled with rioters and Jerome’s goons while Jerome himself confronts Bruce Wayne and Alfred.”
Because we know the later paths of most of its characters, Gotham can lack a little drama – after all, it’s not like there’s any real chance Bruce Wayne will die. Even with this inherent absence of true threat to so many roles, the series keeps us tense and in suspense, factors that come to the fore here. “Art” doesn’t quite live up to the highs of the excellent “Smile”, but it comes close.
How the Riddler Got His Name: “Ed finally got Penguin to pay for his terrible actions and finds himself with a new dilemma on which path to take.”
Though the departure of Jerome means “Name” doesn’t live up to the prior two shows, the more active transition of Edward toward Riddler gives it a lot of heft. Other characters move ahead as well – especially Lucius - and these components turn this into another strong episode.
These Delicate and Dark Obsessions: “Gordon discovers new information about his father and uncle's (James Remar) past just as the Court of Owls devises a new plan for the future of Gotham.”
Hmm… Bruce trains with mystical mentor, while a secret society plans to “cleanse” Gotham. Why does that sound familiar?
Oh yeah – because that sums up Batman Begins pretty well. “Dark” doesn’t truly remake the 2005 movie, but it sure does follow some similar paths.
That sense of déjà vu makes “Dark” a drop-off after the last few shows, but it still moves along the plot fairly well. The best parts come from the crazed and unlikely alliance between Ivy and Penguin, though.
The Primal Riddle: “The most unhinged villains of Gotham come together as the Riddler continues his conquest. Gordon's search for answers keeps leading him back to the Court of Owls. Alfred notices a change in Bruce while Bruce 2 confides in Selina.”
Once again, the Court of Owls material seems less than captivating. Once again, the other elements fare better, especially as the show hints at the formal move of Selina into Catwoman. The good outweighs the mediocre to make this a largely satisfying episode.
Light the Wick: “Gordon tracks down the weapon the Court of Owls intend to use for the destruction of Gotham. Kathryn (Leslie Hendrix) and Temple Shaman (Raymond J. Barry) tell Bruce about their next move. Ivy offers Selina help.”
Much of “Wick” seems to focus on “plot-thickening”, as it develops narrative elements without much real resolution. In that regard, it does fairly well - though it’s not the most engaging of shows, it pushes matters along in a satisfactory manner.
All Will Be Judged: “Temple Shaman takes Bruce to the next phase of his training. Gordon and Bullock discover a crystal owl that carries the biggest secrets of Gotham's underworld. Nygma and Penguin must work together to get out of a tricky situation.”
The Riddler/Penguin side of “Judged” brings out the episode’s best, as that pairing delights. On the negative side: Michael Chiklis: still not an actor I like. The rest of “Judged” falls somewhere between these two poles, though it leans more good than meh.
Pretty Hate Machine: “Gordon races against the clock to save the city from the Alice Tetch virus when Lee Thompkins intercepts with a plan of her own. Alfred sees a big change in Bruce Wayne after his work with The Shaman, and some of Gotham's most deranged villains band together.”
At this late stage in the season, I expect episodes to largely set the table for the finale, which “Hate” does in a compelling enough way. It loses some points just because the last few shows served the same purpose, so I want more “real action”. It’ll get here eventually, I’m sure, and “Hate” leads us that way.
Destiny Calling/Heavydirtysoul: “With the deadly virus spreading throughout the city, the search for the antidote continues, as Fish Mooney, The Riddler and Penguin reveal plans of their own. Bruce meets Ra's Al Ghul (Alexander Siddig) and completes his last task in order to fulfill his destiny, but realizes he can't let go of his past. Meanwhile, Gordon tries to win back Lee, and past alliances within Gotham City are broken, while new alliances are formed.”
With the formal introduction of Ra’s, S3’s comparisons to Batman Begins become even more obvious. It doesn’t help that the “cleansing weapon” in question comes from a mutating virus spread through the air, just like Scarecrow’s fear-inducing hallucinogen.
Despite that recurrent déjà vu feel, “Destiny/Heavy” follows its own path in a compelling enough manner to stand on its own. A double-length episode, we get a lot of action as well as important character moves. All of this finishes the season well – and leaves us intrigued for the next year of shows.
I’ve liked Gotham since its very start, and S3 ensures that I’ll remain loyal to it. While the season has ups and downs, it fares well most of the time and creates another fine collection of “pre-Batman” stories.