Look, everyone. Barbara’s back. But wait, she’s not the only one, either.
The episode begins right after “Into the Woods” with Barbara telling Jim that she was released from Arkham. She tells him all about her nightmares, saying that the person who did those horrible things wasn’t her. Jim, though, would have no problem shooting him after his shitty day. He questions why Arkham would release her, but Barbara tells him that she had to work through some issues. She’s now better and totally sane.
Though Jim is happy for her, he still wants her gone and he doesn’t care. She looks at a nearby photo of a woman named The Lady and wants to help Jim with the Wayne murder case. No dice. Barbara’s one request before leaving is for Jim to say her name. He does, while telling her goodbye, before slamming the door as Bullock arrives with pizza and beer.
Bruce, meanwhile, has been at the computer all night. Alfred prepared breakfast and Lucius Fox is more than ready, but Bruce might have found something. Thomas Wayne was supposed to meet a woman named Karen Jennings about something called Pinewood Farms.
Lucius informs the two that most of the Black-Ops programs at Wayne Enterprises had bland names like that to cover up any nasty business. Alfred thinks that Bruce is getting ahead of himself. Based on Karen’s address, she lives somewhere right outside Gotham. Well, time to go.
Jim and Bullock go over the Wayne murder case. Matches Malone worked with two contractors, but the only living one is The Lady, who is now in the wind after she sent assassins after Jim at Galavan’s penthouse. Someone must know where she is, but they would be professional hitmen. Bullock suggests that Jim uses GCPD’s available resources, but Jim doesn’t want to have Barnes breathing down his neck.
Also, since Jim doesn’t have a badge, Bullock gives him a few extra weapons before warning him to be careful. Then we get a montage of Jim Gordon as a one man army interrogating various men as he searches for answers about The Lady. He finally learns that she might be at a club called Artemis.
Back at Arkham, Hugo Strange and Miss Peabody watch another reanimation attempt. Peabody tells Strange that someone in Wayne Enterprises ran a search on Karen Jennings. She’s got a murderous history and could expose the secrets at Arkham. But does anybody know what she’s become?
So Bruce got some help from Alfred after all as the two arrive at a cabin in the woods. Bruce picks the lock and the two enter to find some claw marks on the table. Bruce lowers his gun and introduces himself, saying that he just wants to talk.
The woman steps out of the shadows and it turns out to be Karen Jennings, played by Julia Taylor Ross. She can’t drop her knife because her weapon isn’t a knife. Or a spoon. Rather, they’re talons. Bruce asks Karen if she knows who she is, but she first wants to know how they found her. He explains the final meeting that Thomas Wayne was meant to have and that he and Alfred weren’t followed.
Karen explains that powerful people will kill Bruce and Alfred due to their digging, but Bruce isn’t afraid to die if it means doing the right thing. That didn’t work out so well for Thomas Wayne, did it? Bruce begs for information.
Jim visits the Artemis club, where Barbara happens to be a member. Barbara wants to respect his boundaries, but Artemis is a club for female criminals. Jim isn’t keen on trusting Barbara to get information for him, but Jim isn’t a cop anymore. If he goes in guns blazing, The Lady will vanish, but Barbara promises to help. She wants to help Jim close the door on the past so he can start anew.
For whatever reason, Jim lets Barbara go. She speaks to The Lady, who eventually recognizes Barbara based on her reputation.
Karen explains that she’s lived in the cabin for 10 years since Pinewood Farms- a bioengineering program in Wayne Enterprises. Karen was an unwilling volunteer since she was at Blackgate. She was born with a crippled arm, and her father liked booze and beating his deformed daughter. One night, she fought back, causing her father to fall down the stairs and break his neck.
Not self-defense, mind you, so Karen was sent to Blackgate for murder. One day, men showed up and told Karen that they would make her arm better. Instead, they turned her into a monster. Thomas Wayne didn’t know about this, but he had his suspicions. When he found out what people did to them, he abolished the program and paid to put the victims in hiding. Most didn’t survive the experiments, anyway.
Thomas Wayne attempted to warn Karen that the experiments started up again. Bruce figures that whoever restarted the program must have killed his parents. Karen, though, doesn’t have any names since the men never used their names. All she can remember is a face. Bruce wants Karen to take him and Alfred to Pinewood Farms, promising that nothing bad will happen to her. Bruce, don’t make promises that you can’t keep.
Barbara tells The Lady that she got out of Arkham through a simple sob story. She wants to get into the assassination business, but requires a partner. Luckily, she has money and The Lady needs her reputation restored. Jim, meanwhile, sneaks into the Artemis, only to learn that, to no one’s surprise, Barbara has double-crossed him. Jim wakes up bound with Barbara explaining that she wanted to deliver him to The Lady.
However, The Lady thought this had to do with the men she sent to kill Jim. But no, it’s about the Wayne murders. She has no idea who is behind the murders. She took the contract, but never met the client. All communication took place over the phone. However, The Lady mentions that the contact went by a nickname- The Philosopher. But then Barbara tases The Lady and her one henchwoman.
Alfred, Karen, and Bruce arrive at Pinewood, unaware that they’re being followed. It’s pretty decrepit inside and Karen is spooked at seeing this familiar equipment. She says that it’s for the best that Bruce just moves on, indicating that she knew the building was abandoned. What won’t she explain? Suddenly, the three are chased, but Karen uses her abilities to kill one of the men. Police quickly arrive on the scene. Who alerted them?
Jim is livid that he was tied to a chair and almost killed again, but Barbara needed The Lady to trust her. Now, she wants to celebrate having the names, but to Jim, this doesn’t change anything. Even though she did everything for him, Jim doesn’t know what to believe. He wants to know why she cares what he thinks. She says that when she woke up from her coma, she remembered him holding onto her from the church window.
At that moment, Jim saw not the monster, but the real Barbara. She feels that if Jim could look at her like that again, she’d be okay. If Barbara wants to be a better person, that’s her choice to make. Jim can’t make that choice since Barbara did try to kill Leslie. That he can’t forgive. This conversation is interrupted when Jim receives a call from Bruce. He leaves.
At GCPD, Bullock releases Alfred, while Barnes wants Jennings moved to Blackgate. Bruce is released, but he told Barnes the truth. Barnes didn’t take kindly to that.
Bruce then tells Jim at a diner what he and Alfred learned. Jim mentions The Philosopher and bets this is the man behind the Wayne murders. Jim wants Lucius Fox to put together a list of names of scientists who worked for Wayne Enterprises over the past 15 years. Maybe Karen could identify them, but before that, Jim needs to break her out of Blackgate.
At Arkham, Peabody tells Strange that Karen Jennings is being sent to Blackgate. Strange doesn’t want her to talk, so he wants to let their sub-zero friend try out his new suit. Peabody warns Strange that their friend isn’t the same man as before.
Indeed, Peabody and Strange visit Victor Fries, who doesn’t like being locked in a freezer. Strange offers to take Victor on a field trip. Victor must like field trips.
As Karen is transferred in a van set for Blackgate, the driver finds a bag of money. This distraction gives Jim enough time to not knock the driver unconscious, but instead attack the officer in the back with Karen. Jim, Alfred, and Bruce then take the vehicle and Karen, but at least they leave the officer with the money, so everyone wins.
The plan is to get Karen out of town and under a new identity, as he promised to keep her safe. She confirms that The Philosopher ran the program at Pinewood. Bruce promises that no one will ever hurt Karen again, and she thinks that Bruce sounds like the doctor. Thomas Wayne did more than rescue Karen from Pinewood. She was so angry, but Thomas never gave up on her. He kept reminding her that she wasn’t alone or a monster.
She never knew what a real father should be until Thomas Wayne, which is why she didn’t want Bruce to investigate or see this differently. Thomas started Pinewood with good intentions, but someone else took advantage of him. Bruce doesn’t see this as a burden on himself, though. This is just who he is.
The escape comes to a stop when Jim comes face to face with a new and improved Victor Fries. Jim and Alfred open fire- not thinking to aim for Victor’s head- and Bruce refuses to leave Karen. She’s proud of the man Bruce has become, but then she runs right into Victor Fries’ line of fire. She’s frozen solid and Fries finishes the job by shattering her body.
Barbara made her way to Tabitha and Butch’s hideout. Tabitha is glad that Barbara made it home. Someone has to be. And this was a scene.
Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce laments the loss of Karen and places her death on his hands. Alfred says that it’s because of what Bruce is pursuing. If Bruce can’t make peace, then he’s not ready and Alfred warns Bruce that there will be others. Karen is the only one who could identify The Philosopher’s face, so they’re stuck on how to identify him. Jim tells Alfred to have faith.
Jim tells Bruce that helped because he made a promise. Lucius Fox enters with information about The Philosopher and presents a photograph from a newsletter. Next to Thomas Wayne in the photo is Hugo Strange, nicknamed The Philosopher. So Thomas Wayne’s friend betrayed him? That’s not right.
Hugo Strange also laments Karen’s loss. He learns from Peabody that Jim and Bruce Wayne are working together, so life is about to get very interesting for them. Just then, they get an alert regarding patient #44. Downstairs, an inmate wreaks havoc on the guards. As he kills his final victim, Theo Galavan yells the name Azrael and raises his hands to the sky.
Huh. For as smart as a man that Hugo Strange seems to be, given how he’s been such a mystery to the main characters, he sort of set himself up to be discovered through some foolish moves. Not like The Riddler leaving clues to his own crimes. But for as much as how Indian Hill is largely unknown to Jim and the others, you’d think Strange would want to keep it under wraps for as long as possible.
And while a crazy Barbara is preferable to a dull one, having her out of Arkham would naturally make Jim suspicious of why she’s been released. If anything, I’m grateful that unlike Penguin, Barbara wasn’t neutered of her personality. She was still a nutjob, but didn’t have any desire to kill Jim. Rather, it seems like she just wants him to acknowledge her and put the past behind them.
It’s goofy as hell, but really, that’s nothing new for Gotham when it comes to the show’s tone. A show like this can’t always be taken as serious as it wants the viewers to, so it helps to embrace the silliness once in a while.
Barbara is more entertaining when she’s a wild card instead of just playing the supportive girlfriend. So while Barbara’s double-cross was predictable, this version of her at least holds my attention. Though that helps that there weren’t too many plots this week. No Nygma or Penguin, though we did get a rather pointless scene with Butch and Tabitha.
But back to Hugo. The second error would be sending Victor Fries after Karen. First off, people are going to wonder how and why Victor was reanimated. Second, of the villains to resurrect, I think it’s too soon to have Victor back on the scene. His arc wasn’t that long ago in relation to this episode. And all he does is eliminate Karen, and Hugo could have had anyone do that.
As far as Bruce, Alfred, and Jim working to rescue Karen goes, the revelation about Hugo Strange being behind all of this is only new knowledge to them. Given Strange’s involvement with the supposedly toxic waste dump that is Indian Hill, plus the secret experiments, he had to have a hand in the Wayne murders. At least this is more plausible than the Order of St. Dumas.
Arriving at this conclusion doesn’t feel as satisfying as it could because we’ve been down this road several times. Hell, we just had Bruce confront Matches Malone, thinking that was the end game. But this isn’t compelling to watch. And hell, Bruce and Alfred just follow up on leads. Lucius Fox seems to be doing all the work behind the scenes, so why not give him more to do on-screen? He at least currently works at Wayne Enterprises.
I will say that I do find Jim freelancing and doing his own investigation a change of pace from going back to the dull GCPD. Without a badge, he doesn’t have to play by Barnes’ playbook, but that also puts him outside the law. And he chose this route because he feels obligated to help Bruce solve this mystery. I wouldn’t call him a rogue cop yet, but a man that’s being loose with the rules.
And then there’s the resurrected Theo Galavan, or I guess we should start calling him Azrael now. Oh, do I have a bit to say about this, but we’ll wait until we get to spend more time with the new and improved Galavan.
So while Gotham wasn’t all over the place with its plot and managed to combine the two storylines towards the end, the reveal of Hugo Strange’s involvement didn’t carry the weight the show wanted it to, given Bruce’s reaction to the revelation. Meanwhile, all signs now point to Hugo Strange, and with him now resurrecting past villains, maybe now the villains will actually rise and show Gotham City their wrath.