A Look at Gotham- Season 3, Episode 16: “Heroes Rise: These Delicate and Dark Obsessions”

After that delightful distraction away from Jim Gordon that allowed Harvey and Lucius to lead the GCPD in taking on Nygma, we now return to our regularly scheduled Gotham, starring everyone’s favorite not-Batman: Jim Gordon.  Directed by…Jim Gordon.  Who knew?

The episode begins with a gathering of the Court as Kathryn tells them that action must be taken to address the violence in Gotham City.  Such actions involve the construction of a weapon that will cleanse the city, thus allowing the Court to rebuild.  The Court’s Head requires a unanimous vote in order to proceed.

The members, Frank included, raise and then lower their feathers and come to a consensus: judgment has been passed and Gotham must fall.

Up, up, up in the mountains, Bruce gets a visitor from The Shaman, played by Raymond J. Barry, who tells Bruce that The Court, just a tool here, has taken precautions- i.e., the clone- to make sure that no one will notice that the real Bruce Wayne is missing.  And by the time Alfred realizes the truth, the Court will have accomplished its goal.  For now, The Shaman needs Bruce’s help and advises him to eat, as he’ll need his strength.

Over at GCPD, Bullock, livid that Mayor James is back in charge, tells Jim that Nygma has vanished for now.  Jim is preoccupied with the file of Michael Ness- the drunk driver who apparently killed Peter Gordon.  He got six years, but was killed a few months in due to a prison stabbing.  Based on his medical file from Blackgate, Jim found something not listed in the original file: Ness had had chronic, persistent hepatitis.

According to Bullock, this is known as the Irish Curse.  It’s a non-progressive form of liver inflammation.  You can’t have a single drop of alcohol.  And if Ness did drink, he would’ve died before he got behind the wheel.

As Oswald gets wheeled around a greenhouse in the abandoned estate that Ivy happened to find, he snaps and essentially tells her to stop babying and pampering him.  When asked why she likes the plants so much, Ivy admits that she sees them as better friends than human beings. Oswald has no time for this, though: he needs to get back to Gotham so he can plot his revenge.

Ivy suggests that Oswald build an army, so Oswald instructs Ivy to deliver a message to the one person he feels will be loyal to him: Gabe.  Ivy will do it, but only if Oswald says ‘please.’  Ivy drives a hard bargain.  And a greenhouse.

Jim meets Frank at the very public cemetery in case the Court is watching.  He believes that his father’s killer committed the act on purpose and someone made it look like an accident- easy enough for the Court.  Frank tells Jim about the weapon that could destroy Gotham, prompting Jim to wonder why the Court would want to destroy Gotham in the first place.  That knowledge, though, is reserved for people higher up in the Court’s ranks.

And the Court has done this twice before in Gotham’s history.  Frank has no idea how to stop the weapon, as he doesn’t even know what it is.  Plus, the Court knows that Frank has reached out to Jim, but nothing more.  It needs to stay that way in the event that Frank is discovered.

Because it’s a small world, Jim pops in on a frosty Leslie, who is at Mario’s grave, to tell her that he’s reconnected with his uncle.  Leslie brings up how she saw an old man who would stand and smile while at his wife’s grave.  Leslie didn’t get why the man smiled, but then it occurred to her that the couple must have shared an entire life together.

Jim again apologizes, but Leslie wonders how Jim can just move on with all the destruction he leaves in his wake.  She wishes she could do the same.  Just then, Jim gets a call and update from Bullock: the lawyer of the driver who killed Jim’s father was paid for by none other than Carmine Falcone.  Small world indeed.

So Gabe arrives at Ivy’s greenhouse, where Penguin tells him about his plan to build an army.  Gabe, eager to help out, will spread the word, though Ivy is wary of Gabe’s loyalty. She offers to use her perfume that, when smelled, will make people tell the truth, but Oswald turns down the offer and tells Ivy that he has no need of her, even though she saved his life.  Ivy thought they had a connection, but Oswald doesn’t think that at all.

And that’s unfortunate because once Ivy leaves, it turns out her suspicions were right on the mark, as Gabe soon knocks out Penguin.

Once Bruce finishes with his meditating, his cell door opens and he makes a run for it throughout the complex prison.  However, every hallway he enters looks exactly the same and he finds himself in a loop until he returns to his cell.  The Shaman tells Bruce that, like the temple, everything is a maze, but the difference is whether we realize our place in it.

He asks Bruce that it’s time to pick a path.  He knows that Bruce is afraid of something.  The cell door closes and the Shaman beckons Bruce to sit so he can show him what he has to offer.

Carmine Falcone is none too pleased to see Jim, who gets to the point about paying the lawyer who got off Michael Ness.  He asks if Carmine ordered the hit, but Carmine respected Peter, so Jim guesses that the Court called the hit.  Carmine isn’t a member, but he’s in a partnership with the Court, as everyone does the Court’s bidding.  He then reveals that Frank Gordon ordered the hit.

And Frank gets a surprise when he returns home and finds Jim waiting for him.  Frank pours a drink and tells Jim that Carmine called the Court after he left.  And yes, he did indeed order the hit on Peter because he was determined to expose the Court.  Frank is ready to die, but the ultimate goal is still to bring down the Court.  Though Jim believes Peter would’ve wanted justice, not vengeance, so he goes to place Frank under arrest.

As Jim goes to make an arrest, Frank head-butts him and manages to get the upper hand.  He tells him that the weapon will arrive at dock 9C, so Jim needs to find it without the Court getting involved.

So Oswald, now tied up, is surprised that Gabe is capable of betrayal.  However, Gabe won’t kill Oswald- that right will go to the highest bidder.  As Gabe says this, other mobsters arrive at the greenhouse.

Ivy, outside, laments that Oswald didn’t listen to her, but perhaps she should pay attention herself, because a henchman manages to surprise her at gunpoint.

Jim relays all of what he learned to Bullock and apologizes for getting him involved, but Bullock is just glad to know Carmine confirmed the Court’s existence.  If Jim wants to go after Frank, Bullock will have his back.  He plans to get a warrant, but Jim doesn’t want the GCPD getting involved.  So who can raid the docks, won’t raise questions, and isn’t connected to the GCPD?  Jim knows the perfect person.

Yeah, it’s Barbara, who is busy enjoying her throne as Gotham’s very own Barbara Queen.  She then receives a surprise call from Jim, who needs a favor.

The Shaman tells Bruce that he’s been waiting for his journey to begin, and they share the same destination: Gotham City.  He takes out a set of needles that help unlock the mind.  As Bruce asks about the symbols on them, the Shaman injects Bruce with one of them and Gotham embraces it’s inner Doctor Strange as we go on a trip.

We travel back to the pilot as Bruce and the Shaman end up in the alley where Thomas and Martha Wayne were killed.  He sees the killer, whose face is covered by a ski mask, open fire on his parents, but Bruce is unable to help.

Bruce awakens back in reality and the Shaman reveals that Bruce just lived in a memory.  People can relive them as if they were living them from the first time.  He did this to show Bruce that he’s never left that alley, and for Bruce to accept what the Shaman is going to teach, he needs to leave that alley.  For now, he should rest or try again soon.  With that, the Shaman leaves.

Back in Gotham, Barbara and Tabitha torture a man for information about what’s coming into dock 9C.  He’s afraid to reveal much, as even Falcone didn’t ask about what came into 9C when he ran things.  When Barbara stabs the man, he reveals that what’s coming in has already arrived- in fact, it’s across the room in a crate marked ‘Indian Hill.’  Barbara figures the man must have a number to alert others when things arrive.  Let’s make a call.

However, when Barbara’s henchmen go to check the crate, they’re murdered by a Talon. Barbara and Tabitha manage to escape just as the Talon decapitates the bound perp.

Gabe’s men take photos of both Oswald and Ivy when one brings in some cannoli.  Ivy maintains that she’ll be fine and Oswald wants to hear her plan, but Ivy just wants Oswald to be nice to him.  Okay, so when Oswald promises to do so, Ivy asks the cannoli delivery man if he’d let her go in exchange for more information that would get him more money for Penguin.

But Ivy wants to whisper it into her ear.  He gets close enough to get a whiff of Ivy’s perfume and winds up in a trance.  He’ll do whatever she says…including killing all of the men except for Gabe.  Ivy, caught up in the moment, barks orders to the man, who soon unties her and Oswald.  Penguin, in response, kills the man and then approaches Gabe so he can exact his revenge.

Kathryn and the Court inform Frank that they know Jim has been asking questions about his father’s death.  Frank doesn’t want anything leading back to the Court and he has no idea why Jim would start investigating at this moment.  However, he knows that Jim won’t stop until either he or Frank is dead.  So Kathryn declares that Jim Gordon must die.

Jim tells Bullock about the Talon and that the Court’s weapon is already in Gotham, meaning that Frank is either lying or didn’t know about it.  Jim gets a call from Frank, who tells him that they’re running out of time and asks Jim to come to his house alone.

Penguin laments Gabe’s betrayal, but Gabe reminds Oswald that he was there when Gertrude was killed, yet Oswald passed him over.  In Gabe’s defense, that is a good point.  Gabe assures Oswald that he can be loyal again, but in order for Penguin to assure this loyalty is true, he Ivy to make Gabe smell her perfume.

He does, but even under Ivy’s spell, he doesn’t agree to be loyal.  Why?  Because he and everyone else followed Oswald out of fear.  Now, Oswald is fine being feared and respected, but according to Gabe, no one respected Oswald.  They just saw him as the tiny freak who used to carry Fish Mooney’s umbrella.  Livid at the word ‘freak,’ Oswald grabs a blade and starts slashing at Gabe.

Jim meets Frank and asks about the weapon, but Frank has no idea what it is.  He knows that the Court no longer trusts him and admits that he’s been ordered to kill Jim, but he needs someone to replace him on the Court and that can stop the weapon.  As such, Jim needs to join the Court, which wants Jim dead, but also wants him in their ranks.  Kathryn is going to call and see if Jim is dead, and Frank wants him to answer.

Frank instructs Jim to say that he blames him for Peter’s death.  Frank admits that he sees Peter’s strength in Jim and knows that he can finish what Peter started.  With that, Frank turns the gun on himself.

The Shaman returns to Bruce’s cell and is ready when with another injection when Bruce tries to get the jump on him.  He pleads not to return to the alley, but he’s taken back anyway and sees his parents killed in front of him again.  Bruce charges when the killer is about to kill young Bruce, but obviously no one’s there.  Bruce throws punch after punch at the Shaman, but gets nowhere aside from taking a few licks.

The Shaman tells that he has much to teach him, but his pain blocks him from becoming who the Shaman and Gotham needs him to become.

Bruce awakens and fins that his lip is still bleeding- turns out that one’s emotions and feelings are strong enough, their consequences can follow you back to the real world. The Shaman tells Bruce that he and his group have tried to end the circle of crime in Gotham, only for it to start up again because people are afraid.  That fear breeds hopelessness. And this is where Bruce comes into play.

The Shaman says that Gotham needs something that only Bruce can provide- a protector.  Bruce believes that he can’t protect Gotham on his own, but the Shaman tells Bruce that if he can become a symbol against fear, Gotham can be reborn.

As Penguin buries Gabe, he admits to Ivy that he lost his temper, but Ivy knows all about the power words have.  She asks if Oswald is giving up his plans, and Penguin knows that he can’t take on Nygma, Barbara, and the others on his own.  Ivy has a way around that: Selina once mentioned that Indian Hill has a ton of monsters, so perhaps Oswald could lead an army of freaks.

At Peter’s grave, Jim receives a call from Kathryn, who isn’t surprised to hear him answering the phone.  The two agree that it’s time to meet in person, and as if on cue, Jim looks to his right and finds a limo waiting for him.  Jim walks towards the limo as the episode comes to a close.

Gotham City has this uncanny ability to attract not just the criminal element, but organizations that want to cleanse or wipe out the entire populace in order to start anew. We’ve seen it in other interpretations like Batman Begins and even on this very show last season with the Order of St. Dumas, but in this situation, the stakes should feel more personal for Jim.

Now Ben McKenzie did a fine job with his directorial debut, but if there’s anything I wish we’d gotten more of prior to how this episode ended, it’s more time with Jim and Frank. That’s hard to do when Gotham had to turn Nygma into The Riddler, the Jerome arc prior, and tell everyone else’s storylines.

Jim learning the truth about his father’s death should carry more weight, and I appreciate that he at least got time to spend with Frank as opposed to them bonding off-screen.  But still, given the revelation that Frank ordered the hit on Peter, coupled with Jim learning that the Court wants to recruit him, I don’t feel that this is as big a personal stake for Jim as it should.

Part of that is because we’ve already dealt with an organization that wanted to cleanse Gotham of its sins, but the other is that I’d like to have spent more time with Jim and Frank.  Now granted, I was fine with him playing a minor role in the prior episode, but so soon after meeting Frank and returning to work, he’s already thrust in another major role.

I get that he’s linked to most of the events that happen in Gotham, no matter how inextricable, but I would have preferred that this be spread out.  Have storylines like Bruce’s, Nygma’s, or Oswald and Ivy’s take precedence and just intersperse between that and Jim spending time with Frank.  Build on their bond while also allowing Bullock, Lucius, and the others to keep things running at the GCPD.

I’m not calling the execution poor, just a missed opportunity.  After watching his uncle kill himself, you’d think Jim would need more time off, but he’s already heading right into the Court’s embrace to try and take down the organization from within.  I’m sure Kathryn will look at him with extra scrutiny because there’s no way the Court would be stupid enough to just let Jim in without being wary, given his investigation into the Court.

Even though she’s only here to ask what we’ve already pondered about Jim, Leslie did bring up a good point when she asked how Jim can just move on, given all the destruction in his wake.  Some of that could be sour grapes, and I thought Leslie was over chewing Jim out at this point, but she’s not wrong.  In Jim’s attempts to do the right thing, he and others are harmed in the process.  Makes him a good candidate for Batman, you know?

And since I suck at transitions, that’s how I’ll move onto Bruce’s subplot as he trains with the League of Assassins- I mean, the Ancient One, I mean begins his training to become the hero that Gotham needs.  Even without making direct comparisons between this and Batman Begins, a lot of the Shaman’s dialogue was very Begins-esque, down to telling Bruce that he can become a symbol against fear.

Is this indeed the League of Assassins and could this be another fake-out where the Shaman turns out to be Ra’s al Ghul?  Obviously not because he’s already been cast, but I’m curious how this show will handle an organization training Bruce to become a hero, if that is indeed the group’s true intent.

That said, I would think that Bruce has moved past the death of his parents.  Or at least it’s not at the front of his mind anymore.  Since then, the kid has been through hell and been through enough madness that would make anyone want to dress up like a bat and fight crime.  Why not revisit the night where he almost killed Jerome?  After all, that at least drove Bruce to declare that he would never kill.

At least that feels like a more recent occasion that would have a profound impact on Bruce versus his parents’ death, which has been talked about to death at this point.  Plus, it would cement the effect Jerome had on Bruce and paint their future rivalry, should Jerome indeed become this show’s version of the Joker.

Either way, with Bruce out of Gotham, I’m curious to see his training.  We’ve seen him gain inspiration in the past about becoming a vigilante, and Alfred’s been training him, so now to see what this organization can show him as far as becoming the symbol that Gotham needs and deserves.

I ended up liking the dynamic between Ivy and Penguin more than I thought I would.  It’s important to remember that despite being in an older body, Ivy still has the mind of a kid. But she’s more level headed than Oswald and can keep him balanced when he’s prone to lash out in anger, as we saw when he murdered Gabe.

So while this episode had a lot of familiar elements both from this very show and other Batman adaptations, it still managed to push everyone’s stories forward and is setting Jim on a direct course for the Court of Owls.  Meanwhile, Bruce starts on the path towards becoming the symbol Gotham needs and Oswald finds an unlikely ally in Ivy as he prepares to raise an army against Nygma and Barbara.

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