A Look at Gotham- Season 3, Episode 17: “Heroes Rise: The Primal Riddle”

Time for more riddles.

The episode begins with Penguin and Ivy making their way through the snowy mountains until they reach a laboratory.  Inside, they come face to face with Victor Fries, who is still livid that, during his mayoral run, Oswald ran people like Victor out of Gotham.  But Oswald may be able to help reverse Victor’s condition.

Victor can only survive a few hours outside the cold without his suit, but it’s been locked away in a Wayne Enterprises black suit.  Luckily, Oswald and Ivy have managed to retrieve said suit.

Jim awakens before Kathryn, who knows why Jim apparently killed his uncle.  Since Jim doesn’t blame the Court for Frank’s death, and as Frank acted alone, Kathryn tells Jim that turmoil is coming to Gotham.  And the Court alone can save the city.  Kathryn wants Jim to prove his loyalty- as killing Frank was between the two of them- and he will be contacted when the Court needs him.  The Court has taken care of Frank’s body.

As this happens, Leslie brings Harvey the file on Frank’s body when Jim enters.  Leslie tells him that Frank was pulled out of the harbor and, based on her preliminary examination, the burns on Frank’s left temple suggest he was shot at close range.  Jim maintains that nothing seemed out of the ordinary when he met at the cemetery.

Due to Jim’s lack of a reaction, Leslie immediately senses that Jim is hiding something, and Harvey agrees.  When Leslie leaves, Jim tells Harvey that Frank shot himself so Jim could get inside the Court.  Harvey is focused on the Court’s weapon, but Jim doesn’t want to blow the only chance they have to infiltrate the Court.  Until then, Jim just needs to keep up appearances.  Luckily, The Riddler has resurfaced.

Barbara pops by Nygma’s and, based on what Jim told her about the shipment coming into dock 9C, asks him if he knows about this secret organization that controls Gotham City from the shadows, as she doesn’t like someone being above her.

Based on his time at Arkham, Nygma remembers that Hugo Strange once hinted at such a group.  This is the one riddle that got away.  He promises to get answers for Barbara, but in his own big, theatrical way.  After all, only someone with powerful and connections would know about this group.  As such, he needs to speak with Gotham’s elite.  Nothing speaks elite like opening night at the theater.

At the theater, a man on stage is surprised when not his co-star, but Edward Nygma joins him on stage with a sword at the ready.  He tells Gotham’s rich and powerful that tonight, he will kidnap and torture one of them to expose a deep secret.  So spread the word: the Riddler is coming.  Also, Ed hates the guy’s performance, so Ed stabs him.

Edward Nygma is a dick to the theater industry.

At Wayne Manor, Alfred checkmates the Bruce clone and figures that Bruce let him win on purpose.  He realizes that Bruce hasn’t felt like himself, so the clone admits that he lied about Selina.  Things aren’t good.  In fact, she doesn’t want to see him again.  That much Alfred understands- he doesn’t want Bruce to worry about her.  When Alfred leaves, the clone’s nose starts bleeding.  He makes a call and explains that it’s happening again.

At the theater, Harvey and Jim check the crime scene, where Jim asks if Harvey knows about this secret Nygma mentioned.  After the all clear, the two check a box Nygma left and find a scroll inside.  Jim unfurls it and fins a riddle, written in iambic pentameter.

“I am a man who holds a high position, “Who shows two faces to all those he rules, “A fraud, criminal, and sometime politician. Gotham, my constituency of fools. ” A two-faced politician – whose constituency is Gotham.”  Sounds like Penguin, but he’s apparently dead, so that just leaves Mayor Aubrey James.

Over at the club, Tabitha and Barbara argue over Nygma’s help when Ed arrives.  He tells the two his plan is to kidnap Major James- he ran Gotham for 10 years, so if anyone would know about this group, he would.

Granted, Barbara and Tabitha could’ve just tortured the information out of James, but Nygma wanted to tell the GCPD what he wanted to do.  That way, he can embarrass them, as his crimes must live up this name.  If James doesn’t know anything, Ed has a plan B to smoke out the group.  He tells them that he needs a bomb to detonate at a biker bar tonight.

As for how to get Mayor James, Ed figures that the GCPD will bring the mayor to him.

Speaking of, James isn’t too concerned since Gotham is full of corrupt politicians.  He feels that he’s safe at his office.  James feels that his life is an open book, but he starts to feel a bit woozy from the danishes.  He tells Jim and Harvey that he received them from a random citizen, but when he goes to take his pills, he finds them marked with green question marks.

Next up on the villain recruitment trip, Penguin and Ivy visit a smelting mine to find Firefly. Bridgit, now played by Camila Perez, passes on Penguin’s offer.  Plus, she’s still bitter over Strange telling her that she was a goddess.  The mine may suck, but Gotham is worse.  Ivy tells Bridgit that there’s nothing wrong with being a freak.

Bridgit eventually recognizes Ivy, despite her growth spurt.  She manages to convince Bridgit to join this family of villains, so Bridgit, with one fiery parting gift to her boss, says farewell to the mine so she can join Ivy and Penguin.

The Bruce clone gets a checkup and tells Kathryn that all is going well with Alfred.  He guesses correctly that he’s dying, as the process that brought him into this world was flawed.  Kathryn tells the clone that the real Bruce Wayne will return before he dies.  At the very least, the clone is glad to have a purpose.  When Bruce returns, the clone knows that many will die, as if he’s gotten attached to people like Alfred.

To Kathryn, the number of people who will die is immaterial.  What matters is that Gotham must fall, and that will happen because of the clone’s sacrifice.

While Mayor James is wheeled into surgery, Jim and Harvey realize that they’ve walked into Nygma’s trap, as they’re at the hospital closest to the mayor’s office.  They hear Nygma over the intercom and Jim rushes off to the communications room to find Ed, but just gets a recording instead.  Nygma tells Jim that he knows he went to Barbara for information, thus kicking off this unsolvable riddle.

After an explosion, more people start rolling into the hospital and a fight breaks out between the victims and officers.  One of those officers, Nygma in disguise, goes for Aubrey while everyone else is distracted.

Jim arrives at the club to talk with Barbara, but finds Butch and Tabitha instead.  He doesn’t get why they’re sticking up for Nygma, given what he did to them.  True, the two hate Nygma, but if they help Jim take him down, Barbara will get a free pass.  Jim leaves when he gets word from Harvey that Nygma sent another riddle.  While Butch would have no problem giving up Nygma, Tabitha won’t do that if it means betraying Barbara.

So Nygma and Barbara hold Mayor James hostage.  James doesn’t want to give up these powerful people, as he knows that they’ll kill him, but he soon confesses that this group calls itself the Court.  He’s never met them- just carried out their commands.  Barbara doesn’t consider this enough, even though Nygma has tangible evidence of the group’s existence.  His next plan is to force the Court to reveal itself.

After all, secret organizations hate being exposed.  Tabitha arrives, delivers a bomb to Nygma, and tells Barbara that Jim stopped by the club, so he knows everything.  As the two talk, Ed straps the bomb around James’ neck.

Selina- remember her?- arrives to feed her cat when she receives an unexpected visit from the clone, who claims to have forgotten that she didn’t want to see him again.  Though he promised to stay away, things have changed.  He then admits to Selina that he’s not the real Bruce Wayne.  Well, of course.

Time for Leslie to ream Jim out some more.  The ballistics came back negative and there were postmortem tears along the entry wound, meaning someone removed the bullet that killed Frank and replaced it with another one.  Jim tells her to drop this because she could get herself hurt, but Leslie is sick of people getting hurt because of him.  And when she finds out what Jim did, she will make him pay for it.  And she’ll enjoy it.

Okay, so getting away from this, Harvey shows Jim a riddle that neither he nor Lucius could solve…which makes no sense, given how Lucius solved Nygma’s riddles two episodes ago, but sure, let’s put the spotlight back on Jim.  He flips on the television, and sees that Nygma is holding Mayor James hostage while also calling out the Court.

Jim then gets a call from Kathryn, who tells him that the Court cannot be exposed, so here’s the way Jim can prove his loyalty: find Nygma and bring him to Kathryn.  He wants Nygma in prison, but Kathryn won’t stand for that.  Jim and Harvey figure that the Court will kill Nygma, so they need to find a way around this.

Mayor James accepts that he and Ed are dead men, as the Court isn’t going to bargain with Nygma.  Then Ed gets a call from Jim, who tells him to come by the GCPD to learn who runs Gotham.  After all, he didn’t tell Barbara everything he knows.  Nygma agrees to come to the precinct, but only if he can meet Jim one-on-one…and with Mayor James.

As the GCPD soon clears out, Mayor James and Nygma arrive.  Ed demands that Jim reveal what he knows about the Court.  Jim calls Nygma’s bluff and dares him to blow up James, but when Ed presses the detonator, nothing happens.  Turns out Tabitha told Jim how to disarm the bomb and there’s a radio frequency jamming the signal between the detonator and the bomb.

Even still, Nygma wants to know who runs Gotham.  All he has to do is free Mayor James and them go on a ride with Jim.  But if he doesn’t, the riddle goes unsolved.  Not one to let a riddle go, Nygma agrees to Jim’s terms.

So Selina tries to comprehend everything that the clone has told her.  He assures her that the real Bruce Wayne is fine, but he still wants her to leave Gotham since the city has been judged.  He wants Selina to trust him and he’s not about to let Selina leave so she can tell Alfred.  If there’s one person the clone wants to save, it’s Selina.  And there’s the difference: Bruce Wayne would try to save everyone.

In Selina’s mind, the clone will never be Bruce Wayne.  But the clone disagrees.  He does matter and he won’t let her tell Alfred.

How will he stop Selina?  By pushing her out of a window.  Clearly this clone has never watched Batman Returns because we all know what’s coming next.

That evening, all alone at an isolated spot, Jim reminds Ed about the night he and Miss Kringle came to Leslie’s for dinner.  Jim tried like hell to get out of the dinner, but Leslie insisted.  Truth is, though, he had a good time and considered Ed a friend.  Nygma drops a riddle: I can sneak up on you or be right in front of you without you even knowing.  But when I reveal myself, you will never be the same. What am I?

The answer is betrayal, which is how every friendship ends.  So what good are friends, anyway?

The conversation stops when Kathryn arrives to speak with Ed.  She informs him that Gordon did not put her up to this.  And as for Hugo Strange’s question- the one that has tortured Nygma for so long, that answer is with Kathryn.  If Nygma goes with Kathryn, all of his questions will be answered.  He surrenders his gun to the Talon and gets into the limousine.

Kathryn assures Jim that Nygma will not be harmed, as his intellect could be very useful to the Court.

Barbara storms into her nightclub and demands to know what went wrong.  Tabitha reveals that she told Jim how to disarm the bomb, and she reminds Barbara of her promise to let her kill Nygma after he handed over the underworld.  However, Barbara is too focused on being in control.  As in her, not the two of them.  She storms off just as Butch decides that Barbara has changed.

So Penguin brings Ivy, Victor, and Bridgit to his manor, and just when the two are about to come to blows and more puns, Ivy breaks up the fight.  Oswald examines the painting with a question mark on it when Ivy calls his attention to the television: turns out that The Riddler has escaped police custody and is now at large.  Oswald tells his troupe to rest up, as tomorrow’s going to be a busy day.

Back in the alley, cats emerge from every direction and start licking Selina’s body because Batman Returns reference.

Jim is brought to the Court’s inner sanctum, where Kathryn introduces him as the newest member of the Court.  Jim picks up and dons his new owl mask.  Welcome to the Court of Owls.

While Gotham, more or less, has it’s share of issues connecting various storylines without feeling contrived, I liked the execution here of tying the bulk of these separate plots to the Court of Owls.  More than that, it continued to make effective use of The Riddler as he began to embrace his new persona.

I have to say, Cory Michael Smith is a lot of fun to watch as he plays around with Ed’s new side.  He really does feel like The Riddler here, even down to Nygma’s own twisted logic.  What’s stranger than a criminal who can’t help but leave clues to his crimes?  To a lesser extent than a character like The Joker, The Riddler is about the spectacle.  He can’t commit a crime without leaving a riddle or letting someone know what he did.

Like a hunter who enjoys hunting for the sport of it, Nygma engages the GCPD with his riddles because he’s about the theatrics.  It would be boring and too easy if he just committed crimes without a trace.  And in Gotham’s case, Nygma’s gone through this transformation in a journey to discover this other side of him, so you can bet he’s going to make a big show of his antics when he can.

The downside is that while Nygma can often anticipate what he thinks the GCPD will do, he can’t account for everything.  It’s one thing to leave his signature marks at his crimes, eliminating the mystery of who’s committing those crimes, but as someone who loves riddles and games, you’d think he’d be better at expecting the unexpected.

Like Tabitha becoming so fed up with him that she’d go out of her way to help Jim derail his antics, even if just by disarming his bomb.  Also, after being Barbara’s right hand for so long, this gives Tabitha, as well as Butch, something to do, as the lines are being drawn between Tabitha and Barbara.  And with Barbara focused on wanting to be in charge on her own, I wager it’s a matter of time before Tabitha goes rogue and leaves her.

But back to Nygma.  Between all of his games and puzzles, I did enjoy his brief conversation with Jim in the car about past friendship.  It does show how far Nygma has come since the previous seasons and how his days as a friend to Jim look to be all but done.

With that said, even though Jim’s back at the center of things and while there’s no reason Lucius shouldn’t have been able to solve another of Nygma’s riddles, he took advantage of Nygma’s inability to let a riddle go unsolved.  Thus, he managed to save Mayor James’ life and gain some traction with the Court at the same time.

At least he’s gaining some ground there since his love life seems to be on hold.  I’m not sure if Leslie is just around now so we can get some tension between her and Jim, but each scene she’s been in as of recent has been antagonistic.  It serves no purpose other than to create unnecessary drama, so find something useful for her to do or give her better material.

For all the talk Ivy had last time about Penguin raising an army, I hope this isn’t all we get. Firefly and Mr. Freeze?  We’ve seen these characters already and we know that Fish freed a horde of monsters from Indian Hill, so diversify a bit.  Give us characters we’ve never met instead of just two already established villains.  But I could be jumping the gun and maybe we’ll see more villains down the road.  If not, this is a pretty small army.

Side-note, until watching this episode, I had no idea that Michelle Veintimilla, the original actress who played Bridgit, had been recast.  Then again, with Bridgit’s burns and her outfit, it’s hard to get a full look at her face anyway.  That and Firefly’s more of a minor character compared to Ivy, so I guess that’s why, unlike Maggie Geha replacing Clare Foley, there was no news about this recast, as far as I know.

Curious what will become of the Bruce clone.  He’s aware that he’s dying, but he’s grown fond of Alfred and Selina.  I could see him being a thorn in Kathryn’s plans if he continues developing feelings for other people, but I imagine by that point, Alfred will have exposed the clone.

And then you’ve got Selina.  It’s not uncommon for Gotham to cherry pick from various interpretations of the Batman mythos.  Hell, we’ve got Bruce going through some Batman Begins training right now.  It’s unoriginal, but at the very least, Gotham lifts bits and pieces. Jerome sounds like Ledger’s Joker, but he didn’t blow up a hospital or hijack two boats.

But this isn’t even homage.  It’s copy and pasting directly from Batman Returns, just replace Max Shreck with the clone.  Almost right down to the way Selina’s body is positioned and the cats coming out to, I guess, rejuvenate her, it’s just lifting the same scene.  It robs this version of Selina Kyle of her own transformation into Catwoman unless the show intends to do something different after she returns.

That said, if the first thing she does is wreck her home, dress up in a skintight suit, and acquire a whip, then I’m out.  I kid, but my point is that the show is taking a moment that’s specific to Tim Burton’s take on Selina in Batman Returns.  It robs the moment of any originality because most of us have seen this moment before.  But we’ll see what Gotham does with Selina from here.  Hell, maybe the cats just like Selina’s scent.

I know, I know, not everyone has seen Batman Returns, but you can’t just overlook a blatant copy and paste job.

“The Primal Riddle” made good use of the Riddler and managed to tie him and lesser used characters like Butch and Tabitha into the conflict with the Court of Owls.  Now that Jim has proven himself, I’m curious how he’ll break the organization from within, since he’s far from this show’s best detective.

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