Season 3 Episode 1: “Better to Reign in Hell”
Gotham: a show that I have always felt has had the potential to be so much better than it has actually been. After a disappointing first season, and a wild (if somewhat uneven) second season, we come to the third descent into Gotham, where we will now be treated to the “Mad City” and the Court of Owls. If you don’t remember, of course, the inmates of Arkham Asylum were let loose upon the streets, led by Fish Mooney herself. The return of Jada-Pinkett Smith has divided the fandom; I for one am feeling tepid over it. I have always felt she over acts, and if she is too much at the center of this season, I feel it will suffer. However, time will tell.
This show is at its best when it settles into its darkness. I hope that the writers have realized that–and I think there are inklings that they have. This episode certainly is a good indication.
We open up with Jim visiting an idyllic house, looking happy and healthy. Everything is bright and dreamlike–clearly we aren’t in Gotham. We can hear Lee laughing, and…well, it seems that Lee didn’t wait around for Jim (and why would she), as she is seen through a window smiling and kissing another man. So there is poor Jim, watching this scene from what used to be his life, but one that he never fully fit into.
We cut to six months later, in the dark of Gotham. Ah–this is better than that brightness! One of the modified people from the Asylum has broken into a pharmacy and is stopped by Jim after a fight. Apparently, not wanting to go back to his old job, Jim has become a bounty hunter. Now this–this–is something I like. Jim is best on this show when he’s working in the gray. And this role for him is very much in the gray. It most likely won’t last long, but I’ll enjoy it as long as it does.
We move back to the GCPD where the Commissioner is holding a press conference. We’re introduced to Valerie Vale (whose name sounds very similar to Vicki Vale, journalist of Batman comics fame), who is asking some hard questions about last season’s jail break. No one (including Harvey and Jim) is providing any information.
We also find out in this scene that Lucius Fox has quit the Wayne foundation and is now working for the GCPD, which is an interesting development within itself. However, any more talk is cut short because my favorite (and many other people’s) character has shown up.
Oswald Cobblepot is looking resplendent and defiant, striding forward as best he can with his cane (walking worse than before, it seems). He tells the press about the creatures and about Fish in particular. Apparently he told the police everything, and the have yet to do anything–so in typical Oswald fashion, he is taking matters into his own hands. He and Jim have an excellent scene together, as well, where Jim challenges Oswald to make Fish’s capture worth his while. Ah, now see again–this is what I love about this show. These interactions really elevate things.
We also find out that Barbara is running a club with Tabitha Galavan. Penguin offers them protection from some of the nastier types in Gotham, but the women think they can handle themselves–and you know what, I think they can too. Of course, Butch is still mooning over Tabitha, but he needs to get over it. We also find out that Selena, our little baby Catwoman, is hanging out with Barbara, with Ivy very close behind. I’ve always really enjoyed their small flashes of Ivy, and with her recasting coming, I’m going to be sad to see her go. The creepy/strange clone of Bruce Wayne is seen as well… but more on that, later.
Penguin then announces his big idea: to offer $1,000,000 to anyone who can bring him Fish Mooney, dead or alive. That is certainly one way to get Jim’s attention, Ozzy—and to get your arch-rival into your clutches. Let’s just hope it works.
Over at Wayne Manor, Bruce and Alfred talk about some mysterious thing they are planning to do the next day that Bruce is overly nervous about. As talked about last season, they have also been out of Gotham for six months, missing the mess that was left behind after the Arkham escape.
Meanwhile, Oswald goes to visit Edward Nygma in prison where he provides him a puzzle box that is supposed to be impossible to solve, which of course Eddie solves in less than a minute. He doesn’t seem very impressed and questions why Oswald keeps visiting. We find out that Oswald has been bringing gifts each time, as well–including a sweater. Apparently Oswald simply enjoys talking to Eddie. Their friendship is probably my favorite thing on the show. They play off of each other in such interesting ways. Oswald questions why Fish didn’t kill him when she had the chance, but Eddie simply tells him to stop focusing on the details and keep his eye on the prize.
Then he gives my favorite line of the night: “Remember, penguin eat fish,” and presents Oswald an origami penguin. Hey shippers, did you want something? You got something right here because again, their friendship, and Edward’s support of Oswald, is just amazing.
Fish, meanwhile, apparently needs some drug to keep her and the other creatures healthy. Selena is with them, and really, girl–you need to stop hanging out with these losers. I get you want to play badass kitty cat, but this is not the game for you anymore. Still, Jim shows up (Valerie Vale had told him about Oswald’s plan) and a fight ensues. ….it doesn’t go well for Jim.
That thing that Bruce was nervous about? Well, it seems that he was going to confront Wayne Enterprises about the Hugo Strange issue. He proclaims that he knows that he didn’t work alone, and that the board member has 24 hours to come forward. That, of course, prompts a call to the Court of Owls, who put a hit out on Bruce. Welp. Good job, kid.
We cut to Barbara, who is visited by some thugs who threaten her if she doesn’t let them have the club. It doesn’t go well–for them, at least. She and Tabitha beat the ever living crap out of them, and man did I love that scene. Barbara is so much more interesting when she is at her most wicked, and again this show does so well when it’s focused on the villains. I genuinely don’t care about Bruce Wayne, but focus on Barbara and her wild laugh–I could watch that for hours.
Later, we find out that the thugs had been sent by Butch as a way to try and win Tabitha back…and really, Butch? That’s gross and is never going to work. Penguin does an excellent job of mediating the situation. These four are definitely going to be the ones to watch going forward.
There is a small plotline where Selena tells Valerie about where Fish Mooney is so she can tell Jim, but really, it doesn’t matter. Jim will get to Fish either way, and this subplot, to me, was a bit convoluted and unnecessary.
There is a sad bit, where Bruce goes to talk to Selena, who is obviously still hurt over what occurred last season and feels betrayed over him leaving her in the city while he went off on his rich boy vacation. Their friendship is fractured and this has to do a great deal with their vastly different stations in life.
There is a whole bit where Jim finds Peabody (Hugo’s old assistant) and uses her as bait to catch Fish, but I felt a great deal of this was filler. Jim fails in his attempt to catch Fish, Peabody is captured by Fish, and Valerie gains a picture of one of the creatures. While this is all set up for things that will most likely pay off later in the season, I felt this part of the episode dragged.
After his failure in capturing Fish, Harvey tells Jim to stay away from the GCPD, further alienating him from his old friends. Not a bad thing in terms of his descent into… something? But I have my doubts on how long this will actually be allowed to continue.
Selena is attempting to protect Ivy Pepper (our little baby Poison Ivy) from all the stuff she is mixed up in, but it’s clear that Ivy just wants to help her best friend, and is hurt by Selena not allowing her into this horrible world she’s found. At this point, clone!Bruce finds Ivy and demands information from her.
Apparently he had no idea what Bruce Wayne’s name was… but now he does. Besides looking exactly like Bruce (but with prettier hair!), there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with him. I’m genuinely curious to see where they go with this.
So why do Fish and the other creatures need that medication they keep stealing? Well, come to find out, every time they use their abilities their body rejects the DNA modifications. Peabody tells Fish that if she stops using her ability, she will be fine–but of course Fish won’t accept this. Already, Pinkett Smith is starting to over act, and honestly her type of mugging for the camera simply isn’t for me. I just don’t enjoy scenes with her on screen. Peabody informs the creatures that the only person who can reverse the damage is Hugo Strange, and in a fit of rage, Fish has one of the creatures kill Peabody by draining her of her life. Selena looks (understandably) horrified.
In a turn of events necessitated by what the producers/writers want, Ivy has been following Selena, is found out, and is dragged in. A chase ensues and Ivy’s touched by the life draining creature before falling into water. Selena believes she’s dead, of course–but casting spoilers have told us that it’s going to just age her up. In other words, Ivy is going to look 18/19 but be mentally 13. So…yeah. I don’t actually trust this show to handle this well, but time will tell.
What is Jim doing during all of this? Drinking while staring at a picture of Lee. A+ work there, Gordon.
We end, however, on the Court of Owls coming for Bruce–and after a short fight with Alfred, the mysterious masked man manages to subdue our badass butler (who is always getting his ass kicked on this show), and kidnap Bruce.
Well, at least he didn’t kill him?
Overall, I’m relatively pleased with this episode. They had a lot to set up, and there is a lot of promise here–but really, it’s all about how they pay it off in the end,and that is where Gotham sometimes fails. So let’s hope season three is where they truly come into their own.