Jim's seeking revenge in Gotham for the death-by-fire of Luke Garrett while Butch and Penguin try to worm their way into the Galavan organization. Meanwhile, Nygma and Kringle take their relationship to new levels, and Selina and Bridgit paint the town red: fiery red.
There were great moments in this episode, but they were held together sometimes by predictability, sometimes by amazingness, sometimes just by really great camerawork. Take Butch. We're talking about one of my favorite characters, now mangled, with his bleeding arm visible right off the bat. He's sent packing off to the Galavans with a thin story - the Penguin's gone crazy and turned on everyone. Galavan's only paying half attention - he's busy sitting like Big Pimp Daddy with his two dominatrix enforcers standing behind him, and watching yet another bigwig capitulate to his desires. Bigwig Politician is standing on a box, noose around his neck, barely balanced... until he states he's willing to give Galavan his support. What the heck? Is Galavan really going to torture the entire City Council into submission? Just an episode or two ago, he was counting on their support after "saving" the city from Jerome and the Maniax. The attack on the Wayne Industries buildings makes sense. I'm not sure the political torture does. I get Commissioner Loeb was corrupt as hell, and that there's a vacuum after his removal and his successor's death, but you'd think at least one Councilmember would report being tortured by a current Mayoral candidate. The violence seemed gratuitous and unnecessary. Of course, the bleeding-arm subterfuge is easily seen through by Galavan. We're left wondering if Butch's call to arms is geniuine - or one more feint in this very odd playbook. Will they actually rescue Penguin's mother, or will there be an ambush?
More interesting was the crack growing between Jim, the Strike Force, and Barnes. We know Jim doesn't always play by the book, and after seeing one of his wards burn to a cinder, he's pissed off. But watching him hit potential criminals, especially on top of the news these days, wasn't pleasant. He needs Harvey for that kind of cover. Still, in the early scenes, the violence made sense; it's exactly the right behavior for the character, and the pushback is also totally on point if a little anticlimactic. "'There will be a note in your permanent record, Jim,'" thundered Principal Barnes..." went my head, more than once. Jim recognizes how complex criminals can be. Some of this is because of his relationship with Lee, but some is from years of experience with complex folks. He develops sympathy for Bridgit - especially after seeing the chains - but Gordon's future with Barnes and the Strike Force is going to spin on whether Gordon can share any part of his ability to see these dualities with his new partners. I'm sorry to see Selina cut him off, though. He did try helping out, even if it was weak as water.
Meanwhile, Selina and Bridget make a fun team, don't they? Convinced that she'll be caught up by a manhunt, Bridgit wants to leave, and Selina seduces her into crime. The volatility of this combination is mostly taken out on a bunch of... yep, pimps, and sex traffickers. I like that they focus on hurting the baddies, but it feels obvious to me early on that Bridgit is going to make an exit from this series if not the show. I thought at first we were going to simply say farewell, but now it looks like we now have one of the future criminals, a fire-immune Firefly. I don't know how others feel, but Bridgit is, for me, in the same class as Captain Cold from the Flash: an entirely sympathetic villain played by someone with real acting chops (Go, Michelle Veintemilla!!!!) whose antagonism with their own family drives them to crime and possibly beyond. The deaths of her 'brothers' had me rooting and going 'gross' at the same time.
The amazingness parts of the episode for me were Camren Bicondova's acting, and the closing seen with Nygma and Kringle. Camren/Cat sold every scene she starred in: whether she was haranguing Jim about his inability to keep promises or comforting Bridget with her solid street-smart wisdom–or trying to keep her clearly powerful emotions in check–she got me. Her grief for Bridget's 'death' was genuine: I wonder if the two will meet again?
Alas, poor Kringle! I actually liked her, and will miss her presence on the show. Depending on how you look at her final scene, it's either the utter in hokeyness or the utter in creepiness. I mean, it felt like Nygma was nuts in sharing what he did with Kringle, and a medical guy like Nygma should know about basic resuscitation techniques. But how deep is the split in the personality Nygma experiences? Was one man confessing while the other was killing? Was the whole act a sort of self-justifying performance covering up the depth of his need to kill? His howl of despair at the end, however, seems genuine.
The Bruce scenes made me fall asleep. Sorry, Bruce. I am not part of the crowd that thinks we shouldn't include the Waynes at all: it makes sense that the Wayne family, wealthy and influential, would have its heir become a target at some point. Galavan's fattening Bruce up for the kill, the same way he worked over Butch. To me, however, Galavan is a paper tiger and a one-sided villain with a very cardboard motivation and personality. Can Tabitha kill him and take over the whole process? Once Bruce gets the computer fixed, will he be able to use the data therein to identify Galavan and stop the balance torture of local politicians? I don't know. So much of this seems fixed by the fact that Bruce needs to become Batman that many plotlines and thoughtlines become basic and predictable.
Bits and Pieces
Basically Barbara and Tabitha are just Galavan enforcers today, so I was happy to see more of a showing from Selina and Bridgit.
The burned Pike body jumping up and issuing insane last words to Harvey. Nice nod to the season!
This episode suffers from plot congestion, with so many vital events in so many storylines that it felt like we glossed over some details, especially with the whole Penguin/Galavan plotline. Also, Jim's woodenness has now spread to Bruce–is it a disease? This show reminds me of a really beautifully designed French movie with powerful emotional moments whose plot makes no sense to me at times. Two out of four noose-and-button balance torture devices.