With all the hoopla about a certain popular TV show bringing a major character back from the dead, I’d almost forgotten that ‘Gotham’ ended the same way last week. Of course, such a thing is hardly uncommon in comic book storytelling. However, some things that work in a comic panel don’t necessarily work in live action.
Theo Galavan is alive in the secret Indian Hills lab underneath Arkham Asylum. He didn’t quite come back right, though. He’s raving bonkers mad, murders a bunch of orderlies, and writes incoherent gibberish in their blood all over the walls. He’s also stronger and faster than a normal mortal man, because… comic books. Prof. Strange enthuses, “He’s wonderful, isn’t he?”
Jim Gordon pays Strange a visit at Arkham to question him about Karen Jennings. Strange claims he was only a researcher on the Pinewood Farms project and that Thomas Wayne was really responsible. Jim, as incapable of deception as always, bluntly calls him a liar. He says he has a court order to exhume the body of Victor Fries (whom Jim very well knows is still alive). Strange lies again and says that Fries was cremated. The court order was a bluff, anyway.
Ed Nygma sees Jim leave. When Strange walks by his cage shortly afterwards, Ed offers to help him take Gordon down. To prove his usefulness, he demonstrates his skill at getting into the heads of the other inmates and manipulating them to do what he wants. Strange isn’t interested at the moment.
Instead, Strange focuses on getting Galavan under control. He explains to Ms. Peabody that Galavan’s psyche has fractured and his mind can’t reconcile his identity with having come back from the dead. He doesn’t know who he is, and is tormented by fragmented memories of the religious mythology from the Order of St. Dumas. As such, the way to tame him is to play into his delusions and give them form and purpose by building a narrative around them for him to follow.
Although perhaps ill-advised, Strange walks into Galavan’s room alone. When Galavan grabs him, Strange pretends to be his father. Using pieces of the nonsense Galavan has babbled, he spins a yarn about Galavan being an avenging angel named Azrael who has come to cleanse the city of demons. This all seems to make sense to Galavan.
Over at Wayne Manor, Bruce is getting impatient and wants justice against Prof. Strange for orchestrating the murder of his parents. Jim cautions him that he needs to work within the system because, as he has experienced, being a vigilante takes a terrible toll. “You need to be better,” he tells the boy.
After Strange programs Galavan with the Azrael story, he presents him with what he claims is an ancient sword passed down for generations within the Order of St. Dumas (but is really a cheap replica) and sends him out into the world with a simple task: Kill Jim Gordon.
Nygma slips out of his cell and follows Strange down a hallway, only to lose him after turning a corner into a dead end. Ed realizes that the hallway must have a hidden exit. He believes this is his key to escaping the asylum, so he rallies a few of the other nutbag inmates to help him collect seemingly random objects from around the asylum.
Jim and Bruce go to see Capt. Barnes (Michael Chiklis) to tell him what they’ve learned about Prof. Strange. Barnes isn’t exactly happy to see them and thinks their story is crazy. Their argument is interrupted by Galavan, wearing a ridiculous ‘Assassin’s Creed’ getup complete with cape and mask and sword. He announces himself as Azrael, redeemer of sins. Galavan/Azrael attacks but is warded off when Harvey and a bunch of uniformed cops shoot at him. His armor is bulletproof, but he retreats. When Bruce Wayne sees the image of a caped figure leaping between city buildings at night, he feels a moment of inspiration.
As he escapes, Galavan sees one of his own old campaign posters still plastered to a wall in an alley and has a flashback to his old life.
Capt. Barnes forms a task force and a dragnet to capture this Azrael loony. Jim dismissively sends Bruce home. Barnes doesn’t want Jim’s help either. He locks him up in a cell for helping Karen Jennings escape from custody.
Encouraged by his great success with Galavan, Prof. Strange wants to immediately begin programming new personas into all of his patients.
As Barnes continues to organize the task force, the lights in the police station suddenly go out. Galavan/Azrael smashes through a window and demands that Jim Gordon be turned over to him or he’ll kill everyone in the place. When officers start shooting at him, Azrael swings and swoops all over the place, picking off cops one by one. Barnes shoots his armor a bunch of times, to no effect. Jim suggests, “We need a bigger gun.” Barnes releases him from the cell and tells him to get something stronger from the armory.
Barnes lures Azrael up to the roof. (Why are there cop cars parked on the roof, anyway?) When he runs out of bullets, Barnes fights with a handy metal pipe he found lying around. Azrael’s cheap sword breaks on the pipe and he’s mystified how that’s possible. Barnes hits him again and rips his mask off, revealing him to be Theo Galavan. Galavan stabs him in the gut with the jagged hilt of the sword.
Jim arrives on the roof with a shotgun and blasts Galavan a couple times, knocking him over the side of the building. All of this is captured by a news camera.
Still staying with Butch and Tabitha, Barbara has gone a little batty and is obsessed with making gimlets. She’s also a TV hog and compulsively flips through the channels. Tabitha asks her to stop when she comes across a news broadcast with her dead brother on the screen.
Also watching TV is Penguin, who’s also lost a few of his marbles from living alone in his father’s mansion with his stepmother’s corpse still slumped at the dining room table. When he sees Galavan on the news, he announces, “Hello, old friend.”
Barnes gets carted off to a hospital. In Arkham, Nygma makes his big escape and finds the secret elevator leading down to the Indian Hills lab, where he hears lots of strange noises coming from behind locked doors.
The episode ends with the image of Azrael standing in a very Batman-esque pose on top of a bridge.
This episode feels very disjointed, like it’s trying to cram too much plot into a single hour. Although I enjoyed James Frain as the conniving Theo Galavan, the transition to raving lunatic doesn’t suit him. This type of role just isn’t his specialty, and his attempts to go big come across as bad overacting. His Azrael outfit also looks incredibly goofy. I’m sure some actors could pull this off, but he isn’t one of them.
I also have to ask how many times the GCPD building has to get invaded before they install some better windows or put a security gate at the front door. We’re past the point of that being a running joke now. For a building full of cops, it has worse security than S.T.A.R. Labs, which hardly seemed possible.