Well hell, I guess I was wrong. We’re not done with the Mad Hatter on ‘Gotham’ quite yet. That’s disappointing, but at least his role is very minimal this week. I just don’t like that guy.
The main focus this week is on Capt. Barnes as the symptoms of his exposure to Alice Tetch’s blood begin to manifest. While off-duty and walking home one night, Barnes spots a very suspicious sweaty guy climbing into a truck. He didn’t see it, but the man just loaded a dead body into the rear. Barnes follows him to an empty building, where he sees the man dumping dismembered body parts into a vat of acid. Barnes draws his weapon and announces himself. The man immediately surrenders. He says that he’s not the killer, just a “cleaner.” Barnes doesn’t find that much better. He starts to lose control as rage overtakes him. The man sees this and begs to be arrested. He says that he works for someone called “The Toad,” but at this point, Barnes is done talking.
The next day is Jim Gordon’s first back at work. With no time for pleasantries or a Welcome Back party, Harvey grabs him and says they’ve already caught a case. A couple of bodies were found in an empty building. Gee, I wonder what happened there?
When they get to the scene, both bodies are in pieces. One was identified as Pauly “Pennies,” a known underworld cleaner. Unlike the other victim, who was cleanly dismembered, Pauly looks like he was ripped apart. Jim believes this means the crime was personal, not just a business rival taking out the competition.
Barnes visits Arkham Asylum to talk to Jervis Tetch, who can see his sister’s influence in the captain. Barnes demands to know how to beat the virus. Tetch toys with him a little and makes him describe the effects the blood is having over him (basically, an all-consuming hatred for criminals and rule-breakers). Laughing, he says that there’s no cure and that Barnes will soon start hearing voices in his head.
Lee tells Jim that the body of the first victim (not Pauly, the other one) was missing its face, which appears to have been surgically removed. There doesn’t seem to be much point in that if Pauly was going to destroy everything in acid anyway. Lee also gives Jim a heads-up that her engagement party to Mario is coming up. For obvious reasons, he wasn’t invited, but she didn’t want him to be surprised by it because others from the department (including the captain) will be there.
Jim and Harvey fill Barnes in on what little they know of their case. Barnes insists on taking point on this one himself. Anything they find needs to come straight to him. Later, Barnes goes searching on his own for The Toad, a professional contract killer. He finds him at a seedy bar and starts a brawl. Barnes rages out again. Begging for mercy, the Toad tells him that he was hired by a plastic surgeon named Dr. Symon. This time, Barnes manages to rein in his anger. Instead of killing the Toad, he just locks him in the trunk of his car. I’m sure that’s standard police procedure in Gotham.
Barnes next barges into Dr. Symon’s office just as the surgeon is about to slice off a bound (and fully conscious) woman’s face. The smug doctor asks for an attorney. Barnes hears a voice in his head telling him to kill the man, but he once again maintains control and brings him to the precinct for booking. Unfortunately, he isn’t held for long. The doctor is a very connected man. In no time at all, the victim he was about to mutilate drops the charges against him, and Symon walks free.
Barbara crashes Lee’s engagement party and teases her about Jim. Lee insists that she doesn’t miss him, but Barbara knows that’s not true.
Capt. Barnes arrives at the party and says some pleasantries to Lee. Her new father-in-law, Don Falcone, introduces himself. Barnes can barely conceal his seething contempt for this criminal scum, but he somehow holds back from raging out. However, when he also spots Dr. Symon at the party (half of Gotham’s society elite were invited), the voice in Barnes’ head chants “Guilty!” again and again.
Jim and Harvey manage to connect Symon to a scheme where he transplants faces from innocent victims onto criminals who pay for new identities. Upon learning that he’ll be at Lee’s party, they race over there to arrest him. Lee’s fiancé, Mario, isn’t happy to see Jim intruding on his party. He assumes that he’s there to disrupt it and cause a scene, so he punches Jim in the face at the door.
Barnes finds Dr. Symon alone in the restroom. The doctor gloats about being untouchable. Barnes touches him, all right. In fact, he beats the hell out of him and, in full-blown super-strength rage mode, throws him through a brick wall where he falls a few stories onto a parked car below.
Barnes exits the bathroom, relieved that nobody heard the ruckus he made in there. As he looks around, he sees most of the party guests with monster faces, and the voice in his head continues to chant “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!” Jim sees him and asks if he knows where Dr. Symon is. Barnes says he thinks that he left already. Before Jim walks away, Barnes grabs his arm and says that the two of them are going to clean up this city.
Jim leaves the party to return to the station. On the way out, he sees Symon’s body on the smashed-in car. The man in still alive, barely. Jim asks who did this to him. He moans, “Barnes.”
Ed Nygma’s new girlfriend, Isabella, tells him that she needs to leave town for a couple days to attend a librarian conference. (Is that really a thing?) When she puts on a pair of glasses that look exactly like Kristen Kringle’s, Ed freaks out and retreats to the bathroom. He has a hallucination of seeing Kristen in the mirror. She taunts him about how he’s going to murder Isabella just like he murdered her. Ed doesn’t want to believe it.
Later, Ed babbles his worries to Penguin, who isn’t particularly interested in hearing about Ed’s love life if it doesn’t involve him. He tries to trick Ed into breaking up with Isabella, saying that it’d be the best thing for the both of them. Ed reluctantly agrees, but can’t do it himself. He asks Penguin to deliver the news to Isabella. He’s more than happy to.
Penguin pays a visit to the very surprised Isabella and gets right to the point, not bothering to sugarcoat it. He says that Ed is done with her and, “Have a nice life.” But Isabella won’t be dissuaded so easily. She recognizes that Penguin is in love with Ed, no matter how poorly he denies. She makes it clear that she has no intention of letting him go.
Isabella invites Ed back to her apartment to talk about their relationship issues. When he arrives, he finds her fully dressed up as Kristen. She wants him to face his fears, and says that she knows he would never hurt her. She even puts his hand around her throat. He’s conflicted and scared, but rather than strangle her, they make out.
Ecstatic that he’s had this breakthrough, Ed excitedly tells his best friend. Penguin says that he’s happy for him. However, as soon as Ed leaves the room, we learn that Penguin had one of his goons tamper with the brakes on Isabella’s car. The last we see of Isabella, she’s driving to her conference and the brakes fail her as the car is about to get creamed by a train.
Something tells me that it won’t be that easy to get rid of her.
My issues with the Mad Hatter aside, this is a pretty decent episode. Capt. Barnes going dark allows Michael Chiklis to indulge a little of his Vic Mackey side. He makes a more interesting villain than the goofy Mad Hatter. Isabella is also a good match for Nygma. She’s a lot more compelling than Ms. Kringle ever was.
The episode also benefits from focusing on only the two storylines, unlike so many episodes of this show that are overstuffed with too many characters vying for screen time.