After seemingly setting up The Riddler to be the narrative driving force for the rest of the reason, the very next episode of ‘Gotham’ ignores him completely. Instead, we get an hour devoted to the Court of Owls. Does anyone really give a hoot about them?
In an episode with the florid title ‘These Delicate and Dark Obsessions’ (is that a quote from something, because it has little bearing on the episode itself?), we open with a meeting of the Court, all of them except Frank (James Remar) dressed in their silly masks. They discuss plans for a “drastic action” that involves bringing a terrible weapon into Gotham in order to cleanse and rebuild the city. The nature of the weapon is not revealed, but they need a unanimous vote to initiate it. Frank grudgingly votes in favor.
At the GCPD, we’re informed that corrupt Mayor James has somehow once again returned to office since Penguin went missing, and that Ed Nygma has disappeared. That’s all we’ll hear of either of them. Obsessed with what Frank told him about the Owls being responsible for his father’s death, Jim digs up the case files for the drunk driver who ran him down. He finds that the man had acute liver disease and couldn’t possibly have had alcohol in his system. This appears to back up Frank’s story. Harvey researches further and discovers that the man’s lawyer was paid for by Carmine Falcone.
Jim confronts Falcone, who claims that it was Frank who ordered the hit on behalf of the Court of Owls. Furious, Jim finds Frank and demands to know the truth. Frank confirms that he had his own brother killed because he needed to prove his loyalty to the Court. He begs Jim to help him continue his father’s work, but Jim won’t listen. He tries to arrest his uncle, only for Frank to get the better of him and wrest the gun from his hand. Before leaving, he tells Jim that the Court’s doomsday weapon will be arriving on dock 9C at the city’s harbor.
Jim fills Harvey in on what happened, but says that he can’t use GCPD resources to raid the dock or it will tip off the Owls that he knows about their weapon. Instead, he asks Barbara for help. Barbara, Tabitha and a bunch of henchmen check out the scene but only find an empty crate marked Indian Hill. Whatever the weapon is, it already arrived. Suddenly, the Owl ninja assassin interrupts and kills most of Barbara’s henchmen. She and Tabitha escape.
Kathryn finds it very suspicious that someone would snoop around the dock just after the weapon arrived. Assuming that Jim Gordon must be behind it, she orders Frank to kill him. He seems pained, but cannot refuse her.
Jim and Frank meet again and pull guns on each other. Frank says that there’s still time for Jim to infiltrate the Owls. He leaves his cell phone and instructs Jim to answer it when Kathryn calls. Frank then shoots himself in the head. I guess that’s the last we’ll see of him (though on this show, you never know).
Frank’s cell phone rings while Jim is visiting his father’s grave. He answers and tells Kathryn that he killed Frank as revenge for his father’s death. She says that it’s time they had a face-to-face meeting. Jim turns around and sees a limo waiting for him.
Plants vs. Mobsters
Ivy continues to care for Penguin while he recuperates. They’re holed up in an abandoned estate with a greenhouse that she’s quite excited about. Penguin quickly grows annoyed with her and impatient to enact his plans for revenge. He reaches out to his henchman Gabe and orders him to contact his other cronies and assemble an army. Gabe acts thrilled to find his old boss alive, but Ivy doesn’t trust him. Penguin dismisses her concerns, but of course she’s right. Gabe double-crosses Penguin and knocks him unconscious.
When Gabe’s thug friends arrive, they also capture Ivy. They plan to auction Penguin off to the highest bidder. He has many enemies who would pay good money for the chance to torture and murder him. Fortunately, Ivy is wearing the floral perfume that gives her control over men’s minds. She gets one of the thugs to give it a whiff, then orders him to shoot all the others except Gabe. The thug releases Penguin, who promptly shoots him in the head as well.
Gabe pledges that he’ll remain loyal if Penguin lets him live, but Ivy doses him with the perfume and makes him admit that he was never loyal to Penguin in the first place. He and the other henchmen used to laugh at him behind his back and thought of him only as, “A tiny freak who holds an umbrella.” An enraged Penguin grabs a knife and stabs Gabe over and over and over again. While cleaning up the body afterwards, he admits to Ivy that perhaps he went a little overboard.
This betrayal leaves Penguin depressed that he’ll never reclaim power in Gotham. Ivy suggests that he ought to recruit a new army from the Indian Hill freaks. He likes that idea.
Locked in his prison cell somewhere in the Himalayas, Bruce meets an old white man (Raymond J. Barry from ‘Justified’) dressed in a monk robe. I don’t believe his name is mentioned in the episode, but he’s credited as “The Shaman” and presents himself as a mentor figure, along the lines of the Ra’s al Ghul role from ‘Batman Begins’. He says that the Court of Owls is merely an instrument, and that he needs Bruce’s help to truly save Gotham.
Later, the door to Bruce’s cell mysteriously opens. He tries to escape, only to run around in circles and always double back to his cell, where the Shaman is waiting for him. The Shaman touches his forehead with a magic acupuncture needle, which plunges Bruce into a very vivid vision of his parents’ murder. Bruce is unsettled by this. The Shaman explains that what he saw was a sort of interactive memory.
The next time the Shaman visits the cell, Bruce tries to jump him, but the old man knows kung-fu and swats him away. He forces Bruce to watch his parents die again, this time in more detail. When Bruce comes out of the vision, the Shaman tells him that the city of Gotham needs a new protector. To take on that role, Bruce will need to become not just a vigilante, but a symbol against fear. Gee, I wonder what he could be talking about?
Honestly, I find all the Court of Owls stuff silly and unconvincing. I’m not particular interested in the conspiracy angle, and Kathryn’s plans and motivations don’t make much sense. First she wants to recruit Jim, then she wants him dead, then she wants to recruit him again after he kills one of her closest lieutenants? I feel like the show’s writers are just winging this storyline from scene to scene with no idea where it’s leading.
As much as I generally like James Remar as an actor, this was perhaps the most boring role he ever played. Frank’s only purpose in his few episodes was to look sullen, deliver some exposition, and then kill himself out of the blue for unclear reasons.
Likewise, actor Raymond Barry was great on ‘Justified’, but he looks ridiculous in the monk robe and pretending to do very staged kung-fu moves. I don’t buy him as this character at all.
The Penguin storyline is somewhat better. The preview for the next episode promises the return of Nygma. I hope that the inevitable confrontation between the Penguin and the Riddler brings a little more life back to the show.