In the latest episode of ‘Gotham’, young Bruce Wayne seems to be very close to unraveling the mystery of who murdered his parents. If that happens, what will he have to brood about for the next decade or so before he becomes Batman?
Before we get there, we pick up where the last episode left off, with the newly-released Barbara Kean at Jim Gordon’s door. He immediately draws his gun on her, but she insists that she’s all better now and “totally sane.” Jim tells her that even if he believed her, he doesn’t care. He boots her out of the apartment just in time for a shocked Harvey to see her in the hallway.
In Thomas Wayne’s hidden office, Bruce and Lucius Fox work to decrypt the files on the computer. Bruce is able to access his father’s calendar, and sees an entry for a meeting with someone named Karen Jennings at a place called Pinewood Farms. Even if the name sounds harmless enough, Lucius warns that it could very likely be the codename for a Wayne Enterprises black ops program. Alfred cautions restraint, but Bruce grows more impatient the closer he gets to finding answers.
Working with Harvey, Jim comes at the same case from another angle. Harvey tries to convince him to come back to work and use the resources of the GCPD, but Jim insists that he needs to do things his own way, without Capt. Barnes breathing down his neck. When Harvey reminds him that he doesn’t have a badge and can’t wave around his service pistol anymore, Jim borrows some brass knuckles and a few other hand weapons from him. (Wait, I thought they were at Jim’s apartment? Wouldn’t that be Jim’ own junk drawer he rifles through?) Harvey sighs, “It’s gonna be a bad day for the hitmen of Gotham.”
This leads to a pretty funny and entertaining montage where Jim tears through the city roughing up thugs and scumbags to find out the location of “The Lady,” the woman who runs Gotham’s league of assassins (last seen in Episode 2.09). When he finds her, he intends to make her tell him who paid for the Waynes’ murder.
At Arkham Asylum, Hugo Strange overseas a project to reanimate the corpse of a mysterious Patient 44, whose face we’re not allowed to see. (I think we can all easily guess who it is.) Strange’s assistant Ms. Peabody informs him that someone at Wayne Enterprises (meaning Lucius) has been searching the company records for information about Karen Jennings. Strange refers to Jennings as his first experiment.
Bruce and Alfred follow the clues they’ve collected to a cabin in the woods, where Alfred is attacked by a woman with what he assumes is a sharp weapon. Alfred’s instinct is to fight back, but Bruce defuses the situation by identifying himself as Thomas Wayne’s son. The woman, Karen Jennings, reveals herself. She has a mutated left arm with monstrous claws on the hand. Karen explains that she was born with a deformed arm and was sent to Blackgate Prison for killing her abusive stepfather. While serving her sentence, she was selected to participate in a secret bio-engineering program conducted on prisoners. She was told that a medical experiment would fix her arm, but what she was left with was less than human. Eventually, when Thomas Wayne found out about the project, he rescued Karen and shut the whole thing down. However, she believes that it started back up again after Thomas’ death. Karen says that although she never learned the name of the man who ran the program, she remembers his face.
After beating enough people senseless, Jim tracks The Lady to a place called Club Artemis, a members-only social club for women (i.e. an upscale lesbian bar). Surly as ever, he tries to force his way in. Before he can start a fistfight with the bouncer, Barbara turns up right behind him, dressed to the nines. She’s a member at the club, and says she wants to help Jim get the information he needs. Jim doesn’t trust her, but agrees to let her try. What does he have to lose?
Barbara enters the club and introduces herself to The Lady, who of course recognizes her from the news. Barbara claims that she faked being sane to get out of the asylum, and now she’s looking to start a new career as an assassin. To prove her value, she says that she can restore The Lady’s reputation, which has been sullied ever since the failed attempt to assassinate Jim Gordon.
Jim gets impatient and tries to sneak into the club through the rear entrance, only to find Barbara and The Lady waiting for him. Barbara sold him out. The Lady’s bodyguards grab Jim and tie him up. Barbara, acting crazy again and wielding a taser stick, says that she relishes the chance to torture him. However, this all turns out to be a trick. She cons The Lady into revealing that she was paid for the Wayne murder by someone known as “The Philosopher.” Barbara then tases The Lady and her guards and sets Jim free. You’d think he’d be grateful for her help, but Jim remains grouchy and coldly tells Barbara that he will never forgive her for what she did to him and Leigh.
With Karen’s help, Bruce and Alfred find Pinewood Farms, an abandoned hospital building on the shore. As they break in, a team of assassins sent by Hugo Strange follow them. This leads to a chase through the building. Karen kills one assassin, and Alfred shoots another. As Bruce, Alfred and Karen run out of the building, they’re blocked and arrested by the GCPD.
Using his one telephone call, Bruce calls Jim. By the time Jim gets to the police station, Bruce has already filled Capt. Barnes in on everything he knows. Barnes agrees to release Bruce and Alfred, but has already arranged for Karen to be transported back to Blackgate Prison. After Bruce catches him up with the whole story, Jim plans to break Karen out before the transport truck can get to the prison.
Prof. Strange has also been following these developments, and decides that now would be a good time to let Victor Fries out of his containment for a “field trip.” Victor has quite a temper these days, ever since being defrosted and quarantined.
Jim, Alfred and Bruce ambush and hijack the prison transport, but are immediately attacked by Victor, who’s wearing a bulletproof suit and brandishing a freeze ray. (Why Jim never tries to shoot Victor in his totally unprotected head is a pretty big oversight.) As Victor corners them behind the truck, Karen tells Bruce that the man who ran the Pinewood program called himself The Philosopher, just like the person Jim is looking for. Because she believes that she is Victor’s only target, Karen then sacrifices herself to save Bruce. Victor freezes her solid and smashes her to pieces as Bruce helplessly watches.
With nowhere else to go, Barbara turns to Tabitha and Butch. Tabitha is actually happy to see her.
Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce feels guilty about what happened to Karen. Alfred warns that more assassins will come for them now that they’re getting closer to the truth. Bruce also feels despondent that Karen may have been their only hope to identify The Philosopher, until Lucius arrives with good news. He has dug up an old Wayne Enterprises newsletter with a photo helpfully captioned “Hugo ‘The Philosopher’ Strange.”
Strange himself now knows that Bruce and Jim are working together. As he watches over his latest experiment, Patient 44 rouses from his vegetative state. No surprise, it’s Theo Galavan, and he’s woken up angry and violent. Muttering something about the name “Azrael,” he kills an orderly. Prof. Strange gloats that he has conquered death.
From this episode, it appears that Hugo Strange is the evil mastermind who ordered the hit on Bruce’s parents after Thomas Wayne tried to shut down his illegal research. Now that Bruce and Jim know that, I expect them to take Strange down by the season finale. Is that really all there is to this storyline, or is there an even more diabolical power lurking above Strange?
This is a pretty action-packed and exciting episode. Even without any mention of mainstay characters like Penguin or Selina, the plot is quite interesting and moves the season’s narrative forward in a big way. My only real complaint with this one is that I think that Victor Fries’ completed transformation into Mr. Freeze is unfortunately rather cheesy. I’ve never liked the casting of that actor, and he looks especially ridiculous with the white hair.