‘Gotham’ 3.15 Recap: “Villains Do Not Have Teachers!”

Does ‘Gotham’ really have more episodes this season? I suppose I knew that, but the show is so overstuffed that it already felt like three seasons crammed into one. The return from its latest break brings a new story arc called ‘Heroes Rise’, which despite the title still feels way more interested in the villains.

The new storyline focuses on Edward Nygma formally announcing himself as The Riddler. In the last episode, he shot Penguin and tossed him in the harbor, presumably to his death. While we in the audience don’t believe for a second that Penguin is really dead, Nygma does. Forced to kill his best friend, he feels unmoored and searches for a new mentor to help him emerge into the person he knows he’s meant to be. His plan for this is to kidnap the city’s intellectual elite (scientists, artists, and other assorted smarties) and test them with a series of riddles. When they fail his tests (and they all inevitably do), he murders them.

Furthering his descent into madness, Nygma pops pills and sees a hallucination of Penguin (wearing a soggy, seaweed-covered suit), who taunts him about his inadequacies and his ridiculous plan. After failing to find a new mentor, Nygma decides that what he needs instead is an enemy – and who else could that possibly be other than Jim Gordon? He sends a singing telegram to the police station expecting to lure Jim into a game of cat-and-mouse. What he doesn’t realize is that Jim is on leave. Harvey and Lucius attempt to crack Nygma’s riddles on their own. Well… Lucius cracks the riddles and Harvey provides the muscle.

The first clue leads them to a chess tournament where Nygma has rigged the tables with deadly electric shocks. Nygma is initially disappointed that Jim didn’t come, but he’s also very impressed with Lucius. Maybe he’s found a potential mentor after all.

While Harvey is scheduled to deliver a commencement speech to a graduating class of police academy cadets, Nygma drugs him and tosses a gas bomb into the auditorium. Allegedly, the gas is a neurotoxin. In order to get the antidote, Lucius must play Nygma’s game. He finds Harvey lashed to a chair perched over the edge of a high staircase. Tied around his neck is a vial of the antidote. Nygma challenges Lucius with three riddles. If he can answer just one of them, Harvey will go free and he can have the antidote. If he fails all of them, Nygma will cut Harvey loose and let him plummet to his death, destroying the antidote vial as well.

Nygma grows furious when Lucius gets the first two riddles wrong. (His answer for the second should technically be acceptable, but Nygma won’t cut him any breaks.) Lucius also gets under his skin by deducing that Nygma killed Penguin. Although he does answer the third riddle correctly, the frayed rope holding Harvey breaks anyway. Lucius reaches out and grabs him as he falls. Nygma slips away.

For some reason, it turns out that the gas in the bombs was just a knock-out drug, not a toxin after all. The cadets would have lived even without Lucius’ help (though Harvey would not have). In one of the tirdest of all TV tropes, Lucius gets into his car that night and of course Nygma is hiding in the backseat. He holds Lucius at gunpoint so they can have a chat. Nygma is disappointed to hear that Lucius thinks he’s crazy. He ends the conversation by declaring himself The Riddler and knocking Lucius out.

As the sun rises, Nygma returns to the pier where he killed Penguin. With the Penguin hallucination still berating him (he even scoffs that “The Riddler” is a stupid nickname), Nygma says that he doesn’t need Penguin anymore because he has finally become his own man. He dumps his bottle of pills into the water and the hallucination vanishes. Wearing a green suit, The Riddler completes the ensemble with a bowler hat and strides back toward the city.

Cry Uncle

While Harvey and Lucius deal with Nygma, Jim is taking some time off to get reacquainted with his Uncle Frank (James Remar). Frank tells him about the Court of Owls, which he’s still a member of. Jim doesn’t want to believe that his father was a member too. Frank claims that they joined with the best of intentions, but that the organization changed and became darker and more corrupt over time. He says that they had Jim’s father murdered.

The Court now wants to recruit Jim. Frank asks him to join with him so they can work together and destroy the group from the inside. Jim doesn’t entirely trust him.

He probably shouldn’t. After Jim leaves, Frank meets with Kathryn, the leader of the Court of Owls. He fills her in on the status of his recruitment efforts. Has all of his talk with Jim been a deception, or is he deceiving Kathryn?

Two Bruces for the Price of One

Since capturing the Bruce Wayne clone known as Five, the Court of Owls has brainwashed him and groomed him to look exactly like Bruce. He starts this episode studiously practicing his imitation of the real Bruce.

Bruce, meanwhile, practices throwing knives. In the middle of their lesson, Alfred shows him a note left by Selina, and encourages him to go see her and get some closure on their relationship. (Didn’t Alfred used to hate Selina?)

Bruce goes to the meeting place, but gets accosted by street thugs. Selina interrupts, and all the thugs are intimidated by her. She’s still pissy with Bruce for trying to protect her from her scheming mom (a really contrived excuse for an argument). She tells him that she never left him any note and storms off angrily.

Without his girlfriend to protect him, the thugs decide to lay into Bruce. They beat him up a bit, but Bruce finally gets to put Alfred’s training to use. He fights back and kicks all their asses.

Unfortunately, even with that battle won, Bruce is surprised to run into his clone, dressed exactly like him, waiting for him in an alley. Of course, Fake-Bruce sent him the note, not Selina. It’s a trap. Fake-Bruce drugs Real-Bruce and returns to Wayne Manor, where Alfred is preparing dinner. Alfred seems to sense something off about the boy.

At some undisclosed amount of time later, Real-Bruce wakes up on the floor of a cell. He looks out a window and sees the snow-covered peaks of what appear to be the Himalayan Mountains.

You Knew This Was Coming

Big shock, Penguin’s not actually dead. He survived his gunshot and wakes up under the care of Ivy. He immediately declares that he needs to go kill a man.

Episode Verdict

The Riddler storyline seems promising. One of this show’s strengths is its ability to make some of Batman’s goofiest foes seem like plausible threats, and Cory Michael Smith is terrific in the role.

Clone-Bruce, on the other hand, feels like a time-waster plot that will ultimately amount to nothing. I’m not terribly excited about Jim’s uncle, either.

Honestly, I think this show would greatly benefit from shorter seasons. This one should have ended with Jerome. Save Riddler for next year.

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