GOTHAM: BURN THE WITCH
Confound this awful election where we have to pick two lousy candidates. Thanks to the first Presidential debate between Deplorable Donald and Corrupt Hillary, a good chunk of Burn the Witch, the second episode of Gotham, was lost. What we did get was a good episode that like most of them, threw a lot at us and is starting the ball rolling. How well it will pick up things (or in the case of Jada Pinkett Smith, drop them) remains to be seen.
Bounty hunter James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) is looking for renegade/crazed criminal Fish Mooney (JPS), who in turn is looking for her mad scientist creator, Dr. Hugo Strange (B.D. Wong). In order to get him, she has to first find him, and there's someone who can help her out: her old friend, Detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). Bullock, who may be shady but is still an honest cop, won't help her willingly. In order to help him out, she has to use her powers: touching someone makes them susceptible to her will.
With that, Bullock easily falls prey and leads her to the secret mansion where Strange is holed up. Bullock, however, is no fool, and he 'drops' his badge in front of his car, a way of letting both Gordon and Captain Barnes (Michael Chiklis) know he's in danger. Gordon convinces Barnes to take him and some men to the mansion, where they face a hostage crisis.
Complicating matters is Oswald Cobblepot, better known as The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor). He's still enraged that Mooney is alive and is in full kill mode. He starts haranguing local officials to take care of the 'monsters' that have escaped from Arkham Asylum, but he has one particular monster in mind. Learning of the siege at the hideout, Penguin and his henchman Butch (Drew Powell) lead a mob determined to storm the compound and drag her out. Barnes now faces both a hostage crisis and a potential riot simultaneously.
Gordon sneaks into the compound to rescue Harvey, but Mooney has her own low-rent X-Men to get him. However, she is alarmed by the mob outside, and cuts a deal with Gordon: he'll let her take Strange with her and escape the way he came in in exchange for Harvey. With that, she spirits the terrified mad scientist out for her to both cure her and create an army of mutants. Somehow in all the chaos, Penguin is held as a hero.
In other Gotham news, Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) has finally been introduced to the mysterious organization behind various machinations. Let's call them...The Court of Owls (though that is not the name given). A deal is struck: in exchange for dropping the investigation of both his parents' murder and Indian Hill, the "Court" will leave Bruce and his associates unharmed. This crushes Bruce, but it was the best he could do to keep Alfred (Sean Pertwee) safe. Whether Wayne's doppelganger, who just showed up at Wayne Manor, is likewise held to safety remains to be seen.
As an apparent result of one of Mooney's henchmen's activities, the once-child Ivy Pepper has emerged as an older figure (Maggie Geha). She has little idea of where she's at, but is appalled and angered at how the man who rescued her is tossing dying plants.
Gordon and his reluctant partner-in-crime solving, Valerie Vale (Jamie Chung) share a moment of passion, which is unfortunate since Dr. Leslie "Lee" Thompkins (Morena Baccarin) has returned to Gotham.
As I said, it's a bit difficult to give an accurate review to Burn the Witch since we lost some important parts of the episode, particularly the end. However, what was seen showed that it was a good, solid episode lifted by some extremely good performances.
Of particular note is Mazouz, who is doing double duty as Bruce Wayne and his mysterious doppelganger. As Wayne, Mazouz is growing more commanding in his presence, a far cry from the haunted and terrified boy from the Pilot. He has grown more assured, this Bruce, and Mazouz's performance makes that idea that he will grow into The Dark Knight more believable.
Another strong performance was that of Erin Richards as the totally bonkers Barbara Kean. Though she had just one scene it was still quite memorable, making her gleefully evil insanity a more dangerous edge. I do wonder if her Babs is slipping into Harley Quinn-style cuckoo, but give Richards credit. Where once she was the most reviled of characters, Bonkers Babs as I call her has now turned into a fan-favorite due to her mix of crazy and evil (and crazy evil).
Logue continues to bring the mix of sarcasm and honesty as Bullock, and seeing RLT go all pitchfork-and-brimstone raged fighter is a treat.
I will criticize the somewhat low-rent Mooney Gang (their version of Quicksilver was not a good actor), and it remains to be seen whether Geha as the new, more sensual future Poison Ivy will be able to bring anything to the storyline.
(As a side note, I did not see her kill her benefactor, nor the literal burning of those Penguin's mob killed. I'm not sure I would have approved, given how critical I've been about the sometimes shockingly graphic violence on Gotham. I also question Penguin letting Fish live after some flattery, but there it is).
As for JPS, well, her Fish Mooney still divides the fanbase. I'm neither a Moonie or a Fish-Hater. I think that's because I always felt Fish was always a bit camp, always a bit broad, and Smith plays it as such. So far reintroducing her hasn't harmed the show and it's being kept at a minimum, so I have little if anything to complain in that department.
Still, as things are developing on Gotham, on the whole Burn the Witch seems to be holding up a strong Season Three.
Next Episode: Look Into My Eyes