Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) may have thought things were bad when he first arrived in Gotham, but at least he had the Gotham City Police Department with him.
These days, not so much.
From the title, you would expect “The Fear Reaper” to mainly focus on the establishment of the Scarecrow (Charlie Tahan) as an adversary. That turned out to be the least interesting of the multiple storylines in the episode, all of them setting the stage for the rest of the season. Let’s break it down.
Rise of the Scarecrow
Jonathan Crane has had an epiphany. After being so afraid of scarecrows, he’s become what he feared. He is now the Scarecrow. And now, like some kind of prophet, he’s ready to share his gospel with everybody at the asylum, dosing the warden and the inmates with his fear toxin, which shows the victim whatever it is they fear the most so they can then become it and join his army.
When Gordon shows up, all alone (more on the reasons why later), Scarecrow sees an opportunity for revenge. Gordon also gets a dose of the fear toxin, which shows him a vision of his onetime lover Lee Thompkins (Morena Baccarin) dying in a tub of blood while Scarecrow urges Gordon to cut his own wrists and follow her. It’s a very difficult scene to watch and I admit I turned my gaze down to my notes while it was on.
Gordon, of course, overcomes his fear and doesn’t kill himself (this isn’t Game of Thrones, even though it seemed like it a few times in Season 3), and he finds a simple cure to free the inmates from the fear toxin.
I think the Scarecrow got away. To be honest, I just wasn’t interested enough in him to care whether he did or not. This feels a bit too much like a rewrite of Jervis Tetch and his virus, which was great last year. Been there, done that.
So let’s move on to other things.
Barbara is back!
Death has always seemed to be a temporary condition in the DC TV universe, unless the victim is a hero’s parent. So it is for Barbara Kean (Erin Richards). We thought she was electrocuted last season. But, as Barbara says, “It’s Gotham. Check for a pulse next time.”
Barbara’s back with a business proposition for Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) and Selina (Camren Bicondova): To run a weapons shop, selling to all of Gotham’s licensed criminals, so they can eventually climb back to the top of the crime world.
Tabitha, of course, doesn’t trust Barbara; after all, she did think she’d killed her. Selina likes the idea, though. She wants power and for people to take her seriously. She can’t get there on her own. She might get there with Barbara alone (and it’s implied the same applies to Tabitha alone). But with both of them? She is certain she can reach her goal.
Tabitha eventually agrees (a meat cleaver is part of that discussion), but when Ivy (Maggie Geha) wants in as well, she draws the line, saying Ivy is nothing but a stooge for Penguin.
And speaking of Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor)? He is not happy that Barbara’s setting up shop without his permission. He pays her a visit to remind her that he’s in charge of crime in Gotham now.
All the scenes in Barbara’s shop set up storylines for the rest of the season: The conflict with Penguin, the distrust between Tabitha and Barbara, the continuing criminal education of Selina… and then there’s Ivy, who’s sick and tired of being disregarded by everyone and decides to swallow every strength potion she can find in a little herbalist shop.
Nothing good can come of this, except some interesting stories for Ivy down the line this season. Indeed, everything to do with Barbara and her weapons shop is more interesting than the Scarecrow was, with lots of foreshadowing of what’s ahead (who IS paying Barbara’s bills, anyway?).
But that’s not the only interesting ongoing storyline.
The demoralization of the GCPD
As mentioned earlier, Gordon went to the asylum alone. Not one officer would go with him. Not even his partner, Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue).
It seems the GCPD are no longer Gotham’s finest, and in some ways, who can blame them? As the desk sergeant points out, they get spat on and shot at and for what?
It’s a bitter pill for Gordon to swallow, made only slightly better later when Harvey takes him for a drink and tells him he sat out for the battle of the asylum because he doesn’t want to lose the war for the hearts and minds of those officers.
One needs allies in a war, and Gordon decides the best ally he can recruit is the one who used to run Gotham’s crime world: Carmine Falcone.
Never mind that Gordon killed Falcone’s son, right?
Can any good come of this? Well, certainly plenty of additional drama. I’ve always enjoyed John Doman’s appearances as Falcone in Gotham, and am glad to see him coming back.
This season’s main story arc is titled “A Dark Knight,” and it’s what everyone’s been waiting for since the premiere: Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) donning Batman’s cowl. He’s not quite there yet, though. He’s got a lot of training and learning to do.
He is only a teenager, after all.
And while Bruce is certain of the path he wants to take, he still faces resistance from his butler/guardian, Alfred (Sean Pertwee), who goes back and forth between opposing and supporting his young charge’s mission. They get a little help from Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk), who of course knows what Bruce is up to despite the alibi of “rock climbing.”
Of course, we all know what will eventually happen with Bruce. But watching it develop has been a wonderful thing over the past three seasons, and the relationship between Bruce and Alfred continues to be the brightest thing in a very dark city.
Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Gotham airs Thursday nights at 8/7c on FOX.