Gotham’s second season concludes with “Transference,” the end of the “Wrath of the Villains” arc. For a season finale, there aren’t a lot of surprises, nor is there a big cliffhanger. I almost wonder if when this was written, they weren’t sure they coming back for season three.
The episode opens with the Gotham City Police about to storm the gates of Arkham, since Bullock knows that Gordon, Fox, and Bruce are all inside investigating Professor Strange’s experiments. As we saw last episode, Strange has this covered, as a very early version of Clayface wanders out as Gordon, telling them all to stand down and that everything is fine. Points to actor Ben McKenzie: it’s very clear that this isn’t Gordon, mostly through mannerisms and facial expressions.
Inside the asylum, there’s a lot going on. Strange, following the orders of the hidden council, is evacuation all his patients and preparing to destroy the facility. Nygma is continuing his rather unique interrogation of Bruce and Lucius Fox. Strange drugs Gordon and has a largely pointless interview with him, mostly pushing to find out if Gordon knows what’s going on behind the scenes.
At the precinct, “Gordon” is continuing to not act right. Since Gotham hasn’t fully descended into the weirdness it will during the Batman era, no one suspects he’s an impostor, but Bullock is clearly picking up that something isn’t right. “Gordon” tells Bullock that Arkham and Strange are connected to powerful people they don’t want to cross. Clearly, Basil Karlo, this first Clayface, knows nothing about Jim Gordon.
There’s a very tense scene between Fish Mooney and Miss Peabody, when Fish tries to use her new powers to escape. It doesn’t quite work, but it’s a nice tension builder. Elsewhere, Penguin is acting a lot more insane than I ever remember him being in the comics. He and Barbara discuss interior decor while Butch looks on a bit sickened.
Nygma also follows the theme of “Who is really running things behind the scenes?” in his questioning. Bruce and Fox get gassed, but it’s clearly not the poison Nygma said it was, as they recover in the same room Gordon’s being held in. Gordon is still a bit under the influence of Strange’s drugs. Nygma gets his reward for helping Strange, but it’s not what he wanted. Strange checks in again with his bosses on the hidden Council, and they are very clearly the ones in charge.
“Gordon” continues to act bizarrely at the police station. Alfred shows up and is not happy with the faux detective’s evasions to his questions. Bruce and Selena get a scene out at the asylum, and it’s an amusing confrontation between the two of them. They have very different versions of their relationship.
Fish finally gets her metaphorical claws in Peabody and starts staging an escape. Strange is pleased to find out she got powers in his experiments, but isn’t happy about her trying to get out. Strange, being neither a fighter nor a moron, runs away, pursued by the mind-controlled Peabody. They have a fight that ends with Strange triggering both the bomb to blow the place sky high, and locking down the facility, frustrating Fish who almost got out.
The impersonation at the GCPD finally comes undone when Karlo/Gordon runs into a force he can’t bluff: Barbara Keane. After a short conversation, she figures out he’s not the real Gordon at all. Bullock’s ears perk at this accusation, and then it gets proven very definitively. It’s a big surprise for everyone there. Barbara calls Penguin as Bullock once again calls for a raid on Arkham.
Elsewhere, there’s what was probably an inevitable confrontation. Strange orders Mr. Freeze to kill all the patients. Selena appeals to Firefly to not let it happen. So we get the clash of extreme temperature weapons, fire vs ice. Using this as a distraction, Selena springs the Gordon/Fox/Wayne party. The two supervillains cancel each other out and then knock out Strange in a backfire of power. After that, Freeze and Firefly sort of wander out of the story. I have no idea if they were captured or are on the loose out there.
Gordon manages to wake Strange back up, and it’s a really odd scene. Strange wants to get out ahead of the explosion, but he’s willing to die before letting his test subjects out in the world. Whether he’s really that committed to containing his “patients” or that scared of the Council, I’m not sure. After Selena points out that Nygma discovered a way down to the secret labs Strange won’t help them with, Gordon recruits him. Somehow or other, Nygma getting the way to the labs open undoes the lockdown, and Fish finally manages to escape with a bus-full of crazed proto-villains. This bodes ill for Gotham City.
As Fish has a high speed chase with the police (what are they driving that they can’t catch a school bus?), there’s a hysterical scene of bomb defusing with Gordon and Fox, after they order Bruce and Selena to get out. The dialogue is great here, although how they actually manage to beat the bomb is a bit of a stretch, right down to the obligatory stopping the counter at 0001.
Out in the city, Fish’s escape takes a turn when Penguin and Butch show up with heavy weapons to stop the bus. How they found it when the police couldn’t manage it I’m not sure. They get a major surprise, since they came hunting for Strange and instead find the resurrected Fish Mooney. The reactions are amusing. Then the bus full of villains is opened with the best of intentions, but the result is the whole stash of them get out, including one major surprise that, again, I don’t see the point of.
Wrapping the scene and season, we get hints of what comes next, but no cliffhangers. Gordon is still not coming back to the police, at least not yet, as he leaves to go find Lee. Alfred approves heartily. Alfred is less happy to hear that Bruce is now on the trail of the mysterious Council that supposedly is running everything behind the scenes. I presume that will be the overarching story of season three.
What I liked: The Bruce/Selena scene was great, a wonderful example of living on the same planet but different worlds. Nygma got a few great lines and reactions. The Gordon/Fox defusing scene was entertaining with their reactions. The scenes of fake Gordon were fun, as was Penguin and Barbara’s decorating.
What I didn’t: I’m not clear on what happened between Freeze and Firefly after their fight. Penguin and company finding Fish’s bus was dramatic, but didn’t make a lot of sense. I’m not sure how Nygma managed to undo the lockdown by trying to get the elevator up.
It was a solid episode, but a but unsatisfying as a season finale. I’ll give it a 3 out of 5. I hope Gordon manages to find Lee by the time the show comes back.