Jervis Tetch continues to wear out his welcome (much like the current Presidential election) in Gotham: Mad City: Red Queen. They are really stretching the coincidental Alice in Wonderland naming scheme here a few times. But they also did several pretty cool things this episode, so I can’t pick on them too much.
The episode opens in the hospital following the aftermath of last time’s shooting. Vale is recovering, but other things won’t be. It’s not a pleasant scene, and the first of several that make this a particularly horrible episode for Jim Gordon. The guy can’t catch a break.
Tetch, meanwhile, is skulking around the city. If you can skulk while dressed up like Lewis Carroll cosplay, anyway. He has found a chemist with something he needs for his newest plot to make Gotham pay for his sister’s death. He also finds a powerful hallucinogen that just happens to named Red Queen, giving us the title of the episode and more Alice imagery. The dealer in question shares the fate of many who stupidly think that doing business with supervillains/madmen is a good idea.
Not everyone is having a bad episode. Nygma and his new love interest Isabella have spent all night talking. In addition to being a fellow riddle fan, Isabella also proves to be a trivia maven, librarian, and a fan of kissing on the front stoop. It’s actually a nicely done scene, with Nygma remarkably not creepy for once. He finally goes back to the mansion where a frantic Penguin is trying to report him missing to the police. Considering what Penguin has been trying to work up the nerve to say, he’s not exactly thrilled to hear where Nygma’s been.
The next stop on Tetch’s magical mystery tour is the city morgue. Somehow, it makes sense to him to steal the body of his dead sister to enact his revenge (yes, I know why he did it, but it still seems really weird). This ickiness factor isn’t helped by him kissing her frozen corpse. Too many fetishes at once, Tetch. Pick a lane, man.
Love (of all kinds) must really be in the air this week. Out at the Manor, Bruce is preparing an elaborate dinner for a date with Selena. Alfred is impressed with Bruce’s skill, but worried about his young charge’s heart. Let’s face it, Selena has a tendency to very much be on her own side and not necessarily care that much about those around her, with two exceptions.
Back at the morgue, the GCPD is on the case, looking into Tetch stealing the Alice-cicle. Gordon somehow hears about this and drops by to help. Barnes, a bit understandably, has had enough of Gordon’s solo act, and tells him to get out. Gordon and Bullock have a tense conversation afterward that doesn’t go really well for Gordon. He really is having a bad day.
Nygma helps Penguin get ready for the Founders’ Dinner, some kind of tradition that involves the leading families of Gotham. It sounds like a very fancy affair, but Penguin is a lot less excited about going than he was a bit ago. Nygma, in a rare streak of cluelessness, misses all of Penguin’s barbed hints and keen interest in Isabella.
Bullock and Barnes continue investigating the morgue break-in, and find a clue. Barnes gets some bad news from Lucius Fox, and orders everyone to find Tetch NOW! Tetch himself is busy doing some odd things with his sister’s body (no, not quite that bad, but close). As all this goes on, Mario and Lee have a tense discussion about the price of having Gordon in their lives. In a masterstroke of bad timing, Gordon shows up just then. He has a rough conversation with Lee before she walks away from him, too. This is not Gordon’s day.
Penguin isn’t the type to take setbacks or disappointments with resigned grace… or any kind of grace, really. He goes to the Gotham Library (wow that made me really want to see Barbara Gordon, right for the time period or not), supposedly to brush up on the first families of Gotham for the dinner that night. In reality, he’s turning that wily brain of his to sabotaging Nymga and Isabella’s relationship before it even really gets going. Not a pleasant man, Penguin, but then, we knew that. As Penguin’s mission of meanness goes on, Gordon is back at the hospital, checking up on Vale. He gets lured into a nasty trap by Tetch, and receives a face-full of the extremely trippy Red Queen.
Tetch wastes no time in getting to the big dinner, where he runs into Penguin and makes his preparations. Gordon begins his hallucination with a somewhat heavy-handed metaphor of an elevator going down, presumably into his murky subconscious. The trip is lightened up somewhat by the ever insane Barbara Kean showing up as his tour guide, decked out like an old-fashioned elevator operator. Somehow, not the person I’d want to be in a small space with, which she herself sort of points out.
Gordon’s first stop is the GCPD, where he gets shown a lot of ugly things he blames himself for. Just to make it worse, he also goes through some flashbacks from his time in the army, a visit from Bruce Wayne, and some really grisly symbolism from the Wayne murder. It’s not going to be a fun trip for our hero.
Bullock and Barnes have gotten their suspect guard from the morgue in for interrogation. The guard is really smug and annoying, which isn’t good under the best of circumstances. With a potential mass murder about to happen, and Barnes’ lingering health issue, the guard picked the wrong night to mouth off. Bullock is once again forced into the role of the reasonable one, which is fun to watch. He always looks slightly surprised when he has to do that.
Gordon finds himself back in his elevator, with Barbara having gone through a wardrobe change. She points out that everything happening is part of Gordon’s mind, and he makes an amusing change right off the bat. Gordon’s next stop is an alternate version of his life, sort of a “what could have been.” scenario. He comes back from that in not the best mood, and he and Barbara fight.
Alfred tries to offer some advice in what may be one of the most awkward first dates ever. There’s a lot of tension with Bruce and Selena, but they manage to clear at least some of it away. I think they have the potential to be a good couple if they can each get out of their own way. Given the way the show seems to go, I’m sure something will come up to screw with them.
The Founders’ Dinner goes badly on almost every front. Penguin has a run in with Catherine, the mysterious woman who is from what appears to be the show’s version of the Court of Owls. She drops enough vague hints to make Penguin curious and uneasy. But Penguin trying to find out more about her gets interrupted by the arrival of Tetch and his gun-toting thugs. The hostage scenario is short lived as Barnes, Bullock, and the GCPD arrive and take in all the bad guys. There’s an exchange between Tetch and Barnes that shows how bad off Barnes is getting.
Jim’s final stop is so bad that even his Barbara avatar gets serious, offering him encouragement. He ends up having a long discussion with an important figure from his past. Gordon gets advice, encouragement, and a clue about something that looks as if it will have repercussions in the future. It really was nowhere near as bad as Barbara made it out to be. Somehow, its fitting that parts of James’ brain aren’t talking to each other. Gordon gets revived through the efforts of Mario Falcone. Give Mario credit: he wants Gordon out of his and Lee’s lives, but he’s still going to do his damnedest to save Gordon. That speaks really well of him, and shows why he might be the kind of guy Lee wants to marry.
The show has several short scenes near the end, as it tends to do. Nygma has a serious talk with Isabella which speaks well of him. Gordon comes to a decision, and makes some changes that are well overdue. Barnes realizes how bad things are getting for him, and does some grim but needed paperwork. Catherine reports to someone that appears to be higher up in the Court than she is, which also gives a clue about someone’s past.
What I liked: Mario Falcone showed a lot of character. Gordon finally snapped out of some of his
stupidity from this season. Nygma’s talk with Isabella was a good sign that he’s really trying hard for that relationship. Penguin’s talk with her was nasty, but in character (and blew my theory she was a hallucination). Barbara’s stint as tour guide of the soul was amusing. I kinda liked Bruce and Selena’s date.
What I didn’t: Really, enough of Tetch already. He’s annoying and they’re really reaching for some of the imagery with him. I didn’t like the Court in the comics, and they’re not impressing me here, either.
If you could cut out Tetch, this might be one of their better shows. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5, which might be the highest I’ve ever rated a Gotham episode.