Gotham’s “Mad City” arc continues with “Time Bomb.” It does a very interesting job of weaving together several different plot threads, and setting up for some serious conflict later. And, while they’ve hinted at it before, we see some more of the dark, twisted, brilliance that will eventually make Edward Nygma one of Batman’s more intelligent foes (in the comics at least, I’m not sure any of that happens in this reality).
Carmine Falcone, his son Mario, and Lee are checking out the spot for the rehearsal dinner. Clearly, the guy who runs the place knows Falcone from the old days, and is very eager to please. A little too eager for his poor waiter’s sake. The waiter/valet (who never gets a name, let alone a job title), goes to get Falcone’s car for him, and gets a big surprise.
GCPD shows up to work the scene, which of course means Gordon. I get that it’s more or less Gordon’s show in a lot of ways, but I think there are other cops in the city. At any rate, everyone with a name from the show is fine and Falcone claims ignorance of why anyone would be trying to blow him up. After some tense dialogue, Falcone agrees to give Gordon the cliched one day to look into the incident.
Out at the mansion, Penguin is holding a meeting with the “Five Families,” presumably what remains of organized crime in Gotham. You have to give him points, it’s bold of the mayor to hold a criminal meeting in his own house. This gets interrupted when Barbara shows up, gun in hand, demanding to know what happened to Butch and Tabitha. After a tense stand-off, she leaves with no new information, but an idea for later.
Nygma takes a brief phone call, presumably from Penguin, and gets back to, “working through my grief my way.” His way is having Tabitha and Butch tied to chairs in some kind of abandoned warehouse space (the choice of crime-bosses everywhere). Nygma found them largely through Butch being stupid, so they brought a little bit of this on himself. Butch is convinced that Nygma’s acting on Penguin’s behalf, and gets very confused when he hears what Nygma’s motives are.
Back at GCPD, Harvey Bullock is once again acting captain, and he’s already doing shots of antacids. This doesn’t bode well for the poor man’s stomach. Touchingly, Harvey insists he’s only keeping Barnes’ seat warm until the former captain is cured of the Alice virus. Fox drops by to say that the bomb was professionally made. And pretty much no one at all seems to care that someone actually died in the blast. GCPD- we protect all the people of Gotham…. except that guy. A brief visit to the most likely bomb-maker indicates that whoever is behind this is tying up loose ends and isn’t shy about spilling blood. Gordon does find a journal that lets him get to the scene just in time, as crazy sword-wielding bikers try to kill their real target- Mario.
Out at the Manor, the protective custody deal is wearing thin on everyone. Bruce is moping about Selena saying they’re not a couple, Selena is bored, Ivy’s obsessing about plants, and Alfred wants the two girls gone. Selena gets her own idea about what to do after Alfred snarks at her, and then he falls prey to Ivy’s mind control whammy. It’s not a great day for anyone at the Wayne estate.
Gordon seeks answers from a not real helpful Mario. Mario, like Falcone earlier, has no idea why anyone would be after him. Gordon insists that everyone has enemies, and Mario condescendingly says, “No, we don’t.” Gordon suggests they lay low so they won’t, you know, be as easy to kill, and Mario gets very snarky with him. I had a theory about at least part of what’s up with Mario by this point, and I ended up being right. After another great Gordon/Bullock scene, Gordon goes off to talk to Falcone again.
Back at the Mayor’s Mansion, Barbara returns. This time, she’s not there to see Penguin. Having grown up rich herself, she knows where the secrets are in a big house. This time, she visits Penguin’s maid, Olga, and eventually gets a clue in the form of an invoice from the wonderfully named “Stocks and Bondage.” I bet Penguin is really regretting insisting Olga get those ESL lessons a few episodes ago (and they worked really quickly). Barbara pays a visit there and does her own version of an interrogation, leaving with another clue.
After another scene of Nygma torturing his captives, who are still utterly baffled about who Isabella even was, Bruce and Selena find more clues and have another sort of argument. Selena shows she’s smart in ways Bruce isn’t, but before they can follow up on this, they find out Ivy is missing and being held captive by the Russians they’ve been running from. This leads to what starts out as a prisoner exchange, but becomes a lot more once both sides start talking. It’s also the first time we hear the actual name of the Court of Owls.
Falcone is stunned that Mario is the target not him. I actually believe his surprise, both because Falcone has a lot more shady dealings and Falcone’s ego probably never let him consider that possibility. Following on some of Mario’s accusations, Falcone blames at least some of what’s happening on Gordon wanting Lee and Mario to fail. Gordon’s hearing that a lot these days.
Nygma has come up with a really clever psychological torture for Butch and Tabitha (I keep wanting to write that as Butch and Sundance). It’s a nasty little gadget that reeks of classic supervillain, although Nygma doesn’t completely follow the trope and leave to allow them to escape. Then again, Tabby and Butch aren’t the heroes. Maybe it only works then.
While Bruce and company plot with their new sort-of allies (in the “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” sense), Mario is off trying to pick up his engagement rings for the wedding. Of course, what he’s actually doing is trying to lure the killers out in the open. Gordon gets there just ahead of the assassins as another fight scene happens, with Mario showing another clue about at least some of what’s really going on with him.
The love story of Tabitha and Butch continues, with the attentions of Nygma. Everyone gets a round of surprises as Nygma ups the stakes. A lot of things are discovered, and a lot of ideas need to get reexamined. Tabitha and Butch at least sort of match now, as Barbara arrives to get them to a hospital. She lets Nygma wander off because… um… she’s crazy? Barbara figures out something important and has some nasty plans starting in that pretty but damaged head of hers.
Gordon gets nowhere trying to question the assassin that survived the fight. His prints are not on file, and now the Feds are suddenly showing interest. Falcone gets his own idea, and confirms it in a really ugly way. Despite what he just did, Gordon lets him walk for unknown reasons. It’s the show of “Oh, I’ll just let them go” this week. Bullock and Gordon get in another good scene before things go off the rails.
Bruce’s new ally proves short-lived as he runs afoul of what I’m pretty sure is a Talon for the Court of Owls. The fight is nasty and shows how dangerous they are. It ends with a stupid, flashy, right-out-of-a-video game finale. That was a bit disappointing.
The last few scenes have a lot of surprises. Falcone pays a visit, trying to confirm his own idea about what’s going on. He doesn’t really find out what he wants to, but seems to have negotiated some kind of truce. Gordon gets an unexpected visitor and they wrap up some unfinished business. Someone else sees this, leaps to the wrong conclusion, and confirms one of my own theories.
What I liked: There were a lot of twists this episode. A lot of it involved people being wrong, but their mistakes were very understandable and made perfect sense. There are a lot of really smart people in Gotham. While I don’t personally like the Court of Owls, it was nice hearing their name finally used. Nygma’s scenes were particularly brilliant, and Barbara’s went really well.
I also liked the several references to Barnes. It’s nice they didn’t just instantly forget him.
What I didn’t: Barbara letting Nygma go made as much sense as Gordon letting Falcone go near the end: none. The fight on the docks was a bit silly. Professional killers tend to use guns, not weird blades.
This was one of Gotham’s better episodes. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5. Next week is the mid-season finale, so I see a lot of interesting things building up between now and then.