Things ramp up for the poor citizens of Gotham in “Heroes Rise: Pretty Hate Machine.” The show opens with yet another gathering of the Court of Owls. Bruce’s nameless friend takes the council to task for killing the Waynes. Their response is that Thomas Wayne stood against the Court, although he doesn’t have an answer to Bruce’s question about his mother. He also complains that the leader (presumably Nameless here) is gone for years at a time, so they did what they thought was best. Nameless responds in a fairly definitive manner, and urges Bruce to “Give the order.” Bruce doesn’t, looking freaked out, and Nameless claps, cuing the Talons to kill the entire Council. Well, I guess there are some management openings now. Bruce says he won’t hesitate next time. Really? How often does someone order the slaughter of the ruling council of a secret organization?
The GCPD rushes to answer a call, and arrives at the last meeting of the Council. Even Gordon and Bullock are a bit taken aback by the carnage. One of them survives long enough to accuse Gordon of being a traitor and tell them the leader and Bruce Wayne killed them. Everyone exchanges surprised looks. Alfred, of course, says the man must be lying when they get back to the GCPD squad room. Bullock is more curious why the leader would kill off his men, and wonders if that means the bomb is no longer a threat. Gordon dismisses such wishful thinking. After some more disagreements with Alfred about Bruce’s role in the events earlier, Gordon gets told Lee has returned home and rushes off to see what she’s doing with the stolen virus. Hint: Nothing good.
Nygma reports to the evil trio of Barbara Keen, Butch, and Tabitha, telling them Penguin is still alive, which none of them are happy to hear. As their gathering goes on, there are clearly some worsening cracks in the Barbara/Tabitha relationship. Butch is trying to play referee, which is a bit ironic since he really wants to get Tabitha away from Barbara. Nygma tells them the Court has no interest in the criminal underworld (which seems really unlikely to me) and they should worry about Penguin. When Butch wonders why this is their problem, Nygma points out that they all conspired to kill Penguin, and he’s not stupid. Barbara agrees. Nygma gives them an over the shoulder warning about the “army of freaks” on his way out.
Gordon gets to Lee’s place and she greets him in this disturbing, sing-song voice. She’s giving off this vibe that is part barely restrained violence and part Morticia Addams. I like it overall, although I think she went a bit heavy on the eye makeup. She’s playing deranged hostess while not really answering his questions. She talks about what the virus has shown her, and then, after some flirting, tosses him across the room. That virus packs a punch.
Alfred, meanwhile, has figured something out. The house he, Bruce, and Selena stole their owl from isn’t on the map they’ve been using. Bullock wonders if the owl hasn’t been updated, which just struck me as really amusing, but Alfred suggests there are Court locations that aren’t on the map they’re working off. He suggests going back to the Whisper Gang, who they were involved with during the owl heist.
Penguin rants and raves in an apartment hideout, unhappy about the most recent developments. Ivy and Selena largely ignore him as they catch up. Selena is pleased to hear that Bridget is around again, although Penguin and Ivy have lost track of their fledgling army. Selena is acting just as sulky and selfish with them as she was with Alfred last time. Is she trying to make sure she has no friends left? As Nygma and Butch arrive and batter their way in, Selena runs off, but Ivy won’t leave Penguin. That’s a bit touching, but where this loyalty to him came from, I have no idea. Penguin and Ivy bolt through a hidden exit, but Selena runs into Tabitha. Hard.
Bruce and Nameless talk about his feeling lost now that he’s achieved justice for his parents, if that’s what you want to call it. He’s also still upset about not giving the order himself, but Nameless promises him a chance to make up for it. Professor Strange turns up, and is very impressed with the amount of control Nameless has over Bruce now. Strange and some Talons have the bomb, and Nameless says Bruce will trigger it, infecting thousands. Bruce agrees that Gotham must fall by his hand. That’s so deeply disappointing, Bruce.
I’ve been enjoying the Gordon and Bullock scenes a lot on this series, but Bullock and Alfred are developing a vaguely similar rhythm. Bullock comments that he’s going to have give Alfred a badge at this rate. While Leslie dumps Gordon in the trunk of her car, Bullock and Alfred follow up on another lead and end up bursting in on a few Talons with Professor Strange. Improbably, Bullock downs a Talon or two, and Strange surrenders almost before the fight’s over. Other Talons rush off with the bomb, Bruce, and Nameless, who has now been called Sensei. While that’s a general term of respect it’s also a specific character in the Batman comics with ties to Ra’s al-Ghul. Of course, in the comics, he’s Asian. Where’s all the outrage people were directing at Danny Rand being white in Iron Fist (which he’s historically always been)? Alfred catches up with them, and is stunned when Bruce sides with the Sensei. They leave with the bomb and Alfred gets knocked cold by yet another Talon.
Bullock and Alfred return to headquarters and put Strange in a holding cell. Alfred is understandably shaken by his exchange with Bruce. Alfred worries the Sensei (not that they know the name) wants Bruce to detonate the bomb. In another great line, Bullock says he’ll go ask “Baldie-locks,” meaning Strange. Bullock’s instructions about trying to find Gordon or Lee get interrupted when Lee herself walks in, provoking general panic and weapons pointing.
As Lee alludes to Jim waking up about now, he does so. He likely wishes he hadn’t, as he comes to in a coffin. At least she left him a flashlight. Bullock still can’t believe she injected herself, and she responds, creepily, “You say that like it’s a bad thing.” She goes on about her new plan to show everyone who Jim Gordon really is. She has a radio tuned in to one she left Gordon, and says the police will never find him before he runs out of air, but she left him a way out. The catch? She wants him to inject himself with the virus and batter his way out. Lee gloats that she wants to see the look on all the cops’ faces when Gordon gives in and takes the virus. She asks for coffee, and Bullock orders them to get her some and put her in a cell. She ends up in the one next to Strange (which would NEVER happen), they exchange a look and she rolls her eyes. I suspect Dr. Thompkins there isn’t impressed with the Professor. Bullock and Gordon talk on the radio, and Bullock offers what reassurance he can.
Selena is now a “guest” of the Riddler/Barbara/Butch/Tabitha alliance. They ask her why she’s with Penguin and she’s her usual snarky self. That doesn’t endear her to Butch at the very least. There are more signs of the imminent falling out coming between Tabitha and Barbara, as Barbara dismisses Tabitha and Butch so she can plot with Nygma. I think that’s going to be an explosive mess when it happens.
Bullock is worried about Gordon, while Alfred is worried the search isn’t the best use of time. Cold, but maybe true. Bullock comes up with the questionable idea of turning Alfred loose on Professor Strange. Man, there’s going to be Internal Affairs Investigations all over when this is done. Or there would be anyplace less corrupt than Gotham anyway. Bullock takes K9s to Jackson Park, where they’ve figured out Gordon probably is. Lee goes on that Gordon can’t be saved, he’ll take the virus, and it will all be beautiful. Wow, Lee has really checked out.
Alfred has some very simple, direct methods for getting information from the Professor that are definitely not police-sanctioned, even here. Strange, no hero, caves in once he stops screaming. Strange gives up what he has, and Alfred tells him he can go. The highlights are that Strange thinks Bruce is too far gone to be saved, they’re at Wayne Enterprises, and the bomb will go off at five.
Bruce and the Sensei talk about what’s coming, and the Sensei goes on about the man who sees such a great destiny ahead for Bruce. Gordon and Bullock talk on the radio and Gordon notes the battery is dying. Man, she didn’t even leave him a fully charged radio. Bullock urges him to take the virus and they can figure something out later. Gordon considers it, but refuses. Between them, Gordon, Bullock, and Alfred via radio and phone, figure out where the bomb is. Unfortunately, Gordon puts it together just as his battery dies. He won’t save himself, but Gordon won’t let others die for his principles. He jabs himself and tunnels out, just like Lee wanted
Ivy and Penguin are back at what I believe is the same abandoned mansion they started at when they met up. Penguin rants, and Ivy shows how amazingly stupid she is, nothing at all like the brilliant researcher she’s supposed to be. She told Selena everything on a phone call, and sure enough, the Riddler contingent shows up. Their various threats are interrupted when another character we’ve not seen for a while turns up and takes Penguin away. As Butch comments, she knows how to make an entrance.
Bullock finds the spot where Gordon unearthed himself, and is worried. He gives the radio call to clear Union Station and that Gordon is on the way there, infected with the virus. Lee is thrilled, and escapes due to a careless cop.
Everything comes to a head at Union Station. Bruce and the Sensei are there, and they see the crazed Gordon come in. Sensei tells Bruce it’s time to press the button, and Alfred bursts in where they are and yells at him not to become a murderer. The virus-enhanced Gordon trashes a Talon easily to get to the bomb, but then gets distracted by Lee’s arrival. Bruce, Alfred, and the Sensei have their showdown. Things go badly for everyone, and the show ends with an epic disaster in the making, as well as a big hint who. Weirdly, despite cops yelling orders and then Gordon throwing people around with superhuman strength, no one seems to have evacuated the station. I guess they really want to make their trains.
What I liked: Bullock and Gordon are always great together, and Alfred is fitting in well. The revelation about who Nameless seems to be is interesting (and another major divergence from the comics). Evil Lee is an interesting new presence. The Alfred/Strange scene was great.
What I didn’t: I don’t like Bruce being a thrall of the Sensei. I’m not a fan of sulky Selena. I’m getting a bit tired of the Tabitha/Barbara drama, and I think Butch should just cut and run at this point. I don’t buy the Court’s plan has always been a virus created relatively recently by accident.
I don’t like the direction they seem to be heading in for who is behind Bruce’s big destiny.
Taking the week off: Really, the only regular who wasn’t here was Lucius Fox. Maybe he got out of town? I would at this point.
I’ll give this one a 3 out of 5. Next week is supposed to be a two hour finale.