Gotham’s Dark Knight story arc continues with “The Fear Reaper.” Once again, one of Batman’s foes predates the Batman himself, but at least they’re close to the same age, as opposed to Mr. Freeze, Riddler, and Penguin. The GCPD are trying to track down Jonathan Crane, although they get to the gang’s hideout a bit too late. They find Crane’s Arkham uniform, but none of the people. Somehow or other, Gordon can identify the lab as being used for fear toxin at a glance. Also oddly, Captain Bullock is out in the field instead of in his office. They do make a disturbing discovery out back, which includes a warning about the Scarecrow.
After last episode’s kind of epic stupidity, Bruce is in jail. For someone destined to be the World’s Greatest Detective and one of the most dangerous men on Earth, he’s really bad at excuses. Alfred comes to collect the Boy Who Would Be (Dark) Knight, and they babble at Gordon a bit. There’s also a scene on the way out with a very disbelieving Lucius Fox.
Out at Arkham, the Warden’s frantic note-burning party is interrupted by the return of Jonathan Crane. Not just out for revenge, Crane is also converting the various inmates into his own army. Good multitasker, that kid. Actually, people having their own armies seems to be a recurring theme of this episode. Crane goes on about his father being a genius who was trying to help young Jonathan, and his quest for vengeance against the GCPD, and, of course, Gordon in particular. Really, who isn’t trying to kill or ruin Jim Gordon at this point?
Penguin continues his grandstanding, dragging some tame reporters along to taunt and belittle the GCPD. Bullock cautions Gordon to play nice, and that goes about as well as expected. Bullock even joins in on picking on Penguin. Finally, the crimelord challenges Gordon to bring in Crane within 24 hours or admit the GCPD is useless. Gordon is less than thrilled, and slams on the crime-license program Penguin is running.
Elsewhere, Selena and Tabitha have both gotten the same mysterious invitation about a new opportunity. They end up at a building that looks like a row house minus the rest of the row. Inside, seriously vying for the cockroach-like survival award, is the somehow still alive Barbara Keen. She’s not only alive, but has had time to start up a new endeavor , and proposes going into business, dealing arms to all Penguin’s licensees. Tabitha stalks out, not impressed or interested, and Barbara asks Selena to talk her around.
Out at the Manor, we see another Batman tradition in the making- Bruce preparing to go back out to the city for more nocturnal adventures, and Alfred opposing the idea. They argue a lot and Alfred won’t try to stop him, but won’t watch him get shot, either. All of this brings up a recurring issue with the series: how are characters like Bruce and Selena, who don’t drive, getting back and forth from Wayne Manor to Gotham?
In one of the ugliest scenes I can remember on the series, Gordon finds out about the riot at Arkham. Not only do the rank and file of the cops refuse to go with him, which is no surprise, but Bullock also won’t go. Bullock does at least have some decent rationale for not going. Gordon yells at them all that they are not fit to wear the badge, and stalks off on his own. He really is the most isolated man in Gotham. Bruce has Alfred at least.
Gordon gets to Arkham and, of course, goes in alone. Scarecrow watches, and gets flashbacks to his father’s death. Enraged, he orders the inmates to kill Gordon. For some weird reason, Gordon’s shotgun won’t fire. Shotguns are generally the most reliable weapons, so I wonder if one of Gordon’s “fellow officers” sabotaged it, but we never find out. Gordon transitions from shotgun to pistol and fists, but there are a lot of them.
Penguin drops by Barbara’s new place with Zsasz and Ivy in tow. He’s cocky, annoying, and wondering both how Barbara is alive, and who is bankrolling her new venture. She doesn’t shed any light on either issue. Penguin demands she pay the tax to him, and then treats Ivy like dirt for offering to help, which is about how their relationship has been going. The trio leaves after Zsasz steals a big gun he’s been fondling.
Things continue to go poorly for Gordon out at the Asylum. Crane shows up, and they fight. Somehow, the skinny kid with no real training manages to have an even fight with the veteran cop and former soldier. Gordon gets an even worse hand dealt when he’s dosed with fear toxin. Gordon goes through a nightmare scene where they undo something I was admiring earlier. When Crane dosed the Warden, he clearly couldn’t see what his victim was hallucinating, which made perfect sense. Somehow, he seems to be aware of what Gordon sees. Gordon stuns Crane by overcoming the toxin with some very Bat-like force of will.
Bruce is back up on the roofs, stalking thugs. As I’ve commented before, and will keep doing, he is doing the stupidity of “I have a mask, but I won’t wear it.” Bruce sees some crooks, follows, and falls into a trap. It’s a weird scene, very uneven. At times, the future Bruce shines through. At times, he’s an idiot. And somehow, he gets a rope in a version of his swing-lines to come, drops down from the second floor to the street, and one of the thugs he beat on is already there. I guess he can teleport? Bruce gets a handy last-minute save.
Selena and Tabitha argue about taking Barbara’s offer. Selena wants to get taken seriously by the other criminals, but Tabitha is holding a grudge about Barbara shooting Butch. Their discussion gets interrupted when Ivy shows up, wanting to be included. Selena seems agreeable, but Tabitha calls Ivy a Penguin stooge and throws her out. For some reason that is not explained, Ivy’s visit convinces Tabitha to work with Barbara, for a price.
Gordon gets shoved into a ward of madmen, but manages to find the antidote to Scarecrow’s toxin. At the Manor, Bruce and Alfred get interrupted in mid-argument when Lucius Fox drops by. Besides showing he doesn’t buy Bruce’s lame excuses, Fox brings presents from his time at Wayne Enterprises.
Gordon gets back to the GCPD, alive, but sans prisoner. Penguin is there, waiting, to taunt him more. Penguin makes a very open offer to the cops, and most of them seems like they’re going to take it, to Gordon’s disgust. Bullock is a lot more pragmatic, and explains his position to Gordon later over drinks. Bullock isn’t heroic, but he makes some sense.
A few of the wrap up scenes are very much shades of things to come. Ivy makes a visit, sick of being mocked and picked on. She takes a desperate gamble to become something a bit closer to her comic incarnation, although still not as smart. Bruce, meanwhile, gets some dramatic rooftop posing, making use of Fox’s presents. Pieces of the legend are coming together, and they end the episode with a big posed shot.
What I liked: Bruce is just as headstrong as his adult self, but doesn’t have the skill to back it up yet, which makes sense. Gordon is going to get himself killed, but at least he’ll do it on his terms. I don’t like what Bullock did, but I get it, and it works. Fox’s few scenes were fantastic. I don’t blame Ivy at all for taking the chance she did.
What I didn’t: Why did the shotgun fail? How the hell is Barbara still alive? Why would she agree to Tabitha’s outrageous demand? I can’t believe that Gordon is the only cop willing to stand up to Penguin, even in corrupt Gotham. How did Crane manage to fight Gordon so well? The thug going from second floor to street level was sloppy staging at best. I get that he’s out of action, but I miss Nygma.
The episode was uneven, but more good than bad. I’ll give it a 3 out of 5. It’ll be interesting to see how the pieces fall in place as the season goes on.