Gotham’s fifth and final season, “Legends of the Dark Knight,” moves closer to the end with “Pena Dura.” Loosely translated, that means “Hard Time,” although why the title is in Spanish isn’t really made clear during the episode. Pena Duro, in the comics, is where Batman villain Bane is from, but why they’d need to change the name here, I’m not sure. There are a few nods towards Bane in the episode, but nothing really concrete.
The episode opens with Gordon and Bullock interrupting an arms dealer’s movie night, seeking information on who bought the RPG used against Haven. Gordon and Bullock make a frankly amateur blunder here, only to be rescued by the timely arrival of a Delta Force team led by an old friend of Gordon’s, Eduardo Dorrance. In the comics, Edmund Dorrance, better known as King Snake, is supposedly Bane’s father. Gordon and Dorrance swap greetings and Gordon learns his former squadmate is there at the behest of Secretary Walker, apparently the mysterious voice Gordon has been conversing with on the radio.
Back at GCPD, they go over the dealer’s ledger, and find a recent purchase for RPGs: Edward Nygma, aka The Riddler. Gordon is surprised, and Dorrance comments Nygma is on his target list from the Secretary. Gordon and Dorrance go after Nygma, and Gordon shares his reasons for leaving Harvey behind. Bruce drops by for another chat with Alfred. Bruce is worried about Selina, and Alfred assures his young charge that the lady can take care of herself. They disagree, and Bruce storms off to look for her.
Nygma is listening to some of his tape recorded journal entries, trying to figure out what is happening to him. His minor breakdown is interrupted when Gordon and Dorrance arrive to arrest him. Gordon is shocked to hear Nygma admit he did it, sort of. Nygma makes some decent points in his defense, and then gets away via a well-prepared booby trap. After some tension-filled moments, Gordon manages to disarm the trap and save Dorrance’s life, which is when Dorrance shakes his head in wonder that Gordon left the army for “this city.”
While Gordon radios an update in to Bullock, Bruce goes to Sirens looking for Selina. Apparently that whole “no men” thing is getting less enforced as time passes. Bruce finds Barbara, who points out Selina, drinking hard and reveling in her title as “Killer of Jeremiah Valeska.” Bullock makes a general announcement to the Gotham citizenry about Nygma being the Haven bomber, leading to mobs hunting the puzzle-master. Penguin is clearly rattled when he gets the news. Nygma evades a mob and gets knocked cold by someone else. Gordon briefs Eduardo about Scarecrow, simplifying the fear-themed villain to his having “bio-weapons,” which is more or less true I suppose.
Nygma wakes up taped to a lawn chair while a crazy older woman explains why she is going to kill him. Nygma dismisses her motive for vengeance, and she begins a long-drawn out electrocution of the villain. In addition to hurting him a lot, this triggers some visions of Penguin which confuse him. With minimal effort, he outwits his captors and escapes.
Penguin gets a briefing from a thug about the army’s arrival in Gotham, then gets a surprise as Nygma manages to get in to his headquarters. They argue and accuse, but eventually realize what happened. Nygma was almost killed the night the bridges blew, but Penguin saved him by bringing him to Gotham’s mad scientist, Hugo Strange. The army and Bullock come for Nygma, acting on a tip from Barbara, and Nygma manages to escape. Bruce has a very emotional conversation with Selina that doesn’t go at all how he imagined.
While Penguin gets some nasty surprises, Nygma makes his way to Sirens. Barbara wonders why she shouldn’t just kill him, and he makes some good points with his own twisted logic. They do some intense bargaining, and Barbara points Nygma in a new direction. Penguin and Gordon do their own negotiations, and eventually reach a deal.
After all this talk about the not-so-good doctor, we find Professor Strange in his lair, complaining about the quality of bodies being brought to him for experimentation. He’s not going to be happy with this one, either, as the body bag turns out to hold an armed and ticked off Nygma. Strange does a decent George Takei impression as Nygma demands answers. Strange at first pleads ignorance of the Haven bombing situation, then finally admits he did something to Nygma. The tables turn when brilliant Nygma makes a dumb mistake with Strange.
Bruce goes to the precinct looking for Gordon, finding Bullock instead. The two have an interesting conversation which, in some ways, could be said to be founding of at least part of Batman’s ethos. It’s a nicely played, low-key scene in the midst of this episode’s chaos. Bruce ends it with a trademark Batman move.
Penguin, back at his base and with his dog, goes to a secret room and makes some plans that are not immediately clear. The final two scenes have so many surprises and spins to them I’m going to go very light on details to avoid some spoilers. There’s a several part confrontation between Nygma, Strange, Gordon, and Dorrance. Little goes as expected as we find out several shocking twists I admit I did not remotely see coming. That mess ends with someone on the run and someone else hunting them down. The second and final scene has different surprises and hints of what’s to come. We learn someone isn’t as dead as was thought (and I had hoped), someone else is going crazier with time, and there’s a plan afoot that involves plastic surgery and a family reunion. I have a hunch on that one, and it’s going to be ugly if I’m right.
What I liked: There were a lot of well-done twists in this episode, and they actually made sense. The writers outdid themselves here. The Nygma/Penguin and Nygma/Strange scenes were great. Dorrance trying to get a handle on Gotham’s craziness though the lens of military training and discipline was fun to watch. Bruce and Selina’s scene was hard to watch but well-acted. Gordon’s reasons for leaving Bullock behind the first time were completely logical and gave Bullock a lot to think about. If Strange “tinkered” with Nygma, I’m betting, or at least hoping, this means Lee is still out there somewhere, absent so far this season.
What I didn’t: The surprise resurrection wasn’t wholly unexpected, but I was still hoping it wasn’t going to happen. Siren’s “no men” policy eroded fast, and that wouldn’t be such a big deal if they hadn’t played it up so much earlier. Batman/Bruce is usually the tragic hero of Gotham City, but they are having poor Jim Gordon give the Dark Knight a run for his money in this series.
I was really impressed by this episode. I’ll give them a 4 out of 5, and I can’t wait to see where some of this goes.