If you’re anything like me, you’ve been marking down the days to September 19 and the return to the dark foggy streets of Gotham City. Season 2 of Gotham finished with a bang: escaped mutants from Indian Hill were roaming the streets including doppelgängers of both Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne; Fish Mooney was back from the dead, causing a seriously rattled Penguin to faint; Alfred and Bruce sloped off to Switzerland for some well deserved R&R; and Jim was also leaving Gotham, to sort it out with Lee.
Warning if you’ve not watched, plenty of spoilers!
Season 3 gets off to a slightly clunky start, with a lot of “helpful” lines spoken by various characters to fill in any gaps we might have missed. We open on Jim, standng with a bunch of flowers outside Lee’s house. He sees her through the window, drinking…but she’s not alone. Is Lee really involved with someone else? Or is Jim reading too much into it?
Zoom forward 6 months, which I can tell you went a lot faster than the 4 months we’ve been waiting for this new season. Jim is still upset about Lee and has consequently decided to become a bounty hunter, doing what he does best, fighting crime on Gotham’s streets, but this time on an on call basis, sorting out the mess of mutants wreaking havoc. Captain Barnes is also back on the job, limping, and clearly still quite poorly after his run-in with Azrael’s sword. A new character is introduced, in the form of Valerie Vale, reporter for The Gazette. Instantly you know that she’s going to be a major player in this season, and not only that will probably be someone’s love interest. It doesn’t take long to find out that the love in question is likely to be Jim.
Some sub plots in the episode include Barbara and Tabitha running a club, showing that they don’t need protection from the likes of Penguin and his henchmen, as sisters are doin’ it for themselves. Selina continues to work with Fish, and is still bestos with Ivy, but has clearly been keeping it a secret about the gang she’s hanging with. Another friendship, between Penguin and Ed Nygma has flourished while we’ve been away, with the lovely Oswald showering gifts on the latter, who is still incarcerated in Arkham. Biscuits, jumpers, and in this episode, a seemingly unsolvable puzzle box…which of course Ed solves within seconds. It appears this bond has been somewhat of a thereputic experience for Mr Cobblepot, who tells Ed of his problem with Fish. Nygma shares the story of Alexander and the Gordian Knot. Like the puzzle box, it was supposed to be unsolvable, but Alexander merely cut through it with his sword. It is with this he says what will likely be the key theme of the series: “details can be distracting. Sometimes a simple solution is the best. So whatever she’s planning, just remember: penguins eat fish.”
Other plot devices in this episode: a bat-like hissing creature who is one of Fish’s henchmen; a 1 million dollar bounty placed on the head of Fish by Penguin; Fish is herself in trouble, with her body rejecting whatever genetic modifications she was subjected to at Indian Hill; and a death warrant out on the life of Bruce Wayne, because he decides to get tough with the Board of Wayne Enterprises in order to find out who’s really behind The Court of Owls, the secret society running Gotham, albeit from the shadows. And it’s on that last piece the episode ends, with Alfred and a masked man throwing fists at each other. Alfred is knocked cold (or is he?) and Bruce, who had clearly been instructed by Alf to go upstairs and stay there until morning, comes down to see what his trusty butler is up to. Alas! The masked intruder sees his chance, and after incapacitating Bruce, he slings him over his shoulder and hightails it out of there.
In conclusion – “Better To Reign In Hell” is a nice enough episode for the start of a new series. It summarises enough of the previous seasons for any newcomer to feel at ease with the programme, and it introduces enough fresh excitement for long term viewers to grab hold of. It was perhaps a little predictable at times but it’s a first episode of a season, so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt this week.
Final grade: B+ but must try harder next time
Additional thoughts: has anyone noticed just how nicely defined Alfred and Oswald’s eyes are? Do you think they’re both wearing eyeliner? Oswald definitely is, but if Alfred is as well, more please!
Written by Lisa Hafey