Gotham: Burn the Witch Recap

Synopsis of 3×02: Fish takes Harvey hostage and hunts down Hugo Strange in the search for a cure. Penguin leads a mob to kill Mooney as Gordon searches for a way to rescue his former partner.

Rating:
I’ve written about Gotham for a year or, in years-of-watching-and-writing-about-Gotham time, what feels like an eternity and there are only so many ways to say that this show can churn out some jam-packed episodes. Like a kid excitedly telling joke after joke only to forget the punchlines, Gotham tends to front-load its seasons with all the big ideas and concepts before watching as things kind of fall apart as the show goes and this week’s episode, “Burn the Witch,” is no exception.

[FOX]

[FOX]

There are three main plots going on here, with Bruce finally meeting the Court of Owls and having to come to terms with the deal he’s made for his life, Ivy dealing with her rebirth and the freedom it offers her, and the hunt for Fish Mooney, which itself has about four or five subplots too many. There are a few points here where I wondered if this was going to turn into a two-parter but the whole thing keeps chugging along, with revelation after revelation.

Where an awful lot of previous episodes didn’t, though, this one mostly works. There’s an awful lot of high camp here, between Barbara’s psychosexual nightmares, Fish’s domineering snottiness, Penguin’s giddy villainy and Gordon and Valerie doing their best His Girl Friday impression. Other than a few of the later fight scenes here, “Burn the Witch” has a mostly charming, generally comedic tone, with lots of silly one-liners, catty threats and over-the-top, if earned, pathos.

I’ve ragged on the show’s often inscrutable mythos and the generally unclear nature of many of the characters’ relationships but the moment the episode hangs on, Penguin’s gunpoint confrontation with Fish feels earned and has roots all the way back to the show’s earliest days. As wretched as these two characters have been to each other over the last two seasons, it’s a moment that has grown out of the reasoning for their actions instead of the actions themselves.

Fish’s sense of loyalty and thirst to prove herself with a lasting legacy in Gotham City are well established parts of her character and Penguin’s survivor’s guilt and search for a parental figure in a life of crime has been equally we’ll established. In the context of the episode, it’s a silly moment that even a baseline understanding of genre conventions and police responses would mark as impossible but the moment lands thanks to strong performances and a compelling sense of history.

[FOX]

[FOX]

Still, there’s a lot to get through in an hour and some of it just doesn’t work. Ivy’s story is the show at its worse, full of half-hearted foreboding and nods to the source material while telling a rote, feelingless origin story for the would-be villain. Similarly, Bruce’s deal with the Court doesn’t really feel true to the character he’s been established as and while David Marzouz’ performances are generally strong, I can’t help but laugh whenever the Bruce doppelgänger and that terrible wig show up on screen.

It’s a messy hour, one that’s still throwing new concepts and changes to the status quo at the wall even as the episode wraps up but at its best moments, it rewards viewers who’ve stuck with the show. That’s not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination but I’d be more than happy to take a breather from another revelation next week.