Synopsis of 2×06 Bridgit and Selina go on the run from the Pike brothers and the GCPD. Gordon tries to safely arrest Bridgit but she’s almost killed in a police standoff. Galvan and Penguin move against each other and Butch is flipped by Theo. Nygma kills Kringle.
One of the most common complaints leveled against Batman as a character and as a concept is that his battle is more about fighting the symptoms rather than the cause of crime. He’s beating up muggers, the city’s poorest and least fortunate trying to make ends meet any way they can. It’s a slightly misguided, uninformed opinion, at least partially because it could be levied against basically every hero in the superhero genre. More importantly, it also fails to acknowledge things like the Wayne Foundation, the charitable organization Bruce established in a 1964 story to raise money and support Gotham’s least fortunate.
I bring up the Wayne Foundation because so much of this week’s Gotham focuses on the difference between fighting a war on crime and fighting individual battles. Barnes wants to take a hardline stance against crime in Gotham City, facing every problem with the same stoic determination and respect for the rulebook. Gordon wants to find a way to save lives and the souls of the people crime impacts. He doesn’t want to fight a proactive war on crime but he wants to find a way to attack the biggest players. It’s notable that only Gordon wants to know who hired the Pike brothers rather than just stop Firefly throughout the episode and it points to him wanting to cut down Gotham’s rotten tree at the root rather than lopping off every branch.
Much of “By Fire” focuses on Gordon and Barnes’ facing off over ethics of investigation while Selina tries to protect Bridgit from getting in over her head after murdering an officer last episode. Both Gordon and Selina know the circumstances of Bridgit’s transformation from slave into super villain and want to find a way to save her but are finding themselves more and more caught up in a system they’re not always happy to work with. In the end, an itchy trigger finger is Bridgit’s undoing and serves as Selina and Gordon’s breaking point in the episode’s end.
In what may be becoming a recurring feature in these columns called “What dumb bullshit is happening in the Galavan subplot,” Tabitha and Theo get up to some obscenely dumb bullshit in this episode. After torturing a congressman into supporting his mayoral bid, Theo deals with Penguin attempting to plant Butch in his organization. It’s not entirely clear exactly how much we’re supposed to read into his pair of scenes in this episode.
In the first, Galavan absolutely buys into Butch’s story of betrayal and in the next, one fairly innocuous clue absolutely convinces him that Butch is a rat. It’s just silly and as dumb as this show often is. It seems as if none of the writers are sure exactly how smart Theo is supposed to be, whether he’s an invincible super-villain or a fallible mortal capable of missing some clues. Either way, he remains an incredibly non compelling figure, a boring cipher on a show already filled with them.
I’ve ignored the Nygma storyline all season because, frankly, I kind of hoped it would just go away. Ed was one of the first season’s most inconsistent characters, with the writers seeming to alternate between using him as comic relief or as a weird source of puppy-dog/stalkery pathos. They’ve leaned harder on him as a murdery pick-up-artist in Season 2, a homicidal stalker who, after finally convincing Kringle to date him after he murdered her boyfriend, has continued to gaslight the women he allegedly loves, as well as Gordon and apparently Tompkins.
Theoretically, there’s nothing really wrong with a storyline about an unhinged killer trying to lie to the woman he loves but the way the show has handled it forces every other character around them to act like an idiot. Everyone seems to be in his thrall but he’s just acting like a serial killer all the time, perpetually hiding something. Everyone seems to acknowledge that he’s become wildly different but no one asks any questions or investigates anything. It’s incredibly frustrating.
Nygma’s relationship with Kringle culminates in this episode where after the pair have sex, he reveals that he killed her ex and accidentally strangles her as she tries to leave his apartment. It’s a bad, not particularly realistic scene, that the show strangely compares to Selina gearing up for battle with the Penguin. Frankly, it’s the kind of empty headed attempt at creating an origin story that the show seemed to have jettisoned this year. You can’t really compare Nygma committing cold-blooded murder with a rage-filled Selina finally deciding to fight those who’ve manipulated her and Bridgit but the show thinks the two are basically interchangeable. It’s an iffy move in an episode that handles questionable ethics much better elsewhere.
It’s especially tough to see this show continue to follow idiotic rabbit holes while it succeeds in others. This is genuinely the best treatment of Selina Kyle the show has ever done but it still devotes scene after scene to piss-poor table setting and an iffy characterization of its worst characters. Sadly, “By Fire” is probably Gotham’s best episode but it’s hardly one likely to win back those who’ve given up on the show over the last year and a half.