Synopsis of 3×8: Nygma worries about his homicidal urges returning with his new love. Barnes is unable to control his growing rage and need for justice. Lee and Gordon struggle with their relationship as Gordon returns to the GCPD.
For the first time since the second season, Barnes is the main focus here, still dealing with being infected with Alice’s blood and becoming a vigilante shouting lines of Judge Dredd dialogue. The Barnes stuff here is rough, blunt and over-the-top in a way that doesn’t entirely feel either sincere or like parody. The only moment of Barnes’ arc that feels unique or really appealing is his final moments of the episode, where he hallucinates a crowd of social elites as blood covered demons. Again, no half-measures here.
At heart though, it’s a cliche plot, one the show’s gone to before. We’ve seen Gordon and Bullock tangle with other would-be-vigilantes before. What’s more notable is how many other beats repeat in this episode. This is the second time we’ve seen an evil surgeon cutting off people’s faces on this show, with Season 1’s Dollmaker previously running the exact same scheme. I was half convinced the show would just reveal he was behind everything but it’s not to be.
The same kind of goes for Nygma’s plot. I genuinely really like the idea of Isabelle as a Mulholland Drive style doppelgänger of Kringle and I think there’s a sort of campy, gothic charm to her face off with Cobblepot over who’s right for Ed but it’s strange what parts of Nygma’s past the show embraces.
Here, they keep his obsession with minutiae and his frequent guilty hallucinations, but Season 2’s frequent appearances of Nygma’s id are gone. It’s strange, because this is the sort of plot that was functionally no different from last year’s, where Nygma’s dark side was such a frequently appearing figure. This is no different and it’s strange to see it gone in a moment where it used to appear so often.
It’s not inherently bad for the show to avoid going back to these things or really to repeat itself. The appearances of Ed’s id were never the strongest storyline and a show about Gotham City is always going to be at least a little about vigilantism, It’s just strange to see the show approach its own history in such an odd way, particularly in a season that’s embraced its own campy, messy continuity so wholeheartedly.