Review: Gotham (S2 E21/22), Monday 6th June, Channel 5

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GOTHAM: Guest star Jada Pinkett Smith in the "Wrath of the Villains: A Legion of Horribles" episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, May 16 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jeff Neumann/FOX

As Gotham gallops with foam-flecked lips towards its season finale, the temptation must be to work towards one big climax, preferably with a cliff-hanger ending and a taste of something to come next season. But no – in typical over-the-top fashion, we’re being bombarded with new characters, new plot lines, deaths, reversals and forebodings.
We’re still chortling over Theo Galavan’s death by rocket-launcher, and looking forward to the inevitable confrontation between Jim Gordon and Professor Strange – now that it’s clear that the bespectacled loon is manufacturing super-villains from corpses.

But Jim Gordon is asking all the right questions – such as, who is actually behind Professor Strange and Indian Hill? While Selina is just asking herself, ‘how can I get out of here without being immolated by Firefly?’

Selina’s salvation comes in the form of psychology – she convinces Bridget that if she’s the goddess of fire, she needs a servant and worshipper – as good a reason as any not to toast Selina.

Bullock is coping rather well with taking over the precinct while Barnes is incapacitated – at least he sidesteps awkward question from the media about the resurrection of Galavan. But he’s reluctant to go into Arkham without evidence, leaving Jim, Bruce and Lucius to go in after Selina.

They turn up in a gorgeous car, which looks to us like a 1963 Studebaker Avanti – just the sort of thing Thomas Wayne might have mouldering in his garage. The Avanti was the vanity project of a Studebaker president, technologically sophisticated but difficult to build, and finally produced only in small numbers – but with a trunk large enough to conceal Jim Gordon.

As Jim and Lucius prowl around Arkham, another factor comes into play when we discover that Hugo Strange is in thrall to a mysterious Court, represented by an owl-masked woman. The Court of Owls is a major feature of recent Batman mythology – an obscure cabal, wielding both wealth and power, the Court’s main concern seems to be its own immortality – hence its interest in Strange’s experiments. But there’s no point in resurrecting the dead as hollow shells lacking personally or memory, so Strange needs a trump card.

He gets it in the form of Subject 13 – Fish Mooney. Oh, how we’ve missed Fish! Jada Pinkett-Smith was one of the best things about Season 1, and her absence from S2 has been notable. But when Fish returns from the dead with her memories, and indeed her sass, completely intact, Strange senses success. In fact she’s better than before, enhanced with cephalopod genes. Now, we don’t know what this makes her – Squid Girl? Cuttlefish Woman? Doctor Octopus? – but she has a nifty new outfit, and the ability to control people with pheromones – you know, like cuttlefish can do (huh?)

While Strange only jousts verbally with Bruce, Ed Nygma is allowed to torture Bruce and Julius for information; but what is Strange’s endgame? In the bowels of Indian Hill, we’ve already had a glimpse of another super villain in waiting – the scaly hulk known as Killer Croc. But now, Strange introduces another newbie – Basil Karlo, who is to become the flexible-featured fiend, Clayface. As his face is moulded into a likeness of Jim Gordon, we don’t get the full-body Clayface effect, but maybe that’s to come.

As Gotham becomes more and more like a demented cross between a Burton Batman and ‘60s Batman, we wonder whether any more fan-pleasing elements can be thrown into the mix. The detective elements of the show have almost completely disappeared – we know who the villains are, it’s just a question of whether the increasingly floundering cops have any chance of stopping them. It’s more a supervillain soap, and without the superhero to balance it out, there’s a risk the whole edifice will topple.

So, next week’s finale – will it be fabulous, or farcical? And what extra shocks can be pulled out of Gotham’s increasingly bulging and misshapen bag of tricks?

Chris Jenkins

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