NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of Gotham are present in this review
After so much exciting upending of Gotham convention with the rise of Theo Galavan, along with an increased scale of violence and mayhem to come in the wake of the Maniax, the series seemed to return to some of its classic Season One foundation with “Scarification”, which brought another forerunner to a future Batman villain into the fray. Yet another all-new Batman baddie is having their origin indirectly set in motion by a separate batch of characters, this time, being pyromaniac menace, Firefly, whose prototype Gotham incarnation has actually been reinterpreted as a female character for the first time, despite both incarnations of Firefly from DC lore being males.
The core plot of “Scarification”, which felt more like a case-of-the-week episode than most of Season Two’s increased focus on serialization, wasn’t a terrible one. The idea of making this new female Firefly a downtrodden, abused victim who finally snaps after enough abuse from her family, and circumstances beyond her control, is an inspired one. It would have been far better than just tossing Garfield Lynns or Ted Carson into the show in a teenage incarnation, and then just making him another by-the-book psychopath. Props to Gotham for making an honest effort to set this Firefly apart from the character’s male versions in other DC media.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to get the sense that most of the Firefly payoff is being saved for next week, with “Scarification” largely being a two-parter that serves as a special event introduction for Firefly, similar to the Scarecrow two-parter from last season. In the meantime, we have a character who is fundamentally solid, but not particularly interesting until the episode is almost over. This new Firefly, Bridget Pike, has an interesting connection with Selina Kyle, and the idea of teasing a sort of ‘Gotham City Sirens’ team-up between Bridget and Selina is one that Batman fans will probably look forward to for next week, but for now, Selina doesn’t have much bearing on things for most of the episode. She’s just kind of there. Her influence on the plot is pretty much non-existent for now, and that’s a bummer.
Naturally, the overarching Firefly plot tied into the latest scheme of Theo Galavan, who coerces Penguin into hiring the Pike family, all professional arsonists by trade, to burn down several buildings owned by Wayne Enterprises. Tabitha even captures Mr. Bunderslaw, if you recall him from Bruce’s visit to Wayne Enterprises from Season One, and cuts out one of his eyes, so that the Pike’s can break in and steal a valuable item in one of the buildings, before setting it ablaze.
Penguin continued to shine this week, becoming gradually more unhinged as Theo continued to crush him under his mighty thumb. Penguin even savagely beats one of his henchmen at one point, simply because he had some bad news! Butch is naturally concerned, but Penguin declares that he’s still in control, desperately trying to formulate a plan to strike back at Theo Galavan.
Meanwhile, Gordon’s GCPD strike force continues to operate well, shutting down one of Penguin’s money laundering operations, as Barnes’ vendetta against Penguin starts kicking into full swing, further backing Penguin into a corner as his world comes apart around him. They’re soon pointed to a weapons store to continue pursuing Penguin’s operations, which, hilariously, actually functions like a supermarket for super-villains! Only in Gotham City, man…
Regardless, Gordon inadvertently gets tangled up with the Pike family, when their youngest and smallest member tries to smuggle out some C4, right as Gordon and Barnes raid the joint. After shooting the kid dead to defend themselves, he explodes, leading to a solid quip where Barnes asks Gordon just what he’s packing in his weapon! This however leads to a complication for the Pike brood, who must employ Bridget, their housekeeper and perpetual object of abuse, to take the place of their fallen brother. Bridget is an illegitimate child, so after a threat from her brothers about being forced into prostitution if she fails to comply, just like her mother, Bridget agrees to go along with the family trade, and reluctantly takes up Penguin’s arson gig.
In the process of burning down more buildings, and getting burned a bit herself in the process, Bridget retrieves a valuable ceremonial knife, which Galavan really wants to get his hands on. Penguin intercepts the knife, and gets it looked at by a knowledgeable antique dealer. The dealer tells him that the knife is an artifact from a couple of centuries ago, back when Gotham City was brand new. Back then, the city was controlled by five wealthy families, which included the Wayne family, the Elliot family (a cool little nugget of foreshadowing for the Hush plot that the Gotham showrunners promised for this season), and another family called the Dumas family. After a Dumas son and Wayne daughter had an illegitimate affair without the approval of their houses, the Dumas son was maimed and exiled, and the Wayne family wiped the Dumas influence clean from the city. The Dumas family was also forced to change their surname to complete their purging. Guess what their new name is. Yep, Galavan.
This finally places a crucial piece of the puzzle in regards to Theo Galavan’s plans for the city, particularly when it’s directly revealed at the end of the episode that Bruce Wayne will be a main target, after a big attack on Gotham City occurs. Moreover, this cool little peek into the city’s origins should also prove quite exciting to Batman fans, and DC fans in general, since it seems to be our first hint of the existence of the Court of Owls, which the Gotham showrunners have promised the early foundations of this season.
Soon afterward, this also leads to Penguin putting together the finishing touches on a new plan to remove Theo Galavan as an obstacle. Penguin forces Butch to pound back a series of hard liquor shots, taking advantage of Butch’s conditioning to always obey his orders, and then tells Butch that he must convince Galavan that Penguin is now insane, and Butch is desperate for new employment. How does Penguin sell this? By grabbing a cleaver and chopping off Butch’s hand! Whoa! Well, at least Penguin was nice enough to get him a little wasted first. Didn’t seem to help much though.
Anyway, back with the GCPD, Bridget puts together a fire-resistant suit, not-so-subtly being a very crude, early prototype of the Firefly suit from DC lore, and prepares for her next job, though Gordon and Bullock get to her first, prompting her brothers to flee. Bridget tries to tell them to stay back, now being armed with a flamethrower, but one of the rookie strike force cops tries to tackle her, resulting in the guy getting char-broiled, as Bridget takes off, and is led to safety by Selina, which is more or less all that Selina does in this entire episode. Like I said, at least this may lead to a good Gotham City Sirens-style team-up next week.
Sadly, the young cop dies from his injuries, hitting Gordon hard, though the audience probably won’t care as much, since the GCPD strike force is so new, and we haven’t really gotten to know its personalities yet. Still, this leads to the GCPD doubling down on efforts to apprehend Bridget as soon as possible, no doubt pushing her further into pyromaniacal violence next week!
The only other scene of note for this episode was a bit of a breather at Leslie’s place, where she and Gordon double-date with Nygma and Ms. Kringle (against Gordon’s will), who are apparently doing very well as a couple. It didn’t really do much for the plot, and, yet again, the Nygma/Kringle arc feels like a benchwarmer that is saving its actual payoff for later in the season, but this was a decent breather for the episode, after so much high tension with the GCPD chasing Penguin and the Pike family around.
“Scarification” had a good chunk of solid moments overall, and definitely teased some cool developments to come for later this season. Still, barring a couple of standout moments, the episode felt like it merely set up for better payoffs to come later. Bridget Pike is a decent new interpretation of Firefly, but it’s difficult not to feel like her best moments are still ahead of her. Likewise, it was finally nice to get some insight into what’s driving Theo Galavan’s vendetta against the city, while also foreshadowing some big trouble for Bruce soon, but that’s still a payoff that we have to wait for later in the season.
It’s looking like we’ll get a pretty strong second part to the Firefly arc next week though. Something tells me that Bridget is not going to be docile for much longer!
- Solid female reinterpretation of Firefly
- Penguin's increasing desperation
- Some appreciated insight into Theo Galavan's vendetta
- Most story elements are setting up payoffs for later
- Nygma story still feels too disconnected
- The strike force cop's death lacks emotional impact