NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Gotham” are present in this review
Gotham got particularly busy in this week’s episode, which serves as a penultimate episode of sorts, before next week’s two-episode season finale. “Pretty Hate Machine” started to bring together the ‘Heroes Rise’ arc’s many moving parts, as a Tetch Virus-infected Leslie turns her sights on Gordon, Bruce is coerced into realizing his destiny for an all-too-familiar figure from DC Comics lore, Penguin and Nygma continue their brewing struggle against one another, and Bullock, Gordon and the rest of the GCPD start desperately seeking the virus bomb that’s about to infect a huge chunk of the city with the Tetch Virus.
Overall, after it’s suffered through a few messier episodes, Gotham did manage to improve a bit in this latest offering, even if there’s still a few story elements that had to feel rushed through, due to the constraint of the hour-long timeslot. This is particularly evident towards the end of the episode, as the season’s big endgame is expedited so that the two episodes comprising next week’s season finale can focus firmly on excitement and payoffs. Before that though, we did get some nice burning tension during the better moments, as Leslie puts a twisted plan into motion for Gordon, while Bruce watches The Shaman make some big moves against the Court of Owls.
Among the more disappointing elements of the episode is how the Court of Owls story arc was wrapped up, since it feels like it was too easily brushed aside. The Shaman is apparently the proper leader of the Court of Owls, which feels a bit anti-climactic, especially when he simply has Talons stab the rest of the Court’s high council to death, so that he can pave the way for a new order in Gotham City. It turns out that I was nonetheless half-right about my prediction last week though, since it’s also revealed in this episode that The Shaman does indeed serve Ra’s Al Ghul, who likely fed him the propaganda about the city needing to be reborn, and the Court of Owls needing to go away. Ra’s Al Ghul has already appeared on primetime television within another separate and competing DC Comics series, namely The CW’s Arrow, but it sounds like this version of the character is much more in line with his depiction in 2005 movie, Batman Begins, namely his obsession with drawing out Bruce Wayne’s potential, along with his rhetoric that Gotham City has become irredeemably corrupt, and must be allowed to die. We’ll likely see him for the first time in next week’s season finale event then, to see how accurate that assumption is.
With Alfred joining the hunt for Bruce Wayne, the GCPD’s forces become stretched quite thin in this episode, especially after a Tetch Virus-infected Leslie strolls into the precinct, claiming that she has buried Gordon alive. With Gordon having a limited supply of air, Bullock has to figure out how to find his old partner before his air supply runs out, though Leslie has given Gordon a convenient way out; Take a dose of the Tetch Virus, which she apparently made more of, and embrace his true self as her perfect better half. This was definitely one of the better storylines of the episode, since it gave Gordon a legitimately difficult decision to make, with a pressing time limit that had lives hanging in the balance. There is the potential for Gotham to disappointingly rehash how last season ended with Gordon’s dark turn and separation from the GCPD, mind you, but the impossible situation that Leslie puts Gordon in is nonetheless thrilling, while also nicely complementing the separate race against time to reclaim a brainwashed Bruce from The Shaman.
The villain appearances in this episode were also pretty entertaining overall, as Penguin tries to regroup with Ivy and Selina, after Mr. Freeze and Firefly apparently ditched him off-screen, likely because they couldn’t be effectively placed into next week’s season finale episodes. Nygma, meanwhile, also goes back to Barbara, Tabitha and Butch at Sirens, with both Penguin and Nygma confessing to their co-conspirators that they let the other man go. Seeing these two continue to match wits, now that their head starts are both up, did a good job of filling in the gaps of the episode, and nicely led into Penguin being cornered by Nygma’s forces in Ivy’s greenhouse, only to have Fish Mooney come in and take Penguin away for some unknown reason. I guess Strange did indeed fix whatever was wrong with Fish, since she seems to be fully alive and better than ever now. Speaking of, Strange also had another entertaining turn in this episode, especially when he found himself on the receiving end of Alfred’s wrath on a rooftop!
Like I said though, towards the end of the episode, the story of this week’s Gotham offering does collapse under its own weight a bit, leading to a few rushed story turns that don’t feel quite so satisfying, especially with how things end with Leslie. Chief among these was a police desk somehow sitting right next to the bars of Leslie’s jail cell, allowing her to literally just grab the keys off of the nearby guard and walk out. That was really negligent of the GCPD, even by the standards of Gotham City. Who is stupid enough to put a guard desk right next to the bars like that?! Likewise, Leslie knocking Gordon out before he can conveniently disable the virus bomb, and Alfred unrealistically hesitating so that The Shaman can activate the bomb before Alfred actually shoots him dead, inevitably allows the virus bomb to go off, dousing one of Gotham City’s busiest train stations in Tetch Virus. I suppose that we wouldn’t have had much of a season finale event next week if the bomb didn’t go off, but did we really need to let a virus-powered Gordon get right up to the bomb, only to get knocked out by Leslie like a moron?
“Pretty Hate Machine” at least has Gotham moving towards an exciting conclusion for Season Three next week, even if the show’s bloated scope is continuing to get in the way of the season’s last few episodes. Infecting Gordon with the virus is an interesting turn, even if the story stretches to turn Leslie into such a menace still aren’t totally working out. The hunt for Bruce Wayne and seeming destruction of the Court of Owls’ leadership was also hastily shoehorned into an episode that had so many other major storylines going on, with its conclusion simply serving as an obvious lead-in to the introduction of Ra’s Al Ghul for the end of the season next week. Fortunately however, Gotham’s usual strengths did manage to shine through in this latest episode, as the villain arcs were pretty enjoyable most notably. After some weaker episodes over the past few weeks, it’s at least good to see the show getting better as the season nears its end, rather than worse.
- Gordon having to choose between infection and letting people die
- Penguin/Nygma conflict takes an especially entertaining turn
- Alfred getting his latest chance to go full badass
- Leslie storyline is still proceeding on too many contrivances
- Court of Owls' destruction is hasty and awkward
- Alfred unrealistically hesitating to shoot The Shaman