Bruce Wayne’s Coming of Age:
Bruce is dozing off after jotting down some notes to open the episode, which certainly looks cozy but isn’t all that interesting. When he finally wakes up, Alfred is attempting to dissuade him from talking to the big bosses. Undeterred, Master Wayne heads to the executive board room of Wayne Enterprises to pose some concerns about his company: Underworld involvement in the Arkham project, and chemical weapons manufacture at their WellZyn affiliate. He is treated exactly as you’d expect by the rich and powerful adults in the room, but Bruce gets their attention when he plans to raise these issues at the next shareholders meeting. It’s certainly a strong swing forward in Bruce’s character arc, having gained the moral high ground over what is sure to be a somewhat, if not totally corrupt executive board. It also brings in a new wave of antagonists to occupy the young billionaire.
Penguin’s Rise to Power:
Penguin’s decision to feature his mother as the headliner at his new club is perhaps his biggest mistake so far. A worse mistake is made by a drunken patron who boos Mrs. Kapelput and gets bloodied by Penguin for his trouble. Penguin later plays a little amateur piano ditty of his own, but is soon visited by Zsasz on behalf of Falcone. He’s got a surprise for Penguin: Butch lives! But he’s a little … different. Looks like Zsasz’s treatment has turned Butch into a loyal puppy dog. He’s Falcone’s gift to Penguin to help run the club. This was, honestly, a waste of screentime.
Bullock’s Path to Redemption:
Bullock has been more or less a non-entity lately, and tonight’s hour is no different.
Tonight, Gordon takes a big leap forward in rounding out his personality by taking Dr. Thompkins to the circus. It’s back to business fairly quickly as a fight breaks out between the Graysons and the Lloyds, a family feud between circus performers. (No sign of Dick Grayson yet, of course, but clearly love – of some kind or another – is in the air.) The trouble apparently stems from a snake-dancer named Lyla. When looking for the performer, a young man named Jerome (Cameron Monaghan) answers the trailer door and answers Gordon’s questions. Seems like Lyla’s gone missing, and according to Gordon’s instincts, her snake is the best chance of finding her. (Are you kidding me with this?) The big boa finds a bloody Lyla dead in the back of a truck. While the snake likely makes a meal of its mistress, Gordon lays the blame on the ringmaster. The big man shows Gordon where they found Lyla’s body, and tells him of his decision to keep the murder within the … family circus.
The GCPD gets a lot more bright and colorful when officers bring in the feathered and sequined performers in handcuffs. Gordon takes the opportunity to interview Jerome about his mother, a real “party girl.” Jerome apparently isn’t concerned with his mother’s rather adventurous sex life. Gordon sets the circus folk free (mostly), but warns them not to leave town … he does understand how circus life works, right? While Gordon is struggling to solve the case, the episodic title character arrives, in the person of Mark Margolis (making it his second comicbook show appearance in the last few weeks). Perhaps more ludicrous than the Paul Cicero, aka the Blind Fortune Teller’s message is the fact that Medical Examiner Dr. Thompkins – a presumed woman of science – is immediately taken in by these mystical powers. She’s also just as “gifted” as Gordon when it comes to leaping to conclusions as she quickly figures out that the message points to a patch of woods beneath Arkham Bridge, which is swarming with homeless people. While sweeping their flashlights across the ground and enjoying the romantic atmosphere of a vagrant village, they find a bloody hatchet engraved with the letters THFC, belonging to Satanist cult, The Hellfire Club.
Gordon brings Cicero back in to peg him with a charge as an accomplice to Lyla’s murder. The blind man is sticking to his story, and Gordon figures he’s protecting someone close to him. On cue, the police bring Jerome into the interrogation room, and Gordon promptly lays the act of Lyla’s murder on him. He also goes all daytime-talk-show and calls out Cicero as the boy’s father. Jerome either snaps (or more likely reveals his true self), and puts on his best Joker’s smile and laugh. Have we finally gotten past all the early teases of Batman’s greatest villain? Is the Joker Jr. finally revealed? It sure seems that way, and honestly I’d like to see more from crazy little Jerome.
Meanwhile, Fish has her new prisoners well in hand, and underfoot, as it were. She’s attempting to rally her followers into a revolt. At least she’s not lying to them when she tells them that some of them will die if they choose to fight together alongside their “family.” When guards come in demanding one of the inmates to step forward, Fish intercedes in order to make a deal for him. The guard isn’t thrilled with her offer and threatens to beat her. Fish responds by having her goons beat the chosen prisoner to death, just to keep him out of the guards’ hands. It seems “The Manager,” who apparently runs the operation, won’t be too happy with the new events, but Fish has quickly managed to inspire a fierce loyalty among these rogues. “The Manager” changes his mind and orders his subordinate, Thomas Schmidt, to trade places with Fish Mooney.
Welcome back, Barbara Kean! Fresh from a night of clubbing and drinking, she comes back to party (ie eat cereal and peanut butter) with Ivy and Cat, whom she just met. Everything here is normal. Speaking of normal, Barbara shows off different outfits in front of the girls, who give her fashion tips on how to get Gordon back. (What is happening here…) Kean, professionally dressed, arrives at GCPD just in time to see Gordon and the Good Doctor making out. She runs off, as you might expect. Does anyone care?
Rating: ★★★ Good — Proceed with cautious optimism.
(An explanation of our ratings system follows here.)
As soon as you heard that this episode would be featuring a trip to the circus, you had to know the Graysons would be featured. An all-out brawl was perhaps not what you might have expected, though.
Gordon: “That snake does seem to be agitated.” Gordon is a Parselmouth.
Essen: “Your prime suspects are a clown and an acrobat?” Gordon: “Yup.”
Cicero: “Lyla told me that a servant of the devil lies in the garden of the iron sisters.”
Alfred: “If we’re both found dead in a ditch, don’t blame me.”
Thompkins: “There are plenty of things in this world that can’t be explained by science.” Says the show’s foremost scientist…
The Hellfire Club? Have we crossed into Marvel territory?
Jerome: “Looks like the bitch got me with a zinger in the end.”
Zsasz: “I do good work.”
Wayne: “My youth is not relevant, except that if I were a man, I would be running this board, and I would make sure that Wayne Enterprises was run honestly. Thank you for your time.”