Before we get started, let me remind everyone that I have been on board with this second season of Gotham. As I have pointed out repeatedly, I have made my peace that the show is trying for a weird mishmash of campiness and hyper-violence, and on those strange terms, I have enjoyed it. Now: All that said, “By Fire” was one of the most relentlessly moronic episodes of television I have ever watched.
It was also weirdly misogynistic, but for now let’s just focus on the basic premise, which continues from last week’s episode, where young Bridget Pike turned from an abused house slave to her brothers into a flamethrower-wielding, accidental cop killer; in “By Fire,” she completes her journey into slave-freeing criminal who has no problem burning cops, her brothers, or anyone else alive. This transformation from Dobby the House Elf into hardened pyromaniac killer has occurred in less than 48 hours.
Honestly, there’s always something ridiculous going on with Gotham’s main villains, so if the show had merely stuck with Bridget’s absurdly fast metamorphosis into Firefly, it probably would have been fine. But instead, almost every character decides this is the episode to do something dumb as hell.
• Gordon, enraged at the death of Task Force Member What’s-his-Name, is already back to beating up crooks in order to get information out of them, despite the fact that Captain Barnes’s whole deal is that cops are not allowed to break the law in any way on his watch. The Task Force rats on Gordon, Barnes berates Gordon, and Gordon is somehow surprised by this.
• But then Barnes inexplicably changes his mind and seems to want Bridget taken out mid-way through the episode, at which point Gordon has also randomly changed his mind and wants to give her a chance to give herself up. Sigh.
• Cat and Bridget decide to get money by stealing money from what appears to be a very well-attended auction of women. I would contend stealing from criminals who are literally selling people is dumb, if only because you’re two tweenage girls entering a room full of heavily armed criminals…
• …except it miraculously turns out that apparently only one random guy at the slave auction has a gun, who instantly puts it back in his pocket after a burst of flame from Firefly. Instead of, you know, walking backwards a few steps out of the range of the flamethrower, and shooting this dumb kid from there.
• Bridget’s brothers are impressively idiotic; after somehow figuring out when and where Bridget was going to leave Gotham and then kidnapping her (instead of even asking or threatening her) they chain her up in their crappy apartment and then throw lit firecrackers on her. Then they let her have access to her flamethrower, which of course she immediately uses to burn them alive.
• I’ll call Lee a moron, for not even having the sense to be worried when Cat breaks into her apartment with Gordon and keeps a shotgun on the doctor.
• Ms. Kringle may be the stupidest character in a very stupid episode. She sleeps with Nygma, then worries aloud that her abusive boyfriend may come back. That’s not dumb, obviously. But when Nygma eventually tells her she’s safe because he murdered her, Kringle’s reaction isn’t to be horrified or terrified as much as it is to be loud and physically abusive. Because what you want to do when your romantic partner turns out to be a killer, but isn’t making any threatening moves toward you yet, is to slap them and bonk them on the head with vases until of course they want to commit violence upon you.
• Of course, Riddler—a trained medical professional—is stupid enough to somehow clamp Kringle’s mouth and squeeze her throat to keep her quiet while he mansplains the murder, but somehow he doesn’t quite notice he’s killing her until after she’s dead. So the Riddler has another corpse on his hands, but at least this stupid storyline is over.
• And finally, poor Bridget succumbs to stupidity when she decides to take on a major portion of Gotham’s police force again, despite the fact she has a weapon with limited range, and they all have guns. It all ends when someone shoots Firefly’s gas tank, causing a gas leak, which causes Firefly to set herself on fire, which of course Gotham takes its sweet time showing, accompanied with the screams of the young teen burning in agony.
Weirdly, when Firefly dies, it’s only been 40 minutes of show time, so there’s still more than a few things left to happen. Theo Galavan may have talked Bruce Wayne into giving him a job at Wayne Enterprises—it was a little unclear to me—and he also may have de-brainwashed Butch. Butch returns to Penguin with the location his mom is being held in, but whether Butch is working for the Galavans now and is lying or Butch really managed to escape the Galavans remains to be seen; however, the Penguin is such an emotional mess that he believes Butch instantly. Thanks to Cat, Gordon and the GCPD now know that the Penguin ordered the Wayne buildings to be set on fire (although they have no idea Galavan forced him to act as middleman), which means he’s kinda sorta responsible for Firefly killing that cop; next episode, Gordon and Penguin will clash, and I’m betting the body count will be pretty intense.
Unexpectedly, “By Fire” ends with a twist that may prove to be as game-changing as Jerome’s rampage was, and it’s definitely not stupid. Although thought dead, the horribly burned Bridget is actually wheeled on a gurney down what looks like a very disreputable hospital or lab, while the orderlies mutter about her body getting used for experiments. She sees glimpses of other people having strange stuff done to them, almost like it’s a supervillain factory of sorts. But the real kicker is the last shot, the sign on the wall: Indian Hill, a division of Wayne Enterprises.
What is this? Who’s running this? My first thought is that this would herald the return of the Dollmaker—all that human experimention and such—but then we got the Wayne logo. Obviously, this doesn’t mean it can’t be Dollmaker—just because we didn’t get a name for the facility when Fish was wasting our time there doesn’t mean it didn’t exist—but I also think there’s a decent shot it’s someone new, or that it’s part of Theo’s elaborate revenge against the Wayne family and Gotham City.
Hopefully, whatever the answer is, the Gotham writers put more thought into it than they put into this episode. Sheesh.
• To be fair, there was a lot of funny stuff in this episode as well, although most of it was dark as hell. A few favorites:
• When Butch first arrives at Galavan HQ, Tabitha and Barbara amuse themselves with ideas for attachments they can put on the end of his stump, like a mini-chainsaw. Eventually they settle on a mallet-hand. It’s hilarious.
• When Bruce is dining with Silver and the Galavans, not only does Tabitha arrive with a touch of blood on her face from de-brainwashing Butch, Theo gives a toast: “To family!” Bruce immediately has a sad.
• When Bullock gets too close to one of the burnt Pike boys, it turns out one is still alive—until a surprised and terrified Bullock kicks the dude to death.
• “Long story short, I killed him.” Nygma’s pillow talk game is game is on point, guys.
• Poison Ivy makes her first appearance in quite some time; Bullock basically bribes her into giving up Cat’s location once they realize Bridget is hanging with Cat. I would watch a show entirely of Donal Logue’s Bullock interrogating Batman villains as children.
• Uh, was that maybe proto-Mr. Freeze in the Indian Hill location? The dude who looked like he was getting blasted with some kind of coolant? Who was the Black Widow-looking woman? Who saw what? Let me know in the comments what you think!
• Alfred definitely punches Bruce in the face during training, mainly so the butler can keep in peak child-hitting condition.
• Much thanks to DrewCPU for the much-needed screencap of Hammerhan Butch!