While this one was slightly tame on the action but heavy on info-dumping (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), it did hearken back to the story formula used in season one where an oddball criminal element is introduced. In this case, this new villain emerges when Galavan persists in using Penguin to get his revenge against the Waynes by burning down businesses and buildings bearing their namesake. This time around though, it’s not Penguin getting his hands dirty but a band of rag-tag firebugs called the Pike Brothers. Yet while these goons eventually flee the scene, it’s Bridget Pike who I feel has potential to be a good novice baddie provided her storyline isn’t cut short (à la Jerome).
For starters, I loved Bridget’s set up: she’s a step-sister to the arson-loving Pikes who treat her more like a servant than a half-sibling. You are made to feel sorry for her but she’s not painted as a pathetic figure. Rather than allow herself to be constantly bullied, Bridget eventually stands up for herself. I hate using the term “strong woman” as I think this phrase has been used ad nauseam, but I do think it fits here. Bridget starts out as a mousy girl who allows herself to be pushed around by her step-brothers. On top of that, she’s afraid of fire; so in this episode, she’s made to confront her fears. Actually, if she wasn’t intended to be a villain, Bridget’s evolution is not unlike that of a hero. But once you start toasting cops, you’re no longer on the good girls list.
But going back to Bridget, as she’s easily one of the more memorable moments in this episode. Turns out that Bridget and Selena are/were friends and these scenes provided a good chance for Selena to interact with someone more her equal. Their dynamic also works on another level if you examine their names. Selena is a Greek name derived from Selene, which means “moon,” which evokes all things night-related and cool (as the moon doesn’t produce its own heat or light but only reflects sunlight). In contrast, Bridget, which comes from the Irish name Brighid, means “exulted one” and was the name of an Irish fire goddess. Once again, I have no idea whether or not the writers are aware of these parallels but they’re fun to look into. In this case, we have two young ladies who represent polar opposite personalities: Selena is emotionally cool and level-headed and has a knack for slinking around in the dark, but Bridget quickly becomes emotional or upset and enjoys taking risks, plus she overcomes her fear of fire. Hence, their differences generate a balance that enables them to get along for the most part.
Even though Bridget appears older than Selena, it’s Selena who imparts some good advice. During a spat, Bridget counters Selena’s enjoyment of being on her own by saying, “What good is freedom if you’re alone?”. In Bridget’s mind, having some sort of family (as dysfunctional and fractured as it is) is better than no one. But Selena asserts, “What good is family if you’re a slave?”. Thus, Selena’s unspoken implication is that Bridget’s “family” is not a true family because she’s never treated as an equal. Hence, there is no sense in staying where she isn’t wanted. This seems to be the catalyst Bridget needs to transform herself from a timid lass to a potential danger on Gotham’s streets, granted it’s strictly by accident and she’s driven by a sense of self-preservation in the moment.
In reality, Bridget is Firefly, a canon villain from the comics who is normally male in all of the character’s incarnations (save this one). Seeing as I’m not familiar with the original Firefly, I can’t take a strong stance on whether or not this gender switch works. But I do think she’s an intriguing character in her own right and I hope she reappears. Bridget strikes me as an accidental baddie, meaning she doesn’t seem like she wants to willingly be bad, which is a form of villain we haven’t seen yet on the show. Time will tell where her arc will go, but for now she is a nice addition to the cast.
The second element of intrigue in this episode was the history lesson about Gotham’s sordid past, which is brought about after Penguin procures an antiquated blade that Galavan instructs that he wants. Being the villainous genius that he is, Penguin doesn’t hand it over right away. Instead, he employs the aid of a Gotham historian who tells of the dreadful tale. Evidently, over 200 years ago Gotham was ruled by five families who comprised the upper crust: Elliott, Kane, Crown, Dumas, and Wayne (the most powerful). When a tryst was discovered between members of the Wayne and Dumas families, the lass involved, presumably to save her own good name, lied and asserted she had been raped. Thus, the Waynes punished the fornicator by chopping off his hand with the blade. To this day, the blade is seen as a cursed object due to its bloody history.
Even though a good chunk of time here is used as an info-dump, I actually liked the history lesson as it explains how Gotham is so corrupt. Its very origins are drenched in sin, deceit, and blood – no wonder it’s a breeding ground for bad guys and gals! That’s not to say people are doomed to repeat past sins because everyone makes their own choices, but, as the old adage says, “Garbage in, garbage out.” If you immerse yourself in bad influences, chances are you’ll pick up some unwanted habits. Thus, it takes a very strong constitution to be a moral person in Gotham as even Jim Gordon is starting to make slip ups, such as aligning himself with Galavan.
Turning back to Penguin, he certainly is treading deep waters but it’s something he’s good at as Penguin has navigated thorny situations before (and, as he cheekily remarks, deep water is “where penguins thrive”). Hence, he concocts his own scheme to avenge Galavan and rescue his mother. Knowing Galavan’s past and his personality, Penguin deduces that Theo is a man ruled by emotion, which can be manipulated. So he sends Butch in undercover; but in order to make the supposed double cross look legit, he chops off Butch’s hand.
Wow – eyes and limbs are just not safe in Gotham.
The episode closes with Galavan meeting with a priest of a mystical order (the Order of St. Dumas) who further twists Galavan’s view of salvation. The priest proclaims that the “day of redemption is at hand” and Gotham will be redeemed in blood. Notice the preposition used here: the city will be redeemed, not through the shedding of blood (as in an atoning sacrifice) but in blood, meaning violence with no redeeming purpose. It’s not a messianic sacrifice where one person willingly lays down his life for others; instead, it’s a massacre that ensures Galavan and his goons are the last ones standing.
All in all, this was my least favorite episode of season two so far. I struggled to come up with good discussion points as I didn’t feel like it presented much of anything new save for the addition of Bridget’s character and the background on Gotham’s dark, bloody past. Also, I’m kind of surprised at the level of gore “Gotham” gets by with. While it’s not enough to cause me to cease watching, it just seems out of place regarding the show’s tone.