Season 4 premiere of #Gotham is here! Review, Rate, Spoilers. Episode one "Pax Penguina"

Greetings and salutations my fellow Gothamites. Yes, it is that wonderful time of year once again; the time for a new season, new characters, and new hero in the making that the city of Gotham truly deserves. A Dark Knight. (See how I added the tagline there?)

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A strange system of unionized crime, an exciting new club in town, a Riddler-sicle, some alleyway butt-kicking, and an answer to the question that has been buzzing around for three years: “What the heck happened to Jonathan Crane?”

Season four of Gotham, episode one. Here we go.

And right off the bat, (pun not intended at first, but now that I think about it, pun totally intended), we see a masked figure save a family from some thugs with some good old-fashioned fisticuffs. Who was that masked figure you might ask? Why, it’s Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) dabbling in some vigilantism (and doing a pretty good job so far, I might add). After the skirmish, Bruce discovers that the thugs possessed a license with a very familiar umbrella-shaped stamp on it.

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Elsewhere, without Bruce’s knowledge, Ra’s al Ghul (Alexander Siddig) observes Bruce’s escalades like a mentor watches a student or how a father watches his own son.  

            We then see a wedding in progress. Everyone’s having fun, they’re happy, the band pulls a proper Rick Rolling, and a good time is being had by all. But since this is Gotham City, the celebration is cut off, of course, by some hicks in masks and armed to the teeth. You know the drill, they demand cash, phones, jewelry, valuables and nobody gets hurt. You know how you do.

            A whistle rings through the hall; almost like a signal. Everyone turns their heads to see…. Victor Zsasz (Anthony Carrigan)! Man, I’ve missed him!

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            He, in his own way, politely informed the gunmen that in order to commit a crime in Gotham, you gotta have a license; and the only way to get a license is to ask the Penguin and give him a good cut of the earnings. As long as you have those licenses, you can commit a crime without being arrested or persecuted by the police. The leader of the hicks, Merton (Michael Buscemi), says hell to the no on that offer. In return, Zsasz shoots his finger clean off, causing the hicks to run along. The bride and groom thank Victor for saving their wedding from the thugs….only to be bombarded by other thugs that do have a license.

What did you expect? It’s Gotham.

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            Meanwhile, in a creepy, dimly lit, congressional looking room, the new Mayor and commissioner of Gotham are having a meeting with the former mayor and now full-time Kingpin Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor). And, basically, since Penguin has organized and unionized crime, the crime rate has been cut by 57%. A historic low for the city of Gotham. Mayor Burke (Larry Pine) is all-in-all “thankful” for Penguin’s um…”contributions” to help keep the city safe, but he is still hesitant about the new licensed criminals’ system. With a somewhat calm exterior and a smile, Penguin insists on how exactly the hordes of criminals that once prowled the streets of Gotham…

            First, he hunted them down, then he-

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Okay, okay fine. Use your imagination. The point is: Oswald Cobblepot mad Gotham City safer. However, Gotham will ALWAYS have crime. And all that he’s asking from Mayor Burke is to have crime be put in the hands of professionals. A simple deal with simple terms….well, yeah, I mean, Penguin does get a sweet profit from it; but being the expert negotiator he is, Mayor Burke and the commissioner get a little percentage of the profits themselves.

Unionized crime, no press, no police interference, and a piece of the pie for everyone. God bless America.

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            We finally see Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) make an appearance as he takes a visit to a bar for his coffee. Unfortunately, Jim stumbled upon a random thug robbing the bartender at gunpoint. Jim gets ready to do his GCPD thing when the thug tells him that he has a license…….needless to say, Jim Gordon does not give a single rat’s ass and arrests the fool. Ah, good old Jim. Good to be back.

            At Wayne Manor, Alfred (Sean Pertwee) confronts Bruce about his late night activities. While Bruce informs Alfred that he intends to stop Penguin’s new crime syndicate. Such a busy boy Master B is.

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            Remember those hicks at the wedding? We see Merton and his partner Grady (Michael Maize) take a stroll down to Arkham Asylum to visit a certain patient. A certain patient that we have not seen in three years or so: Jonathan Crane (Charlie Tahan).

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(It’s been so long!)

            In his years of confinement, the effects of the fear toxin, created by his whack-a-doo father, are still well within Jonathan’s system; causing him to live with his mind being in a constant state of fear which had left Jonathan traumatized and with a self-made, imagined “Boogeyman” scarecrow-like being that haunts him.  Merton and Grady bribe the Warden of Arkham (Damian Young) to let them take Jonathan Crane with them. They drag him out of his cell and close up to see a drawing that Jonathan had been scribbling on the floor almost obsessively.

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            They take Jonathan back to his home and uncover more of his father’s experimental drugs for the fear toxin. With the use of an actual scarecrow, Merton and Grady force Jonathan to make more of the toxin, which they have weaponized and use it to rob a bank on live television to show that Penguin a lesson.

            While investigating the crime scene, Jim notices that the method the hick thugs used was very similar to Gerald Crane’s fear toxin and informs his partner in crime Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). From this, they deduce that Merton must have forced Jonathan to reveal the fear toxin formula.

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            Jim and Harvey pay a visit to the Warden at Arkham Asylum, which wasn’t exactly very fruitful. So, they go to Grady’s apartment. Unfortunately for them, he and Merton were waiting for them. The head hick Merton explains that they want to send a message to Penguin about him and his licenses.

            Elsewhere, we see Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) walking alone at night in an alley. Since this is Gotham, a bunch of muggers take notice and surround her.

But guess what? Selina was hoping they would do that and then she pulled out that whip and when ALL KINDS of proto-Catwoman on them! One guy tries to get up and attack Selina from behind when Tabitha Galavan (Jessica Lucas) and knocks him right upside the head. This was a teaching moment for Tabitha to give to Selina. Never turn your back on a guy unless you know for sure that he’s down. And a lesson learned means pizza for Selina and Tabby.

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            After bringing a box of pepperoni-covered goodness back to their apartment, Tabitha and Selina see that Victor Zsasz has been waiting for them. Though he did not come with violent intentions, Victor did come with a request: that Tabitha and Selina should come over to Penguin, get a license, and let a lot of vicious and scaring bygones be vicious and scaring bygones. Selina full-heartedly agrees with the promise of more power, money, and a better place to live. Having her pride, Tabitha refuses.

            At the not-yet-opened Iceberg Lounge, Oswald Cobblepot gives a statement to inaugurate his new club. A club to see and be seen. The conference of reporters inquire about the new licenses and crime in the city. Oswald gives a rousing statement about how Caesar Augustus once had a period of calm with rarely any violent acts of crime or aggression. He called it “Pax Romana”. Cobblepot goes on to state that without the GCPD getting in the way, this could possibly be known as his “Pax Penguina.

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            Oswald then reveals his most “interesting” centerpiece: Edward Nygma, the Riddler himself (Corey Michael Smith) completely frozen solid.

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            (Eh, I’ve already made like a ton of ice puns….)

            Making use of the advice that Bruce gave him, Jim Gordon marches into the club and informs Penguin that the gang of hicks (look, I know they probably have a better name than that, but once you watch the episode, you’d call them the same thing) are coming after Penguin with fear toxin. Jim’s threat and antagonizing goads Oswald into wanting to catch the gang of hicks for himself.

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            Opening night of the Iceberg Lounge is going splendidly. The sights, lights, sounds, music, the mingling, the top-drawer of Gotham’s society attending, and the apropos ice-themed décor makes it look like a gathering of Gatsbys. Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth are even in attending too. However, Bruce has more of a hidden agenda to be there than just to make an appearance as a Wayne. He means to uncover any information he can get about Penguin’s new licenses for legal crime. Bruce and Oswald have a conversation underlined with so much more that what is being said. Very Batman, I might add.

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Without realizing it completely, Oswald reveals that he is working with a man that has a list of people with licenses. Bruce intends to make his move until he sees Selina Kyle from across the room.

            Ignoring Bruce and focusing on her true intention, Selina talks to Victor Zsasz about agreeing to get a license. Victor implies that the deal was meant for her and her babysitter, Tabitha. Coincidentally, Tabitha shows up behind Selina and agrees to get a license from Penguin.

            Meanwhile, the gang of hicks decide to attack Penguin at his inauguration. With Jonathan have made more of the fear toxin, they take the scarecrow, throw it in a closet and Jonathan along with it, locking the door.

            In his fear-induced hallucination, Jonathan sees the scarecrow come to life once again and comes toward him. Trying with all of his might, with his primal screams of terror, and plead after plead to let him out of the closet, Jonathan is completely alone, completely trapped with his personal boogeyman.

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            Jonathan falls to the ground, cowering, whimpering, and shaking. His hallucination calls out to him, “Jonathan….Jonathan….Jonathan…

JONATHAN!”

            Back at the Lounge, or more likely, outside the Lounge, Bruce meets up with Selina who is walking along the rooftop.

            The conversation that commences between them, how can I put it? It’s probably one of the most Batman talking to Catwoman and Selina Kyle talking back to Bruce Wayne thing I have ever seen.

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            Bruce apologizes for snapping at Selina the way he did back at the hospital. Selina plays coy and insists that she can’t hear him unless he comes to the edge of the roof with her. Bruce walks along the ledge with no problem, which impresses Selina. The reunion of star-crossed vigilantes is interrupted by Alfred who informs Bruce that there is a situation building inside.

            The gang of hicks, you know, as AMAZINGLY SUBTLE AS THEY ARE, managed to get caught by Penguin and Zsasz and are brought out in the party as an example of criminals without licenses. How if the GCPD and people like the hicks continue, no one is safe. Bruce steps up to Penguin and asks what he plans to do with those criminals. With a quick tilt of the head and a smile, Oswald insures that he has nothing to be concerned with regarding that particular subject.

This angers the already scorned Ivy Pepper (Maggie Geha) and she sneaks off to find the main power switch and shut the party down.

            The sudden blackout causes people to panic and, using that panic to their advantage, the gang of hicks sprays Oswald Cobblepot with the fear toxin, causing him to hallucinate a monstrous version of Edward Nygma coming back to life.

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            Honestly, when I first saw the image of hallucination Edward, it kinda reminded me of those reptile-like people you see in those Believe It Or Not books.

            With Jim, Bullock, Alfred, and Zsasz trying to find and fight the hicks, Grady manages to get away. A quivering and distraught Oswald is left grasping onto Jim Gordon, suffering the devastating effects of the fear toxin.  

            The next night, in full mask and overcoat, Bruce manages to get the list of other criminals with licenses. (Also, in a very Batman-like way). On a rooftop, Bruce accidentally comes upon a robbery in progress. As he leans in closer on the window overlooking the scene, the structure breaks and Bruce falls into the building. In a hurry, the burglars leave. Sirens can be seen and heard from the outside, leaving Bruce being caught without his mask.

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            Back at the Crane House, Grady to get more of the fear toxin from Jonathan. He goes to the closet and calls out for him, “Jonathan! Hey, Crane!”

            Only a distorted voice answers back.

“Jonathan Crane isn’t here anymore.”

            Grady adjusts his eyes to the horror, the creature inside the closet where Jonathan Crane once was. A hemp-like material stretched, wrapped, and sewed around him like skin. Spikes of straw seeping out of his body. Two dark circles with a glowing white hue stare straight at Grady.

IT’S JUST THE SCARECROW!

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            PHEW! There was a lot stuff going on in this premiere!

First off: it was a very well shot episode and a very, VERY well written episode. Even though, with some episodes, when Gotham puts so much in an episode, it does feel rushed and too busy. This episode did not. Yes, there was lot going on, but the pacing of both the dialogue and action was very well done.

THINGS I LIKED:

I think I can speak for the majority for the Gotham audience when I say,

“Yes! Victor Zsasz! Yes!”

Anthony Carrigan brings so much weight to a character in the Batman comics that isn’t very well known. I absolutely love Carrigan’s approach to Zsasz. His brand of crazy and psychotic reality is very evident in his speech, his movement; Do not misunderstand, the character of Zsasz in both Gotham and in the comics is as insane and threatening, but in Gotham, this Zsasz doesn’t need to go full crazy with his tally marks and constant need for liberation. Carrigan plays at Victor Zsasz’s madness like he had a mesh lid on it. He doesn’t just bombard the audience with crazy all the time, but now and again, the sadistic killer seeps through and you can tell that Anthony Carrigan is loving every minute of it and so are we.

I would like to see more scars on Zsasz, or have them continue some focus on the tally marks on his body like they did in the first season. I think it would be cool if we could intermittently see more and more tallies accumulate.

I love what they did with Jonathan Crane and I love what Charlie Tahan did with him too.  Well done. And I’m not just saying this cause Scarecrow is one of my top ten favorite Batman villains. His transformation into the Scarecrow, I really liked too. His fear, his hallucination, his own boogeyman completely consumed what was left of Jonathan Crane. When he said “Jonathan Crane isn’t here anymore”, he actually means it. I have got to give major props to the writers for doing so much and doing it so well with Jonathan in just ONE episode. I can’t wait to see what Scarecrow has up his newly parchment sleeve.

It is so nice and refreshing to see Oswald Cobblepot go back to being a crime boss and back to being the Penguin. Creating a system of unionized crime that is legal in a way that actually makes sense, getting the Mayor of Gotham and the commissioner of the police department to agree to this system, take a part in it, and look the other way, stealing the Sirens’ Club and making it his infamous Iceberg Lounge, parading his defeat of the Riddler and making it seem like he’s helping a friend with a rare brain disease (freaking hilarious by the way. He just had that story teed up and ready to go), cutting down the crime rate by 57%, and doing all this while keeping a smile on his face and having an answer and response for anything that comes his way.

 I also enjoyed his little moment of vulnerability as he had a private talk with himself and the green popsicle. “Which one of us is really frozen?” Quite the ponder.

Of course, seeing Bruce getting more comfortable in being a vigilante, but not quite Batman yet, is always a treat. I spazzed out like such a nerd during his talk with Jim Gordon and how he left the conversation before it was over. Just the whole conversation was such a Gordon/Batman moment.

I did like the conversation between Bruce and Selina. It was very coy and it had such undertone to it.

Basically any moment with Harvey Bullock is awesome.

THINGS I DID NOT LIKE:

If I had a dollar for every time Selina had the attitude of “You don’t know anything about me”, I could afford to go see IT in theaters as much as I damn well please.

Those hicks…….seriously?

As a member of the awesome group called Gotham Addicts, (look them up on Facebook and Twitter, they’re awesome) I asked some good friends of mine in that group to give their take on the episode. And boy, oh, boy, do they have thoughts. They have thoughts, opinions, likes, dislikes, and theories. Check out what these awesome peeps had to say about the episode and on things even I didn’t notice:

“Predictions for Penguin...I feel he will be the one to thaw out Ed. The fear gas will drive him to it to possibly make the scary Ed go away. He might free him. He's the only one who knows how; through Victor Freis. I also feel the fear gas will be used on Bruce, which will be leading to his "BAT" moment and making him Batman.

The show moved at a nice pace. Didn't even realize the time flew by. It left you wanting so much more. I love the fact they jumped right into the story. It didn't need a painful build up. It was good seeing Harvey be Harvey. He got to be heroic before, now he's back to himself and leaving all the rebel cop stuff to Gordon. It was great seeing Gordon, being the cop and not saving the world. I always enjoy the interactions between Gordon and Harvey.

As for the Penguin: It was good to see him return to his old gangster self at the end of season 3...But now he's a huge crime boss and in charge. This is the Penguin he was meant to be. The scene in the mayor's office was the perfect example of his cold calculating mind and his sheer powerful presence. They couldn't disagree. He made it impossible for them to do so...by his speech. God Bless America...and then the mayor smiled. Awesome scene.

The private moment with his trophy. Or Edward. That was deeper than most think. The “who is really frozen” comment and that look. You can see the warmth that still flickers in his cold heart. The sad sob story about why Ed was in ice and the way he played the heartstrings of his crowd. Damn he's so masterful at manipulating people. A gift. It’s simply a gift.

All the scenes between Penguin and Gordon were classic. Penguin is the hero Gotham NEEDS...Gordon is the Hero they WANT...The news reporters ate up every fact that Penguin threw at them and Gordon still held his ground. The tension between them is just amazing stuff. The ending where after the Penguin calls out the GCPD for being useless and HE was the only one that can save Gotham, then him being hit with the fear gas. Who does Penguin run to? Gordon to save him... just made the whole scene go off the chart when you think of how those in the crowd and readers of the news are feeling.

Even though I didn’t care for the cowboy criminals, I did love the reintroduction of Crane and then Scarecrow...that Warden, what a piece of work...still felt it was rushed compared to the other storylines. The battle of Gordon with the other cops and Harvey about doing the job they were hired to do. Felt like old times. Good times. It's refreshing to see the show get out of the freaks/virus theme and back to go old crime ridden city.”

-         S. Howard

“As a fan of Gotham and Batman overall, I'm excited to see these characters finally developing into the Batman characters that we know and love. Bruce is on a mission to save Gotham while also giving this businesslike demeanor when talking to people such as Gordon or Penguin. Selina is bringing cat woman to life with the famous whip play and her cat like reflexes. As for surprised in the episode I was a bit shocked when Ivy betrayed Penguin in a small way and turned out the lights in the nightclub, giving the “Outlores” the advantage to attack Penguin. Although, now that I think about it, her actions were understandable. Penguin has been cold and calculating for the past six months and has probably been very snappy with her. The poor girl is only going to take so much of his abuse. As for Penguin himself, he has taken Gotham city by the throat and refuses to let go. The city is his giant playground with him issuing legal licenses for crime and all. I actually had an "awe" moment when he was standing in the Iceberg Lounge talking to Edward Nygma, who is still encased in ice. To me, that scene showed that he still misses Edward and the talks they used to share. I still have hopes that the two will make amends and be friends again.....or maybe more. Although, Penguin's going to have to get past that frightening image of Ed from the fear toxin. This season started off with a bang, and things are only going to get crazier from here. I'm buckling my seat belt and hanging on for dear life because this is going to be one hell of a ride!

It was just little things I noticed when I watched that scene again. First off, the smoke in the background was turning into question marks and the little question marks protruding from Edward's head. This obviously represents the Ed's obsession with riddles and puzzles. As the nightmare sequence progresses, you see that Edward's face becomes distorted and the background turns hazy.....almost like Oswald is gazing at him from underwater, leading back to the point when Edward shot Oswald and tossed him in the river. This could very well be Oswald's greatest fear because it was a point where closest to actually dying......had it not been for Ivy saving him later, and since his "resurrection," Edward's attempted to kill him multiple times and every time, Oswald has escaped.....sometimes within an inch of his life. I believe that nightmare sequence is showing us that Oswald's greatest fear is that Edward will eventually thaw out of the ice and will this time succeed in killing him.”

-         Megan R.

Overall, I’d give this episode a 9.8 out of 10

Well, that was one heck of an episode. I don’t think I have much more to say except:

See you next time.

And as always, Stay weird Gotham.