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Gotham - A Legion of Horribles - Review

21 May 2016

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With the season finale close at hand, the heroes of “Gotham” have turned all their attention to Arkham Asylum and the secrets within its walls. But as “A Legion of Horribles” entertainingly unfolds, it becomes clear that they are no match for Dr. Strange and his monsters.

After Selina misses their prearranged rendezvous (Ivy randomly pops up in her place), Bruce panics that she’s been captured by Strange. Alfred enjoyably tears a strip off of Bruce about putting his own self-interest above Selina’s safety, but Team Lil’ Wayne quickly puts that aside to come up with a plan to rescue her and get the goods on Strange. Lucius Fox theorizes that Strange is using radioactive materials in his experiments that leave a traceable residue. So he and Bruce decide to visit the asylum under the guise of a Wayne Foundation tour and locate the entrance to Strange’s lab, while also sneaking Gordon onto the property. Still injured from his fight with Azrael, a sidelined Alfred isn’t thrilled about Bruce yet again throwing himself into danger, but eventually gives his blessing, acknowledging how much his ward has changed and grown in the last two years.

What follows is a nice piece of narrative business. In a clever touch, Gordon dons his Arkham Asylum uniform from when he worked there back in season one to sneak into the hospital. Ms. Peabody shows Lucius around and her disdain for, well, everything plus his squirreliness amongst the asylum’s crazies makes for an amusing tour. But the real meaty stuff is the scenes between Bruce and Strange. It begins as an entertaining cat-and-mouse game as they dance around what they both know, but it evolves into a really interesting encounter. David Mazouz is excellent as Bruce admirably keeps his emotions in check while dealing with the man who ordered his father’s death. And B.D. Wong is fascinating as another layer is added to Strange’s character. It’s clear he did care about Thomas Wayne – he confides privately to Peabody that Bruce reminds him of his friend and that he misses him, “ironic as that might seem” – and he advises, almost begs, Bruce to turn back before it’s too late.

Because what is also confirmed during this hour is that Strange serves a master of his own – the Court of Owls. A more recent addition to the Batman mythos, they are a secret society of Gotham’s wealthy and powerful that have operated from the shadows for generations. They’re not pleased with Strange’s public experiments with Azrael and Mr. Freeze, their goal being a brand of immortality with mind and memories intact. The Court is also making plans to move Strange’s subjects to a new facility upstate and destroy all evidence of Indian Hill.

Lucky for Strange, he’s just that day had a breakthrough success with another subject. And it’s our old friend Fish Mooney! Fish doesn’t know where she is or what happened to her (her “This isn’t an island, is it?” query to a guard made me laugh), but she is most definitely still herself. Strange speculates on the reasons why – it could be the cuttlefish DNA he spliced into hers, the increased voltage used during the resurrection process, or even contaminants in the river water they (heh) fished her out of. Even curiouser, a grilled cheese sandwich makes Fish realize that she can now compel people with her touch. Something tells me she’s going to be a wild card in the finale next week, especially if she runs into the Penguin and/or Butch.

Things are looking pretty grim for the good guys as the episode nears its end. Alfred presses Bullock (still acting captain, and his stuttered debriefing of the press in that capacity is another great moment from Donal Logue) into a rescue mission, but it’s unclear what they can really do. Selina had no luck escaping the lab or getting through to Bridgit and only by pitching herself as a servant to the “goddess of fire” does she avoid being barbequed. Bruce and Lucius are being questioned by Edward Nygma (who pleaded his way out of a macabre punishment from Ms. Peabody and into Strange’s employ), who promises to gas them with toxic fumes if they don’t give him the answers he wants.

And finally, Gordon is brought before Strange, who brags that “the future belongs to [his] children and that future is here,” which we know to be Gotham’s ultimate fate. He then introduces his captive to Basil, another of his resurectees. Now, Basil Karlo is one of the many aliases of Clayface in the comics, but it is still a hand-clapping surprise when Strange uses a bizarre contraption on Gordon that allows Basil to mimic his face and voice. Such a fun idea (I was reminded of the Fauxlivia arc on “Fringe”) that could lead to so many story shenanigans, and give Ben McKenzie something to do besides grimace and scowl. I really hope it doesn’t get untangled too quickly, or at all, in next week’s finale.

That’s my take on “A Legion of Horribles.” What did you think of the penultimate episode of “Gotham’s” sophomore season? Come share your thoughts in the comments section.