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Gotham - The Fear Reaper - Review

There’s no need to fear “The Fear Reaper.” While there were some narrative turns I’m not sure about, it was overall a pretty good episode of “Gotham.”

Picking up from last week, Gordon is leading the manhunt for Jonathan Crane, who – having faced his fear – has embraced the identity of the Scarecrow. Making things tougher on that front is the Penguin, who seems to be trying to save face after his public humiliation. Criticizing Gordon’s “Boy Scout morals” and “antiquated righteousness” (which...what?!?! Are we supposed to forget about all the times Gordon has broken the rules, the occasions where he aligned himself with Penguin and other underworld figures, the two people he murdered?!?!), Penguin challenges him to prove the power of the GCPD by capturing Crane in the next 24 hours. None of his fellow officers are willing to help him, though. Even Bullock, who has some sense of the long game and realizes that he can’t risk losing the support of his subordinates lest he be replaced by a captain more sympathetic to Penguin, won’t back him up.

Crane, it turns out, has returned to the asylum (and sidebar – I had thought it was Arkham, but the episode strangely avoids calling it that, and the sets seemed different. But I feel like I remember my beloved Dr. Strange talking about Crane during the Indian Hill days. What do you guys think?). He first takes revenge on the warden (who is very on-trend with his clown phobia) before declaring his desire to punish the GCPD for his father’s death. So he’s pleased when Gordon is the one who shows up to stop him and, once Gordon fights his way inside, gives him a faceful of fear toxin. It makes Gordon hallucinate Leslie blaming him for all the pain in her life before committing suicide and then Crane urging him to join her by slitting his wrists. But just like with the Tetch virus, Gordon is able to quickly, too quickly, shake off the effects. He’s able to defeat the inmates Crane has infected once he realizes that water counteracts the toxin, but Scarecrow is still able to escape into the night. Curious to see what he’s up to when he pops up next.

Gordon returns to the precinct defeated and Penguin – after noting how many times the squad room itself has become a war zone – rubs salt in his wounds by offering to triple the salary of any officer who wants to work for him. Retiring to a bar for restorative drinks, Bullock starts ridiculously waxing nostalgic about the days when Carmine Falcone ran the city (...because there was no crime and corruption during his reign? And weren’t you on the mob’s payroll back them, Harv?) and Gordon decides that the perfect ally in his war against the Penguin is the father of the man he killed. ‘Kay?

Elsewhere in Gotham, Selina and Tabitha are both drawn to a swanky establishment by a mysterious invitation. They quickly learn it’s the new home of their old friend Barbara Kean, very much alive (when Tabs says that she saw her die, Babs’ “It is Gotham. Check for a pulse next time” reply is both accurate and amusing). Much more subdued in style and manner than when last we saw her, Barbara has a business proposition for her gal pals. And it’s actually a pretty smart one, I thought – she wants them to become the weapon suppliers to the criminals getting licenses from Penguin. Tabitha is so not interested, but Selina thinks that banding with Barbara will help them be taken seriously by the selfish creeps of the criminal underworld. It takes some convincing, but after Babs passes a loyalty test by agreeing to sacrifice a hand like Butch and Tabitha did, Tabs is in.

Also wanting to join their girl group is Ivy. As was hinted at last week, things have soured between her and the Penguin, which is a bummer because I liked their partnership last season. But after being turned away by Tabitha, she storms into an herbal shop and starts chugging potions the store owner warns are dangerous and too powerful for her. Not sure where this is going (is she going to turn green, gain more of Poison Ivy’s classic powers?), but I thought this setup was pretty contrived.

Meanwhile, to my surprise, Bruce actually did get arrested when the GCPD caught him at that crime scene last week. But when he’s quizzed about it by Gordon, he comes up with a decent cover story – that he was on that rooftop looking for Selina and accidentally interrupted the robbery – so Gordon lets him go with a warning. Despite this setback, and Alfred’s concerns about his safety, Bruce wants to get right back out there before the trail gets cold. Unfortunately, the gang he’s targeted gets the drop on him (and sidebar – weirdly, when they unmask him, even though one of them insists that he looks familiar, none of them cotton on to his identity. Isn’t Bruce Wayne Gotham’s most famous citizen?). Bruce tries to escape in a cool proto-Batman moment, but it’s only Alfred’s intervention that keeps him from getting killed.

On the bright side, Bruce’s crime fighting career gets an iconic assist from Lucius Fox. When he runs into Bruce and Alfred at the police station, he is hilariously skeptical when they try to explain away Bruce’s city-stained clothes and injuries as being from “rock climbing.” I really liked how Chris Chalk played the character’s trademark quiet knowledge of what’s really going on. Anyway, so late in the episode, Lucius shows up at Wayne Manor with a gift for Bruce. It’s a proto-Batman suit that’s perfect for “rock climbing,” made from a lightweight Kevlar weave, with gloves that can grip any surface and a long-range radio communicator. And the episode ends with Bruce slipping on a matching mask and taking it for a spin. It’s a little silly (I felt the same way about Clark Kent’s Superman jacket the last season of “Smallville”), but also kinda cool.

Which plot developments in this week’s “Gotham,” for good or ill, made you want to scream? Tell me your thoughts on “The Fear Reaper” in the comments section.

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