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Gotham - A Beautiful Darkness - Review

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Ivy Pepper continues to bring “A Beautiful Darkness” to the spring season of “Gotham” this week. Even though the subplots were less attractive, this was still a pretty good episode.

We start with Ivy and Selina out on the town, with Ivy using her pheromone perfume to get them into a well-appointed townhouse. But while Selina thinks they are just there to rob the joint ( maybe she should be wearing a mask?), Ivy has actually targeted the homeowner because he “tortures plants in the name of science” for Wayne Enterprises. And once she’s snagged information about the secret biotech experiment he’s working on, she – to Selina’s shock – uses her toxic nails to kill him (and sidebar – I didn’t mention this last week, but the visual of branches and leaves growing and bursting out of Ivy’s victims is a really creepy effect). Selina bails at this point, but Ivy is committed to her cause. So first, she goes to Wayne Manor and puts the whammy on a hungover Bruce (more on him in a bit) and then, based on his intel, shows up at the GCPD to force Lucius Fox to lead her to the project’s location.

Lucky for the victims who are part of the regular cast, Gordon is on the case. When the dead guy’s family describes a brunette with a leather whip, Gordon deduces that Selina was on the scene, even though 1) I would say she’s more of a blonde and 2) that also describes Tabitha. Anyway, when Gordon chases Selina down, she spills rather quickly about what Ivy’s been up to. And when she mentions Ivy’s obsession with Wayne Enterprises, Gordon guesses from Fox’s earlier caginess that he might know something. They have to get past a gaggle of GCPD officers under Ivy’s spell (and this eventually gives Selina a chance to escape Gordon’s custody), but Lucius smartly turned on a tape recorder in his lab before Ivy hypnotized him so Gordon overhears where they’re going.

But when he catches up with them, Ivy still manages to keep the upper hand. After a nice reference to him and Bullock killing her dad in the pilot, Ivy barters with Gordon, offering him an antidote for Bruce and Lucius back in exchange for letting her walk. Gordon is forced to comply and so Ivy escapes with the project’s secret ingredient – a flask of water from...ooooh, the Lazarus Pit! And as the episode ends, we see her experimenting with it, creating a plant whose spores contain her toxic “essence.” Uh oh!

Ivy is able to barter with Bruce’s well-being because conveniently, when she confronted him, she decided that his death needed to be slow and painful. So she only gave him a little scratch, which causes Bruce to have feverish hallucinations for most of the episode. It’s pretty standard dream sequence stuff, with highs (there’s a creepy-as-hell sequence where Ra’s al Ghul cuts off Bruce’s face and then we see the gaping hole in his head, gah!) and lows (a fancy dress party that mostly seemed like a way to get some of the cast into this week’s show). But they’re capped off with the appearance of a Batman-esque avatar, who asserts that Crime Alley wasn’t where Bruce’s parents were killed, but where he was born.

Once Gordon has given him the antidote, it’s clear that Bruce has been profoundly affected by the experience. “I saw who I really am,” he tells Gordon. And he’s not having it when Gordon tries to wave it off as a hallucination, or when he tries to spin that self-knowledge as a good thing. “I’m not lucky,” Bruce states with conviction, “You didn’t see it.” In a nod to the partnership they’ll one day form as commissioner and crime fighter, as well as the Bat-family Bruce will eventually build, Gordon advises him that he doesn’t have to be alone in his fight, which leads Bruce to leave a message for Alfred. And their exchange ends on a cute, wink-y note when they joke about Gordon having had a mustache in Bruce’s dream. It’s a really good scene for both David Mazouz and Ben McKenzie.

Gordon’s got other things on his mind besides facial hair, though. Early in the episode, some jabroni who works for Sofia Falcone wants Gordon to spring him from prison, but he refuses. And later, when he runs into Sofia at Barbara’s club, they snarl at each other about their deal. Gordon thinks he’s called her bluff, but Sofia assures him that she has other ways to hurt him besides the Professor Pyg secret. And then we see her having drinks with her former sister-in-law Leslie. Intriguing little twist!

Finally, we catch up with the Penguin and Jerome at Arkham Asylum. Jerome is determined to have “so much fun” with his new “friend,” but Oswald is feeling pretty beaten down by his circumstances. His fortunes turn around, though, when Edward Nygma pays him a visit. Ed insists he’s only there to gloat, but Penguin can tell there’s something more going on, and is proven right when he discovers a riddle left behind by Ed’s Riddler alter ego. This bucks him up enough that he’s able to get Jerome off his back. Robin Lord Taylor and Cameron Monaghan are fun (there’s a great throwaway moment where Jerome, eating popcorn, wipes his hands off on another inmate), but these scenes mostly seemed to be here to remind us that this thing is going to be A Thing later in the season.

Those are my thoughts on the latest “Gotham.” Come share yours – both beautiful and ugly – about “A Beautiful Darkness” in the comments section.

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