'Gotham' Season 3 premiere recap: 'Better to Reign in Hell'

For The Baltimore Sun
"Gotham" season premiere recap: Gotham is just as much of a mess as we left it.

Gotham’s still a mess, just as we left it at the end of Season 2.

The only difference is our supposed hero Jim Gordon has taken a step back from trying to save the city. Since we last saw Jim, he’s quit the police force and become a bounty hunter, meaning he gets to beat up and arrest baddies and bring them in without having to deal with Captain Barnes.

“I get to go home when I want, get drunk when I want and at the end of the day, I sleep cause saving Gotham’s not my job anymore,” he tells Harvey, who’s practically begging him to come back to the force.

Doesn’t sound like a bad life. But beneath that dour and tough-guy exterior, Jim’s reeling from his breakup with Leigh.

A flashback at the beginning of the episode shows a sharply dressed Jim in a suit with a flower bouquet in hand. There, he was on his way to visit Leigh in her sunny new house, only to find her laughing and kissing a new man. Ouch — poor guy can’t catch a break.

That heartache, of course, won’t last long with a new love interest in his life, Valerie Vale. Valerie’s a plucky journalist at the Gotham Gazette who fires off more questions than the recovering Captain Nate Barnes or the dopey Mayor Aubrey James can answer. (Fun fact: She is also the aunt of Batman’s future love interest, Vicki Vale.)

While they aren’t in love yet, it’s painfully obvious they will be. Maybe it’s the way she doggedly finds him at the bar to get a quote or tries to tag along with him on a case to get to the bottom of the story. Or maybe it’s because she’s the only person who’s willing to talk to him other than Harvey.

Either way, they’ll grow on each other, fall in love and Leigh will come back when they’re at their happiest — because that’s how it always works with TV romance.

But since love and happiness are such a foreign concept on “Gotham,” let’s get back to why we’re really here: the bad guys. And in the grand tradition of “Gotham” season premieres, the writers jam-packed a slew of villains in the plot line.

Some are new. Hey, there, Man-Bat. Didn’t expect to see you, ever. Then there are old villains with virtually new personas. Like Penguin, who interrupts a GCPD press conference, warning that Fish Mooney (Baltimore native Jada Pinkett Smith) is alive and organizing a troop of escaped Indian Hill patients.

It seems out of place that he’s siding with the GCPD, until you realize that he’s worried what she has in store for him. But as much as I love Penguin and his tentative venture into the good side, the speech is melodramatic and a bit much. That, coupled with the countless new characters and overly produced fight scenes made the premiere exhausting to watch at times.

But Penguin is right on the money. Fish and her gang of Indian Hill patients are on the rise for domination. The only thing that’s keeping her back is her weakening body from overusing her new power, and the only person who can help her, Dr. Strange, is nowhere to be found.

“Him fixing me is just the beginning,” Fish tells Peabody. “I want an army. I want an army just like me!”

Even if she gets that army, Fish’s days are numbered. Her death will likely come with a bang from an assassination and not a whimper from her waning health. That said, the latter would still be a better death than when Penguin pushed her off a high-rise building and into the river below.

Fish might not be killed off anytime soon, but if she were, I’d imagine Selina to be the one to do her in. Penguin had his turn last time. And though the Riddler might be right when he says “penguins eat fish,” guess what: so do cats. Plus, it plays into the same “protege uprises against ruthless mentor” trope that Penguin followed.

Sure, Selina isn’t power-hungry like Penguin, but, man, does she hold grudges against people who hurt her friends. There’s no way she’s forgiving Fish for sicking her monsters — err ... henchmen — on Ivy, who plummeted to her apparent death.

Of course, you don’t need to be an avid comic book reader or look far on the internet to find that Ivy doesn’t die. Instead, after she has a scuffle with Marv, the “reverse fountain of youth,” as Fish calls him, she ages five years in a matter of seconds.

The next time we’ll see her, Ivy will supposedly have the mind of a 14-year-old and body of a 19-year-old “who’s harnessed the full power of her charms.” Uh, charms? Ew. Because that isn’t disturbing at all. For the love all that is holy, Batman, please let the writers take their time developing this character arc.

As for plot lines that have outstayed their welcome, Bruce is still on a mission to discover who killed his parents. He attends a Wayne Enterprises board meeting to announce that he’s onto the secret society that’s been behind his parents’ murder and Indian Hill.

Soon after, he’s abducted by Talon, a henchmen of the Court of the Owls. From the looks of next week’s sneak peek, it seems he might actually learn some answers while he’s being held captive. There hasn’t been enough of a build up this season to reveal what truly happened to the Waynes, but will we get more insight into Indian Hill and this mysterious organization?

More highlights from “Mad City: Better to Reign in Hell”:

Best Harvey one-liner: “You don’t think I get drunk when I’m on the job?” Harvey retorts to Jim when he says he can get drunk whenever he wants as a bounty hunter.

Best line: “When I came back, I saw the way you handled things when I was away,” Captain Barnes tells Harvey as he’s reprimanding him. “I swear I had this feeling right here [points to heart]. I thought I was having a heart attack. But it was pride, Bullock. In you! The next time I have that feeling, I’ll know it was just gas.”

Almost makes up for the fact that we had to hear Barnes ream out Jim and Harvey for the millionth time. As much as it pains me to say this, especially because GCPD keeps losing cops left and right, they should retire Barnes. Keeping him in charge stagnates Jim and Harvey’s careers and characters arcs when they have so much room to grow. That, and I’m still stunned that Harvey was a good captain. I’d like to see what he can do longer at the helm.

Worst haircut: Jim. What in the '90s boy band hell happened to him? Parts down the middle do not suit you, Jimbo.

Worst haircut runner-up: Bruce’s emo clone. So we go from ‘NSync to Fall Out Boy in one episode? Pick a decade and stick with it.

Creepiest outfit: Crowley, the impertinent, Wall Street-esque board member who gives off serious Patrick Bateman “on his way to return some video tapes” vibes. His lack of soul and manners — the latter of which Alfred grills him about in the board meeting — points to him being the one who called the White-Haired Woman and the Court of the Owls.

Best words of encouragement: The Riddler’s “penguins eat fish” motivational speech when Penguin is fretting about why Fish kept him alive after she escaped from Indian Hill. Then Ed tops it off with a handmade origami of a penguin. Aw, those two! Can someone on Etsy please make a #Nygmapot-inspired BFF necklace?

Best comeback: “That’s crazy. She’s crazy! She was in Arkham, hello!” Butch says about Barbara and why she can’t be trusted.

“Hello, so was I!” Penguin fires back.

Biggest jerk move: Jim intentionally letting Valerie follow him to Peabody’s safe house, even though he knew Fish’s goons were following Valerie. They then took Peabody to Fish, who then killed her after she said she couldn’t cure her ailing health. I get he’s not a cop and doesn’t have to listen to Barnes’ orders, but that’s low.

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