'Gotham' recap: Who put a hit on Bruce's parents?

For The Baltimore Sun
"Gotham" recap: Bruce finally gets some answers about his parents' death.

Our hero finally gets his answer in last night’s episode of "Gotham," titled “Pinewood.”

Thanks to years of obsessive research, Bruce finally has the name, alias and face of the man who murdered his parents. Sure, we already know the man who pulled the trigger was Matches Malone, but Bruce wants to know who paid Matches.

That would be none other than Dr. Hugo Strange, the head of Arkham Asylum, Indian Hill and Pinewood. Basically, if it’s a place to conduct unethical and sketchy experiments on unsuspecting patients, he’s in charge of it.

I’m glad that the writers built Dr. Strange and his horrifying scientific experiments in the background narrative so this revelation wasn’t out of left field. What’s more, the fact that it’s someone who worked so intimately with Wayne Enterprises makes the revelation more satisfying and gripping.

In fact, we’ve known that Bruce's parents' murder was tied to someone in the Wayne Enterprises’ biomedical department after last season’s episode “Viper,” in which Bruce met an employee who acted skittish when he asked too many questions.

Fast forward to “Pinewood” in Season 2, and Bruce is still asking too many questions. He’s searching in his dad’s computer and finds the name and address of a woman his dad was supposed to meet the week he was murdered.

Bruce and Alfred arrive at a dreary cabin in the woods. Once Bruce picks the lock (glad to see him applying the skills he learned from his time on the streets with Selina), they go inside to find the place covered in deep scratches.

Inside the house is a distant young woman named Karen with an “I’ve seen some stuff” face and a talon for a hand. She’s an experiment gone wrong in the hands (sorry) of Dr. Strange.

Her story is a sad one, as they always tend to be on “Gotham.” Her hand was deformed as a child, making her a target for her abusive father. One night when he was beating her, she fought back, accidentally pushing him down the stairs and killing him.

At Pinewood, a man called the Philosopher (aka Dr. Strange) promised he was going to fix her. Instead, she got stuck with a lizard/bird claw for a hand with razor-sharp talons, forcing her to be a recluse.

Bruce asks Karen to return to Pinewood to see if they can find any clues. He assures her that he won’t let anything happen to her. Which, in the superhero world, means she’ll be dead before the credits roll. Feeling responsible for the death of someone you’re protecting is one of many merit badges a young superhero needs to earn their cape.

They make it out of Pinewood unscathed, but Karen gets sent back to Blackgate Prison. Jim, Bruce and Alfred hijack her truck to rescue her.

There, Bruce asks her if she knows what the Philosopher looks like. Instead, she tells him something he probably didn’t want to hear, but desperately needed to.

His father was, in fact, the one who started Pinewoods. While Thomas Wayne’s intentions were good, the Philosopher took advantage of him and turned the project into a cruel and twisted underground lab.

When his dad saw what was really going on at Pinewood, he shut it down. Now we have the motive for the Waynes' death.

Dr. Strange will stop at nothing to keep his involvement with Pinewood a secret. So he recruits Mr. Freeze to go on a “field trip” to kill Karen.

Bruce must face the fact that he has his first collateral damage from his investigation. While he’s blaming himself, Alfred tells him she didn’t die “because of you, but because of what you’re pursuing.” He must come to terms with that if he wants to press forward.

This only makes Bruce more determined to find Dr. Strange and put him behind bars, not only to avenge his parents’ death, but to continue his father’s good work to end these biomedical atrocities.

Jim, meanwhile, has taken a sabbatical from GCPD. Though if he keeps his current hobbies, he might end up back at the station — but behind bars.

Jim made a promise, and he’s resolved to find who’s responsible for the Waynes’ murder. So he does what any rageaholic cop-turned-private detective would do: He senselessly beats up local hitmen, and even dunks one of their heads in a toilet. Gag.

It works. It’s not ethical, but it works. He’s told to find The Lady, who was hired by Theo Galavan at the end of this season. As it turns out, she was the one who coordinated the hit on Bruce’s parents.

Jim goes to find her at Artemis, a women-only club that won’t let Jim in. Suddenly, Barb arrives out of nowhere (congrats on downgrading your crime sprees from murder to stalking, Barb), and promises to get the name of the man who put the hit on the Waynes.

But when Jim sneaks to the back of the club, he finds a surprise: Barb double-crossed him. After tying him to a chair (aww, just like old times), she reveals she’s joined forces with The Lady and plans to kill him.

But first, Barb must know the name of the man who sent the hit out on the Waynes. No luck there, but she does have a nickname: the Philosopher. That’s when Barb stuns The Lady and her henchmen (henchwoman?), and sets Jim free.

The double-double cross on The Lady wasn’t shocking. While I doubt that Barbara is sane and completely cured (see Penguin for Arkham’s most recent relapsed patient), there’s no question that she’s still head over heels for Jim.

“When I first woke up from that coma, the first image I saw was your face as you were holding onto me from the church window," she said. "You didn’t see the monster, you just saw me. That’s what I’ve been holding onto.”

Jim refuses to forgive and forget — and I’m so glad to see that. The cheesy “cured by a coma” plotline is better left for soap operas. If Jim had taken her back, “Gotham” would have sunken to a new low. 

Barb instead runs into the arms of Tabitha after Jim rejected her. Now that she doesn’t have a love interest with a strong moral compass to “hold onto,” how long will it be until she goes back to her Stabby Babs ways?

More highlights from “Pinewood”:

Best Harvey one-liner: “Come back to the GCPD. You’ll have resources, not to mention, you know, me.” – Harvey to Jim about his crusade to discover who put the hit on Bruce’s parents. Aww, shucks, Harvey. You’re so cute when you’re sappy.

Harshest line: “I’m not afraid to die — not if it means doing the right thing.” – Bruce

“Yeah?” Karen retorts, “how’d that work out for your dad?” Ouch. He’s just trying to help!

Least friendly way to greet your ex: “Hands where I can see them!” while pointing a gun at Barbara’s head. Can you blame him? She did murder her parents and attempt to kill him and his girlfriend.

Realest line: “People are scared of different,” Karen explains to Bruce and Alfred as to why she was sentenced for murder when it was clear it was in self-defense.

Most fitting outfit: Bruce’s black turtleneck-jeans combo while crunching data at his computer. He looks like a mini Steve Jobs.

It’s alive: Dr. Strange’s reanimation experiment finally works. He’s brought back to life Azrael, a strong and bloodthirsty madmen whose first instinct is to kill the minute he was reborn. Step aside, Mr. Freeze. Dr. Strange has a new henchman to take on Jim and Bruce as they get closer to the truth.

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