Friday, March 16, 2018

Confessions Of A Villain-Lover: Why Villains Are The Best

They cringe. They stare. They judge. “Are you sure?” they ask. Yes, I’m sure. I love that character the best. I am a villain-lover. And because I am sure I’m not the only one who has been called to the defense of these fantastic (if not exactly ‘good’) characters, here are a few reasons villains are the best

1. It’s about the POV

Often, the villain is the hero of the story in his or her own point of view. We only see them in an antagonistic light because we are viewing the story from the hero’s point of view. Take Erik Lehnsherr (AKA: Magneto) for example; he is motivated by his desire to protect mutant kind from the horrors non-mutant humans have unleashed on them. In his point of view, he is the hero.
Erik sees himself as a hero
2. Relatability is key

It’s more interesting to watch a character struggle with right and wrong rather than to watch a character who easily chooses right. We want to see characters that we – flawed, mixed-moraled human beings – can relate to. For example, watching Regina (AKA: the Evil Queen) struggle with her desires for vengeance and power on Once Upon a Time is far more entertaining than watching Charming save the day.

Regina is relatable

3. They have vision

(..and ambition and brains)

Villains are often working to bring about change, whether on a global or a local scale. They have a vision. Whereas the hero (generally speaking) is only working to prevent this vision from becoming reality. The hero is against change and has no vision of his or her own. For example, in the Avengers film, Loki envisioned a better world for the mortals of Earth under his rule, while Thor was only concerned with making sure that world never existed.

Loki has a vision
4. They are having fun

The villain revels in being who they are. They are free from the restraints of the law and social acceptability. They are enjoying life. And dang it, that is fun to watch. Look at the Joker, for example – he seems to enjoy life more than the perpetually scowling Batman does.

The Joker is having fun
All that being said, loving the villains does not mean we necessarily condone their actions. We simply love their relatable, ambitious, fun selves. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Are you a fellow villain-lover? Who is your favorite villain?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

'Gotham' Recap: "A Beautiful Darkness" (4x13)

Welcome back to another recap of Gotham: A Dark Knight—although, at this point, Gotham: Occasional Glimpses of the Dark Knight might be more appropriate.

(I'm not bitter about the fact that it's been 8 episodes since Bruce suited up. Nope, definitely not. Deeeeefinitely not counting the episodes until he's back in the cowl for good).

Anyhow, this week's episode, "A Beautiful Darkness," centers around two plots: Ivy's quest to uncover a Wayne Enterprises conspiracy and Jerome's attempts to bring out Penguin's crazier side. Warning for spoilers, insensitive portrayals of the mentally disturbed, violence, an adult kissing a minor, and plant-based torture.

Plot A: Don't Threaten Me With a Good Hallucination

The episode opens with Ivy and Selina walking up to an apartment and ringing the doorbell. When a woman answers, Ivy sprays some perfume on her (Ivy's) wrist. The second the woman smells it, she's entranced by Ivy's beauty and lets them in. As Ivy and Selina enter, she uses her perfume to hypnotize the woman's husband and two kids, who instantly compliment Ivy. Selina notes that the perfume seems to turn people into Ivy's "superfans," and Ivy remarks that they'll do whatever she says until the effect fades. She tells the family to freeze, and they do so. Selina, impressed, grabs a necklace right off of the wife's neck and leaves to rob the rest of the apartment.

Once she's gone, Ivy tells the man that Selina thinks they're just there to rob the family, but that Ivy knows who he is (Rowland Charles, PhD), and who he works for (Wayne Enterprises, according to a briefcase Ivy opens). She tells Charles that he's tortured plants in the name of science and says he'll soon know how plants feel. With that, she uses her powers to poison him with a single touch, just as Selina re-enters the room. She can only watch in horror as leaves sprout from Charles's mouth while his family watches helplessly. Ivy, however, says it's exactly what he deserves.

Over at the GCPD, an arrested man in a holding cell calls for Gordon. When Gordon approaches him, the man explains that he works for Sofia Falcone and that it should be enough to get him out. Gordon, however, refuses to let him go.

Lucius Fox arrives and briefs Gordon with details about the recent murder, noting that Charles worked for Wayne Enterprises' biotech division and died of the same toxin previously seen in a victim from the Narrows. Lucius explains that the toxin feeds off of tissue and attaches itself to the hippocampus, producing vivid hallucinations before death.

He also notes that Charles's family encountered two women: one with red hair who hypnotized them into watching the murder and another young woman with a leather whip. Gordon realizes that the latter must be Selina but is puzzled by her involvement, as he says she's not one for murder (clearly no one told him about how she pushed Reggie out of a window in season one). According to the family's statements, the redhead was the one who murdered Charles.

When Gordon asks if Charles was working on anything important, Lucius replies that he just worked with pesticides. However, when Gordon leaves, Lucius leaves a voicemail for Bruce. He explains that Charles is dead, which could be a problem for them.

Meanwhile, Ivy goes through papers of research at her current base and tells Selina that Charles was involved with a top secret project called "Project M." Selina's reply?

Selina yells at Ivy for killing Charles in front of his family, but Ivy's still focused on her research and finds out that the project was approved by Bruce Wayne himself. Selina, frustrated, tells Ivy, "Enjoy your shrubs," and storms out. After she's gone, Ivy tells the plants that it'll be okay, because they don't need Selina or anyone else.

The next morning, a hungover Bruce is awoken from his sleep by a parakeet that keeps talking like a frat boy (asking for shots, for example). After he throws a blanket over its cage, he notices Ivy standing across from him. He recognizes her from the Sirens' Club, but still doesn't know who she is. When Bruce asks what she's doing at his house, she says she's there to speak for the plants.

He tells her to get out, but she says she wants to know about Project M. Bruce asks how she knows about it, and she says she knows lots of things, before calling him "billionaire boy." The phrase is enough to remind him of an old acquaintance:

After Bruce realizes it's Ivy, she kisses him, and he falls under her hypnotic spell. He then tells her everything about Project M—but we don't get to hear it because of a commercial break. After the break, Ivy tells him that Bruce that he's guilty because his name is on the company, and decides that his death should be slow and painful. She cuts open his skin with her nail and poison ivy begins to sprout on him slowly. She then leaves him to die.

As the toxin begins to work on Bruce's mind, he hallucinates himself tied up in the back of a workshop. A man with his back turned searches for the right tool before grabbing a familiar dagger. He turns, only to bear the face of Ra's al Ghul, though he tells Bruce his name is Dr. Greenthumb and that he's here to prune. He then cuts off Bruce's face (offscreen, thankfully), leaving only a dark hole where it used to be. "Greenthumb" tells Bruce that he's dying and begins cover his face with bandages. At the same time, Bruce's body in the real world is being slowly covered with poison ivy.

Meanwhile, Gordon enters the Sirens' Club in search of Selina, but Barbara says she's out. Sofia, however, is around, and decides to have a chat with Gordon after telling Barbara to leave. She tells him Barbara doesn't know about the arrangement, and he points out that since their deal is for him to run the police while she runs the underworld, he shouldn't have to let her lackeys go. Sofia counters by saying that their deal will be whatever she says it is, since she could ruin him by revealing the truth about their alliance and the true nature of Professor Pyg.

Gordon says that she's bluffing and that if he goes down, so will she. Before Sofia can reply, Gordon spots Selina and chases after her. He follows her onto a rooftop and grabs her before she can jump. he asks her about Charles's death, and she replies that she was only there to rob his house. When Gordon asks who the redhead is, Selina tells him it's Ivy Pepper.

He doesn't believe her (come to think of it, I don't think anyone told him about her changing faces the first time, let alone the second), but Selina insists that it's the truth. She says that Ivy changed and tells Gordon about her new powers. She then mentions that Ivy was trying to get to the bottom of some top secret project, which makes Gordon realize that Lucius lied about Charles being an ordinary employee.

At the same time, Ivy enters the medical examiner's office and asks Lucius if he's admiring her handiwork (the dead body). Lucius, uneasy, switches on the coroner's audio recording device without her knowing and asks what she wants. Ivy replies that she wants to know about Project M. After hypnotizing Lucius with a whiff of her perfume, she orders him to take her to the project.

Back in hallucination world, Bruce stumbles onto a party. He encounters Selina, as well as Gordon (who has a mustache) and Barbara (who's dressed as a flapper). Gordon and Barbara don't recognize him without his face and laugh when he says he's Bruce Wayne. They point him to another Bruce, who's entertaining Lee Tompkins and other guests.

The real Bruce grabs at him and asks where Ra's al Ghul went and who gave him Bruce's face. The fake Bruce says he must be drunk. When the real Bruce insists that he's a fake, the fake Bruce pushes him down and tells him to quit ruining his fun. Bullock (speaking in a British accent and carrying a chicken, for some reason) then asks the fake Bruce if he's alright. Fake Bruce replies that he's just "showing out the riff raff."

I like this scene because it's an interesting look at Bruce's psyche. He's been keeping his true self locked away for most of the season in order to play at being someone else, someone with no cares or regrets. This scene is the literal version of that conflict, as the fake Bruce pushes his real self out of the way in order to continue the party.

Gordon and Selina return to the GCPD, only to find that Ivy left with Lucius after hypnotizing the entire precinct (something he finds out a little too late, after calling Ivy a psycho). Selina says they'll do anything for Ivy until the effect fades, and he decides to leave before they get mad at him for what he said.

However, he doesn't go far. He instead takes Selina to the M.E.'s office, where he finds Lucius's recording and hears Ivy ask about Project M's location. Lucius replies that it's in a secret facility outside of the city. Suddenly, Harper and some other cops barge in, mad about what Gordon said about Ivy. He uses a fire extinguisher to hold them off and manages to escape, but Selina's already gone.

Back in the realm of hallucination, the party is still going strong. There's only one Bruce, though, which raises the interesting question of what happened to the other one (more on that later). This Bruce (face intact) tells a funny story to his guests, and Ivy passes him a drink. 

Bullock, however, asks, "How long do you think you can hide in here?" (Which is a great question, considering how long Bruce has been hiding behind his mask of a billionaire brat.) Bullock tells Bruce that someone is coming after him, and sure enough, Alfred crashes through the window in a cloud of smoke. He announces himself as "Special Agent Pennyworth to you, scumbag," and grabs Bruce. 

Over at the top secret facility, Lucius leads Ivy to Project M, which turns out to be a green vial of water from the Lazarus Pit. Lucius explains that it stimulates remarkable cellular regeneration and that Bruce entrusted him with figuring out how it worked. Ivy, realizing that the water isn't killing plants but instead bringing life, says she's going to use the vial to make miracles.

Meanwhile, in an alleyway of the hallucination world, Bruce begs Alfred to let him go and even offers to pay him off. Alfred refuses, saying that it was his mission deliver Bruce to someone. Bruce looks up and sees a cloaked figure in black, climbing along the buildings. He asks what the figure wants, and asks why he would bring him to the alleyway where his parents died. The figure replies (in a deep, menacing voice), "No, this is where I was born," and jumps down to lunge at Bruce, who screams.

In the real world, Gordon finds Ivy. She says she's not the same kid he remembers, the kid whose father Bullock killed. He asks her how this is possible, and Ivy replies that she bloomed. She then threatens to kill Lucius unless Gordon drops his gun. He obliges, and Ivy admits that she knows Gordon will come after her the second she leaves. However, if he does, Bruce will die. She slips an antidote to her toxin in Lucius's pocket, saying that if they let her go, they might have enough time to save Bruce. 

Ivy leaves, and Lucius tries to get Gordon to wait until she's at a safe distance to head towards Wayne Manor. This leads to a bit of hilarious dialogue.

But apparently those classes haven't been paying off, because Gordon punches out Lucius, which is enough to make him realize the gravity of the situation. 

Bruce, still in the dream world, wakes up in a dark cave. He hears scurrying and yells at the figure to show itself. 

I know this reveal is obvious, but I love it all the same. I love how Bruce's decision to push his real self away (both in the real world and in the hallucination) caused that self to lash out. My only question is whether this bat-self is the Bruce who entered the vision, lost his face, and went missing, or if that Bruce merged with the party-self and this is instead some form of his id or whatever. Either way, I love how the Bat refuses to be contained. 

As the bats swarm him in the dream, Bruce wakes up, thanks to Gordon feeding him the antidote. Gordon explains that the toxin had hallucinatory effects, and tells Bruce that whatever he saw, no matter how unpleasant, wasn't real. Bruce responds that it was, and he saw who he really is. Gordon tells Bruce that he's lucky, because most people go their entire lives without knowing who they truly are. Bruce, however, says he's not lucky at all. 

Gordon tells Bruce that he's had experience battling his own demons, and advises him not to fight the darkness alone. He tells Bruce he'll check in on him the next day. Before Gordon leaves, however, Bruce tells him something of the utmost importance:

Don't fight the 'stache, Gordon. 

After Gordon leaves, Bruce takes out his cellphone and leaves a message for Alfred, saying he needs his help. Let's hope Bruce has got an official letter of apology and some edible arrangements ready. While I can't wait to see Alfred and him reconcile, I strongly suspect it'll take more than a simple "Sorry" to fix things this time.

Back at the GCPD, Gordon runs into a recovered Harper, who tells him, "We're not hypnotized. Just embarrassed." He tells the cops to put out an APB on Ivy Pepper and says finding her is a top priority.

Gordon then receives a call from Sofia Falcone, who tells him he was right; telling Gotham the truth about Pyg will bring her down as well. But rather than concede to Gordon's terms, she tells him that there are other ways to hurt him and hangs up, before speaking with a special guest.

TBH, I feel like this is a breach of courtesy on Sofia's part. She didn't even bother to show up for Mario's funeral, and she's only just now meeting with Lee after being in town for months. But, of course, courtesy isn't really the point. Sofia's definitely going to take a page out of Barbara's book and hurt Lee to get at Gordon. 

Meanwhile, Ivy pours the Lazarus Pit water on a seed, causing it to sprout and bloom into a flower within seconds. As she does so, a couple (who live in the house that she's been squatting in) enters and tells her to leave, or else they'll call the police. She simply blows spores from the flower at them, which causes the flower to burst forth from their skin and take over the bodies in the same manner that her ivy usually does. 

Plot B: The Perils and Pummeling of an Imprisoned Penguin

In a crowded Arkham Asylum cafeteria, Penguin quietly eats his lunch. Jerome throws a joker playing card at him (real subtle, writers) and asks if the seat across from him is taken, before helping himself to it without permission. Jerome tells Penguin that he's a big fan but has been disappointed because all Penguin's done for the past six weeks is mope, and he expected more. 

(Guess that means six weeks, give or take, is the time gap between 4x11 and 4x12. Honestly, I don't know what's more surprising: the fact that it took this long for Jerome to start bugging Penguin, or the fact that Bruce has managed to live on his own for that long.)

Penguin tells Jerome that he can't escape because Sofia is holding someone he cares about (i.e., Martin). Jerome, however, finds this explanation boring and points Penguin to Dietrich, the last person who bored him. Jerome got someone to mess with his drugs, and now the poor guy can barely do anything but wet himself. He tells Penguin that he's going to cure him of his bad attitude and find the entertaining guy inside of him.

Later on, inmates grab Penguin from his cell and drag him through the halls, while the guards do nothing to stop them.

Seriously, who hires the Arkham staff? It's scary that out of everyone who's run the place, Strange had the best control over inmates, and he was an actual super-villain. 

But I digress. The inmates drag him to the cafeteria, where Jerome is surrounded by a crowd of other inmates. He tells Penguin that the best cure is the laughing cure, and orders Penguin to make him laugh by performing a clown dance. Penguin refuses, but the inmates force him into a striped clown costume with a bow and squeaky rubber shoes. When Penguin breaks down, begging to be left alone in his misery, Jerome tells him that the real prison is in his mind, and he's offering a way out. The rest of the inmates then poke Penguin with sticks until he "dances." In his attempt to get away, he falls flat on the ground.

Jerome tells Penguin they'll try again the next day, and the rest of the inmates continue beating him with their sticks.

The next day, Penguin gets a visit from Nygma, who's there to gloat. Penguin say that while he's a prisoner, Ed is a moron. Ed says that he at least has a purpose and friends, while Penguin doesn't. He says that's what he wanted Penguin to see, but Penguin says there must be something else going on, something else that brought Nygma to the asylum. Nygma denies it and continues to gloat, which leads to a wonderful threat from Penguin:

Nygma replies that he won't, because he has no friends and no way to escape. He then leaves as Penguin continues to yell at him. However, mid-rant, Penguin notices an origami penguin left on a nearby table. He unfolds it, only to find a secret message.

Penguin realizes that Nygma came because the Riddler felt trapped and needs Penguin's help to regain control. He then decides the Riddler will be the one to help him escape from Arkham.

Later that night, a group of inmates enter Penguin's cell, stuff a bag over the head of someone who's sleeping in his bed, and drag the person to the cafeteria, where Jerome's waiting. He slips a noose around the person's neck and says it's time for the "sudden death round." However, when he removes the bag, the person underneath isn't Penguin, but Dietrich. Penguin emerges from the crowd and threatens Jerome with an unlikely weapon.

(As always, Robin Lord Taylor just kills it with the delivery of his lines. No matter how ridiculous his dialogue is, he always manages to inject it with the conviction of a demented crime lord.)

Jerome says that Penguin's attempt to fight back is boring, and too little, too late. Penguin responds that maybe Jerome was right about him being in a prison, a prison where no one can get to him. He then begins to act as a mime, peering from inside an invisible box, strutting around, and waving to the crowd. Jerome grabs a shiv on a stick and is about to stab Penguin with it, but stops when it touches the edges of the "box."

Penguin mimes opening a door and lets Jerome into the box, but the second he's inside, Penguin begins to kick and punch him. Jerome, in spite of his bruises and blood, just laughs and says he knew he'd cure Penguin. Penguin's response? "Don't flatter yourself." He kicks him one more time, but Jerome continues to laugh.

Later on, Jerome waltzes into Penguin's cell. Penguin is on edge, but Jerome says he can relax because he gave him "the laugh of the century." Penguin asks Jerome why he bothers staying at the asylum; it's obvious that all of the inmates and guards are under his thumb. Jerome replies that he's planning something big (and crazy enough to turn the city itself into asylum), but he needs the craziest people that Gotham can offer, which is why he sought out Penguin. Penguin declines, but Jerome says he'll come around eventually. After he leaves, Penguin mutters, "Nope!" and hands the guard a letter addressed to Ed Nygma.

The Verdict

Plot A: Peyton List continues to absolutely nail the role of Poison Ivy, and it's nice to see Lucius having a role in the episode outside of the GCPD. Also, I'd like to hand it to Bruce for actually trying to analyze the waters of the Lazarus Pit. It feels a realistic and appropriate reaction—if I encountered magical healing waters, I'd want to know how they worked and what I could do with them. It makes sense that a future detective would want to do the same.

On a related note, I enjoyed Bruce's hallucination trip. While I wish we'd gotten to see more of that odd dream-world, I like how Bruce was forced to confront the anger and darkness within himself. He's not going to be satisfied until he's back out on the streets, fighting crime. That's who he is, and that menacing figure in the darkness is who he needs to become, even if he's afraid of where that path may take him. 

Even if you take away the audience's desire to see Bruce become Batman, the character would still be heading towards that point. He thrives off of analyzing and fighting crime, to the point where almost any other pursuit seems pointless. Denying this need by wasting his time at clubs and parties has only led Bruce to sink into deeper misery. Gotham desperately needs a hero, and Bruce desperately needs to be one, even if he's not fully Batman yet.

Does this sequence of events make up for the string of episodes where Bruce was a jerk? Not entirely, but I'm willing to overlook that painful arc if it leads him to be an even better vigilante in the second half of the season. As I said earlier, I still feel a little cheated by the fact that this season is subtitled A Dark Knight and yet continues very few episodes depicting Bruce's vigilante career. I'm hoping that'll be rectified soon. 

Plot B: Oswald Cobblepot may have been the MVP of this episode. I just love the energy that Taylor brings to the role, whether he's bickering with Nygma or beating up Jerome.

As for Jerome, I'm not sure how I felt about his presence in this episode. Don't get me wrong; Cameron Monaghan has always been perfect in this role, in my opinion (and perfect as the Joker, even if someone else turns out to be the clown prince of crime). However, I felt like Jerome was slightly upstaged by Penguin in this episode.

I think that when you've two strong, popular characters, both played by talented actors, there's often a risk that one will overshadow the other, or that the actors simply won't have chemistry. I'm not saying that Taylor and Monaghan don't have chemistry; I'm just saying that I think it's difficult to balance two dynamic, powerful characters in the same storyline, especially when they've never met before. Both Penguin and Jerome have a theatricality about them and command a certain presence. In this episode, those presences clashed (which makes sense as the characters were at odds). That might not even be the fault of the actors; it could be the result of mistakes on the part of writers or directors. 

But I digress. Let's get back to the storyline. I'm glad to see Penguin and Jerome interacting, and it was very satisfying to see Penguin pummel Jerome. I'm also intrigued by how Gotham is bringing back a partnership between Penguin and Nygma as a result of the Riddler's resurgence. I'd also like to give a shoutout to Cory Michael Smith. Even though he was only around for one scene, he did a great job, especially when he denied having ulterior motives for his visit (his body language practically screamed that he was lying at that point).

Overall, I was pretty satisfied by the episode. I'll admit that neither plot went exactly how I expected, but that's not a bad thing. It's nice to have your expectations subverted if the surprise is a pleasant one. As for next week, trailers indicate that Bruce will reach out to Alfred, who's mad at him (and rightfully so), as well as don a hood again. 

In the meantime, comment below with your thoughts, theories, and questions. Did you like the hallucination bats, or will you only be satisfied when Bruce puts ears on his suit? What was your favorite part? 

Until next time, stay safe and avoid strangers with plant-based toxins in their DNA.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

'Gotham' Recap: "Pieces of a Broken Mirror" (4x12)

Well, well, well. It's been a long 12 weeks, but Gotham is back with a vengeance. So, to all my readers, let me just say:

Warning: this week's episode contains underage drinking and quite a bit of violence, and this recap contains quite a few spoilers. Without further ado, let's get down to business.

While "Pieces of a Broken Mirror" contains several storylines, several of these are bound up together, making this episode a little harder to divide up. Because of that, I'm sticking to two longer plots. Plot B will revolve around the Sirens and Ivy. Plot A will revolve around . . . everyone else.

Plot A: Toymaker, Toymaker, Make Me a Corpse

The episode opens with Gordon entering a whorehouse—not to shut it down or get laid, but because he's looking for Bullock. After finding out from the owner that Bullock stopped by recently, Gordon leaves a message for him.

In a nearby diner, one of the local men asks the waitress about the new customer. She says not to give him a hard time. And who is this new customer? None other than Alfred Pennyworth. The man asks if he's from around. Alfred doesn't give him a straight answer and simply tips the waitress before leaving.

In a building close by, Lee explains to a group of Narrows citizens that they can't keep stealing from each other. When they insist that they're only trying to survive, she points out that their enemy is not each other, but the city. Fighting and stealing from each other just increases the likelihood of their own destruction. As she speaks, a man at the back of the room, hidden from view, sets up a toy plane.

Elsewhere, Alfred gets stopped by the man from the diner and his friends, who try to rob him. 

Alfred gets the drop on them quickly before Gordon shows up and tells the men to leave. He then asks Alfred what he's doing in this part of town. The answer? Living there. 

Meanwhile, Lee says tells the crowd that she wants a chance to transform the Narrows into a place where you don't have to steal from your neighbors to survive. Her audience begins to applaud, including Nygma, who looks proud of her. But before Lee can explain how she's going to change the sit, the toy plane rushes forward. Grundy swipes it out of the way. The plane then hits a wall and explodes. 

Gordon and Alfred see the smoke and help rush people out of the building. As they do so, they miss the sight of Lee, Nygma, and Grundy getting into a car—as well as a certain young woman exiting a nearby building (more on that later).

After clearing the building, Gordon sets up a perimeter. Lucius Fox arrives to help investigate. Given the situation, Gordon tells Alfred that they'll talk later. Once he leaves, Gordon begins to question the people of the Narrows about the purpose of the meeting, but they won't tell him anything. Lucius examines the plane and notes that not only is it covered in explosives, but it's an expert design. He theorizes that one reason for using such a specific device would be to target a specific person, rather than the whole crowd.

Over in the Narrows, Nygma insists that the bomb was planted by someone from the Narrows and says they should just burn the place to the ground. Lee doesn't agree and walks off, leaving Nygma to yell about how he'll sic Grundy on the culprit. Grundy, however, looks thoughtfully off into the distance. As he does so, memories of Penguin slicing off his hand and Barbara shooting him flash in his mind. Looks like Butch is back.

Back at the diner, Alfred is applauded for helping rescue people from the fire caused by the explosion. The waitress, Tiffany, gives him a glass of their finest alcohol, and the man who tried to rob him even shakes his hand and makes amends. As Alfred shares a drink with the two of them, he notices a bruise on Tiffany's forehead. She tries to brush it off as an accidental injury, but Alfred doesn't seem to buy it. 

Elsewhere, Lucius and Gordon enter the only business in the store that both manufactures and sells hand-crafted toys. A young man greets them, and they ask about the plane. He replies that while they do sell that kind of plane, the one Gordon and Lucius have has been modified. When they ask him how many people work at the store, he replies that it's just him and his father, who is upstairs. Gordon tells the man to get his father (aka the Toymaker).

However, not long after the man leaves, Gordon and Fox have to dodge machine gun fire from a giant, modified nutcracker that suddenly begins to shoot at them. Gordon manages to gun it down, and he and Lucius quickly run out of the store. The son stops them just as the father drives off, begging them not to go after him.

The son claims that he didn't know what his father was doing, and explains that no one comes into their workshop. The father just boxes up the toys and ships them out. He then admits that he did hear his father talking to someone a few days ago, and overheard them mention someone named "the Doc." As Gordon leaves the shop, he gets a call from Sofia, which he doesn't seem to answer. (While I applaud his decision not to be at her beck and call, I can only assume that ignoring her will lead to a hissy fit of mobster-sized proportions.)

Later that night, Alfred walks Tiffany home. She asks about his accent, and he explains that he's originally from Whitechapel, London. When she asks why he left, he explains about how he felt lost after leaving the military, and about how he made a good friend who changed his life and brought him to America. "Where is that man now?" Tiffany asks. The answer is, as we all know:

Before the conversation can go further, Tiffany's boyfriend shows up, seemingly unworried about the fact that he left her to walk home alone in Gotham, but slightly annoyed at the presence of Alfred. Alfred suddenly attacks him, yelling about the bruise he saw on Tiffany's forehead and telling him to drop the nice guy act. In the ensuing scuffle, a ring slides off Alfred's hand, which the boyfriend surreptitiously pockets. Tiffany tells Alfred to stop and says she'll be fine. She drives off with the boyfriend, who says she really needs to be a little smarter. After they leave, Alfred kicks a garbage can in frustration.

Meanwhile, Gordon meets with Barbara to ask her if she knows anything about the Doc. Since he assumes it's a he, Barbara decides to play up the secret and pretends as if "the Doc" is a dangerous character he should shoot first and question later. She tells Gordon that he can find the Doc working with Ed Nygma in the Narrows but warns him that he might not like what he finds. 

Gordon later receives a call from Harper about a murder in the Narrows. The victim? Tiffany. The suspect? Alfred Pennyworth. The boyfriend claims he was working all night and that Alfred had assaulted him earlier. Tiffany, who was beaten to death, has impressions on her face left by a signet ring that belonged to Alfred. 

When Gordon asks Alfred about it, he explains that it had to have been the boyfriend, who he only fought because Alfred knew he was beating the girl. Gordon says Alfred has to make a statement at the police station and promises that the boyfriend, Gil Rooney, will have to do the same. Alfred agrees but disappears the second Gordon's back is turned. (Get used to it, Gordon, that's gonna happen to you a lot in the future.)

Gordon then heads over to the Narrows, where he watches Nygma give a speech to hype up the Doc, hailing her as a leader who fights for the people and can't be killed. After he finishes his spiel and exits, Lee steps on stage, only to see Gordon right away.

Lee then addresses the crowd. She says that whoever tried to kill her, whether it was an insider or an outsider, was afraid of a united Narrows. Why? Because a united Narrows is a strong Narrows.

While Gordon seems somewhat conflicted about what he's hearing, Nygma has a very clear opinion of Lee's speech.

Gordon says he should arrest Nygma, but Nygma says that he's really trying to help Lee. Gordon tells him about the toymaker/assassin who tried to kill Lee, to which Nygma responds, "That is so Gotham."

On stage, Lee continues tells the crowd that their children deserve a better life, with schools and hospitals. (Which leads me to ask, what has Gotham's government been doing all these years? It's one thing to be corrupt. But you're so corrupt and unsympathetic that you're not even going to put a hospital in one part of town? Seriously?) 

After the speech is over, Lee approaches Gordon, who asks her how long she's been back in Gotham. She says it's been a while, but she's been busy. After a bit of awkward tension, he tells her about the Toymaker trying to kill her, and about how both he and his employer are still at large. Lee shrugs it off, saying that no one is ever really safe in Gotham. 

Gordon then questions her alliances, leading to this exchange:

After Lee leaves, Gordon decides to take a look around. Nygma, however, spots a man with a gun at the back of the room and follows him. The man (the Toymaker himself) grabs Nygma and drags him out into the alleyway, only to tell Nygma that he's been looking for him.

Meanwhile, Alfred goes to a bar where Gil is hanging out and begins to beat him up. Unfortunately, Gil's friends outnumber Alfred, and it almost looks like he's done for. Almost.

Harvey Bullock is the hero we all deserve. After taking down Gil and co., he explains to Alfred that he works at the bar because it involves his two main passions: drinking and ignoring people. Alfred then explains that Gil is a murderer, and Harvey calls the cops. 

Back at the fight club, Nygma argues with the Toymaker, which leads to a shocking revelation.

I can honestly say I didn't see this coming. I just assumed Sofia hired the Toymaker. It seemed like her style; hire one of Gotham's freaks to do her dirty work so she could get control of the Narrows.

But I was wrong. Instead, Ed's alter ego has been sneaking behind his back again. It's like in season 2, when he woke up and realized his other self hid Kristen Kringle's corpse while he thought he was sleeping. This time, the Riddler hired the Toymaker to kill Lee. 

The Toymaker explains that Nygma wanted to get rid of Lee because she was holding him back. Before Nygma can respond, Gordon sees the Toymaker and, thinking he's threatening Nygma, shoots him down. Gordon then asks if the Toymaker said anything about who hired him. Nygma frantically tells Gordon that Toymaker confessed that it was all his own plan, because he didn't like what Lee was doing in the Narrows. As Gordon takes the Toymaker away, Nygma's reflection continues to taunt him.

While I understand that some Batman fans might be frustrated that Nygma got the split personality storyline in Gotham instead of Harvey Dent (who has been conspicuously absent for two seasons), episodes like this one prove that it was a good creative choice. While most versions of Two-Face show Harvey's sides as equal partners who are willing to let the coin arbitrarily make decisions, Ngyma's other half (let's call him the Riddler) doesn't play fair.  The Riddler goes behind Nygma's back in a manner befitting Edward Hyde. 

Nygma is a character who thrives off of being in control, and his alternate self is a constant threat to control, a threat that he can never fully defeat. This version of the Riddler is tragic because his biggest enemy is, more often than not, himself. Nygma has a tendency to cut down the people closest to him, and it looks like the Riddler just decided Lee's next on the list.

Back at the bar, Gordon and some cops arrest Gil. He greets Bullock and tries to get him to come back to the force, but Bullock's not having any of it. Bullock says that he doesn't miss Gordon because Gordon never listened to his advice; he just did whatever he wanted and expected Bullock to go along with it. He offers these harsh parting words:

Plot B: Seeds of Discord

A group of Narrows teenagers enters an abandoned store that belonged to the potions salesman from episode 2. They're looking for drugs, but instead find that the store has been overrun by vines and weeds. In the center of the room is a sort of gelatinous pod with someone inside. After one of the kids gently nudges it, the person begins to stretch out, breaking the surface of the bubble. Lo and behold, it's the new and improved Ivy Pepper, now played by Peyton List (whom you may recognize as Lisa Snart from The Flash).

After Ivy emerges, one of the teenagers tries to hit on her and she grabs his wrist, which results in a display of newfound power.

Later, after the explosion in the Narrows, Ivy exits the building. As she walks down the streets, she laments the fate of dilapidated plants on the side of the road, saying that the city is killing them. Ivy then notices a rich couple leave their apartment and get into a taxi, suitcases in tow. Once they drive off, she walks into their home and takes a look around. After putting on a fancy gown from the wife's closet, she does what anyone would do after being reborn: she settles onto the couch with a carton of ice cream and starts channel surfing. 

After quickly skipping past a few news bulletins about environmental disasters, Ivy stops on an ad for the newly re-opened Sirens Club. The ad itself was released early as a promo video and can be seen below, in all of its ridiculous glory.

As Ivy watches the commercial, she begins to recognize Selina and Tabitha—and remember that she's not so fond of the latter.

Over at the GCPD, Lucius and the medical examiner examine the body of the kid Ivy killed, which they found after the explosion. The ME explains that the victim was killed by poison but notes that there's actually poison ivy growing inside him and living off of his tissue. 

Over at the Sirens Club, Barbara happily remarks that the commercial worked, as business is booming. When Ivy shows up in another stolen gown, Selina wonders who she is. Of course, she doesn't have much time to wonder, as Barbara tells her that she needs to tell a group of teenagers to quiet down. The crew is, of course, led by Bruce Wayne.

Bruce tries to tell Selina to relax and have a drink, but she tells him to dial it back or she'll call Alfred. When he tells her he fired Alfred, she asks what he's trying to prove and doesn't seem to buy the whole billionaire brat act.

Before the conversation can go any further, Selina gets distracted by a nearby brawl. It turns out two guys are fighting over Ivy, who claims to have no idea what got into them. Tabitha (unaware who she's talking to), tells her to leave. When Ivy remarks that Tabitha was always rude, it begins to dawn on her that it's Ivy.

(Bruce's only response to the situation is: "Redheads. They're all crazy, am I right?")

After the club is closed, Butch arrives and reveals to Tabitha that he's begin to remember. He admits that while he's not sure how he became Grundy, the only thing he knows for sure is that he loves her. When she doesn't respond, he leaves.

Later on, Selina follows Ivy back to her apartment, only to be found. Ivy then begins to infect Selina and explains that the poison infecting her veins is Ivy's essence. Before the poison can kill Selina, Ivy gives her an antidote she developed (presumably after experimentation on other subjects). She explains that Selina needs to trust her. When Selina calls her crazy, Ivy insists that she's been transformed for the better.

Pretty sure Sofia's already done that to both Gotham and Gordon, but sure. Give it your best shot, Ivy.

The Verdict

Plot A: While I'm sometimes annoyed by Gotham's tendency to shove several storylines into a single episode, this wasn't one of those times. "Pieces of a Broken Mirror" works because Alfred, Gordon, Lee, and Nygma's stories all affect one another. No one exists in a vacuum. 

Gordon's search for Bullock takes him to the Narrows, which makes him run into Alfred. The Toymaker's assassination attempt causes a fire, which they rush to rescue people from. This leads to Alfred getting closer to Tiffany and finding out about her abusive boyfriend, as well as Gordon finding out about Lee's role in the Narrows. All of these events interact in ways that can't be separated (hence my tendency to lump them all together).

The funny thing is, by the end of the episode, Gordon gets exactly what he wanted in the first place: he finds Bullock, who was the only reason he came to the Narrows in the first place.

That brings me to the Narrows. AV Club's review noted that season 4 of Gotham has been diligently fleshing out the city, and I'd have to agree. The Narrows are a microcosm for all of Gotham, showing the hope for a new day amidst the devastation caused by crime and corruption. And every character that lives there has a reason to stay, especially Lee. This season has renewed my faith in her character, mainly because it's focused on her capacity to display empathy—not just towards the people of the Narrows, but for Nygma as well. 

Plot A was, in a word, brilliant.

Plot B: While not quite as intricate as plot A, this storyline was still intriguing. It has been a little odd to see three different actresses portray Ivy Pepper, but I've genuinely liked each of them. Peyton List is no exception. In fact, she might be one of my favorite portrayals of Poison Ivy so far. I like how she doesn't waste time with seduction or cheesy banter; she just takes what she wants and makes fertilizer out of anyone who doesn't listen. 

It makes sense that her character would react this way. After being put down for so long, she's finally got her own power. Not just hypnotic perfume or the power of being at Penguin's side, but actual, physical power within her. Of course she wouldn't be shy about using it.

And the scene where she almost killed Selina, only to slip her an antidote? That was a major power play. While Ivy might claim to have her friend's best interests at heart, she absolutely wants Selina to know that she's the one in control.

Overall, I'd say that "Pieces of a Broken Mirror" was a great way to jump back into the world of Gotham. I would've liked a little more Bruce, but adding him into the mix for more than that one scene would've made the episode too crowded. Besides, the next episode looks like it's going to be a big one for him.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen. After nearly four years of waiting, we're actually going to see bats on that show. Are they real? No. Are they anatomically accurate? No. But the fact still remains: WE'RE ACTUALLY GETTING BATS.

I, for one, am excited. Come back soon for my recap of episode 13, "Beautiful Darkness." Until then, stay safe and avoid nutcrackers with machine guns.