Saturday, March 16, 2019

'Gotham' Recap: "The Trial of James Gordon" (5x09)

Welcome back to another recap of Gotham—or, as I like to call it, the worst years of Jim Gordon's life.

This week's episode, "The Trial of James Gordon," focuses on a fight for the life of Jim Gordon, Barbara's efforts to redeem herself, and Poison Ivy's quest to rid Gotham City of all human life. However, since all of these plots are a little more interconnected than usual, I will not be breaking them up into separate parts for the recap.

Be warned: the episode contains somewhat suicidal themes and intense scenes, and this recap contains spoilers.

Plots A, B, and C: "Somewhere That's Green"

The episode opens with Gordon, Bullock and other members of the GCPD arming themselves for some sort of confrontation. Lee tells Gordon that his plan is "unnecessary and reckless." Gordon, however, says that while Lucius's filtration system is purifying water from the polluted river, the Green Zone's supply of drinking water is getting dangerously low and the gangs are getting more aggressive. He tells her that if he can get a ceasefire, there will still be people left to save when the city is eventually reunified.

Lee replies that he needs to think about his unborn child. She says that Gordon is so focused on taking care of the city that he forgets to focus on other things. She accuses him of being constantly ready to sacrifice himself and asks if that's how their life is going to be from now on: will she and Barbara raise the child together while Gordon goes off risking his life every day?

Gordon insists that things will be different after the city is reunified, but Lee says that nothing will change unless Gordon stops being—

"Me?" he asks. Before Lee can respond, Bullock tells Gordon that it's time to go. Gordon tells Lee that they'll talk after he returns.

"If there is an after," she retorts.

As it turns out, the ceasefire negotiations are being held at Penguin's headquarters in City Hall. Penguin watches as gangs dressed with various motifs and armed with various weapons crowd the lobby. Barbara approaches him and asks why she, Penguin and Riddler haven't skipped town already. Penguin replies that "building a submarine from scratch takes time," but Barbara insists that they need to hurry up.

She then asks why Penguin is hosting Gordon's ceasefire negotiations. Penguin replies that if the three of them are going to leave town, they need to keep Gordon happy in the meantime. He jokes that Barbara knows "all about that." She replies that her one-night stand with Gordon was "a momentary slip" that took place while "the world was on fire."

As if on cue, Gordon and the GCPD enter City Hall, and Penguin turns the floor over to Gordon. As some fans have pointed out, Penguin's exact words—"Mi casa, su casa"—are a nice call-back to Fish saying the same thing in the show's pilot.

Gordon tells the gangs that the city's supply of clean water will only last a few more months. He says that they can keep killing each other over what's left of the supply until they're all dead, or they can agree to an immediate ceasefire. He adds that "the government will not annex a war zone" and will only send more supplies if the people of Gotham show that they deserved to be saved. He tells them that the choice is theirs: life or death.

After talking amongst themselves, the gangs agree to a ceasefire, but before Gordon can revel in his victory, a gunshot is heard. As everyone tries to find the source of the sound, Gordon falls to the ground, shot in the side.

Bullock tells Detective Harper that the clinic is too far away, so they'll have to take Gordon back to the GCPD for treatment. As they carry him away, the gangs begin to squabble amongst themselves again.

Elsewhere, Selina and Bruce enter a swanky-looking building. Selina asks why Bruce chose this spot for a scavenging mansion. He simply tells her to trust him and leads her into a dining room, where he turns on a gramophone and asks her to sit at a dining table. He sits across from her and lights a row of candles.

"If I didn't know any better, I'd say this was a date," Selina says.

"Maybe it is," he replies. "That okay with you?"

"Maybe," she says.

They smile at each other and sit down to eat, oblivious to a person watching them from the hallway.

Back at the GCPD, Bullock tells Lee that Gordon has lost a lot of blood and asks if she can save him. She doesn't reply and hurriedly takes Gordon away to the morgue/medical office for treatment.

Bullock then turns to the rest of the cops and lies, saying that the doc says Gordon will be okay. He then says that he's acting captain until Gordon recovers. He adds that the gangs will be running wild after what happened to Gordon, so the GCPD needs to take to the streets and show force. Bullock then tells Harper to organize patrol teams and says that he's going to focus on finding out who shot Gordon.

Meanwhile, Lee notices that the bullet shattered against a rib. As she pulls out the fragments, she spots an exit wound and moves on to sewing Gordon up. She tells him to fight.

Suddenly, Gordon opens his eyes, but he's not in the morgue with Lee. He's in a dream version of the GCPD bullpen, which is covered in darkness. He hears a gavel banging and sees a judge in front of him. The judge says that Gordon (who is now handcuffed to a witness stand) is going to be tried for his many crimes and that his life hangs in the balance.

When he asks if Gordon understands, Gordon tries to say that he doesn't, but the judge announces that, "The defendant understands and waives his right to an appeal."

Back in the real world, Selina says that she's just had the best canned meal ever and jokes that if this was a date, she's not sure how Bruce will top it when "everything goes back to normal." Bruce soberly replies that he doesn't think things will ever be normal—at least, not for him.

Selina asks what he's talking about, and he replies that he's lost Wayne Manor. He tells her that he's aware that other people lost a lot more, but part of him wonders if it was fate that he lost his home. He says that maybe it's time for him to move on.

Selina asks if he's talking about leaving Gotham and insists that the city is his home. He replies that a lot of terrible things have happened to the city because of him and cites the crimes of Theo Gallivan and Ra's al Ghul as examples.

"If this city really is my home," he says, "then maybe the best thing I can do for it is leave."

(C'mon Bruce, don't beat yourself up about the villains and/or cult leaders who have killed people to get to you.)

Suddenly, Poison Ivy enters and says that she agrees with Bruce.

Over in City Hall, Penguin tells Barbara that Gordon getting shot could be good for both of them. He says that the only way she'll get custody of the child is if Gordon's dead.

Before she can reply, Bullock barges in and punches Penguin. He demands to know who shot Gordon. Penguin insists that it wasn't him and says that Gordon himself is to blame for knowingly walking into a room full of criminals. Bullock punches him again before turning to Barbara. He asks when she and Penguin became friends and suggests that maybe she helped plan Gordon's death so she could keep her child.

Barbara replies that, whatever else she's done, she wouldn't kill her child's father. Bullock, however, says he's not leaving until he finds out who tried to kill Gordon. Penguin points out that whoever did it couldn't have been in the room, as the bullet came through the window and left a hole in the glass.

You'd think that, given their track record of mayors being murdered, the city of Gotham would invest in bulletproof glass for City Hall.

Bullock examines the window, estimates the trajectory of the bullet, places Penguin in the spot Gordon was standing in when he got shot, and uses all of this information to find out where the bullet went. He digs a large fragment of it out of a chair and says that when he finds out who shot Gordon, "there'll be hell to pay."

Barbara asks if there's anything she can do, and he replies that she can "keep the gangs from tearing the city apart."

Elsewhere in Gotham, Selina asks what Ivy wants. Ivy replies that she'll deal with Selina later and that she needs Bruce to come with her.

Selina tells Ivy to leave Bruce alone, but Ivy says that Selina has other things to worry about. Ivy then calls in the mutant gang leader (the one that Selina almost beat to death in 5x03), who's apparently under her spell.

Bruce tries to attack Ivy, but she grabs him and says that the future of Gotham will be a green world of her design. She then sprays him with her hypnotic perfume. Before taking Bruce away, she says that Selina wouldn't be walking if it weren't for Ivy's plants and tells Selina to think about that while the mutant leader is killing her.

Back in the morgue, Lee tells an unconscious Gordon that there are so many things she wishes she could tell him and things she wishes they could do. She tells him to talk to her, but he says nothing out loud.

Inside his dream, however, Gordon tries to tell the judge that he shouldn't be on trial, but the judge silences him so that they can hear remarks from the prosecution. Suddenly, another Gordon steps forward (who will henceforth be designated as Gordon-2). Gordon-2 says that Gordon's crimes are "a matter of public record" and accuses him of "failing Gotham at every turn," both in his efforts to eradicate the city's corruption and to stop the destruction of the bridges and of Haven.

Gordon-1 says that he tried to help the city as best he could, but the judge silences him and says that if Gordon-1 speaks out of turn again, he'll be held in contempt of court. Gordon-1 then looks down and sees blood spreading over his shirt where the bullet entered his body in real life. He says that he's hurt and needs help, but the judge doesn't listen.

Gordon-2 continues his case, saying that "the issue is not how many people have died because of Gordon, but how many more must die to satisfy his need to be a hero." He adds that the ultimate question is this: would the people in Gordon's life be better off if he were dead?

"I think I'm dying," Gordon-1 whispers, looking at the blood on his shirt.

Gordon-2 then calls his first witness to the stand: Dr. Leslie Tompkins.

In real life, Bullock asks Lee how Gordon's doing. She says that she removed the bullet fragments from his wound, but "something else keeps pulling him down." Bullock examines the fragments and sets them against the one he found. When he places the pieces together, he sees two initials on the bullet: V. Z. for Victor Zsasz.

Victor himself is actually outside of the GCPD and in the middle of a shootout with several cops. He tells them that he's only there for Gordon and that they need to stay out of his way. However, before Victor can enter the precinct, Alfred sneaks up on him and knocks him out.

Elsewhere, Selina asks the mutant leader if they can just "let bygones be bygones." He refuses and says that Selina hurt both him and Ivy. After a brief fight, Selina gets him in a chokehold.

"Ivy didn't make me strong," she says. "I made me strong." She then orders him to tell her where Ivy took Bruce.

Meanwhile, over in the GCPD's interrogation room, Bullock asks why Victor would try to kill Gordon after Gordon saved his life (in 5x04) and points out that it would've made more sense for Victor to go after Penguin. Victor says that he might do that later, but it's not up to him.

Bullock realizes that Victor is working for someone and asks who it is. Victor mimes locking his lips and throwing away the key. Bullock punches him and demands that Victor give him a name. Oddly enough, Victor replies by quoting Shakespeare ("What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet") and rambling about roses.

Bullock asks if Victor is high.

"Only on love," he replies. This is enough to make Bullock realize what's going on: Ivy Pepper hypnotized Victor and ordered him to kill Gordon.

Over in the morgue, Alfred brings Lee a cup of tea. He says that he heard about her argument with Gordon and asks if she's having misgiving about the arrival of Barbara's child. Lee says she doesn't know what she's getting into or how she can raise a child alongside Barbara Kean. She adds that there's another problem: if Lee and Gordon are going to raise the child, they'll need to do it together, but she doesn't always know what's going on in his head.

Alfred replies that Gordon needs Lee more than he lets on, but she says that she needs to hear it from Gordon himself. Alfred then changes the subject back to parenting. He says that he originally had no interest in being a father and used to think he was unfit to be one, but everything changed when Bruce's parents died. He says that while and Bruce aren't related by blood, "the most ecstatic moments" of Alfred's life have been all the moments he shares with Bruce.

Alfred tells Lee that nothing can prepare her for that kind of joy and that she'll figure out how to be a parent as she goes. He then promises that Lee will be an amazing mother and that the child will be better for having her in his/her life.

Lee thanks him and goes back to tending Gordon. She asks if he can hear her.

Gordon, however, is still caught up in his dream. Gordon-2 (the prosecutor) says that while Gordon has hurt Lee more than anyone else, she's still with him. Lee replies that she loves Gordon. Regardless, Gordon-2 asks if her life would be better off without him. When she stays quiet, he rephrases the question: would Lee be better off if Gordon were dead? Lee tells Gordon-1 that she's sorry, but everything he touches ends up dead.

Gordon-2 rests his case. Gordon-1 says that the prosecution made Lee say what he wanted her to say, but Gordon-2 says that he didn't force her to say anything. He then tells Gordon that if he wants a second opinion, he should "ask them." Gordon then looks out and sees the burning, half-dead souls of all the people who died in the Haven explosion (all the people that he failed to protect, Gordon-2 says).

"I think I'm dying," Gordon-1 says faintly.

"Isn't it about time?" Gordon-2 asks, opening his jacket to show the same wound as Gordon-1. He then tells Gordon-1 that the verdict is in: Gordon's guilty.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Victor is chatting with his guard when, suddenly, another cop enters and shoots the guard in the head.

The cop begins to uncuff Victor, and Ivy enters the room. She says that all she asked Victor to do was kill Gordon, and he hurriedly offers to finish the job. Ivy, however, says that she'll kill Gordon herself while Victor keeps the cops busy. She then gives him several guns for his part of the job and remarks that the other part of her plan is working nicely.

The other plan, as it turns out, involves a hypnotized Bruce entering Lucius's water filtration plant. He tells Lucius that he wanted to check out the plant's progress. Lucius replies that the toxicity levels in the river are decreasing and that they'll be under the government-mandated threshold soon. He adds that the work will save thousands of people.

"People, ugh," Bruce remarks.

Lucius notices that Bruce is acting weird, but before he can do anything about it, Bruce sprays Lucius with Ivy's perfume and tells him to shut down the plant. Lucius agrees, saying that he'd do anything for Ivy.

Over at the Sirens' Club, Barbara serves drinks to Gotham's various gangs. She proposes a toast to Gordon's imminent death and says that he can't hound them anymore. While the gangs eagerly drink up, Penguin asks what Barbara's up to. She replies that she's "trying to keep the city from ripping itself apart."

Penguin suggests that this plan might have more to do with Barbara's feelings for Gordon than she lets on, but Barbara insists that it doesn't. She says that if the three of them aren't able to make it out of town, they need a backup plan that keeps them in Gordon's favor.

Barbara then calls for everyone's attention. She says that the real reason she called them to the club is so that they could agree to an immediate truce. One of the gang members asks what's to stop them from killing Barbara and taking her club instead.

She replies that everyone's drinks were poisoned and the man she's talking to had two shots before everyone else arrived. He then drops to the floor, clutches his throat, foams at the mouth, and falls dead. Barbara says that everyone else has 48 hours to take the antidote, which she'll deliver if they go back to their territories, "play nice," and send her all of their guns. They agree and quickly leave.

Back at the filtration plant, Lucius tells Bruce that once he reverses the system, the toxins from the river will be re-released, overload the filters, and shut down the facility altogether. He then starts the process.

Suddenly, an alarm goes off. Lucius and Bruce check the security cameras and see Selina skulking around the plant. Bruce decides to take care of it while Lucius oversees the plant's destruction.

Meanwhile, Bullock tells his fellow officers that Ivy's on the loose again and that they need to take her down. Before he can give any more orders, however, Victor enters and announces that she's already arrived. He then begins to shoot at them while babbling about Ivy, which leads to him accidentally letting it slip that he's the distraction while she goes to kill Gordon.

Gordon, at the moment, is still unconscious. Alfred hears gunfire and leaves the morgue to help the GCPD fight Victor, and Lee continues to anxiously watch over Gordon.

Gordon, however, is still stuck in dreamland. Now he's in a cell. Bullock is on the other side of the bars, and behind him is a crowded party. Bullock offers Gordon a drink. When Gordon asks what's going on, Bullock replies that it's Gordon's wake.

Gordon looks around the room and sees Riddler and Penguin at the piano, while other villains (Kathryn from the Court of Owls, Scarecrow, Professor Pyg, etc.) and cops join in a chorus of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."

Gordon realizes he's still alive, and Bullock replies that it'd be a bummer to have the wake after Gordon had died. Gordon then wonders aloud how he's going to protect his child when everything around him dies. Bullock shrugs and walks off.

"That's a good question," someone says from behind Gordon. He turns and sees a bloodied, half-dead Will (the kid who was friends with Gordon and later died in Haven). Will says that Gordon said he'd be safe. Gordon again says that he did his best to keep Will safe, but Will says that Gordon's best "never seems to be good enough."

He then tells Gordon that it's time to go and opens the cell door. As Gordon follows Will, he begins to flatline in real-life. Lee quickly grabs a syringe filled with adrenaline, but before she can inject it, Ivy enters. Upon seeing Gordon's failing state, she remarks that Victor must have "succeeded after all" and decides to kill Lee instead of Gordon.

Meanwhile, Victor keeps shooting at the GCPD. Bullock says that he's tired of getting shot at in his precinct and tells Alfred and the other cops to give him cover so that he can get something out of the storeroom.

Over in the morgue, Ivy and Lee fight. Lee asks why Ivy cares about killing Gordon, and Ivy replies that "Gotham has a chance to be born anew." She says she wants to return the city to a place filled with nature and says that Gordon's quest to reunify with the mainland would only lead to a return to filth and pollution.

Lee tries to stab Ivy with the syringe, but Ivy grabs her arm and stops her. Lee asks if Ivy's plan is simply to kill Gordon and let plants take over the city. She replies that killing him is only the first step and that Bruce Wayne is taking care of everything else. Lee then apologizes to Ivy—before grabbing a gun off of a nearby table and shooting her in the stomach.

Ivy says that the pain of being shot is nothing compared to the pain Lee's about to feel. Ivy knocks the adrenaline syringe to the ground, destroying Lee's last hope of reviving Gordon. She then exits.

Back at the filtration plant, Bruce and Selina fight. Selina tries to convince Bruce to snap out of Ivy's control, but he doesn't listen to her and says that Ivy's given him a purpose. As they fight, Selina asks if he really wants to kill everything in Gotham. Bruce replies that the toxins will only kill the people and the plants will adapt and overcome. He then punches her repeatedly.

Selina says that she's not actually that surprised and adds that if Bruce really cared about Gotham, he wouldn't be leaving. She knocks him to the ground and begins to punch him over and over while asking what'll happen to everyone Bruce leaves behind in Gotham.

The punching is enough to break the spell. Bruce tells Selina that he's okay, and she apologizes for hurting him. He tells her that they need to stop Lucius, and she helps him get back on his feet.

The two of them run over to Lucius. Bruce tells him that they need to stop the shutdown, but Lucius says that if they did that, Ivy would get mad. Bruce tries to tell Lucius that he's been hypnotized to obey Ivy, but Lucius doesn't buy it. Selina decides to cut the Gordian knot by simply kicking Lucius in the head, which is enough to snap him out of the spell. Bruce then switches the shutdown off.

Meanwhile, at the GCPD, Bullock enters in the bomb-proof suit that Riddler wore a few episodes ago. Victor shoots at him. The impact knocks Bullock to the ground, but he quickly gets back up and tackles Victor.

In the morgue, Lee gives Gordon CPR and begs him to fight for himself as fiercely as he's always fought for everyone else.

In Gordon's hallucination, Will leads him into a room with an electric chair. Gordon gets strapped in and closes his eyes. Suddenly, he hears Lee say his name and opens his eyes. He sees her in his dream, holding a baby. She asks if he wants to hold it. Gordon says that he doesn't know if he can.

"Oh, I see," Lee replies, and she drops the child.

"No!" Gordon shouts. "I want to live!" Will tells him that it's too late and flips the switch. Gordon screams as electricity shoots through him.

Suddenly, he wakes up in the real world. Lee tells him not to move and asks how he feels.

"Like I almost died," he says. She replies that he didn't give in; he fought and came back to her. Gordon says it's because he needs Lee. He begins to mention the child, and she tells him that it's okay to be scared about being a parent. He replies that "the only thing scarier than doing this is doing it without you." He then says he has something to ask her. He whispers it in her ear, and she replies by kissing him.

The episode then skips ahead by a month. The GCPD is now decorated with lanterns, candles and lovely greenery, and Gordon is wearing a suit.

Bruce remarks that Gordon looks nervous. Selina replies that he should be thrilled to be "marrying a woman who's smarter and better-looking than him" and laughs. Bruce then tries to talk to her about what she said when they were fighting, but she shushes him as Lee walks down the stairs in a beautiful white dress.

Bullock, who's apparently officiating the wedding, tells the attendees to sit. He says a bit about Gordon (who he says is not just his best friend, but his only friend) and a little bit about Lee as well. He says that Lee has always had Gordon's back, except for the time that she was injected with the Tetch virus and almost killed him.

"But hey, that's love," Bullock says, and everyone laughs it off. He adds that if there's one beautiful thing that's happened in the past few years of craziness, it's that Gordon and Lee met each other. Afterward, they say their "I do's."

"By the power invested in me, by absolutely no one," Bullock says, "I now pronounce you man and wife."

(To be fair, they could've gotten a marriage license from city hall, but that would probably have meant inviting Penguin to the wedding.)

Gordon and Lee kiss. As they do, Bruce looks at Selina briefly before kissing her as well.

Elsewhere, Penguin remarks that Lee and Gordon have tied the knot. He jokingly thanks Barbara for holding the city together long enough for the wonderful event to take place. He then says that her push for a ceasefire wasn't a back-up plan; it was her last-ditch effort to show Gordon that she'd changed.

"But he will never see you as anything but a dangerous woman trying to keep his child from him," Penguin says. Barbara replies that it's time to get out of town before Gordon can stop her. Penguin points out that Gordon will do his best to track her down. Barbara says he's welcome to try.

The Verdict

I enjoyed this episode, because it took the time to slow down and focus on the characters' emotions and relationships in spite of all the action.

In particular, I was fascinated by Gordon's trial. The dream itself isn't about Gordon trying to atone for his past failures and mistakes or prove his innocence; the whole point is that he can't. He can't change the past. The more he dwells on the guilt of what he's done, the more he makes self-destructive choices in an effort to atone for what he's done.

This episode isn't an attempt to excuse Gordon's sins; it's an acknowledgment that he's more aware of them than anyone else, that the reason he keeps jumping into danger is because he wants to make things right. And as noble as this might sound, it's a self-destructive cycle.

Killing Theo Galavan, leaving the GCPD in season 2, working with Sofia Falcone—these are all things Gordon did. And while none of them was the right thing to do, each one was a reaction to Gordon's past failures (a sort of over-correction, if you will).

Gordon killed Galavan because he didn't want to hesitate and risk Galavan escaping to kill someone else (as had happened with an assassin Gordon arrested a couple of episodes earlier). Gordon left the GCPD in season 2 because he thought that working outside of the law would allow him to catch the mastermind behind the Wayne murders (after he'd been unable to solve the case for almost two years). Gordon let Sofia take over the criminal underground because he thought Penguin (the man he'd saved from the show's beginning) was becoming too powerful.

In short, Gordon's guilt was his biggest obstacle before this episode. He could only move forward, both as the GCPD's leader and as a partner for Lee, when he confronted that guilt. That's what the dream is about: Gordon choosing to overcome his guilt in order to be there for the people that he cares about and who care about him in return. It's about him realizing that he can't do everything himself and that the more he tries to do so, the more he fails. It's about him forgiving himself so that he can be the father that his child needs.

Without Gordon's defeat of his own guilt and shame, the ending of this episode wouldn't be possible. He couldn't enter a legitimate relationship and partnership with Lee until he confronted his own guilt (especially about how he's hurt her in the past) and acknowledged that he needs her strength as much as she needs his. Because he was able to do that, the wedding felt earned. It felt like a relief to see those two characters, after all the strife they've gone through, finally get a happy ending.

Was it cheesy? Sure, but I loved every second of it. And the fact that the actors for Gordon and Lee (Ben McKenzie and Morena Baccarin) are married in real life just makes the whole episode more heartwarming and more real, especially since McKenzie wrote this episode.

Speaking of heartwarming, I'd be remiss if I didn't touch on the Bat-Cat aspect of this episode. Needless to say, I thought it was well done. Having Bruce be hypnotized by Ivy was a good was to pit him against Selina without having the two characters suffer another falling-out. The fight was also a great way to physically show Selina's anger and distress over the thought of Bruce leaving town (and proves that, no matter how cool and collected she acts, she doesn't really want to lose him for good).

If Bruce does leave Gotham, I suspect it will only be to train and that his departure will only come after reunification. But at the moment, I think he's planning to stick around.

As for Barbara's subplot, I don't have much to comment on, except that it's sad to see her agonize over the prospect of losing Gordon and possibly the custody of her child.

Overall, I'd give the episode a 7 or 8 out of 10. I'm anxious to get back to the main storyline with Eduardo and Walker, but I enjoyed "The Trial of James Gordon" nonetheless.

The next episode, "I Am Bane," comes out on March 21. The recap should be up by March 27. Until then, have a good few weeks, and remember: a good canned meal is a surefire way to charm your date every time.


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