TV Recap: Gotham: Rise of the Villains, ‘By Fire’

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Rise of the Villains, ‘By Fire’ Plot Summary:

Gordon (Ben McKenzie) ferociously hunts down the fire killer who slayed a young cop on the strike force.  Selina (Camren Bicondova) may be the only lead, as she tries to hide Bridgit (Michelle Veintimilla) from the cops and abusive brothers.  Meanwhile, Butch (Drew Powell) has successfully infiltrated Galavan’s (James Frain) gang, who has plans of his own for Butch, and Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) and Kringle (Chelsea Spack) get closer, but at a cost.

This week’s Gotham was already on a great pace, but it wasn’t until the last ten minutes where it elevated to possibly the best of the season.  I declared last week’s offering a solid set-up, and was not disappointed.  A lot of bad things happened to many of Gotham’s primary players, but it was Bridgit (“Firefly”), a character just introduced last week, who hit hardest.  Gotham managed to do something that some of the best Batman stories often do – the sympathetic villain.

Photo Credit: Jessica Miglio/ FOX.
Photo Credit: Jessica Miglio/ FOX.

Many of Batman’s rogues have tragic back stories, creating the foundation for who they are as a villain.  Two-Face and Mr. Freeze for example are two of the better ones.  While cliché, Bridgit’s upbringing of slavery and abuse was written extremely well, to the point where you know the cops have to take her down, but it still sucks.  The Batman Animated Series did this beautifully, as does this episode of Gotham.  Veintimilla emotes her vile life perfectly, and the fact that she uses her newfound fire skills against bigger scum bags makes her arc that much more heartbreaking.  The story is layered even more in her relationship with Selina.  This was probably the best performance from Bicondova yet in the series.

Selina’s arc captured the essence of Catwoman flawlessly.  She’s rough, breaks the rules, but always strikes against those who are more evil.  She always carries the exterior of not giving a damn, but when you get those rare moments where she actually cares for someone, it really means something.  That happens between her and Bridgit, who were a great pairing.  It was the scenes between her and Gordon though that really highlighted this episode.  The dialogue was great.  Gordon desperately wants to make everything right, but we know Selina’s faith in a cop will go down in flames, quite literally.  While a predictable storyline, it was executed brilliantly, causing more tension between these two great characters.

While late in the game, the other OMG moment was between Edward and Kringle.  It seems we’ve moved on from those pesky split personality scenes.  The chemistry between Edward and Kringle really shined in this episode, as they got a hell of a lot closer.  I’ve always enjoyed this relationship, and was already satisfied with where they were halfway through, but apparently the writers were not.  Wow.  I certainly didn’t expect that, not until maybe the end of the season.  Nygma’s final scene was the first time we truly got into the soul of who this guy is, and Cory Michael Smith nails it.  I cannot wait to see how Nygma acts next week.

Photo Credit: Jessica Miglio/ FOX.
Photo Credit: Jessica Miglio/ FOX.

While those were the real powerful moments, everyone contributed something great this week.  We got classic Harvey (Donal Logue) moments, providing the levity as always.  There’s also more Butch to go around.  Poor, Butch.  The dude is completely wigging out, and continues to be used like a sad puppet.  He can’t even get a proper replacement for his hand!  We only get one scene between Bruce (David Mazouz) and Alfred (Sean Pertwee), but it was superb.  Classic Alfred wisdom.  I joked last week how Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) finally did something interesting, but she’s actually becoming an amusing figure.  The first scene between her and Barbara (Erin Richards) could have been campy as hell, but they actually straddle the line nicely, and both come off as just plain nuts.

If I had one complaint about this episode, it would be the last scene.  That felt a little off, but I need more information.  This was one of the best written and superbly acted episodes thus far.  It provided huge character moments, but also progressed the story, as Gordon gets one step closer to uncovering who the true mastermind is.  I say this every week, but James Frain is really coming into his own as Theo Galavan.  I’m curious to see what that crazy bastard is up to next week, as I am for everyone in the world of Gotham.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10 (Really Great)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.