TV Review: Gotham – “Unleashed”

Unleashed
Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find all of my Gotham reviews here.
Theo Galavan was one of the more interesting elements of the first half of Gotham Season 2, tying everything together—the villains, the police, the politics—and giving the show a new drive and cohesion. That is, until his plan was revealed to have been about sacrificing Bruce Wayne to a weird cult of warrior monks and he was killed off. The beginnings of a promising storytelling opportunity completely fell apart.
Galavan’s resurrection took a similar path. It was promising, especially as he was sent to kill Gordon, the man who had killed him. It was the perfect opportunity to have Gordon’s sin finally come back to haunt him, thus addressing one of this season’s flaws. Because as much as Gotham wanted us to think that Gordon killing Galavan and turning dark was a Big Deal, it has utterly failed to follow up on it in any convincing manner. With Galavan rising from the grave, was now finally the time?
No, it wasn’t. After getting his memory sparked by Tabitha, instead of focusing on the fact that Gordon killed him, Galavan remembered his mission to kill Bruce Wayne. The same mission that let his original story crumble. And it’s a setup that did nothing to further Bruce’s story. It’s just another turn in the endless cycle of Bruce Wayne being in mortal peril and surviving, whether it does his character any good or not.
PenguinIt was also strange to see Tabitha’s characterization change somewhat. She started out this season as a sadist with seemingly no conscience, but she’s mellowed out a lot since the midseason finale, and it seems a bit sudden. When she was left alive after Galavan died, I assumed it was because the show had plans for her, but she hasn’t really been seen since. And she was stabbed this week, not killed off but definitely put on hold for the time being, so it doesn’t look like there was much of a plan after all.
I will say, though, that the ending was pretty awesome. Penguin and Butch saving the day by blowing up Galavan with a rocket launcher was actually an instance of Gotham leaning into its more ridiculous side in a good way.
As for Penguin, his return in “Unleashed” was very welcome, but it served as a reminder of how utterly useless his subplot with his father was. It was way too self-contained and didn’t move his story in any direction whatsoever. It was all just a diversion, something to keep Penguin busy for a few episodes before bringing him back. But at least he is back.
Bruce’s storyline was very strange in “Unleashed” too. He had returned home after a short while living in “the streets”, but this week had a change of heart and randomly left Alfred again. Then, after meeting up with Selina to tell her about Strange, he came back home again. The whole point of that was to kickstart Selina’s subplot at Arkham, but it was so confusing and sloppy; surely there could have been an easier way to do that. And don’t get me started on how many times Bruce has rejected Selina “for her own good” then returned to her a few episodes later.
Selina’s Arkham break-in was a strong part of “Unleashed”, at least. Camren Bicondova is legitimately good as a young Catwoman, and her subplot had several fun moments, including a humourous run-in with the Riddler, and a cool reveal of a fully formed Firefly at the end. The costume looked great, even if her dialogue and delivery was a bit campy. But it still felt like the whole detour with Bruce just to set up the Firefly reveal was too convoluted and could have been achieved more directly.
Riddler’s been a highlight this season, but his subplot in “Unleashed” didn’t amount to anything. He tried to escape Arkham (though an easily accessible vent in his cell, which is another instance of Gotham not even trying), but was captured. It seems his whole arc existed solely to set up him meeting Selina in order to let her know where the elevator was. Which would be fine if it weren’t so frustratingly transparent.

Rating: 3/5 (Passable)

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