Holy Batman, Batman!
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
“This is where I was born.”
“A Beautiful Darkness” was the biggest indicator, other than the ratings (and switch to Thursdays), that this might be the final season for Gotham. Or, in the very least, an indicator that the writers and producers are preparing for this season to possibly be the end, if need be.
Not only did Jerome return, with a big plan to assemble the “crème de la crazy,” but he threw a joker card at Penguin while he was sitting alone at Arkham. It was the show’s way of saying “Yes, this is the Joker. This is our Joker. There’s no need to set him up as a proto/surrogate Joker.” Even his name, Jerome, is a good-enough placeholder name. If you squint your ears, it works just fine.
Then, with all the wheels currently in motion to give us a huge finale featuring Joker, Penguin, Riddler, and (a now evil, scheming) Poison Ivy, you’ve pretty much got the core rogues’ gallery in place for a series send-off. You can throw in other notables like Freeze, Firefly, Scarecrow, Madd Hatter, Strange, and anyone else the show has looming in the shadows and it’ll be a big ol’ blow out. Ivy’s current scheme even involves Ra’s al Ghul’s Lazarus Pit goop – so he’s still connected to all of this in spirit.
Now…let’s talk Batman. The Caped Crusader – or Bruce’s future unseen Batman self, in menacing voice form – arrived in “Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come” style and led Bruce down into a Batcave hallucination. It’s the closest the show can get to giving us Batman, and sealing up Bruce’s fate for real, without actually giving us him in solid visible form. And – you know what? – it sort of worked.
Ivy’s plan to kill Bruce slowly was overly-convenient, as was the reveal that her toxin causes people to see weird visions before they die, and you definitely felt the strain. It was a clumsy effort to get Bruce where he needs to be for the end of the season – which may be the end of the series. See, by now, he should have already had his bat experience. At least he should have already for this show, which is not going to last long enough to follow him into his 20s.
Before Gotham signs off, Bruce will need to have come face-to-face with the things, the critters, that will inspire his future costuming. This dream sequence, featuring his future Batman self, is what will get him there. Again, it wasn’t the most graceful way to go about it, and the idea that Ivy’s toxin visions would actually be insightful and therapeutic was certainly a nice stroke of luck for Bruce, but you recognize the necessity of it all. It wasn’t pretty, but it go the job done.
I won’t dig into all the details of “A Beautiful Darkness” – Penguin winning Joker over with some malicious miming, Sofia deciding to use Lee as leverage over Jim, Ed (or was it “Riddler?”) visiting Penguin in Arkham and offering a possible way out, Jim getting that all-important mustache foreshadowing. It was a pretty straight-forward chapter with Ivy at its center (“Ivy’s the coolest”). It looks like her plot (another city-wide outbreak, it seems) will be the engulfing evil scheme our heroes will have to thwart.
I will say this though. And it’s an interesting spin considering how much the Nolan films hammered home the fact that Batman’s arrival had an “escalation” effect on Gotham (which is something brought up about “supers” in the Marvel films too – particularly Civil War). Here, on Gotham, Batman’s arrival will be the escalation. Batman won’t cause a bunch of crazy costumed supervillains to pop up. He’ll be the reaction to them. Gotham’s such a fiendish and chaotic circus, pre-Batman, that characters call it out all the time. Bruce will become Batman because, basically, a cartoonishly crazy city will need a larger-than-life themed vigilante to compete.