The second season finale of Gotham – Wrath of the Villains: Transference – flirts heavily with going off the rails, but hangs on to provide a potentially catastrophic cliffhanger in which none of the usual suspects are actually at risk.
Oh, no. This time it’s Gotham as a whole that’s in trouble.
There’s lots of stuff going on in Transference – our chameleonic fellow from last week is preventing police involvement; Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) is playing demented quizmaster with Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk), and Professor Hugo Strange (B.D. Wong) is questioning James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) about who really runs Gotham (while also giving him some unorthodox but effective therapy and a time limit on his future).
Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) does a bit of interior design – with the aid of Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) – before she takes a trip to GCPD HQ and makes an astonishing discovery.
Meanwhile, Strange finds his plans being interfered with by the woman on the viewscreens – and, on second look her mask looks an awful lot like an owl.
Series creator Bruno Heller has written a tale that feels a big as a key issue of a Batman comic and embroidered it with little details – like Gordon’s former partner, Bullock (Donal Logue) not sussing out the fake Gordon, and Selina’s friendship with Firefly (Michelle Veintimilla) not being what it seems – that add depth and wit.
Series regular director Eagle Egilsson balances potentially camp sequences with Dutch angles and odd lighting to keep them from getting out of hand – and plays the mix of humor and drama nicely. He also does a superb job with shot selection – objects may be closer than they appear, so to speak – and his pacing is precise and delicately timed.
His handling of a sequence in which we see the vague forms of some of Strange’s monsters gives us just enough to make us think that we might know some of them without really being sure.
Individually, Smith finally gets to go full tilt Riddler; Taylor gets to run an emotional gamut, and Bicondova gets to add some intriguing tweaks to Selina. McKenzie does a solid job of playing Gordon and Gordon’s way off doppelganger – which makes Bullock look a little bit dim (though, to be fair, he’s got an asylum full of monsters to worry about…).
By the episode’s conclusion, season three is set up; Gordon has a new mission in life and Bruce has learned that there’s more to his parents’ death than the man who ordered the hit.
It’s good stuff that will, hopefully, pay off in big ways next season.
Final Grade: A-