Gotham, ‘Pretty Hate Machine” is the Perfect Set-up for the Season Finale

Photo Credit: Jeff Neumann/FOX

Pretty Hate Machine Plot Summary:

It’s time for Bruce (David Mazouz) to fulfill his destiny, as the Shaman (Raymond J. Berry) enacts his final plan against the Court, and Gotham City.  Lee (Morena Baccarin) sets her sights on Gordon (Ben McKenzie) after injecting herself with the virus, while Oswald (Robin Lord Taylor) is dangerously outmatched against Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) and Barbara (Erin Richards).

Never has an episode of Gotham gotten me this impatient. I need to see that season finale right now. While “How the Riddler Got his Name” still holds up as the best episode of season three, this week gave it quite a scare. This was one high-octane blood bath. Every single character was on edge.  Nerves everywhere. Intensity flying all over the place. Cats and dogs living together! Mass hysteria! My biggest complaint throughout the episode was how predictable it would end up being, but by the time the hour was up, I couldn’t have been more wrong about everything that transpired. This week had more twists and turns than a Mario Kart race. What better place to start then with Batman himself, Bruce Wayne.

Bruce didn’t say a whole lot, but it was all in the face. This is it. All the training sessions have been building towards this moment where Bruce gets to judge Gotham. Mazouz was able to pull off confidence and wishy-washy all at the same time. It was one of Mazouz’s best performances.  It’s rare when a tease for the upcoming episode pays off, but this one did.  

It all starts with a tense first scene between “Ra’s Al Ghul” and the Court of Owls. This was Berry’s best turn as this mysterious character. He wasn’t screwing around. That’s what made him so dangerous. This was also the first confirmation we get of a higher power that works above him. Hmmmmm. Wonder who that could be?

Not only was the dynamic between Bruce and “Ra’s Al Ghul” compelling, but Sean Pertwee takes his momentum from last week and barrels through the emotion tenfold.  Pertwee was awesome.  We all love bad ass Alfred, which you see in spades here, especially coming out of a particular commercial break. Poor, Hugo Strange (BD Wong). But it was the final scene between Bruce and Alfred where Pertwee went from bad ass to straight up heartbroken dad. It was the perfect way to end the episode. Soul crushing.

Speaking of emotion, Bullock (Donal Logue) has always been a perfect source of comic relief in this series, but Logue is finally given some real meat, which is something I’ve been clamoring for. Even though we’ve seen arcs that revolve around Bullock in the first season, this may have been Logue’s best performance as the character. Much like Mazouz, it was all in the facial expressions. Gordon is literally in deep trouble, and Bullock is almost on the verge of tears as he desperately tries to find his friend before one of two things happen, both of which were really bad.

That leads us to Lee’s diabolical plot. Fresh off taking the formula, she goes into straight up villain mode. You can argue the turn is too quick, but as I said last week, this had been building for a while. Morena Baccarin morphed from best person in Gotham to maniacal bad guy flawlessly.  While her motivations made sense, her scheme itself felt too Riddler. That’s my only quibble.

Let’s talk about the Riddler. While the scenes between him and Oswald didn’t blow me away, the intensity level was still at an all-time high. It wasn’t until their last scene where we got another vintage Riddler/Oswald moment. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – this is the best live action interpretation of the Riddler we’ve ever seen. They nailed his character.  He finally has a chance to do Oswald in, but what gets in the Riddler’s way?  His ego. Brilliant.

As good as that Riddler moment was, it was still only the second best depiction of a Batman villain we saw in this episode. I’ve always loved the hell out of Oswald Cobblepot’s characterization, but to me, the first season is still his high point. While still enjoyable, the Penguin has been turned into more of a traditional Batman villain on Gotham, in that he’s crazy. That’s not traditionally the case with the Penguin. This episode was almost an epiphany for Oswald. He realizes this isn’t the type of villain he wants to be.  He talks about how guys like Falcone and Maroni did it the right way. That’s the Penguin. That’s who he is. He’s a smarter mob boss, not a freak. I love what this means for the character going forward.

While Gotham does such a great job with its villains, Ivy (Maggie Geha) felt a little off here.  Geha’s performance has been solid, but they’ve made the character too dumb. The other villains fared better. It’s refreshing to see Barbara on edge, as her whole character has always been crazy and in control. Now she seems measured and out of control. That’s quite a character study.  We also FINALLY saw the return of a big character. The entire room stopped when that happened. You could say she came out of nowhere, but Oswald’s speech foreshadowed it pretty well.

This was, simply put, a damn good episode that truly kept you on the edge of your bat seat. They couldn’t have set up the two-hour finale better. They also made it difficult to top themselves.

Rating: 9 out of 10 (OMG)

 

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.

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