‘Gotham' Recap Season 4, Episode 1 - ‘A Dark Knight: Pax Penguina’

Gotham is finally back with a new season and a few new story arcs. As you can tell from this season’s subtitle, we finally get what we were all waiting for – the real beginning of Bruce’s transformation to Batman. Bruce still has a way to go, but it looks like we are taking some major steps towards the caped crusader being a regular staple in Gotham City. Episode 1 gives a couple of nods to classic Batman antics, more about this later.

First, let’s give a brief recap of where we left off at the end of season 3 to set the stage. A lot happened in the two-part season 3 finale, but let’s focus on where everything stood when the dust settled. Bruce had met the “Demon’s Head” - Ra’s al Ghul - who was looking for an heir. Ra’s orders Bruce to kill Alfred by stabbing him with a sword, which he does. Bruce then defies Ra’s by removing the sword and uses the waters of the Lazarus Pit to heal Alfred and take him to the hospital. At the hospital, Selina comes to check on Alfred, but Bruce pushes her away. Selina ends up in the care of Tabitha, where we get a glimpse of the infamous whip that we all equate with Catwoman. Cobblepot uses some tricks that lead Nygma into a trap and Cobblepot is able to freeze him with the help of Fries and Ivy. At the very end of the season, we see a couple walking down an alley getting robbed, reminiscent of the fateful walk that Bruce and his parents made that one harrowing evening. A masked hero comes to their aide and in the closing seconds of the season, we see that the masked hero was Bruce.

Season 4 begins in the same way that season 3 ended. There is a couple that is being mugged and Bruce comes to their rescue. This time however, the mugger has a ‘license of misconduct’ in his pocket. It turns out that Cobblepot has struck a deal with Gotham’s mayor and commissioner of police to essentially unionize crime. Penguin gives out these ‘licenses of misconduct’ to criminals and if the police see that a thug has one while committing a crime, they are to turn a blind eye. Gotham has never been a show to avoid out of the box ideas, and this unionized crime fits perfectly in that mold.

I could not wait to see how Gordon would respond to this new take on Gotham's crime. Lucky for me, I only had to wait until the next scene for Jim to interrupt a robbery. When the robber tells him he has a license, Jim takes a second, collects his thoughts, and slams the criminal's head into the counter before locking him up. Harvey tries to convince Jim to respect the licenses by bringing up the fact that Penguin has taken control of the underground crime rings and that has led to smarter and more focused crime and less police office deaths. If we know Jim, and I think after a few years we now know him pretty well, there is no way he sit back, accept this idea, and let Penguin run Gotham's crime.

There is a small group of criminals who also do not buy into Penguin’s new operation. They remove Jonathan Crane from Arkham, where he has been since his father used too much of the fear toxin on him. There plan is to get Crane to create more of the fear toxin for them so they can use it to take down Cobblepot. Crane does so and these robbers rob a bank with the aide of the toxin, while leaving Crane locked in a closet with a – you guessed it – scarecrow. Jim sees the effects of the toxin on the bank’s patrons and connects the dots, realizing that Crane is creating the toxin and is somewhere in Gotham. Jim tricks Cobblepot to put out a message causing the group of robbers to attack his club – The Iceberg Lounge. Cobblepot gets sprayed with the fear toxin and see images of a decaying Nygma as he collapses into Jim’s arms while weeping. This leads to newspaper headlines titled “Penguin or Chicken.” I am sure that Cobblepot will not be happy about this and will go about trying to restore his name.

Bruce ends up stealing the master list of criminals who have received ‘licenses of misconduct.’ It will be interesting to see if he plans on using the list to rid the city of criminals one by one. At the end of the episode, we see the closet door that housed Crane being opened and a dark figure in the corner. As the figure comes forth, he sprays the toxin in the face of those before him, and we can see that the Scarecrow has been born.
In the middle of the episode the show pays homage to a classic Commissioner Gordon and Batman interaction, the first of many we may be in store for. Bruce visits Jim to discuss the ‘licenses of misconduct’ and hypothesize about the possibility of a master list. Jim turns around to look at something and when he looks back while suggesting Bruce and him get dinner that evening, Bruce is gone. This is an interaction we have seen between Batman and Gordon countless times, and it was a treat to see it unfold finally on Gotham. Bruce seems to have taken a huge leap forward in his abilities, tirelessly jumping off of buildings and to the rescue of Gotham’s citizens. I want to question how he has come so far in a seemingly short amount of time, but on the other hand – I don’t really care. The show needed to get going on the fast track towards Batman’s creation. There was only so long that audiences were willing to keep watching a show about Gotham City without real glimpses of a caped crusader and it seems that Gotham’s writers could see that and responded appropriately.  

Episode 1 was chalk full of action and I am very much looking forward to what this season has in store. It looks like episode 2 will have Bruce get some much needed suit upgrades and we will get to see Jim come face to face with his biggest fears, courtesy of the Scarecrow.