Previously I've argued that everyone on Gotham besides Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) have far more interesting stories than the show's de facto leads. The time has come to amend that stance: it's the villains.
Gotham's goofy baddies are infinitely more interesting than anything any goodie goodie at the GCPD is doing. Ivy (Maggie Geha) going all green-thumbed Florence Nightingale on any wayward freak who turns up on death's door is a recurring story that gives her aged-up incarnation a purpose that is easier to stomach than that of the supernaturally aged tweenage sexpot. It also feels like a sort of understated homage to the kind of character Ivy has demonstrated in the comics of late, particularly where her attitude toward a certain clown prince's ex-girlfriend is concerned.
Despite the momentary setback his captivity provided, Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) has continued to embrace his King of the Freaks status and has appeared to work through any lingering feelings for Ed (Cory Michael Smith) during their forced cohabitation and the reluctant partnership that lead to their escape. The sworn-enemies-with-far-too-much-history-to-take-their-mutual-animosity-seriously is one of my favorite tropes, and if this is the end result of Riddler and Penguin's messy, occasionally problematic, and often infuriating relationship, I'll take it.
Gotham has come to excel at this sort of continued investment in its characters. This situation feels organic, but in Riddler and Penguin's case, it's also fun. They hate each other, but they don't really hate each other, and they need each other, but they still want to kill each other. From the comics to the Dini-verse animated series and (some) of the films, the odd, uncomfortable, and yet still sincere-in-their-own-damaged-way relationships between Batman and his Rogues and the Rogues amongst themselves have often provided complex and thought-provoking stories through their improbability. This is a trend that Gotham, has also incorporated into its storytelling, and in this specific series' case, is one of the strongest aspects of the show.
So: Penguin and Riddler were great. Selina (Carmen Bicondova) and the Doppelganger were solid and Selina and Ivy were fine. Jervis Tetch (Benedict Samuel) and Lee Thompkins (Morena Baccarin) had some great hate onscreen. What this means for our solo baddie-- Michael Chiklis' the Executioner-- is that he could probably benefit from making an in-universe frenemy because I just couldn't get past the over-the-topness of it all. It wasn't Balloonman bad (nothing is Balloonman bad) but it was just very loud and lacking in the nuance that makes Penguin and Riddler and even awkward Ivy so interesting to watch. It's just that, compared to what was going on with Nygma and Penguin's odd couple routine and even Brucie and his (surprise, he's evil!) Jedi Master, the Executioner felt like what the supervillain equivalent of that angry uncle on Facebook who won't stop bitching about the "liberal snowflakes." We all have one.
"All Will Be Judged" was a busy episode that did a lot to move Gotham's key players to their necessary spots as we head toward the season 3 finale in a couple weeks. For all of Gordon's careful planning and the Court of Owls' long history of unchecked population cleansing in the form of urban renewal and "unplanned" disaster, very little of their machinations came to fruition-- and now whatsherface Chief Owlette is dead, which means that even though Alfred (Sean Pertwee) now knows that he's been living with a creepy clone for the last few episodes, there's very little that anyone can do to find Darling Brucie, even if the gang somehow managed to glue the big ominous owl statue back together.
If it wasn't for the delightful jailbreaking hijinks of Riddler and Penguin, which managed to grab my attention firmly enough to let all the other crazy in this episode digest, I'd argue that "All Will Be Judged" was too busy and that Gotham seems to be slipping into its traditional end-of-season panic mode. After all, we're supposed to be keeping track of what is essentially a chemical weapon, whatever is going on with Bruce (The true weapon, or something?), Gordon's sloppy balancing act between being an upstanding cop and being a Court of Owls lackey, all of the Indian Hill stuff that's cropping back up, and now Lee shooting herself up with the Tetch virus because why the hell not.
It's just kind of a lot, all at once, with varying degrees of success in the realm of grabbing our interest. This is the part of the season where the wheels come precariously close to falling off, and I need Gotham to keep it together for just a few more episodes. We're so close to the end of what has generally been a strong season.
BE COOL, Gotham. Just be cool.
Gotham airs Mondays at 8/7c on Fox.