It’s hard to imagine how Gotham’s third season could have kicked off much better. Last season appeared to course correct the show. Gotham is firmly set as a Batman show without Batman now complete with liberal borrowing of his Rogue Gallery. Better to Reign in Hell signaled the arrival of a more confident, assured show suggesting this could be the best season yet.
Like most season premieres, the bulk of the episode was spent establishing the new status quo. That’s fine since a lot has happened in the six months since Season 2’s finale. Strange’s freaks are on the loose and Gordon is focused on bringing them in. Not as a member of the Gotham City Police Department, but as a bounty hunter making rent. And nursing a broken heart after Lee moved on. You did drive her away there Jimbo.
Gordon’s already been a beat cop, a detective and a security guard at Arkham so a bounty hunter seems like a pretty reasonable next step. Gotham is definitely padding Gordon’s resume for his eventual promotion to the GCPD’s top spot. Jamie Chung joins the cast as Valerie Vale, a reporter for the Gotham Gazette.
The slight name change should spare Gotham from the pitchforks crew complaining about another race-swapped character. Gotham is a comic book show where a reporter makes sense. Valerie has a more flexible moral fiber in getting leads than Lois Lane, but she looks like she’ll eventually be able to help Gordon forget Lee.
Fish Mooney is back to being the dynamic, charismatic leader — this time of the monster army. I’d love to see the writers try something different with Fish. For instance what would she do if no one followed her besides when she used her powers? On the plus side, Fish’s costume is a snazzy super villain attire.
The writers wisely worked in a weakness for the crew. Every time they use their powers they’re slowly killing themselves. That was smart since there was no way Gordon could conceivably bring in these monsters without any powers. In Better to Reign in Hell alone, Gordon confronts an reptilian villain and the show’s take on Man-Bat.
Penguin is not thrilled with Fish’s return and offers a $1 million bounty to anyone who takes her out. Meanwhile Tabitha and Barbara are running a nightclub together. And apparently Butch got swapped out for Barbara and he’s desperate to get her back. The writers made a terrific move bringing Butch back with Penguin. They’ve got a great chemistry. But why didn’t Penguin just call in Zsasz? He’d kill Fish for half that amount.
It didn’t prove a pivotal point in the episode, but Penguin’s trip to Arkham to visit Nygma was a fun scene. Cory Michael Smith really stepped his game up last season and this moment indicated he’s still got some places to evolve his take on The Riddler.
Bruce and Alfred return from an overseas trip. Their investigation into the Council aka Court of Owls got a bit hairy and they needed some space. Naturally, Bruce goes to the Wayne Enterprise board room challenging any council members to come at him. Not that surprising, the Court sends an assassin, the closest we’ll get to Talons, after Bruce. Alfred is game as usual, but gets knocked out and Bruce gets taken. Time for Alfred to call in Liam Neeson.
Director Danny Cannon did an outstanding job setting the mood of the season. The lighting, costumes and tone really felt like a Tim Burton version of Gotham. Better to Reign in Hell was solid assurance that last year’s goofy, yet entertaining season wasn’t an anomaly. I’m set for what should be another ridiculous, unpredictable fun ride this season.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Image Credit: Jeff Neumann/FOX