Gotham – Season 2 Episode 5
“Rise of the Villains – Scarification”
“Scarification”, the fifth episode of season two of Gotham, gives us the true identity of Theo Galavan: Turns out he’s really part of the Dumas family, a family that was destroyed almost a couple of centuries ago by the Waynes. It was a nice reveal, playing out with a little period piece that more appropriately showed off the show’s taste for different genres and styles.
I was having trouble matching up Galavan with Ra’s al Ghul and Gotham now shows me why, introducing the religious order standing behind Galavan: the Order of Dumas. Galavan is presumably descended from Caleb Dumas, a wronged man forced into exile after being discovered in a secret tryst with Celestine Wayne. Not only is this poor sap betrayed by his lover, her family cuts off his hand and then proceeds to remove all trace of his family from the record, effectively wiping them from existence. Caleb survives by going into exile to a penitentiary run by a religious order named for Saint Dumas, who presumably shares his following hatred for the Waynes.
The Waynes were truly brutal back in the day – no wonder Bruce’s father felt the need to make the world a better place.
Even for Gotham this reveal came a lot sooner than I thought it would. It felt like the reveal the bad guy gives as the heroes close in – you know, ‘whilst I have you here Mr Bond’. It’s certainly powerful enough to make us understand why Theo wants to destroy Bruce though: A centuries old grudge, a family once one of the five most powerful in a city laid low, a betrayed lover – all of this seems it could be bred into a perpetual, unstoppable hatred. Given how brutal the internet tells me the Order of Dumas is supposed to be, I can easily see how Theo is as he is.
It seems such a shame to lose the mystery now though. I was enjoying seeing Theo’s attention turn to Bruce. I was enjoying pondering if Theo was going to fulfil a father-figure role for Bruce. There are still questions to pose though, I suppose. Perhaps Silver St Cloud will take the opposite place of Celestine Wayne in a re-enactment of the lover’s betrayal, making Bruce fall for her and then turning on him. Perhaps there’s more to the goals of the Order of Dumas than just helping Theo get his revenge – they do talk about bathing Gotham in blood, more in the line of Ra’s al Ghul’s beliefs.
Whatever his long-term plan, the next step of Theo’s strategy unfolds with the hiring of the arsonist Pike brothers. Perhaps this is part of a scheme to downgrade the value of the properties on the sites Galavan wants to build on in order to regain his family’s status in Gotham. Perhaps it was just about burning some Wayne property. Perhaps it’s both. Either way, this plot leads to a good female character that Gotham has been really short of in Bridgit Pike, soon to be the Firefly, played by Michelle Veintimilla.
The episode shows us the Firefly’s origin story that builds in a very believable way that’s not over the top. I’m struggling to see how Mr Freeze is going to arrive on camera this season in any way short of being Arnie-tastic, especially given the show’s move to a more comic-book committed feel. A potential danger in bringing in these comic-book villains is playing so far to their crazy origins that it’s just too silly to make you care. Bridgit Pike though, is believably enslaved, credibly pitiful and her story lies on the right side of the danger line.
Constantly put down but with nowhere to turn to you can easily see why Bridgit stays with her captor ‘brothers’ and her development of what will be her villain costume comes about through experience and necessity within the episode – a really nice bit of scripting. There’s also a lovely subtlety to her taking on Selina’s advice to be strong, first within the confines of her emotional prison by encouraging herself to carry on with the arson attack and then to stand up to Selina when they next meet and Selina challenges Bridgit to leave her brothers. Hopefully this will then continue on in a future episode when the Firefly breaks out on her own, leaving her captors behind once and for all.
Bridgit’s story was a really nice surprise, not just because there’s now another good female role in the show but also because of her onscreen development – Gotham shows you can do even an origin piece within one episode and not make it feel rushed. A second good surprise for me was that the first of the Strike Force to fall did not do so because of a bad order from Barnes. Garrett is instead killed by his own overconfidence. A third good surprise is that Bridgit, now a cop killer and so a serious threat in the eyes of the GCPD, was a villain not raised up by Galavan, an idea I thought would be reused throughout the whole second season. All in all then, an episode with many good things to look out for. Oh, one more: Butch and Selina talking about their connections to Fish – I really liked that.
Things I wasn’t so keen on this episode? I’m not sure actually. I did get a bit of a 60s, Adam West vibe from the mercenary armament warehouse running itself openly like a normal warehouse superstore. They even had a paint can marked “ACID” on the side that was a perfect tribute to the similarly marked “BOMBS” in the 60s show. Yeah, on reflection I hated that. I may have laughed but I really didn’t like the 60s TV version of Batman.
Humour that sat better with me came from Theo Galavan after Gordon agrees to endorse Galavan for mayor. You see Galavan hold his serious look from the conversation for a few seconds after Gordon turns away, just long enough to make sure no-one’s watching and then break into a little boy’s grin. It was pretty much in the vein of Joss Whedon’s patented ‘break the emotion with a joke’ moments but actually so, so much better. Many of these jokes in Buffy used to make me want to scream they were so out of place, so unfunny, but seeing Galavan do it here it seemed completely in character – it seemed right for the character in that circumstance. Strange but splendid that now Gotham has turned more over-the-top in can still grasp some real subtleties. Long may this continue.
I’d also like to see more this season of Gordon being the central character. He sort of is and sort of isn’t in “Scarification”. He only pushes a small part of plot in the episode but is nonetheless on screen more than anyone else, linking everything together. It’s possibly more noticeable that he’s at the centre because this episode has nothing of Bruce in it at all. Still, we see Jim feeling awkward when Galavan calls him a symbol of honour and he falls that little bit further from grace when he secures Galavan’s support for a police force with a completely free hand to ‘do what must be done’. That’s quite a big deal, a big step towards the darkness for Gordon, despite it happening over a single, simple handshake.
Gotham keeps up the pace this episode by giving us Theo Galavan’s true identity, despite us only having reached episode five of the season. I liked the reveal though, if only because it played out with a little period piece that more appropriately showed off the show’s taste for using different genres and styles. It’s just a shame that the reveal comes so early because it robs us of the mystery. I’ll not get to wonder if Theo is going to try and become a father figure to Bruce anymore; I’ll not get to wonder why he’s targeting Bruce at all because now I know that it really is all about bringing down the Waynes because of a family feud.
Still, to be fair, there are more questions left to ask, so all is not lost. Perhaps Theo Galavan – or Dumas, should I say, will use Silver St Cloud to lure Bruce into a love affair that mimics the tragic connection between the Wayne and Dumas family from the past. Theo could then have Bruce betrayed by a lover in the same way Caleb Dumas was all those years before – a delicious parallel for a man in love with both theatrics and revenge.
Despite an unwelcome trip down memory lane to the Adam West style Batman of the 60s TV show, “Scarification” had many nice surprises for me. I think the best one being Bridgit Pike (soon to be Firefly), who gets a full origin story in a single episode that did not seem rushed and who develops into an interesting and believable female character – something Gotham sorely needs more of.
Add to these surprises Gordon clearly being the central character for once and I felt this episode was really a Gotham I want to see. Cut out the acid containers clearly being marked with the word “ACID” and the comic-book nature of the villains and plot aren’t so silly as to become ridiculous. Keep the subtlety of the ‘break the emotion with a joke’ moments and the detail in the development of the new villains and Gotham actually has something to say.