TV REVIEW: Gotham Season 2, Episode 19 – Azrael
By Megan Wilde
The episode name, “Azrael,” doesn’t lie — we see a lot of the character in this episode. It gives us his origin, and also a decent amount of him in action. It doesn’t really move the larger plot forward a lot, but it’s pretty fun to see Azrael in action, and see Strange in action too. There are some good moments in this episode, but it’s not as sharp as some of the episodes that have come before.
Azrael starts out as Reanimated Theo Galavan, who still doesn’t thrill me. I don’t know why, but I just can’t get excited about that character. But once he becomes Azrael, I’m more on board; I can at least see the potential for fun there. And his almost innocent puzzlement over his current situation is campy fun. Strange is good in this episode, too, and it seems he’s going farther over the edge all the time. When Peabody is giving you side-eye and all but calling you crazy, you’d better dial it back a little. Strange is really playing God in this episode, giving Galavan a story suited to his own ends and molding him in the image he wants, to do his bidding. He goes so far as to get him a replica Sword of Sin and a suit of armor — both of which are pretty cheap-looking, but innocent Galavan buys it all. And Strange is so inspired by the success of his technique of introducing a story for Theo to latch onto that he excitedly looks through books for stories for all the other patients/subjects. One passage he comes across sticks out, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and I am going to use FBI’s patented Superior Speculation (trademark DW) and say that this is a hint at a new villain on the way: The Mad Hatter. For some reason, I feel like it might not be till next season, but I think he’s probably on his way. Regardless, with Strange’s ever-increasing mania, I think the inmates have taken over the asylum here, and it will be fun to watch as Strange gets even, er, stranger.
And speaking of inmates running the asylum, we see Nygma in prison. He is the smartest one in there, and he works everyone expertly. Nothing gets by him — including the fact that orderlies and doctors keep taking inmates into a certain hallway, from which the inmates never return. He thinks it’s a way out, but he uses his puzzle-solving skills to find where they go, and it’s … not good: Indian Hills, where he hears screams coming from behind many different closed doors. Edward is becoming one of my favorite characters — I like how he seems to have come into his own now, even if “his own” = being bad. He really has become more fun than he used to be, now that he’s playing up the villain side unabashedly. He’s loosened up since going over fully to the bad side, and I like his over-the-top campiness.
We get a quick glimpse of my other favorite, Penguin, this week, too. And I just have to say … Guys. He is sitting in the house with the corpse of Grace still rotting at the dining table. He is Penguin, he should be able to dispose of a corpse with no problem! Why is she still there? Penguin, I love you, but get a grip.
This episode relies pretty heavily on viewers’ knowledge of the Batman universe and what lies down the road. When we see Azrael making a showy entrance at GCPD, climbing the walls and crashing through windows, and then Bruce walks up and sees it, entranced, we suddenly know where he gets his inspiration for his later signature moves. It IS pretty impressive. And we see the difference between Jim, who will stay on the side of the police and eventually become Commissioner Gordon, and Bruce, who will become frustrated by the limitations of the law and will take matters into his own hands. And we can see both their points. Jim talks to Barnes and tries to tell him the truth about things that have been happening, and Barnes says it sounds insane. Which, yes, it totally does, but this is Gotham City, where a crime boss calling himself The Penguin ruled the underworld and a band of Maniax went around wreaking havoc all over the city, so you’d think he’d have a higher threshold for the crazy. And also, Jim has a point when he yells at Barnes (I do mean he yells — he actually shows a bit more range in this episode, so good on Ben McKenzie) that Barnes is hard to tell things to because he is stubborn and wants to stick to the way things “should” be, to the detriment of GCPD. Barnes talks to Jim about being on the side of the law, because otherwise they’re no better than the criminals. And of course this reinforces Jim’s feelings of the same.
In contrast to the route we know Jim will take, Bruce spends much of the episode trying to get Jim and Barnes to go after Strange, now that Jim is convinced Strange is behind the Wayne murders and is involved in something bad, what with bringing Victor Fries (aka Freeze) back from the dead, and now Galavan. (Strange doesn’t learn from his mistakes, does he?) And why is Bruce Wayne, a teenager, telling the police how to run their investigations? Barnes tells him as much, too, when he’s all “Sit DOWN, son, I’m not answering to you.” Anyway, we can see how Bruce’s view differs from that of Jim and Barnes, and we see their paths starting to veer slightly away from each other.
In a bit of foreshadowing, Barnes says that Jim probably would love to take his place one day — and that day might come sooner than either of them would like, as Barnes is stabbed (with the easily broken “Sword of Sin” — and there’s a funny moment when it breaks, and Azrael looks surprised and disappointed) in a fight with Azrael. During the fight, Azrael is knocked around a little, and his mask comes off in front of Barnes, who is shocked to see Theo Galavan, whom he thought was dead. But then he is stabbed, so he doesn’t have time to do anything with this new information. After the fight, Jim shoots at Azrael as he runs away, causing him to fall off the side of a building — on live TV news, while he is unmasked. So we can assume most of the city will know that the former mayor, who was pronounced dead, is dead no more. And in fact, we see Penguin, Tabitha, Butch, and Barbara reacting to the news, in various ways. It will be interesting to see how all that plays out.
FBI SCORE: 7.5 out of 10. “Azrael” has a bit of flash and a lot of scenery chewing by various characters, which is all fun. But the story isn’t moved forward a lot, and it lacks the weight of some previous episodes.