Scarification in many ways represents both progress and regression for Gotham. A great deal of progress has been made in the show’s ability to carry linear storytelling. The “villain of the week” format has been swapped out for a more compelling overarching story. Last night’s episode showed progress in that regard. After several episodes, we finally caught a glimpse into Theo Galavan’s backstory and family history. Coincidentally, his background has helped expand the mythology of Gotham City itself. Exploring the unexplored has been a strong suit of Gotham and it’s paid off for the most part.
I was disappointed in last night’s episode for one specific reason. Because last season didn’t exploit every future villain possible, the show returned to the tired trope of introducing another Batman villain. That’s not to say that I didn’t appreciate the manner in which it was done. Firefly has been given a new twist on their identity. Not only has the gender been changed, but they juxtaposed the traditional supervillain origin with one of forceful endeavors. I appreciate the effort to do something different, but it’s a return to form that I don’t care for. It’s my biggest problem with any sort of prequel. If we will never see characters in their full future forms, do not introduce them for the sake of fan service.
The prototypical Firefly is Bridgit Pike, who forcefully works for pyromaniac brothers. They’re hired by Penguin (who is under the thumb of Galavan) to execute strategic acts of arson. Since they can’t exactly fit into vents and chutes, they forcefully request Bridgit to aid them. This leads to her accidentally torching one of the members of the G.C.P.D. Strike Force. I say “members” because none of them have been given any sort of identity at this juncture. It’s supposed to be a big shock when Barnes tells the rest of the crew that he’s passed on. Instead, it comes off as devoid of emotional impact. Perhaps we’ll see guilt from Bridgit in the coming episodes. After all, she managed to escape from the Strike Force with the aid of old friend Selina Kyle. Once again, Selina is placed into Gotham for no substantial reason other than name recognition.
I couldn’t bring myself to become invested in Bridgit’s story. I rolled my eyes when I saw her don the prototypical Firefly suit because I felt betrayed. I thought Gotham was finished with “villains of the week” but apparently there are more to come. It really brought down what I thought was a great episode for Penguin and Galavan. Now that Galavan has taken Penguin’s mother prisoner, Penguin has become increasingly paranoid and violent. He hasn’t gone completely off the deep end yet and I like how he’s still scheming against Galavan. To gain Galavan’s trust, he hatches a plan for Butch to “defect” to Galavan. Knowing that it would be a hard pill for Theo to swallow, he lops off Butch’s hand as a means to add legitimacy to Butch’s defection. It’s this kind of thinking that has helped make Penguin the standout character of Gotham.
Throughout this season, Theo Galavan has made it well-known that he intends to bring down Gotham City. Until last night, little information has been given to explain his mindset. Thanks to a fascinating albeit lengthy expository flashback, we see Galavan is motivated by revenge. His family was cast out of Gotham in a tale of lustful desire and exile. This helps provide a lot of useful context as to why he wants to become Mayor. More importantly, it explains his fixation on Bruce Wayne. Bruce’s ancestors are the reason why the Galavan name was removed from Gotham’s history.
For what this episode did well, there were too many instances where I felt like they were returning to lesser quality. I was beyond tired of Gotham utilizing future villains during last season’s run. Scarification not only brought my anguish back, but it also distracted from the main narrative involving the G.C.P.D. Barnes made it abundantly clear last week that their goal was to bring down Penguin. If this is still their goal, it should be immediately addressed in the coming weeks. If not, it may very well get lost in the shuffle.