It’s time for Season Four of Gotham and the new “A Dark Knight” arc. I hope you’re as excited as I am. Well, nobody’s as excited as I am, but you can still be pretty excited. We’ve got a full-fledged Scarecrow this season, plus Bruce in exactly the costume that a teenage boy in Gotham City would make. Most of our favorites are already back this week, so let’s see what they’ve been up to. It’s time for “Pax Penguina”!

We pick up sort of where we left off, with Bruce Batmanning it up atop a building. When he spots an attempted robbery in an alley, he pulls on his mask and dives in. He beats the tar out of the assailant, who says he has a license before he passes out. Sure enough, he has a “License of Misconduct” stamped by Penguin that gives him approval for smuggling, robbery, and kidnapping. (Other crimes on the form include looting, murder, blackmail, grand theft, larceny, embezzlement, and arson.) Bruce disappears into the night, but we see somebody watching him.

OPENING CREDITS!

We go straight to a wedding where the band is performing “Never Gonna Give You Up” and I think that means that Gotham just rickrolled us. Masked gunmen, one of whom is Steve Buscemi’s brother, Michael, show up to rob the place. Luckily, Zsasz is there! He explains to the guys that they can’t commit a crime without a Penguin license. “We just started it, so word’s still getting out.” These guys don’t have a license because they don’t want to cut him in. So Zsasz shoots off one of Michael Buscemi’s fingers from across the room. He scares them off and the bride thanks Zsasz. His response: “Don’t bother. These guys? They do have a license.” And a different set of robbers shows up. HA!

I love Zsasz.

Penguin meets with the new Mayor, Burke. He’s unionizing crime and the Mayor is not totally into it. But his licenses keep the crime rate down – it’s all on agreed-upon terms. Burke can either accept that or let the city go nuts again. The Mayor is willing to agree provided he gets a portion of the take and nobody tells the press. The only hitch is that Penguin needs the GCPD to play along with the licenses. And with that, Penguin is off to prepare for the grand opening of the Iceberg Lounge.

Liquor store robbery. Gordon walks in as it’s happening and despite the thug’s claims that he has a license, Gordon slams his face down on the bar and brings him in. He gets some dirty looks from the other cops, which has to be a thing that Jim Gordon expects by now. Harvey’s in his office with a Penguin representative who explains the licenses, the Mayor’s participation, and the reduced crime stats. But he emphasizes that compliance is key and Oswald is especially worried about Gordon respecting the licenses. Gordon immediately walks in and shows Bullock the license from the guy he arrested. Hee! Bullock explains it to him and says it’s the only way to keep the city safe. He also notes that no cops have been shot in a month, which is unheard of. It seems weird that Gordon is the last to find out about this, but he’s not exactly chummy with the other cops.

I don’t like Bullock playing along with this, but it’s not out of character for him. Especially since they haven’t found another captain yet and he’s still stuck doing the job he never wanted.

At stately Wayne Manor, Bruce and Alfred talk about the licenses and we get some backstory. Alfred knows what he’s up to and these “real world encounters” are a way of honing his skills for when Ra’s al Ghul comes for him. Oh, I like that. I wasn’t sure Bruce as proto-Batman was sustainable, but Bruce preparing for Ra’s is a whole different story.

The wedding criminals show up at Arkham Asylum, and Warden Reed takes them to Jonathan Crane. Oh good. We’ve got a corrupt warden. That won’t be a problem at all. One of the crooks used to be an orderly, so he knows about the fear toxin Crane’s father made. But Jonathan is still pretty messed up. Michael Buscemi (Metron) hands over some cash and Reed just lets them take the kid. Reed’s performance is really fun, by the way. This actor was the doctor in Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter and he’s bringing the same kind of weird energy to this.

As they leave, Reed notices what Crane drew on the floor of his cell – it’s a recognizable version of the Scarecrow. Oh, this is going to be good.

A twitchy and distracted Crane shows them where his father hid all his stuff, which means going back to the house that terrifies him. Merton figures out that Jonathan helped with the experiments and can make the toxin. And they’re going to terrify him with a scarecrow so he doesn’t get out of line. This will end well!

Merton and crew show up at a bank to rob it and they just start spraying people – yep, it’s fear toxin. It makes those affected hallucinate just like in Batman Begins. The cops show up afterwards and Bullock wants to let Zsasz track down the unlicensed thugs, but Gordon figures they have to be using Crane’s formula and thinks he can get to them first. They show up at Arkham and Reed won’t let them see Jonathan because he’s too fragile. And also not there anymore.

Bullock and Gordon explain that if Reed doesn’t help, they’ll let Zsasz know that he’s aiding and abetting some unlicensed criminals. He gives up some information at that point, providing the address of former orderly Grady Harris. By the time they get to his apartment, Grady and Merton are waiting and they manage to ambush the cops. Luckily, they just knock them down and leave rather than doing them a mischief.

Dark alley. Selina walks into a gathering of creeps and they start hassling her. When they don’t leave her alone, she kicks their asses. Tabitha watches and when one guy almost sneaks up on Selina, she takes him out. Aw, they’re training! They bring pizza back to an apartment that’s several steps up for Selina and several steps down for Tabitha. Know who’s waiting for them? Zsasz. He assures them he’s there in peace and offers then a license – Penguin wants to let bygones be bygones and all they have to do us show up at the grand opening of the Lounge. Or else. Zsasz leaves and Tabitha tells Selina to pack so they can leave – she wnats nothing to do with Penguin.

Bruce shows up at GCPD and shows Gordon the license he found. Bruce figures that the Penguin must have a master list of licenses so they can find everybody if they just get Penguin. Bruce isn’t happy that Gordon has to play along with the licenses and, you know, neither is Gordon. Bruce invites him to come for dinner sometime and then disappears mid-sentence which is great. It’s his first time leaving without Gordon noticing! He’s got years of that ahead of him.

Penguin shows off the Iceberg Lounge to some reporters. One woman asks about Barbara, who hasn’t been seen in months. Penguin has no comment. He’s asked about the licenses and he sort of admits to it but in the context of keeping the peace and then compares himself to Caesar. Then he shows off the block of ice with Nygma inside. He tells everybody that Ed had a rare brain disease so he was frozen until they could find a cure.

Holy smokes, he’s straight up stealing Mr. Freeze’s backstory. I love this so much!

Gordon walks in while this is going on and Penguin breaks away from the press to deal with him. So Gordon talks loud enough so the reporters can hear – there’s an unlicensed gang with fear toxin and they’re openly defying Penguin. Oswald tells him he’ll destroy them and keep Gotham safe once again. This makes the news, which the gang sees, and they decide it’s time to go after Penguin. Oh, they’ve never seen this show before. Jonathan has a meltdown, so they lock him in a closet with the scarecrow.

Back at the Lounge, Penguin pontificates and gloats over the Ed cube. He says “I wonder which of us is truly frozen” and Ivy walks up to say “Him. He’s totally frozen.” HA! Ivy, I have missed you so much.

Gordon and Bullock set up their operation and the other cops don’t seem to be behind them on this one. Given that Gordon’s forcing a confrontation mostly to make Penguin look bad, I see their point.

In the closet, Jonathan starts hearing voices and hallucinates a scarecrow attack. In the GCPD locker room, some cops confront Gordon – they don’t want to rock the boat with Penguin and so they gang up on him.

Bruce and Alfred show up at the opening of the Iceberg Lounge and Bruce is taller than Oswald now. That weirds me out. Bruce asks about the licenses and Penguin brushes him off at first until Bruce says that his parents might not have been killed if they’d had licensed crime three years ago. Penguin explains that he just sets the guidelines, but doesn’t issue the licenses directly. That’s Mr. Penn’s job. (He’s the guy who was in Bullock’s office.) That’s good enough for Bruce – now he knows where to get he list. But then he sees Selina and gets distracted.

Tabitha shows up as well and looks amazing. Zsasz goes to tell Penguin. Bullock finds Gordon after the beating and explains why it’s probably good that they guys got to let off some steam. Ha! That’s very helpful, Bullock! Penguin and Zsasz find the fear gang attempting to access the vents and Michael Buscemi looks very worried.

Bruce and Selina talk outside. Well, out on the roof. Those two love rooftops. He tries to apologize for what he said at the hospital, but she won’t talk to him unless he climbs up on the ledge with her. And he does. But she still doesn’t want to listen. Alfred comes up to tell him there’s a bit of a situation. Specifically, Penguin has the gang at gunpoint and he’s delivering a speech about how he’s the one who keeps Gotham safe. Bruce and Alfred know he’s going to have them killed and Alfred suggests that maybe this is a job for Bruce Wayne. So Bruce starts asking questions in front of the reporters and demands that Penguin turn them over to the police. He refuses. Ivy turns off the power, and I can’t tell whether she’s betraying Penguin or if she’s just bored. In the confusion, Merton and the rest start spraying toxin. Tabitha knocks Zsasz out and Penguin starts hallucinating a demonic Riddler. Gordon and Bullock manage to arrest the gang which just leaves the loose end of Jonathan Crane.

A masked Bruce shows up in Penn’s office demanding the list of licenses. It sort of looks like he grabs something before disappearing into the shadows, but it’s not clear. Later, he heads to the rooftops and looks in a skylight to see some licensed crime happening. But he leans too hard and falls in just as the cops arrive in response to the alarm. He takes off his mask and puts his hands up.

Grady, the only gang member who got away, heads back to get more toxin from Crane. What he finds is Jonathan in a full Scarecrow costume. He douses Grady with toxin, and that’s the end of the episode.

–We’re off to a good start! I thought they had sort of taken Scarecrow off the board by making him a teenager, but it took all of one episode to turn him into the Arkham Asylum version of Scarecrow. I’m into it.

I want to see how these licenses play out – it’s a fun idea, but it seems like citizens are aware that they exist (the bank manager asks about it), and I don’t know how that’s going to work. Maybe it limits the number of times a bank can be hit, so the manager just wanted the paperwork? That’s cynical enough for Gotham, I think.

I’m not thrilled that Ivy betrayed Penguin, but I wonder if maybe she knew he planned to kill Tabitha and Selina. Given the way Tabitha went after Zsasz, that might actually be the case. But I really need the Ivy/Penguin team to remain intact.

Also, I love that Zsasz is back and he’s a threat again. He’s great, but last season set him up on too many hits that he had to fail (killing Gordon, for example). But right away this season he gets to be effective and cold-blooded and he’s back on form. I hope he sticks around as an all-purpose enforcer, because he’s an actual delight.

I’ll keep it short this week because I’m still adjusting to the new scheduled and I screwed up so I’m writing this last minute. But Gotham is back and I’m a happy man.

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