Gotham returns from its last hiatus of the season with ‘Azrael’, an episode that sees the reanimation of Theo Galavan and the rise of the classic villain Azrael, the Angel of Death, at the hands of Hugo Strange. It’s the final set up for the absolute chaos that will probably be reigning Gotham during the final three episodes. Not for nothing this season is called Wrath of the Villains!
It’s been a while now that Gotham has been proving that it’s actually possible to make a (decent) live-action TV series about Batman. Bruce might still be young and it might still be a while since he embraces the bat (2-3 seasons?), but the city of Gotham is already full on craziness and I’m sure Jim won’t be fighting this fight alone.
Hugo Strange had what was possibly one of the most important episodes for his character. ‘Azrael’ putting a lot of focus on Indian Hill’s secret investigations allowed us to see a bit more from both Strange and Peabody and their different takes on the uses of reanimation. We also got to see some new facets of the otherwise always-stern Hugo, like seeing him show real excitement about his first resurrection and all his future plans with his Alice in Wonderland book under his arm, or how he looked really intimidating when warning Jim about his investigation. Through Galavan’s transformation we also learn that those who come back from the dead have lost their memories from their previous life, leading some fans to speculate on Jerome coming back as the Joker. Regardless of that, it’s pretty interesting that all these re-born villains need a sense of identity and purpose, a story, and that’s precisely what Hugo, who takes on the role of “father”, plans to give them. However, he might need to work on those story-building skills first since Azrael’s fake identity shook a bit when he saw those old Galavan campaign posters or when the supposedly ancient sword shattered during his fight with Barnes.
Speaking of Barnes, I still struggle to like this character. Don’t get me wrong – Barnes is a very useful commissioner to have in Gotham, a city full of corruption, even among cops. In fact, his introduction this season was rather impressive and he served as a role model for Jim to find his way back as a fighter for justice. However, his blind faith in obeying all the laws will be (and has been in many occasions) his downfall. To Barnes, it doesn’t matter that the truth is right in front of him, he will still try to work his way around it to apply the law, even when the law can’t be applied because… well, there’s a supposedly dead man running around the city wearing a cape and a sword. In this scenario, Bruce’s role as a “concerned citizen” who complained about how slow and tedious the legal process is was amazing and spoke a lot about the character he will grow up to be. I don’t believe Barnes is dead (characters are never really dead when you see them getting carried away in an ambulance), but at least he will be out for the rest of the season, giving Jim and co. more freedom to act.
Another thing that Strange should look out for is Nygma. Ed, who despite not enjoying Arkhams seems to be handling it much better than Oswald, sees his situation like a puzzle. He has learned how to manage other inmates and his eavesdropping ability has allowed him to find out that Strange is hiding something. Even though trying to manipulate him into manipulating Jim doesn’t work, he still manages to make a plan to figure out what exactly is going on and, by the end of the episode, he has already entered Indian Hill. There are many outcomes to this situation: he could either get caught and get experimented on, he could try to convince Jim to let him out in exchange for information, he could release all villains on Strange or he could even team up with Peabody!
Whatever happens, it’s going to be BIG. The final ending montage with several characters across the city witnessing Galavan-Azrael rising on TV was like a wake-up call that something fishy is going on and everyone should better prepare for it. The return of “Galavan” might bring Butch and Tabitha back into the picture, Barbara is not so-sane, Penguin is full-on mental again and, on the other side, we have a very determined Bruce and a finally free Jim. Everything that has been building for the second half of the season finally reaches a climax in what was possibly one of the strongest episodes of the entire series.