Last week’s episode, “The Fearsome Dr. Crane,” introduced us to scientist Gerald Crane, father of young Jonathan Crane, who will grow to be one of the Dark Knight’s fiercest enemies, The Scarecrow. Given this week’s title, one might expect to see more of a transformation than we’re given, yet the most interesting bits are the character moments — with Bruce, Fish, and the Penguin. As far as the Cranes’ story goes, it’s primarily a foundation for future tales.
Gerald, we learn, is a former high school biology teacher (and perhaps a failed career scientist, since doctorates are hardly required to teach science to high school kids). A fire once engulfed his home, and, since his phobia paralyzed him when he most needed to act, he failed to save his wife’s life in time. Now determined to conquer fear through science, he extracts the adrenal gland from his victims, essentially the “fear gland.” He then uses it to concoct a chemical with which he injects himself in order to remove all traces of fear. But since fear can be as empowering as it is debilitating, he’s shot dead when he fires on Bullock and Gordon as they track him down. But not before injecting his son with a syringe full of anti-fear potion, which causes him to convulse in terror. The only real scarecrow present is the one he sees as he trips on the drug, and which haunts him after he’s hospitalized, left, for the time being, to an unending string of nightmares.
Elsewhere, in an unspecified location, we catch up with Fish — who’s been taken prisoner after the events of last week’s episode. Finding herself in some kind of holding cell, populated entirely by less than savory types, she quickly assets itself. She learns who’s in charge, offers him her “skills” in exchange for protection, wins his trust, kills him dead, and announces herself as the prison’s new leader. Not bad for a day’s work. At least until her captors return with another prisoner whose eyes they’ve just ripped out.
Back in Gotham, the Penguin has problems of his own. Having escaped Maroni’s car compactor last week, he’s terrified the gangster will continue to seek revenge for his betrayal. He begs Don Falcone for protection, and is awarded the management of Fish’s nightclub by the crime lord. Falcone then meets with Maroni at his estate, and offers him something in exchange for Oswald’s life — a Gotham judge who’s sentenced many of his men to jail. Maroni agrees to the deal, meets Oswald at the grand opening of his new club (which now sports a neon umbrella as its symbol), and informs him that he won’t lay a finger on him — as long as Don Falcone is alive.
As for Bruce… Despite Alfred’s wishes to the contrary, Master Wayne is determined to go on a nearby hike he once took with his late father. He comes upon two piles of rocks, one with his initials, one with his dad’s — and begins throwing and kicking them as he collapses in grief for perhaps the first time since the night of his parents’ murder. Proving Alfred’s concerns were valid, he then falls into a ravine and bruises his leg. He demonstrates some resourcefulness by fashioning a sprint and climbing back up. Out of the ravine, he finds Alfred waiting for him with a campfire. The exhausted Bruce rests his head on Alfred’s shoulder and later awakens to see the sun rise.
Despite the Crane killings and an unwanted invitation to the opening of the Penguin’s new club, Jim Gordon has an easier week than usual. His only real consternation comes from his new girlfriend, Leslie Thompkins, who’s been appointed the GCPD’s new chief medical examiner yet still insists on kissing him in front of his coworkers. The two eventually reach a compromise and she promises to be more discreet in her PDA…
The fear motif was worked to death in Batman Begins (which, by the way, makes for a great drinking game if one downs a shot every time a character says the word “fear”), though, with the exception of the Cranes’ story, it’s used more subtly here. It plays a role in each of this episode’s storylines — sometimes depicted visually, as when Bruce must rescue himself from his fall, and sometimes expressed verbally, as when the Penguin pleads with Falcone for protection. And some attempt is made to contrast the fears Gerald deliberately injects into his son — in an attempt to cure him of them — with the fears Bruce is left with in the wake of his own father’s death. There’s not much major procedural plot stuff going on in “The Scarecrow” beyond that it deems necessary to set Jonathan up as a future foe. To its credit, however, the episode moves quickly, barreling through its storylines and again demonstrating Gotham‘s increased pace in the back end of its first season.
— Is it just me or did anyone else think Bruce would fall into the Batcave when he took his tumble?
— The first meeting between the Penguin and future Riddler Edward Nygma was brief but fun, well-edited with its crosscut music and images. Is this the first time two of Batman’s arch-enemies have met on Gotham? With perhaps the exception of Dent and Nygma, I believe it is. It’s obvious that Nygma admires Penguin’s assertiveness and autonomy, even as the Penguin regards him mostly with disdain.
— “Did you know that male emperor penguins keep their eggs warm by balancing them on their feet? Isn’t that neat?”
— Bullock punctuates his warning to Gordon — that office romances always end in tears — with “I know.” Fingers crossed we’ll one day meet the lady who broke the lug’s heart.
— “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone at night” — words Gordon will one day take to heart in a way the Penguin never imagined.
Next week: Young Master B addresses the board of Wayne Enterprises while we meet… The Joker?!
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).