This is my new favorite episode of Gotham. 5/5 from start to finish. This episode was that good. Not only did it bring in a fan-favorite Batman character, but the origin of the character felt true to the show, and the impact of said character had ripple effects throughout. Not only that, numerous characters had great moments and advances in their own stories.
“Azrael” will be for me the best Hugo Strange episode we’ve had so far. That’s not to say B.D. Wong hasn’t done good as Strange so far, but here he was at his best. From his incredibly well done scene with Gordon, to his numerous scenes with Galavan/Azrael, to the scenes thereafter, he was spot on. And he perfectly showed the madness that lies behind the guise of science. Oh, and did you catch that Mad Hatter tease? I did!
As for Azrael himself, I was curious to see how Galavan would be transformed into the holy warrior of Dumas. I’m happy he wasn’t just “reborn’ into him, but rather had to be persuaded and coaxed into “remembering” that he was Azrael and not Galavan. This was key for a few reasons, mainly in that if it was “simple” to bring people back to life with no side effects, it would’ve been an easy cheat code to bring back former characters. Here though, we saw that Galavan couldn’t remember who he was, and his mind reverted back to the teachings of the Order of St. Dumas, hence Strange giving him the guise of Azrael. Which of course could lead to numerous new versions of classic characters.
Then, the confrontation with Gordon lead to Strange literally sicking Azrael on Jim in order to solve their problems, which was fun on so many levels. For anyone who wishes they could see Batman (the true Batman) in Gotham, I’ll tell them to watch this episode, cause this is as close as you’ll get for all the right reasons. From his outfit, to how he evaded the cops, to the use of shadows and superior fighting skills, this was Batman in many ways. And having Bruce witness this was clearly shaping his future as he was in awe of what he saw.
Aside from Azrael’s birth, the crux of this episode was about Bruce, Barnes, and Gordon, and their views on justice. Seeing Bruce frustrated that they knew about Strange but couldn’t do anything about it was great. As was his calling out of Gordon for killing Galavan, only for Gordon to spin it and talk about how it not only haunts him, but that they need to be better. And they do. Then you add Barnes, who has clearly had enough of the vigilante games by Gordon and Bruce, and simply wants true, uncompromised law and order. His chat with Gordon at the cell was fantastic, because for all of Gordon’s faults in the comics, he believes in justice, but here he’s struggling. Which just goes to show he’s not ready to be commissioner just yet.
Then there’s Nygma, who had one of his best performances to date as he used his brilliance to manipulate the inmates of Arkham in a way that Penguin, nor possibly Strange, could do. It was gripping, and pure Riddler. Add that his discovery of Indian Hill and you have to wonder what’s coming up for the brilliant Edward Ngyma.
A surprise twist was not just how epic Azrael was, but that all of Gotham now knows Theo Galavan is alive. From his sister finding out, to Penguin, Bruce, and of course Barnes and Gordon, the ripple effects of this could be massive. Oh, and Barnes got stabbed, but he’s not dead yet! Keep that in mind.
“Azrael” was truly a perfect episode of Gotham in my mind. Compelling intrigue, interesting twists, and great character performances took this episode from potential slippery slope to an epic tale that’ll shine as one of Gotham’s best.