What Bruce Wayne's Bad Boy Phase Means for 'Gotham'

What Bruce Wayne's Bad Boy Phase Means for 'Gotham'

Just when Bruce Wayne was beginning to embrace his vigilante alter ego on Gotham, the return of Ra's al Ghul threw his world into chaos. Their long-awaited showdown ended abruptly when Bruce killed the warlord and former head of the Court of Owls. Bruce, who has always remained committed to delivering justice as opposed to vengeance, decided to abandon his mission to make Gotham a better place. While Detective Jim Gordon is busy chasing down Professor Pyg, who is systematically slaughtering cops, war is brewing among the power players of the city's underworld, and a never-ending parade of potential freaks threatens Gotham and its residents. And through it all, Bruce is embarking on a journey that threatens not only those close to him but his future as the Dark Knight and Gotham's savior.

No Longer a Boy Wonder

While Jim Gordon led the battle against the baddies of Gotham, which included an oddball assortment of freakish villains, crooked politicians and even his fellow police officers, Bruce  kept busy, tracking down his parents' killer, investigating nefarious characters like Hugo Strange and Theo Galavan, infiltrating the nightmarish science experiment known as Indian Hill and uncovering the existence of the Court of Owls. Bruce proved useful in helping Gordon take down some of Gotham's most notorious bad guys.

After training with the Sensei in season 3, a more confident and powerful Bruce began prowling rooftops, foiling robbery attempts and trying to dismantle Penguin's empire all in preparation to face Ra's al Ghul. Bruce felt he had his fears in check enough to protect Gotham, but after executing his most lethal foe to date, Bruce is learning that his deepest fear is that idealism and heroism are often mutually exclusive. Bruce is angry that his destiny was hijacked by Ra's al Ghul and his prophecy, leading Bruce down a dark path -- one not worthy of a hero.

Gordon currently has his own inner demons to contend with as well as some very real monsters, and Bruce's financial resources, intelligence and social connections --- not to mention his newfound martial arts expertise -- put the young billionaire in a unique position to wage war against threats to Gotham and its residents in ways unavailable to Gordon and the GCPD. But Bruce, who is usually eager to collaborate with Gordon, is blowing his considerable inheritance, drowning his sorrows and squandering his talents while the city is enveloped in chaos.

Rebel Without a Cause

Bruce is undergoing some big changes, including chucking Selina Kyle for a new love interest, Grace Van Dahl. Bruce hasn't had a lot of luck when it comes to romance, between being manipulated by Theo Galavan's niece Silver St. Cloud and his complicated on-again, off-again relationship with Selina. Grace could be harmless, but almost everyone in Gotham has ulterior motives, especially when dealing with the young, emotionally-vulnerable billionaire. At best, Grace is leading him down a rabbit hole into the a world where the over-privileged offspring of the one percent lead a vapid existence, and, at worst, she's something far more sinister yet to be revealed.

Bruce's foray into teenaged rebellion is nothing more than a distraction, but his unresolved feelings about killing Ra's has him acting out in self-destructive ways that promise to create tension between Bruce and Alfred, who has been trying and failing to take on a stricter parental role.

The last time Bruce went off the rails, he was brainwashed by the Sensei and urged to murder the members of the Court of Owls and unleash the Tetch virus on Gotham (Bruce couldn't go through with either, but he was complicit in the crimes.) He also met Ra's al Ghul for the first time, who convinced him to murder his beloved butler (Alfred was revived thanks to the Lazarus Pit.) A Bruce Wayne who has lost his way is a dangerous Bruce Wayne.

Bruce is getting a taste of hedonistic pleasures, which, at the age of 16, he's as ill-equipped to handle as he is of becoming Batman...yet. And Grace's jealous would-be suitor Brant could be just as dangerous as some of the over-the-top psychopaths Bruce has already encountered. 

Selina and Bruce are no longer an item, and after a nasty falling out, they forged an uneasy truce. Selina has developed a genuine affection for Tabitha Galavan, aka "Tigress," and an admiration for Barbara Kean, and even before Bruce began acting out, he started to relinquish his role as Selina's moral compass. Their paths continue to diverge as Selina becomes more entrenched in the criminal underworld, and Bruce turns his back on it. Their relationship is complicated, but their friendship has proven to be invaluable to both, and guilt will further consume Bruce if he fails to intervene as Selina's criminal activity escalates and intensifies.

A City in Peril

With the demise of Pax Penguina crime will be on the rise; Sofia Falcone is determined to claim her birthright; Penguin's grasp on his empire is slipping; and he has many enemies (Ivy, Nygma, Barbara, Tabitha) who are eager to depose the king and kill him in the process.

Barbara possesses some unknown power passed on to her by Ra's al Ghul, and after fulfilling his destiny as Ra's "heir" there has to be more consequences awaiting Bruce (it's unlikely just killing Ra's is the only aspect of being his heir.) There's always some shadowy organization like the malignant League of Assassins threatening to burn Gotham to the ground. Bruce has passed the point of living any kind of normal life, and his hiatus from superhero training will undoubtedly bring the realization that Bruce feels much more at home among the criminal element of Gotham than among his peers.

The question is, will the soon-to-be Dark Knight rise before it's too late? Like Alfred told his young charge, "It's going to be a long, bumpy journey back."

How long do you think Bruce will sit on the sidelines? How will his bad boy phase end? What will he have to do to believe himself worthy of being Gotham's protector? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Gotham airs Thursdays at 8/7c on FOX.

(Image Courtesy of FOX

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