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Many spoilers ahead for the thirteenth episode of Gotham Season 4, "A Beautiful Darkness."
Gotham has spent four seasons so far slowly transforming Bruce Wayne from an orphan in need of protection into the Dark Knight that will go on to protect Gotham City. Bruce took some major strides toward his bat-destiny earlier in Season 4, ranging from the development of a Matches Malone-esque persona to wearing a dark suit to fight thugs to really perfecting the distant look of a brooding billionaire. In "A Beautiful Darkness," Gotham found a way to deliver a first look at Batman without turning Bruce Wayne into the Caped Crusader years before he should don the cape and the cowl: via vision.
Bruce was targeted by the latest version of Ivy in the latest episode, and she exposed him to a plant-based hallucinogen that forced him to live horrifying visions while also writhing in pain, all by himself at Wayne Manor since he'd sent Alfred packing. In the vision, Bruce had his face cut off by a not-so-dead Ra's al Ghul, then walked through his manor to discover a party in full swing with most of the Gotham characters drinking and having a good time. The villains were mixing it up with the heroes and Jim had a pencil mustache, so obviously something was very wrong.
A secret agent-esque Alfred burst in to abduct Bruce and drag him to the alley where his parents were murdered, where he encountered a dark figure in a cape with incredible athletic skills who dramatically announced that the alley was where he was born. There was no cowl or bat-signal or sidekick in bright colors to identify him as THE Batman, but Bruce's vision featured a whole lot of bats once he ran into the figure, and he wound up in the Bat Cave. Basically, Gotham gave us Batman without actually giving us Batman, and it was awesome.
The proto-Batman in "A Beautiful Darkness" wasn't brought in just to hook fans who live for the nods to the Dark Knight destiny. Bruce's interactions with his dark doppelganger set the stage for the next period of growth on Gotham. In Bruce's vision, the secret agent version of Alfred declared that it was his mission to bring Bruce to the dark figure, which will almost certainly motivate Bruce to ask Alfred to get back into gear in vigilante training. The experience was also enough to clearly shake Bruce out of the funk he's been in since killing -- or "killing," as the case may be -- Ra's al Ghul, and he didn't consider himself lucky after waking up from the vision.
All things considered, we can probably be confident that Bruce won't fall back into frivolity and booze in the aftermath of his bat-vision. He was clearly scared by what he encountered in the vision, but not so scared that he couldn't figure out that the dark, menacing figure was actually him. The dark figure told Bruce that he was right to be scared and that he could never escape or kill him. This vision seems to have put Bruce's head back on as straight as can be for a man who will one day dress up like a bat to fight crime.
The rest of "A Beautiful Darkness" followed Ivy as she worked to get her hands on the Lazarus water that could enable her to breed deadly plants as well as Penguin in Arkham as he faced off against Jerome in some hilariously dark scenes. Tune in to Gotham on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox to see what happens next for Bruce on his journey to becoming Batman and how the villains continue to cause trouble. For more of what you can watch on the small screen, check out our midseason TV premiere guide, our 2018 Amazon Prime schedule, and our 2018 Netflix premiere guide.