I’m starting to think that Gotham might be the best comic book adaptation to ever make it to the small screen. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good; I’ve still got my problems with it (then again, what do I know? It’s already been renewed for a second season). But ongoing serial superhero comics are all about the illusion of change, with Bold New Directions that circle right back to the beginning. At best, this allows our decades-old heroes to tip-toe forward in emotional and narrative progress, but in such a way that feels almost invisible to the reader.
By that assessment, Gotham is doing a remarkable of job of pretending like it’s going somewhere, or that its story is somehow progressing, when in fact, we’re just spinning our wheels. Or perhaps a more appropriate metaphor, given the topic of the episode, would be the Electric Slide, since we’re basically just shuffling left and right and then turning around in a square.
The Blackout at GCPD
Remember that time that Jim Gordon was transferred over to Arkham Asylum? And we were there for one episode, and the Director was killed, and everything was kind of left up in the air and it seemed like an interesting new direction for the show? Well don’t worry about that, because Gordon is back with GCPD, and all it took was a little blackmail against the otherwise-absent Commissioner Loeb, who gives Gordon 24 hours to capture the escaped Gruber, who is actually Buchinsky, who is actually the Electrocutioner, and whose trail of surnames seemed to be entirely motivated by surprising the audience with a Real Live Bat-Supervillain.
And Electrocutioner does indeed come off as a menacing threat, with more creative camerawork like in the last episode. Adding to the creepiness, Dr. Thompkins shows up at GCPD with an ugly-looking doll made by the resident sorceress of Arkham (seriously), which Gordon somehow recognizes as representing Sal Maroni, leading to an uneasy truce between our Boy Scout Cop and our Stereotypically Italian Mafia Don. Much like the earlier Gordon-Cobblepot alliance, I was excited by the prospect of Gordon working with crooks to deal with other crooks, but this alliance was similarly short-lived.
Maroni is used as bait for Electrocutioner, who shows up at GCPD headquarters and uses his electro-powers to turn off the lights and stun the entire police department—except for Jim Gordon, who is wearing a pair of rubber galoshes provided by Nygma, and who ultimately overcomes our powered-up villain by…throwing water on his electro-suit and shorting out the motor.
This was so anticlimactic that it almost felt intentionally laughable. But if that was the case, I’m having difficulty parsing the motivation behind the decision to handle Electrocutioner with such ease, hardly halfway through the episode. The only thing it served to do was get Gordon back on the police force—in which case, why kick him off of the force for just one episode? Hell, Balloonman turned out to be a more effective antagonist than Electrocutioner! Balloonman! And why introduce Commissioner Loeb at all? Hasn’t Mayor Kind made it clear that he doesn’t want Gordon working for GCPD? Did Commissioner Loeb just defy orders from the Mayor? Is the Commissioner corrupt as well? And above all, how is it that not a single other officer at GCPDHQ was wearing shoes with rubber soles? Don’t most shoes have rubber soles? Should I be trying to force a Beatles joke in here?
On the bright side, we did get to hear Harvey Bullock say, “I curse you all the time! You never give me candy!” which was pretty awesome.
The Sweet, Sweet Danger of a Beautiful Dame
Most of the legwork in the hunt for the Electrocutioner was done by Dr. Thompkins’ conveniently creepy doll, and by good ol’ Eddie Nygma. Nygma in particular seemed to take a more active and forward role in this episode—there have been hints that he and Bullock were working closely together during Gordon’s absence, and it was nice to see Nygma be useful and at least somewhat appreciated. We also check back in with Ms. Kris Kringle, Nygma’s cleverly-named love interest, who unfortunately is rather taken aback by his advances. A note to all you gentlemen suitors out there: giving a girl a cupcake with a bullet lodged in it is decidedly creepy and will not get you anywhere with her (unless you specifically know ahead of time that she’s into that sort of thing).
Also, a note to the Gotham writing staff: a cupcake with a bullet in it standing in for “something sweet is dangerous” is a real stretch for a riddle, even for someone as awkward as Nygma. You’d think Nygma would at least be able to come up with something really, really clever, even if Kringle didn’t get it. Maybe because she didn’t get it, Nygma might begin to lose interest in her. As it stands right now, I did genuinely feel bad for poor Eddie, but not as bad as I felt for Kringle, who couldn’t get him to stop creeping around her without the intervention of Detective Flass. Please oh please oh please don’t make Nygma go bad just because he was shunned by a woman who didn’t share his affections. That’s so…depressingly topical of a major problem with modern society, and I don’t want to see that idea reinforced for anyone.
But while Nygma’s heart was broken, Gordon’s heart was opened. And by “heart” and mean “mouth,” as he got some tongue action in with Dr. Thompkins. When she came to visit it. In the Men’s Locker Room. Where Gordon is apparently living? Because leaving his job at Arkham means that he doesn’t have the apartment that he was living in the last time he was a police officer? Maybe I should just stop asking questions and leave it with the acknowledgement that Morena Baccarin does an excellent job of working with the weak material she’s given as Generic Love Interest Because The Plot Demands It. #SaveFirefly
Also: “You owe me a double six-pack of root beer” WHAT DOES THAT MEAN.
To Fool A Falcon
“What the Little Bird Told Him” was possibly the first episode with an appropriate name that was actually relevant to its plot, being actual words uttered by Carmine Falcone (the “little bird” being the Penguin, of course). The plotline of Fish Mooney’s attempted coup seems to have finally reached its peak, as she makes her move against Falcone by “kidnapping” Liza. Fish tells Falcone that she is an intermediary between him and the “actual” kidnapper, who offers him his platonic Oedipal lover back if he promises to leave Gotham forever and turn over his criminal empire on signed documents. Falcone scoffs at this—because legally binding paperwork is not how criminal empires work, and he knows it—but he is willing to make the sacrifice for Liza, because this could also be his only opportunity to get away, settle down, and reap the benefits of all his hard work.
Falcone is one of my favorite characters on this show because he’s endlessly endearing, even at his most ruthless. His relationship with Liza should feel creepy and uncomfortable, and yet he treats her with such kindness and respect. And when he finally chokes her to death with his bare hands (after Penguin reveals that she was planted by Fish), you genuinely feel for Falcone’s breaking heart. It’s a strange sensation, finding yourself sympathizing more with the killer than his victim, but damn, does it work. Even as the rest of Falcone’s thugs take Fish and Butch into custody, perhaps finally resolving this drawn-out subplot, you recognize the swelling moisture in Falcone’s eyes as he realizes what he’s done. You don’t even care about the whole weird Oedipal aspect of it (if that’s even what it is, because it’s not explicitly sexual, which is another strength of that entire relationship).
Of course, now that he’s lost his Liza and been made fully aware of the treachery of his troops, I think we’re going to start seeing more of Falcone’s dark side, which should juxtapose nicely with his otherwise endearing nature.
A Tale of Two One Mansions
Barbara returns to her parents’ mansion where the butler doesn’t recognize her and then sits and drinks tea with her parents and they have an awkward conversation and she asks if she can stay with them for a while because I guess she can’t go back to her sweet giant apartment after she found the crumbs left behind by Little Poison Ivy which probably has something to do with her PTSD from Victor Zasz’s kidnapping and oh my god I hate you.
And then Bruce and Alfred are absent for the second week in a row, which makes me hate Barbara even more for robbing them of screentime. While I’m glad the show is learning that we don’t need to see every single character in every single episode…why does it have to be Barbara?!
To Catch a Cobblepot
Oh yeah, Penguin gets knocked out in one of Electrocutioner’s electro-blasts, and in his unconscious state, he abruptly sits up and says something about meeting with Falcone then passes out again. But of course, Maroni hears this, and is once again suspicious of Penguin.
Remember that opportunistic Machiavellian madman from the first half of the season? Why is Penguin such a bumbling mess now?
As a parting note, perhaps I should mention that Cobblepot was wearing a familiar-looking green-and-purple suit combo this week…
Thom Dunn is a Boston-based writer, musician, homebrewer, and new media artist. Thom enjoys Oxford commas, metaphysics, and romantic clichés (especially when they involve whiskey and robots). He is a graduate of Clarion Writer’s Workshop at UCSD, and he firmly believes that Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” is the single worst atrocity committed against mankind. Find out more at thomdunn.net.