This week was more emotionally in-depth in Gotham than people might expect from a comic book show, let alone this show. Harvey Bullock was given an especially bright spotlight despite him not appearing that much this hour which is a testament to Donal Logue.
I’ll go ahead and say, as Ed said, this episode was “so Gotham”. How committed is this show to becoming a warped pastiche of the massive multimedia presence of Batman and the city he protects? The innocent even act deranged. Are they innocent? Once you get past the colorful clothes and hair, these characters are deeply flawed. The boss of the criminal underbelly in Gotham, Leslie Thompkins, was a healer.
The Batman mythos is so expansive that it allows this show to create its own unique corner. The Scarecrow was the first big supervillain the show revamped but quickly moved through the rank and file. This rogue gallery proved too small for this show, even though the show has yet adapt classics like Condiment King or Crazy Quilt. This show’s capacity for eccentric villains extended this week to include a bad guy outside of the Solomon Grundy’s and the Professor Pygs.
Some dangling plot points needed cleaning and a new addition to show’s rogues gallery was the exact man for the job. Toyman has the right amount of crazy to start assassinating various gang leaders around Gotham City. This particular foe is known to congregate in Metropolis more than Gotham City.
Hiro Okamura, Jack Nimball and Winslow Schott have all used the moniker Toyman going all the way back to when Winslow Schott first founded the name during 1943 in Action Comics #64, since then he has been a Superman villain. Metropolis has been the stomping grounds for all three of these tech whizzes to hound Supes. His home has always been an ill fit, however, considering his lack of powers and his more esoteric characterization that you would find more in Arkham.
Gotham has always been calling to the character and there is some satisfaction in seeing him finally strut his stuff with the promise of more.
Gotham is a perfect place to reinvent the character. The bomb that he’s working for Ed Nygma’s Riddler persona is not the only interesting thing about this version of the Toymaker. That isn’t the name of either comic versions of the character but he still shares similarities. Cosmo Krank was the alter ego given to the character in the underrated cartoon The Batman which aired during the mid 00’s for a few seasons on the WB Network.
The son, Cosmo, of this iteration of the Toymaker as he had interactions with Jim Gordon, his father’s killer. While Cosmo never actually is the name given, it’s logical to assume he’ll adopt the mantle. I’m fine with the show wanting to squeeze another villain’s origins in just as Bruce becomes Batman. Gotham City is a big enough place that it can not only accommodate one of Superman’s psychos but make him a cool Batman villain. This town will likely have a replacement Toymaker sooner rather than later.
The process of capturing Clifford Krank also revealed things about two residents of Gotham: Edward Nygma (aka Riddler) and Harvey Bullock by way of Jim Gordon confronting his own darkness. Gordon is questioning his morality now that Sofia’s agenda is revealed. The crimes she commits are now on his head in addition to the chaos that her new position, which he unknowingly helped her take, has sowed for Gotham City. The route Gordon takes in solving the latest piece of chaos involving Clifford Krank killing some of Gotham’s crime bosses leads to Lee, who is helping people in illegal ways. The game Gotham City forces the citizens to play leads to them making questionable decisions for good reasons. While not his ex-wife, Jim Gordon reuniting with Lee Thompkins has all the same tension coming from revelations about themselves. The preparation of Gordon’s acceptance of Bruce becoming the Dark Knight is in full effect here. Seriously, the examination of Jim was so masterfully done that you felt what it meant when Bullock rejected him.
As word reaches about a boss named ‘Doc’, Gordon doesn’t get it. Grave circumstances like these call for like minded solutions. Lee’s alibi ultimately checks out but that doesn’t mean her system without its cracks, as we learn Ed hired Krank.
The doings of Gotham’s underbelly serves another benefit to Jim Gordon’s growth. The set of mistakes which led to Lee Thompkins becoming Queen of the Narrows and Sofia Falcone to take her sear of power leads Gordon to realize Gotham’s corrupting nature on people. To me, this has been the most human that Ben McKenzie has got to play Gordon which was really exciting. His partner since the beginning of the show, Harvey Bullock, was made a pariah in the Gotham Police Department in the first half of this season and Gordon didn’t have his back because he still viewed Bullock as dirty. The double impact of both Lee Thompkins and Sofia Falcone makes Gordon a broken man when he seeks consolation from Bullock. It’s 100% awkward watching what happens. It was a complicated scene to navigate watching Harvey Bullock tear into Jim Gordon for all his righteousness and judgement. Donal Logue committed to Bullock’s hurt and righteous fury as seasons worth of tension came spewing out of his mouth now that they are on the same level, morally speaking. Will this be the end of the partnership that has been the show’s backbone since go?
The force of Donal Logue’s performance in that last scene makes you forget his buffoonish tendencies. The deed of severing his friendship with Jim is complete by the end of the episode and we all have to wait to see what happens from here. The name of the game going forward is putting a stop to Sofia which will require them to cooperate. To stop Sofia, Jim Gordon will need to beat her at her own game which will require him trusting others. The fun will be seeing Jim team-up with “criminals”. Jim agrees he needs help, which is why he came to Bullock, but he also needs to get help from the Narrows crew. Do they have enough morality to agree? Up until this moment, I thought Leslie’s team was unified but that’s clearly untrue. Something else is going on with Grundy but Ed is becoming a legitimate threat the more his shadow, to use Jungian terminology, takes over his life and making decisions that don’t just effect him but all the people in Gotham City.
The Riddler came out as the one behind the Toymaker’s massacres, and I’m curious to see how this division in personality will lead to. Around every time Ed has struggled with his personalities, something major and bad always happened to his friends. This surprise could have major ramifications as Lee’s power grows in the Narrows. His job as her right hand man means that she trusts him more than she probably should and, even if he doesn’t have any intention of harming her, that could spell serious trouble. The details aren’t fully explained but the narrative impact is clear. A pic of Cory Michael Smith in full Riddler garb is now my locked screen because he is what I always envisioned Edward Nygma looking like in reality. The Riddler has arrived. It’s lovely watching the show finally give this criminally underrated Batman rogue his due by allowing him to affect change in Gotham.
As a cop, Jim Gordon is more or less ineffective when compared to the force of justice he can be which is needed. That Gordon. The second he starts thinking with his badge, he’ll become vulnerable to attack from Sofia Falcone who is now gunning for him. Her power isn’t the only thing he should worry about. It is turning into a real Mexican standoff between all these different factions now that Sofia has come and changed the game for everyone. It’ll again come down to Gordon, Falcone and others. The widow. The mom. The cop. Daughter of Falcone.
These subplots speak to the strength of the show that it can cover very disparate characters but bring all the themes and character arcs together in the final moments. This return episode was all the stronger because of these subplots.
The brothel Jim searches for Harvey in was just one corner of Gotham explored in this hour. It was miles away from this brothel where we find Alfred (Sean Pertwee) engaging in a fist fight that Gordon (Ben McKenzie) stops. The Narrows is our next stop in the show’s tour of Gotham City as we check in on how Leslie’s (Morena Baccarin) reign as “Doc” is turning out. The cocoon Ivy (Peyton List) was hiding in opens for her. This business would be strange if this wasn’t Gotham.
Gordon isn’t helpful here either. A model airplane killing gangsters allows Jim Gordon to forget his problems and focus on what he believes he does best: being a cop and tracking down this new crazy, the Toymaker. This arm of the law may have been disjointed by Sofia Falcone (Crystal Reed) but nobody handles Gotham City’s loonies better than Captain Gordon. The bonkersness of this storyline really highlights the writers’ handle on this show’s heightened reality, and the actors’ ability to ground it especially Chris Chalk’s phenomenal Lucius Fox. “Doc”came into focus once Jim learned she was the Toymaker’s next target, learning all about the dealings she has had since they parted ways back in the season 3 finale during the whole Ketch outbreak but having to put all that baggage to the side to stop Toymaker from killing any more bystanders, even if they aren’t quite so innocent. Is Doc doomed? This course will curse her.
Her agenda to have the whole Narrow work as a front in an effort to improve the community in as legal a way as possibly is a noble one but this situation is essentially a slippery slope paved with good intentions that’s leading Lee to Hell. As we watch Riddler reemerge in this episode, it is only a matter of time before all of Lee’s enterprise falls down. Dead gangsters will be the least of her problems if she gets into the purview of Sofia Falcone’s (Crystal Reed) power trip. This A-plot will surely have betrayal, violence, mafia mayhem. Etc, etc, etc, but the most important thing this storyline will so is redefine key aspects of Batman mythos.
These updates are essential. The chilly Doc persona is separate from Leslie Thompkins’ comic book persona, it changes the structure of Bruce’s story. Aw is what I said for the show’s other divergence from the source material when they established Solomon Grundy (Drew Powell) in a romance with Tabitha.
Alfred is awesome. Felicity Huffman lookalike Caissie Levy is introduced as a hopeful love interest for Alfred named Tiffany who he tries to rescues from an abusive boyfriend and wins over more when he is seen by the entire neighborhood saving people in a building attacked by the Toymaker. This relationship is not meant to last as Tiffany dies at her boyfriend’s hand. Tiffany was killed in a jealous rage after her boyfriend saw Alfred and her flirting, trying to put it on Alfred. The tables are turned when Alfred confronts the murderous boyfriend with the help from Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock, showing that these ex-partners could possibly rekindle down the line, ensuring the boyfriend faces justice for his crimes. I’m expecting Alfred Pennyworth will be a different man when Master Bruce Wayne sees him next time. The notes Sean Pertwee played this episode showed where his character can go.
“Frequency” star Peyton List made her debut as the show’s latest iteration of villain Poison Ivy, and I’m impressed. The episode was so fast paced, it was a bit jarring when there was a break to focus on this meditative Ivy. Her toxin also adds a layer of sinister danger to this new quiet, evil Poison Ivy whose next move is a complete mystery which has me excited. This role has been revamped multiple times on this show but they finally hit the mark with this more focused Ivy Pepper. It is clear how much fun the show is planning for the character when she interacts with Selina (Camren Bicondova) and you can see how her manipulation skills are as good as her plant powers.
This premiere had something for every kind of fan. One section of the episode in particular, however, caught my interest and made my mind go into overdrive over the possibilities which were presented.
Therapy would honestly probably do some of these characters a lot of good, especially Ed, but they are too busy itching for a fight they can’t see the real problem. Until Bullock is reinstated in the GCPD, Gordon is missing a big part of his mind set. The street life of Gotham City has made Selina naive about how to navigate her new role as one of the Sirens. His night activities have sent Bruce into a downward spiral that has collided him into the other characters and their perspective existential crisis, usually leaving them worse off than how he found them while not getting closer to his Batman destiny. Out of all these characters, though, Leslie Thompkins is having the biggest identity crisis with severe consequences. Will Leslie Thompkins, let alone Gotham City itself, be able to survive her trying to keep her moral fiber intact while being “Doc”? She is going to need to find her true self to survive this storm.
The episode had so many payoffs to the character’s season arcs so far. Jim’s comeuppance may have been the main theme but we also got things like Solomon Grundy’s identity crisis. Either they’re keeping Grundy around or killing Butch off for good. He is one of the reasons this season has been so exciting and shouldn’t go away.
Selina Kyle also got some as she came face-to-face with Bruce. Together, these two characters have chemistry that is classic. The scene in the club made Bruce’s arc worthwhile. It usually suffices when shows have their romantic leads share scenes where they may squabble but Camren Bicondova and David Mazouz actually challenge each other repeatedly. Their shoulders have a lot of weight on then so it’s fun watching them balance each other.
Whom the bell tolls is the real question especially as the One with the Scarred Smile looms large in Arkham Asylum, even though we don’t get any updates on Jerome and his new neighbor, Penguin. Oswald and Joker have a complex dynamic in the comics, I’m wondering how Gotham adapts it. As the costar in this duo, Jerome will most likely act as a catalyst to some change for Oswald Cobblepot. All these stories equals an exciting second half.
Was this episode worth the wait for you? Are dirty cops really evil? Can therapy help any of these broken comic book characters?
Every Thursdays is when Fox airs Gotham at 8/7c.