This episode was clearly the darkest so far and it possessed the best twist. It took me completely by surprise and I’m usually pretty good at figuring out plots. It’s so good and clever, I’m not even going to spoil it for you. Nope – not one iota!
But what I will share is that it was great seeing Harvey Bullock steal the limelight and he commanded every minute of it. His old partner, Detective Dix, might assert that Gotham’s “Golden Rule” is “No heroes,” but he’s wrong on that account and he’s wrong when it applies to Harvey. Bullock can be the hero when he wants to, but I sense he’s so entrenched by trying to play to Gotham’s dark side that it takes something traumatic to pull it out of him. I went into “Gotham” without any knowledge of Bullock’s character and was prepared to mentally set him aside. But now I love his character! He’s gruff and tough with a dry wit that I adore but inside he has a heart of gold.
Speaking of characters getting a chance to shine, how about Ed Nygma, everyone? Since the start of the season, Gotham’s favorite riddle-spewing forensics tech has been hiding in the shadows of the GCPD, if he was present at all. But in this episode, Nygma gets some well-deserved extended screen time. Robin Lord Taylor might be the top dark horse of “Gotham” for me, but Cory Michael Smith comes in a close second place. He brings a fresh, intriguing twist to a classic Batman villain and I look forward to seeing more of him in coming episodes.
And to top it off, turns out God made two of ’em!
The award for Cutest Screen Pairing goes to Nygma and Christine Kringle. First of all, it was nice to see Ed interact with someone other than the series’ big dogs and, second, this was just so darn cute! The awkward chemistry here was thoroughly fun to watch and I hope Kringle and Nygma get paired up again.
And speaking of on-screen pairings, this episode finally showcased my most-anticipated partnership: Oswald Cobblepot and his mother, Gertrud. Acting-wise, you’ve got a brilliant comedic actress in Carol Kane and a up-and-coming star in Robin Lord Taylor. Even though the scenes were brief, Oswald’s relationship with his mother is telling. Her encouragement to him is admirable but maybe a bit too far. There is something to be said for unconditional love but even that has to be tempered with tough love once in a while. Granted, Oswald doesn’t exactly tell her what he’s been up to (he calls it “business” but we know better), so her underlying sentiments that her son can do no wrong aren’t being discredited. At least not by Oswald.
Speaking of the Cobblepot clan, some reviewers pounced all over this dynamic and, to be fair, it’s juicy, but not in the way you suspect. I want to clear this up right now – even though Oswald and Gertrud share a different kind of mother-son bond, it’s not incest. Period. I know some folks were probably thinking that but, no. The comics show their relationship as being closer than average but it definitely doesn’t go there.
Oswald and his mother share a non-traditional relationship chiefly because she’s a single mom. According to the comics (though there have been variations), Oswald’s father died from pneumonia when Oswald was a child. (I’m assuming this is the slant “Gotham” is taking seeing as Papa Penguin is nowhere in sight.) This caused Oswald’s mother to become over-protective but think a helicopter parent to the nth degree. The most noted of her actions (in the comics) is her insistence on little Oswald carrying an umbrella at all times (since his father died as a result of being out in the rain too long). Oswald got chewed out viciously when he didn’t. And you thought not wearing a jacket when it’s cold outside was bad.
In this episode, Oswald first gets fussed at for not checking in with his mother and then accused of being in the company of loose women (or “painted ladies,” as he more delicately calls them), which he denies and is clearly irked that she thinks that of him. This is the classic smother mother tactic where Gertrud sees all women as threats who might take her son, her only company and source of security, away from her. On one hand, it makes sense that a mother is going to be protective of her only child and mindful of the company he keeps. It’s another to never let him get hurt, make mistakes, or be around bad people. It’s clear Gertrud doesn’t view Oswald as an adult as he’s still a little boy in her mind. She either doesn’t like to think of him as an adult or can’t think of him that way. Granted, parents always view their children as their children, but there’s a time to stop being a boy’s mother and become a man’s mother. In some respects, Gertrud is not unlike some parents today. She believes her son still faces “bullies” who resent him out of sheer envy and spite and is always willing to take his side. But tell her that her son just blew up the Earth and she’s likely to insist he’s a good boy and wouldn’t do that.
“I’m gonna be somebody in this town,” Oswald asserts. Why? Because all his life he’s clearly been told he’s the best. And if you always tell your kid that he’s the best, failure comes much harder when the rest of the world fails to see his awesomeness. Granted that’s no excuse for bullying, but Oswald’s ego isn’t exactly humble. Oddly enough, the song played over the bathtub scene is “Accentuate the Positive.” And that’s exactly what Oswald tries to do by making his “business” matters sound legit, thus manipulating what his mother thinks of what he’s up to. Part of him might be doing it to protect her but I suspect it’s just his mind-game playing nature.
But let’s not put all the blame on Gertrud here. Oswald isn’t exactly complaining when his mother treats him less like an adult. He opens up to his mom, which is good. He likes being told he’s destined to do great things (also good but maybe tone down the whole destiny vibe). He likes being cared for and babied – fair enough. But oh, gosh does he like it! A grown man playing in a tub? That was cute, funny, and…kind of sad – sad that Oswald, in many ways, is like a big spoiled kid. And who do you think made him that way? I’ll give you three hints and the first two don’t count.
Speaking of this scene, this is the first time we see Oswald stripped down (literally and figuratively) where his emotions are on raw display. His bullied childhood has clearly scarred him and he desperately wants to make something of himself. I have to credit Robin Lord Taylor’s deft hand at presenting Oswald as a human with a heart who hates being pushed aside and pushed down. Yet he loves the security of the old apron strings. It’s clear he manipulates his mother, chiefly by not being entirely honest and by not insisting she start treating him like a grown up.
Some commentators jumped on this and yes, while his mother’s actions seem a little out of place, especially towards an adult man, they’re not sensual nor are they entirely unfamiliar. Remember Marie from “Everybody Loves Raymond”? Marie did the same thing as Gertrud does here: she mollycoddled her sons, Raymond and Robert, treating them like they were still her little boys instead of her two grown men. Sometimes Raymond and/or Robert would insist she start treating them like adults, but most of the time they ate her affections right up. Oswald is doing the same thing and my theory is that he feels his mother is the only person he can trust though, oddly enough, he’s not 100% honest with her. Personally, I was eager to see these two characters get one-on-one screen time and it did not disappoint. Besides, with mother having his back, Oswald can take on the world. Or at least just Gotham. More power to the Penguin!
And how about the ending, folks? Does Oswald know how to make an entrance or does Oswald know how to make an entrance? When he shows up at the GCPD HQ in all his glory with every eye in the place staring at him…
it was like…
Until next time, fellow Gothamites!