Media · Story & Characters

“Gotham” – Episode Eight (S1) Review


The Mask
No, this has nothing to do with the Jim Carrey movie of the same name. Though if you ask me, both of these dudes are creepy:
The Mask Gotham The Mask JC
I can’t decide who I wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. Probably both.

Anyway, welcome everyone to Office Space meets The Hunger Games! (So, would that make it The Office Space Hunger Games or The Office Hunger Games or The Office Hunger Space Games, oh, never mind!) And you thought you had to fight for a job! Naturally, this serves as the crime of the week – what sick nutcase is making these guys fight to the death for the right to earn glory and supplies for their district…um, I mean a cubicle. I was a little disappointed to see “Gotham” return to its usual formula, especially since the past two episodes broke the mold in a very good way. Granted, this is a police procedural at heart but change is good sometimes.

Change like incorporating more Ed Nygma in this episode (which is definitely a good thing):
Poor Ed. He’s a brilliant mind but he’s so misunderstood and marginalized. I know he eventually becomes the Riddler but he gets no respect, y’all. (Though I suspect this is what will drive him into villainy. I’d hate to be on his bad side when that happens. Another good reason to be nice to everyone, nerdy forensics experts included.)

So now, “Let the games begin!” And can I get a “May the odds be ever in your favor”?
Katniss running

Actually, those comparisons aren’t that far off, not that I’m implying the “Gotham” writers purposely took anything from Suzanne Collins’ trilogy. But I’m picking up some very Panem-like vibes in this fictional city, both in this episode and in the series thus far.

For starters, much like Katniss Everdeen, Jim Gordon serves as a symbol of bravery. His fellow officers were made to feel like cowards in light of his actions in the previous episode (though, to be fair, I don’t think I’d really want to stand in the way of a dude like Victor Zsasz). If it’s not too much of a stretch to compare Jim to Katniss, it is fitting. He takes a stand against a power greater than himself, just as Katniss defies the Capitol. Jim is willing to face death in the hopes of exposing the truth of how deep the corruption goes, also like Katniss. Though he could have used her help in that office space “arena” ’cause all it was missing was the Cornucopia!

Going back to “Gotham” now, Gordon and Bruce also have an interesting parallel. Bruce wants to learn to fight, to prove himself and defend his parents’ honor. I can already hear some critics in my mind – “Bruce is wimpy! Bruce is a weakling!” Well…duh! It’s unfair to expect Bruce to be at superhero level now, just like Luke Skywalker wasn’t a Jedi Master at the first go and Harry Potter wasn’t a wizard extraordinaire from the start. All heroes start from humble, unlearned beginnings but possess a thirst to prove themselves, which is what Bruce is doing. And I can’t think of anyone better than to prep him for the fight than Alfred.

Go, kick-butt butlers, go!
Bruce’s determination to right wrongs is similar to Gordon’s views here, which echo what Bruce will eventually become: you shouldn’t love fighting but it’s unwise to be afraid to get involved when it’s necessary. Evil rarely goes away if you confront it politely. Sometimes you have to take a stand. I can definitely see now why Bruce and Jim become close later on. Granted, “Gotham” is taking liberties with their relationship here but it’s not too hard to believe.

Along those lines, I would note that my suspension of disbelief was a little stretched. In the past few episodes, Jim Gordon was as good as a marked man. Now he’s been welcomed back into the GCPD as if the whole Oswald Cobblepot incident never happened. To me, it would make more sense to keep Gordon on the fringes rather than heading up investigations just like old times. But who am I to argue with Jim Gordon? Especially when he can take dudes down with office supplies and a sword.

Another gent I wouldn’t want to cross paths with – at least not on a bad day – is, of course, Oswald Cobblepot, but only because of how fast he can turn that charm switch on and off. He might be a crime boss in the making but he still can’t forsake his thuggish roots, which equip him to tackle the best (or should I say the worst) of both worlds of thug-like street tactics and business-minded murder. Interestingly, his confrontation with the rich, snobby chick was a nice nod to his penchant in the comics to be a thief. And I don’t care what you say, that lady deserved to get her tacky stuff stolen. And it’s this divide between the haves and the have-nots in Gotham that drives some of the series’ themes. People who have the money and the power (such as the mob families and the politicians) take all, and the folks who have next to nothing or who are just average citizens are at their mercy or stuck under their thumb.

And speaking of getting stuck, Fish Mooney sure doesn’t know how to take too kindly to nice (but tacky) gifts. I get the feeling Falcone’s pronouncement that Oswald is untouchable really eats at her, so she’ll do everything she can but kill him. Or maybe she confused his hand for a Voodoo doll.

Geesh, I’m sorry but that pin really was ugly!
Mockingjay Pin
It was no Mockingjay pin, I’m just sayin’.

I do find it interesting that Oswald retracts his peace offering from Fish and gives it to his mother instead. Fish constantly asserts she’s like a mother to everyone. She is the mother of all evil in Gotham but not the sort of mum you want to buy a card and flowers for on Mother’s Day. In short, Fish Mooney is a faux parent – she bosses everyone around and puts on the care and concern act when it only benefits her (usually to force or weasel information out of someone). But none of it is genuine (except for the bossing part). Compare that to the love and attention Gertrude lavishes on her son. None of that is phony. It’s a bit overbearing at times, especially since Oswald is no longer a child, but at least Gertrude cares about him and has a lioness’ heart when she senses injustice is being done to him. Say what you want about her, I’d vote for a doting momma over a fake, violent momma any day.

And speaking of fake, there are a lot of phony people in Gotham. As the chief villain in this episode observes, masks hide the face but bare the soul, ergo masks speak the truth. But it’s a concealed truth, a half-truth, and it obstructs both your view of the world and how others perceive you through your lies. You can live life as a facade, a secret of sorts, that you can be convinced is real and honest but, in reality, it isn’t. So in the prolific words of George Costanza…
It's not a lie

Even Oswald recognizes that everyone conceals things and has secrets, but the trick in his mind is to use these hidden things against his opponents. At least we see now where he gets his penchant for ratting – the family genes! His mother relates a story from her youth when she told on a rival student as a means of revenge. Oswald seems impressed, perhaps both by her nerve and the fact he, essentially, has done the same thing.

And if that wasn’t enough, we were treated to some cool symbolism as Gertrude traps a literal rat that’s been scuttling around her apartment. Coincidentally, she manages to nab the tricky little fellow during her son’s visit.
Oswald v RatRat
Et tu, rodent?

Oswald at Home
As a side note, I’m really enjoying seeing Robin Lord Taylor and Carol Kane interact on screen. They definitely play off of each other and, performer-wise, it’s a great pairing. Sometimes it can be tough to match two actors and make their chemistry seem authentic. Other times the connection falls into place. This holds true for Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue and the same can be said for Taylor and Kane. I hope we delve deeper into their characters’ relationship and I secretly wonder if Gertrude suspects her son is not telling her everything. On the surface, she seems to believe him, but it might be fun to see what happens if she ever catches him in a lie.

While we’re on the subject of secrets, it’s funny to watch Oswald eat an apple, of all things, while his goons beat up Timothy.
Oswald and the Apple2
Traditionally, apples are seen as mystical fruits. In A Dictionary of Symbols, J. E. Cirlot has this to say: Being almost spherical in shape, the apple signifies totality. It is symbolic of earthly desires, or of indulgence in such desires. The warning not to eat the forbidden apple came, therefore, from the mouth of the supreme being, as a warning against the exaltation of materialistic desire. Hence, apples symbolize a mindset that views things, people, ideas, etc. as commodities to be bartered, sold, retained, manipulated. Does that sound familiar? Exactly; so of all the symbols to associate Cobblepot with, the apple makes a perfect choice!

Before I go, I did spot another Hunger Games similarity and I alluded to it earlier regarding the ugly pin lady. There is a clear distinction between Gotham’s upper crust and the crumbs. They dress nicer, talk about their trips and trinkets, and act like they own the place. It reminds me of the people of the Capitol regarding the unabashed display of wealth and disregard (or at least lack of genuine concern) for human life. Liza, Fish Mooney’s girl, sums it up perfectly: “You are rich. People are afraid of you. Is that not enough?” The answer is no. People like Fish and others are always searching for that elusive “More.” But for those who might not have much to begin with, that concept of “More” is nothing more than an elusive dream; but without it, they lack the ability to speak for and defend themselves.

In short…
Odds are never in our favor
True for Panem, and true for the underdogs of Gotham. But maybe Gordon and Bruce can change that!

Overall, this was a solid episode that continues to peel back the layers of Gotham, both the good and the bad. Normally at this point, I’d make predictions or indicate what I hope to see happen since we’re nearing the halfway point, but I’ll pass. I love being surprised! I will say that Gotham, the city, is shaping up to be a dystopian empire after all. All we need now is for President Snow to visit!

If he did, do you think Oswald would smarmy up to him? I mean, penguins love snow, right? Now that I think about it, that might not be a good idea. Gotham has enough power-hungry folks. Though it would make for a cool cage match. I’m not allowed to bet, but if I could, I’d bet on Penguin.


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