This episode marks the second appearance of the sinister Jack Gruber, who, in my review of episode eleven, I claimed looked like a kind grandpa. But I now believe he looks like a homicidal maniac with a penchant for creating sparks.
Oh, you wish.
I will say that, for the first time this season, I was fairly underwhelmed. Granted, the mob plot is always compelling but that’s because I have a soft spot for gangster movies. In my view, I was expecting Jack’s two episode story arc to be something really high stakes. Instead, it just fizzles out – literally. The crime-of-the-week formula’s resolution ends, not with a bang, but a whimper and reminded me of times on “Star Trek” when the best way to resolve a potential catastrophe in Engineering was to eject the warp core. Fairly simply and kind of…
Also, I’m not even going to get started on the “science” in this episode. I’ve always seen Gotham as larger-than-life, like some sort of alternative world where the extraordinary (within limits) can happen. But I will say that being electrocuted does far more damage than what it did to everyone here. In reality, Oswald should be dead from a damaged heart, a fried nervous system, or both. Yet he merely passes out (twice) for a few hours and comes to without any medical assistance or lasting aftereffects. In order for you to die by electrocution, the current has to pass through either your heart or your brain; if it takes a different route, you could possibly survive, so Oswald obviously got lucky. But that crossed the line of the suspension of disbelief for me. Yes, almost anything can happen in Gotham, but him simply coming to without being resuscitated or treated with defibrillation (at the very least) and without suffering permanent damage doesn’t make sense within the rules of the story’s world as we know them and it’s messing with my fundamental understanding of reality.
Not that I’m wishing Oswald dead! I have a list of characters they could kill off (hey – one they actually did!) and he’s nowhere to be found there. Though I suppose this proves Oswald is actually stronger, and more powerful, than we give him credit for. Talk about a super-villian indeed! Maybe all this time I was wrong. Maybe Oswald Cobblepot’s closest fictional cousin isn’t Tony Montana. Maybe he’s more closely related to Jack Bauer, the only man to be imprisoned, tortured, electrocuted, shot, and brought back from the dead only to have it happen to him time and time again.
Well, probably not. But at least you have to admit they’re too very cool cats who appear to be indestructible. And very much like a cat, Oswald has proven he has nine (probably more) lives. Though hopefully, this will be his last shocking experience.
Overall, this was the weakest episode by far but it’s weak like your least favorite song on your favorite album or your least favorite book in your favorite book series – not horrible and you don’t avoid it but it’s far from memorable and you don’t get excited about it. Except the ending when Penguin gets his day – that was worth tolerating the other forty minutes of air time!
Something else that was worth its few minutes of time was watching poor Ed Nygma try his best to make Christine Kringle his new squeeze. I sense Nygma could be a big, breakout character if he was just given more stuff to do. Granted, perhaps this is trying to lay the groundwork for the man who will become the Riddler. But, for me, he seems far from reaching that goal right now. Yes, he’s a bit of a goofball and looks like a forgotten “Big Bang Theory” cast member, but it’s fun to see how he will inwardly turn the rejection he faces into a desire for revenge and respect. Actually, Ed and Oswald are a little bit alike: both are, their own ways, bullied, marginalized, and misunderstood or underestimated. Those ingredients make a good villain because they’re very human traits. Nearly everyone has felt kicked around, pushed aside, or under-appreciated; it’s just a matter of what we do with these feelings, meaning do we hold them inside and let them fester or do we allow them to make us better people. We’ve already seen what Oswald intends to do, so time will tell what path Ed takes on the road to official villain-hood
But getting back to the principle plot, it turns out that, much to my surprise, Gruber’s target isn’t the cops, who I figured it would be, but Maroni, his former boss. To be fair, I can see Falcone having more enemies than Maroni – Falcone strikes me as a hard, cold business man with a Grinch-sized heart. Maroni, on the other hand, while ruthless, seems more amicable, or at least willing to extend a fair second chance before hiring someone to blow you away. Or pull your teeth out.
Speaking of surprises, I hate to say it but I think I’ve uncovered “Gotham”‘s mojo. What do I mean by that? It means that I’ve been able to figure out some of the show’s narrative twists and turns, at least as far as this episode was concerned. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Not always, but I love it when I’m surprised most of the time. Take, for example, Fox’s own “24.” I started watching that from season three and it wasn’t until season five that I was able to figure out its narrative patterns. Early on, I spent most episodes picking my jaw up from the floor, but then those jaw-dropping moments thinned out. Granted, “24” always managed to pull a real shocker out of the bag but, in most cases, I could predict it ahead of time.
I sense the same is happening with “Gotham.” Again, that isn’t automatically a negative. I have books that I was able to piece things together before the final chapter but I still enjoyed it. But the fact I kind of have this show’s patterns almost pegged so early on does give me cause for concern, especially since it’s been granted the green light for a second season.
Granted, “Gotham” has offered its share of jaw-dropping moments, most notable for me was when Oswald gives Jim a surprise visit, decides to crash the GCPD, and, of course, “Penguin’s Umbrella.” Those were moments that left me feeling…
But not so much in this episode and I sense it tried really hard to deliver the shocks (no pun intended…okay, maybe). Again, I’m not saying that’s bad, but I do like a good surprise. For starters, there were three “surprises” here I saw coming very early on. What were they? Well, how about…
Granted, I’m certainly not sorry to see Jim paired with Dr. Thompkins. At least she actually does stuff. As in important stuff. Not whine, cry, or run back home to mommy and daddy (as a certain former Gordon squeeze does here). So that wasn’t a big shocker for me. Concerning Oswald’s club takeover, I had that theory in mind ever since the pilot. After all, this harkens to the comics where Penguin owns multiple nightclubs plus a casino or two. So it only makes sense he would need to be shown as getting his start here. I say we just go ahead and rechristen Fish’s joint the Iceberg Lounge. All we need now is for Lark (his right hand woman in the comics who dresses like Trinity from The Matrix) to show up and I’ll be quite pleased.
Lastly, poor Liza. Actually, no – no poor Liza. She was a vapid tool in terms of a character (no offense against the actress). Was I surprised she died? No. Like I said, I had her pegged as a “red shirt” from the start. What’s that? Well, if I can sidestep into some Star Trek lore, the phrase “Never beam down in a red shirt” referred to when no-name cast members on the “Original Series” were designated to die by wearing a red uniform. Unfortunately, fans caught on to this and were no longer shocked when Ensign WhoCares got slaughtered by a Gorn. So the show stopped with the whole red shirt technique. But the term stuck and it now applies to any character who has no bearing on the plot and you just know is to get the boot before long.
Likewise, I wasn’t surprised that Liza had been groomed as some sort of younger, weird fill-in for Falcone’s mother. That was fairly obvious to me early on, too, judging by how Fish taught Liza to talk, sing, and (I’m guessing here) dress. Nothing about Liza screamed seduction to me, so I kind of figured that, based on her old fashioned manners, she wasn’t supposed to be a femme fatale. Honestly, this just makes things even creepier but at least it was original: rather than using sex to ensnare Falcone, Fish hoped to use good, ol’ motherly charm though that doesn’t have the weaponized edge she claimed it would. I guess too bad that didn’t work out.
The only thing that confounded me was that Fish seems so lenient. This was the woman who wanted to take Falcone down and out with her hands and teeth. Now she just wants to shoo him out of town? Is it conniving? I suppose. But it seemed out of character for her. Why the sudden soft heart? What made her change? Characters who have deep-seated hatred for another character have been known to change their minds. Take, for example, in Mockingjay when Katniss Everdeen kept insisting she wanted to kill antagonist President Snow, makes killing Snow one of her priorities, and even ensures she’s guaranteed to kill Snow only to let her executioner’s arrow fly in a different direction. Is that what Fish was doing here, being easy on Falcone while hoping to hit a different target or take him out later? I can’t say for certain but I will say this – Miss Everdeen she ain’t!
In any case, Falcone has shaken things up when the final act goes all Godfather in a good way, so it will be interesting to see where the whole mob family saga goes, especially with Oswald in the middle. One thing I will say is that I’m impressed with the amount of finesse the writers have given his character concerning his victories and set backs. If Oswald’s plans were always right and always worked, you would hate him. I would hate him. Why? Because that would make him obnoxious and that’s not realistic: it doesn’t allow room for his character to grow and learn from mistakes. So the fact that Oswald’s misstep in the previous episode is topped off with this makes me all the more excited to see where his character’s story carries over into the next season. I hope though that Oswald’s vow to Maroni, which he swore upon his poor mother’s life, won’t come back to bite him in a very painful way. Poor Gertrude. We can only hope she survives to witness her son’s ascension to power. But if the comics are any indication…well, I’ll leave that be.
Until later, fellow Gothamites!