Ah – the fourteenth episode of “Gotham”!
Turns out this week’s episode is actually a two-parter, and I sense that since “Gotham” was initially slated to be sixteen episodes, this would have served as a two-part set up to the finale. But since we still have more episodes to go until the end, this will now serve as just a cool two-part episode. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.
Interestingly, beneath all of the suspense, set ups, escapes, and moments of hilarity (trust me – when “Gotham” gets its comedic timing down, as it does here, it gets it right), this episode touched on a topic nearly every human being has had to deal with – fear. Granted, this emotion has been at work in the background, an elephant in the room of sorts, but until this episode it’s never been directly addressed. While fear isn’t an evil power in and of itself, it can be crippling, especially when it comes to phobias, which are normal fears magnified to debilitating levels. Dr. Crane (a.k.a. Scarecrow’s Daddy) takes advantage of people’s fears and uses them against them as an excuse to commit murder. Oh, and also harvest their adrenal glands.
Anyway, what I took away from this episode was a big metaphorical question: can fear actually kill? Maybe not physically, even though anxiety can cause physiological distress and damage, but it can cripple us, causing us to remain inert. “Everyone has a thing,” Bullock’s new potential lady squeeze remarks, meaning everyone has something they fear, whether that’s heights, drowning, or pigs (that dude must have eaten a bad pork chop or two). But it turns out that hard-shelled, crusty Harvey Bullock is afraid of the Big One – death itself. And it’s not just dying that scares him, it’s the fear of dying alone in an unfamiliar environment. This reveals a great deal about Bullock’s psychology that, to be honest, I never would have guessed and it makes me curious to know why he fears this.
If I may delve into the realm of pure speculation for a moment, I’d like to share my theory as to why the writers might have given Bullock death as his greatest fear. Consider his surface personality (not his core) – rough, gruff, and sarcastic. He’s the type of guy you’d peg as being afraid of something silly or minor, if he was afraid of anything at all. Hence comes the delightful truth: Bullock is a figure of many shades, not just one color. In other words, it’s easy to put him in the trope box of “rough and tumble cop” but he’s more than that. Bullock’s own admission of his greatest fear wasn’t done to poke fun at people he figured were nutters. It was genuine. Bullock really is afraid of death and you wonder if working in homicide has put that worry inside of him. He doesn’t want to end up like one of the many victims he sees, so perhaps by exuding a tough exterior, he thinks he can protect himself. This was a very vulnerable moment for Bullock and it added to my enjoyment of him as a character.
Just as you wouldn’t peg Bullock as having any fears, I also wouldn’t have pegged him to act the hero, which he does so here when he saves a drowning woman. Granted, you could argue that Bullock was just doing his job and probably trying to score a date whenever she came to and dried off. But that’s not the impression this scene gives. In fact, consider the alternative: Jim Gordon, who seems more likely to put himself in harm’s way, could have dived in and saved her. Yet it was Bullock who decided to. Why? Because it goes against what you expect from him. Gordon has accused Bullock of being lazy and uncaring, and at first glance, that description seems accurate. Yet many times Bullock’s actions – far more so than his words – prove these assumptions wrong. Thus, Harvey Bullock is a character of contradictions, in a good way, and he really has become one of my favorite semi-white hats of the season.
Oddly enough, I also sense this episode was fitting because I think it’s safe to say that every character on “Gotham” harbors some kind of fear. Bruce worries whether justice will ever be extended to his slain parents. Alfred worries for Bruce’s safety. Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock now have new reason to fear possible retaliation after taking down a high-level officer within the GCPD. Even the more notorious (or notorious-to-be) characters possess certain fears. Oswald’s fears are two-fold: one, that he won’t attain the power and respect he craves and, two, hoping he will live long enough to see that happen. Ed Nygma’s concerns are also split where I sense he worries over how well Ms. Kringle likes him and frets that he’s not given the respect and responsibilities he feels he’s due. The mob bosses also fear as nothing makes you a bigger target than the man who holds all of the proverbial cards. I sense even Selena worries over her own survival. And the list goes on. In short, everyone really does have a “thing,” but it’s the degree of control this “thing,” this fear, has over them that dictates their decisions or lack thereof.
Now, my fear? Well, as far as “Gotham” goes, I fear Fish Mooney will become a pirate queen based on those last few minutes. As long as she’s packin’ Jack Sparrow as a wingman, I guess I could be cool with that.
Ahoy, Mooney mateys!
Otherwise, having Fish roll into town with a band of gun-totting pirates to take down Falcone, Oswald, and anyone else who looks at her cross-eyed would be (dare I say it?) lame. Let’s hope the show doesn’t go there.
One fear that has been put to rest is Ed Nygma’s marginalization as a character. I sense Nygma’s character has been overshadowed by Cobblepot’s development, but I always sensed he could bring more to the (medical examiner’s) table. These past few episodes have given Ed more things to do as well as pull back the curtain onto his psyche. Unlike Oswald, who seems like he was born to be a criminal mastermind, Ed needs more prodding. Right now, he’s a bit of an oddball who can drop a comedic moment in here and there, but you can see something coming on the horizon. And since he’s destined to become the Riddler, it won’t be good.
I appreciate the inclusion of figures like Ed and Oswald who are marginalized by their fellow characters. They’re a bit unorthodox and demonstrate nerve, cunning, and brains that those around them appear to lack in abundance. Yet their inability to connect with others or act within the confines of social mores cause them to be somewhat ostracized. Granted, there are persons who do stand up for and believe in them: Gordon seems to trust Ed’s insight and Oswald’s mother serves as his own champion. But both of these villains-to-be demonstrate how, firstly, social circles seem to push aside those who don’t fit into a given mold and, secondly, even odd or less than moral people can still do good, even if it’s not purposely intended.
If Ed’s central flaw is his insecurity, then Oswald’s is certainly his own ego. In this episode, he admits he might not be good in a fight but he possesses some steely nerves. A good trait to have but it can come back and bite him, which it does so here. Just as Bullock’s hardened exterior can detract from his soft heart and Ed’s awkwardness takes away from his inner genius, so Oswald’s bravado can work against him. I will give Maroni credit for this: he is genuinely scary. At first, I had written him off as a goofy gangster type, but I was way off. Maroni proves he’s not to be trifled with and nearly kills Oswald when he finds out he’s been played. (How many kill attempts does this make for Oswald now? Then again maybe he does have a smidgen of Jack Bauer genes….)
In any case, I think it’s fair to say Oswald fears death, too, so his quick thinking (and talent at making threats because, as stated, physical combat isn’t his forte) saves his life. Overall, his journey has been an awesome roller coaster ride and it’s gotten more enjoyable and thorny the closer we get to this season’s finish line. Let’s just hope that as it cruises into port, we’re left with more to love about him as we enter the second season.
At least for now he got found by some church ladies, so maybe something good might rub off. Besides, if Fish Mooney becomes a pirate queen, shouldn’t Oswald at least take a crack at singing in a church choir?
Um…, no. Stick to snitching, Oswald. Penguins really can’t carry a tune to save their life and you’ve already had one too many close calls as it is.