Media · Story & Characters

“Gotham” – Episode Twenty-One (S1) Review

The Anvil or the Hammer

One down, one to go!
Happy Critic
The finale is coming, ladies and gents!

But before we get there, we have to start here with this episode, which ends with a promise of sheer epicness.

Once more, this episode showcases the evil schemes of the Ogre, who is eventually put in his place as well as six feet under. I was perplexed by Jim’s insistence upon saving Barbara with whom he has had little contact in the grand scheme of things and even less chemistry. I’m not sure if this is because that, deep down, Jim harbors feelings for Barbara or he simply doesn’t want her to come to harm (though he confesses to Leslie that, if given the choice, he would save her over Barbara). In any case, it at least casts Jim in a good light that he’s willing to save and protect someone who, essentially, spurned him without good cause. I doubt this will do anything to mend what’s already been broken but, again, Jim is acting like the mature adult as he should.

Unlike Barbara who goes from vixen to snob to whiny lass to I-don’t-know-what – a cross between a wide-eyed Barbie doll and a zombie? This series of rapid-fire emotions showcases what a transient character Barbara is: in the previous episode when she first meets the Ogre, she’s a cross between a vixen and an ice queen who doesn’t seem fazed when she first enters the Ogre’s white room of horrors. In this episode, it’s obvious they have spent the night together (and, no, probably not playing Scrabble) yet she turns into her prissy little self and wants nothing to do with him. Naturally, that propels the Ogre to snag her in his clutches, hence Barbara is turned into the wimpy damsel in distress…again.
Barbara, Barbara, Barbara…will you ever learn?

In a slight twist, I wasn’t expecting Barbara to have the Ogre kill her parents so that she might live. I really suspected that when the Ogre asked her who she wanted him to kill for her, Jim’s name would have been the first on her lips. But nope, it’s good ol’ mom and dad.

I feel like I missed something here – exactly why did Barbara hate her parents so much that she wanted them murdered? The Ogre said he promised to kill Barbara’s “truth” and set her free. But her parents? What exactly had they done to her that was so bad? We were never told that she suffered abuse as a child, only that they just seemed like typical snooty rich folks. Is that good enough reason to kill someone? Obviously not, but since when has logic ever been one of Barbara’s strong points. On the other hand, it’s possible she harbors feelings for Jim and decided not to name him as the one whose blood got spilled. But, geesh! Talk about not honoring your mother and father. Then again, maybe that’s why things haven’t gone well for Barbara.

Speaking of characters for whom things have been bumpy for, Ed Nygma is now having to contend with his actions from last week when he stabbed Kristen’s abusive beau. In this episode, the former police officer/woman beater has been reduced to zombie food and, later on, nothing but bones. In Ed’s final scene with the last piece of the deceased cop’s remains – a skull, no less – his posture and postulating reminded me of an iconic moment from Shakespeare’s Hamlet where Hamlet ponders over the skull of Yorick, the court jester, and laments that the man he knew so well is now gone. Ed does the same but is far less sentimental. The skull imagery here is particularly appropriate as Ed works around death all of the time, and even Kristen wonders how he can stand it. Traditionally, the skull was a momento mori, a symbol of the Medieval reflection on mortally (which, translated from Latin, means “remember that you must die”). Hence, not only does the dead man’s skull serve as an obvious reminder that its owner was once alive, it also ties Nygma to his future as a villain as the Riddler isn’t always full of fun and games. Sometimes death is part of the equation, too.

Another character who isn’t playing around is Penguin. Honestly, I didn’t see this twist that ignites a gang war that promises to continue into the finale. I assumed that Maroni’s cronies would be slaughtered while he, somehow, would have escaped. But that wasn’t the case at all and I liked it as, once more, Oswald proves he’s a genius. Not always perfect but always perfectly calculating. Instead, Oswald wants to be the criminal king of Gotham, and in order to do that, he has to sic his enemies upon themselves. Clever indeed. Thus, he’s determined to kill two birds (Falcone and Maroni) with one stone…or make that bullets. Time will tell how well his strategy will play out (as his plans often contain holes or backfire in ways Oswald doesn’t see until it’s too late), but please at least let him take out Fish! Preferably with a baseball bat but any other weapon would be fine.

I’m not going to speculate, but after seeing promos for the finale, it looks like Penguin might finally get his Scarface moment…
say hello to my little friend scarface
Which thrills me to no end! Just hopefully he won’t end up face-down in a reflecting pool.

Young Bruce also gets a twist when he discovers that his father might not have been the upstanding man he thought he was. Evidently, criminal dealings are nothing new at Wayne Enterprises and are, in fact, business as usual. This angers Bruce, who is starting to wonder exactly what his father was up to. Yet when he’s told that his father “kept his best self hidden,” you can bet that Bruce will not rest until he clears his father’s name or decides that his dad was not the noble man Bruce thought he was. (And what is this secret, you might ask? I’m not sure but I have my fingers crossed for the first reveal of the Batcave!)

Lastly, the episode’s title is interesting considering its imagery, which alludes to two tools of the blacksmith trade. The anvil was the device upon which molten metallic objects were forged, and the hammer was the tool directly responsible for the shaping. Thus, the forging of metal, or, metaphorically, the transformation of one object into another, is a fitting image for all of the trials and tribulations the central characters of “Gotham” have faced as well as the city itself. I think it’s fair to say that none of them have remained the same as they were when the season first started. But notice the implication through the use of the word or here – the anvil or the hammer, not the anvil and the hammer. These characters are either one or the other, not both: they either serve as the anvil, the device upon which something greater is forged, or they’re the hammer, the device doing the forging. (Fun factoid: hammer is also the term for the last stone thrown in a curling end, and whoever has the hammer usually is guaranteed to score points; so you could also say that whatever characters here who are “hammers” are guaranteed to advance or score some much-needed clout. Okay, probably not, but, curling fan that I am, I had to throw that in.)

Now about the finale. I’m usually not one to speculate or say what I do or don’t want to see happen because sometimes it plays out according to my theories and often times it doesn’t. I will confess though that final episodes always make me nervous. It’s like waiting for the last book in a book series you’ve read and loved: you hope it will be a satisfying end that answers critical questions and gives characters their proper due. Case in point: one of my all-time favorite final books in a series is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows because (I think) it does everything a final book should do and it does those things right: it wraps up all of the character’s story arcs in a way that’s fitting, it answers critical questions that had been posed early on in the series, it contains shocking and emotional deaths and departures, it possesses good twists and turns, and it makes sure that the characters who have done the most evil get theirs in the end.

So I hope “Gotham” takes the same route, not by inviting wizards, giants, and Death Eaters to the party (though how cool would that be?) but by addressing some of the early questions (like who did kill Bruce’s parents and why), wrapping up (for now) some of its main characters’ arcs, laying groundwork for season two, throwing in some fun surprises, and eliminating characters who deserve to go (not merely for shock value).

That’s not to say I think every character should ride off into the sunset nor do I think killing off everyone is wise. Instead, I appreciate a good balance with unseen twists and turns but an ultimately satisfying and fitting end, and I hope that’s what “Gotham”‘s finale delivers. There are characters who deserve to die (and I sense you can tell who I’m rooting for to kick the bucket) and there are characters who deserve to live because their arcs have been fun to watch. There are story arcs and questions I hope get resolved and answered, and there are others I’d like to see get carried over into season two. Thus far, I haven’t been disappointed by what “Gotham” has given us, so I can only hope the finale lives up to the hype I’ve created for it in my mind.

So here’s for an epic finale:
rajsmile happy got you i'm cool i'm back

Rest well until then, fellow Gothamites!


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