What do you do if you're a millionaire accused of saving the city, but actually a psychotic maniac intent on controlling it? Well, you might just go to another psychotic maniac and begin by controlling him.
This episode hit some nice levels for me. Jim Gordon showed an emotion other than bleak concern, we got some more depth to Penguin, Galavan's plans came to fruition, Nygma got nookie, and Bruce began his training in protest, if not in earnest. To begin with Gordon: Did anyone not want to cheer Barnes on as he cut out the bad guys? Yes, he was a mixture of stereotypes, the too-clean-cut army military caricature that's easy to mock. He did, however, give Jim Gordon's bleakness an air of nobility, because he recognized the post-battle survivor look in Jim's face. It wouldn't be the first time a character's woodenness was a part of the character's development; there was actually hope breaking through in Jim's eyes at one point. Plus, who didn't love the whole phone call and "everybody knows you're banging the ME?" Barnes' purge of the Gotham police department and the creation of Jim's strike force was almost too good to be true.
Of course, now Jim's going to live a different kind of horror, because now he's the weak point who just could bring it all down if Barnes realizes Jim isn't as clean as he seems. We'll see how Barnes develops as a character; while it was great to see a little shakeup in the police department, I don't think I'd be very happy if he were just Mr. Straightedge–although it might ease Jim's guilt.
Guilt because of his association with the devious Penguin, of course. Who, in this episode, finally gets to meet Galavan. I actually found myself rooting for Oswald, and was semi-impressed by how quickly he deduced basically everything–and met Tabitha eye-on. Appearances aside, this is no shrinking bird. The mama-blackmail thing struck me as really cheesy and corny and badly planned yet, for the character, extremely effective; on the one hand it makes no sense that there were no Mama Cobblepot guards or spies or observers or anything to prevent her abduction, and on the other, well, it's not like Penguin has a lot of room to wiggle once the deed is done, does he? He can't exactly go to the cops for help, and the price for his tightening the noose on Jim is that he's basically had that option for support cut off. He goes all out, including calling in Zsasz, in order to clear Galavan's way. The closing image of Penguin shrieking in frustration and anger has haunted me a bit since I saw the episode. I somehow think the King of Gotham might find a way to turn the tables before long. And I'd much rather have Penguin than Galavan.
Galavan is extremely clever, and very convincing, and very annoying. His initial meeting with the Penguin–isolated by Tabitha even from his mind-controlled associates–reveals the breadth of his plans for power, but I'm still waiting for the depth. Throughout I was uncertain how many of the people encouraging him to run for Mayor were real and how many were plants, but I couldn't get why anyone bought into the fake drive-by shooting. Galavan played his role well, however. The only time I've seen Galavan slip and show the true depth of his psychosis is that one conversation with Barbara. (Whose only role on the show now appears to be sexually appeasing serial killers. This is her superpower, and while I love her energy with Tabitha and Galavan, and how they're clearly using sexuality–I find myself wanting a personality somewhere.)
Speaking of sexually appeasing, how delightfully weird is the whole thing with Nygma and the self-deception of Kris Kringle? Did she really gloss over the giant sweaty clues that he's a frustrated killer–or does she go, oh well, this one is better? I have a confession to make: I was rooting for the psychotic killer throughout. Cory Michael Smith manages to get you feeling for him: first pity, then sympathy, and even support, and those moments with him in that claustrophobic lab talking to himself (certainly not you, Miss Kringle) always strike a chord. Maybe because he's the only character who shows us that level of honesty with himself. Maybe because his whole personality has been built up paintstroke by paintstroke. Nygma's become one of the more delightful parts of Gotham. That other guy–the one who asked her out–seems to be getting a teensy bit stronger. Which one do you think actually does the killing, though?
Poor Alfred and Jim have more in common than just liking Bruce or a solid training: they both set the stage for their own failure, and quickly too. Jim gives into crime in his bid to stop crime and thus has a rift between himself and a better future when that possible future finally shows up. And Alfred, in hitting and driving away Selina–who's looked out more than once for Bruce, and given him insights he might not otherwise have had–is opening the door for Galavan's blonde wonder child to seduce Bruce to the dark side far more than Selina ever did. It remains to be seen whether Bruce is that easily fooled.
Bits and Pieces
I thought the strike force group was actually fairly bland and boring. I get the feeling they won't last long.
I don't think we saw the last of the fired cops. I think they're going to go somewhere, or to someone.
Nygma: I have this voice inside my head that's sort of a stronger version of me that keeps this me in line because I'm such a klutz.
2.5/4 angry Penguins. There's a lot to like about this episode, but the abduction of Penguin's mother without any sort of knowledge on the part of the Penguin made me wonder and wonder and wonder after the episode until it became a plot hole that wore away the tires on the rest of the show. Also, I don't know, sometimes this show strikes me as sexist. The women are always drowning, getting shot, getting hit, being controlled, getting abducted and turned into serial killer sex toys or somehow Seriously At Risk. Without Fish around, there doesn't seem to be much of a strong-leader type of woman. And even if I find it funny, I think it's weird that Barnes talked to Lee like he did when she picked up the phone. Am I totally off base? But, I think the episodes this season so far are so much better than Season One that I feel like I should give the show credit.