The name of this installment is 'Anything for you', and that sentiment echoes in every single storyline of the piece, which in turn makes for the most coherent, well-paced and convincing episode of the entire show. Edward would "do anything" for Oswald, though his ultimate purpose is still clouded in secrecy. Bruce would "do anything" for Selina; in fact, he already did when he gave up his life's quest to protect her safety, though she doesn't know that. Finally, yes, even Jim would "do anything" for Valerie, in dropping the walls and accepting their relationship on her terms. It's an episode of selfless action and raw, immersive interaction.
There are no flaws to this episode. If I were to be petty I could complain about the final moments of Nathaniel starting to manifest unusual powers and the Hatter murdering another woman feeling a bit rushed and tacked-on, but that really is so minor it hardly even warrants a mention. In exact and enhanced reprisal of last episode, all the character moments and conversations are not only solid but absolutely brilliant. The various plots, while sometimes cartoonishly contrived in execution, all make sense from start to finish and there is hardly a missed step or a wasted opportunity the entire way.
Everything works in the exact same direction and everyone are sharing scenes, as Gotham utilizes its entire stellar cast in the space of 43 minutes without ever coming across as overcrowded. It effortlessly draws on past events, narratives and the entire Batman mythos and never tries to hit you over the head with it. The music score is perfect†, the sceneries are perfect, the acting is perfect and the pacing and the intertwining of the storylines are perfect‡. It's the sort of episode I watch in five minute chunks taking ten minute breaks to absorb it because I never want it to end.
In a rare occasion that might be telling us that Gotham is learning to use Jim Gordon more efficiently, he isn't even involved in the main crime case of the evening. Instead, his scenes are spent interacting with Bruce and Valerie and dealing with various flavors of heartache. Bruce seeks him out to hire him for investigating Ivy's disappearance as a way of endearing himself to Selina, which is all just the show's excuse to get them both in a bar together to open up about their problems. Remarkably, Jim comes across as a far more likable guy in his conversations with Bruce than we're used to.
Part of it is just David's brilliance as he's got a way to lift everyone he shares a scene with, but part is also how their relationship has changed over the three years since they met. This isn't a little kid talking to an adult anymore, it's one young and one not-so-young man sharing thoughts and trying to help each other. Jim's being more honest and comfortable with his adolescent friend than we've ever seen him before and both take the same piece of advice from their chat.
"Listen, Ed, even before you went crazy... I never liked you."
"Your zipper's down."
The major storyline of this episode is Butch finding out something he should've realized from the start, namely that it's a very, very bad idea to try to run a scheme against the Riddler. In reviving the Red Hood Gang as a pest and a thorn in Oswald's side, he wants to build up the conflict between the thugs and the new Mayor into an epic showdown where he comes across looking the hero. Unfortunately for him, Oswald puts Ed on the case. Well, unfortunately for him and fortunately for us, since that means for the first time since his arrest last season Edward, the cop-killer, sets foot in GCPD headquarters demanding information.
"I guess they weren't threatened."
"By a 300-pound gorilla?"
I mentioned in my last review that one of the most fortuitous side effects of Oswald being elected mayor is it gives both him and Eddie a legitimate reason to interact with the rest of the cast without fearing prosecution and it pays off right away. The ensemble is in full swing in this episode and all of Nygma's encounters at the police are amazing - the chilling, detached composure as he stares Barnes down at ground floor, the acidic banter with Lucius, the hostile reminiscing of past events with Bullock at the crime scene and Lee trying to break his jaw in the corridor over Kristin's death.
"Was insane. I have a certificate."
If the show remembers its history correctly, by threatening Ed with her mobster father-in-law Leslie possibly just made a colossal blunder. Carmine Falcone left the stage two years ago because he was forced out by the criminal underground as Oswald took control of Gotham City. When he saved Jim Gordon's hide in 'Prisoners' that was sold as him "calling in some old favors." Carmine is at least semi-retired and Penguin and Riddler are realistically far more powerful operators. She may very well have shortened her life expectancy by a few decades.
Edward quickly figures out the missing pieces of the puzzle and how Gilzean's behind it, and in a signature double-double-cross he delivers him to Oswald like a lamb to the slaughter. Finally, Tabitha breaks Butch out of a prison transport and that concludes our main plot of the night.
The real objective of this story is to serve as a tale of betrayal and trust and to deepen and strengthen Ed's relationship with Ozzie, setting up a slew of scenes which are all slam dunks. If fans of these two were excited after the last episode, at this point they're pretty much hysterical. That's for good reason, as Gotham comes the closest any DC show has ever got to portraying a romance between two male characters, not to mention two actors who share a spectacular personal chemistry.
It's important to understand that Edward is manipulating Oswald here, exploiting his grief over his family and his need for someone to be proud of him, but that doesn't necessarily mean there's an ulterior motive. After his fall from grace, manipulating people is the only way Eddie interacts with them, and it's entirely possible he wishes for Oswald's love for its own sake.
The reverse image of Ed and Ozzie is the story of Mister Wayne and Miss Kyle, where the two young lovebirds are drawn together not by subterfuge but by stripping off all layers of protection.
For some time now I have been arguing that the entire relationship between Bruce and Selina has been shaped by a deceptive narrative of "helping and be helped", and that people who only see the surface invariably misunderstand what's happening between them. They'll argue one gives more than the other, but they'll miss that the point of the giving and taking is simply to lend them excuses to spend time together without having to say "I like you."
The problem is that Bruce is running out of excuses, and those excuses can't give him what he wants anymore. He wants Selina, and there's not a plan in the world to beat the bad guys and help the helpless that's going to help him get her. He has to step up, and that's where things get scary.
Bruce is protected from Selina by two degrees of separation: the misconception of their motives and his constant rationalization of his actions and feelings. Their conversation on the rooftop goes about systematically destroying both. First he offers up a miserable tribute, not that it could help him anyway, talking about how he's trying to find Ivy. Selina's not impressed. Disconcerted, he launches into "prepared speech mode" only for her to immediately shut it down demanding him to get to the point. That's where he panics. "I like you." Oops.
In the end, Bruce does get what he wants... sort of... and it's immensely gratifying that he doesn't get there with a long, carefully planned monologue but rather by cringing and stumbling and stuttering all his way to first base. Floral conversation has its place but this is not it. Gotham rightly realizes that the way to step it up is to not write "good dialog." Instead, for the first time in a while we get actual meaningful interaction, touching on all their hopes and fears with Camren Bicondova shining like a star.
Compared to Edward and Oswald's screentime, Bruce and Selina's moment is short, and the show solves this by getting economical in the best way possible. As simple as their lines are, they each mean something, and "I'm confused." - "Good." is a perfectly delivered exchange finishing off a scene hitting you like a truck.
There are tons of other stuff I could talk about in this episode. As an example, we get our first, short conversation between Bruce and Oswald - something I've been requesting for two years. We get Jim acting like a normal person with his girlfriend and his ex-fiancée. We get the show following up on Ozzie's animosity against Tabitha. We get the revitalization of her relationship with Butch. We even get the return of Victor Zsasz. In a lesser episode, those plot points might have taken up the majority of my review. I had several complaints about this show over the last ten episodes, and this installment addresses nearly all of them.
Some people have argued that the last episodes have been "overusing" Edward. They're not. If anything, lots of episodes have been guilty of "overusing" Jim, but Edward is one of the most fascinating characters on the show. The show utilizing him heavily is simply playing to its strengths, as is the strong focus on character drama. While Gotham has made numerous mistakes over its run, it once again proves that at the top of its game, no other show can touch it.
†: A special shout-out here to the great, modern easy listening cover of Flash and the Pan's "Walking in the rain" playing in the background fitting the Sirens club scene perfectly. Gotham's score continues to benefit from Graeme Revell's excellent musical sensibilities, fostered in the 70s alternative scene. Does he take requests? I'd like an early song by his first band SPK in one of the fight scenes!
†: Another shout-out to Denise Thé, who penned her first Gotham installment with this episode. Truly stellar work and I hope we'll see more of it!