Lately I've had some sort of performance anxiety when it comes to writing reviews of Gotham. When the episode is great, I take a ton of care to deliver a thoughtful review, and that takes time. When it's bad, I take a ton of care to deliver a review pointing out what was wrong without coming off as a hater of the show, and that takes time. And when the episode is so-so, I usually don't know what to write about it, and that takes time too.
Thus this time I'll simply write what I think without even trying to come across as eloquent.
At its core this is just a double-damsel-in-distress story. I guess if you're a huge fan of Jim Gordon, you'll really enjoy it. It only consists of two plots - Mad Hatter's crazy revenge scheme against Jim, and Oswald's emerging feelings for Edward. In these two plots only one thing really happens in each of them. At gunpoint, Jim tells Jervis to kill Lee over Valerie prompting him to shoot Val instead - don't worry, she's not dead, at least not yet, since apparently Jervis is too poor a shot to aim for the head and too stupid to pull the trigger multiple times - and Eddie meets a clone of his old girlfriend Kristin ostensibly to throw a wrench in the "Nygmobblepot"† machine.
I guess the "big news" of this episode is that Oswald Cobblepot AKA the Penguin is now confirmed gay, but honestly for those of us who have been watching and understanding the show over the last years that's not really news. This is a man who has never shown any romantic or sexual inclinations towards any woman whatsoever throughout the show, with the possible exception of his own mother. Before he met Edward the only question was "is he gay or is he asexual altogether?", and after the last episode it was pretty bloody obvious. I guess some are surprised that Gotham had the guts to actually "go there" with him, but I'm not among them. If nothing else, this show's writers aren't cowards.
The episode's title is 'Follow The White Rabbit' and the rabbit in question is a male albino who seems to be hypnotized. The only "White Rabbit" that matches the functionality of Gotham's - that is, helping the villains by luring the heroes to them - is the modern Jaina Hudson who looks like, well, a winter Playboy bunny. Compared to her, this version is a non-entity.
The dialog between Edward and Oswald this episode isn't bad, but it isn't great either. Lines like "I continue being in awe of you, Oswald" come across as mildly awkward, though maybe we're supposed to take it as Edward consciously and slightly clumsily buttering him up. Actually, the best dialog is between Lee and Valerie. The single best line is Lee telling Valerie how "you two [Jim and Val] are made for each other" as Val insists on staying in reporter mode even being chained up to a toilet sink awaiting possible execution. That's pretty much on point, and I must admit I'm not really looking forward to Jim and Lee reconciling, if that's where they're going. Jim and Valerie actually make a good team, while Lee is starting to come off as a bit of a headcase in recent installments, intentionally trolling Jim for affection while announcing her engagement to another man.
This episode is hardly an ensemble effort. Tabs and Babs makes sort of an obligatory appearance where we learn... well, nothing really... and Barnes silently approaches Hulk (Thing?) status. Bruce, Selina, Alfred, Lucius, Ivy and Butch are nowhere to be seen. Harvey doesn't really do anything.
'Follow The White Rabbit' is an installment lending itself to speculation. It's anyone's guess who Kristin's lookalike really is - as a side note, the makeup department and the actress herself really do a good job of making her come across as a distinctly different person. If I were to make a wager, I'd put my money on her being Query or Echo, i.e. one of the Riddler's future henchmen. Her throwing him a riddle at the beginning of the conversation could serve to establish that, but her being Harlequin is a possibility. She's introduced carrying a lot of books which is moviespeak for some sort of scholar, and Harley is a psychiatrist while Echo and Query are more of street thugs. Being a psychiatrist she could have taken an interest to Edward, and accessing his mental records she could have found out about his obsession with riddles. It's a distinct possibility that her ultimate motive is revenge for the death of Kristin.
Either way I suspect their romance will be short-lived. Despite that I think it's very unlikely that she'll be killed off. The only person to die twice on this show is Theo, and when it came to him the show set up his return straight away, not to mention that lab is probably gone. I believe Gotham chose to return Chelsea to the show because they liked the actress, so in some manner she’s probably staying. It's also pretty much impossible to know if Oswald's feelings for Eddie are unrequited. We'll just have to wait and see.
If fans of Eddie and Ozzie are disconcerted by events in this episode (and those shown in the promo for the next,) let me give you a word of advice. Bruce and Selina had to endure forty-nine episodes, four breakups, one replacement love interest and a doppelganger to get even one proper kiss. I'd suggest you sit back and enjoy the ride. Even if this wasn't their strongest episode, the show has a really good track record when it comes to these two and I'm certain whatever we're served will be interesting.
In other notes some possible unintended leaks had me all but convinced that in fact, Mario Falcone is the adult Talon for the Court of Owls, but this episode puts that into question, as that guy would probably make mincemeat of all three stooges unless him covering his real identity is more important that Leslie's life (which admittedly is a possibility.)
Finally I have to give the show some props for really making the Mad Hatter a character you'd love to see trapped in a dough mixer. Benedict Samuel has a special talent for playing people like that.
In conclusion this isn't a great or even a particularly good episode but it doesn't drop the ball either. While somewhat pedestrian it services the overall narrative rather well. All in all I'm more excited for next episode than I was for this one.
†: The "ship name" for Edward and Ozzie, in case you're living under a rock.