Gotham: The Primal Riddle

"Who controls Gotham?"

After sixty episodes of the show, all the veteran actors have eased into their roles and made them their own. This, combined with the strongest character development on comic book television, makes for a playground where every new pairing of two established characters makes for something special.

We saw this in the previous installment with Oswald's newly found dynamic with Ivy, which thankfully made for the first time the latter character really worked, and we see it here in the encounters between Riddler and Barbara, Riddler and Kathryn.

"My crimes... must live up to my name."

Edward Nygma is now completely transformed and he is magical - an elegant and vicious psychotic without a fear in the world. Cory sells his character with an easy excellence. In his conversations with Barbara, Riddler even comes across as vaguely self-mocking, which would've been unthinkable for old Edward and only serves to further attest to his bristling confidence.

"You're going to make a big production of this, aren't you?

Romantic or not, there is true potential in that couple. They share a similar anarcho-nihilistic mindset, and for the first time we get a sense that Barbara actually likes Edward. That doesn't sit well with Tabitha, and it's clear they're on the outs.

The plot of the evening is remarkably streamlined and solid by Gotham's standards. Except for Ozzie's adventures with Ivy and a minor but significant detour to the world of Wayne Manor and Selina, everything centers on the Riddler.

Out of all episodes so far, this one goes the furthest to define the Riddler's titular compulsions and flaws. His entire modus operandi is fully formed - insofar as we talk about the Riddler as a villain, Edward's character journey is complete. This is the most nuanced and complex portrayal of the character ever on television or in the movies - by a mile. This shouldn't even be a controversial statement - Gotham's Edward Nygma's had three seasons of development to get to his current state; far more than a Frank Gorshin or a Jim Carrey could ever hope for.


Eddie's out to learn the secret of the Court of Owls. As he's given this assignment by Barbara, he immediately recognizes it as "the riddle that got away" - a question nagging him since last year, where he posed it to Bruce and Lucius while not knowing the answer himself. Of course, that's the Riddler's true obsession - "knowing things."


So, the entire episode is about him trying to coerce the answer out of the city, murdering an actor, kidnapping the Mayor, and finally he's rewarded - with a meeting with Kathryn and the Court itself, who promptly ship him away while he's basically looking like a kid in a candy store. Delivering him to said meeting also means Jim's passed the test for membership in the Court, which he joins at the end of the episode.

"You'll fool me twice? That's just not gonna happen."
"Then the riddle will go unsolved."

Obviously this is one of Eddie's chief weaknesses. He'll literally risk everything just for a tidbit of information; he can't bear not knowing. He himself doesn't even need the information - Barbara does, and he's just as happy not giving it to her - but that hardly even matters. The other weakness is his vainglorious persona - he can't just commit a crime, he has to rub society's nose in it, even if that massively increases the risk of getting caught.


The first side order of the evening is Thomas throwing a jealous fit and smashing Selina through a window, giving her the classic 'Batman Returns' Catwoman origin scene. Now, this was the one plot point I'd predicted in detail - Thomas confronting her, Selina rejecting him while reaffirming her feelings for Bruce, and Thomas icing her - but it's very neatly done.

"That's the difference between you and Bruce Wayne. He'd try to save everyone."

It does a fine job of establishing Selina's conflicted relationship with Bruce - she may be angry with him, but she does recognize he's a good person thus she can't help loving him all the same - and this is sort of mirrored in the second side order, with Oz and Ivy playing supervillain Pokemon.

Oswald and Ivy manage to recruit Freeze and Firefly for their cause, and there really isn't a lot to say about this plotline - Robin and Maggie's interactions are pretty great and Victor and Bridgit are cartoonish-as-ever - except for the very end, where Oswald catches a glimpse of Edward on TV, sarcastically quipping, "Riddler. How long did he have to think about that one?" As above - he may be furious with him, but Oswald hasn't forgotten his love for Edward and he can't help feeling somewhat proud of him.


Thomas's sideplot announces to the viewers that he's dying, as well as that when Bruce returns to Gotham, "a lot of people are going to die", further confirming the Court's sinister plans for him. It may have always been a given that he wasn't sticking around forever, but I suspect this will the show's way of merging the tonal split between his "dark" and Bruce's "light" persona. There's a lot of ambiguity in this episode - while Thomas is intensely jealous of Bruce, it's also clear that at some level he cares about him. After all, he's his genetical twin.

"Will I die before Bruce returns?"

In the comics, Thomas died impulsively taking a bullet for Bruce, and I suspect we'll see something similar on the show in order to somewhat "reconcile" them - it would certainly take nothing less with him attempting to murder Selina.


In minor news, Firefly was actually recast in this episode. While some may be annoyed by this, in my book it's actually an upgrade - Michelle was a bit too old to gel with her supposed relationship with Selina, whereas Camila fits just right.

All in all, if you at all enjoy comic book shows and you don't watch Gotham, you're doing yourself a huge disservice. It's been redeeming itself for its early mistakes nearly all season, and the rest of the season looks equally thrilling.

Oh, and we got renewed!

5 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Congratulations to Gotham on its fourth season!

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

Thanks, Billie. Very happy for the show :)

Lamounier said...

Great news, Thomas. I'm happy for you and all the fans.

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

It was expected. As I mentioned by email, I've spent the last months trying to calm down the fans. Still, it's great to have it official. Next year will be the real battle. Here's hoping Fox treats the show right the coming year! (Yeah, I know. Fox...) ;)

Patryk said...

Great that Gotham was renewed. Actually everything I watch was renewed this year. It's strange to not feel sad about losing any show at the end of the year!