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Gotham: The Sinking Ship, The Grand Applause

"Welcome to another hour of the crazy world of Gotham!"

I'm not even sure Gotham has a plot in the common sense of the word anymore, nor am I sure it matters to the show. What this episode is, more than anything, is the writers throwing their characters into all kinds of weird situations and counting on their preternaturally gifted actors doing the rest.

They do.

If we're talking "character moments" Gotham is at the top of its game here. The visuals are fantastic. From Selina peeking up from below the table in her scene with Bruce, over Eddie getting tortured by Sofia for information and just laughing in her face and refusing to answer in anything but riddles - "I'm telling you, you're just too stupid to figure it out!" - to Penguin and Riddler finally making amends at the pier... there's absolutely nothing to complain about here.

This is my third year writing about Gotham. You would've thought I'd get into my groove, but it's only getting harder. That's because my normal form of reviewing episodes is by following the red thread and making sense of the characters' psychological evolution through different frameworks, and there isn't much of a red thread here. Things Just Happen. That's not to say it isn't enjoyable. It is. Also, Ivy's not in it, which instantly makes it three times better.

If I'm to attempt to break down the basics of this one, it forms the conclusion of the first war between Penguin (with Jim, Ed and inexplicably Lee) and Sofia.

Throughout the show we have a staggering amount of plot twists, so many that I can hardly count them all and certainly won't bother to make sense of all of them.

"Smart-again" Eddie meeting "smart-again" Grundy, Grundy delivering him to Tabitha and vowing to "get back to who he was" (though not trying to crush Babs' head like a watermelon for making him who he is,) Eddie breaking Ozzie out of prison and rescuing Martin by blowing up the place he's held at with a rocket launcher (??), ...

... Ozzie getting frozen and dethawed for no good reason, Eddie getting tortured by Sofia and the Dentist, Lee teaming up with Eddie and Ozzie to kill Sofia, Sampson taking over the Narrows with no explanation, Lee regaining control with no explanation, Ozzie getting betrayed for the zillionth time by Jim Gordon, Batcat fighting some goons over some jewelry, ...

... Jim getting shot half to death, Lee saving his life and Harvey somehow deciding that the best way to make him pay for his crimes is to let him get away with them (?!), and Lee shooting Sofia point blank in the head only to have her survive anyway... That's about half of it.

Which ones of these merit attention?

The "good choices" here are to reunite Bruce and Selina plus Eddie and Oswald. While I'm not a hundred percent sure I can get behind the logic of Riddler and Oswald burying their year-long grudge... Well, okay, I'll try.

- "Are you kidding me?!"
- "It's a fantastic plan!"

"The Riddler" is more-or-less a psychopath. Being a psychopath I'm not really sure he even likes Ozzie apart from on some intellectual level - I guess we'll see about that in the future - but it also means he isn't really angry about him murdering Isabella. Remember, Isabella was the dead ringer of Eddie's girlfriend, not Riddler's. Isabella was Eddie's "second chance." His fury was Eddie's fury, and Eddie shooting Ozzie was essentially a vigilante act. The Riddler of 'The Sinking Ship' does not appear the "merged" Edward Nygma post-'Mommy's Little Monster' and pre-'HeavyDirtySoul.'

Bruce and Selina's conflict felt rather synthetic anyway, so even if their storyline in this episode is rather weak and I'm not sold on how the show silences their arguments, I'm glad they're past that. Despite some setbacks and sloppy writing, they remain the "it couple" of Gotham by a mile - at least, they're the only remotely sympathetic one - and the show just proved my fear of them never getting back together as "Bruce" and "Selina" wrong. That makes me happy, because the show is far stronger with both of these ships sailing.

With regards to the "wtf-moments"... Okay, let's talk Sofia here.

The torture scene with Riddler is just amazing, both visually and acting-wise. It also really sells how how Edward Nygma's simply of a different stature than Sofia, who mostly comes off as your run-of-the-mill villain in her interaction with him - in "full Riddler mode," he's literally unbreakable.

Since Sofia has managed to piss off practically every person in Gotham City, it is impossible for her to win here. Here, though, we see the real reason for her antagonizing Lee in the last episode - it was needed to turn her into Sofia's enemy so they could have a woman landing the killing blow, giving them an easy out for the predictable play of having Sofia prevail over Gordon.

Gotham has steadily gravitated towards this form of storytelling since season three, and unfortunately it sometimes makes for not-all-that-engaging television. Just as we knew that Tigress would miraculously defeat Grundy in hand-to-hand combat, we now know that Selina (or possibly Barbara or Tabitha) will be the one to ultimately take down Ivy.

Of course, Selina being the one to do that is the poetic choice, but just as that is so, Sofia should have fallen at the hands of Jim or Oswald. Shanghaiing Lee for the job in the last minute feels cheap.

Having Sofia go out like she does only to land on a throwaway line "in a coma" is ludicrous, but it was always a given that she would have to survive a really high fall to put her in a wheelchair and transform her into the Hangman killer. As Sofia Falcone, crime lord, however good she's been she's probably outlived her usefulness to the plot, with the remainder of the season turning to the more "extra" characters as the main villains. We'll see how successful her new role will be down the stretch.

Butch and Tabitha, Lee and Jim, both couples are dead as doornails, but that certainly doesn't mean the show will stop pushing them. In the first case, it's just the writing that's atrocious while the chemistry is still there, so I guess they're salvageable. Jim and Lee have neither - I'll take Lee hate-shagging the Riddler any day of the week over that.

- "I have a strong desire to never, ever, see this pier again."
- "Oh, I agree."

In conclusion, true to form, this is some of the most overloaded, jumbled and batshit crazy television that ever aired, but against all odds... It actually works. We returned from the hiatus to a truly disappointing installment, but while we're certainly nowhere near the heights of early season two, each episode since then has improved in quality.

1 comment:

  1. Ah so Sofia is just another origin story. I was really puzzled with the stupid declaration that she's in a coma... That part almost ruined the episode for me.

    Yeah I also noticed the sexism that only a woman can fight a woman. But then again Gotham looks like the 60s so maybe that's intentional.


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