Gotham: Mandatory Brunch Meeting

Hey, it's 'Riddler and the Riddle Factory'!

I have to say, I don't understand why they didn't just go with that iconic comic book title. Where 'One of my Three Soups' and 'The Sinking Ship, the Grand Applause' were simply magnificently crazy, 'Mandatory Brunch Meeting' just sounds pretty weird and a bit dull. It's true, the "Riddle Factory" isn't the A-plot, and it's even completely separated from the rest of the installment, but this is Gotham, who didn't hesitate naming an episode that wasn't about Harvey Dent, 'Harvey Dent', or naming an episode that wasn't about Lovecraft, 'Lovecraft'.

Still, while it's not the main fare of the show, it's the best fare, and that comes as a surprise to me.

It's one thing that Cory's been wanting to adapt this storyline for years, and even if it gets a bit of a Cinderella treatment, they give him something and he's hellbent on acing it.

However, I was able to accurately predict the confrontation between Ed and Lee in this episode based on the negative trend I've seen over the season - it was a given that Ed could simply not be allowed to win this. When you add how Lee and Ed's relationship seems completely absurd, I was expecting to hate it.

Yet Gotham sells it anyway. Taken at first glance, "Lee Thompkins Beats The Riddler At A Riddle Game" would be enough for most of us to let out a groan, and it could've castrated him, but the clever way they go about it is the respect they are showing for the Riddler character. Lee doesn't know the answer to Edward's riddle, she makes him give it to her. She doesn't really win by "outsmarting" him, it's conclusively shown that Lee can't ever hope to match Ed's raw IQ, but rather by exploiting and appealing to his weaknesses: in this case his vanity, his inability to turn down a challenge, his code of honor - the Riddler isn't breaking his own rules! - ... and oh yeah, his being in love with her.

Lee makes a huge gamble on her "friend" Ed still being in there, or perhaps just on the notion that his two selves aren't all that different. In fact, the outcome of this episode makes you question if this truly is a case of split personality disorder or just a psychological manifestation of his inner conflict; a pet theory of mine in earlier reviews which I abandoned as the show grew more cartoonish and less believable.

It almost doesn't matter if their romance plot as well as Lee's whole so-called "character arc" make zero sense because the actors absolutely kill it in all their scenes. This is a whole different level of chemistry for Lee than with any other man or woman on the show; against all odds, it just works.

In a way, though, it's unsurprising. Even if your own role is lackluster, any competent actor works better against an interesting character. In her scene with Bruce in 'A Dead Man Feels No Cold', if outmatched, Lee shone. Here, her performance complements Cory's Edward Nygma to perfection.

As she pulls Ed close to kiss him - and by God, that's a kiss; take note, Jim Gordon! - Eddie talks about her "playing a very dangerous game." Not really. Besides the obligatory tired points about plot armor, Eddie only killed Kristen because she was about to rat him out to the police, which doesn't seem like a "current Lee" move. It seems wildly unlikely that Ozzie would murder her out of jealousy after the shitstorm in the wake of last time.

Does Lee "play" Eddie? Maybe, maybe not, maybe to some extent? It's hard to tell. In part it doesn't really matter.

There doesn't seem to be a good ulterior motive at work here beyond possibly bringing "nice Ed" to the surface, and if that's the case it'd suggest she does care about him. Even if it's nothing like that and she really just wants his services as consiglieri, she's obviously willing to pay up front with sex. Cynically speaking, that's a relationship.

Realistically, though... No, I think it's clear that she's at least attracted to him (he may be a psychopath, but he's a pretty sexy psychopath), and I guess sticking it in Jim's face won't hurt either. This won't be forever, and it likely won't end too well, but at long as we get the level of acting from them that we enjoyed in this episode I'm on board the train.

The feature story of the evening, of course, is the formation of the Jerome supervillain club, Penguin enlisting Butch's help against him and the reveal of the first's brother Jeremiah to the surprise of absolutely no-one of the major Gotham theory-crafters. It's a lot of exposé with several of the big players, like Bruce, only making token appearances establishing formal ties. Along with Jeremiah, the show introduces Echo - exact spelling is unclear - as his bodyguard. Subtitles have the name as "Ecco", which is... well, a Danish shoe brand... while "Echo" is the name of one of the Riddler's two henchwomen. It's anyone's guess where Gotham will take this.

Cameron is perfectly adequate both as Jerome and his twin brother, and he does manage to come across an entirely different person in his new role, but for now the "Jeremiah" character is very thin. Paranoid genius architect, lots of money, secretly-probably-immensely-evil and an Action Girl protector.

However, the funniest scene of the episode - probably the funniest scene in all of Gotham - is Jim and Bullock encountering Scarecrow and Hatter in Jeremiah's maze only for Harvey to go Leeroy-Jenkins on both of their asses charging them with a gun. It's funny because it's the trademark dry humor of Gotham making fun of itself and its comic book concept - yes, there's actually no way people like Jervis or Jonathan would be dangerous in spots like these unless their adversaries simply stand still and let them do their thing!

This one is a win. It makes no mistakes in execution, it's full of decent-or-better acting by all performers and with the GCPD hauling in Jeremiah for protection against Jerome, it sets the stage nicely for things to come. I don't know how the show will manage to tie the Riddler and Lee plot into the larger story - hell, I'm not sure if they will - but for now both stories stand well on their own.

Bring on Bruce taken hostage for the sixteenth time on Gotham next Thursday!

3 comments:

Diogo said...

An episode like this with consistent quality all around is kinda rare for Gotham, isn't it? It's nice to see Lee being interesting and clever, her time in the Narrows did for her what Tv Tropes would call "Rescue from the scrappy heap". Her scene just shows that emotional intelligence can be as important as the other kind of intelligence (I don't know what it's called, maybe "intellectual intelligence"?)

Barbara's story arc was not missed at all.

Patryk said...

I concur on Bullock doing a Han Solo was the highlight of the season so far. :D

hal said...

Maybe they just fell like changing it.