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Gotham: Ruin

Zsasz: "I did not make that building go boom Jim!"

After two sufficient episodes, and one jerry-built episode, 'Ruin' delivers easily the best chapter so far of Season 5's no man's land arc, jam-packing all of Gotham's best qualities on the front lines.

Last week, an unknown assailant bombed Haven, the refuge taken over by the GCPD to protect the civilians still trapped within the city. Gordon has no suspect at the moment, but an act as broad as this means it could really be anybody. And very understandably, Gordon's redundant speeches are not enough this time to quell the survivors' fear and rage. But at long last, Season 5 continues to give me glimpses of a more valiant and sympathetic side to Gordon as he struggles to keep the morale of his fellow officers intact, and works urgently to protect as many individuals as he can in the immediate wake of Haven's bombing.

Though 'Ruin' is still split into two separate subplots like previous episodes, the narrative of 'Ruin' has a more orderly flow to it, simply because Gotham is taking advantage of one of its most prominent gifts - its cast. Rather than having each character more allocated to their individual stories (or even worse a crime, just not having them show up at all), they are all in some way or another either involved in the search for the Haven bomber, or they're involved in the continuing pursuit of Jeremiah Valeska. Characters that have felt neglected lately, such as Nygma, Lucius, Alfred and Jeremiah, now all get at least one opportunity to be dubbed 'scene-stealer' in 'Ruin'.

Because he lost men in the bombing too, Oswald proposes a truce with Gordon so that they may combine resources and bring the bomber to justice. Since the premiere of Season 5, I've felt that Oswald should have started off this year from the get-go working alongside the GCPD. And the reason for that is because Season 4 made it a point to establish that Oswald, by comparison to other rouges, possesses a more sane and logical approach to his criminal activity. Oswald simply needs order and structure to run a prosperous criminal empire. The chaotic antics orchestrated by the Valeska brothers in Season 4 that upset the established order of Gotham's municipal formation goes very much against Oswald's rule of thumb, which was why he was so quick to turn on Jerome too. But since this alliance was likely an inevitably anyway, it's a mere nitpick for me. (That being said, it was a really dumb move for Oswald to give away his and the GCPD's position through a bullhorn when they were pursuing their suspect. Even Tony Stark, the guy who gave his home address out in a video threat to a terrorist, would see that and shake his head in stupefaction.)

Oswald and the GCPD follow up on a tip given by Barbara which leads them to none other than Victor Zsasz. Of all the characters that could flourish in no man's land, I've been especially curious this season to see the shenanigans of the gunslinger Zsasz. Anthony Carrigan's comedic take on Zsasz, reinterpreting the character more as a fusion between Deadpool and the Man with No Name, has made him one of the series' best guest-appearance characters. That being said, after Season 3 and his consistent failures to assassinate Gordon per Carmine Falcone's decree despite talking up a storm about how no one ever sees him coming, I can't say I buy Zsasz's gloating in the precinct when he assures Gordon and Bullock he didn't bomb Haven; Zsasz's reasoning is that if it was him, there'd be no survivors. I'm sure a shopping cart with one bad wheel is more fruitful than Zsasz with a firearm.

Oswald remains vengeful towards Zsasz for selling him out to Sofia Falcone last year and believes that Zsasz's denial means nothing, and that the blatherskite should be executed, a decision that is met with unanimous approval from Haven's survivors in the style of a kangaroo court (one reminiscent of Scarecrow's own hearings from The Dark Knight Rises). I always appreciate these tiny callbacks like Oswald still bitter towards Zsasz, or a desecrated 'Make Gotham Safe Again' campaign poster from Season 3 appearing in the streets, because it keeps each season from feeling disjointed from the others, and given how many writers Gotham has had staffed over the years, that feature comes up time and again. But because one does not simply kill Victor Zsasz, Gordon decides the 'innocent until proven guilty' doctrine still needs to be upheld, and frees Zsasz. Whether it's to repay the favor, or maybe because he realizes Gordon is essential to Gotham's rebuilding, Zsasz chooses afterwards to not kill off Gordon either. Because Zsasz routinely comes and goes throughout the series, this may be the very last we see of him, and so I felt it was a nice way for him and Gordon to part there - both have come quite a ways since the days of Season 1 where Zsasz was always aiming something lethal at Gordon's head.

Meanwhile, Ed Nygma continues meager efforts to understand the nature of his blackouts. For weeks, I had given up wondering if Gotham was going to give us any hints at all about Nygma's arc this season, and instead decided that maybe his story was appropriately meant to be a riddle itself. We finally get some answers to Nygma in 'Ruin' that completely revolutionize the way we'll look at all of Season 5. In his quest to follow up on a clue he had left himself, Nygma is bargained with by Lucius Fox to help him and the GCPD understand the nature of Haven's bombing. Nygma agrees, and before long, the two concur that the assailant used a rocket launcher from the outside to ignite the initial explosion within Haven. We haven't seen Fox and Nygma interact with each other since Season 3's 'How The Riddler Got His Name', and I very much enjoy their energy and possibly even dormant affinity for each other. I suspect that in another timeline where Nygma never went down a path of crime and corruption, he and Fox would have probably worked well alongside each other within the GCPD.

Also contrary to what I thought might have been Nygma's shtick this season, he actually doesn't play up the 'I've-lost-my-marbles' mindset at all this episode, instead returning to the traits of egoism and lacing riddles throughout his speech, a pleasant blend almost between the old Ed and Riddler. Following his and Fox's teamup, Nygma examines the rooftop Haven's bomber must have fired from, and notices an old lady watching him from her apartment across the street. From her, Nygma is horrified to learn that he himself is Haven's bomber (and most likely the one who also fired upon the Wayne Enterprises chopper back in the season premiere). Why Nygma is routinely shifting between alternate consciousnesses we don't know yet, but I would definitely chalk this twist up to one of Gotham's best. If not for Season 5 preparing to introduce Bane, as well as keeping Jeremiah Valeska in the spotlight, I would raise my hopes much higher for the possibility that Riddler in fact is Season 5's main antagonist. It would keep in line with the showrunners' claim that the 'Zero Year' comic inspires much of Season 5, and I personally feel we haven't really seen Riddler yet as a force to be reckoned with, at least not since the end of Season 3.

The other subplot of 'Ruin' is Bruce and Alfred pursuing Selina, simply because Bruce believes if she kills Jeremiah, it may change her for the worse. It's another amusing detail for me that this is where Bruce draws the line in regards to Selina's internal metamorphoses, yet had no problem giving her a plant with atrocious side effects Ivy advertised quite clearly. Though Bruce and Alfred both get past goons working for Jeremiah, in a manner much like how Batman will ambush his foes in the future, they are too late to stop Selina from fatally stabbing Jeremiah. Or so it would seem.

This was the most irking feature of 'Ruin' for me, and it's not even a fault of the episode - it's a fault of the marketing. Early trailers and promos for Season 5 have clearly shown additional footage of Jeremiah that we haven't gotten to yet in this season, so I don't know why Gotham suddenly thinks they can pull the wool over our eyes, and try to convince us Jeremiah is as deceased as a girlfriend of Spider-Man's who took too hard a fall off the George Washington Bridge. Personally, my money is on Clayface actually being the one Selina made quick work of. He's been absent from the series since Season 3 as well, and would also be a welcome character to see return to the final season.

Right now, I'm still skeptical if the series can follow-up with an episode that lives up to the momentum that was 'Ruin', but I don't say that as if it's a difficult thing for Gotham to accomplish. You have an incredibly talented cast and array of characters that you understand in and out Gotham - savor that while you still can, because it's a fortunate feature for any show to have.

Other Thoughts:

• Gordon tackling Zsasz head-on is a pretty amusing visual, but also another quick and snappy showcase of his increasingly appealing valor.

• Will we ever get to hear Jeremiah laugh? We all know Cameron Monaghan is very capable of the deed, it's a talent that needs to be made the most out of. It'd be like a movie casting James Spader for a role that doesn't require him to talk - indefensible!

• 'Ruin' ends with a sudden cliffhanger showing renewed romantic interest between Gordon and Barbara. Not sure why these two suddenly have the hots for each other again, but with the revelation that Barbara will have some major news for Gordon in one of the oncoming episodes, I guess it's fair that the show needed to pave the road to Barbara Gordon/Batgirl somehow. I don't quite think showing a stork deliver her to Gordon's doorstep in a basket is going to cut it for viewers.

Aaron Studer loves spending his time reading, writing and defending the existence of cryptids because they can’t do it themselves.

1 comment:

  1. I suppose they had to hook them up somehow. Well at least she wasn't with Tabitha.
    LOL at casting Spader and not letting him speak. The makers of The Blacklist hear you, they certainly give him a lot to say.
    So where's Lee? Are they saving her for the finale?
    Well Gwen Stacy lives in a separate verse as Spider-Gwen.
    Nice episode.


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