Season One, Episode Twenty – “Under the Knife”

Gotham-season-1-episode-20-5By Jarrod JonesSuspense? In Gotham? Get the hell out of here. I mean, sure, the show is good at faking it, but this week saw a pair of dumbfounded DoomRocket kids gaping at the television screen on account of Gotham actually handling their shit for a change. This episode ratchets up the tension between Jim Gordon and the Ogre with a reliably insipid cat-and-mouse that cribs liberally from almost every single serial killer yarn that’s existed yet. But there’s a flourish or two that would not have worked this week were Gotham not Gotham. (It’s a paradox, I know. Gotham is a paradox.) Bruce declares his “no killing” clause aloud to a room full of Wayne Enterprises employees. We get an origin story for the Ogre. Don Maroni crosses a line with Oswald, and Eddie crosses a line with himself.

WHAT WORKED: I had to check my pulse to make sure I wasn’t having a stroke, but yeah. Gotham nailed its origin story for the Ogre (Milo Ventimiglia). While it is wholly derivative and hopelessly cliched, the manner in which “Under the Knife” simmered with — I shit you not — shrewd storytelling created an actually suspenseful moment for the show. By the time the Ogre’s past catches up with Gotham, the subsequent commercial break actually felt like a tease.

WHAT DIDN’T: The time between this episode’s return of Barbara Kean and the last time we had to look at her squidged face meant that the show’s crew of writers had plenty of time to fix Erin Richard’s poorly written character; instead it looks like they decided to fuck around on Trivia Crack for two months or whatever. I’m not sure what kind of downward spiral Barbara’s supposed to be taking, but we can presume that she’s going to become somewhat tolerable again, enough so that she can marry that Gordon fella and toss out a couple of kids. But this episode finds Kean at her most misanthropic. Pull the plug on this one, guys. You blew it.

It’s date night for Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle (David Mazouz and Camren Bicondova), and though that should be more than enough for us to be all, “aww,” I couldn’t bring myself to care. The subplot’s main focus was meant to explore the events of last week, where Selina discovered that she was totally okay with killing people in cold blood, but if Gotham is fucking terrible at one thing (among others), it’s plunging the psychological depths of its leading characters. Instead Bruce verbally announces his age-old credo, and thus another piece of the Bat-puzzle falls into place. Snore.

BEST LINE: Selina… you look very nice.” – Bruce. “The shoes hurt.” – Selina. Yeah. Slow week.

BEST MOMENT: Don Maroni (David Zayas) pops in for a very welcome visit to Gotham this week to utterly ruin the one pure thing Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) has in the entire world: His mother’s love. Watching Maroni play “nice guy” to Gertrude Kapelput (Carol Kane) just to watch the Penguin squirm was riveting enough, but when the Don cuts the shit and brings every horrid deed Gertrude’s pride and joy has ever committed to light, well. Chalk it up to the strong acting abilities of Zayas, Taylor and Kane, because once Oswald has some alone time with his beloved ma, the damage Maroni has wrought has done its job and we were privy to some real sincerity. On Gotham. Which, since this is the Penguin we’re talking about, is naturally followed by a gush of arterial spray.

EPISODE’S MVP: Edward Nygma. Not for nothing, the poor, long-suffering Nygma has enjoyed the most restrained subplot Gotham ever had, and with the twentieth episode, Eddie finally got to cross the threshold towards supervillainy. Cory Michael Smith has taken what could have been a one-note nut with a Gorshin complex and made him a character we could one day legitimately fear. No small feat, especially in Gotham.

Gotham-season-1-episode-20-7TO THE BAT-CAVE:

– No Fish this week. So I’m guessing that she’s bleeding out somewhere offscreen, but is otherwise totally fine.

– Barbara is so painfully vapid in this episode that when the Ogre whispered in her ear, I’m surprised no one heard the echo.

– So we have an Irish hitman in the employ of Don Falcone. Anyone wanna bet that guy’s name is Mickey “The Mink” Sullivan? (Batman: The Long Halloween, anyone?)

– Welp, I’m totally wrong. IMDb says Clark Carmichael plays a hood named “Connor”. Ah, oh well.

– I guess they cut the scene in this episode where some half-drunk Wayne Enterprises gala-goer overheard every single thing Bruce and Selina said and was all, “where the hell are your parents?

– Anyone else notice that Barbara was completely fine with the Ogre’s gothy torture/sex dungeon? Maybe Gotham will finally unspool into the Elseworldly slash-fic it always seemed destined for. (I can see it now: Barbara Kean IS…  The Sociopathic Socialite. That’s yours, Gotham. You can keep that.)