Season One, Episode Twenty-One — “The Anvil Or The Hammer”

By Jarrod Jones. *rubs temples* (my god there have been twenty-one of these things) So we’re but one episode away from the sweet, merciful end to Gotham. Or, at least, its first season, which has become twelve episodes too long and three storyarcs too many. (Where the hell this show will go in its dreaded second season is anyone’s guess. I got fifty on some blonde kid with a student visa comes to crash at Wayne Manor by the name of Jean Paul. Who wants it?) Anyway, noted German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “You must either conquer and rule or serve and lose, suffer or triumph, be the anvil or the hammer,” so the adorable children who write Gotham gave this episode that title. Barbara becomes a literal doll. Penguin starts his war. Bullock goes to a fuck party. It’s another week in Gotham.

WHAT WORKED: It’s true that Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) foretold of an imminent war in the Gotham underworld all the way back in the show’s pilot, but I can’t say I saw that bootlick instigating it himself. (Maybe Gotham‘s excruciating stupidity dulled my senses, or maybe it’s that I’m usually drunk when I write these things. Who can say.) And even though the show took at least four episodes to set up this otherwise all right subplot, seeing the Penguin enact his big, bold move against Carmine Falcone (John Doman) and Sal Maroni (David Zayas) without lifting so much as a finger was one of the few gratifying things that occurred within this week’s episode.

WHAT DIDN’T: So poor Eddie Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) handles the fallout of his first successful murder about as well as Gotham‘s writers will allow him (yeah, I usually dispose of evidence where I work too), but “The Anvil Or The Hammer” is far more interested in the comings and goings of The Ogre (Milo Ventimiglia) and his nimrod bride (Erin Richards) to let this subplot gain any steam. I’ve said many times that I appreciate the slow burn of the burgeoning career of the Riddler, but when, exactly, is Gotham going to let Nygma break out? Everyone knows that itty bitty Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) is just one growth spurt (and maybe one season) away from becoming a creature of the night. Let Eddie have his day.

Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) learns the facts of life courtesy of Wayne Enterprises, and comes to distrust the legacy of his father. Now *pinches bridge of nose* whether or not Thomas Wayne was willfully complicit in whatever wrongdoing was going on inside his family’s company, what right does Bruce have in suspecting that his legacy is tarnished? He just let his girlfriend get away with murder. Maybe Li’l Wayne is too young to truly understand what justice truly means, but this is some hardlined, black and white shit. Either Selina Kyle goes to jail, or Batman is an accessory to murder. And a hypocrite.

Even though I kinda got pulled into the intrigue between Gordon and the Ogre last week (like a sucker!), this week made me accept that — under zero circumstances — Gotham will never, ever bring a semi-interesting subplot to a close. I never thought for a second the Ogre would kill Barbara Kean, but her involvement in this storyline gave us a definitive example of the show’s problematic approach to women. It’s all here: Within twenty-one episodes, Barbara has devolved from a nagging, pantsless wonder, a trashy, cocktail-swilling pity monster, and finally to an empty, soulless Barbie doll. Claim “Stockholm Syndrome” all you like; that this was Barbara’s final bow for the season shows that Gotham never really thought this whole thing through.


I love you like no one has ever loved you, but I will chain you to the ceiling and gut you. Now come here.” – The Ogre.

What happened to him?” – Kristen Kringle (Chelsea Spack) “Axe – uh, accidental. Death.” – Eddie.

BEST MOMENT: Riddler Begins. Sgt. Dougherty is dead by Nygma’s hand, so — to cover his ass — Eddie sends his would-be ladypal Kristen Kringle a valentine in the form of a “Dear Jane” letter. “With men, it’s best to read between the lines,” says he who will be the Prince of Puzzles. Kringle tosses the letter aside, satisfied that her shit-heel boyfriend is gone forever. And then Eddie reveals the riddle from within the letter to the viewer, and even though it makes zero sense for him to do such a thing to a woman he (probably) loves, seeing a real-deal Riddler flourish made me immensely happy.

EPISODE’S MVP: Ah, get the hell out of here. Who would you reward this week: the “hero” cop (Ben McKenzie) who beats confessions out of his suspects, the living Barbie doll (Erin Richards) who can scarcely bring herself to blink as she watches her parents get stabbed to death, or the little runt (David Mazouz), who abets a murderer (Camren Bicondova) because she thinks he’s cute? It’s not your fault for not having an answer to that.


– Let’s be real: am I the only guy who thinks that Gotham ought to receive a cease and desist letter from the Italian-American Civil Rights League?

– So Batgirl — if she ever gets around to being born — won’t be getting any presents from her grandparents, ever.

– And since Lucius Fox is old as shit by the time Bruce Wayne gets around to stalking alleyways, why the hell not? Cast Chris Chalk, slap him in the finest of executive gear, and toss him a cameo. (Hey! An African-American dude on Gotham!)

– It’s fitting that the show finally found something for Barbara to do — become a malleable tool for a complete and utter sociopath, one who is convinced that they are meant to be together. (Can you blame him?)

– “Did you get enough sleep?” “You mean the one hour we actually slept? Yes.” So… Barbara had sex with a man after he showed her his creepy, axe-festooned sex dungeon?