Gotham 2.9: “A Bitter Pill to Swallow”
“If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”
While that line was spoken by the Joker in the memorable film The Dark Knight, the advice seems to have been taken to heart in the world of Gotham long before Batman has made his debut in the television version of Gotham. All the best assassins are in this for the money. This episode – in one of the simplest premises of the series’ run – is about one of those secret member’s only underground (literally) clubs that has me thinking that this might be a proto-version of the League of Shadows or the League of Assassins. Yet, it could be something else entirely: the Batman comic books have such a rich lore from which the creators can draw from for story ideas. Alternatively, this could be an idea they came up with themselves. Enter Tabitha, who was Galavan’s right hand, who goes to a seedy Gotham bar downtown pays a lot for a special drink, after which a secret door opens and Tabitha descends into a deadly underworld society of sorts. She meets with The Lady (known to genre fans as Dr. Who alum Michelle Gomez) who promises results by the end of the night. The target: Jim Gordon. For Tabitha, this is a matter of personal revenge, as his actions have rendered Barbara Kean (Tabitha’s secret lover) in a coma. In Galavan’s brief appearance in the final moments of the episode, he chastisers her for hiring this “company” to send these professionals.
The premise is as simple as it gets (but that’s not inherently a bad thing): Gordon goes to Galavan’s penthouse to get some more evidence. Assassins – first one – then a few more – and Gordon, the police captain, a forensics expert, and a rookie, have to contend with the city’s best assassins while holed up in the penthouse.
If you’ve seen any memes comparing members of the GCPD with Star Trek red-shirts, you’ll know why after watching this episode.
The first one is disguised as a piano repairman, and tries to strangle Gordon in the elevator on the way up the penthouse. Cue the dramatic music for the elevator fight as the camera is in tight in the elevator. When the elevator stops prematurely, and the doors open, it’s played as a comic beat. (so much for all those people who don’t realize this show is a satire.) The bloody fight is just the beginning. An assassin comes from a higher floor. as a small group storm the penthouse, and Gordon and his captain have to fight them off in guns as well as hand-to-hand, and it’s a bit more violent than I’d expect for a show that airs relatively early in the evening. When the captain is wounded, the show finally shows why they hired notable genre actor Michael Chiklis for the role, as he has a moment to let Gordon in on his backstory, and hint at why it’s tough for him, Gordon – and later, Batman – to find that “line” that they cannot cross. Chiklis is pretty good here, but I was drawn into the stillness of Ben McKenzie’s Gordon as he merely just listened. The episode might have been hitting us a bit over the head with the notion that Gordon has a dark side, but, when push comes to shove, it’s Mackenzie that is selling us on the torment that the character is going through. McKenzie’s take on the character of Gordon is just so damn good, I think it’s time fans took note of it.
Eventually, The Lady has to pull out the the Big Gun in order to kill Gordon, so she calls on some guy named Eduardo Flamingo, who (I guess) has been established in other Batman lore, and while almost every character in Gotham is unhinged, this guy is really too far gone. Gordon decided to leave the penthouse and face him on the street.
Their fight was good but maybe it lacked the impact it should have, mainly because it concludes with a scene that – coincidentally – is a bit too similar (read: exactly) like the ending of the story that the police captain told Gordon. Yeah, we just heard the story, and now Gordon has to face the same dilemma. Then I keep reminding myself, it is a comic book show with a restricted run time, and it is, even in episodes like this – one of the ballsiest shows on television – so I kind of go with it. Don’t worry: another red-shirt GCPD officer will bite the dust before the episode ends.
A few other subplots round out the episode. Ed Nygma helps revive the Penguin and the two of them have some verbal duels, as Nygma convinces Penguin that, despite all he’s lost, it’s not time yet to turn tail and run. The acting in these scenes is pretty damn good; as I said last time, I’m glad the real Nygma has “arrived” because he’s more interesting than he was during the endless number of episodes where he was making that transition.
Also, Bruce is reminded that maybe he still has a long way to go. He is stymied by none other than Alfred in his attempts to have a late-night not-so-clandestine meeting with Silver to find out what she knows about his parents’ murder. Alfred has the upper hand this episode, and Bruce is unable to deceive him so he could slip away from the manor.
I’m actually kind of interested in the Galavan aspect of the episode, as he says that “the brother” is coming to Gotham, after which we see a group of hooded figures – like monks – on the docks of the city. The ancient feuds between the powerful families of Gotham, mixed with the air of an occult at work, blended with the noirish comic bookey style of this show, sounds like something that could really become interesting. Or they can screw it up.
Apparently, many people think Gotham screwed everything up not long after it left the starting gate. I guess it’s a matter of taste.
My rating: 3.8/5 Bullock, Bullock.. Where??! Ahhhhhrggh!