Gotham – Season 2 Episode 15
“Wrath of the Villains: Mad Grey Dawn”
To really like this week’s Gotham you need to enjoy – or at least be up for – old school Riddler and / or children going through some pretty dark and nasty emotional stuff. By ‘old school’ I mean 60s-TV style Batman, as Nygma pulls out the Riddler symbol for the first time and seems just one small step away from a crazy costume change; and by ‘dark and nasty’ I mean grim, really grim – full on twisted upbringing perhaps.
The Riddler is really the heart of the episode. Gordon’s there as the Riddler’s target certainly but E-Nygma is centre stage all the way. I have to say that I liked it, despite my absolute loathing of the 60s show – it had its place and that’s where it should stay! Thing is, Nygma’s humour is twisted – his whole personality is. His whole battle with Jim began with a misinterpretation of their conversations by a sick and paranoid mind. From that starting point why shouldn’t Nygma get into modern art and create an old-school ‘bomb’ exhibit; and I would believe that there could be a crowd around it saying “oh, lovely piece; truly representative”.
I think the parallel to the old show goes a little far though, when Jim has to decide what to do with the Riddler’s real bomb later in the railway station. Is there any reason why throwing it to the other side of the room is a more valid choice than just getting everyone away from it, by the way? And the parallel? Go onto YouTube and search for “some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb” or just click here. What you’ll find just has to be the inspiration for Gordon’s actions, yes?
Did you just make that search and watch the clip? If so: yes, I admit there’s a place for the old show. Who am I to deny that heritage?
That one strange choice aside though, Nygma’s setup of Gordon plays out cleverly enough, all his little moves adding up to story that Barnes was afraid to believe but secretly feared. Certainly that was a key part of it for me: Barnes has been struggling with the Galavan murder because he knows that Jim has a different ideology to his own and it follows that Barnes would believe Jim could be just as compromised as other members of the GCPD have been. I was looking forward to more of the two of them going head to head, trying to persuade each to the other’s point of view but there’s possibly still time for that later. I have to assume Gordon will be freed from jail in an episode or two – he wasn’t a guard in Arkham for very long, after all.
OK, so that was a little narky, so why my attempt at a cheap shot? Potentially more to do with the Penguin story line but let’s stay on Nygma for now.
As clever as the Riddler’s little scheme was, I can’t see him not being found out in the next episode or two and I think I was looking forward to him messing around with the police whilst still working for them. As it is, given Nygma’s totally-undisguised love of riddles, someone of his exact body shape being caught on the museum camera and him being possibly the only one capable of doctoring all that evidence, doesn’t suspicion have to fall on him pretty quickly? To start with, Bullock’s clearly going to be looking internally for a suspect because he’ll remember that he sent Gordon into danger using information from a report that mysteriously changed right after he read it. So, to emphasise the point here it is again: who inside the GCPD likes riddles, has access to evidence and has the same body shape as good ol’ Ed?
Getting narky again, sorry. It’s just that the scheme itself was nicely strung together, so what about coming up with a decent cover story? Seems such a shame.
Penguin then: for a moment I thought we were going to be treated to some scenes where Nygma tries to undo Strange’s brainwashing of his friend Oswald; I’d like to see more of that buddy movie and I’d really thought that this half season had opened with the promise of it. My hopes were quickly dashed though, when Nygma just pushes Penguin out the door to some crazy happenstance meeting with ‘the plot’.
I’d wondered if Penguin was faking his new pacifist ways, even under the glare of Professor Strange but it seems that he really is Strange-cured. He suffers a tar and feathering from Tabitha and even listens to her barbs about his mother without cracking. This sorry creature then, stumbles from his former friend’s flat to his mother’s grave, only to meet his long-lost father after all these years.
I know that a certain amount of coincidence is to be expected in a drama but the meeting with Elijah Van Dahl has started the plot down a road with too much potential for melodrama for my tastes. Gotham does love its imagery but we’re treated to a sunlit road that immediately gives way to a dark cloud of despair hanging over the Van Dahl mansion. Cut then to a soap-opera scene where the new heir is regarded with barely-concealed hate by the existing children. If we’re lucky it’ll go more down the road of Clue than Dallas but who can say?
As ever though, the internet is much smarter than me when it comes to Batman lore: This article on Observer Culture’s site gives you the clues to what might be going on the Van Dahl mansion. Maybe then, there’s good promise of interesting things still to come. As a side bonus for those who like a pattern too, check out these credits for who plays Elijah Van Dahl; turns out it’s not Paul Reuben’s first time.
To finish, I did say there was something this week for those who would get something out of seeing some really messed up kids. An appearance of Ivy Pepper doesn’t seem too out of place, given she’s Cat’s friend, but then she just casually lets slip that she happily takes a few drugs now and then. This then pales into nothing next to Bruce submitting further evidence that fighting makes him feel alive.
The scene that gets Bruce into a fight is nicely done. His overconfidence and anger is still getting him into trouble, just as quickly as his quick wit almost gets him out of it. I liked the hail back to last episode too, in which Bruce tries to put one of Alfred’s lessons into practice. Still though, Bruce liking taking a severe thrashing just because it lets him know he’s going to be alright is just brutal for a young teen.
Now, I wouldn’t say that either of these developments for Ivy and Bruce are bad because they are disturbing, as they’re both perfectly fitting for kids growing up in nightmare of a city that is a corrupt Gotham. However, Selina’s line to Bruce warning him that he’s not immortal just goes to hammer home that Bruce is not yet Batman, he’s yet to fully pass the stage of disturbed kid. Does this revelation from Bruce then truly fit a young teenager? And even if he has had enough life experience to feel something so dark, could someone his age that hasn’t built up an adult’s muscle tone yet really take that much of a pounding?
If you love the Riddler I think you’ll like this episode a lot more than I did. I’ll admit Nygma’s ploy was nicely played out but it didn’t really pull up my enjoyment of the rest of the episode. I’ll also admit that the Barnes-Gordon standoff has been a long time coming and Nygma played on it very well. Still though, I didn’t really get anything from Penguin’s scenes this week and though a severely disturbed Bruce might be a good foundation for Batman, it’s nothing we haven’t been teased with already.
Last week Nygma and Penguin’s scenes felt like foundation for future plot. Their scenes this week, taken together with there being a four-week, off-camera jump used just to get Gordon into jail, and I think this episode really just sits as more foundation for things to come as well.
- The Riddler’s first public appearance – he’s clever, paranoid and just loves to play with people, just the Riddler I want to see
- Gordon being smart enough to work out the Riddler’s first criminal riddle
- A reasonably-placed reappearance of Ivy Pepper
- Penguin’s new soap-opera family
- Gordon’s bomb disposal choices, assuming they weren’t supposed to remind me of an Adam West gag
- Nygma not seeming to cover his tracks well, leading me to believe that the show wants him quickly discovered just to get Jim out of jail as soon as possible
- Bruce being able to take such physical punishment at such a young age
- The loss of the buddy-movie scenes I thought we were going to get between Penguin and Nygma