Gotham – Season 2 Episode 8
“Rise of the Villains – Tonight’s the Night”
Gotham has Galavan offer Bruce his heart’s desire in ‘Tonight’s the Night’, letting Barbara loose as a distraction to keep Jim Gordon out of the way. There’s also some tiny subplot with some other characters but you’d be forgiven for not noticing.
I was quite hopeful as the episode opened, as Barbara finally seemed to be getting something to do but after all this waiting it turns out to be no more than that given to a one-episode side villain. Supposedly she’s been kept around because of her great potential to be a super villain and because she’ll be a real asset to Galavan’s up-and-coming ventures but then we see she’s just used to keep Gordon busy. Now, Galavan is supremely intelligent, so it can only be that he knew she was linked to a troublesome police officer working his way up the ranks and trying to clean up Gotham, bound to get in the way of whatever super villain turned up.
Even her connection to Gordon seemed a little strained. I said before that I thought the love triangle between the teens would be more interesting than that of the adults and this episode proves it for me. Barbara and Jim’s connection in the episode started out a bit nuts and ended up just being a way to have something come between Gordon and Leigh. As well, towards the end of the episode this seems hard to believe given that Gordon has told Leigh all his dirty secrets and she’s stood by him anyway. It almost makes sense that her line is feelings for a previous lover but she’s accepted a lot already, so…?
After Barbara turns herself in with the obligatory ‘I’ll only spill the beans to my ex-lover’, Jim seems to just lose it. He kisses Barbara when Leigh’s watching on a spur of the moment “judgement call”, hoping to bring out the old Barbara – he what? Oh, but it’s because at the end you see he really does still have feelings for Barbara because he’s devastated she was hurt – yeah, in the process of kidnapping him and Leigh and after having been part of the death of nine police officers. I don’t remember this secret, hidden love before? It’s not like remembering the good times when you’re out one night and you bump into an ex – you bump into this ex and she comes with a do-it-yourself shotgun wedding! The bridal gown, the shotgun and the twist on the shotgun wedding was a fun idea though.
Still, my point is: really? Really, really? He knew it was a trap, he’s never really shown that much feeling for her beyond the regret that he couldn’t save her; and did you see the expense they went to in order to capture Jim? Galavan needed Jim distracted, not the whole city. Clearly Tabitha could capture Leigh whilst she was out buying lunch, so why not Gordon too? Did it really need a lorry and mooks with machine guns?
Tabitha is still having an off week though, as she can’t hit a barn door again yet; and this time she even got hit herself. At least she’s obeying the rules of plot: you can’t hit the hero in the end scene unless it’s part of a cliff hanger for next week or a finale.
Her brother seems to be losing his touch too. Previously Galavan has outwitted everyone, predicting everyone’s movements and choices. Now he fails to predict Barbara giving up the secret prison location of the old mayor, just in time for Gordon to interrupt any reprisal Galavan might make after Bruce doesn’t comply with the plan. At least Galavan wasn’t twirling a moustache.
It’s a shame that the Bruce / Galavan scene played out how it did. We’ve been watching Galavan get ever closer to Bruce, working up a trust. All those episodes have been building up to this moment as Galavan reveals his plan: He wants to persuade Bruce to sign over Wayne Enterprises, his ultimate revenge being the Dumas family taking everything the Waynes own in a perfect mirror of the wrong the Waynes committed by destroying the Dumases all those years ago.
Now, that felt like it was going to be a difficult sell, even despite the groundwork Galavan has been laying with Bruce. It also didn’t seem to connect into the work that Silver had been set. She’s been a perfect distraction for Bruce, keeping him happy, but what did he really need to be turned away from in the end? Selina didn’t really know anything about Galavan and the evil machinations. The only other real connections in Bruce’s life are his police friend and Alfred, neither of which Silver could really have any effect on. Galavan acknowledges this by setting Barbara on Gordon and Alfred doesn’t seem to be a problem as Galavan has ignored him.
So, Silver’s done all this great work… but why? Meaning Barbara’s efforts were all a bit pointless, Silver’s were all a bit pointless and Tabitha’s really fallen off her game lately. Still not looking good for plot given to Gotham’s female characters then. That has frequently been true already though, so back to Bruce and Galavan.
Despite being a difficult sell, the plan did seem to play out believably enough. Galavan’s offer to exchange knowledge of the killer of Bruce’s parents in return for signing over Wayne Enterprises felt like a straight bribe, not really very nice from someone wanting to appear as a good friend. It almost gets there when Galavan plays on Bruce’s knowledge of his company’s failing; you could see that Bruce’s conscience might play on him when he realises that he won’t be Batman for years. What really sold it for me though, was when Bruce breaks down and you realise that everything he’s been rationalising has just been a cover for the fact that he’s still so young and he just wants it all to go away, releasing him from the pressure.
This is one of Gotham’s more powerful moments, proving it can give us completely believable reactions to really difficult situations. Quite at the opposite end of the spectrum are the overplayed moments, like when Bruce screams at the fireplace, demanding the flames tell him who killed his parents. I could believe Bruce would scream that at Galavan as he was led away, but at the fireplace, just for a ‘cool camera shot’ perhaps?
You notice the directing a lot this episode, some in a good way, some in a bad. Gotham is still such a very pretty show. I don’t know which location they used for Gotham cathedral but the scenes there were gorgeous. Barbara being shown through various mirrors throughout worked well for me too. Coupled with the music they played she came across as very fae, fitting her character very well as she toyed with the humans around her for her own amusement.
Less fitting was the music playing over Nygma’s scenes, which just emphasised how weird they were – and not in the excellent way the show sold us the Riddler with last week but in an unfathomable way that seemed so out of place, like Nygma giving us an Arnie “I’ll be back”. Disappointing for Nygma to have such a pointless episode following such a good one. All his scenes were pointless, just a silly lead up to him meeting and presumably joining forces with Penguin.
Season one showed us that the city of Gotham was so tiny that all the characters regularly stumble across each other quite by accident. Now we learn that the wilderness outside the city is equally as tiny, as three people stumble into the one picnic spot Nygma needed solitude in – and having Nygma make a joke of this seems to point out the oddity, emphasising it in the wrong way, rather than making it funny.
I did not really get on with this episode at all. It’s been the weakest of the season for me. There were many small issues that were all such a shame. The Strike Force got downgraded so far as to get refilled by non-entities, only included to do some more dying. Surely uniform could have fulfilled that role and so the Strike Force, previously built up with real characters, would just be able to have a week off rather than becoming gun fodder? Everything to do with Nygma was so unimportant it detracts from the strength of the last episode. And worst was Barbara’s plot.
Barbara has been held in the background so she could be part of Galavan’s big play but she ends up having as little impact as a single-episode side villain. She doesn’t even get to die in the climactic finish, she’s just a reason to upset Leigh. She didn’t get a chance to build up a real tension with Gordon, constantly teasing him over several episodes, truly giving him a chance to become obsessed with her. If she’d have been there, toying with Gordon throughout several previous capers then he’d more believably have strong feelings for her that you’d be left wondering what he was going to do – a real love-hate problem.
Ultimately ‘Tonight’s the Night’ really seems to show up that the female characters have disappointing plot and Nygma just joins their pointlessness.
‘Tonight’s the Night’ has been the weakest episode of season two for me. The female characters’ plot seems to be a bit pointless, even more so than it has seemed before, and after Nygma’s great last episode it was such a shame to see him relegated to the same level.
Barbara finally gets some real plot this episode, after waiting such a long time in the wings for Galavan’s schemes to need her, but she’s just going to get this one episode – no more attention given to her that a one-episode side villain. It’s such a shame that if she was only ever going to be a foil for Gordon that it wasn’t spread over several episodes. It would have been so much more powerful if Barbara had toyed with Gordon for a while before their resolution such that you really believed there was a love-hate connection that could go either way. Instead, it just feels like she’s there to upset Leigh for some future fight she and Jim must have. Ultimately, Galavan saving Barbara because of her great potential seems completely unfounded.
The Bruce and Galavan plot almost goes somewhere better. I found it a difficult sell a first, difficult to believe that Bruce wouldn’t see the offer to exchange Wayne Enterprises for knowledge of his parents’ killer as an out-of-character bribe from Galavan. However, it worked for me in the end because the idea that Bruce is getting overwhelmed by it all was very believable, why wouldn’t the poor kid just want it all to go away?
Even that moment was slightly tarred for me though, by some of the directing choices. I had real difficultly with Bruce demanding answers from a fireplace when the real source of the information was being dragged from the room. Not that all the style was bad. In fact the music playing over Barbara’s scenes couples really well with showing her in a mirror, presenting a fae image that matches the way she toys with the humans around her for her own amusement.
None of the style though – not even the shotgun wedding play – can make up for the nothingness first given to Barbara, Silver and Tabitha and, in this episode, Nygma too.