On the D/L – Gotham
Season 1 Episode 18 – “Everyone has a Cobblepot”
Gotham builds on the GCPD corruption in a way that compromises Gordon’s principles as well as putting Bullock’s career and reputation at risk.
The title is a clever reference to Gordon being ordered to kill Penguin in the pilot episode. Of course Gordon found a way to make it look like he killed Penguin without actually doing it so he’s sort of absolved of the guilt associated with it and gets to keep his principles intact a little while longer.
Other members of the GCPD aren’t quite so lucky and the episode gives us a glimpse into this through the eyes of Bullock who tells a story of being ordered to kill a criminal or suffer that fate himself. As you might have guessed Bullock chose the option that keeps him from getting his own brains blown out. That decision has haunted his life ever since and it means there is a file that incriminates him for that one -and probably other- immoral/illegal act.
Bullock is brutally honest about what he’s done and his reasons for doing so without seeming all that consumed with guilt over it. In his head he made the right decision and that’s good enough for him. There’s hints at remorse and maybe he’s putting a brave face on it. He also tells Gordon that he’s being trying to atone for it ever since but you just never quite leave that grey area once you’re in it.
It’s this leverage that keeps Commissioner Loeb in power as he has the files that incriminate most -if not every- cop working in the Gotham City Police Department. Bullock tells Gordon that if he wants to arrest Bullock then he’ll have to arrest most of his colleagues too.
I really liked how the episode put this across. It feels like an organic way for this level of mutually assured cooperation as it’s really simple. Nobody in the GCPD tries to bring down Loeb for his obvious corruption and Loeb doesn’t make sure they rot in jail for any number of crimes committed through protecting the city.
It works because it gives us another insight into how this society works. Being a cop in Gotham City means that you probably have a very incriminating skeleton in your closet and compromises have to be made to keep that secret hidden. Similarly if you’re in a high enough position of power then you will have had to do a lot of shady things to get there so need to have leverage against anyone who would try to bring you down. It’s wonderful in its simplicity and this is what I’ve wanted to see all season.
Gordon is in a unique position as the man he’s supposed to have killed is alive and well so Loeb actually has nothing incriminating on Gordon to threaten him with. This means that Gordon can try to bring him down with the help of Bullock and Harvey Dent.
It makes a lot of sense that he would ally himself with Dent because as far as anyone knows Harvey Dent has kept his nose clean so far so can’t be manipulated in the same way. Dent has a commitment to the truth so this makes him an obvious ally for Gordon to help with this mission. Bullock makes sense too because he’s someone Gordon can trust and he genuinely wants to do the right thing. It does start to get dodgy when Gordon has to enlist Penguin to get some of the information that he needs.
I actually liked the reveal of what Loeb was hiding. Loeb having a hidden daughter named Miriam who has gone so far beyond insane actually worked out really well. It was handled so much better than any example of insanity we’ve seen in the series to date and the way she conducted herself was really unsettling. It’s definitely the level of creepy that works in a Batman story. It also worked as a nice mystery starting with the promise of secret files then the suggestion that Loeb might have murdered his wife followed by the reveal of his secret daughter. It kept me guessing throughout and the answer was something of a surprise.
The characterisation of Penguin was well done in this episode too. We’ve now come back to the ruthless and intelligent guy who has a scheme backing up every scheme instead of the weird oafish nightclub owner we’ve had recently. It’s great how we’re in a situation where Penguin is owed a favour by Jim Gordon as that’s not something that’ll work out well for him. I also enjoyed the casual sadism at the end when he offered one of the old married couple the opportunity to escape a reprisal from Loeb. Seeing the wife turn on her husband within seconds was quite shocking and again suggested a societal mentality that exists throughout the city. People will literally step over their own family to make sure they don’t wind up suffering the wrath of someone higher on society’s pecking order. It also sends a powerful message about what tends to happen to decent people since the husband chooses to be loyal to his wife and ends up being killed for it. We see just enough of this old couple to feel a small connection with them as well. The biggest sting in the tail is that Penguin wasn’t really offering salvation so probably wanted to see the woman kill her husband purely for her own amusement.
What I found really interesting was the aftermath. I half expected Gordon to bring down Loeb and get to make some kind of self righteous speech about how doing the right thing is always for the best but that’s not really what we got here. Instead we got to see Gordon in a situation where he has to compromise his own principles to protect himself.
Bringing down Loeb won’t actually get him anywhere as he would simply be replaced by one of Falcone’s lackeys who wouldn’t be quite so predictable. Not to mention that Gordon has something major on Loeb that nobody else has so in terms of leverage he wins. Due to that leverage he is in a better position to make demands of Loeb to further his own agenda. He chooses to exercise that influence in two ways here, the first is to get a hold of Bullock’s file so that Loeb has nothing on him and the second is to have Loeb champion Gordon’s campaign for Union President. I like that Gordon’s hands are a little dirty now and the fact that he’s learning that his principles will only get him so far in such a diseased city.
Thankfully the episode was fairly light on subplots but we had another forgettable stint involving Fish Mooney where she meets Dr. Dulmacher (Colm Feore) who gives her a new eye for some reason. This story really doesn’t work for me as it seems a little too out there. Even discounting the fact that a villain called Dollmaker’s name is actually Dulmacher the way this is put together is really puzzling. He doesn’t seem the least bit threatening and there’s no real method to whatever he’s doing. Chopping up his former manager and giving him female body parts has no real purpose to it as far as I can see and I don’t understand how Fish is able to rise to prominence so easily in an environment where she shouldn’t be able to. Having her be so profoundly treacherous all of the time isn’t something that feels all that realistic. I’m guessing that Jada Pinkett Smith has a contract that has her appear in every episode because I can’t think of any other reason why she is given such awful story threads.
This episode used Bruce and Alfred really well. I liked that Alfred was unwilling to turn in his friend out of loyalty despite the fact that he stabbed Alfred and Bruce putting the pieces together on the true reason for the attack was a nice touch. Alfred remains as badass as ever with how casually he shrugs off his stab wound. This was the right amount of Bruce and Alfred for me but I could take or leave the appearance of Selina Kyle.
There was also a bizarre Edward Nygma love story where he got shot down again. I don’t really like this character that much so they’ll have to do something major to change that. Unfortunately having him pine over a woman who does seem to be slowly coming around to him isn’t it.
A really strong episode of Gotham that gives us a powerful insight into the state of corruption within the GCPD.
Using Bullock to represent a typical Gotham City cop with blood on his hands worked really well as it gave us a look into how corrupt officials like Loeb stay in power while the police are allowed to operate with some legally dodgy methods. It also nicely illustrated the unique position that Gordon is in since he doesn’t have the same incriminating file that prevents him from going after Loeb.
The investigation worked well with a use of Harvey Dent that made narrative sense. It definitely works that the two people who Loeb has nothing on would work to bring him down. Not to mention that it’s clear that Dent wants to do the right thing.
I also liked the twists the investigation took before the final surprising and horrifying reveal that managed to both amuse and unsettle in equal measure. It also provided a nice turnaround where Gordon was in the position to manipulate Loeb and actually compromises his own integrity to further his own ends. Having Gordon with his hands a little dirty is a good decision and it should prove interesting.
Penguin was used well here and was cleverly tied to the main plot. The fact that Jim Gordon owes him a favour is sure to come to no good later and it was interesting to see the ruthlessly intelligent Penguin again after so much bumbling of late. His streak of casual sadism worked quite well too.
The Fish Mooney plot was confusing and almost cartoonish in how nonsensical it was. The Dollmaker is a confusing villain to say the least and it’s really impossible to take him seriously. I also can’t figure out how Fish manages to get where she does given that she betrays everyone she comes across.
For me the episode had the right amount of Bruce and Alfred. I liked that Alfred refused to turn in his friend out of some sort of military loyalty and the fact that Bruce managed to deduce that Wayne Enterprises brought this down on them. This mystery can burn in the background for a while as far as I’m concerned.