Gotham – Season 2 Episode 7
“Rise of the Villains – Mommy’s Little Monster”
Gotham season 2, episode 7’s “Mommy’s Little Monster” is Oswald Cobblepot, who is finally drawn into a full confrontation with Galavan that had to happen if they both insisted on taking the title ‘King of Gotham’. However, though Penguin may have the name of the episode, we also see that Edward Nygma is equally important this week, as he finally becomes the Riddler. Bruce’s love triangle really heats up too, as Silver and Selina go head to head. And though not the driver of the plot, Gordon is still the mortar that holds everything together. He finally does what I’ve almost been shouting at the screen for him to do for three episodes now: he makes some intelligent deductions concerning Galavan, who really doesn’t seem to care if his devious plans are uncovered or not.
Oswald Cobblepot was always going to need to lose the weakness that was his mother and now we’ve seen that happen. It defined him for so long and as arising villain it was quite the charming weakness. He’s clung to his mother’s approval and often been a little childish in his actions. This was then magnified in the face of Galavan – whenever the two have been on screen together Oswald’s manner has been one of a defeated teenager. He’s even had temper tantrums in the last two episodes or so that really wouldn’t carry him far as a mob boss. This culminates in the final standoff with the bitter sweet line “he killed my mother”, answered with a calmly parental “I know” from Jim Gordon.
I’ve been waiting to see Penguin take charge again. With his mother gone I hope to see a calculating, clever villain step forward. It’s been interesting to see the childish Penguin but to really challenge Galavan – to even demand the respect of his followers – Penguin needs to be more than that.
Or maybe he doesn’t, as Galavan’s crew are particularly pointless this episode. Gotham was in danger of bringing up the Starscream problem for me – yes, a child of the 80s here. In the old Transformers cartoon we always wondered why Megatron would keep Starscream around if he was always causing trouble and was always a threat? So when Tabitha kills Penguin’s mother you know that Penguin has to die if Galavan is to be safe; he can’t let Penguin live on as Starscream did. OK, enough Transformers. Galavan does give the order after all. However, Tabitha, the woman who doesn’t walk but struts – the woman who we’ve been shown can so easily deal with anything and anyone that gets in her way – clearly misses the easy target of Penguin as he escapes the scene.
Penguin’s plan in the that moment was a good one: take the knife, use Galavan’s arrogance to get him closer and then stab him; but you’ve got to be thinking that the best result possible is that Penguin dies too. Later on he says that he’s made peace with such an idea. So why does he get away? Because the plot needs it.
There’s a lot of that this episode. Why would one of the best recruits of the Strike Force behave so stupidly in front of a suspect, taking his eyes off her when he’s already seen one of his friends killed through lack of caution? Because the plot needs it. How does Tabitha miss Penguin with a sniper rifle – making it the second time this super assassin has failed to kill a man with a limp this episode? Because the plot needs it. Why does Galavan pursue the line ‘I thought you were better this Jim’?… You get the idea.
So, there’s some good and some bad again for me this week. I still feel that Gotham has a lot of good ideas at character level. It’s had this going for it right from season 1; and whilst season 2 is better than season 1 still the episode level plots really don’t seem to be up to the calibre of the character plot.
Not that I’m loving the Galavan as much as I have been. I think I still agree with myself (always good, I guess) that the Buffy-esque humour Galavan gave us with the cheeky grin after he pulled out of the straight face talk with Gordon was funny because it was appropriate and well placed. So I think I’d get on better with these moments if they weren’t so in my face, if they were less frequent and better placed.
Nygma is funnier than Galavan for me. The former’s alter ego is wickedly comic, whereas the latter is silly without wit. Galavan’s actions are intelligent but the silly humour works better when it’s not there all the time – works better when targeted. Even Nygma’s little lines like: “you’ve lost your mind. Luckily I have the other half” are superior because they are better used.
The Riddler’s entrance has also been one of my favourites, and I really liked that the first person to really suffer his riddles was himself. This villain has been built up over a good length of time. His humour has been around from season 1 and he’s suffered many threats and pressures to push him to the edge of his sanity. Also, his presentation has slowly developed over several episodes. He’s gone from seeing things to hearing echoes around those visions and lastly we get the a visual blur across his personalities just as they merge together. This is good development and trumps ‘I’m evil because the plot needs a mastermind’ any day.
Also, is anyone else getting a bit creeped out by the Galavan household? Galavan and any men – invited guests at least – that turn up all get to wear suits. However, all the women are only allowed to wear pyjamas in his presence. This is fine with Barbara, but was pushing it a bit with his sister Tabitha and now Silver St Cloud too…?
When not around her pervy relatives though, at least Silver has more to do than Tabitha gets. She’s shown she can play the theatre as much as Galavan with her fake tears and is fully a part of the long term plan. Though both she and Tabitha are attractive, Silver is more than just a brute force plot device. This we see as she gets Bruce’s love triangle working in earnest, with Silver playing the wounded kitty cat up against Selina’s out of control wild cat – claws out the pair of them.
Perhaps you don’t want Gotham to turn into teen drama but despite that I think you’d give me that it’s working well enough, within the plot and consistent with who the characters are? I liked Selina’s little double-speech barb thrown at Alfred, venting her frustration without making anything worse. I was also left wondering whether Selina would challenge Silver in front of Bruce. Gotham has set Selina up as confident but on foreign ground so well that this was an open question for me. Alfred’s responses to her and her being ill at ease in Bruce’s society has clearly pointed out to Selina the distance that exists between her and Bruce, a distance that Silver doesn’t have to make up. But then when Selina does make the challenge it fits the cocky girl that we’ve seen before, the one that can survive the streets, doomed even as her challenge was to fail.
Tying all these threads together then, is Jim Gordon and with a piece of plot going to Galavan that I thought was going to go to Barnes. It’s Galavan that pushes the rules of police work too far by suggesting a strategy to catch Penguin that’s akin to declaring martial law. When Jim sees this he realises that it’s the devil he’s done a deal with and what the cost of that deal may well be.
I have definitely been waiting for this. Galavan’s blatant uncaring attitude to getting caught and his over the top plans just had to be noticed by someone and finally Gordon does some deduction. He doesn’t trust a politician who’s risen to such power so quickly in Gotham – good. He recognises criminal behaviours that don’t fit Penguin’s MO – great. He fears that Galavan’s orders to use certain tactics that Gordon espouses being used on criminals – dodgy as that is – are definitely not appropriate when they’re aimed at the public – oh, thank the Earth. This challenge has been a long time coming after so many of Galavan’s coincidences and conveniences.
As I say, it’s definitely the character-level plot, conversation and action choices that I really like about Gotham. Gordon is clever at police work and I’m happy his revelations haven’t been left any longer. Nygma’s transformation into the Riddler was constructed in front of our eyes and he has reasons for what he does that are better than ‘the plot needs me to be evil’. Penguin’s mother was a weakness that has been working itself through both seasons and the standoff scene this episode at the car was a joy to watch before it ended a bit weakly.
Gotham season 2 is so much better than season 1 because it’s kept the excellent characters. Now I’m looking to see them build this calibre of plot and choice into the episode level plot. Then perhaps there’ll be fewer open questions like: Who are all the Penguins and how do they have the fanatical nerve to keep going under fire? And fewer answers to such questions that have to be ‘because the plot needs it’.
Oswald Cobblepot was always going to need to lose the weakness that was his mother if he was going to turn into the Batman villain we know he is and so it happens here. Finally getting a showdown with Galavan, Oswald leaves behind the childish figure we’ve seen of him this season so far with a charming little final line: “he killed my mother”, answered with a calmly parental “I know” from Jim Gordon. It’s been interesting to see Oswald’s temper tantrums as he’s lost control in the face of Galavan’s sheer ability but it couldn’t really last if Penguin was to be a proper mob boss. I look forward to seeing a calculating, clever villain back next week.
Nygma gets quite the character turn this episode too, as he finally become the Riddler. It was nice touch to have Nygma himself be the first person to suffer the Riddler’s riddles. We got to see the riddling happen without it being something that would have brought the villain straight into the public eye. Gotham has taken a lot of time to develop Nygma. There were the jokes in season 1, leading into the pressures of season 2 that sent him to the edge of his sanity. Then there were the visual and auditory additions that marked his mental collapse: the hallucinations that latterly gained a disturbing echo and that finished up in a fae blurring of the last separation of his split ego. I’ve been finding Nygma funnier and more interesting that Galvan recently, so I hope this longer term development continues.
Both of these characters’ plot shows off what I enjoy about Gotham. I like the show’s character level plot. I’m also glad to see Jim finally make the deductions about Galavan that we’ve been shown he is clever enough to make. And Selina is great in her cat fight with Silver and with her double-speech barb thrown at Alfred. This is what I want to see more of.
There were quite a few scenes this week in which the only reason for something to happen was seemingly that the plot needed it. For example: Tabitha the great assassin managed to miss Penguin with a gun on two occasions – how? Why would a top-of-his-class Strike Force team member look away from the villain? Just so we can see how evil she is as she kills him unnecessarily with her high heels.
Penguin, Nygma, Gordon, Selina, even Silver with much less screen time are more interesting than a few throw away jokes and evil for the hell of it. Gotham season 2 is so much better than season 1 because it’s kept the excellent characters. Now I’m looking to see them build this calibre of plot and choice into the episode level plot.