Gotham – Season 1 Episode 21
“The Anvil or the Hammer”
Only one more Gotham episode after this one for season 1 and the Ogre/Barbara plot is brought to a definitive close.
It appears that I was a little too kind on Gotham last week when I expressed how impressed I was by how the show was handling the Ogre and Barbara connection. It seemed to be the formation of a bizarre and interesting partnership between these two characters that could in theory carry itself into the next season and give Gotham something resembling a long running plot that has the chance to develop.
The reality of the situation is that the standard “blonde girl is the damsel in distress” plot was simply deferred by an episode and brought in here. Nothing about Barbara being kidnapped was the least bit interesting and it left Barbara’s interest in him seeming somewhat pointless. If the episode had delved into what made the Ogre think Barbara was “the one” over the other girls he had killed then things might be more interesting but as presented it just came across as really sloppy. Ultimately the Ogre only thought that so that he’d have an excuse not to kill her immediately but beyond that there was no motivation to keep her alive. This presented an opportunity for Barbara to show that she is a strong character and beat the Ogre but instead it fell back on the “damsel in distress” trope.
Milo Ventimiglia does a fantastic job as the Ogre despite having very little to work with. Due to his extended appearance he is by far the best villain in Gotham so far. The fact that he’s been around for a decade adds a sense of depth to Gotham City and makes it feel like it didn’t just spring up in the pilot. It’s something that occasionally creeps in but the baseline corruption within this city should be the foundation of everything that happens in this show. So far this really isn’t happening but there’s a sense that it’s getting there. It’s a shame the Ogre was offed so casually, why couldn’t he simply have been captured and put in prison?
Barbara is completely ridiculous as characters go. Granted she had nothing to do in this episode beyond play the victim. Sure she hit the Ogre and generally tried to stand up to him in some instances but deciding that she would condemn her parents to death is nothing short of laughable. The worst part is there was no real consequence to any of that. Fair enough she was in shock but I really want to know the thought process behind that. Surely if she really wanted this guy stopped she could have just marked Jim for death and trusted him to handle the problem. I wonder if there’ll be any emotional consequences to this decision in the next episode or even next season. I suspect not but I’ve been surprised before.
Gordon and Bullock’s contribution to the episode was all pretty standard stuff. It seems that every episode they are involved in a dull investigation that never really seems to have a sense of urgency to it. Above all this episode should really have felt like a race against time since the Ogre has captured someone close to Gordon and he has a personal stake in this.
I will give them credit for the maturity of Leslie Thompkins who didn’t treat Gordon’s concern for Barbara with any kind of jealousy. She was calm and supportive while trying to get him to not be consumed with worry. She recognises who Gordon is in a relationship with and sees nothing more than natural concern from Gordon. I’m eternally grateful that there is no attempt to manufacture a love triangle here because that would just make this whole thing unbearable to watch.
Bullock’s visit to the Foxglove club was eye rollingly terrible. I don’t know who thought that showing Bullock’s horrified reaction as chainsaw and pig noises are played to signify some sort of fetish stage show was a good idea but it fell well short of the mark. This whole scene just felt incredibly juvenile, almost like how a 12 year old would imagine a fetish club to look. Donal Logue as always sold the hell out of his discomfort but the whole thing was ridiculous despite his good work.
Bruce Wayne’s very slow investigation continues and we don’t really learn anything all that exciting. His meeting with Bunderslaw failed to really inspire any interest. The revelation that Wayne Enterprises is fully committed to doing illegal things and that Bruce’s father knew all about it feels a little standard and I could tell it was supposed to be a bigger twist than it ultimately turned out to be. The introduction of Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk) felt about as tacked on as any major part of Batman lore introduced before now. Chalk seems like a good fit for the part but nothing about his introduction felt organic.
Nygma’s descent into his Riddler persona isn’t working at all. Seeing him bring suitcases full of body parts into the police station is beyond ridiculous. Also, it’s not the least bit believable that it would be accepted that his victim just left to go somewhere leaving only a note to his girlfriend. The first letters on the lines spelling out Nygma were laughable as well. Is he remorseful or is he enjoying it? The script can’t seem to come to a conclusion on that one.
I did find the result of Penguin’s plan to be an interesting twist. Having his plan to be pulling off a fake hit on Maroni in order to ignite a shooting war between Falcone and Maroni was really clever and definitely sets him up to rise to the top once the dust settles. I don’t really have much faith in the ability of the writers to carry this to a decent conclusion but the start of it is undeniably impressive.
A really disappointing conclusion to an otherwise well developed villain story that falls back on old Gotham tropes.
It’s a shame that the potential of Barbara’s partnership with the Ogre turned into another standard victim plot with nothing interesting added to it. There was the undercurrent of the Ogre feeling that Barbara was “the one” for some reason. It only really existed to keep Barbara alive that little bit longer but beyond that there was nothing to suggest why he would feel that way about her. This was a real opportunity to show how strong a character Barbara could be but as often happens on this show the chance was squandered.
As always Gordon and Bullock’s investigation felt really by the numbers and had no real sense of urgency to it. Given that Gordon has a personal stake in the situation this would have been the perfect chance to make it feel like a race against time.
The Ogre is the best realised character this show has had mostly due to the length of time he has appeared relative to the other villains. It’s a shame Ventimiglia had so little to do here and fell on standard villain behaviour with long stretches of exposition and ridiculous behaviour. His end felt really anti-climatic as well.
Bruce Wayne’s meeting with Bunderslaw failed to impress as well. The flat admission that Wayne Enterprises is involved in illegal activities and that Bruce’s father knew all about it fails to shock in the way that was probably intended. Lucius Fox’ introduction felt completely inorganic and just another excuse to introduce a significant part of Batman lore.
Edward Nygma’s development into the Riddler isn’t going well so far. He’s doing some really profoundly stupid things like wandering around the police station with suitcases full of body parts and leaving his name spelled out in a fake note. It feels sloppy and it’s a little too soon to be pulling on that thread.
I did find Penguin’s plan to be quite impressive. Having his hit on Maroni be a fake out to start a shooting war was a really clever twist and worked really well. It puts Penguin in a good position once the dust settles and leaves him relatively unscathed. Time will tell how this plays out.