Gotham – Season 1 Episode 20
“Under the Knife”
A mere 2 episodes left of the first season of Gotham after this one and I’m still no closer to figuring out what the point of this season has been.
This show has tossed a lot of things into the mix but never really capitalised on any of them. Some promise existed in the gang war but that has apparently fallen by the wayside for now. Same with the Wayne Enterprises as the villainous force arc.
As it turns out the Ogre story has become the closest thing this show has to a long running arc spanning over what will be at least 3 episodes. I have to say that I have no real issue with this as he’s certainly been one of the more compelling villains this season. Carrying on from last week Milo Ventimiglia still seems to be a fairly run of the mill lunatic but the fact that there is no apparent life defining traumatic event causing him to turn into a serial killer makes him all the more menacing.
Surprisingly this episode features the return of Barbara and actually manages to make use of her for probably the first time. If nothing else this show has made her out to be a deeply troubled individual and that actually pays off here. Endless scenes in previous episodes of her guzzling wine in a melodramatic substance abuse sort of way didn’t really do much to develop that but it sort of works here.
It turns out that she and the Ogre are oddly perfect for each other in a really strange sort of way. Initially he goes after her because of some out of date information that she is Jim Gordon’s boyfriend -Nice touch on not having a cheesy Lesley kidnapping plot by the way- but when he finds out that she is unattached and apparently has nobody in the world who cares about her his mind is changed. I actually liked Barbara’s dialogue where she seemed to pin the Ogre down pretty perfectly in thinking that she was the sort of woman who would simply cheat on her boyfriend. Of course that’s not an accurate assessment but she locks onto the image he’s trying to project.
The Ogre appears to see Barbara as a true partner in some way. In his mind she might share in his warped sense of love and affection. They seem to share a sense of self loathing that manages to resonate between them. I’m actually pretty interested to see how their relationship -for want of a better word- develops. Her lack of reaction to his bondage chamber seems to say a lot about how much of a low Barbara has hit.
As always any investigation scene was a little middle of the road and mainly consisted of Bullock and Gordon going from place to place to have uninteresting conversations with people before moving onto their next clue. We find out a lot about what the Ogre has been doing but not why he’s been doing it and I kinda like that. I do like the fact that he just seems to be insane and has a bizarre obsession with finding love. Not every member of the criminally insane community can be catalogued. It’s part of why I really resent the apparent attempt to give the Joker a back story earlier this season as he doesn’t actually need one. Gotham City is just a breeding ground for insanity, there’s nothing wrong with that as justification.
I suppose there was an attempt at motivation when it was stated that he was born so deformed that not even his mother loved him but I don’t see a correlation between a lack of parental love and what he’s doing now so it does seem almost incidental. The picture of his deformed face was more funny than grotesque though.
Bruce Wayne was lightly featured in the episode but what contribution he had felt like it belonged. I was intrigued by his reaction to Selina killing someone but it did seem a little obvious. I get that Batman doesn’t kill but does this really have to be the start of that decision? Can’t he just be intrinsically against killing to separate himself from those he beats up? I was more intrigued by how this led to a change in tactics in investigating his company. Posing as Bruce Wayne at a high society function to get a new perspective on the guy he’s after rather than hunting them at night was very Batman but it sort of worked here. It was the usual nonsense of seeding the connection between Bruce and Selina as well as informing the tactics he’s employ as an adult but I like that he’s moral enough to not stand for what his company is doing. I just wonder what he plans to do when he finds out the truth.
This episode had a little too much Edward Nygma for my liking. He’s still obsessed with Kristine Kringle who has taken her -clearly douchey- boyfriend back. I actually found the portrayal of this guy laughably obvious. If they wanted to go down the abusive partner route then fine, a bruise or two that is covered up by Kristine works well enough and gives us the information we need but having him act almost proud of it and use the justification that sometimes women need it is just ridiculous. I can’t believe that it’s being put across this obviously.
At any rate this exists to give Nygma some development towards his Riddler persona when he kills the guy to protect the woman he loves. Can you hear me yawning from here? Could you think of a more obvious catalyst to kick him down the path to evil? Maybe if he had killed Kristine after she tells him she is repulsed by him but honestly, beyond that I struggle to think of a bigger cliché as far as motivations go. Oh and he’s regretful because of course he is. I’m sure we’ll have a fully formed Riddler by the 5th episode of season 2 so the producers can cross that off the list of things to develop.
Something interesting needs to be done with Penguin soon because I am so bored of him hanging around the club with his mother as he plots the demise of those around him. I do like that the assassin was reluctant to kill Maroni. Clearly the guy isn’t stupid. At least an attempt was made to shake up this boring dynamic with his mother when Maroni engineered her reminder of how much of a scheming toad her son really is. Will this shift stick around or will she go back to being delusional? I predict the latter.
On another positive note. Fish was nowhere to be seen this week. I can’t say I missed her at all. Next season there will be no Fish so that’s something.
The big problem with Gotham as a show in general is especially evident in this episode. In any given episode there are simply too many characters and too many stories to be developed properly. Each scene actually feels like a rush to get to the point because it has lots to get through. I don’t find myself digesting anything that’s going on and nothing ever lingers enough to become truly interesting. For example this episode could have been infinitely more compelling if the Ogre’s obsession with Barbara and Gordon’s investigation of him had been all that was covered. More time could have been spent actually developing the characters in ways that give them life rather than making them avatars for the really busy story. It’s all there with the potential to be interesting as Gordon has a personal connection to the case but is apparently looking in the wrong place. As always, a missed opportunity.
An uneven episode of this show that did manage to further a noticeably compelling villain character in the Ogre.
Having him turn his attention to Barbara based on out of date information on her relationship status was a clever twist and spared us a really hammy Lesley capture plot that would have absolutely played out about as predictably as you’d expect.
The Ogre and Barbara’s connection was something that actually worked really well. Barbara is a really damaged individual who is filled with a sense of self loathing just like he is. They find a sort of comfort in seeing that in another person and it’s interesting to see how this will play out. It’s a lot better than Barbara downing glasses of wine while ranting about how much her life sucks and actually gives her some connection to the show that she’s in by giving her something to do.
As far as villains go the Ogre passes as interesting. There is an attempt to suggest that his motivation stems from the fact that his mother never loved him but his desire seems to be for companionship rather than parental acceptance so I’m willing to think that he’s just run of the mill insane and doesn’t really need to have everything explicitly laid out. It’s fun to play with the mystery now and again. Gotham City just breeds lunatics is sometimes enough.
Bruce Wayne was actually featured in a way that made sense despite the overt reference to his Batman identity when he changes tact to try and spy on someone as a billionaire when his night time investigation is going nowhere. Having him be so against Selina killing someone was a little on the nose as far as developing motivations go. I do wonder what will happen when he finds out the truth about his company.
Edward Nygma is well on the way to being the Riddler after killing Kristine Kringle’s abusive boyfriend. This was so incredibly boring and predictable that I can’t bring myself to care at all. There’s no justifying such lazy writing and it’s about the most obvious catalyst for him going down the path to evil that anyone could think of.
Penguin hanging around the club with his mother is a story that really needs to go. There was an attempt to shake things up when his mother learned how much of a scheming toad her son is again but I don’t expect it to take hold so I’m not interested. At least there was no Fish here.
With only two episodes to go I’m really not sure what the main plot of this season is and how it will wind up. The show has been doing a lot of building but only with very subtle progression so nothing feels ready for a payoff. The real question is, will I be at all interested in what these last episodes have to offer?