Every now and again, we find ourselves thinking that Gotham has lost its way; if an episode is to violent, too rushed, too unfocused, or if character consistency goes out of the window. Then we get an episode like this one, and our faith is restored. Oh, the glee when we realised what the producers had done to Oswald Cobblepot! Fresh out of Arkham, supposedly cured, but in fact merely deadened by Clockwork Orange-style conditioning, Oswald is turned away by Butch and Tabitha, and tarred and feathered (geddit?) for good measure.
Then he goes to his mother’s grave, and there meets a tall, distinguished figure bearing a striking family resemblance – Elijah Van Dahl (Paul Reubens), who reveals that he is Oswald’s father.
It can be no accident that Reubens played Penguin’s father in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns (though that time, he was a Cobblepot too); but the physical resemblance is so great that one can’t help wondering if Robin Lord Taylor was cast with this very moment in mind.
As a deus ex machina, Van Dahl seems like the answer to any Penguin’s prayers; rich, welcoming, paternal, the father Oswald never had. This being Gotham, we suspect his motives; does he want Oswald’s kidneys, or what? But no, Van Dahl turns out to be that rarest of Gotham birds, a Good Person.
Thank goodness then for the sake of Penguin’s criminal trajectory that there’s a fly in the ointment, or rather three big fat flies; Van Dahl’s predatory wife (played by Melinda Clarke, previously in The OC with Ben McKenzie, and in CSI as fetish queen Lady Heather), and her two ghastly children.
Clarke is another inspired piece of casting – she’d make a good Lady Macbeth – and we look forward to seeing her torture Oswald before he inevitably turns on her.
Things get even juicier when we return to the decline of Ed Nygma. Now in full Riddler mode, green question marks and all, Ed is so paranoid that Jim Gordon suspects him of killing Miss Kringle, that he is determined to bring about Jim’s downfall; and he’s smart enough to do it. The crimes he commits and puzzles he sets are so fiendish that even the viewer can’t see the overall plan until Jim is neatly caught, bent over a dead cop with a bloody crowbar covered in his fingerprints. Clever, clever Ed! We loved the nod to ‘60s TV Batman in the Dutch tilt shots and Ed’s giant hand grenade, (and yes, we noticed that the artwork is credited to Lauren Rockman, the show’s art director).
It’s a slight disappointment that the trial and sentencing of Gordon is dealt with in a brief montage – come on, it would take months, though okay, we don’t have the time. Gordon’s condemned to Blackgate, and we know what happens to cops in prison. He bids farewell to Lee in a touching scene (and gossip hounds will know that Ben McKenzie and Morena Baccarin are a real life item, adding poignancy to the scene).
Meanwhile Selina Kyle has been teaching Bruce Wayne how to survive on the streets, mainly by stealing from other more successful criminals; when they rob Butch Gilzean’s nephew, Bruce takes another beating. We think he’s starting to enjoy it.
Then, joy of joys, catatonic Barbara Kean wakes from her coma in Arkham Asylum. Will she emerge as Nice Barbara, or Loopy Barbara? Our money’s on a combination of both; after all, everyone in Gotham plays two roles, and she’s been in the hands of Professor Strange, who has a vested interest in keeping her on the edge.
Yes, Gotham can still pull out all the stops, and produce episodes so full of fun and invention that they make us squeal with delight. What a time to be alive!
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