I’m not sure what inspired the Gotham writers this week, but I’m hoping they can bottle it up so we get more episodes this entertaining.
Watching A Bitter Pill to Swallow was like seeing a consistent C student proudly showing off their straight A report card. This was everything Gotham could and should be wound in a tightly paced, well-acted, action-packed outing.
Everything clicked tonight with a clear main story and a streamlined focus on the other subplots to make them equally engaging.
Gordon is worried he’s going over the edge to become the monster Barbara knows is buried deep down. After visiting the comatose Barbara, he heads to Galavan’s penthouse to search for more evidence to help keep him behind bars.
Tabitha has her own plans for Gordon and pays off an assassin guild run by The Lady (Michelle Gomez) to sic her hit men to take him down. Gomez fit in so well with the cast and her cool demeanor made The Lady one of the better additions to the show in just one appearance.
Gordon fends off one in a great scene shot in an elevator and threatens to kill him for information before Barnes reels him in, but another group of assassins are en route. The poor forensics officer takes a knife across the throat, but Barnes, Gordon and rookie officer Parks (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut) are able to hold them off. Unfortunately, Barnes is wounded and can’t move.
While waiting on the ambulance, he questions Gordon’s recent actions and learns Gordon is worried about crossing the line. Barnes shares about an experience in the war, which haunted him for years until he realized there is no line and that any man can make a bad call. Speaking of calls, why does Gordon still have a flip phone? That cop salary in Gotham is terrible!
Bringing Michael Chiklis onboard this year was such a coup for the show in terms of having another actor who can salvage weak dialogue and make pretty good dialogue excellent. This exchange was the latter. The only bad thing about Barnes is he frequently makes Bullock redundant. In hindsight, delaying Bullock’s arrival on the series and letting Barnes mentor Gordon would have been a better long-term play.
Rather than wait to get picked off, Gordon confronts the next hit man Eduardo Flamingo (Raúl Castillo). Flamingo is a newer Batman Rogue, but he’s one the show can use since he’s not so well established in the Batman mythos. I know the comic pink outfit wasn’t gonna fly, but I appreciated the pink stripe in Flamingo’s hair.
Gordon manages to take Flamingo down in another well-shot, brutal physical battle. In a moment that actually has been developed enough to have the proper sense of meaning, Gordon considers killing this cop-killer, but ultimately decides to let Parks and backup officers lock him up.
Ultimately, Gordon quickly regrets it as Flamingo chomps on Parks’ neck long enough to kill her. The look on Gordon’s face when Lee relays the message is one of Ben McKenzie’s best performances since the show started. Gordon has a mix of anger, regret, second-guessing and determination and it’ll be fascinating to see how he responds the next time.
This was an excellent Gordon showcase episode, but other characters got some great moments to shine as well.
Bruce met with Silver to try and get the name of his parents’ killer. Alfred wanted no part of this visit and gave her the brush off Selina treatment, minus the slap. Sneaky Silver handed her hotel room key to Bruce. We get some very subtle groundwork for adult Bruce as Alfred says he’s not skilled enough to carry out this level of deception.
Conceivably, this helps Bruce learn to master the art of two personas with the aloof billionaire playboy and the Dark Knight. This was one of the few times the show hasn’t clubbed us over the head with some Batman foreshadowing and this is exactly how the writers should handle these younger Bruce subplots.
I absolutely loved this segment. For a change, we see Bruce acting like a preteen trying to sneak out without alerting his guardian. And Alfred doesn’t look like a goof and completely blows up Bruce’s plan by sending the taxi driver off and revealing he’d snatched Silver’s key from Bruce’s pocket.
Nygma nursed Penguin back to health and wants in on the secrets of enjoying murdering people. Penguin is disinterested saying he wants to leave Gotham until Nygma of all people forces Penguin to realize his only weakness has always been his mother. Now, he’s free and Gotham needs to brace for its first major villain team-up. I’m curious to see where that goes as I liked their interaction much more than I anticipated.
We close out with Theo chewing Tabitha out for ordering the hit saying he’s so close from accomplishing all of his plans and he won’t have her ruining it now. In case you’re wondering how he’ll accomplish this in prison, a ninja clan arrives at the pier and promptly kills a security guard. The ninjas are coming!
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Just as bloody violent as always, the consequences felt real in this episode and the repercussions to this latest death may be the last straw to take Gordon over the edge. Gotham has never been more intriguing.
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