In its latest ridiculously gruesome cold open, tonight’s “Gotham” kicks off with the soon-to-be husband of Lee Thompkins busting the head of a scientist like he’s squeezing a grape. It’s a comical bit of murder from the man who’s infected with the Tetch rage virus. But that Mario Falcone kills the lab tech who’s working on a cure isn’t as important as what drives his attacks: the thought of Lee going back to Jim Gordon.
That idea of jealousy is the driving force behind the obviously-named “Beware The Green-Eyed Monster,” but the episode works double time to push the story beyond its jilted lover clichés. As Gordon chases the deranged Dr. Falcone, the story twists and turns its style with over-the-top homages in a mash-up of circa ’70s genre clichés.
Most of this is throwaway visuals. Falcone Jr. begins to dress like young Al Pachino while his father is given at best a bridging sequence shot to look like Don Corleone’s wedding day office, but it’s a far cry from actually feeling like “The Godfather.” Mostly the story careens around with a bit of manic thriller energy. Gordon traces the scientist killer to Arkham where his showdown with the (mostly useless) Mad Hatter is full of satanic cackling. But of course, his (correct) suspicions that Mario is the killer serves only to hamper Gordon’s case. Worse, it’s all part of Mario’s plot to drive Lee further into his arms, and it works. Jim can’t convince his love she’s making the wrong choice and instead comes off like the mad jealous type himself. The whole story is filmed with the anxious dread of “The Fugitive” or “The Excorcist” but with low emotional impact.
Meanwhile, Bruce and Selina’s fauxmance remains the surprise highlight of the hunt for the Court of Owls. Left alone with the supposed key to the villainous organization’s destruction, the kids have to succeed in a daylight heist where Russian mobsters struck out. The awkward middle school romance vibe between the boy knight and the girl called Cat carries things more than the plotting. Alfred plays the lunchroom third wheel. Bruce’s gaga eyes are met at every turn with Selina’s sneers. The whole bit is far more charming than it deserves to be. But soon after its own “Mission Impossible”-esque team tightrope walk, we’re served up twist after twist. Alfred guts the previously unbeatable henchman now confirmed as a Court Talon, and the whole gang gets their bacon saved by…Selina’s long-lost mother. The afterthought of a comic character makes for some fun future territory at the very least.
Rounding out the potboiler trilogy of the episode is the long-awaited other shoe in Eddie Nygma’s hunt for answers about Isabella’s death. Barbara Keene proves the catalyst for unveiling the jealous Penguin as the true culprit, but beyond some typical “We’re all ca-razy villains” banter, the story mostly sputters. There is a bit of cringe comedy to the scene where Nygma tricks Oswald into confessing his love for the future Riddler, but aside from Penguin’s skill at playing desperate and clammy, this is all set-up for Ed’s incoming war of emotional retribution.
But in an hour when the show’s visual style carries its weight far more than actual character payoff, it’s odd that the signature (if silly) bit of horror imagery gets dropped. With kiss after kiss on Lee’s lips, the murderous Mario not only marries Gordon’d love but seems poised to crush his spouses skull. The show keeps teasing that he’ll do Lee like he did the lab tech, and while it’s failure to come to pass is certainly in good taste, it makes Gordon’s capping him a bit anti-climactic. Sure, the whole police force had by then realized Mario faked his negative results in a Tetch virus scan. And yes, the nut was about to stab Lee to death with green-eyed voices driving him on. But the tension drops as quickly as the knife out of Lee’s sight.
Jim looks like a jealous killer in the same way the episode looks like a classic thriller. You feel it for a second, but you know it won’t last long.