It’s still early in this era of superhero dominance of TV, but in a world where second season orders are frequently assumed to be a lock (er, sorry Constantine), a lot of prep work can be done to make season finales spectacular. If that’s the plan for Gotham, it’s as good an explanation as any why last night’s “Under The Knife” episode was so dull.
The latest case of Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock is the story here with the greatest sense of urgency and the most frustrating plot holes. Since their investigation of the serial killer known as the Ogre has drawn the psycho’s attention (somehow?), the pair need to track down the villain before he targets Jim’s girlfriend Lee. As the pair of detectives track down the Ogre from cold case files and slow drip warrants to the city’s high end plastic surgery practice, the killer himself targets Gordon’s former fiance Barbara. The parallel plotlines do hold some thematic resonance as the threat of death forces Jim to commit to Lee in a way he never could to Barbara — who’s particularly poised to be drawn to and impress the would-be mama’s boy killer.
But for every piece of this story that has a little character life, the show continues to frustrate with story turns meant to shock more than to satisfy. The Ogre nearly drives down the detectives in a dramatic alley showdown, though the audience is left wondering why he was even tracking them after ten years completely off the radar. Gordon makes a dramatic public declaration of his intent to catch the killer with no discernible advantage in the case as a result. And when Gordon and Bullock follow their one and only lead directly to the Ogre’s family (because of course they do), the rich woman who raised him is revealed to be a rotting corpse — a gruesome image that makes almost as much sense as the fact that the killer’s father hid the son’s first murder for years. Sure, we’re to believe that the Ogre’s formerly Dick Tracy-level of facial deformity obscured his motives in the eyes of the fam, but more often than not, this whole thing is a typical example of Gotham’s insistence on ugly thrills over complicated story.
Speaking of, Edward Nygma’s season-long love affair with the GCPD records keeper finally took its turn this week. After months of borderline stalking that flip-flopped between Eddie coming off as a creepo or a charmer. Rather than make a choice on whether he can win her heart, the show veers into textbook “My boyfriend hits me but he doesn’t mean it” territory — the kind of weak tea portrayal that makes the all-too real problem of domestic abuse feel as fake as “I’m secretly your cousin” soap operatics. But ending the story with Eddie’s surprise slaying of the abusive cop boyfriend in front of Miss Kringle’s house — as predictable a bit of slasher blood as the show’s ever used — flattens the proceedings more than complicating them.
In other long-winding plot thread payoff, the repeated appearances by Penguin’s mother (the criminally underutilized Carol Kane, who has just been killing it over on Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) comes to a head of sorts when don Sal Maroni appears at Penguin’s club to embarrass the would-be boss in front of mommy dearest. When Sal grabs mother and forces her to confront the idea that her golden boy is really a psychotic killer, it’s hard to imagine what the character’s logic will be. But at least the fallout that sees Oswald double super swear to kill the don (which…wasn’t he going to anyway?) promises we’ll see the end of this thread sooner rather than later.
Promise over payoff also holds sway with Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle this week. After Bruce puts up the worst fight ever over Selina’s murdering a drug addict last week, television’s most uncomfortable middle school couple crash a Wayne company ball in order to steal a safe key from the exec who’s been targeting them over the investigation into the murder of Bruce’s parents. Though they accomplish their goal, everything about this plot screams “The real fireworks we’re saving for a finale cliffhanger.”
By episode’s end, some of the disparate elements of the show’s first season have started to grow together. Selina’s friendship with Barbara collides with Jim’s investigation. Eddie’s murder is possibly a bridge too far even for the GCPD. And when the Ogre opens his super murderer Christian Gray room of straps and knives, the show promises that something of consequence will finally start happening next week. With only two episodes left, the one thing we can say for sure is that Gotham is certainly going to end soon.
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