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‘Gotham’ Recap: Two Villains Emerge As Gordon Hunts ‘Everyone’s Cobblepot’

by  in Comic News, TV News Comment
‘Gotham’ Recap: Two Villains Emerge As Gordon Hunts ‘Everyone’s Cobblepot’

The world of Gotham is one built on what its characters will someday become, and most of the time what that means is villains. While the origin story/prequel push moments hold their small fan pleasures, real TV drama lives in the here and now. So it was a welcome turn last night as the Fox series finally introduced a pair of fully formed bad guys in the latest episode of its surprisingly strong late season run.

Our first villain steps into the show with an icy calm and carrie the weight of a long-promised payoff. As Fish Mooney wakes in a hospital bed after last week’s self-inflicted eye-gouging shocker, she’s overseen by the man she’s been plotting to deal with from the beginning. For the mastermind behind a vital organ chop shop catering to the rich, Dr. Dollmacher is a gentle sort of overlord. He awards Fish with a brand new, baby blue left eye. He hears her our on her presumptuous plan to set herself up as the #2 person in the hospital’s scheme rather than being the #1 boss of the basement surgical fodder. He even makes plans to add salsa dancing to his clientele’s recovery options.

But beneath the veneer of kindness lies the heart of a madman. When Dallmacher finally relents and agrees to give Fish a trial run on quelling the basement revolts for a position of power upstairs, he shows her the price of failure in gruesome form. The lackey who failed to keep her away from a spoon last week has been cut to pieces and sewn back up again into a hideous Frankenstein-meets-Barbie creation. Even though there are plenty of points that you can nitpick in this sequence (Fish’s instant recovery from one of the show’s most arresting images, the dual ridiculousness of the Franken-Barbie’s special effects and the quick waste of actor Jeffrey Combs who felt so perfect for the show), ultimately the doctor we will all be calling the Dollmaker works perfectly because he is so different from what we’ve seen to date in Gotham. In a show packed with scenery chewing performances, Colm Feore’s take on the psycho is subdued and almost charming. That subtlety brings a level of anticipation to what he’s doing on his icy island and some real doubt as to whether Fish can bargain her way out of the horrific prison.

Complications are the calling card of the episode’s other big bad as well. Though he appeared earlier in the season, the G.C.P.D.’s Commissioner Loeb was mostly a symbol of corruption rather than an active character in the series. As Gordon learns the the collar he placed on corrupt cop Flass has fallen to pieces thanks to the Comish, the character is methodically revealed as the true force rotting the department from the inside out. It’s not just the way that Loeb blackmail’s Jim’s partner Harvey Bullock into recanting his testimony to kill the Flass case. Nor is it the insidious truth that what makes him so powerful is the fact that he’s built a department on officers with their own “Cobblepots” – men they’ve been forced to kill for the cause as Gordon almost did in the series opener – keeping them compliant to a bad system.

What really makes Loeb a championship villain is the fact that the methods he’s worked in the department over 20 years are so ingrained that they even threaten to make Gordon play along. While the early moments of Jim’s investigation into the bossman are carried out in the company of fellow would-be White Knight Harvey Dent, it’s not long before our untouchable boy has to employ the strong arm tactics of his tarnished partner to see results. (Somehow, Gordon growling at a room full of armed criminals that he’s a cop and they should put down their weapons for the 57th time in show history didn’t work). Soon after that, he and Bullock are at the doorstep of the Penguin – an alliance Gordon swore off of only a few weeks ago.

And when the unlikely trio of “heroes” press their leads into a remote mansion protected by gun-toating senior citizens, things get even muddier for Jim. Rather than uncovering the stash of evidence he hopes will shine a light on the department’s corruption, Gordon instead finds Loeb’s own personal Cobblepot: a mental daughter who accidentally killed his wife years ago. This discovering isn’t the promised path to justice but instead is critical leverage for Jim to eek out a win at any cost. By the episode’s end, Gordon may have put himself in a position to change some things in the department from the inside out, but he earned the presidency of the police union through blackmail while also owing Penguin a substantial rain check. That’s as much a victory for the commissioner’s powers of corruption as it is our boy’s sense of righteousness.

But perhaps what works best across this hour of television is the way the long term potential of Gotham’s new villains bleeds into the rest of the cast. Edward Nygma finally works up the nerve to ask out the object of his stalking only to find she’s traded up for a decent (and handsome) boyfriend. If there was any question left as to whether the soon-to-be Riddler’s story would reward his delusional proclivities, they’re dead. And sooner than later, Eddie will doubtlessly be working out his sexist anguish in criminal fashion. Meanwhile, young Bruce Wayne finally sees that he’s got a villain of his own to contend with in the form of the increasingly sinister Wayne Enterprises board who’s machinations are putting the eventual Batman right where he should be at this point in his journey: over his head.

Best of all, the eminently sniveling Penguin escapes his adventure with the G.C.P.D. not only with a favor in his pocket but also with his first real act of criminal confidence. Double crossing the old couple tasked with protecting Loeb’s daughter as he does, Oswald not only ensures his own protection from Loeb’s ally boss Falcone, he also takes a much needed step towards being a real confident player in Gotham’s underworld. If the show itself remains this confident over its final four episodes in April, it will have completed a pretty dramatic turnaround from the abysmal failure of its first dozen episodes.

fox, gotham
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