Careful, Gotham — if you keep this up, I’m gonna start liking you too much. Then I’ll miss you when go away for the summer… This week’s episode sets aside Jim Gordon’s burgeoning relationship with Leslie Thompkins, and Barbara’s heartache over that relationship, to focus on the most important lady of all in Gordon’s life — Gotham City. It sees the detective learning more about the GCPD’s ties to the underworld, and finding a new means with which to exploit those ties in order to stave off further corruption.
Following up on Arnold Flass’ arrest in “What the Little Bird Told Him,” “Everyone Has a Cobblepot” finds the corrupt cop freed of murder charges thanks to the machinations of Commissioner Loeb, a puppet of Falcone’s who has dirt on every cop in the department, including Bullock, who’s forced to testify that the evidence against Flass was falsified. Bullock explains to Gordon that he once had his own “Cobblepot,” a mobster he was ordered to kill. In his case, however, he carried out that order to keep his job. In a sequence events of events that calls to mind noir classics like Murder, My Sweet and Chinatown (complete with their red herrings), Gordon, first working with Harvey Dent, then Bullock himself (after the veteran cop has a change of heart), and finally with Oswald Cobblepot, learns the location where Loeb keeps his files — a remote farmhouse, maintained by two elderly caretakers. In true noir tradition, the couple turns out to be a great deal more trigger-happy than they at first seem; and Gordon and Bullock barely avoid getting plugged before they learn the real secret Loeb has stashed away in the property’s attic: his own mentally disturbed daughter, Miriam, who killed his wife twenty years ago.
The scene in which the two detectives question the woman is, thus far, the most chilling in Gotham‘s first season, as she calmly explain how she crushes the skulls of the starlings who gather outside her window, and makes jewelry out of their skeletons. Comparing their deaths to that of her mother. It’s given just the right shade of dark humor when we see a previously disinterested Bullock munching on a cracker as he listens to Miriam’s demented tale. Gotham gets a lot of mileage out of twisted moments like this one, and the almost as warped follow-up scene, in which the Penguin, who’s revealed to be in cahoots with the caretakers, tells them he can now protect only one of them from Loeb, prompting the wife to kill her husband, before sending her to hell with a rife blast to the chest. The sillier attempts at comedy, like Edward Nygma’s failed attempt to woo Ms. Kringle with a sad bouquet of flowers, are less successful. More Blue Velvet and less Police Academy, please.
In the end, Gordon gets Loeb to give him Bullock’s file, as well as an endorsement for president of the Policemen’s Union. But the favor he now owes the Penguin is one Bullock warns will come back to bite him on the ass.
Fish, meanwhile, had made her own deal with the devil. Having survived her attempt to thwart the Dollmaker’s plans for her by scooping out one of her eyeballs, she awakes to find herself with a replacement. With one eye now blue, she meets the good doctor himself, and assures him she’ll be of more value as an employee. He gives her a test, which she passes by releasing the guard her people captured, and turning over one of them as well. Impressed with her skills, the organ harvester gives her a fancy new suite. But upon drawing the curtains, she learns just how isolated she is, since the facility is located atop a cliff on a small distant island.
Elsewhere, Alfred offers further proof of just how big a badass he is. Already awake and speaking to Bruce from his hospital bed, after his old buddy Reggie tried to stab him to death last week, he climbs to his feet and describes the wound as “Just a slight puncture. Leaked a bit.” Bruce insists he remain in bed, shouting, “That’s an order!” Fortunately, his surrogate dad complies. As Bruce deduces that the Wayne Enterprises board worked with Reggie in order to stop Bruce from revealing their mob ties to the authorities, Selina pops in for a moment, and offers her help. Bruce refuses, but she tells him he knows where to find her. Something tells me he very soon will.
“Everyone Has a Cobblepot” marks a turning point for the show. It finally frees Bullock from the chains preventing him from aiding Gordon in his mission to clean up the city; while showing Gordon, for the first time, getting his hands dirty in order to accomplish that task. It’s an episode that’s freed of the procedural elements in which the show is usually mired, while giving Gordon and Bullock, as well as Harvey Dent, a far more important case to crack than the usual serial-killer-of-the-week. The extra time allows the show to find new levels of darkness to plunge, and for once it doesn’t feel like a murkier version of a Batman story. If the show’s remaining four episodes are this good, Gotham will well deserve the second season for which it’s been renewed.
— I like Nicholas D’Agosto’s Harvey Dent. And I like him even more here than I did in his eponymous debut episode, primarily because this time around the show doesn’t force an outburst out of him just to remind us he’ll one day become Two-Face. The fire in the actor’s eyes and the quiet outrage with which he hears of Gordon’s plight work much better.
— That bandaged patient in the wheelchair at the Dollmaker’s hospital? The one we’re told has “a new face”? She’s almost certainly a nod to the plastic surgery-obsessed Mrs. Terrain in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.
— Jeffrey Combs’ head CGI’d onto a scarred woman’s body doesn’t even belong in a Tim Burton Batman film.
— Now, Bullock holding Loeb’s ex-partner’s face against the ground while in a speeding car, in order to get information out of him? That is very Batman.
— What’s with the Penguin’s hair in this episode? Is it supposed to remind us of his avian namesake? It’s not all that necessary, since he already calls himself the Penguin.
— “You’re lucky I have a soft spot for old ladies.”
— “Oh, there’s no train. I was down to one shell.”
Next week: Well, month, actually. Gotham returns April 13th, when Bruce and Selina launch their countermove against the board of Wayne Enterprises.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).