It’s also about as macabre as the series gets, but as has been seen from Batman’s origin onward, tragedies don’t beat Gothamites down for long; instead they rise up enraged and action surges. Such is the case as Oswald “The Penguin” Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) leads a squad to a warehouse that his trusty henchman and mole, Butch Gilzean (Drew Powell) has revealed as the place where his mother, Gertrude Kapelput (Carol Kane) is being held hostage by Theo Galavan (James Frain) and his gang. It’s a trick, though; he’s been led into a brutal ambush by Butch, who was somehow brainwashed by Victor Zsasz (Anthony Carrigan) into being a perfect slave, but has had his spell broken by Tabitha Galavan (Jessica Lucas)–as she puts it, by a password.
This is one of those points, mentioned above, where the episode treads dangerously towards the edge of suspended disbelief. To be certain, magic and mad science aren’t unheard of in Gotham, but they’re magic and mad science; it’s harder to grasp that barbarous torture can somehow turn a man into a robot–especially when the show doesn’t actually show it to explain it. The other point hard to believe is how far the show has taken the split personality of Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith). It’s one thing to buy that a man can hallucinate a repressed side of his own personality appearing as a separate person, but when that hallucination somehow takes over his body, dumps a corpse somewhere, and then forces his other side to follow a trail of clues to it as he doesn’t remember toting the body, it gets more nopey.
Somehow, though, it doesn’t nag as much as it should. Before viewers can grumble much, Penguin is pushed into his most vulnerable and human moment yet as Galavan’s goons stab his mother while she is hugging him, and his subsequent total war against Galavan is just too much fun to watch for the technicalities to intervene. Similarly, while Nygma in this series may be starting to resemble Psycho‘s Norman Bates more than the Riddler as he’s been traditionally known, and his surrealism borders on ghost story territory, his scenes are so unnerving, suspenseful and even embarrassingly funny that they’re worth it.
The episode progresses to an exciting standoff as Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) becomes aware of the hidden history of Penguin’s feud with Galavan, and soon finds himself in the crossfire of their war as Galavan celebrates his election. By the end of it all, Gordon looks like he may be in over his head worse than ever before, and that’s saying something.
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