Fox‘s Gotham A Bitter Pill to Swallow TV Show Review. Gotham: Season 2, Episode 9: A Bitter Pill to Swallow is, in essence, that Batman plot again, or, if I may be broader and more provocative, that superhero plot again. It’s that
preachy, angsty bit about how heroes must never fall to the level of villains and murder people, which played a big part in me ending my several-year-long teenaged love affair with the modern heroic epic. It hardly deviates from the formula; the straight and narrow gets into a conflict with an official ally over whether heroes should kill villains to save innocent lives by extension, the straight and narrow hero decides it’s wrong, he’s hailed, and then innocents keep dying, making this one in a long line of tropes that perpetuate graphic novels running in an endless continuity loop designed to make money at the expense of imparting wholesome ethical lessons and giving readers what they build up.
To be fair, Gotham is a cynical cop show with a cast that is mostly morally gray-to-black, whose protagonists willingly shoot villains dead at least when they’re in the thick of a fight, and this episode accordingly seems less into claiming the moralistic approach of Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) is the definitive right one, and the more pragmatic approach of Captain Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis) as wrong, but in the broader mythological context it exists in, it can hardly avoid those implications. Moreover, its moral debate is canonically clumsy; past episodes have shown Gordon as increasingly fallen out with ethics, while Barnes is obsessed with them. Those attitudes continue into the beginning of this episode, but somewhere along the line, it seems as though the characters just exchange philosophies.
The scenario is that the GCPD’s arrest of Theo Galavan (James Frain) has his sister, Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) enraged, as does their having put her lover, Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) in a hospitalized coma (even though she was begging to be shot and later tried to commit suicide), and so she calls on the gang to assassinate Jim Gordon and his crew as they dig into Galavan’s office for more damning evidence. The odd sequence that follows is a mix of a tower-defense video game and those morose philosophical conversations from The Dark Knight, until Gordon squares off against the cannibalistic assassin Eduardo Flamingo (Raul Castillo).
Meanwhile, there’s a series of scenes with Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) and Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), whom he has rescued/captured. They, too, wax philosophical about good and evil, and there’s a terrifying revelation that Nygma is now actually more depraved than Cobblepot. These scenes are much better, and it’s a shame they don’t take up more of the episode.
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