The freshman campaign of ‘Gotham‘ is nearly upon us and, while the show’s been a steady burn of good but not great, this most current of story arcs is closing in on being the best of the show’s young life. And that can only mean good things for the season finale and ‘Gotham’’sdirection in Year Two.
The opening minutes begin address the aftermath of last week’s events. A shell-shocked Bruce is numbly traversing the badlands of Gotham, not yet able to come to terms with Selina killing Reggie. Though he’s still upset about it, the mission remains; gain intel on this Bunderslaw character and, to do that, they’ll need access to his executive safe. Selina offers to help, so long as he can get her close enough to do a bit of the pocket-picking.
Fan favorite Oswald Cobblepot (OC) puts more of his ‘Murder Maroni’ plan in motion, hiring the city’s gun/knife crew to 86 Maroni and his top lieutenants. So caught up in his plan, OC’s not ready when the man himself pays a visit to his night club and gets in good with mommy dearest. But more on that later.Gordon and his two trusted allies, Essen and Bullock, work on the Ogre case
As it has been over the last couple of episodes, the heart of Gotham’s sixty minutes revolves around the Ogre case. This serial killer has been able to navigate through this world for one reason alone: everyone’s terrified that he’ll go after someone they love. Now that he’s on the case, Gordon fears for Lee’s safety and rushes over to her place. One face full of phone later, the sore detective fills Lee in on the situation and the fact that she is someone he loves. But the Ogre, using the media write-ups on the man who would be Commish, targets another beautiful woman in Gordon’s life—Barbara Kean. He chats her up before she invites him back to her place. He’s ready to do the deed but her hardcore nihilism about the person she truly sees herself to be makes him pause and though she boots him out of her crib, in Ogre’s twisted mind, he may have found his kindred spirit.
While all this is going on, Bruce and Selina make their plans for the evening. Mr. Bunderslaw will be at the Gotham Charity Ball and the teenaged duo makes an appearance at the event. Before they find their target, Bruce once again brings up the murder of Reggie, something Selina’s not really losing sleep over. It’s here that our hero makes the pledge so many identify with Batman. “But there’s a line, Selina,” he says on the prospect of killing. “And you can say I don’t have guts, but the fact is I will never cross it.” Young Ms. Kyle isn’t so tied down by such a line and she says just as much, and once again we see the clear divide between the characters, one that has always been a part of their relationship within the pages of the comics. Even still, they’re able to work together to get an imprint of Bunderslaw’s key and, not long after, Selina catches Barbara with a mysterious and handsome man whose presence sends up red flags, though she’s not sure why.
Taking the next steps in the Ogre investigation, Bullock and Gordon speak to the detective who originally dropped the investigation of Ogre’s first murder victim—Julie Kimble—due to his wife’s murder at the hands of the serial killer. Gordon’s able to reach the cop inside and gets a lead: a cosmetic clinic where Ms. Kimble worked. They visit the clinic but the owner gives them nothing, citing doctor/patient confidentiality which leaves the detectives on a mission for a court order. Upon leaving, they come face to face with the same black car Gordon noticed parked outside the precinct. It doesn’t take much to realize it’s their quarry, the Ogre, especially when he tries to run them down. Later at the station, Ogre gives his new adversary a call, taunting Gordon with the “hero cop” and “rising star of the GCPD” monikers given to him by the press. He warns Gordon to drop the case, but our duty-bound detective goes one further; he holds a presser outing the Ogre’s killing spree as well as the not so subtle message that “I’m coming after you and I’m not gonna stop.”
Despite the strong plot of this episode’s main focus, I’d be remiss if I didn’t return to the Maroni/Oswald situation developing at the latter’s night club. Maroni uses his guile and charm to slowly pull Oswald’s mother into his trap and, when it lets it loose, it’s far from what you would imagine. He forces Momma Oswald to confront her knowledge and suspicions of her son’s activities, demanding she see Oswald for the psychopath that he truly is. Any fear OC had of Maroni melts away in that moment and the Don effectively creates an enemy which he appears to wholly underestimate.The Ogre charms the emotionally vulnerable Barbara Keen
But the intensity of the Gordon/Ogre cat-and-mouse game continues where, after a second visit to the clinic, the detectives are led to Constance Van Groot, an old money family in Gotham who recommended Julie Kimble to the clinic. Bullock and Gordon arrive at the Van Groot mansion just as Ms. Van Groot’s butler—Jacob Skolimski—is able to hang himself. There they also find the desiccated corpse of the long dead Constance Van Groot and, from Mr. Skolimski, the terrible tale of his son Jason’s “one mistake”. It plays out like a Grim faerie tale. Young Jason, son of the butler, doted upon by Ms. Van Groot until he creates a fantasy in his mind of the wealthy woman as his mother. His childlike fantasy is crushed after she rejects him, laughing in his face. Her mockery unleashes the darkness within Jason and he kills her. Mr. Skolimski has kept her death a secret in order to protect his son. Gordon and Bullock keep the pressure on, telling the man how their son has seduced and murdered a dozen women, to which the man laughs. After showing them two of the only remaining pictures of Jason that he has, we can see why: Jason Skolimski was a wretchedly deformed young man with no hope of seducing anyone…unless, of course, a bit of cosmetic surgery was involved.
Re-visiting the doctor once again, Gordon confirms the man did operate on Jason Skolimski more than a decade ago but the disparity in appearances is so great the detective has a single sketch by the doctor of his patient’s current appearance. Talking things over with Essen and Bullock, Gordon puts Ogre’s earlier taunts together and realizes that it’s not Lee he was targeting but Barbara Kean. He rushes over and is greeted by Selina Kyle who confirms seeing Barbara with the man represented in the sketch. But Gordon has no idea on how to track down his former lady love—
–who is being entertained at the Ogre’s humble abode. His earlier speech at the Charity Ball may have frightened Barbara but it also intrigued the darker aspects of her soul, the aspects she’s more connected with than any other at the moment. This is no clearer than when, at his townhome, he introduces her to his 50 Shades room and, instead of being fearful or wary, Barbara Kean cracks the faintest of smiles.
Our True Face
- Talk about an event-filled sixty minutes of ‘Gotham’! Though the primary track is Gordon’s pursuit of Jason/Ogre, the episode’s narrative is more about the face we show the world versus our true selves. As I mentioned earlier, Bruce and Selina, young though they may be, display the characteristics and moral code that have defined their comic book iterations for decades. They are young and thus have not fully developed into who they will become though the outline has already been cast. Jim Gordon, on the other hand, has clearly defined himself as a man out to do the right thing. He does not hide behind a mask, figurative or literally, and his virtue is laid bare for all to see.
- This is not the case for two of the better known villains taking shape in the Gotham-verse. We’ve had plenty of time to understand the crazed but wily sociopathic nature of Oswald Cobblepot (that poor delivery guy gets a glass shard in the neck just for doing his job) but not that of Edward Nygma. The socially awkward but brilliant assistant examiner gets in touch with his inner Riddler when, after confronting officer Dougherty for his treatment of Ms. Kringle, he stabs the officer to death in the middle of the empty streets. Though it was only a matter of time, it was one of the better and more methodical arcs as we are finally presented with the birth of the Riddler. Well, version 1.0 at least.
- And then there’s our multi-episode arc’s villain, Jason/Ogre. His damaged outside, circumstances be damned has forever damaged his innermost self. His outer shell is pristine and his charisma is the perfect camouflage for the psychopath hiding behind the handsome veneer. He doesn’t kid himself, though, and understands his own monstrous nature. It’s this understanding that connects him with Barbara’s weakened psyche as she sees herself a monster, with those around her unable to stand the sight of her ‘true face’. This negative view of herself makes her the perfect prey for such a charming and, in her eyes, relatable individual as Jason. We may not know how things will play out, but one thing is certain, it will not end well.