Last night in Gotham, there was a moment where I genuinely thought the Penguin—moved to actual tears that his friend, the proto-Riddler, was alive after saving his life—was about to kiss with Edward Nygma. The more I think about it, the more I wish they had. But does Gotham actually have the courage to turn two of Batman’s villains into a couple?
There are several reasons why I think Cobblepot and Nygma belong together, none more important in that even before last night’s episode, in which Nygma saved Penguin’s life, and Penguin not only cradled his friend’s head in his hands, but later made him tea in what was unquestionably Gotham’s most adorable moment. Penguin and Nygma have shown time and time again to truly care about each other, ever since Nygma found a lost, basically insane Penguin wandering through the woods, as he was burying a couple of bodies. (Gotham, guys.)
The two have more chemistry than in any other relationship on the show, including young Bruce Wayne and Alfred, although as I mentioned last night, this is partially because Alfred has a penchant for punching children in the face. (Gotham, guys.) To be fair, most romantic relationships in Gotham are garbage, because they mostly involve Jim Gordon who is a self-absorbed, self-righteous prick who drove his first two girlfriends away (and isn’t even pretending to care about his new fling Valerie Vale. Gotham, guys.) The next closest thing to a romantic pairing is Bruce and Selina, but as last night’s episode showed, Bruce is still trying to figure out how human emotions work.
But even if they have no competition, Penguin and Nygma have shown more actual compassion and concern for each other, whether its Nygma trying to help Penguin self-actualize or Penguin’s constant gratitude that Nygma is in his life. It also culminated last night in that aforementioned scene, where Penguin literally caressed Nygma’s face in pure affection after saving him from the wrath of Butch. Later, as Penguin cared for Nygma in their home (Riddler lives with Penguin!), Riddler tells him, “I hope you know, Oswald, I would do anything for you.” It’s the line that gives the episode its title, and it’s followed up by a hug—a hug where the camera shows genuinely, actual happiness on both their faces—followed by a close-up of Penguin’s hand subtly caressing Nygma’s back:
Is Gotham teasing the future, or are they just taunting fandom? Honestly, I don’t know. Turning the two villains into an actual romantic couple is precisely one of the utterly unexpected things that Gotham has thrived on, and would be its boldest divergence from “everything people think they know about Batman” yet. It’s well within the realm of possibility for this show.
But I worry that Gotham has no intention, and is merely presenting the Nygma/Cobblepot relationship for salaciousness, to grab headlines on nerd blogs (which has obviously worked in my case), and to stir up fans and get them watching. I’m worried it’s a stunt, and Gotham will eternally tease a romantic relationship between the two, rather than make it official. I’m worried that Gotham has finally managed to present a real, functional, loving relationship, but only did so out of prurience.
So if Gotham has no intention of paying off their incredibly overt teases, here’s my question: Why not make Penguin and Nygma a couple?
There are no good reasons not to. Not because it’s against Bat-canon, because Gotham had made fucking with all established Bat-canon its raison d’être. Certainly not because Gotham is afraid to piss off hardcore Batman fans, because this show practically runs on their tears. And don’t you dare tell me that people are reading too much into it, when the show is so obviously going out of its way to present the physical intimacy between the two.
If Gotham is self-aware enough to know what they have in Penguin-Nygma’s relationship—and it clearly does, as last night’s episode proved without a doubt—then it needs to have the nerve to fulfill these teases. Don’t make Gotham’s first happy (and decently written) couple be a lie. The show deserves it. The fans deserve it. Hell, even Penguin and Nygma deserve it, and they’re murderous villains.