I’m sorry. This show keeps getting dumber, but against all odds, it somehow hasn’t gotten less entertaining. Meanwhile, last night’s episode somehow raised the bar for the show just not giving a shit. Let us begin by me giving you my very favorite example:
So the Riddler went deep into the woods not just to bury Ms. Kringle’s body, but also go on a commemorative date with her body—not in a sexual way, thank god, but as a “Hey, thanks for helping me to become the self-actualized murderer I always wanted to be.” This is not the crazy part. A hunter randomly encounters this little scene and gets curious about why this guy is having a picnic and burying luggage in the woods, so Riddler kills him too, naturally. Then the Riddler heads back off to his car get his corpse-sawing tools in order to best situate the two corpses in the shallow grave. This is also not the crazy part!
Here is the crazy part: When the Riddler returns, he finds someone has eaten his finger sandwiches.
Yep! Someone has happened upon an obvious crime scene in the wood. There is at least one fully visible corpse lying in a freshly dug grave. There is a picnic set next to the open grave, but no one else is there. Someone’s response to this discovering this scenario is to eat the goddamned sandwiches.
Are you kidding me? Normal people know better than to eat unattended food no matter what. Food you encounter randomly in the woods. is especially suspect and should never be touched. But food left next to corpses? TOTAL DEALBREAKER. And yet Gotham presents this madness as if Riddler found a $20 on the street!
And here is the craziest part: This answer to this completely ridiculous mystery is literally the most reasonable plot development in this entire episode.
I am agog that the case of the Riddler’s missing finger sandwiches stole the spotlight in an episode when finally Barbara got to be the star, but it is thematically appropriate for her eternally screwed-over character. Besides, the entire Barbara storyline here is every crazy ex-girlfriend story ever told (dramatic version) with literally nothing you haven’t seen before. Does Barbara give herself up at police HQ, refuse to talk to anybody but Jim, then promise Jim answers if he drives her to some mysterious location? Does it turn out to be a trap, does Gordon get captured, and does Barbara then stage an elaborate wedding ceremony, complete with her old wedding dress, so she can get married at gun-point to the ex that she’s completely convinced still loves her? Does it end with the Traditional Batman Dramatic Death (TBDD), in which a sympathetic villain is dangling out of a rather tall church, held aloft only by a hero’s hand, but then drops to his/her doom? Big 10/4s to all of it.
Really, there are only two noteworthy things to mention about any of this: the first is how completely and utterly stupid the entire GCPD is. Not only did Gordon, Bullock, and every single cop know this was a trap beforehand, but they all discussed how the specific location they were driving in was a perfect ambush location, so when the ambush came they couldn’t have been more prepared for it and they still got their asses kicked. Now, they weren’t facing some Clock King-type, perfectly calculated master plan, it was just a single truck carrying some dudes with guns in it. That’s it! The GCPD brought a crazy SWAT-team tank to follow Gordon while he’s driving Babs around, and they’re completely useless. The end result: Barbara escapes, Gordon is kidnapped, and even several new Strike Force members die.
The other unique aspect is that after the wedding, for which Lee has also been captured and forced to witness obviously, is that after dangling out of the tall church, Barbara doesn’t actually die. Instead she goes into “critical condition,” which I assume means a coma or some such, so that Gotham can keep her for later in the season, or maybe in case actress Erin Richards flees Gotham and goes to another show which gets canceled, and then is forced to make a guest appearance or something. At any rate, we’ll see how permanent this is for ol’ Babs.
Incidentally, Galavan let Babs loose solely to keep Gordon distracted while he tried to convince Bruce Wayne to sign over Wayne Enterprises to him. As dumb as this might sound at first, Galavan makes a compelling case to young Bruce: Wayne Enterprises does some awful, evil stuff; the Wayne Enterprises board will kill Bruce rather than lose their money and power; if Galavan takes control he will have the power and authority to clean up the company and restore the Wayne family’s honor, something Bruce is just too young to accomplish; and, just to sweeten the deal, Galavan’s also discovered who killed Bruce’s parents, and for who, and why.
Ignoring the fact that Galavan seemingly found out in a long weekend what the GCPD hasn’t gotten close to uncovering in over a year—I swear to god, they’d be just as effective if they were all replaced with crash-test dummies—here’s how you know when it’s an extra-crazy Gotham episode: When Alfred gives Bruce some good advice. When Alfred hears about Galavan’s offer, he calls it out for what it is immediately: “That’s not an offer, that’s bloody extortion.” We’re then treated to one of those genuinely good, powerful moments that Gotham manages to trot out every once in a while, as Bruce sobs “I just want it to be over!” repeatedly.
It is, as usual, one of the most un-Batman-like things the Bruce Wayne of Gotham can do. When his parents were murdered, Bruce Wayne became obsessed, and he’s never really desired to be freed from his obsession. It drives him, it forms his total identity. But Gotham’s Bruce Wayne isn’t Batman (nor does it seem possible that he ever could be), he’s just a boy who desperately wants to move past a horrible, traumatic event and heal, but circumstances—and his own guilt at surviving—won’t let him. Because, as Galavan somehow knows (!) Bruce wasn’t supposed to go out with his parents that night. It was a last minute change of plans that made the Waynes take their son to the theater, and if they hadn’t, maybe things would have gone differently?
But even Gotham’s Bruce Wayne can’t hand over his parents’ legacy to Galavan, no matter how seemingly noble his intentions. Which is good, because after Bruce changes his mind, Gordon and the GCPD burst in to arrest the newly elected mayor (and punch him in the face [not in that order]). Unfortunately for Galavan, Barbara was feeling a bit chatty in church, and told Gordon the location of former mayor James; the cops rescued him, and he explained Galavan was the one who kidnapped and tortured him. Even though he’s arrested, I doubt Galavan is out for the count, but certainly he and the Dumas clan and those wacky Gotham-hating monks in France have had a wrench thrown into their operations.
Oh. And as for the mystery of Riddler’s sandwiches? At the end of the episode, Nygma follows the thief’s tracks to a trailer, also improbably located in the middle of the woods. As Nygma approaches, a figure bursts out—it’s the Penguin, still wounded from the shoot-out last week, begging the Riddler for help. And indeed, the Penguin is the one person in the world who, upon discovering sandwiches and corpses, would eat the sandwiches, ignore the corpses, and just continue right on his merry way.
Dammit, Gotham. You are the Gordon to my Barbara. You have a mean violent streak in you, you’re dumber than a bag of hammers, and you are objectively terrible to me. And even though I want to kill you most of the time, I am crazy as hell for liking you as much as I do.
• It says something very particular about Gotham that I honestly couldn’t be 100 percent sure the opening scene was a dream sequence, because the “reality” of Gotham is only slightly less surreal than the “dream world” of Gotham.
• Another moment that perfectly encapsulates Gotham: Bullock listens to Barbara’s interrogation interview tapes, hoping for a clue to where she might have taken Gordon. Barbara’s sole defining characteristic is that she’s crazy-obsessed with her ex-fiancee Jim, and besides bringing this up yet again, she mentions the church they were going to get married in during the interrogation. In fact, it’s the only physical location she mentions in the entire damn tape. Bullock still has to listen to the tape twice before he makes the connection.
• When Gordon agrees to take Barbara on her ambush/field trip, Lee, like all semi-reasonable people, says it’s a terrible idea. Gordon says he has to do it, and Lee immediately calls him out on that bullshit. “No, it’s not. It’s your choice.” She’s right. Gordon’s an ass.
• After the wedding, Lee wants to talk to Gordon about something. I assume it’s about how she’s been kidnapped/imprisoned/threatened like half a dozen times since they started dating.
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