Gotham S02E08 “Tonight’s The Night” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Channel 5, Mondays, 10pm
Writer: Jim Barnes
Director: Jeffrey Hunt
Essential Plot Points
- Barbara walks down the aisle. Everything is fine.
- The priest describes the bride and groom as “unlawfully wedded”. It’s fine.
- The priest is Penguin. Fine.
- The congregation is made up from Gotham inmates. FINE.
- Barbara pukes up a bird and… yeah it’s a nightmare.
- She wakes up, is comforted by the sight of what seems to be bondage gear on the bed and a present from Galavan.
- Nearby the evil twins are surveying their city. Tabitha’s… you guessed it! Bored! Theo fills her in and explains that to get Bruce to sign over Wayne Industries, they need to distract him from the fact they’re about to kill Gordon. Barbara comes in, and Theo tells her today’s the day she gets to kill Jim.
- MEANWHILE, AT THE GCPD!
- Jim and Harv pitch Barnes their case. Barnes is fully conscious this week and points out they have the word of two criminals against the most popular mayor in Gotham’s history. Nonetheless, they go for it.
- Nearby, Leigh politely tells Jim to watch his obsessive tendencies juuuuust as Barbara walks in.
- Jim is the only one Barbara will talk to. So he interviews her.
- And then kisses her.
- And then is somehow not instantly suspended for sexual harassment.
- She tells him she has a surprise and they should go get it. It is so clearly a trap that in the background you can hear Detective Ackbar punching the air and yelling, “WHAT AM I ALWAYS TELLING YOU, GUYS?!”
- In Barnes’s office Leigh points out Barbara is mentally ill and needs to be treated. But MEN are talking so that sensible idea is overruled in favour of macho nonsense. Officer Ackbar can be heard yelling, “Oh you guys SUCK!”
- MEANWHILE, IN A SCENIC GOTHAM FOREST!
- -Oh God. OH GOD it’s the Ed plot. Ed drives out to the Gotham Woods with a trunk that clearly has Miss Kringle’s sawn-in-half corpse in it. He digs a shallow grave, makes a picnic and salutes her for helping him become himself. A hunter appears, asks what Ed’s doing and is immediately killed. On some level, we envy him. Ed goes to get more Murderer Tools from his car and when he returns, the sandwiches from his picnic are gone and a trail of blood leads away.
- This is all stuff that happens. It happens throughout the episode, is all just awful and has been combined here in one block to get it out of the way as quickly as possible. We’ll see Ed at the end of the recap too. Sorry about that.
- MEANWHILE, AT EVIL TOWERS!
- Bruce comes to see Galavan who pitches him an idea; sell him Wayne Enterprises and he’ll clean it up. Plus he’ll give Bruce the file he has on his parents’ killer. Bruce resists, pointing out the company is all he has left of his parents.
- MEANWHILE, BACK AT A STATION FULL OF PEOPLE TOO TERRIFIED TO ADMIT NONE OF THEM KNOW HOW TO DO THEIR JOBS!
- The GCPD tool up. Because that always ends well. Jim is introduced to new Jimshirts. Leigh calls Jim on his nonsense in a way that’s pointed, affectionate and justifiably angry. Again, Jim ignores her. AS MEN DO! GCPD! AWAAAAAYYYYY!
- To the surprise of no one, Barbara isn’t talking. To the surprise of no one other than Barnes, Jim and Harv keep driving into a trap.
- A trap is sprung.
- Several Jimshirts are shot.
- Jim is kidnapped. To be fair he clearly regrets many recent life choices as he’s drugged and carried away.
- MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE GCPD!
- Barnes tears Harv apart verbally and sends him home. Harv, bearded rebel that he is, gets to work.
- MEANWHILE, AT THE TEENCAVE!
- Bruce is brooding. Alfred comes to find him and Bruce tells him everything. He asks how long the training he’s doing will take. He weighs the years of training and life of horror that awaits him against selling his legacy. Alfred, because Cockneyman is on occasion wonderful, tells him that Bruce is the only legacy that matters. The kid breaks down, sobbing and asking if he’s weak for just wanting it to be over. Alfred assures him he’s not. For five whole minutes, this show is amazing.
- MEANWHILE, AT THE INTERSECTION BETWEEN THE CLOSING SCENES OF THE FIRST TIM BURTON BATMAN MOVIE, THE CROW AND AN ACTUAL BILLY IDOL VIDEO!
- Jim wakes up tied to a wheelchair in Gotham Cathedral. Barbara, magnificently, shows up in her wedding dress and with a sawn-off shotgun. She points out how much he lies to himself and Leigh, then wheels Leigh in to prove that this is true.
- MEANWHILE, BACK AT HARV’S STEADILY GROWING FEELINGS OF SHAME AND FONDNESS FOR OTHER HUMANS
- Harv does police work! Actually, he has to listen to a tape where Barbara mentions one single place twice before figuring out she went there but still, points for effort, big guy! He talks down Barnes and they roll out. Again.
- MEANWHILE, BACK AT GOTHAM CATHEDRAL!
- Barbara is pleasantly surprised, and kind of enraged, to find out Jim and Leigh are honest with each other. She reveals the mayor is still alive and at China Dock. Starting to realise that Leigh and Jim are, despite Jim being an awful human being, a legit couple, she snaps. She pulls a knife on Leigh and vows to cut her face off. At the last minute, Leigh distracts her by asking about her wedding dress.
- Yes. This actually happens.
- And Jim, who’s been working on his bonds, rips free! There’s a face-off (not in the awful, gory way Barbara was threatening thankfully): a gunfight in which several thugs are killed, Tabitha injured and Barbara escapes. The GCPD storms the building and Jim confronts Barbara in the attic. They fight, she smashes through the cathedral’s main window and falls, after telling Jim she loves him one last time.
- As they clean up, Leigh perfectly reasonably tells her hideous dumpster fire of a boyfriend that once this is done, they are going to TALK. He listens juuuust long enough for Barnes to sweep in and take him off to China Dock. GCPD, AWAAAAAAAY
- Hurrah! The mayor’s still alive. And manages to be annoying very rapidly.
- MEANWHILE, AT EVIL TOWERS!
- Bruce is about to sign, changes his mind and the meeting is stormed by the GCPD. Jim punches Galavan and arrests him. As Galavan is led away, Bruce realises he’ thrown the file into the fire. Bruce screams at the embers, demanding to know who killed his parents.
- Aaaaaand for some reason the episode finishes with Ed, who follows the blood to a caravan. The door smashes open, he loses his glasses and for no reason at all, we’re supposed to think there’s a zombie coming towards him. Instead, it’s a badly injured Penguin who begs for help.
Unlike last week, this is not a terrible hour of television.
It’s frequently a very, very bad one though.
Let’s deal with the rancid tea sandwich at the murder victim picnic, first. The Ed plot is now officially the absolute worst thing this show inflicts on its viewers on a weekly basis. Moving aside from his sudden fondness for dismemberment, it’s a total failure of tone and pacing. Again, this week it tries for dark comedy. Again it misses by several thousand miles. It’s not even subversively nasty; it’s just nasty. And, worse, pointless. The Ed plot destroys any pace the episode had this week and ties in to absolutely nothing we see. It looks like a blatant attempt to either fill air time or put in motion something a few episodes down the line. Regardless, the kindest thing you can say about it is that the episode has in-built bathroom breaks.
Also bad, but not entirely, is the Barbara plot. The awful stuff here is the awful stuff Gotham always does; with the notable exception of Leigh, it has absolutely no idea what to do with its female characters. Aside from a female character obsessing over her wedding as a defining life moment, there’s the fact her dialogue is shot through with the sort of things Jessica Rabbit would dismiss for being too unsubtle.
That being said, the closing moments of the Barbara plot work surprisingly well. Erin Richards has always been one of the cast members this show had no idea how to use and here at least she’s given plenty to sink her teeth into. The confrontation between her, Jim and Leigh is nicely tense and Richards succeeds in showing us the tragedy in Barbara even as the script fails to do so. At the end of the episode it’s mentioned she’s alive but seriously injured. We don’t see her taken to Indian Hill so here’s hoping the show really is done with her. Barbara deserves the rest and this is about as good a swansong as she was ever going to get.
Despite all the problems, some stuff works surprisingly well this week. The Jim and Leigh material changes gear in a really interesting way this week. Leigh points out Jim’s being stupid, Jim acknowledges that – Jim is stupid and it gets lots of people badly hurt. He’s a surprisingly awful guy in many ways and for the first time this season the show is not only showing us that but showing us Leigh seeing that. The fact she still loves him does more for Jim Gordon as a character than any episode this season and I’m honestly interested to see how this plot goes. I suspect Jim will fall much, much further before he starts the journey towards Commissioner. I hope, for his sake, Leigh is there with him.
But what works absolutely this episode is the Bruce and Alfred plot. David Mazouz, like Erin Kelly, has been badly served by plenty of scripts in the past. Here he’s given something which is weightier, smarter and more poignant than anything else we’ve seen from the show this year. The deal with Galavan is a beautiful knife twist; compassion wrapped around business and vengeance and Mazouz shows us every inch of Bruce’s torment over it. The moment he breaks down and Alfred hugs him is one of the best things the show’s ever done and gives those two characters a real emotional foundation that the show desperately needs to build on. If, as seems likely, Bruce’s investigation is moving front and centre in the back half of the season, that can (hopefully) only be a good thing. Mazouz, and the ever-dependable Pertwee, are more than ready to carry the plot for a while.
“Tonight’s The Night” is a big improvement on last week but it needed to be. It’s still hobbled by terrible writing on the female characters, the toxically awful Ed plot and the show’s need to keep a dozen plots in the air at once. But it’s a start. And after last week’s disaster, that’s enough.
- “Doesn’t being mayor mean you can sleep in?” Tabitha gets a line about something other than being bored, horny or wanting to punch things!
- “Galavan is dirty, I’d bet my life on it.”
“DON’T BET YOUR LIFE ON IT!” Every At Home With Jim And Leigh moment is great this episode. Especially every time Leigh points out what a colossal disaster of a human being Jim is. There are a lot of those.
- “Must be killing you. All that righteous indignation with no place to go.” One of Barbara’s few genuinely great lines this episode.
- “Her sickness and yours feed off each other.”
“What do you mean? I’m not sick.”
“You see an abyss and you run toward it. That’s not healthy.’” You tell him! He won’t listen but still, tell him!
- “There’s a fine line, Alfred, between extortion and negotiation.”
“Yes there is, Master Bruce but there’s still a LINE.” Cockneyman is on great form this week. Gotham’s take on Alfred can be child slappingly misplaced but this week it’s right on the money.
- Hooray for the Jimshirts being gender-balanced and ethnically diverse!
- Tabitha mentions how bored she is again. I swear it’s on a flash card somewhere in the writer’s room.
- Every time the show does something good with Barbara, it rushes to do something bad. Her “naughty girl” mannerisms are bad. Saying “DO ME” to Jim in the closing scenes? In her wedding dress? Holding a knife? That’s just a perfect storm of awful.
- Leigh distracts Barbara by asking about her dress. On the one hand, you can see her playing into Barbara’s psychosis. On the other, I hope we see a male villain distracted by someone asking if they work out later this season.
- The GCPD are so terrible at their jobs it still astounds me. Jim being the only one Barbara would talk to? Fair enough. Jim being the only officer in the room? Nope.
- JIM KISSING A SUSPECT?!
- That’s a “badge, gun, cardboard box to clear your desk and another to move out of your girlfriend’s apartment” move. It’s not just staggeringly unprofessional it’s deeply disturbing and wrong. The show has made reforming the GCPD such a tentpole issue that seeing Jim do this kind of nonsense week in week out never fails to annoy and disturb
- Also this week Jim possibly gets three Jimshirts killed, endangers the lives of countless officers and is rewarded by making the arrest of his career. But hey at least he doesn’t fire heavy weaponry through walls kind of in the direction of the bad guys this week.
- After the horrendous rolling catastrophe of last week’s Ed plot you’d think this week would be an improvement, right?
- There’s nothing good here and increasingly there’s nothing salvageable either. The suddenly dismemberment happy Riddler is a bum note. The “comedy” murder he perpetrates and the dialogue, to himself, explaining why this is weird is so far beyond terrible it defies description. Cory Michael Smith does heroic work here but this entire plot is just straight up and down awful. And, unfortunately, not going away. Which is a shame as, without that plot this episode would have gone up at least a half star.
- Silver. Not that she’s bad this episode she’s just completely pointless and as ever more than a little skeevy. What’s terrifying is how likely this show is to do the ‘Silver seeks revenge’ plot, probably involving hysterical crying in the rain, stabbing and a prom dance. Because let’s face it, after Barbara’s “wedding”? We’ve found the level.
- Boo for no names for the Jimshirts! Also, Barnes got two brand new recruits killed by putting them in awful situations. WHY ARE THE ACADEMY STILL SENDING HIM PEOPLE?!
- Mayor James is back.
- Oh joy.
- To be fair, Richard Kind is a massively well-respected actor and they need an authority figure now Galavan’s under arrest. But Kind tends to come at this kind of role with one=note and that note is LOUD AND SLIGHTLY INCOMPETENT! He’s annoying with maybe a minute’s screen time.
- What the Hell is up with the “Oh, is it a zombie?” fake-out when Ed meets Penguin at the end? Of course it’s not a zombie! Zombies hate sandwiches!
- Richard Kind really is a very well-respected character actor. His “slightly crap, slightly evil” politician schtick was at its best in the remarkable Spin City but he’s also been seen in Glee, Leverage, Burn Notice and Elementary among others. He’s also a regular voice actor for Penguins Of Madagascar and American Dad. And he absolutely nails it as BingBong in Upside Down.
- Oh, BingBong…
- Shot Of the Week could be anything from the interrogation scene. This show, even at its worst, is shot with incredible beauty and this episode is no exception.
- But the winner is this; Barbara and Leigh, separated, but occupying the same space.
Review by Alasdair Stuart