Gotham S02E07 “Mommy’s Little Monster” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Channel 5, Mondays, 10pm
Writer: Robert Hull
Director: Kenneth Fink
Essential Plot Points
- Penguin to the rescue! He, Butch and what seem to be the two guys who were nearest him at the time, roll out to rescue Penguin’s mom. They succeed.
- Right up until Galavan shows up. Butch has been deprogrammed and it was all a trap. Butch kills the other two goons. Penguin begs for his mother’s life, she’s released and then…
- Killed anyway.
- As Carol Kane gets her money’s worth out of her final scene (you’re a national treasure, Ms Kane! You deserved so much better than this!), Galavan gloats. Penguin goads him into getting his hands dirty and Galavan temporarily loses all reason and agrees. He holds a gun on Penguin, leans in for some premium gloatage and Penguin slashes his neck and escapes.
- No he’s not right by the window.
- No he can’t move any faster.
- Look, just go with it okay? That is the least of this episode’s sins.
- MEANWHILE, BACK AT NYGMACIDE TOWERS!
- Ed wakes up and is greeted by his other personality. Tyler Durdnygma tells Ed he’s hidden Kirngle’s body at the GCPD and sets him a series of riddles to find it. Clearly this won’t go South in any way at all…
- MEANWHILE, BACK AT EVIL TOWERS!
- Galavan is on course for a landslide victory. Tabitha is bored. I wonder if next scene she’ll be murderous? That’d be a twist. Silver arrives and assures her uncle/pimp that Bruce is wrapped around her little finger.
- MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE GCPD!
- Harv and Jim are watching the election victory pre-broadcast. Jim, refreshingly, is no longer sure Theo “Eyes of a Killer” Galavan is quite on the up and up. Even better they tell each other things! Relevant to the case! And listen!
- Then Galavan rolls in along with Harvey Dent, who looks as surprised as we are. Galavan calmly explains that once he’s mayor the GCPD will be authorised to go door-to-door looking for the Penguin.
- Across the entire city.
- Because law.
- Jim and Bullock are not okay with this. Captain MachoFace looks like he may weep manly tears of joy. Tears that, were we to lick them, would undoubtedly taste like bourbon and black coffee.
- As Galavan leaves Jim basically asks if he’s a baddie now. Galavan points out Jim came to him and leaves.
- MEANWHILE, AT STATELY WAYNE MANOR!
- Selina visits Bruce. Silver arrives and asks her to stay for lunch. Silver then gets Bruce out of the room and threatens Selina. Selina then gives Alfred sass through lunch and confronts Bruce about Silver who then throws her out. It’s all terrible. All of it. Let’s move on.
- MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE GCPD!
- Ed looks for clues. He eventually realises his other personality cut off one of Kringle’s hands and left it in the vending machine.
- This is played as comedy.
- Ed leaves with it hidden in his jacket. They may as well be playing “Yakety Sax” as he runs off.
- MEANWHILE, BACK AT EVIL TOWERS!
- The Galavans are preparing for their victory celebration and Tabitha, because amazingly, she’s bored, begs to be allowed to kill Penguin. Theo assures her that Penguin will deliver himself to them.
- MEANWHILE, AT THE PENGUIN’S HIDEOUT!
- Penguin and the last few guys he has watch Galavan’s victory speech. It includes a just epic Penguin-specific burn to camera. Cobblepot goes strange colours of rage.
- MEANWHILE, AT THE GCPD!
- Jim and Harv get word Butch has struck out on his own and is holed up downtown. They roll out and as they do, this week’s episode of At Home With Leigh And Jim begins. Leigh teases Jim about the awful state of his apartment and how often he’s at her’s, while giving him a key. It’s sweet and cute and funny and is the best part of this episode.
- MEANWHILE, BACK AT DAWSON’S CREEK!
- Selina then gives Alfred sass through lunch and confronts Bruce about Silver who then throws her out. It’s all terrible. All of it. Let’s move on.
- MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE WORST EPISODE OF DEXTER EVER RECORDED!
- Ed is looking at the hand of his murdered girlfriend. Tyler DurdNygma shows up and helps him realise there’s a clue. A clue that leads to the ME’s office. Because Tyler DurdNygma has hidden the rest of Kringle’s body in a drawer that Leigh could open at literally any time. Because crazy!
- MEANWHILE, AT THE OK CORRAL!
- Jim and Harv decide the best possible way to break into Butch’s hideout is to follow the pizza guy in. No just go with it. They do so and find Butch holed up with several thugs.
- And two machine guns.
- Just go with it.
- Zsaz immediately arrives and gives everyone inside 60 seconds to flee. Butch’s thugs all do so and Jim and Harv threaten Butch for info as the clock ticks down. Butch confesses Galavan was behind the fires at the Wayne properties as Zsaz and his hilariously dressed kill team open up.
- From outside.
- 30 feet away.
- Just go with it.
- Jim and Harv then return fire. From inside. Using the machine guns.
- So to be clear, this entire fight takes place between two groups of people trying to shoot through a building.
- Just go with… Actually, you know what – don’t. This scene is so unutterably stupid Butch even leaves early. Go go prosthetic hand!
- MEANWHILE, BACK AT EVIL TOWERS
- Bruce shows up to apologise to Silver. Galavan goes full Emperor Palpatine manipulative on him and Silver bats her eyelids and totally isn’t evil.
- MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE PENGUIN’S HIDEOUT
- He prepares for war, vowing to kill Galavan.
- THEN, AT THE VICTORY CELEBRATION!
- Jim is in charge of security which means he has Martinez on the roof with a rifle. Harv does some checking and figures out Butch may have been telling the truth.
- MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE PLOTLINE CRIMINAL MINDS DECIDED AGAINST!
- Ed finds the rest of Kringle’s body in Leslie’s office. Leslie comes in. She notices he’s upset. Ed says he and Kringle had a fight and they go for coffee to chat about it.
- MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE VICTORY CELEBRATION
- Galavan pumps Jim for info about Butch. He refuses to give anything up. Martinez spots incoming people and identifies the Penguin in the lead. Jim orders him to stand down and the Penguin is shot and killed. By Tabitha. On the roof with Martinez.
- Martinez spots that everyone in the Penguin’s team is dressed and walking like him. Jim tells him to engage. Seconds later the Penguins leap through the windows and start gunning people down. Jim sends Martinez to locate and apprehend the other shooter. Tabitha kills Martinez.
- Downstairs, in the middle of another surprisingly badly choreographed fight, Jim and Bullock evacuate the mayor.
- The Penguin gets their location and a three-way standoff ensues. It finishes with Tabitha shooting Penguin and him making his getaway after begging Jim to let him go so he can discover Galavan’s end game.
- LATER, IN SEVERAL LOCATIONS!
- The evil twins watch Galavan’s victory speech.
- Silver kisses Bruce. Selina watches from outside, vengeance in her eyes and rain in her goggles.
- Jim, realising Galavan is totally a bad guy, confronts him and vows to take Galavan down. Mayor Galavan all but says “Bring it on.”
- “Aaaaand back in the lab, Ed confronts Tyler Durdnygma over why he made him jump through hoops. Tyler forces Ed to admit he feels amazing after taking all those chances and the pair merge. Ed (and Ed) pull Kringle’s body out of the drawer and pick up a bonesaw, smiling as the episode ends.
This is a terrible hour of television. It’s almost irredeemably bad.
We go into a lot of detail about this below but there are two points that really need to be emphasised.
Firstly, the Nygma plot is a catastrophe. Last week, even the accidental murder, had surprising emotional weight to it. Ed is far and away one of the weakest links in this show’s mammoth list of characters but he’s been vastly improved this year. Cory Michael Smith has frequently been dismally served but here, at last, he was starting to get some stuff to do.
And in fairness he’s great as the warmed-over Fight Club trope that is Ed’s other personality. He’s slick and confident and everything Ed isn’t. The acting isn’t the problem here. The writing, and what it says about the show as a whole, categorically is.
Gotham’s female characters aren’t so much a weak spot as a gaping hole in the centre of the city. Kringle’s transformation from victim to punchline here proves that. In an amazing piece of tone-deafness Ed’s search for her body is played as a comedy. A woman who one episode ago was a living part of the show is reduced to an object to be hidden. The casual mutilation of her body is bad. The show’s desire to use that as a springboard to turn Ed into a psychopath is much worse and something no amount of good acting can solve.
Secondly, there’s the fact that any time the show needs something to happen it shaves 100 points off the GCPD’s IQ. Jim and Harvey’s surreal blind machine gun fight is a series low for sure but the ending is a better example of everything the show’s doing wrong. Geography, timing and common sense are sacrificed as we get a single sniper on the roof, a group of hobbling assassins who can suddenly cover huge amounts of ground in five seconds and the offhanded murder of another member of the StrikeForce. In a way, we should add, that manages to push Tabitha Galavan even further into the “Cookie Cutter Sexy Lunatic” trope.
Worse still, it’s DULL. There’s no snap to the action; no sense of purpose or direction. Just a bunch of extras with no idea what to do, hitting their marks as the second stupidest-looking group of assassins in Gotham’s history hobble around killing them in a parade of bloodless carnage. Sound and fury signifying almost nothing.
The energy and dark humour the show had a few weeks ago has been replaced by idiotic choices, pointless action and horror that’s as disturbing as it is misplaced. The bounce back can arrive any time it wants to.
- For an episode absolutely chock full of terrible, there are some good lines here. Such as:
- “Knew you’d wake up all boo-hooey. Probably have half a mind to turn yourself in. Luckily, I have the other half.” The Ed plotline is a hot mess but at least Ed’s other half has a couple of zingers.
- “If I was you and… I sort of am, I’d get crackin’.” See?
- “Looks like you backed the right horse. You trust him?”
“Gotham politician? About as far as I can throw him. But if he gives the GCPD what he needs, he’s alright by me.” This is one of several points where Jim and Harv feel and act like actual policemen. None of these scenes involve them firing M-60s.
- Edward refers to Leigh as “Doctor Thompkins” for, I think, the first time this season. That’s a nice indicator that he’s off his game. See? I found the one single nice thing you can say about that festering dumpster fire of a plotline.
- “A man not even a mother could love.” OHHHHHHH BURRRRRN!
- “Do you want a key to my place?”
“Not even a little bit. Wait do you HAVE a place?”
“I love to watch you squirm.”
“I was not squirming.”
“LITTLE squirm.” We would honestly watch an entire episode of these two messing with each other. It’s like the show enters a fugue state where it’s clever and funny and sweet for five minutes every week.
- “Do you believe Galavan’s story?”
“Questions like that are above my pay grade and below my sense of wonder.” This line is transcendentally perfect. It’s Harvey Bullock to a tee. It’s the best line this show has produced all year. It’s the reason the episode has 1.5 stars and not one.
- “Nobody’s telling the truth. This is Gotham.” See? The few occasions when this script actually shows up for work it does a good job.
- Oh God where to begin?
- Oh yeah, with the physical destruction of one of the show’s female characters and her transformation into a set of bloody LEGO that, when found, will help Edward Nygma hug his inner Chuck Palahniuk novel. Let’s start there.
That’s HIDEOUS. And not in a good way. Gotham has patently had very little idea what to do with most of its female characters for a while now and this is a new low for a series I was no longer sure could find one. The genuine pathos and operatic, Batman-esque tragedy of Edward accidentally killing Kringle last episode is replaced by a comedy scavenger hunt, perky music and a woman’s hand in a vending machine as a punchline.
- It tries for absurdity. It misses. It tries for profundity. It misses. Instead all you get is a bad photocopy of a played-out trope, elements of Dexter and Fight Club jammed into a TV show already bursting with too many tonal shifts and unexplored ideas. There’s no emotion here, no engagement, not even any horror. Just growing anger at a TV show that thinks that idiot brutality is the same thing as horror, and that buries its female characters in the foundations of its male characters’ new selves.
- The shootout between Zsaz’s elite hit team and Jim and Harvey is… just… How does that pass edits? How does a scene like that pass first draft?
- Here are just some of the ways that apocalyptically stupid five minutes destroys your brain cells:
- Zsaz has vastly superior numbers. He does nothing with them.
- That building has at least two exits. Zsaz, one of the best hitmen in the business, doesn’t send any of his “escaped from 1985 Duran Duran backing dancer kill team” to cover it.
- HE DOESN’T GO INTO THE BUILDING. This highly trained death machine who we’ve seen demolish entire rooms of people, stays 30 feet away, IN THE OPEN and empties his guns into the building. What if they were on the second floor? Or lying down? OR HAD ALREADY LEFT THROUGH ONE OF THE EXITS HE HADN’T THOUGHT TO COVER?
- In a kinder world that would be the stupidest thing this season. Possibly in the history of this show in fact. But no, it’s just the entre. Let’s skip over Butch getting his hands on those two machine guns (he has people who know people, that’s justifiable). But what’s done with them needs to be broken down into steps:
- 1) Jim and Harvey grab the machine guns.
- 2) Jim and Harvey empty them in the direction of the gunshots WITH. THE. BUILDING. BETWEEN. THEM. AND. THEIR. TARGETS.
- So in other words, Zsaz doesn’t bother going in and the GCPD don’t bother coming out. That in itself is just barely justifiable. They, and Zsaz, have forgotten that back doors are a thing so it makes sense to bottleneck their opponents in the doorway.
- But NOTHING else does. These are two senior GCPD detectives. They are men who’ve staked their lives on keeping the peace in a city which is both perpetually one step away from open war and still remarkably full of innocent people.
- Some of whom will live on that street.
- Bullets are murderous chaos. If they don’t hit their target they will keep going until they do hit something. If they do hit their target they may keep going anyway. If they hit anything their path will become impossible to react to or predict.
- Jim and Harv empty two infantry support weapons into an urban street. Yes there are no people out there other than Zsaz and his little Five*Star cover band. But what about in the buildings behind them? Or a block away? That sort of astounding negligence should be the last thing on the mind of the GCPD detectives.
- This is the stupidest thing I’ve seen a TV show do. Any TV show. Possibly ever. It’s a perfect example of the gaping chasm between spectacle and drama that the show continually leaps into and every time they do this stuff it just makes Jim’s “we must be paragons of virtue” speeches even more ludicrous. Please stop.
- Martinez sights the horde of Penguins. They’re still in open ground, which makes sense because he’s on the roof, has some elevation and a decent angle of fire. Jim gives him the order to engage and five seconds later the Penguins are smashing through the windows. HOW?! Did they speed waddle?!
- Also what was the briefing with them like: “Gentlemen, they will be looking for me. They want me dead. So you’re all going to dress, and walk, like me in single file down an open driveway and ACT AS CANNON FODDER!” “…Okay, boss.”
- We’re down another member of Strike Force. Because Martinez was a smart, highly trained and principled officer who didn’t think to call for back-up before engaging an unknown threat.
- Oh no, wait we’re actually down a member because Tabitha likes whips and stiletto heels! Because she’s evil! And sexy! Hey Tabitha, it’s been five minutes! Tell us you’re bored again!
- “If we start kicking down the doors of average citizens and policing through fear, we’re no better than he is.” But beating suspects and working off a debt to a mobster? Totally cool.
- “Let’s show this city what it means to carry a badge.” Being able to indiscriminately fire heavy calibre in the vague direction of criminals? Is that the answer?
And The Random:
- The first track on Riddler’s debut album: “Now That’s What I Call Music To Follow the Clues Left By My Demented Other Personality to the Remains of the Woman You Murdered, is Closest to the Bone” by Louis Prima.
Review by Alasdair Stuart