Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find all of my Gotham reviews here.
Two episodes ago, “Mad Grey Dawn” used the Riddler’s vendetta against Gordon to deliver a genuinely interesting episode of Gotham. One generic prison break episode later, Gotham benefits yet again from the Riddler/Gordon dynamic in “Into the Woods”.
The scene in Ed’s apartment as Gordon slowly came to the realization that it was Nygma who framed him, only to be outsmarted by Ed, was genuinely gripping. The battle of wits between those two characters, and the full evolution of Ed into the Riddler, has been a high point of the season. And Gordon finally outsmarting Nygma made for a satisfying conclusion to this short saga—and an even more satisfying conclusion to Riddler’s long saga that started last year.
Riddler is the second most successful villain on the show, next to Penguin. His story had ups and downs, especially when it was completely tangential. But unlike typical villains of the week, Riddler’s story was played as a long game and given great care, and that approach paid off. And kudos to Cory Michael Smith for doing a great job playing him. Hopefully it won’t be long before we see the Riddler again.
Aside from a few other good bits (which I’ll get to), that’s mostly where the positives of this episode end. Gotham is still Gotham, and it can’t seem to escape the issues that plague it every episode.
Jim’s descent into darkness, though it led to the aforementioned great Riddler mini-arc, was otherwise entirely botched as Gotham still refused to commit to exploring that theme. In fact, Riddler framing Gordon actually worked against that theme, when it should have supported it. Rather than hammering home the notion that Gordon’s sins were coming back to haunt him, Gotham instead focused on presenting him as the innocent victim of a setup. The closest we got to diving into Gordon’s grey morality was when Riddler confronted him about it, asking what made him so different than the killers he deemed psychopaths and enemies. It was one moment of thematic relevance that was otherwise lost. Because Gordon was set up, dammit, and he wanted to clear his name—and by doing so, wipe away Galavan’s murder.
Since this is Gotham, tonal inconsistency is par the course, and the overly stylized and cheesy Penguin story arc from these past few episodes exemplified that. Worse, that entire subplot seemed to have been created mainly for the purpose of sidelining Oswald for a limited time, stalling until the finale. (Which is basically all Hugo Strange seems to be doing as well, undermining how cool he was when he debuted a few weeks ago.)
That interminable storyline came to a merciful end this week, which I’ll put in the “pro” list for “Into the Woods”. After all, I was legitimately fist-pumping when Oswald went full Penguin and his theme started playing. So I’ll try to forgive how contrived the plot was to get him there (Leaving the poison in the drawer? Really? Just have him figure it out on his own!) or how the show just had to have Grace point out Penguin’s hairstyle, not trusting the audience to notice out that otherwise clever clue on our own. But that aside, it’s good to have you back, Penguin.
Finally, Bruce. Another character who seems to have been given a weird side-plot to keep him busy until the finale. (A side-plot that I think should have been kept offscreen and up to the audience’s imagination, but that’s another story.) But at least the writers came up with a clever way to bring him back into the main plot by having Gordon run into him at Selina’s place. Which then led to the typical and frustrating hero trope of him leaving Selina to “protect” her. Nope, nothing to do with the writers stalling until the last few episodes and needing an excuse to bring him back in.
Speaking of which, why is Gordon leaving the police to work on solving the Waynes’ murder? Wouldn’t he benefit from police resources? Heck, why is he finally returning to a plotline that hadn’t been referenced since Season 1? Come to think of it, what on Earth is the endgame for Season 2?
At least Barbara’s back. That should be interesting.
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)
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