A Bitter Pill To Swallow – With Theo arrested and imprisoned, Tabitha, desperate for revenge takes out a kill contract on Jim Gordon with a highly committed organisation. The results don’t bode well for Jim and the team. Meanwhile, Edward Nigma keeps the bed bound Penguin in his apartment, Bruce is still obsessed with Silver St. Cloud despite Alfred’s bets efforts, and Gotham gets some mysterious new arrivals.
The main theme here is living with defeat be that personal or professional. This becomes the driving force of the main story as Tabitha refuses to let Jim keep the win over Theo’s arrest and puts the kill order on him. This could have been a very routine affair but Megan Mostun-Brown has some real fun with the idea as she delivers us an almost John Wick style fraternity of assassins that take their reputation very seriously. If that wasn’t good enough, their head honcho is only Michelle Gomez, A.K.A. Missy/The Master from the recent Doctor Who! Her character is mysteriously listed as “The Lady”, and her appearance does not disappoint. She’s a real delight with her calm but slightly playful mannerisms, conducting herself with a similar feel of confidence as superiority as many Whovians have come to adore. The kill contract story takes a nice surprise twist into a Gotham variation of Assault On Precinct 13, or in this case, Theo’s penthouse as Jim & Captain Daniels become besieged with nothing but an untrained forensic and a terrified rookie. There’s some really good action too as their party gets crashed. It’s not the typical Gotham shootout that can feel generic; there are some great feelings of desperation on show as they’re overwhelmed and fighting for their lives at close quarters. Jim’s earlier elevator also deserves a worthy mention. It’s an enjoyable blend of tense action and Gotham’s ever effective oddball dark humor as the lift doors casually open and shut while the fight is still raging. The episode even throws in the comics figure of Flamingo as an end of level boss. He still manages to be very satisfying despite the late entrance from his hilarious fireside cannibalism introduction to his insane laughter as Jim pummels him. The conclusion would imply he’ll be back sometime which is definitely a good thing.
Some characters do take more of a backseat. Barbara is confirmed as in a coma following last week. This feels like a smart move for the show. Her character made a humungous impact last week. Having her linger on while the villains regroup would dilute it. By taking her out of the equation entirely, she can easily be brought another shock impact later in the season without any villain decay. Barbara’s departure will also allow Jima and Lee to make a relationship upturn. They haven’t been as appealing in their recent conflict but this episode seems to put that behind them, even if Jim’s promise to never lie again is such obvious foreshadowing it should come with loud sirens and flashing red lights. The delving into Captain Barnes character is also less effective. Michael Chiklis still pulls some good rewards out of it but it feels very misplaced. The episode would have fared better keeping the focus more on Jim, by switching those scenes into more heated arguments against his rash and disobedient actions of recent weeks. The Bruce/Silver continuation is shackled only by the constraints of the character’s age. While keeping Bruce on the leash is a good story decision, moments like Silver giving Bruce her hotel key feel the wrong kind of creepy. Thankfully, Sean Pertwee is on some of his best form of the season as he lays down the tough love intervention/underage cockblocking. These kinds of moments always show great strength to Alfred’s character as a parental figure when he can live with being hated it he knows he’s acting in Bruce’s best interest.
Now, last week’s surprise pairing of Penguin and Edward Nigma was enough to stir the loins curiosity and their first episode as buddy villains does not disappoint as it’s nurse Ed rescuing the injured bird. Their whole story charts the process of going from acquaintances to friends. It feels perfectly natural for Penguin to be restrained and withdrawn in the face a largely unknown figure (especially considering what he’s just been through) to the extent that Robin Lord Talyor plays it much straighter than normal. This allows Nigma to go nuts by comparison as tries to pledge as Penguin’s padowan and he’s marvellous to watch doing so. From his outright thrills to finally admitting out loud that he’s a murderer to his child like glee at the thought of seeing Penguin kill someone. Penguin’s frequent “are you serious” stern expressions become the perfect medium to bounce off the humour. Yet this is not just about Ed applying for an evil internship. Penguin gets his own angle too in a crisis of faith over his rather screwed circumstances, and it’s the pair conquering this together that produces the episodes best moment. Ed’s speech about the weakness of attachment is his darkest, most sinister moment yet and feels a real progressive step for both villains, “A man with nothing that he loves.... is a man that answers to no one but himself”. Then throw in a few tuneful delights to signify that if the pair carries on like this they will absolutely steal this season!
This pill goes down much smoother implied and save the odd character miss-use is a great and entertaining episode that builds up for much to come while delivering plenty of immediate gratification. Doctor Who fans will love Michelle Gomez’s character and the end is a great tease of The Court of Owls becoming a much more active presence in the show. With its tendencies for surface inconsistencies, Gotham can sometimes be a bitter pill to swallow, but as this autumn’s run has been showing, it’s still well worth it in the end.