Although Gotham has primarily served as a showcase for guest villains, the primary players of the show shined the brightest last night. Butch and Tabitha, who both have been reduced to the sidelines as of late, were given much more to do than usual. Whether this is a temporary upgrade for both characters is still up in the air. For now, it was nice to see a somewhat reserved episode focusing on core themes from the Batman mythos: identity and love.
With Nygma now Penguin’s right hand man, Butch (who, ironically, is missing a hand) has been on the outskirts of the operations. To reenter Penguin’s inner circle, Butch called upon the services of the Red Hood gang via a faux assassination attempt. Given what’s happened with his character thus far, Butch’s “turn” was well warranted. Fish’s absence placed him in a weird power vacuum, and also under some psychological control. Granted, this hold has been broken for some time, but I buy his desire to regain his second in command post. His affection towards Tabitha also appears to have come back to bite him, but it could also save him, given what occurs towards the end of the episode.
Given the setup, I was very surprised to see Butch survive the reveal of his traitorous nature. Nygma’s manipulative misdirection would have served as a proper send off for Butch, partly because of how well Nygma sold his offer to Butch. He proclaims that he wants to betray Penguin because he does not want to be number two. Riddler’s narcissistic nature helps to provide a sense of brevity to the situation. By the same token, it’s been made pretty clear that Penguin and Nygma share some kind of friendship. Has Nygma been playing Penguin this whole time to regain prominence in Gotham City? The show tends to favor breakups over reconciliation, so it remains to be seen. From a thematic standpoint, I love that Butch’s commitment to drawing Nygma and Penguin apart only helped to make their bond stronger.
Gotham has never been known for subtlety, and the romantic undertones between Penguin and Riddler couldn’t be more blatant. Especially in an episode that centered primarily on love and romance, this wasn’t exactly out of nowhere. It’s quite the departure from precedent, but I like the groundwork established earlier by the show. Penguin hasn’t had anyone to share his achievements with following the death of his mother. He has no one, and Ed has always been somewhat of a kindred spirit. Given that he murdered his girlfriend in season two, Ed has also been looking for some companionship. Whether it leads to a love affair or not, this is the only relationship I am fully invested in.
Ever since Lee has been introduced, her role has either been to serve as a distressed damsel or Gordon’s on again/off again love interest. Gordon is with Valerie Vale now, but like most relationships on this show, it doesn’t appear to be built to last. Now that she’s with Mario Falcone, hopefully she will be further developed. This episode gave Lee one of her stronger moments, slapping Ed across the face at the precinct and proceeding to threaten him with the Falcone name. This is arguably her darkest moment as well. She never showed this side to her while dating Gordon. It’s possible that she is displaying signs of seduction that come with power. Having the Falcone family back in prominence helps to reinforce the mob elements the show was initially based in.
With the amount of tension between the two and where they are age wise, I knew it was inevitable at some point that Bruce and Selina would finally kiss. When the moment finally arrived in this episode, I initially rolled my eyes. It was too on the nose for my taste, especially given the inevitable history between these characters. I do have to acknowledge that I liked the touch of them kissing on a rooftop. It may seem strange given my aforementioned criticism, but it was a well-constructed shot. Maybe I’m just happy that Bruce is starting to do something other than brood. It’s also nice to see he’s starting to fulfill his public figure role as a Wayne. With the final scene showcasing a vengeful Mad Hatter, next week’s episode can’t get here soon enough.