On Gotham almost everyone is revealed to be a sociopath.
Okay, I’m only being semi-serious, but this week’s episode was arguably all about drawing a line between altruism and self-interest. And that line is what distinguishes sociopath from a normal person since a sociopath is, to quote the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “someone who behaves in a dangerous or violent way towards other people and does not feel guilty about such behavior.”
So yes, in a sense, tonight’s episode was about sociopathy, as is most explicitly spelled out in Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne’s story. In this subplot, Bruce pays for Harvey Dent’s mistake after Dent tries to draw out Dick Lovecraft, his prime suspect in the Wayne murder case. Assassins are then deployed to take care of Lovecraft and Kyle, making Bruce a victim yet again.
So Bruce runs away with Selina, but just before they go on the lam, she asks him if he wants to kiss her. He hesitates, saying that he thinks she has “ulterior motives.” She replies that she only offered to kiss him because “I’m a nice person.” Which is already a terrible thing to say, but Bruce makes matters worse with his reply: “No offense — you don’t strike me as a nice person.” Selina understandably takes great offense to this and later proves Bruce wrong. Still, Bruce raises an important question: Doesn’t almost everyone in Gotham act out of myopic self-interest?
Think about it: Bruce is exceptional because he’s not interested in helping or even following Selina just because she’s the only eyewitness to his parents’ murder. He likes her and therefore trusts her. The same is basically true of James Gordon and Harvey Bullock, both of whom over-stress their altruistic natures when they yell at Dent that “there’s two children out there with professional assassins after them!” Gordon and Bullock shout their lungs out because they want to protect Bruce, not themselves. Moreover, Gordon’s feelings of inadequacy later lead him to quit the GCPD, though not because of Bruce, but rather the assassin’s other target, Dick Lovecraft.
Gordon and Bullock’s subplot isn’t as interesting as the one involving Bruce’s other guardian, Alfred. Alfred is the first one out of the gate when Bruce is attacked. He even goes so far as to deck Larissa Diaz (Lesley-Ann Brandt), a hired killer who is so sociopathically focused on her goal that she kills a gardener and uses his blood for a cover story (car accident!). Alfred instantly sees through Larissa’s story when he sees her give Bruce the side-eye.
But Alfred wouldn’t have seen Larissa looking if he wasn’t looking for signs of impending trouble (probably because he recognizes a kindred spirit). His one purpose is to protect Bruce, and he does anything to protect him, even beat up Fish Mooney’s bodyguard Butch and then suck up to Fish. That single-mindedness is what makes Alfred just as much of a sociopath as Larissa. There is no world outside of a sociopath’s respective goal-oriented worldview, so it’s a very good thing that Alfred’s goal is protecting Bruce and not avenging the Waynes’ murder.
Still, Bruce is the most interesting character in “Lovecraft” because he not only has a conscience, but also has complex motivation. Both Gordon and Alfred’s actions are typically straightforward. But Bruce doesn’t need to go with Selina once she tells him point-blank that there was never a real chance of her testifying against his parents’ murderer. Still, Bruce takes a literal leap of faith and earns Selina’s trust by proving that he’s invested in her, not what she can give him. He’s a timid, but good-hearted kid, and is rewarded for his actions when Selina gives him back his parents’ possessions.
No main character compared as favorably to Bruce’s in light of Selina’s concern with coming across as a “nice person.” Oswald Cobblepot did what you’d expect him to do in light of Carmine Falcone’s refusal to believe his anti-Fish accusation (i.e.: nothing … yet). And Fish did what you’d expect her to do in light of Falcone’s over-the-top dinner-and-a-show murder (i.e.: nothing … yet). Finally, Selina also did what you’d expect her to do given the kindness that Bruce showed her (i.e.: kissed Bruce).
Thankfully, Ivy Pepper (Clare Foley) broke up the monotony of tonight’s proceedings and, after a months-long hiatus, became one of Gotham’s most interesting characters. Pepper’s motives are unclear, partly because she’s a scared kid who comes on too strong when she feels threatened (and she always feels threatened). But I loved the way that Foley’s keyed-up rambling turns on a dime when she snaps at Bruce: “How ya doin’, kid?” Her motives are complex, too, and it’s because she’s like Bruce: aware of the world outside of her goal-driven needs, but unsure of what to do next.
It’s only natural that Selina feels threatened by Ivy: Ivy has nothing to offer Selina. In fact, Ivy’s so lost in her own head that it’s hard to know what she’s thinking when she pouts at Bruce as he leaves. Does she wish she could blame him for her own misfortune? And does she even know, in light of Selina’s defense of Bruce, that she can’t really blame Bruce? Ivy’s opaque motives makes her a flesh-and-blood character worth watching. Here’s hoping she gets a big part in Gotham’s post-break story.
- It was gratifying to see Gordon quit the GCPD to work at Arkham. I’m betting that move will be used as an excuse to introduce more villains. Wonder who’s up first …
- Edward Nygma to James Gordon: “Detective Gordon, I hear you’ve been thrown out in disgrace. Is this true?” Okay, Nygma is fast becoming my second favorite sociopath on Gotham. Actor Cory Michael Smith’s blustery line delivery perfectly conveys how oblivious his character is. Looking forward to Nygma becoming one of the show’s main characters … though that may never happen.
- Alfred to Fish: “You have a very eloquent gaze.” Did I mishear this, or did he mean to say “elegant?” Either way, I don’t think that means what he thinks it means …
- Butch to Fish: “[Falcone’s] making me nervous … ” Seriously? Fish had dinner at the same table as a corpse, and Butch is the one who’s nervous?!
- I absolutely loved David Mazouz’s line delivery when Alfred reunites with Bruce, and Bruce says, “I’m fine, how are you?” It’s something between a sniffle and a ground-toeing aw-shucks. So glad that Bruce has become such an endearing character.