Does anybody on Gotham ever just, you know, talk to each other? It feels like it’s been ages since characters have flirted for flirting’s sake or kibitzed for chit-chat’s sake, a sad fact driven home tonight when Leslie Tompkins and James Gordon flirt with each other after she gives him the key to her apartment. This moment is an oasis of calm in an otherwise barren desert of boring, sped-up plot machinations. As has often been the case this season, “Rise of the Villains: Mommy’s Little Monster” is rushed to the point where none of the broad beats feel genuine. The show is prioritizing breakneck plotting over dialogue and atmosphere. Gotham really needs to slow down and let characters enjoy each other’s company, and tonight is a perfect example of why.
Selina, Silver, and Bruce’s pint-sized ménage à trois is the only subplot that came close to being believably well-developed. Selina drops in on Bruce just as Silver pays him a visit, and Silver immediately threatens Selina (“You’re a piece of gutter trash … Would anyone miss you if one day you were … gone?”). Selina fires back at Silver, but makes sure to do it in front of Bruce, calling her rival a “two-faced slut.” Silver runs out of the room, and Bruce chases after her since Selina is so defensive that she apparently can’t explain to Bruce that Silver is using him.
Selina’s standoffishness is predictable, but it at least makes sense. She probably wouldn’t explain to Bruce that while he was out of the room, Silver revealed her true colors. Then again, does Silver have to be so cartoonishly duplicitous? The scene where she dresses down Selina does nothing but set up a canned rivalry and gives us one more villain to hate. Does Galavan have a strict “No Emotionally Stable People Allowed” hiring policy?
Speaking of which, how about Butch’s story tonight? Poor Mama Kapelput’s demise was inevitable given that Butch leads an extra-anxious Oswald Cobblepot into a hilariously obvious trap. But it didn’t have to feel like such a dull and needlessly grim foregone conclusion. Butch’s story should, in fact, thematically hold tonight’s episode together since it is most overtly one about “conditioning” and manipulative behavior. Galavan reveals that he was able to un-brainwash Butch and make him his own man again after Tabitha discovers the trigger word that has been used to keep Butch under Cobblepot’s thumb. This is an interesting concept, though it would be way more interesting if there were any signs prior to this that Butch was a Manchurian Heavy. Still, this aspect of Cobblepot and Butch’s relationship is striking since it speaks to the idea that, after a certain point, characters’ behavior is programmatic.
Take for example Bruce and Theo Galavan’s talk. Galavan delivers the usual, “You and me, we are not so unalike,” villain talk that every supervillain delivers in order to establish themselves as a more serious threat. But the similarities that Galavan lays out for Bruce — “haunted by loss, driven to prove ourselves worthy to those who came before” — suggest that Bruce is like Butch since both men are being manipulated by Galavan, a man who knows and is willing to manipulate his opponents’ inherited behavior. Galavan knows that Bruce is going to chase after Silver just like Galavan knows that Cobblepot will believe Butch and follow him into an ambush.
Still, with the show’s plot being as sped-up as it is, there’s no appreciable moment in “Mommy’s Little Monster” where the connection between Butch, Bruce, and Cobblepot suggests a forthcoming conflict, or even a moment where these characters’ drive to follow their own instincts is immediately clear. Instead, we get a quick series of scenes where gullible characters are taken advantage of in rapid succession, leaving viewers to slap their foreheads, and wonder when somebody is going to snap out of it and take Galavan on.
Fear not, because here comes James Gordon. Tonight, Gordon pays closer attention to Galavan’s movements and has his suspicions confirmed when Cobblepot tries to blow Galavan away. Still, at this point you have to wonder how the people of Gotham are somehow more quick to believe Galavan, since somehow Galavan has just been elected mayor. Galavan’s alarmingly fast rise to power is upsetting since Gordon doesn’t even have specific evidence on his side beyond the way he uses the fundraiser, and Cobblepot’s attacks on other mayoral candidates, as an opportunity to boost his own campaign. So while it is nice to finally have a character stand up to Galavan, it also feels like a foregone conclusion.
And while we’re on the subject of James Gordon: How is this guy still in charge of Unit Alpha? Another member of the team dies tonight, but somehow Gordon is still the Strike Force leader. We spent no time getting to know Ramirez, making his death as immaterial as Luke Garrett’s death two weeks ago. Still, when exactly is Gordon going to start resembling the leader we know him as? Never? Looks like never.
Speaking of “never,” how about that Edward Nygma subplot? Apparently, Evil Nygma is back, and he’s playing head games with himself. What type of head games, you ask? Stuff like hiding a severed hand in a GCPD snack machine and dumping Kristen Kringle’s corpse in the department morgue. Evil Nygma’s ghoulish scavenger hunt serves to make Good Nygma see how much he enjoys being evil, seemingly making it possible for the two sides of Nygma’s personality to merge together. Again, a potentially interesting idea marred by the fact that Nygma, a victim of his own prescribed personality quirks, leaves a really lame series of bread crumbs for his better half to follow. Gotham really needs to slow down because at this rate, it’s going to barrel through all the best parts of its second season.
- Time for: Fanboyish Speculation! Anybody else saddened to see that Silver St. Cloud is evil in this version of Bruce’s story? I was kind of hoping that they’d fall in love!
- To the person who keeps programming Louis Prima music during Edward Nygma’s story: I don’t get you, and I wish you would stop.
- Where did Harvey Dent come from?
- Theo Galavan to the Gotham press: “I come from a family of sword-smiths.” I would give anything to see how the Gotham media handles this goofy bit of spin.
- Butch to Cobblepot: “That time is past. They fixed me.” Does anyone on this show talk like real people do?