TV Review: Gotham Series 1 Episode 20: ‘Under the Knife’

Storylines advance at the expense of female characters in a solid but unexciting episode of Gotham, says

Gotham 1×20 Barbara y Ogro

 

This review contains spoilers

 

★★★☆☆

 

Well, the story of Gotham’s latest serial killer’s not Ogre yet! We’re on the second episode of our four-part finale, and this episode… well, it’s certainly the second part of a four-part story, mostly sketching out the villain’s origins while setting him up for a sweet little romantic subplot OF DEATH with Barbara Kean. Once again, the bright spots are in the subplots. So, what actually happens?

Carrying on from last week, we have Gordon scrambling to protect Lee, the young cop who reported the Ogre to him last week, before the infamously vengeful murderer tries to kill him, going so far as to draw the killer’s attention by calling him out on the news. But it’s not Lee the villain’s after – it’s Barbara, Gordon’s former girlfriend! As he steps in to seduce her at the Wayne Charity Ball, can the future Commissioner stop him?

Well, no. Since Gotham’s quite the fan of convoluted storylines, Gordon manages to follow a lead linking the Ogre to an old, wealthy Gotham family, except he’s not their son but their butler’s – and he’s had extensive plastic surgery to cover up some Phantom of the Opera-style deformities, at that. (Well, as everyone knows, Ogres have layers). Aside from outright linking the two of their paths together – the Ogre now knows exactly who’s coming for him thanks to that news broadcast – that’s pretty much the extent of progress for the procedural subplot.

Instead, Barbara finally gets something to do! Thus far in the season, she’s broken up with Gordon, had a brief single-episode affair with Renee Montoya (who seems to disappeared entirely this series, actually – maybe she’s on the boat with Gendry from Game of Thrones) and then served as the awkward older roommate for Selina Kyle and Ivy Pepper. This week, we’re told that Barbara’s main character flaw is that she hates herself – however, we don’t actually get to see that much evidence of that, and pretty much have to take other characters’ word for it. So when the Ogre runs into her at the Charity Ball, he sees a potential partner in her. She agrees, and heads back to his house – in fact, she’s not even fazed by his Silver Room of Pain.

So all that’s at least something for Barbara after about 20 episodes, although it’s perhaps disconcerting that her biggest role thus far’s playing a serial killer’s victim/accomplice. In fact, making women into victims to advance other people’s plotlines seems to be the Theme of the Week.

For instance, we have the plot where Maroni shows up to Penguin’s club and flirts with his clueless mother for a bit, before informing her with brutal coldness about her son’s less savoury and more murderous activities (which, naturally, provides further incentive for Oswald to advance his plot to kill the rival mobster). There’s Selina Kyle and Bruce’s plot, which proves an exception: they go to the ball together, like a tinier version of The Dark Knight Rises, and she manages to steal a safe key to move their plans forward.

But then we also have Edward Nygma taking a sharp turn towards his Riddler persona. After learning his love interest Kristen Kringle’s the victim of abuse by her boyfriend, he follows her to her house, and ends up stabbing the boyfriend to death when the man comes outside and attacks him.

The highlight of that plot, by the way, comes from the consistently good acting of Cory Michael Smith. It’s interesting to see Nygma outside the police department for once – seeing him quietly drop his forced jollity – and to see his post-murder breakdown as he veers between panicking civilian and giggling killer. I’d say this is the plotline with the most exciting ramifications for next week, now that Nygma has a secret hanging over his head.

So that was this week! A little bit of plot-advancement, some good acting and perhaps an undercurrent of misogyny. It all adds up to an episode I can only describe as ‘solid’: with two left, hopefully things get a little more exciting next week.

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