NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of Gotham, including a major character death, are present in this review
The struggle between Penguin and Theo Galavan continued on Gotham this week, particularly as Butch points Penguin to where his mother is being imprisoned. Despite Penguin being prepared to get the upper hand on Galavan, this liberation is apparently a trap, and Butch is revealed to have been turned by Tabitha Galavan. Penguin is at least given a chance to embrace his mother, but not long afterward, it’s revealed that she’s had a knife plunged into her back by Tabitha! As Gertrude dies in her son’s arms, Penguin apologizes for the circumstances, but Gertrude assures him that he was always a good boy. Gertrude then passes away, though Penguin isn’t given much time to grieve, as he just barely escapes being shot dead by Tabitha after managing to goad Galavan into getting slashed with the knife that was planted in Gertrude.
Clearly, this episode didn’t waste time raising the stakes for Penguin, though in the end, the real stars of the episode felt like the side characters. We finally got some big, pivotal scenes with Silver St. Cloud, as she begins to show quite a palpable dark side, and continues to sink her hooks into Bruce, despite Selina’s warnings of Silver’s true nature. We also see the latest dark turn by Nygma, who now seems to be taking the final steps toward coming into his future super-villain identity as The Riddler. It’s not necessarily that the Penguin/Galavan material disappointed this week, but it somehow felt less interesting than what was going on around it, despite attempts at big steps forward.
As Penguin’s world comes apart, Barnes continues to push the GCPD harder to apprehend him. Galavan also pays a visit to the precinct, complete with Harvey Dent in tow, to issue a warrant for all of Penguin’s associates and properties, and announce that, as soon as he becomes mayor, he’s implementing a city-wide curfew until Penguin is apprehend (or more likely, killed). Speaking of Dent, where the hell has he been all season so far?! Wasn’t Nicholas D’Agosto upgraded to a regular cast member this season? How come it took him seven episodes to finally show up?!
Well, whatever. We see Gordon’s distrust of Galavan rise, and he finally suggests to Bullock that something is amiss with Galavan’s story, especially given that Penguin is too smart to needlessly bring heat on himself, like Galavan is claiming. Bullock initially brushes off the speculation, though after the two corner Butch, they learn that Gordon is actually on the money, and Galavan is corrupt. What follows is the two having to narrowly avoid the place getting shot up by Zsasz and some goons, though Gordon and Bullock retaliate with some heavy machine guns, until the bad guys get scared of. Probably not the smoothest idea to fire heavy machine guns into an open street, but I suppose that any civilian with common sense would stay far away from the very obvious bad guys on the street corner anyhow.
Penguin then elevates the stakes further by sending in a bunch of associates disguised as him to attack Galavan at his mayoral celebration, which results in what’s honestly a pretty awesome climactic gunfight. The fakes even fool Tabitha, who is positioned as a sniper up above, though despite one of Gordon’s strike force rookies getting the drop on her, she subdues the man with her whip and stabs him in the neck with one of her stiletto heels, killing him. That’s another strike force member lost. Boy, Barnes is probably going to get it up the ass from his superiors soon, or at least, he would in the real world. I guess this is Gotham City.
After a very tense confrontation between Penguin, Galavan and Gordon, Bullock nicks Penguin in the shoulder, but he manages to drive off and go into hiding again. Shortly afterward, Gordon makes the questionable decision to tell Galavan that he knows he’s corrupt, and he’s going to be the first person that Gordon tries to bring to justice in the wake of the recent crime wave. I doubt it was the best idea for Gordon to actively tell Galavan that Gordon knows he’s dirty, but hey, it should hopefully lead to some good drama later, especially after Gordon previously endorsed Galavan for mayor.
Like I said though, as much as the episode tried to take the Penguin/Galavan battle to new and interesting heights, it was the subplots that felt like they defined the episode better. It was very intriguing to see a darker, more ruthless Silver St. Cloud in contrast to her older (and presumably wiser) DC Comics counterpart. It was also very interesting to see Selina actually be the good influence for once, pointing out to Bruce that Silver is bad news, only Bruce is too infatuated to see the rotten apple in front of him. Since Alfred is also telling Selina to stay out of Bruce’s life, she’s sadly dismissed and cast aside for actually trying to do right by Bruce, and that’s sort of effectively tragic. Mentioning the events with Bridget Pike as a catalyst for Selina checking up on Bruce also felt smart, and made sense. The show played with this juxtaposition between Selina and Silver very well, especially considering their respective futures as adults, during the tenure of Batman.
Likewise, even if Nygma’s arc still feels disconnected from everything else that’s going on, at least it’s starting to finally go somewhere very interesting, and very chilling. In the wake of his “accidental” (sort of) murder of Kristen Kringle last week, we see that Nygma’s alternate personality continues to torment him. This week, the ‘dark’ side of Nygma challenged him to solve a riddle related to where Kringle’s body was stashed, and this was one of the episode’s best subplots. Seeing Nygma hurry around the GCPD precinct, desperately scrounging up information, and finding a chilling trail of evidence and gore that is wisely left to the viewer’s imagination, is fantastically engaging. The same was true of Leslie walking into the medical examination room as Nygma had Kringle’s body out, which was apparently stashed in the most obvious place, as a way to play with Nygma’s better side.
The way that this culminated with Nygma’s darker half pointing out the psychology of how Nygma gets off on outsmarting those chasing him, and thinking about what he’ll have to do to those who discover his dark secrets, was also superb. Nygma’s dark personality merges with his core sense of self right as the episode ends, with Nygma remarking that the process is beautiful. This seems to officially cement his metamorphosis into The Riddler, and it looks like we can expect a far more sinister and murderous Nygma from now on. On a related note, Cory Michael Smith is still one of the best actors on this show, even with Nygma being a side character up to this point. He completely nailed the creepy, yet strangely compelling duality that came from Nygma’s internal war with himself.
“Mommy’s Little Monster” wasn’t the best episode that Gotham has delivered so far this season, but its strong subplots, along with raising the stakes for Penguin, Galavan and Gordon alike, had it doing enough to entertain. With Gordon announcing his intent to bring down Galavan, things are sure to keep heating up next week, as Penguin is no longer the only obstacle to Galavan’s city-wide takeover.
- Nice escalation in Penguin/Galavan conflict
- Silver/Selina dynamic with Bruce
- Nygma fully completing his transformation into The Riddler
- Why is Gordon so reckless this week?
- Main plot is overshadowed by stronger subplots