Gotham 1.20: “Under the Knife”

Dark Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) has entered the game.

It finally happened. Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) finally conduct an actual police investigation, though I’m still having trouble buying the premise. Their target is the serial killer with the secret bondage room, ala Christian Grey, who’s looking for the perfect woman, i.e. a woman who does anything he tells her to do.

In other events, the young Bat and Cat attend a ball and banter, Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) takes his first step into villainy, Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) returns worried about a job (she has a job?) with a new twist that’s only vaguely more interesting than the blank slate she’s been previously, and Oswald’s mother is menaced by Maroni (David Zayas).

Oh, and Gotham puts Morena Baccarin in a bathtub for no particular reason other than it seemed to want a T & A scene.

But first, I wanted to talk about the call out to Batman-scribe Alan Grant, who’s namedropped in this episode as a part of a location, 80th and Grant, because what Grant did with Gotham is more interesting to me than the plotting on this show.

Copyright DC Comics.

Alan Grant is a Scottish comic book writer whose work with artist Norm Breyfogle produced some of the finest Batman stories of the 1990s, most notably Batman: The Last Arkham, in which Batman infiltrates Arkham Asylum. Gotham has leaned heavily on this story, which also introduced Jeremiah Arkham, Amygdala and the serial killer Zsasz to the Batman universe. A Grant/Greyfogle creation that remains unused so far is Anarky, a teenage prodigy who believes that anarchy is necessary to defeat the old social order and create a better life for people. Considering how messed up Gotham is in the television show, Anarky might be a fascinating antagonist, if used with any subtlety but, alas, subtlety is not the show’s strong point.

Back to the show and our Gotham Christian Grey-pretender villain, the Ogre (Milo Ventimiglia). Gordon and Bullock comb through old case files, interview the investigator of the first murder, follow a lead to a plastic surgeon’s office and, finally, to the killer’s childhood home. When the investigation is stuck and the Ogre is threatening Gordon’s loved ones, Gordon goes public.

It’s all very smart and almost makes me overlook the dumb premise that previous cops assigned to the case have backed off when the Ogre killed their loved ones. Cops, even corrupt ones, would go after someone who targeted their families, especially ones who didn’t care about justice and wanted only revenge. Something tells me Carmine Falcone (John Doman) could have helped them find this guy and been happy that the police owe him a favor.

Selina simply knows how to get things done.

In other events, Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) settle back into their uneasy partnership after Selina dumped Reggie, Alfred’s attacker, out a window. Selina, who gets all the best lines, is obviously the top dog in this relationship.

Trying to justify the killing to Bruce, Selina points out that Reggie would have reported on them and gotten them killed plus, he’s not a good guy. “He probably killed your parents,” she says, tossing that in for good measure. I would be highly amused if that turns out to be the case. Their banter, especially while attending a charity ball so Selina can steal and copy a key from the Wayne Enterprises villain, is lovely. Everyone is staring at us, Sellina says. “I am Bruce Wayne,” Bruce answers. Yes, of course you are.

Again, however, plot elements mar this because, first, what villain keeps files incriminating him at his office, and, two, why would a key open a safe when a combination lock would be safer, especially from pickpockets like Selina? 

This sloppy plotting also effect Nygma’s pursuit of Miss Kringle’s abusive boyfriend. The abuse is simply tossed in without foundation. Miss Kringle (Chelsea Spack), who has shown a nice presence of mind dealing with Eddie’s social issues, is set up as a poor victim under the abuser’s sway. Eddie goes overboard trying to persuade the abuser to leave her alone and commits his first murder.

The GCPD will miss you when you’re gone, Eddie.

I suspect that will be his first step on the path to Frank Gorshin-land. Poor Eddie. I liked him as the competent crime-scene tech. How will anyone solve cases without him?

Barbara Kean does better than being a simple victim like Miss Kringle. She’s romanced by the Ogre but instead of killing her to get back at Jim Gordon, our serial killer is intrigued by her hidden darkness. Barbara’s lousy view of herself sounds more like depression than villainy to me, but the Ogre is so entranced that he shows off his BDSM room without killing her. Is Barbara into it? Who knows, but it is a spark of life to the character, though I remain amused she even talked about running her art gallery this episode. I’d forgotten she had an art gallery. The most recent version of the comics showcased a Barbara Kean who’s mentally ill. I wonder if Gotham is headed to this version?

Did I say poor Eddie? Poor Oswald (Robin Lord Taylor). Once the possessor of the best character arc in Gotham, he’s now reduced to single scenes here and there which have him spinning his wheels. In this episode, he makes more plans to kill Maroni. It’s a mutual hate society, as Maroni courts Oswald’s dear mother. Why Penguin doesn’t go off and kill Maroni right then and there, I have no idea. He’ll kill people for shoes but not for threatening his beloved mother? But Oswald does get to kill Maroni’s messenger, so that’s something. I hoped if the show wasn’t focused on Jim Gordon’s attempts to make the GCPD effective, it would be focused on Penguin’s rise to power, but ever since the episode in the cabin with Maroni, Oswald’s been stuck in dull plotline.

There are only two episodes left, so perhaps we’ll see some resolution to the Penguin/Maroni feud, Barbara Kean’s infatuation with darkness, and Bruce and Selina’s investigation of corruption at Wayne Enterprises.

The previews indicated that Bruce and Alfred (Sean Pertwee) are about to discover the proto-Batcave which excited me far more than it should. I wonder if they’re going to reference Wayne Manor’s history as a stop on the Underground Railroad?

Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, though not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom blog at Wired and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.

Read all posts by Corrina Lawson for Criminal Element.


  1. Clydia DeFreese

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  2. Clare 2e

    This post isn’t a sweepstakes. All sweepstakes have that label written in red at the very top, then you can check whether it’s one that needs a log-in and a click to enter or a registered user’s comment.

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