Wednesday, December 6, 2017

'Gotham' Recap: "Things That Go Boom" (4x10)

If you're reading this, then congratulations: you've survived finals week. That, or you've given up on studying and taken to roaming the internet between exams. In any case, it's time for another Gotham recap. This week's episode contains three plotlines: one revolving around Professor Pyg's true identity, one concerning Sofia Falcone's true motives, and one focusing on Lee's control of the Narrows. Warning for spoilers and heavy violence.

Plot C: Penned-in Pyg 

(Note: This plot receives the least focus in the episode, hence the C classification. However, it is the first storyline to be presented, which is why it's placed first in this article.)

The episode opens in Arkham Asylum. Because the current warden is presumably an idiot, several inmates are in one room working on various crafts and hobbies while listening to music from a gramophone. Pyg switches the record to "Ave Maria" and begins to conduct it silently. Most of the inmates don't have a problem with this, except one who claims that his mother (who he later killed) used to have the same song playing in the background while she beat him up. Pyg mocks the burly inmate by suggesting reasons why his mother would have beat him. 

The inmate punches Pyg in the face, which causes the skin of Pyg's cheek to make an odd shift, as if there's something underneath. Pyg moves the lump back into place and coldly reprimands his attacker, stating, "I paid a fortune to look this good." The roommate charges at Pyg again, but Pyg stabs him in the gut with half of a record before slicing his throat with the other half. As the guards rush to grab Pyg and the inmates look on, Pyg resumes conducting the music as if nothing happened.

Over at the GCPD, Captain Gordon and Lucius Fox discuss the incident. Lucius says that an x-ray of Pyg's face showed that the criminal had metal plates grafted into his skin to reshape his face. He also notes that Pyg's body has scars from multiple surgeries and his fingerprints have been burnt off. Gordon questions why Pyg, who loves the spotlight, would be so hell-bent on preserving his identity. He asks Lucius to try to create a sketch of Pyg's true face using the x-ray. Lucius agrees to the tasks but says the process will take time.

Gordon later visits Pyg in Arkham. Pyg is glad to see him, but Gordon just wants to know who he really is, which leads to a funny bit of dialogue:

Gordon's punch shifts the metal plates again, but Pyg puts them back in place and says that "What you see is what you get." Gordon wonders again why Pyg would hide his true self if he wants to be known for his crimes. Pyg claims that he's already made his mark on Gotham, but Gordon says that this is Gotham, home of Fish Mooney and Jerome Valeska—which makes him second-rate. He tells Pyg that the city has already forgotten him, and this is a final visit. Pyg snaps at him for leaving, and in his anger, his voice reverts from its usual sophisticated, arrogant tone to a Southern accent. 

Gordon takes this to be Pyg's true voice. He tells Lucius, who now has a completed sketch of Pyg's face, to send the sketch to police stations all over the country, starting in the south. One station later replies with Pyg's true identity: a man named Lazlo Valentin who committed a string of murders. However, Valentin didn't use a Pyg persona back then and didn't target cops either, making Gordon question why a serial killer would change his M.O. Gordon asks why the station didn't convict Valentin. Lucius says that Valentin was convicted, but he escaped.

Back at Arkham, a guard walks past Pyg's cell and finds it empty. When he steps inside to investigate, Pyg leaps down from the ceiling, kills him, and escapes (as Gordon finds out at the end of the episode).

Plot A: A Falcone in the Hand

After Lucius and Gordon discuss Pyg's x-ray, Detective Harper tells Gordon that Sofia Falcone is in his office. Sofia asks when they're going to start seeing each other again, but Gordon says they're not. She tells him that Penguin knows she made Gordon captain and claims she's got it all under control. Gordon, less than convinced, says "there's no way forward" for the two of them.

Not gonna lie, I was worried that Gordon and Sofia were going to have some toxic, season-long romance. I suppose that could still happen, but for now it looks like he's shutting down her attempts to woo him. Good for you, Jim.

When Sofia returns home, Penguin and Victor Zsasz are waiting for her. Penguin confronts Sofia for her deception. She acts terrified and denies her involvement with Gordon, but Penguin says he found out about how Gordon visited Carmine Falcone before Sofia showed up in Gotham. Sofia then decides to drop her innocent act, declaring:

Penguin then tells Sofia that she's going to spill every part of her plan and every person involved with it. Why? Because he's going to have her tortured . . . by the Dentist. While the name and gimmick are undeniably corny, a YouTuber named Bobatalks pointed out that this character may be a reference to a character in Joker: Death of the Family who looked up to the Joker's work and was inspired to commit similarly violent crimes. 

(According to the link above, the Dentist's identity was Phillip Miles. Is this the same man? Only time will tell.)

After Zsasz and Penguin leave, the Dentist inspects Sofia's teeth and says he'll put them in a trophy case when he's finished. She says the Dentist wouldn't do that if he knew who she was, but he replies that he does, as her father killed his brother. Sofia replies that he still has a wife and child alive, but they won't be for long, as her underlings have orders to kill the family if Sofia is tortured or killed. The Dentist counters that no one will find her body, but Sofia replies that she has spies inside Penguin's empire and has even turned his captains against him. She repeats that if her people don't hear from her soon, the Dentist's family will die. He decides to let her go and uses a drill to kill the other person guarding her. Sofia then leaves but gets nabbed by the Sirens before she can drive away.

She later wakes up in their weapons gallery. Babs introduces herself, Tabs, and Selina. She explains that Penguin wants the three of them dead, but since Sofia is his friend, he might let them go in return for her safety. Sofia, however, admits that she's been moving to take over the underworld and claims she orchestrated everything that happened today, apart from the Sirens' appearance. Sofia insists that the if they want to get rid of Penguin, they should let her go. Selina is somewhat convinced, but Babs says that it doesn't matter, as Penguin will still pay to get Sofia even if she's his enemy.

Meanwhile, Penguin lets Martin sit on his throne at the Iceberg Lounge and thanks the boy for helping uncover Sofia's treachery. However, Martin admits that Sofia told him to tell Penguin about her kissing Gordon. Penguin realizes that Sofia has been playing him all along, and like clockwork, Zsasz arrives to announce that the Dentist is gone and Babs has Sofia. 

Babs then lists her demands to Penguin over the phone: she wants to keep the gun shop, not share profits, and operate with complete autonomy. He agrees and states that Zsasz will arrive to pick up Sofia (before giving Zsasz a meaningful glare). After he hangs up, Penguin tells Martin that their conversation isn't finished.

Over at the weapons gallery, Babs wonders if the negotiation was too easy. Sofia says Penguin just wanted to get them off the phone, and Selina agrees—because she can see Zsasz standing outside with a rocket launcher. He then proceeds to blow up their building. The Sirens escape the inferno, but now Sofia's gone and Babs is ticked at Penguin.

Sofia goes straight to Gordon with a sob story about how she underestimated Penguin. She begs for his help, claiming that if he uses the GCPD as an army, he can take out Penguin once and for all. Gordon, however, refuses to fight her war.

Meanwhile, Penguin angrily tells Martin that he'll be sent back to the orphanage soon and tells him to leave the room. Zsasz then confirms that Sirens and their business went up in smoke. Penguin resolves to unleash a crime wave to get back at Gordon for conspiring against him, but Gordon enters and says that'd be a bad idea. He then offers Penguin a deal, saying that since they both want to get rid of Sofia, he'll make sure she goes back to her father by train. Gordon says that if she comes back, he'll put her behind bars, and adds that if Penguin doesn't agree, he'll use the GCPD to take him down. 

Penguin admits that he can set aside his hatred of Sofia to avoid a bigger conflict, but asks what will happen after she's gone. Gordon says that the licenses will be over for good, but reminds Penguin that it'll mean an end to Sofia's interference. Penguin agrees to the deal, saying he's glad they could solve the dispute amicably.  

Gordon then sends Sofia on the train with Harper as an escort to make sure it goes smoothly. Zsasz relays the news of their departure to Penguin, who decides it's time to deal with Martin. However, when he goes to check on the boy, all that's left is Martin's notepad with a crude drawing and a note that he's been kidnapped.

By whom? The Sirens, of course.

Zsasz then boards the train and knocks out Harper before asking Sofia where Martin is. Sofia replies that he's alive, and if Penguin wants to keep him alive, he'll meet her under the Crown Bridge in an hour.

One hour later, the two of them meet under the bridge, accompanied by Zsasz, the Sirens, and Martin. Sofia tells Penguin that she'll give him the boy in exchange for control of the underworld. Penguin replies that even her father would be disgusted by the idea of using a child as a pawn, but Sofia says he'll be proud. Penguin mocks her for chasing her father's approval. "I myself can't relate," he gloats, "seeing as my parents loved me without condition." 

(It's interesting to note that he's right. Despite all of Penguin's flaws, he was raised by a loving mother and was accepted as an adult by his father even though the latter was previously unaware of his existence—a far cry from the actions of Penguin's parents in Batman Returns.)

But I digress. Penguin agrees to the deal and tells Martin to wait in the car. He then tells Sofia that it was smart of her to use the boy. Penguin admits that his heart is his greatest weakness but insists that he won't let Martin be a pawn any longer. He then pulls out a detonator and blows up the car. 

As the Sirens and Sofia stare at the blaze, dumbstruck, Zsasz opens fire. "You want a war?" Penguin screams. "You've got one!"

After Sofia and the Sirens flee the scene, Selina says that Sofia lost, but Sofia insists that they can still win the war despite losing the battle. They need to strike soon, while Penguin is still getting ready. Sofia tells the Sirens that if they don't back her, they'll never get any of the city. She also points out that they need her since their business is in ashes.

Back at the Iceberg Lounge, Martin emerges. A flashback reveals that there was a secret exit in the car that allowed Martin to climb down and escape into a tunnel. Penguin apologizes for being harsh with Martin and tells the boy that Zsasz has to take him somewhere safe and far away. Martin doesn't want to go, which leads to a genuinely touching scene.

Zsasz asks Penguin if anyone else can take Martin out of Gotham and points out that they need to take out Sofia, but Penguin insists that he needs his best man keeping Martin safe.

Plot B: The Narrows Dream Team

What has Lee Tompkins been doing since we last saw her? Apparently, holding court in the Narrows with Ed Nygma to settle the disputes of her subjects (for lack of a better term). It's interesting to see her version of authority contrasted with Penguin's. While Penguin sees himself as the "king of Gotham" again, Lee never asked for her position and doesn't think of herself as a queen. She still thinks of herself as a doctor, concerned with fixing other people's problems, and it shows in this first scene. 

Two Narrows citizens approach Lee with an argument over territory. One runs dogfights, while the other runs cockfights. As the two residents bicker, one draws a knife. Nygma (who's impatient that Lee is focusing more on helping the Narrows than curing his mental problems) advises her to stay out of it. "If she stabs him, it's resolved," he states. But Lee wants to show the Narrows that disputes can be settled diplomatically, so she breaks up the fight and orders the two fight-owners to partner up and work together. Lee also asks one of the residents how his daughter is doing after a visit to the clinic and is pleased to hear that she's recovering.

Note: this scene makes me think of two things. The first is a quote from Princess Diaries 2 when Queen Clarisse advises Mia on how to hold court: "One has to be fair and very honest. Even if you can't help, you have to show the people you care." The second is 1 Kings 3:16-28, which tells an account of how Solomon settled a dispute between two women who were arguing over possession of a baby. In the same way that the people of Israel were in awe of Solomon's wisdom and obeyed his command, the people of the Narrows respect Lee's counsel and follow her orders.

The next person to approach Lee is a badly beaten man, who tells her that a Narrows crime boss named Samson beat him up because he (the man) wouldn't pay a protection fee. Nygma tells Lee that Sampson's testing her power, and if she wants to show that she won't be pushed around, she should just send Grundy to deal with him. But once again, Lee decides to take a more diplomatic route.

She and Nygma visit Sampson. Lee reminds Sampson that he and Cherry had a deal, and she expects him to continue to honor it. Sampson insists that he's not going to negotiate, even when she offers him 10 percent of the profits from fight night. He points out that since Lee is an outsider and Nygma is a "has-been," they don't have much sway with him.

However, when he begins to cough up blood into a handkerchief (the vague go-to symptom in any genre), Lee claims that he's got a case of "Narrows Lung" and will be dead in a few days without treatment. She offers to give him and his people help free of charge but points out that if he refuses her deal, she'll just renegotiate with whoever replaces him. Sampson agrees to the deal, but on the condition that he gets 30 percent of fight night.

Later on, Nygma pesters Lee, asking why she didn't just let Sampson die. And, after they find her clinic trashed and raided, it seems like he's definitely got a point. Nygma repeats that it's time they do things his way, without diplomacy, and send Grundy in. However, Lee counters that she's got a better idea.

She and Nygma approach Sampson again, who mocks her for trusting him. In turn, she tells him he has a single day to clear out of the Narrows. When Sampson refuses, Lee reveals that she had his drink poisoned thirty minutes ago and the effects will kick in soon. At first he thinks it's a bluff, until he begins to cough and look extremely ill. Lee offers Sampson the only antidote on the condition that he leaves, and he hurriedly agrees to the deal.

Back at the fight club, Nygma complains that it was Lee who fixed the problem. He bemoans the fact that Sampson was right; he really is just a has-been. Lee says he's wrong and decides that since Nygma trusted her judgment, she'll trust him with the truth: her tests show that the initial damage from the ice has worn off. Whatever Nygma's problem is, it's psychological. She even points out that Nygma repeatedly warned her that Sampson would double-cross her, proving that his intellect is back. This leads to a sweet moment where we see a glimpse of Nygma's old self come through.

But when Nygma later goes to the bathroom to wash up, a hallucination of the Riddler appears in the mirror and begins to mock him. 

The Verdict
Plot C: I didn't mind this plot too much, given that it wasn't the main focus of the episode. However, I think the Pyg plot may have already run its course. Professor Pyg is a good villain, but I'm worried that if they use him too much in this season, it'll be a repeat of what happened last year with Mad Hatter. Mad Hatter was a decent villain, but I felt like he should've been limited to a two-episode arc. Instead, his storyline stretched across the entire first half of the season (and affected the outcome of the second half as well).

As I said, Pyg's a good villain, but I fail to see him being a major player in this season, like Sofia Falcone (or Ra's al Ghul, if he returns). That being said, it doesn't make sense to give him this much screen time. I'm hoping that the next appearance of Pyg will be his last—not because I dislike the character, but because I think it's time to start focusing on bigger, more important story arcs for this season.

Plot A: It's nice to see that Sofia, for the most part, has dropped her act of innocence. However, I wasn't sure how I felt about her larger plan. Most of it made sense, except for how much it relied on Gordon and the GCPD backing her up. But if she's still learning to follow in her father's footsteps, it makes sense that she might make mistakes. This is, after all, her first attempt at a takeover. I'm also glad to see that Gordon isn't backing down from his decision to cut off his partnership (and potential relationship) with Sofia. I just hope his common sense lasts.

The main thing I loved about this plot was Penguin's relationship with Martin. When the boy was first introduced, I thought he was just your typical sociopathic child stock character. However, his youth and vulnerability brought out a different, almost paternal side of Penguin. Their relationship is a good reminder that Penguin is someone who craves attention, friendship and compassion.

Plot B: Gotham has a knack for creating unexpected interactions between characters. And I've got to say, I'm loving this friendship between Lee and Nygma. As much as selfish as Nygma is, it really seems like he wants Lee to succeed. And like she said, he trusted her judgment, even when she made the wrong choice initially. He put his respect for her leadership over his personal safety, which would've been at risk if Sampson took over.

But the Riddler's return heralds another internal conflict for Nygma. So although I hope that he'll fight off his darker impulses and stay friends with Lee, I doubt that's the route the show is going to take. But given that we already saw Nygma struggle with his darker side in season 2, the writers will need to make an effort to differentiate this storyline from that one in a clear way. If Nygma goes full-on Riddler again, I want there to be a compelling reason for the change.

As for Lee, I'm pretty happy with what they've done with the character. It's cool to see her in this role of authority, doing unethical things but for the greater good. I also hope she fixes her clinic up again, and I'll tell you why: assuming that Bruce quits being a jerk and goes back to being a vigilante, I'd love to see him coming to her for medical help after a fight, mask or not. 

That's it for "Things That Go Boom." All in all, not a bad way to set up for the winter finale. No Bruce and Alfred in this episode, but that's probably for the best. There's only so much of Bruce's billionaire-brat phase I can take, and that will be returning in the next episode anyway. 

Got an opinion on Sofia's plan? Pyg's identity? Lee and Nygma's partnership? Leave a comment below. And with that, I leave you to whatever's left of your finals and wish you:


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