Wednesday, February 6, 2019

'Gotham' Recap: "Pena Dura" (5x05)

Welcome back to another recap of Gotham: Legend of the Dark Knight—or, as I like to call it, Gotham: How Many Plot Twists Can We Fit in Twelve Episodes? 

This week's episode is "Pena Dura," which is likely a reference to Peña Duro, a prison from DC Comics that ties into the backstory of a certain Batman villain (fun fact: both phrases are Spanish for "hard sentence").

The episode "Pena Dura" revolves around two plots: Gordon's attempt to capture Edward Nygma with the help of an old friend, and Bruce's growing concern about the change in Selina.

Plot A: With Friends Like These . . .

The episode opens with an old man watching a black and white film on a projector. Gordon and Bullock enter the room, guns drawn, and tell him to turn around. The man asks if there's a problem, and Gordon replies that they want to know about the RPG he sold to the Haven bomber. The RPG dealer then calls in his goons, who are heavily armed, and asks who told Gordon about his business.

Before Gordon can answer, a SWAT team crashes in through the ceiling and takes down the RPG dealer's goons. Gordon tackles the dealer, who almost stabs him. But before he can take Gordon down, the dealer is promptly shot by a man with a helmet and a scarf over his face. The man steps forward pulls the scarf down.

Gordon recognizes the man as Eduardo Dorrance, an old friend from his days in the army. Eduardo tells his team to stand down. When Gordon thanks him for saving his life, Eduardo replies that it's the least he could do after Gordon saved his life in the army.

Back at the GCPD, Eduardo tells Gordon that Walker (the army woman that Gordon spoke to over the radio last episode) sent him and his team to do flash sweeps across the city. Gordon points out that the refugees still need relief and supplies, but Eduardo says his orders are to "Restore order, then take the next steps."

Eduardo's sergeant brings him a ledger that belonged to the RPG dealer. Gordon spots the name "Edward Nygma" under an order for two RPGs. Eduardo notes that Nygma's name is on a list Walker gave to him (presumably a list of threats). Gordon decides to take Eduardo with him to confront Nygma and tells Bullock to stay at the GCPD and help some of the army guys get integrated into the precinct. When Bullock retorts that he's not a desk jockey, Gordon replies that he needs Bullock to stay at the GCPD and take over if things go sideways.

Elsewhere, the Riddler listens to the old tapes he left for himself after blacking out. As he listens, he becomes frustrated and begins to yell at himself in the mirror, shouting that the situation doesn't make sense. The only people "Ed" ever killed were Kristen Kringle and Dougherty, people he had a personal connection to. It doesn't make sense that he would kill all of those innocent people and children. Riddler then tells himself that Ed is the one responsible, not him.

Riddler is then distracted by the sound of someone coming in. He tries to run, but Gordon and Eduardo have already entered the room. Gordon says the Riddler's under arrest, but Riddler says he can explain what happened and prove his innocence if he just has more time. He reminds Gordon that he only kills people who hurt him first (which is mostly true, if you don't count the cop he killed in season 2 to frame Gordon for murder). Eduardo tells Gordon that it's his call whether they take in Riddler or not.

Gordon says they'll take him and have him stand trial. The Riddler isn't a fan of this idea (which is fair, considering what happened to Zsasz). He then pulls a book out of the bookshelf, which triggers a ticking noise. He reveals that Eduardo is standing on a tile connected to an IED (improvised explosive device), which is connected to a heart monitor on the Riddler. If Eduardo moves, or if Riddler's heartbeat goes up or down suddenly, the IED will detonate. Riddler adds that since the IED can be triggered from a mile away, they won't shoot him down when he leaves the building.

Gordon says that when people find out the Riddler blew up Haven, everyone will be after him, but Riddler says he'll take his chances and exits.

"A heart rate monitor bomb?" Eduardo says skeptically.

"Welcome to Gotham," Gordon replies.

Gordon then decides that the key to neutralizing the IED must be in the bookcase. He steps across the furniture to avoid disturbing the tiles and sees that the book the Riddler pulled is about a knight's moves in chess. He then uses his knowledge of how a knight's move works to find another book on chess strategies and pulls it out. The beeping stops and Gordon steps carefully onto the floor. They're safe.

Bullock then asks, over walkie-talkie, if they got the Riddler. Gordon replies that they didn't and tells him to spread the word that the Riddler is behind the Haven bombing and must be found.

Gordon himself announces the news over loudspeakers. At the same time, the Riddler sneaks around the streets, trying to avoid the mobs of people that are now out for his blood. Unfortunately, someone spots him and knocks him out.

Over at City Hall, Penguin gets the news about the Riddler bombing Haven and looks visibly distraught.

Back at the GCPD, Eduardo says that his team is clearing the streets and will probably find the Riddler by nightfall (a nice little verbal easter egg if you've ever heard of or read Batman: Knightfall). He asks Gordon to tell him about Scarecrow, who's also on Walker's list. Gordon explains that Scarecrow weaponizes a fear toxin and Eduardo's men will need gas masks if and when they face him. He says that taking down Scarecrow would be a "big win," and Eduardo replies, "That's why we're here."

Elsewhere, the Riddler wakes up tied to a metal chair that's somehow connected to an old truck (a makeshift electrical chair, if you will). A middle-aged woman says she's gonna kill him and gives him a shock. She says it's just a taste of what's coming, as Riddler deserves to die slow and painfully for what he did to JoJo.

Who's JoJo, you ask? Not a kid. Not an adult. It's her DOG. 

The Riddler asks if she's joking, since 300 actual people died in the explosion. He insults her for caring so much about her pet, and she shocks him again. This time, when the electricity hits him, he has a vision of Penguin leaning down over him and saying, "I'm gonna fix you, Ed."

The woman and her sons (who are running the truck) continue to shock the Riddler, and he keeps seeing Penguin saying the same thing. Suddenly, the makeshift electrical chair stops working. The Riddler, in a plea worthy of Briar Rabbit, begs them not to electrocute him and says, "Thank God the fuel line's clogged." The woman takes the bait and tells her sons to unclog the line. As soon as they do, gasoline spills out, hits the sparks, and the car catches on fire—providing the Riddler a distraction to escape.

Not long after this, Penguin's men tell him that the army is coming his way. He replies that it's just scouts and not a full-on invasion, so there's nothing for him to worry about. He then tells his men that they still need to find the Riddler and that the one who finds him "gets to live."

After they leave, Penguin tells Edward the Bulldog that he's "surrounded by morons" and that if he didn't have an empire to run, he'd find the Riddler himself. He then notices an uncovered vent and turns around, just in time to see the Riddler standing over him with a gun. The Riddler, who's angry at Penguin (and also annoyed that the mob boss named the bulldog after him), says they need to talk.

Meanwhile, Bullock tells Gordon that Harper saw the Riddler going into City Hall. Eduardo says that Penguin is at the top of his list from Walker and that catching both him and the Riddler would be a big victory. Gordon replies that Penguin is better fortified than anyone else and they'll need "shock and awe" to defeat him.

Gordon then tells Eduardo to take Bullock with him while Gordon holds down the fort at the GCPD (figuratively speaking).

In City Hall, the Riddler asks what Penguin did to him and says that it's Penguin's fault he killed all of those people. He tells him about the blackouts and accuses Penguin of turning him into a "murderous puppet." Penguin replies that he has no clue what the Riddler's talking about. When Riddler says he remembers Penguin talking about "fixing him," Penguin explains that he took the Riddler to Professor Hugo Strange and told the doctor to save his life.

Penguin then says that Strange is likely behind the Riddler's odd and violent behavior. Riddler asks why Penguin would pay Strange to save him. Penguin replies that, in spite of everything that happened between them, Riddler was the only friend he had left.

In an oddly heartwarming moment, Penguin says that if he wanted the Riddler to suffer, he wouldn't go behind his back to do it. He says that the next time they're in conflict with each other, the Riddler will know that Penguin is his enemy. Almost tearing up, Penguin steps forward, so that Riddler's gun touches his chest, and says that he promises this "as a friend."

Riddler takes the gun away and promises the same—"I will stare you in the eye as I stab you in the heart," he says.

Penguin smiles. He tells Riddler to look on the bright side: if Strange did something to the Riddler's mind, it means that the Riddler's not really the one responsible for bombing Haven. Riddler asks where Strange is. Before Penguin can reply, the building begins to shake, and one of his henchmen says that the army has blown the gates. Penguin, in a hilarious turnaround, tells the man to give the army what they want: the Riddler.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), the Riddler has disappeared. Bullock and Eduardo's team enter City Hall, but rather than submit, Penguin merely asks if Bullock has enough bullets to last through a standoff this time around. Bullock tells him that they just want the Riddler, not the Penguin's territory. He tells them to leave if they don't want to be shot down on the count of three.

"Count," Bullock says. Penguin says that he's not thinking clearly and should call Gordon. Bullock says he's good and again tells Penguin to count. Penguin says one, and his men are promptly shot down by snipers.

Meanwhile, the Riddler is brought into the Sirens' Club by Barbara's minions. He says that he needs information, which is her specialty. She replies by bringing a knife to his throat and threatening to cut his face into a jigsaw puzzle for what he did to Haven. The Riddler then points out that he's never done anything as "idiotically brutal" as blow up 300 people with an RPG, and says that he didn't "exactly" kill all those people. He tells her his theory that Hugo Strange did something to his mind and now someone else is controlling him.

Barbara asks why she would help him, even if she did believe his crazy story. He replies that he can give her more of what she deals in: information. If he is being controlled, then Hugo Strange (and anyone else he's working with), are responsible for Haven. Once the Riddler figures out the truth, he can give Barbara "the best intel she's ever had." Barbara replies that she doesn't know where Strange is, but she knows where to find his henchmen.

Back at the GCPD, Eduardo beats the Penguin and demands to know where the Riddler is. Penguin says he'll talk to Gordon but not with Eduardo around. Gordon agrees, and Eduardo steps out.

Penguin then tells Gordon that the Riddler was a patsy. Gordon asks who set him up, and Penguin agrees to tell Gordon as long as he (Penguin) goes free. Gordon points out that even if Penguin walks now, the army will come after him later. Penguin simply says that he'll "take his chances."

Gordon agrees to the deal. After Penguin leaves, Eduardo says that he hopes Gordon didn't make a mistake.

Elsewhere in Gotham, Strange's men bring him a body bag, presumably filled with a corpse to experiment on. However, as soon as they open the bag, the Riddler pops out.

The Riddler asks Strange how he took control of the "Ed Nygma" half of his personality. Strange claims not to know anything about the Riddler's alter ego or personality disorder but admits that when he was putting the Riddler back together, he put a chip in his brain that "allows him to be controlled remotely." He says that he's not the one who controls the Riddler and says he'll write the name of the person who's doing the controlling.

However, instead of grabbing a pen, Strange sprays the Riddler with a knockout drug and then remarks that he'll have to open the Riddler up to see how he learned he was being controlled and then reboot the control chip.

Over in City Hall, Penguin opens a secret compartment to an underground bunker and climbs down into it (with Edward the Bulldog in tow). The bunker is filled with cases of various supplies. Penguin tells the dog that it's time for "a change of scenery."

Back at the lab, Strange sees the problem: the control chip was overloaded by electricity. He says he's updated the chip and will "pass the news along to [the Riddler's] handler."

Gordon then arrives with Eduardo and a team of soldiers. Gordon points his gun at Strange and demands to know what's going on. He also notices that the Riddler's eyes are open. Strange explains that he gave the Riddler a "biomedical anesthesia." Gordon tells Strange to wake him up. Strange gives the Riddler another spritz from the same bottle.

The Riddler, who seems to have been conscious for the entire operation, screams. He then tells Gordon about the control chip. Strange tells Gordon that he got a contract from someone to put the chip in the Riddler's mind.

Before Strange can tell Gordon who the contract is with, Eduardo pulls a gadget out of his pocket and uses it to stop the Riddler in his tracks.

He then tells his men to escort Strange out and tells Gordon that this is a "need-to-know" situation. He adds that Walker wants the Riddler taken out now.

Gordon surmises that Walker's responsible to what happened to the Riddler and therefore responsible for the Haven bombing. Eduardo says they can't question orders and that Walker wants Gordon to shoot the Riddler. He claims that it'll be a "proof of loyalty before she can move forward with final relief plans."

When Gordon keeps asking about whether or not Walker targeted Haven, Eduardo levels his gun at him and says that he'll shoot Gordon if Gordon doesn't shoot the Riddler. He says that the mission comes before their friendship.

Gordon sets down his gun and says he "saved [Eduardo's] life one too many times." The comment distracts Eduardo long enough for Gordon to hit Eduardo and run off.

Eduardo then tells the Riddler to find Gordon and kill him. The Riddler, still under the control of the chip, nods and sets off to find Gordon.

Plot B: Cat Among the Pigeons

Bruce meets Alfred in the GCPD. Alfred tells him that Gordon and Bullock have a solid lead on the bomber, but Bruce doesn't seem interested in hearing about it. He tells Alfred that he can't find Selina, and he's worried. Alfred says that Selina can take care of herself, but Bruce says that she's not acting like herself, especially not since she killed Jeremiah.

Alfred replies that Jeremiah did deserve to die, but Bruce frustratedly retorts that Jeremiah made Selina into a murderer, just like Ra's made him into one. Alfred, however, argues that the two situations were different. While Ra's goaded Bruce into killing him and used him as an instrument, Selina knew what she was doing and made a choice—and Bruce needs to respect that.

Later on, Bruce goes looking for Selina at the Sirens' Club. Barbara leads him to her and raises a toast "to the killer of Jeremiah Valeska." Everyone joins in except Bruce, who stares at Selina. She nursing takes a shot and stares back at him.

The scene is an interesting visual parallel to one in season 4, when Selina saw Bruce drinking with his friends in the Sirens' Club (in the wake of Bruce killing Ra's and trying to drown out the pain with partying and booze).

Now their roles are reversed—with Selina being the aloof one and Bruce trying to get through to her.

Selina says Bruce is being a buzzkill. He replies that he knows her and that she's not acting like herself. She refutes this in the most brutal way: by reminding Bruce that the night his parents were murdered, she was in that alley, watching from a fire escape, and she did nothing to stop it, not even scream or call for help. Bruce says it was because she was scared, but Selina replies that he was the scared kid that night: she just didn't do anything because she didn't want to stick her neck out for someone else and because she didn't care. 

"That's who I was then, and that's who I am now," she replies. She then gets up, leaving Bruce alone at the bar.

A little bit later, Bruce goes to the GCPD looking for Gordon. He finds Bullock instead and notes that he noticed the soldiers downstairs. Bullock replies that the army finally decided to help and that Gordon's out working with some of them. He then notices that Bruce has tears in his eyes and asks if he's alright.

Bruce replies that he doesn't know and tells Bullock that it seems like the people he (Bruce) loves "are losing their will to do good." He asks Bullock what will happen if Gotham and its people never recover.

Bullock says that he's wondered the same thing. He tells Bruce that when he's worried about it, he goes through his old case files and gets to work. Bruce asks why he does it. Bullock replies that it keeps him going, because it reminds him that "the little things matter," even if no one notices what he does or cares about it. Bruce thanks him for the talk. Bullock replies that if Bruce wants to do him a favor, he should get him some coffee—but as soon as he looks up, he sees that Bruce has disappeared.

Later in Gotham, somewhere deep underground, Jeremiah lies with his eyes closed. Ecco and his followers are nearby in some sort of tunnel. She tells him to wake up.

"Ouch," he mutters, still sore from being stitched up after the last episode. Ecco says he wouldn't have needed the stitches if he'd worn the armor she made for him, but Jeremiah replies that he had to let Selina stab him so she and Bruce would think he was dead. He asks if Ecco has news and she replies that "all systems go." Jeremiah, frustrated and anxious to get to work, angrily tells her to lead the way.

They walk out of the tunnel into a room that, if I'm not mistaken, appears to be Bruce's study in Wayne Manor. The tunnel entrance is right where the passage to the (proto) bat-cave used to be in season 2, and it seems as if Jeremiah's been expanding it to link to a network of tunnels.

In the study are a doctor and two patients, the latter sitting in chairs with bandages covering their heads. Jeremiah asks the doctor to remove the bandages so he can see the results. The doctor complies, and we see Jeremiah looking down at the backs of two familiar adults.

Their faces aren't visible to the audience, but as someone who's rewatched the opening scene of the pilot several times, I know the back of those heads like the back of my hand. It's clear that these patients have been surgically remodeled to look like Thomas and Martha Wayne.

"I love family reunions, don't you?" Jeremiah says.

The Verdict

Plot A: First off, let me just say that I'm glad that the Riddler doesn't have a third personality and isn't really responsible for what happened to Haven. Those were both things I was worried about.

On a related note, it's an interesting twist that Walker ordered the attack on Haven and used it as an excuse to send Eduardo and his men into Gotham. I wonder what she stands to gain by taking over the city.

As for the new character of Eduardo, I was a bit taken aback that he betrayed Gordon so quickly, given their (apparent) history and friendship. Still, I thought he was an interesting foil to Gordon. Both men will do whatever they can to complete their missions, but Gordon disobeys orders that go against his moral code (whereas Eduardo doesn't seem to have much of a moral code).

I also have a bit of theorizing to do about Eduardo, so if you don't want to read it, skip this SPOILER ZONE.

If you've seen the teaser for the next episode, it's clear that Eduardo Dorrance is going to become Gotham's version of Bane. I think, however, it might be best to think of him as a forerunner to the character. After all, as a mercenary with a questionable background, it's more than likely that Eduardo might not be Bane himself, but rather the father of the original Bane from comics. In that case, Eduardo may find himself in prison by the end of the season (though whether he makes it into a cell in Santa Prisca remains to be seen).

Do I think Gotham should've brought in Bane? Personally, no. The Bane in the original Knightfall comic has a very compelling backstory that includes years of him growing up in prison (serving time for his father's crimes) and growing in strength, skill, intelligence and charisma until he becomes powerful enough to overthrow the people running the prison.

Before his breakout, he dreams of conquering one of the greatest cities in the world (Gotham) and plots to overthrow its greatest champion (Batman). His single-minded determination and focus paired with his physical strength make him not only one of Batman's most powerful enemies but also an evil counterpart to Batman himself (who, like Bane, is an incredibly intelligent character who many people write off as just a jock).

So it's hard to be as invested in this version of Bane when his backstory (an army guy who's involved in questionable missions) doesn't feel as compelling. Still, I'm trying to keep an open mind about Eduardo. And let's face it—if Batman and Robin and The Dark Knight Rises are anything to go by, Bane is a hard character to bring to live action. I appreciate that Gotham's trying to take on that challenge. Even if they don't succeed, there's no way their Bane will be as badly executed as the version in Batman and Robin.


I'd say my favorite part of Plot A was the scene between Penguin and Riddler. I don't ship the two, but I've always enjoyed seeing them interact as friends (and even as enemies). The actors (Robin Lord Taylor and Corey Michael Smith, respectively) have a certain chemistry that's really powerful.

For instance, think about the dialogue where the Penguin and Riddler promise that if they kill each other, they'll be honest. In the hands of two lesser actors, it could come off really clunky and cheesy. But with Taylor and Smith at the helm, the dialogue is heartwarming (and funny, but not so funny that the humor outweighs the emotional impact of the scene).

Oh! One last thing I almost forgot: I think everyone's overlooking Walker and Eduardo's real crime: using the chip to keep Riddler from getting a haircut (I have to believe he wouldn't keep that mop of his own accord).

Plot B: 

That's right, folks. Jeremiah Valeska is alive and kickin', just like I said. But what is his plan, you ask? Well, for that, I will refer you to the following paragraph—a.k.a. THE SPOILER ZONE.

Jeremiah's plan, according to a recently released synopsis, as seen in The Futon Critic, for "Ace Chemicals" (5x07) is to: "organize a twisted recreation of the murder of Bruce's parents."

While this is an incredibly morbid undertaking, I find it hilarious that this is probably the plan Jeremiah was arguing with himself about in 5x04.

So his thought process was basically: Hmm, do you think Bruce will appreciate it if I recreate one of the most traumatic experiences of his entire life? Absolutely! 

It'll be interesting to see how Bruce responds to Jeremiah's plan. One thing's for sure, though—he won't be happy about it.


Moving on from the subject of Jeremiah, I'm interested to see where things go with Selina this season. Camren Bicondova did a really great job in this episode, showing both the tender and callous parts of Selina.

I'm also hoping that, following this schism between her and Bruce, the two characters will have separate plotlines for most of this season. While I'm always interested to see where their relationship goes next, that relationship can't be the main focus of Bruce's arc this season if he's going to become Batman in a satisfying way.

He needs to focus on saving the city, not saving Selina. So, if and when they make up, I'd prefer it to be towards the end of the season. (Though I suppose they might run into each other before then, if Selina finds out that Jeremiah's still alive.)

All in all, I enjoyed Plot B, even if it was a little short. It's been rare, in Gotham, for Selina to have her own arc that's not secondary to someone else's (such as Bruce, Ivy, or Bridgit). So I appreciate that her season 5 arc focuses mainly on her growth and development, not someone else's.

Overall, the episode was alright. I'd probably give it a 7-8 out of 10. It's hard to judge for sure, because as soon as I saw Jeremiah on screen, the rest of the episode kind of paled in comparison. I can't wait to see him up and back at it with his evil schemes again.

Unfortunately, Gotham's taking a brief break. The next episode, "13 Stitches," won't air until Valentine's Day, so my next recap will come out on the following Wednesday, Feb. 20. (Still, that gives us all plenty of time to photoshop character valentines with Comic Sans captions.)

Until then, have a happy Valentine's Day! And remember, when in doubt, use those three little words everyone wants to hear:


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