Friday, January 2, 2015

Countdown To Gotham: Episodes 5-7

This is the third installment of a special five part series on Gotham. Whether you’re new to the show or simply want to refresh your memory, we’ll recap all ten episodes that have aired so far in time for the midseason premiere of Gotham on Monday, January 5th. Last week, we recapped episodes 2-4. In this installment, we’ll explore the next three episodes in the series. We would also like to remind readers that Gotham contains some content suited only for older viewers, and viewer discretion is advised. Trigger warning for emotional and sexual abuse. 

So far on Gotham, we’ve seen the stirrings of an upcoming war, as Falcone, the number one crime boss, weakens and others line up to take his place. We’ve seen Oswald Cobblepot scheme his way from the absolute bottom to becoming the new manager at a restaurant owned by Falcone’s number one enemy, Maroni. And we’ve seen Fish Mooney’s plan just begin to move, as she chose a young woman to be her mysterious new weapon against her boss.

Now the pieces are set. Episodes 5-7 of Gotham are widely known among fans as the turning point of the show. This is where we’ll dive head first into the motivations of the characters and watch the battle begin.

So, without further ado, let’s get started! (Spoilers ahead)

Episode 5. Viper:

Don Falcone seems surprisingly happy with the Arkham compromise. One of his men, Nicolai, urges him to hit back at Maroni so that the competition doesn’t think Maroni has won. But Falcone doesn’t think that’s necessary. Nicolai and Fish Mooney stage huge arguments in front of Falcone, which we later learn is a front. The two of them are plotting together against their boss.

Fish also continues with the other side of her plot against Falcone — turning Liza into a weapon. Whatever you think of Fish, you have to admit she’s good at emotional manipulation. She talks to Liza like a mother does to a young child, and calls her “baby girl”. But she is also very strict, doesn’t hesitate to slap the girl across the face when she displeases her, and doesn’t allow Liza to call her “Mama” yet. She has to earn that right. It’s obvious Fish doesn’t actually care for her and is only using her as a tool, and yet I can see how someone would easily fall for Fish’s ploy and go to any length to try to earn her love.

Fish teaches Liza the way she wants her to look, act, and talk. She also teaches her a song which turns out to be one that Falcone’s mother sang to him when he was young. Apparently, Fish is turning Liza into a duplicate of Falcone’s mother, only younger and sexier. The plan seems to work, as Falcone is immediately intrigued by her when he meets her out walking.

Over at his restaurant, Maroni is making plans of his own. He wants to rob Falcone’s casino to send a message of power. Oswald speaks up, saying he knows someone who could show them a secret way into the casino. In his usual friendly manner, Maroni invites Oswald over to the table. He encourages him to embrace the title “Penguin” instead of fight it, but Oswald still doesn’t seem too keen on the idea.


However, when he learns Oswald used to work for Fish, Maroni’s friendly façade drops, and he beats him. He orders that Jim be brought to the restaurant. When he arrives, Maroni asks Jim to tell him a story — and it better be the same story Oswald told. If not, Maroni will kill both of them, since he won’t know which one is lying. Jim tells the story of how he faked Oswald’s death in order to make it look like he was cooperating with Falcone and the GCPD, and how everyone still thinks Oswald is dead. Maroni is satisfied and lets Jim go. He decides to use Oswald to find out Fish’s secrets, and also robs the casino with his help.

Meanwhile, Bruce is pursuing a hobby that Alfred definitely does not approve of. He’s continuing to try to solve the mystery of his parents’ murder, and is now investigating the Arkham papers for a possible connection.


How did Falcone and Maroni get such big shares in the deal in the first place? Surely his parents didn’t make deals with mob bosses. Is someone inside Wayne Enterprises involved in activity that goes against his parents’ wishes for the company? When Alfred tells him that Wayne Enterprises is holding a charity ball, Bruce says he would like to attend it so he can ask a few questions. Though he’s impressed at how fast the boy is learning, Alfred doesn’t think this investigation is healthy, and threatens to burn all the papers. Bruce orders him not to burn them, and Alfred obeys. I find it interesting that, although Alfred is Bruce’s legal guardian, he still accepts the young boy’s orders, as a butler would do for his employer.

Jim and Harvey face a very unusual case when they hear that a homeless man walked into a store, drank their milk, and left with the ATM machine after ripping it out with his bare hands.

When they find the guy, he threatens them by lifting up a car, before his entire body seems to fold up into a fabric-like heap on the ground, dead.

Soon, more people begin exhibiting the same symptoms. The effects come from an inhaled drug called Viper, which is being handed out at random on the streets by a man with a mangled ear. Captain Essen wonders what motivation the man would have in handing out such a drug for free, as those who take it die long before they can become addicted and seek more. Eddie analyzes traces of the drug they found on the homeless man’s guitar case. He finds that the drug causes the body to burn calcium from the bones as fuel. To replace the calcium, the person is driven to drink as much milk as they can. But they can’t drink fast enough and the bones crumble. Such a drug could only be made at WellZyn’s state of the art lab, which is a company connected to Wayne Enterprises.


Taylor Reece of WellZyn volunteers to come to the station to avoid suspicion, and threatens legal action if any connection is insinuated between her company and the drug-related deaths. She recognizes the description of the man with the mangled ear as an ex-employee, Stan Potolsky. She says he made shampoo until he became unstable and tried to cut off his ear. She sends over some belongings he left at work. Among these belongings is a picture of Potolsky with his philosophy professor. They decide to pay him a visit.

The professor knows a good deal about Potolsky and says he did not make shampoo as Reece claimed. Instead, he made chemical weapons that could create super soldiers. The first chemical he made, Viper, killed whoever inhaled it. His second attempt, Venom, was more successful. Potolsky had philosophical problems with his job, but wasn’t allowed to quit until Thomas and Martha Wayne shut down the operation. Unfortunately, it started up again after the Wayne’s death, and he decided to resort to drastic measures.

Jim and Harvey discover that Potolsky’s professor is in on the plan. He tells them that Potolsky is about to issue a statement that won’t be ignored. He then inhales a hidden vial of Viper and attacks the two detectives. After they defeat the professor, Jim realizes that Potolsky plans to use the Wayne charity ball to show WellZyn and Wayne Enterprises for what they really are. He heads to the ball immediately.

At the ball, Bruce is disappointed to find he won’t get to ask questions to any Wayne Enterprise board members, as they have sent middle management to appear for them. And the woman from middle management seems more interested in bragging about how much money the company is making than answering any of Bruce’s questions.

Suddenly, their conversation is interrupted by Potolsky hijacking the screens. “It seems bad things only truly happen when they happen to important people. Like you,” he says, pumping Viper into the room’s ventilation.


Alfred protects Bruce from the fumes, and everyone begins evacuating the building. Jim finds Potolsky outside. He tells him to turn off the Viper, but he refuses. Jim threatens to shoot, but Potolsky doesn’t care and says his work is done. Jim shoots the canister of viper which sprays Potolsky. Potolsky tells him to look in warehouse 39, and jumps off the building.

Later, Jim and Harvey check out warehouse 39. They find it empty. Outside, the woman from middle management is watching them.

Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred apparently has decided he no longer disapproves of Bruce’s hobby, and sits down to help him look through the files.


Episode 6. Spirit of the Goat:

At the beginning of Gotham’s sixth episode, we go back ten years in the past to find a… very different Harvey Bullock than the one we know now. He’s eager, rebellious, idealistic. In fact, he seems strangely like Jim Gordon, intent on going against Gotham’s Golden Rule of “No Heroes”.

He and his partner, Detective Dix, are on a case chasing down a serial killer who believes himself to be possessed by an angry goat spirit. The killer, who they have identified as Randall Milkie, targets the firstborn children of wealthy families. Milkie, who worked air conditioning, had keys to all his victims’ houses. He would take them in the night, sacrifice them in a candlelit ceremony, and sew pennies into the heads of the bodies. Now, Harvey and Dix believe they have finally tracked him down. Harvey goes against his partner’s warning, and heads in without back-up. Dix follows. Harvey ends up killing Randall Milkie, but not before his partner is seriously injured. Before his death, Randall Milkie says his body may die, but the Spirit of the Goat will return.

Fast forward to present day. The Spirit of the Goat seems to have indeed returned, as once again, firstborn children of wealthy families are being taken from their homes and sacrificed. All over the city, worried parents are fleeing with their children until the serial killer is caught. Alfred attempts to convince Bruce to leave the city temporarily as well, but to no avail. He has work to do. And besides, he says, “There’s no one to take me from.” Once you see Alfred’s reaction to that, you won’t soon forget it.


Bruce is something of a son to Alfred. Apparently, Alfred is still just a butler in Bruce’s eyes.

Meanwhile, Jim and Harvey are talking to Robert Hastings, the father of the latest victim, to get information. They see him clenching and unclenching his fist. The family therapist steps in, stating that Mr. Hastings is in no emotional state to deal with this kind of tragedy.

Everyone on the new Goat Spirit case marvels at just how similar it is to the one ten years ago. All the details are the same, down to the penny sewed into the victims’ heads — a detail that was never revealed to the public. The only ones who knew about the pennies was the old Goat himself Randall Milkie (now deceased), the old medical examiner (also deceased), Harvey, and his old partner Dix. They decide to pay the old detective a visit.

Dix is bitter at Harvey for the disabilities he suffers, since he probably would not have been injured if Harvey had just waited for back-up. Harvey seems to blame himself as well, as Jim discovers Harvey is supporting Dix financially (As well as buying him porn, but what can you expect from Harvey Bullock charity?). Dix warns Jim about Harvey, saying he thinks he’s a white knight. Concerning the case, he says he didn’t tell anyone about the sewn pennies. Whoever the new goat is must have been someone who was involved with the old goat ten years ago.

Jim and Harvey get a maintenance employee list to see who had keys to the victims’ houses. They narrow the list of suspects down to Raymond Earl, who they find in the same building in which the last “Goat” was caught. A fight ensues in which Jim saves Harvey, and they bring the guy in alive.

Harvey is struggling to disbelieve in the Goat Spirit, as he discovers Earl, like Milkie, has no history of violence. He says it’s like something “found them”, rather than committing the crimes of their own accord. Harvey discovers that both men also had a history of mental illness. He notices Earl clenching his fist repeatedly, similar to what Mr. Hastings was doing after his daughter died. Repeatedly clenching one’s fist is a tactic Dr. Marks, the Hastings’ hypnotherapist, teaches her patients. When they are about to react violently due to trauma they’ve suffered, or have the urge to do something inappropriate, they can clench their fist instead and avoid the negative reaction or behavior.

Harvey puts the pieces together and heads over to talk to Dr. Marks, who he learns treated all three men. She admits to hypnotizing both Milkie and Earl into becoming the Goat, as an act of therapy for Gotham. But she also points out that you can’t hypnotize anyone to do something they don’t already want to do. “And deep down, we all want to eat the rich.” She sets Mr. Hastings on him (who she has also hypnotized to kill), and tries to escape during the fight. Harvey knocks out Mr. Hastings, and shoots Dr. Marks in the ankle before she can get away.

Meanwhile, Eddie has developed a crush on his coworker, Kristin Kringle. Unfortunately, he’s not exactly good with women…


He finally goes too far when he decides to be, er, nice, and reorganize all of her files. Needless to say, she gets extremely angry with him, and thinks he must be trying to drive her to quit. Eddie, realizing his behavior has been inappropriate, apologizes and leaves. Poor Eddie. (And poor Kristen…)

In one quick scene, we watch Cat sneak in and steal something from the Wayne manor.

Oswald finally visits home to let his mom know he is still alive. He assures her that he has not been taken in by any “painted ladies”, and she cries joyfully when she learns there is no other woman in his life. She asks him if he’s been involved in any illegal activity, and Oswald says he has not. He tells her people have been very cruel to him, and that he’s going to become somebody that people will know deserves respect. His mother assumes it must be “the bullies again”, and reminds him not to trust anybody except her. Oswald tells her there’s a cop he thinks he can trust, but she’s still suspicious.

Montoya and Allen feel they have all they need to convict Jim when they find a homeless man who claims to have witnessed him kill Oswald. Meanwhile, Barbara has newfound confidence in Jim after he agrees to open up to her more. She looks for Montoya and offers to give her information to clear her fiancé’s name. Montoya refuses and tells her that, after Jim is arrested, Barbara should leave Gotham. She then says never to come to her again.

At their apartment, Barbara asks Jim to run away with her. She informs him that the MCU has a warrant for his arrest, and she doesn’t want him to go to jail. He refuses and insists on facing whatever consequences the MCU has in store for him. Montoya and Allen arrest him and Harvey. But a surprise awaits all of them at the police station. Standing there for all to see is the “murder victim” himself, Oswald Cobblepot.


Episode 7. Penguin's Umbrella:

Jim’s secret — that he faked Oswald’s death — is revealed to all, and a very angry Harvey Bullock confronts him. Harvey has every intention of killing Jim right there and then so he can take the dead body to Falcone and plead for mercy. Jim disarms him, however. And whatever wrath Falcone has for Jim’s deception will most likely fall on Harvey as well.

When Fish Mooney hears Oswald is still alive, she’s livid and demands Jim be brought to her at once. Jim comes home to find Barbara being threatened by Fish’s men. When they refuse to leave, Jim shoots one and knocks the other out, and takes Barbara to the train station. It’s not safe for her to be in Gotham, and he insists she leaves. He promises to join her later, but if he doesn’t, tells her not to come back to the city.

Since Fish’s attempt to fetch Jim didn’t work, she decides to appeal to Falcone next. Continuing their staged fighting, Fish and Nicolai work off of each other to convince Falcone he should kill both Jim and Oswald. He agrees to send Victor Zsasz to fetch Jim alive, but insists that Fish ask Maroni nicely for Oswald. Falcone’s calmness, along with the fact that he seems to be using Liza as only a maid rather than a confidant, worries Fish. She wonders if there’s something he knows that no one else does.

Fish follows Falcone’s request and pays Maroni a visit, asking politely for Oswald. She doesn’t want Maroni to get suspicious and realize she is actually trying to protect the vast array of secrets Oswald knows about her, so she instead pretends the reason she wants him back is because he disrespected her. Maroni refuses to hand him over to her punishment, but has Oswald apologize. Fish angrily threatens them and leaves.

After asking politely doesn’t work, Falcone agrees to go for tougher measures to get Oswald back from Maroni. He kidnaps nuns to use as a human chain, and refuses to let any of Maroni’s trucks pass the bridge until he hands over Oswald. Maroni is still reluctant to hand Oswald over, however, as he sees him as his own personal Golden Goose.

(Source: Buzzfeed/Fox)

Oh, Oswald, you poor awkward child.

Maroni instead wants to push back against Falcone, and Oswald says he knows just how to do it. He leads a few of Maroni’s men to where Nicolai is, and they kill him.

One of Maroni’s men, Carbone, is suspicious of Oswald. He doesn’t trust him enough to believe he’s actually loyal to Maroni. And since Maroni isn’t present, Carbone plans to kill Oswald and frame it as an accident. It looks as if Oswald has finally got himself in over his head and is about to pay the price, but it turns out he still has a trick up his sleeve. Oswald tells Carbone that, when you know what a man loves, you know what can kill him. Carbone loves money. So much that he doesn’t pay his men well enough for them to be loyal to him. As proof of this, Carbone’s men hold him while Oswald stabs him repeatedly.


As soon as Oswald is sure he has fully conquered his enemy, his demeanor changes from angry to strangely motherly. He tells the dying man that “Love conquers all”, as he strokes his hair and kisses the top of his head. The other men exchange odd looks.

A meeting is held between Falcone and Maroni to try to stop the battle over Oswald. Falcone will let Maroni keep Oswald, if Maroni will give him something in return as a sign of good faith. Oswald suggests Maroni give Falcone a piece of land known as Indian Hill, and they all agree.

Next we meet an absolutely fantastic villain, Victor Zsasz, who relishes killing and keeps a tally of his victims by cutting a mark into his arm.

This is the man Falcone sent to fetch Jim. And since everyone is both afraid of Zsasz and angry at Jim for faking a murder, they hand Jim over to him easily when he arrives at the station. Jim puts up a fight, but things don’t go well for him. He’s rescued, surprisingly, by Montoya and Allen. Montoya apologizes for letting her feelings for Barbara cause her to misjudge him, and the two MCU detectives join forces with Jim. Jim takes them to Wayne manor, where he tells Bruce that if anything happens to him, Montoya and Allen will take over the case.

Harvey arrives at Jim’s apartment, proclaiming he’s ready to join him since he’s doomed anyway. Jim tells Harvey he wants to arrest Mayor James and Falcone immediately. They handcuff the mayor and use him to get into Falcone’s mansion. But when they go to arrest Falcone, the Don says he has a knife to Barbara’s throat and will kill her if Jim goes through with his plan. Harvey says Falcone must be bluffing. But Jim believes him and scraps the plan. He also lets the mayor go free. It turns out to be the right decision, as Victor Zsasz was holding Barbara hostage after she came to Falcone to plead for Jim’s life, rather than stay away from Gotham as her fiancé asked her to.

Falcone tells them he is not the enemy. “The enemy,” he says, “is anarchy.” Since Jim trusted him enough to know he wasn’t bluffing, Falcone decides to let them all live. “The catch is, someday soon you’ll see I’m right.”

It turns out Carbone was right about Oswald. He isn’t loyal to Maroni, but is actually spying on Maroni for Falcone.


In fact, Falcone and Oswald have been working together since the events portrayed at the end of the show’s pilot episode. Oswald requested that Jim be the one to kill him (because he knew Jim would never go through with it) and in return, Oswald agreed to be Falcone’s snitch for life. That’s why Falcone let Maroni have him so easily. Oswald also told Falcone that Fish and Nicolai’s fighting was a front, and that the two of them were working together to usurp Falcone. That’s the real reason Oswald led Maroni’s men to kill Nicolai — not to push back against Falcone as he pretended, but to save him from Fish.

“It’s almost uncanny,” Falcone tells him. “Everything played out exactly as you said it would. We got rid of Nicolai painlessly, and Maroni thinks you’re a wizard. You really do have a gift.”

Finally, we learn the real reason Falcone spared Jim was because Oswald asked him to do so. In fact, Oswald plans to get Jim to come over to their side.

Final Thoughts:

I really think these three episodes contain some of the best moments in the series. Especially when it comes to character development and relationships. I’m still not a fan of Jim or Barbara, but all the others are really fantastic.

I love the unlikely friendship that’s growing between Jim and Harvey, and how they were mirrored by Young Harvey and his old partner, Dix. It's interesting to note that, while Detective Dix was hurt due to Harvey's incompetence, Jim actually ended up saving Harvey from being injured. So they are not just a mirror image; they are an improved version.

I like that we’re starting to see bitterness planted in Eddie and how that might later lead him to turn evil.

And it was also very interesting to get a good look at just how powerful Falcone really is. But is he clever enough to suspect Liza? Can Fish really outsmart him?

It’s been quite a ride with Oswald so far. Despite being something of an underdog, he’s used his cleverness to rise surprisingly high surprisingly fast. We get quite a glimpse into his personal life, and it seems the showrunners are using his mother Gertrud as the key to how he became the person he is today.

To say the two of them are very close would be an understatement. (Though, she does seem a bit more fond of him than he is of her, considering how long he left her in the dark about whether he was still alive or not.) She loves to baby her special little boy, and he seems to enjoy every minute of it. I like how his being taught by his mom that he‘s “special“, along with the fact that he was bullied as a child, adds motivation to all his actions, instead of him being evil for its own sake. He views himself as a picked on underdog whose great potential no one else realizes, who will rise up and save Gotham, proving he’s not someone who can be pushed down. It appears his actions are right in his own mind, and yet he lies about his plans to his mother, who is the person he is most open with. Is he just trying to prevent her from getting angry with him? Does he think she would be wrong or right in being upset? Just how self aware is he?

One of the most interesting things about Oswald and Gertrud’s relationship is how many layers it has, and the different ways those layers can be interpreted. They seem very close and caring at first glance, but most viewers feel there is another, more sinister layer boiling just beneath the surface. Some people believe this darker side is simply that his mother is not quite as innocent and caring as she lets on. But most viewers seem to have gotten the impression it goes further than that — that the relationship between the two is incestuous.

Now, every fandom has its crazy theories, where fans will claim some incestuous relationship is canon rather than fanfiction. But the idea of incest between Oswald and Gertrud actually has a strange amount of backing from certain interviews I’ve seen with the actors. That’s not to say an incestuous relationship is absolutely canon; they haven’t stated outright it is (and it would definitely be a deviation from the comics, in which Oswald’s mother was overprotective but certainly not his lover). But one thing is for sure: many fans feel they have picked up subtle hints of incest when watching the two characters on screen, and the reason they feel that way is because the showrunners meant them to. Whether that’s because an incestuous relationship is canon, or because the writers just wanted to throw in a darker edge to make people wonder, we’ll have to wait and see.

They’ve certainly got two amazing actors to pull off such a relationship. Robin Lord Taylor and Carol Kane are fantastic. Every scene with them together is magic. In all their expressions, mannerisms, and actions, they seem to have found a thin line between loving mother/son behavior, and something possibly much darker. And they walk that line perfectly, never leaning more toward one side or the other.

But if an incestuous relationship is the direction the showrunners plan to go with the characters, we have to ask — is it something they will ever confirm on the show, or is it something they will always keep bubbling below the surface, making viewers wonder? And if it is confirmed, how far will they go with it? And then there’s what I’m most interested to know —  how did such a relationship come to be in the first place? Was it a consensual relationship they entered into because both of them are such twisted, corrupt people? Or did it start as sexual abuse on her side that Oswald came to accept, possibly due to being so isolated and her being the only important figure in his life?

My guess is the latter. And what especially convinces me is the infamous scene where Oswald stabs Carbone repeatedly while others forcibly hold him down, until Oswald is sure he’s conquered him; where we then see him suddenly adopt what seems to be his mother‘s mannerisms, and he comforts Carbone the way a mother would comfort her son right after punishing him or teaching him a lesson. We are then shown that the other men find this behavior to be very odd. The showrunners pointedly make that moment stand out, as if they're trying to say something more with it. I can think of several reasons why this scene as a whole could cause the past-sexual-abuse idea to make a horrifying amount of sense. But what I also find interesting is Oswald’s use of the phrase “Love conquers all”. Usually this term is used to mean that love can help you win against anything, but he uses it in the opposite sense — that love will defeat you; that love is something to use to put yourself over another person, to control them, to get all you want from them; that it is the ultimate tool to conquer. I doubt Oswald could get such a warped idea of what love is if his mother’s worst offence against him was merely being smothering or overprotective. And, of all people in his life, she would have been the one to teach him what love means, right or wrong.

I’ve also seen a fan theory that, in the bath scene, Oswald is clenching and unclenching his fist in the same way Dr. Marks teaches her patients to deal with trauma.


Something to think about. Although, he might just be playing with the water.

The most interesting thing about their relationship (whatever its true nature) is that neither of them seem to view it as a bad thing. I’m not sure either realizes the unhealthy nature of it, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they even imagine others to be jealous of their relationship. There’s something about the “sweet, innocent” way they treat the whole thing that causes it to be even more terrifying.

 I’m sure there will be some viewers that will object to the portrayal of their relationship, due to the disturbing nature of it. But while incest (and sexual abuse) is not “good” in any way, of course, I find this to be one of the most fascinating possible aspects of the show. I feel a lot like Eddie when he was watching people display the effects of Viper.


It’s definitely not the type of thing I expect to see on most primetime television shows. And no matter which way they go with it, I have to admire the writers’ and actors’ courage in delving into the darker parts of human nature.


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