Wednesday, March 28, 2018

'Gotham' Recap: "The Sinking Ship, The Grand Applause" (4x15)

It's Wednesday, and you know what that means. Intense, burning anxiety because the week is almost half-over and you still have a whole laundry list of things to do? Well, yes, but it also means it's time for another Gotham recap. So quit your stress for the next few minutes, because it's about to get real.

This week's episode, "The Sinking Ship The Grand Applause," is definitely one of my personal favorites. It revolves around two storylines. The first involves Penguin and the Riddler's plot to kill Sofia Falcone. In the second, Bruce and Selina attempt to recover a stolen necklace.

Warning: the episode described contains heavy violence, and the following recap contains heavy spoilers. 

Plot A: Sofia Falcone vs. the World.

We open on a shot of a goon reading a copy of Detective Comics (how meta). The goon is one of two men watching Martin (the mute boy that Penguin befriended earlier in the season). Martin tears a piece of paper off of his notepad, only to find that someone has left a message: Do you want to escape? He tears off that sheet and finds another: Go to the kitchen. Martin, under the excuse of needing to go to the bathroom, wanders into the kitchen. The next note on his pad tells him to turn on the gas stove burners but not to light them. He does so and then returns to the living room.

The goons, noticing the weird smell of gas, both leave Martin to check it out. Martin looks at the next note, which tells him to plug his ears. He does so, right before an RPG tears through the kitchen. After a few seconds, the smoke clears to reveal his rescuer.

Meanwhile, Samson announces his rule in the Narrows by explaining to a crowd that he expects to be paid for protection.  Lee watches from the crowd, wearing a hood over her face. She looks visibly distressed and leaves after Samson illustrates his point by shooting a man in front of his family.

Over at the GCPD, Gordon explains to Harvey that Carmine Falcone said Gordon didn't know what he'd brought to the city. Gordon assumes that he meant Professor Pyg, which means someone must've told Falcone that Sofia hired Pyg. If they get Falcone's informant to act as a witness, they can bring Sofia down for good. Harvey asks why Gordon doesn't come clean himself. Gordon says his testimony isn't enough, but Harvey says Gordon's just staying quiet to protect himself.

Gordon insists that he's trying to do the right thing and offers Harvey his badge back. Harvey agrees to return to the GCPD, but he warns that eventually, Gordon will have to pay for what he did. Harvey then tells Gordon that his first move will be to track down "Skinner," an ex-assassin that worked for Falcone.

In Arkham, one of the guards tells Penguin about a message the Riddler left for him over the phone. The message is a riddle. Oswald solves it, declaring the answer to be "a knuckle sandwich." The guard agrees and then promptly punches him in the face. 

Meanwhile, Harvey visits a candy shop owned by an elderly woman named Agnes, aka the Skinner. Agnes says she's retired, and Harvey says he's just there to ask about Falcone's eyes and ears in Gotham. Agnes is reluctant to tell him, but Harvey says that if Agnes doesn't tell him what he needs to know, he'll tell her grandkids (who are in the store) about how she used to skin people alive. Agnes gives in and says that the only person Falcone really trusted was the bookkeeper, who "always smelled of fish." Harvey realizes that she means Mr. Penn (the man who kept track of the licenses when Penguin was in control). 

While that's going on, Sofia vents her frustration over Martin's escape. She tells Victor Zsasz to go to Arkham and kill Penguin. He agrees and asks if he can bring a friend along, one who just got out of the hospital. The friend? Headhunter, the assassin who worked for Penguin until Penguin stabbed (and seemingly killed) him in "A Day in the Narrows." Sofia says she doesn't care if they both go, so long as "Penguin dies choking on his own blood."

Speaking of Penguin, Harvey goes to visit him in the Arkham infirmary. Harvey says he's got questions about Penn, but before he can ask Penguin anything, he hears screams and cries that there's someone with a gun. Harvey goes to check it out, only to find Zsasz and Headhunter in the hallway. He draws his gun tells them to leave, but they refuse. Zsasz tells Harvey to walk away, but he won't back down. 

Suddenly, Arkham's alarms go off (though that really should've happened the second Zsasz showed up), and guards start running out of the building. Zsasz says they'll come back later. A few seconds later, the guards yell that Penguin has escaped. Harvey rushes to a nearby window and sees the Riddler wildly waving a gun before getting into a van with Penguin and driving away.

Once they're safely away from Arkham and back on the streets of Gotham, the Riddler explains that he assumed the assassins would come for Penguin after he freed Martin, so he used their attack on Arkham as a diversion to rescue Penguin. (He also begins to tell the story of how he tracked down Martin, which involves Zsasz, disco, and the Riddler dressing up as an old Polish woman, but Penguin cuts him off.) After hearing that Martin is safe, Penguin decides to focus on killing Sofia. The Riddler decides to enlist an old ally, after removing his hat to look a little more like the regular Ed Nygma.

Penguin enters and explains that he freed the Riddler, and the Riddler freed him. The Riddler says they'll have to come up with another plan since Lee can't help them without the support and resources of the Narrows behind her. 

Lee interjects that she wants to help take down Sofia, but the Riddler says she can't help, since all of her old capos now work for Sofia. Lee insists that she'd shoot Sofia herself, but the Riddler doesn't believe it. Penguin says that what matters is finding muscle, which leads Lee to suggest Solomon Grundy.

The Riddler goes looking for Grundy in the sewers. He calls out that it's Ed and that he's smart again. Once he finds Grundy, the Riddler says they need a brute for cannon fodder. Grundy, however, is acting very quiet. The Riddler asks what his problem is, before realizing the intelligence in Grundy's (usually vacant) expression. Grundy (aka Butch) says that the Riddler's not the only one who got smart. The Riddler, realizing how much trouble he's in, tries to plead for himself by insisting that while he and Butch didn't get along in the past, he helped Grundy. Butch, however, grabs the Riddler by the neck and says that Ed Nygma helped him, but Ed's not here anymore, and neither is Grundy. 

Back at Lee's place, Penguin paces. He wonders why the Riddler has been gone for so long and says he was foolish to trust him. Lee tells Penguin to calm down, but he refuses to do so. He says he can't wait for the Riddler and decides to leave.

As luck would have it, Penguin runs right into Gordon and Harvey. Desperate to defend himself, Penguin grabs a bottle from a nearby man and smashes it against a wall. He tells them that Martin is alive, but he can't prove it yet because the boy won't be safe until Sofia's dead. Gordon says they both want the same thing: to make Sofia go away. The only difference is that Gordon wants her in jail. He tells Penguin that he needs Mr. Penn before he can bring Sofia down. Penguin, upon realizing that Penn was yet another traitor in his empire, flies into a rage, prompting this comment from Harvey:

Gordon tells Penguin to calm down and offers to let him go if he gives them a lead on Penn. Penguin doesn't trust Gordon's offer, but Harvey points out that it's only a matter of time before Sofia finds him anyway. Penguin offers the name of a certain resort outside of town, mentioned by Penn, that offers special therapy. He says that if Penn's hiding, he's probably there. Gordon thanks him and offers his hand. Penguin goes to shake it, but Harvey handcuffs him from behind. Harvey says that he didn't agree to look the other way. 

Lee sees this from across the street. As Harvey shoves Penguin into a cop car, Zsasz and Headhunter arrive. Zsasz said he overheard them talking about Penn and asks if Penn is important. He gathers from their expressions that he is. Zsasz says he'll find Penn himself, and asks if they want to do things "the easy way or the fun way." Gordon and Harvey pull out their guns. "The fun way it is," Headhunter says. 

Once the gunfighting begins, Penguin ducks down in the car to avoid being shot. Lee, taking advantage of Gordon and Harvey's distraction, gets into the front seat and drives off with Penguin. Gordon notices her driving away, and Zsasz and Headhunter decide to leave. Gordon tells Harvey they need to get to Penn before Zsasz, and Harvey says they need to get a car before they can do that.

Over at the Sirens' Bar, Barbara is suffering from migraines and find that drinking doesn't help. She tells Tabitha it feels like she's been hit in the head with a brick. A few seconds later, Butch shows up with the Riddler tied up in a sack. Barbara mocks Butch, thinking she's talking to the dumb Grundy. He promptly says "Hi, Barbara," causing her to freak out.

Butch then tells Tabitha that the Riddler was working with Penguin to stop Sofia. Butch says that, given everything the Riddler did to Tabitha, she should be the one to kill him. Tabitha tells him not to go, but he says he still needs to get back to his old self and leaves.

Barbara stumbles, weak from another migraine. After regaining her balance, she tells Tabitha that they should send the Riddler to Sofia, who'll torture him for information, use it to stop Penguin, and kill the Riddler for them. She says it'll produce the same end result without the headache of dealing with the Riddler themselves, and Tabitha agrees. In other words:

In all fairness, laziness is a fairly credible reason not to kill someone yourself, compared with typical Bond Villain Stupidity.

At the Falcone Mansion, Zsasz informs Sofia that Gordon and Harvey are looking for Penn. She says they need to find him first, prompting Zsasz to ask who's a bigger priority: Penguin or Penn? She says they're both at the top of the list.

Back in the Narrows, Penguin thanks Lee for coming to his rescue. She says she just needs him to get at Sofia. Lee says that since the Riddler and Grundy are AWOL, they've only got one option left. This turns out to be Mr. Freeze, who's holed up in some sort of super-cold cabin/apartment/lair. Penguin asks Freeze for help, but Freeze says that the last time Penguin called on him for aid, he promised to help Freeze reverse his condition (you know, the one where he can only survive in freakishly cold temperatures). 

Penguin says that neglecting Freeze was a mistake he won't make again, and Lee points out that Freeze needs money to fund his research. She says that since Sofia wants Penguin, Freeze can deliver him to Sofia in exchange for the money he needs. Freeze admits that he's been working on a special device and tosses a silver ball with a blinking red light to Penguin. As Freeze pulls out his gun, Penguin protests, asking if his brain will be affected like the Riddler's was. Freeze says he doesn't care and promptly freezes Penguin into a block of ice. 

Back at the Falcone Mansion, the Dentist (who you might remember from 4x10) tortures the Riddler, who's bloodied but not broken. The Dentist admits that the Riddler's got impressive strength of mind, and Sofia tells the Riddler that if he doesn't tell her where to find Penguin, the torture will only get worse. The Riddler just laughs at her and offers an odd puzzle: "I can be done with the teeth, the eyes or the mind. What am I? I can be Humorous, but I'm never funny. What am I?" 

Sofia stabs him in the leg. The Riddler says he told her where to find Penguin, she's just too stupid to figure it out. (For the record, it's unclear if the riddles had answers or were intentionally nonsensical. A few Reddit users theorized on the episode discussion that the answer to the second question is "bone." I think the answer to the first question might be "Narrow," but I'm not sure.)

The torture session is then interrupted by thugs who say that someone's brought Penguin for Sofia. Freeze rolls in the block of ice with Penguin inside. When Riddler sees it, he laughs under his breath. Freeze says he heard Sofia was looking for Penguin and that Penguin had never been a great boss. She asks if Penguin is still alive. "Maybe," Freeze replies. He then gives her his price: $100,000, which she readily pays.

Zsasz enters. He takes one look at the frozen Penguin and says, "I'm not even gonna ask." Zsasz then tells Sofia that he found out where Penn's hiding. Sofia tells her men to take the Riddler to the docks and shoot him, while she and Zsasz will go get Penn. As they leave, the ice sculpture begins to thaw. 

But where is Penn? Well, as Gordon and Harvey find out, Penn is in a "resort" where adult guests are dressed like babies and being treated as such. Harvey's reaction is basically:

They quickly find Penn and grab him before he can run away.

Back at the mansion, the ice breaks apart, thanks to the device Freeze gave Penguin. He emerges and points a gun at the Dentist. He asks where Sofia is and, after getting a reply, pistol whips the Dentist. Penguin then calls Lee, who asks if it's done. Penguin says they need to meet at the resort, and then they can kill Sofia. After he hangs up, Penguin notices the Riddler's bowler hat sitting on a nearby desk. He asks what happened to the Riddler, and the Dentist says he didn't give Penguin up. Penguin asks where the Riddler is now, and the Dentist tells him he's been taken to the docks to be killed.

Meanwhile, Penn explains to Gordon and Harvey that he worked for Falcone years before Penguin came into power. When Sofia came to town, Falcone ordered Penn to keep an eye on her. Sofia found out, so Penn cut a deal with her. In exchange for his safety, Penn gave her information about Penguin and hired Professor Pyg (however, he told Falcone about Pyg right away). At that moment, Sofia, Zsasz, and Headhunter enter the resort, guns blazing.

As they run through the resort and dodge gunfire, Gordon tells Harvey to leave with Penn. Harvey says Gordon is the one who needs to leave since he's already been shot. Gordon insists that he can make it and orders Harvey to leave. Gordon runs through the kitchen as Sofia's men pursue him. He manages to shoot them down, but Sofia shoots him, and it's all he can do to limp away from her.

At the same time, Harvey manages to get Penn out of the resort. Lee drives in and asks where Sofia is. Harvey replies that she and a wounded Gordon are still inside. Lee gives him the car and goes into the resort. As Harvey drives off, Zsasz and Headhunter shoot at his bumper before giving up and doing what all assassins do at the end of a long day:

Back inside the kitchen, Sofia tells Gordon that he's a disappointment. She shoots him again, asks why he couldn't just let her have her revenge, and shoots him again. Gordon says it wasn't about her; it was about keeping corruption out of the GCPD. She says that's the point; her father controlled the GCPD for years, and she wanted what he had. Gordon points out that she had her father killed, and she replies that she did it because he was also a disappointment. 

However, Sofia makes an offer. She claims she still cares for Gordon and tells him to beg for his life. He gathers his strength, sits up, and tells her to go to hell. She raises her gun, but is suddenly shot in the stomach . . .  by Lee. Lee, after making sure Sofia knows it's her, shoots her again, this time in the head. 

Lee is the last thing Gordon sees before he blacks out. 

Down at the docks, Sofia's thugs taunt the Riddler and prepare to shoot him. He waits for it and hears gunshots but remains unscathed. The Riddler turns to see both men shot down and Penguin holding a gun. The Riddler quickly grabs one of the thug's guns and asks if Penguin killed Sofia. Penguin says he didn't because Sofia had already left the mansion to pursue Gordon. The Riddler points out that he could've stayed at the mansion and waited for her to come back. Penguin replies that if he'd done that, he wouldn't have gotten to the docks in time to save the Riddler. 

The Riddler asks why Penguin would give up his revenge for him, and Penguin replies that trust is hard to find in Gotham, but he trusts the Riddler. He pockets his gun, and the Riddler does the same.

Over at the hospital, Gordon wakes up. He asks Harvey how he's still alive (considering he got shot four times, I'm wondering the same thing). Harvey replies that Lee took care of him until the medics arrived. He also remarks that Sofia is currently in a coma (guess headshots aren't as effective as they used to be). 

Gordon says that once he's out of the hospital, he'll come clean about Sofia and Pyg. Harvey says that if he did that, the only person who'd benefit would be Gordon himself. He'd get to feel like a martyr, but the GCPD would lose their leader. He tells Gordon that the only way to pay his debt is by living with it, just like Harvey's had to live with the things he's done. Gordon then asks where Lee is. Harvey says she went back to the Narrows to deal with "unfinished business."

What kind of unfinished business, you ask? Oh, you know. Just taking back her turf, telling Samson to leave, and smashing his hand in with a hammer.

Back at the Sirens' Club, Barbara's migraines continue. Tabitha tries to talk to her about the danger of Penguin coming after them now that Sofia's gone, but Barbara yells at her to shut up. After Tabitha leaves, Barbara notices that her hand is glowing. She looks at it, and then looks at the crowd . . . only to see a familiar face.

Looks like Ra's al Ghul is officially back in town. 

Plot B: My Ex-Girlfriend Still Misses Me, But Her Aim is Getting Better

In the halls of Wayne Manor, Bruce hears rustling from the kitchen. He creeps around the corner with a poker in hand, only to find Selina rooting through his cabinets. She comments that she can't find any food, and he asks what's wrong.

Selina says she needs help, which Bruce translates as "money." She explains that she stole something and wants to get it back from the fence. She'd steal it back herself, but the fence isn't a pleasant character, so she figured it'd be safer to pay. Bruce wonders why she doesn't just get the money from Barbara. Selina says she doesn't want to get Barbara involved. 

When Bruce asks why she even wants the item back, Selina admits that it's the necklace she stole from Rowland Charles' wife. She tells Bruce she didn't know Ivy was going to kill him, and he realizes that she feels bad about being involved with the crime. He tells her he'll get the money, and adds that there are oatmeal raisin cookies in a nearby tin. 

Once they arrive at the fence's place, Selina remarks that Bruce is different. In her exact words, he "was a total douchebag" at the club, but now he's not. He tries to apologize, but she cuts him off.

The fence, Floyd, arrives with thugs in tow. Selina says she's there for the necklace, but he says his cameras caught her trying to steal it the night before. She offers to pay twice what she got for it. Floyd remarks that Bruce must be Selina's "bank." He then outright tells her that instead of paying to give back the necklace, he'll just take the money and anything else valuable that they have. 

As he's in the middle of his threat, Bruce throws a figurine to Selina, who uses it to whack one of the goons. A fight breaks out, which Bruce and Selina win (although Bruce does get hurt). Selina grabs the necklace and is ready to leave, but Bruce, naturally, drops some money next to the beat-up thugs. 

Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce puts some ice on his wounded stomach. Selina asks if he can return the necklace instead of her, and he surmises that that's the real reason she came to him. She says that even though she didn't kill Charles, she was there when he died, and asks what she's supposed to tell the family. "Sorry for stealing your jewelry"?  Bruce replies that, sometimes, that's enough.

The Verdict

Plot A: I really enjoyed this plot, for a number of reasons. For starters, it was genuinely heartwarming to see Penguin and the Riddler become friends again, and that change didn't feel rushed. Both characters have struggled with trusting each other in the past, and they both regained that trust by making sacrifices for each other in this episode. Also, I didn't realize how much I missed seeing the Riddler and Penguin play off each other. That scene with the "chilly Trojan horse" plan was golden. 

As for Sofia Falcone, I feel like it was the right time to get rid of her. She's been a good villain for most of the season, but she was becoming too untouchable. While I do think it's a bit unrealistic for her to have survived a headshot, I also understand why the writers decided to leave her in a coma. 

Falcone and Maroni are already dead, which makes her the only villain left in Gotham with ties to the old-fashioned mob. Killing off Maroni was a risky but well-executed move on the writers' part. It showed early on that no one in the show was invulnerable and confirmed that the show was creating its own twist on Batman's mythology. Killing Falcone was a little more questionable; it cemented Sofia's control of Gotham but at the cost of killing off a major character in the Batman mythos.

If the writers were to kill off Sofia for good, they'd run out of mob characters to draw from (unless they want to drag out someone more obscure, like Rex Calabrese, or turn Grundy back into Butch for good, which would be a little cheap). These characters help contrast the more colorful supervillains of Gotham and keep the world grounded at times.

But I digress. Plot A did a good job of weaving several characters into a well-paced storyline. It also had some serious impacts on the rest of this season. Penguin and the Riddler are friends again, Lee's back in power, Sofia's dethroned, and Ra's appears to be making a comeback. 

As for Ra's al Ghul, I think there's a lot of questions that won't be answered until at least the next episode. Is Ra's really in the club, or is Barbara hallucinating? What's the power that Ra's transferred to Barbara back in episode 5, and how will she use it? Is Ra's alive, or is he in Barbara's head somehow? Is he going to be resurrected in his own body or start using hers? Honestly, there are a lot of ways this could go. I'm just glad that Ra's doesn't seem to be gone for good. 

Plot B: While the quest to get back Mrs. Charles' necklace may have been insignificant, it served the purpose of bringing Selina and Bruce back together—and for that, I'm grateful. Watching the two of banter back and forth and fight alongside is always fun, especially since both characters are getting nearer to their comic book counterparts. 

Was this plot an excuse to make Bruce and Selina friends again? Yes, but that doesn't make it a bad storyline. It also served to remind that audience that while Selina doesn't think of herself as a hero, she does care about people and doesn't want to hurt the innocent.

Plot A may have a longer-lasting effect on the season as a whole, but Plot B was just as fun to watch. Banter? Check. Awesome fight scene? Check. Bat-Cat one episode closer to fighting Jerome together, as seen in the promo below? Check. 

Overall, this is one of the best episodes of season 4 and arguably one of the best out of the show.  Just one day after it premiered, 189 IMDB users had rated it at an average of 9.3, making it the highest-rated episode of the show on so far on IMDB even above "Heavydirtysoul" and "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies" (my personal favorite).

There are certain episodes of Gotham where I'm tempted to fast-forward through certain storylines, but this wasn't one of them. Each plot was riveting from start to finish. And from the looks of the promo for next week's episode, things aren't about to slow down.

I'll be back next week with another recap, if I haven't fangirled myself into a coma (which is entirely possible). For now, comment below with your thoughts on this episode. What's your theory on Barbara? What do you want to see in the rest of the season? Who's been the best villain this season?

Until next time, stay safe and avoid baby resorts. 


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