Friday, March 6, 2015

Gotham: Everyone Has a Cobblepot Review


James Gordon has been sometimes frustratingly moral and square throughout Gotham, someone who is so erect and upstanding that he comes across as not dull but irritating in his inability to see that in many ways, he doesn't get it.  Everyone Has a Cobblepot, the final Gotham episode before a six week hiatus to wrap up the first season, shows that Gordon finally is willing to play extremely rough, even shady, to get his way for the good.  We get some wild twists in the other storylines, strong character development, and Robin Lord Taylor's continuing brilliance as The Penguin.

Gordon is enraged to find that thanks to the influence of Commissioner Loeb (Peter Scolari), not only is former Narcotics officer Arnold Flass (Dash Mihok) being released for the murder Flass committed, but is about to be endorsed to be the new President of the Policemen's Union!  The interference of Commissioner Loeb also frustrates Assistant District Attorney Harvey Dent (Nicholas D'Agosto), who was setting up the case against Flass.  Gordon suspects Loeb has something on everyone that allows him to act this way, and both he and Dent find that Loeb has the goods on just about everyone.  This includes Gordon's partner, Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), the one who claimed on tape to have provided false Flass information.  It's clear Bullock has been pressed to lie thanks to the files Loeb has on him, but Bullock, now a morally conflicted character, finds himself helping Gordon and Dent find the secret stash of records that will break Loeb's hold over the department.

For help, Gordon turns to Oswald Cobblepot aka The Penguin (RLT).  Gordon tells him he is willing to help Penguin out when the need arises.  In exchange for his help, Penguin wants to look over the records for his own purposes.  Gordon tells him he can look at them except for records of cops.  Penguin leads them to an isolated farm outside Gotham, run by Marge (Becky Anne Taylor) and Jude (Dan Ziskie), a seemingly sweet old couple.  As can be expected, the couple is dangerous and deadly.  Bullock and Gordon are able to overpower them, leaving them to Cobblepot to watch as they seek the records.  They don't find them, but do discover something more shocking: Loeb's daughter Miriam (Nicholle Tom), who is pretty much bonkers and who murdered her mother.  Now Gordon has an ace up his sleeve, and negotiates with Loeb (blackmails if you like): he keeps quiet in exchange for Bullock's files and Loeb's public endorsement of Gordon for Policemen's Union President (not sure if he got his way on putting Flass to a fair trial).

In the major subplot, Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) negotiates a good deal for herself with the nefarious Doctor Dulmacher (Colm Feore): she now becomes his right-hand man.  If it means sacrificing her own loyal aide Kelly (Dashiell Eaves), so be it.  It's not like she can do much herself, as she finds herself trapped on Dulmacher's isolated island.  Alfred (Sean Pertwee) is still recovering from the stabbing, and Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) knows it's connected to his own haphazard investigation of Wayne Enterprises.  Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) offers to help, but he declines, not wanting to put someone else in danger.  We even get some frustrated romance, as GCPD Forensics Officer Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) finds that Kristen Kringle (Chelsea Spack), whom he's fond of, has moved on to a new boyfriend, Officer Tom Dougherty (Zachary Spicer). 

One aspect of Everyone Has a Cobblepot (an acknowledgment that every person has some secret that does damage to them, a hidden burden that troubles them in some way) that surprised me was in how good all the guest stars were.  I start with D'Agosto's Dent.  Let's leave aside for a moment that D'Agosto is a beautiful-looking man (making his eventual fate all the more horrifying and tragic). He comes across as one of the few decent men in Gotham, as moral and upstanding as Gordon, only unlike Gordon, Dent knows that the corruption is so powerful he can't fight it but most work his best with it. 

A bigger surprise is Scolari as the corrupt Commissioner Loeb.  It's hard to picture the costar from Bosom Buddies who isn't Tom Hanks being so effectively menacing, but Scolari pulls it off brilliantly.  "I had a pre-sentiment I might be seeing you," he coldly tells Gordon when the moralistic Detective storms into his office.  "Petulance and naïvete are a bad combination.  Know when you're beaten," he snaps when Loeb shows Gordon the video-recording of Bullock's 'confession'.  When Loeb's secret is brought up to him, Scolari doesn't show Loeb cracking, but you can see he is caught off-guard and not willing to give up his daughter.

Baker we should know from the get-go that Marge is not this sweet old lady.  On shows like these, when you have a sweet old couple, you know they really are extremely dangerous.  Her storyline, while ending violently, throws a few wild twists and turns that makes it fun to watch.  Tom is effective as the crazy Miriam, and when she comes down the stairs to find the seemingly overpowered Penguin, her comment that he looks like a bird (and she likes birds) makes it both menacing and even slightly comic.  Her Baby Jane Loeb routine is creepy, perhaps clichéd, but strong nonetheless.

Finally, there's Feore as the notorious Doctor Dulmacher.  He matches JPS' more grandiose manner to make Dulmacher quietly menacing, one who finds Mooney more amusing than annoying.  He even gives her a gift of sorts: a new eye to replace the one she pulled out with a spoon.  Granted, he could only come up with a blue eye which doesn't match her brown one, but it lends a certain panache to our bonkers Mooney doesn't it. 

The regular cast also does marvels whether their scenes are large or small.  At the top of the list is RLT, who is such a knockout as Penguin one wonders how the Television Academy could justify NOT nominating him for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama.  His final twist with the old couple (apart from being a brilliant twist) also reveals the sadism within him, and his final act is both unexpected and shocking.  RLT has always maintained the balance between being weak and wicked, and Everyone Has a Cobblepot shows again why he is really perhaps the strongest part of Gotham.  Penguin is one who plays all angles, which makes him brilliant and terrifying.  "I leave that (the decision as to which of the two old people will flee) in your hands," Penguin tells Marge and Jude.  The emphasis makes it all the more menacing, even threatening.

Following right behind him is Logue, who has made Bullock into a thoroughly sympathetic character.  One thinks that Gotham would go out of its way to make him reprehensible, the polar opposite of the square-jawed Gordon.  Instead, Logue and Gotham have made Bullock a complex character: shady, cynical, sarcastic, but at his core a good man and good cop who is haunted by his past acts.  Gordon's morality triggers conflict within Bullock, who has been pretty good at going along to get along.  He was perfectly at ease to keep someone like Flass in the department, but now he finds himself joining his partner in fighting the good fight.  Rather than turn Gordon into a smaller Bullock, it is Gordon who is reshaping Bullock, and it's a fascinating journey to watch. 

CMS does a brilliant job in making Nygma a sympathetic character.  Obviously strange (and perhaps doomed to be a supervillain himself), we nevertheless feel for him when he finds that his genuine romantic interest in Kristen is thwarted.  Throughout the scene when he meets the affable Tom (who even regales the puzzle-loving Nygma with a riddle he can solve quickly), Edward has flowers hidden behind him.  He never breaks down in front of them or reveals the flowers, but we can see the genuine hurt and growing frustration within him.

Even if they have smaller roles and scenes, Bicondova and Mazouz excel in their interactions, making the future Catwoman/Batman relationship all the more fascinating to contemplate.  Everyone Has a Cobblepot doesn't linger long in Bruce's story, but gives us enough to not just justify their appearance but set up for the future.  The Dulmacher storyline too isn't shortchanged, being sprinkled here and there for a great (hoped-for) set-up.  JPS betrays her own horror at seeing the fate of the former Director (guest star Jeffrey Combs), dropping her mask to reveal that she too can find something so shocking even she has no response to it. Her comment that she talked to 'the Man Upstairs' makes for an interesting double entendre, unintentional or not. 

As Everyone Has a Cobblepot has great performances, its cinematography should also qualify it for serious Emmy consideration.  The episode continues Gotham's brilliance in making this world a dark one, breathtakingly beautiful in its sinister nature. 

Everyone Has a Cobblepot keeps a strong balance with all its stories (though Gordon and Bullock's investigation of Commissioner Loeb is the main one).  It's brilliantly acted by everyone (regular and guest stars).  It's breathtakingly beautiful visually and gives us something we really needed: James Gordon slipping into the Dark Side to push his beloved Gotham into the Light.  In short, the episode is a brilliant temporary way to close.

Who you calling 'birdbrained'?


Next Episode: Beasts of Prey     

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