Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Gotham: Stop Hitting Yourself Review


Stop Hitting Yourself took a break from the cuckoo nature of the Professor Pyg story to give us an episode that managed to make the Edward Nygma/Solomon Grundy story worth our time.  It was another excessively gruesome and graphic Gotham,  but with more positives than negatives it does wonders.

Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) may not have his full mental powers back, but his hatred and bitterness towards his former friend The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) has found a new outlet.  In the fight club he's now part of as a promoter, Nygma does a send-up of Pengy where he ridicules the criminal King of Gotham in a WWE-style get-up and act before bringing out his meal-ticket, Solomon Grundy (Drew Powell).  Grundy is able to defeat all comers, and his signature move is to rip off the arms of his opponents and use it to beat the opponent to death (hence, 'stop hitting yourself').  Nygma is too gleefully joyful to care if Pengy ever finds out, despite the warnings of Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin) that Penguin is extremely touchy about anyone mocking him.

Thompkins proves prescient, as news of Nygma's spoofing of our Criminal Overlord gets to him and he is predictably enraged at being made a laughingstock.  He manages to get The Vixens: Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), Tabitha Galavan (Jessica Lucas) and Barbara Kean, aka Bonkers Babs (Erin Richards) to go down to Cherry's club and grab Nygma.  Easy pickings, right?

Wrong, oh so wrong, for Tabitha instantly recognizes Butch and Barbara is too distracted by Lee to care.  It's up to our Little Miss Kitten to get Nygma, who for once is left surprised.  As insurance, Pengy sends Firefly (Camila Perez) to get Nygma and kill the Vixens if they don't bring Nygma back to him in time.  Butch/Solomon struggles to save his bestie, and Selina offers a solution: the Narrow Code, a fight to the death.

Tabitha goes in and Solomon still struggles to remember her.  It's in the fight that all hell breaks loose: Firefly crashes just as Babs grabs Nygma, but she's disabled by Lee.  Cherry (Marina Benedict) had tipped Penguin off about Nygma, and Bonkers Babs kills her, inadvertently making Lee the new leader of the fight club.

For all their trouble, Nygma is still out there.

Sofia Falcone (Crystal Reed) for her part is playing both sides.  She is currying favor with Pengy, even offering him advise on how he needs to find an outside hobby.  He finds one in one of the orphans, Martin (Christopher Converoy), a mute with psychopathic tendencies.  Pengy serves as an unofficial mentor to Martin in the art of enemy destruction, though Penguin cannot bring himself to say he's a friend to anyone.

With regards to Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), she pulls strings to get Gordon to be the new Captain of the GCPD, which he does not want as that would mean replacing his bestie, Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue).  Sofia insists that Bullock is weak and has to go, something that proves accurate as Bullock's too guilt-laden to attend a ceremony for other officers.  Seeing the corruption, both financial and moral, of his friend, Gordon becomes the captain, much to Bullock's anger.

Stop Hitting Yourself has a surprisingly wry sense of humor.  Selina finds the idea of Nygma spoofing Penguin funny, being the only person to laugh about it in Pengy's face.

Few things are as entertaining as Taylor's Penguin ranting and raving, even if he has no problem stabbing someone else for daring to join in.  It's a credit to Taylor that lines that sound funny and probably were aimed to be come across as genuine thoughts rather than oddball dialogue.  Whether it's in training Martin (and his new hairstyle making him look almost demonic) or in his reactions to being ridiculed, RLT continues to be one of Gotham's greatest assets.

At one point as he confides with Sofia, Penguin says, "No one appreciates how hard it is to be a crime lord".  That's a pretty funny line, but Taylor delivers it so beautifully that it sounds like the firm statement of a total yet insecure egoist.

Reed matches him with her reply, "I did actually spend my childhood being raised by one".

I don't think there was a bad performance in Stop Hitting Yourself, merely ones that stood out more.  There was Taylor, and then there were McKenzie and especially Logue.  We get both Gordon's reluctance to betray his friend and Bullock's intense and overwhelming guilt.  Their final scene together is just spot-on in terms of acting.

While the women were equally good, I was taken a bit by surprise with the risqué outfits that both Baccarin and Richards wore as Thompkins and Babs wore.  "Sexy and self-righteous," Babs quips to her ex's ex.  Those outfits were more barely-fits.

Smith's takedown of Penguin is one where you feel the intense anger and hatred behind it, the rage pouring out against his former friend, whom he calls a 'stupid, lame bird brain'.  Even hulky-like Powell's Solomon got better moments because we saw he wasn't just this stumbling, bumbling fool but someone who was starting to remember.

Stop Hitting Yourself would have rated higher if not for the graphic violence.  The tearing out of the arms was for me too graphic and bloody, almost sadistic.  I felt very uncomfortable with the sight of it, as well as the idea of it.

Still, we had great performances and stories that are moving forward.  That almost makes up for seeing a man's arm ripped off and then getting beat to death with it.  Almost, but not quite.


Next Episode: Let Them Eat Pie

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