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Gotham, Ep. 1.20, “Under the Knife” finds Barbara in a twisted romance

GOTHAM: Jason Lennon (guest star Milo Ventimiglia) has an ulterior motive for going home with Barbara in the ÒUnder the KnifeÓ episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, April 20 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jessica Miglio/FOX

Gotham, Season 1, Episode 20: ‘Under the Knife’
Written by John Stephens
Directed by TJ Scott
Aired Mondays at 8pm (ET) on FOX

The search for the serial killer known as The Ogre continues with Gordon on edge, convinced that his loved one, Dr. Leslie Thompkins, may be in imminent danger. This turns out to be a very clever misdirect that brings Barbara back into the main story. The episode’s most interesting development comes when The Ogre realizes the truth and is left to consider whether or not he should kill her. At this point Barbara is so deep in her self loathing that The Ogre actually begins to see her as a romantic candidate instead of a simple victim, which makes this possibly the strangest meet-cute on television. The possibility that Barbara could be another contender for his affections really livens up the Ogre storyline as does the oddly strong chemistry between the two actors, Erin Richards and Milo Ventimiglia. The truly defining moment for the couple happens when The Ogre shows Barbara his creepy dungeon room, which plays out like a superhero’s reveal of their secret identity to their love interest, with the added detail that The Ogre’s secret involves having murdered several women, including his faux mother.

The Barbara and Ogre pairing will certainly be a short lived one but the long term effect of her presence is what really amps the tension in this episode. Leslie has been a great partner to Gordon in many ways, especially in how their romance has flourished, but it now appears that the wheels are in motion to pull Barbara back into Gordon’s life. It’s only a matter of time before we learn just how intently Barbara will go after Gordon’s heart and how strongly Leslie will have to fight to keep Gordon by her side.

The Bruce vs. the Board of Wayne Enterprises plot gets some momentum here after Bruce and Cat learn the name of one of the evil board members that have it in for them. There are some fun and light moments here with them teaming up to copy their foe’s key but there is something hanging over them throughout. Cat’s decision and aloofness to killing Reggie has Bruce agitated with her and her with him. In this episode there is some debate, but no real insight on their moral stances on murdering to protect oneself. The only thing that is clear is that their viewpoints are different. David Mazouz as Bruce is particularly interesting to watch in this episode, as Bruce’s thought process is very pronounced in Mazouz’s performance- almost too pronounced at times.

“Under the Knife” is a fair installment that brings momentum to the Ogre arc and gives development to a few characters, some of whom are stepping closer to their iconic roles. The episode feels organic and focused and features a conclusion that leaves you wanting to see what comes next.

GOTHAM: Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) makes an important decision in the ÒUnder the KnifeÓ episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, April 20 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jessica Miglio/FOXCharacter Study

When the season began, Gotham‘s interpretation of Ed Nygma felt earnest and overtly reminiscent of the iconic character. Since then the role was purposefully toned down to allow for growth. Nygma has gone from being a bit of loveable oddball to a social awkward stalker type to pulling prank-level frame ups to now committing “Aw shucks!” murders. The development of Nygma has been prompted mostly by his affection for Ms. Kristen Kringle, whom he’s trying desperately to impress. This arc is most reminiscent of Screech Powers’ love for Lisa Turtle on Saved by the Bell (Screech loved Lisa but it was clear she did not return his feelings, yet they still remained friends). This arc could’ve used more time, developing a level of familiarity and trust between the characters. Instead, here Ms. Kringle is a mistreated damsel who needs to be protected from her poor taste in suitors. Her potential significant others include dirty cop Detective Arnold Flass and woman-beater Detective Tom Dougherty. Detective Dougherty is portrayed excellently by Zachary Spicer as a very antagonistic character for Nygma, talking down to the scientist as an inferior specimen (referring to him as Riddle Man) and presenting himself as a complete Alpha male that does as he pleases. The narrative is clear: Nygma’s goal is to take Dougherty out of the picture, whether to protect Ms. Kringle or to selfishly remove his competition. This takes Nygma a step towards becoming the Riddler, killing Dougherty with gratuitous stabbings. In the scene he is overcome with satisfaction equal to his horror, an interesting choice. This conflict of emotions is what we have most to look forward to in the upcoming episodes. Cory Michael Smith has been doing a splendid job bringing this character to life and making him a likable presence despite his more unseemly activities.

In recent episodes, The Penguin and Sal Maroni alliance has flown the coop, bringing forth a combative tension between the two that will seemingly come to a head very soon. It’s rather poetic that in this episode, Maroni decides to go after The Penguin through his mother, one of the factors that endeared Maroni to The Penguin in the first place. It says a lot about how badly he wants to hurt The Penguin that he would try to put a wedge in a relationship that he finds sacred. This episode also explores the theme of unconditional love and revealing of the truth about oneself. Whereas The Ogre opens up to Barbara, when The Penguin is faced with a moment where he could reveal the truth about himself to his mother, who has admitted that she would love him no matter what he’s done or who he is, he decides to perpetuate the lie. This is one of the most interesting scenes in the episode- Carol Kane portrays Gertrude as very flighty and emotional and there is a lot that could be read into whether she believes his lies. Robin Lord Taylor also gives a strong performance in the scene, displaying the full flush of emotions that leads him to his lie.

GOTHAM: Gordon (Ben Mckenzie, L) and Bullock (Donal Logue, C) question Jacob Skolimski (guest star Daniel Davis, R) in the ÒUnder the KnifeÓ episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, April 20 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jessica Miglio/FOXThe Case File: The Ogre investigation

The Gotham case of the week does a fair enough job of tying a good deal of plots together with Gordon’s investigation, The Ogre and Barbara’s romance, and Bruce’s mission to copy the board member’s key all interconnecting quite nicely. Although the flow of the narrative between each plot is well crafted, the actual investigation and what is discovered is a bit unsatisfying. The backstory of The Ogre doesn’t really gel with what we’ve seen of the character so far. Apparently The Ogre’s origin stems from his being born deformed, which prevented him from knowing the unconditional love he now seeks. This may explain what it is he wants but it does not explain why he murders women in the manner that he does.

One of the best aspects of this plot is how it highlights and solidifies the relationship of Gordon and Leslie. Gordon is as ballsy here as he has been throughout the season and he’s made the more fearless with Leslie, whom he confers with before going ahead with the press announcement warning that would shine a inescapable spotlight on The Ogre. They both have concerns about what the outcome would be, but they know what is right and will face that danger together.

Out of all the elements that make up this case, the only missed opportunity is the hospital lead that reveals The Ogre had reconstructive surgery on his face. This could’ve been an easy tie to the Dollmaker/Fish Mooney plot line, which is not touched on at all in this episode. It’s just as well however, as there is already a lot going on here.

“Under the Knife” is written by John Stephens, a reoccurring Gotham writer whose most recent addition had been“The Fearsome Dr. Crane”, which had really great character moments but weak plot integration. This episode improves on Stephen’s previous entry, successfully bringing the various plots together, yet there are still moments here and there that seem excessive or redundant. For example, the overlapping of Bullock’s retelling of Van Groot’s confession with the actual confession is unnecessarily busy and distracting, allowing for the revelations learned in the sequence to lose some of their impact. Also, dialogue such as when Cat tells Bruce, “I guess that’s how we’re different!” only belabors the point made by the fact that they’re arguing in the first place. TJ Scott directs the episode and he does an excellent job here as he has done in previous episodes such as “Spirit of the Goat” and “Arkham”, where he proved that he has a keen sense for the tone of Gotham, creating an atmosphere that is both creepy and beautiful. There are some really incredible uses of back lighting and flashing lights that give certain scenes an interesting visual rhythm and added dramatic value. The scene where the photo of The Ogre’s preoperative face is shown and is overlaid with his current face is a particularly stunning sequence, despite having lost some impact due to the busy cross cutting moments earlier.

Detective’s Notes

  • Is the shipper name for Bruce + Cat = Brat?
  • Carol Kane should really get an award for most interesting and diverse performances in reoccurring roles for her work here and in The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, because she’s great in both.
  • “Am I really supposed to wear these?” –Cat after receiving a full wardrobe courtesy of Bruce Wayne. Also Camren Bicondova’s delivery of “The shoes hurt!” to Bruce when he picks her up is perfect.
  • “It took a serial killer for you to say that.” –Leslie Thompkins to Gordon after he refers to her as his loved one and admits that he loves her.
  • The way Mr. Van Groot is dressed seems out of another era, but oddly like everything in Gotham, it sort of fits in this world.
  • Where the heck are Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen? They have been MIA for the longest time now it’s like they might as well not exist.
  • “Don’t take this personally.” -Detective Dougherty before he punches Nygma in the gut.

-JP


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