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Gotham, Ep. 1.12, “What The Little Bird Told Him” is charged with shocks & chilling development

Gotham Season 1, Episode 12: ‘What The Little Bird Told Him’
Written by Ben Edlund
Directed by Eagle Egilsson
Airs Mondays at 8pm ET on FOX

In this week’s Gotham, Gordon returns to the Gotham City Police Department to regain his Detective rank, but in order to do that, he has to prove himself to Commissioner Loeb by bringing in the Arkham Asylum inmate that escaped in “Rogues’ Gallery” under his watch. This episode shows Gordon revitalized and more focused, with the understanding that he needs to be at the GCPD and nowhere else; it’s where he wants to be, and where he can do the most good. We have seen Gordon be all gung ho before, as in “Penguins Umbrella”, but this time he’s taking charge and asserting himself, whereas before, he was acting reckless, with unrealistic goals.

While Gordon is busy reclaiming his position at the GCPD, things are heating up exponentially with the Gotham City crime family, as Fish Mooney finally makes her move to take down Falcone. This is what the season has been building towards for the longest time, and it does not disappoint, with character turns that are chilling, if not surprising. Falcone’s friendship with Mooney comes to an end, with the brutal reveal of her betrayal to him resulting in the demise of Mooney’s weapon, and Falcone reasserting his position as head mob boss of Gotham City. This turn is, in part, orchestrated by the Penguin, who had been trying to find the right time to inform Falcone of Mooney’s plan. The episode does well in postponing the Penguin from enlightening Falcone by utilizing the Case of the week to delay him just long enough to let viewers appreciate that Falcone was indeed turning soft and ready to retire, if not for Mooney’s betrayal motivating him to stay in power.

“What The Little Bird Told Him” is one of the strongest episodes this season, concluding Mooney’s plan against Falcone with a new dynamic between them that lays more groundwork for the Penguin’s rise to power. Gordon is also is gaining traction and confidence, as he also affirms his position in the GCPD, commenting to Commissioner Loeb that no one should even try to take his badge away again, under threat of having it force fed to them. This is a feistier Gordon, one who has grown a lot this season. He clearly has a long way to go before he becomes the Commissioner we all know, but it will be fun to see him develop into that role as the series progresses.

Character Study

This episode offered some insight into Carmine Falcone’s current state of mind as head mob boss of Gotham City. He’s definitely a merciless man who is willing to kill a blood relative in order to serve the dark justice of Gotham City. There is a balance that Falcone believes in that he talked about in the ‘Pilot’, and since one pillar has been removed, with the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne,  he is holding up the other pillar, possibly on his own, which has made him weary enough to allow Liza to infiltrate him and make him want retirement. Although the glimpses of his past in this episode does very little at establishing any real depth to his character, it serves the purpose of showing him at a time of innocence, where death was still an impacting concept, rather than the passive ritual it is for him now. In killing Liza, he reasserts his place as mob boss of Gotham City, while hardening himself to take on the role of maintaining his brand of order in Gotham City just a little while longer, before the next generation turns it into the Gotham City of super powered villainy. John Doman does an excellent job at portraying Falcone with a sense of menace that is ever present, even when displaying his softer side.

The most impressive reveal in the episode is the truth behind Fish Mooney’s plan to bring down Falcone. All this time it was played off like the plan was an act of revenge or to gain power, but in reality it was about mercy. She recognized that Falcone was softening, and this may be in part to do with him being the sole pillar maintaining the order in Gotham City. She didn’t see this weakness in Falcone as an opportunity, but as a signal that it was time for her to take over and urge Falcone down with a semblance of dignity that the other mob bosses wouldn’t have bothered to allow him. When Mooney has that conversation with Butch and Liza about celebrating Falcone’s take down, it is beautifully played by Jada Pinkett-Smith, with a sorrow and somberness that gives the scene weight. Pinkett-Smith has given Mooney so much depth and character, using signature gestures like a wave of her finger and clicking her tongue to refine her in a fun interesting way.

What is possibly the weakest aspect of the episode is The Penguin’s relationship with Sal Maroni. We get the sense that Maroni is not a dumb guy, but he still hasn’t figured out that The Penguin is a spy for Falcone, which, as the season progresses, gets harder and harder to buy, especially when Penguin reveals himself so obviously. The Penguin may be a master manipulator with incredible foresight, but he has also fumbled his way into, and out of, a lot of bad situations, just barely getting out of them by the tip of his beak. Although the Penguin has gained more power with the downfall of Mooney, at some point Maroni is going to uncover the truth about him, and the repercussions should be severe in order for this plot thread to be satisfying.

The arc for Jim Gordon has been enjoyable, as he seems to know where he wants to be, and is taking actions to be there. Now that the absence of Barbara has worn off of him, Gordon can now be the man he needs to be in order to truly effect change in GCPD, stepping up to everyone, including Commissioner Loeb. In the comic book, Batman: Year One, Commissioner Loeb is in cahoots with Falcone, and the Batman vows to take him down for his alliance to the mob, and that may be true in Gotham as well, as Gordon ascertained that this Commissioner Loeb was desperate to clean up the mess in connection to Arkham Asylum, a joint interest of both Falcone and Maroni. The dynamic between Gordon and Loeb is interesting and lively, as they are immediately at odds with one another by reputation alone. Ben McKenzie seems to be having a little more fun with his portrayal of Gordon, as he continues his serious manner with a hint of more glee and fortitude that highlights this stage of the character’s ambition. In the role of Commissioner Loeb is Peter Scolari, who does a fine job in the role, with a presence of an over-dramatic high school principal.

This episode also slowly builds on the Edward Nygma subplot, which characterizes him as a misunderstood genius with poor social skills. Nygma has a sick sense of humor that would come off as charming if he were pitching to a girl who would appreciate it, but he’s infatuated with Ms. Kristen Kringle, who only sees him as a creep. This arc has been slow going but interesting, and where it will lead doesn’t seem like it will be a happy ending for the two. Cory Michael Smith is doing a stellar job at making Nygma likable without losing sight that he is a bit of an off character against Chelsea Spack, who plays off Smith’s creepiness with reactions that are believable, but not understated.

The Case File: The Electrocutioner

The case of this week directly draws from the previous episode, with the escaped Arkham Asylum inmate now on the loose and causing some trouble via a revenge plot that is well integrated into the main story, as it affects other characters within the episode. The escaped inmate is introduced as Jack Gruber, but is revealed here to actually be Lester Buchinskey, aka The Electrocutioner. The character is one of Batman’s villains from the comic books that Gotham has decided to utilize as an antagonist for Gordon, and they do it very well, presenting his electric ability without appearing too cheesy.

The Electrocutioner is an interesting example of a villain that was created as a result of the Arkham Asylum system, as already the Asylum is evolving the criminal masses towards a more colorful nature. Christopher Heyerdahl gives The Electrocutioner a gravitas of madness that is present in his monologues, and is heightened by his wardrobe. He’s a very cool looking villain that doesn’t look much like his comic book counterpart, which is probably for the best, as the comic book character is fairly generic.

Another fun aspect of this case of the week is how Gordon resolves the situation with the aid of Nygma, who makes the clever observation that we are dealing with an electric powered villain, so it may bode well to consider wearing rubber protective boots in order to combat him, with Gordon being the only one to comply with the idea, therefore allowing him to be the only one protected and able to face the villain. Defeating him with a cup of water is also a clever resolution to the character.

This episode comes from writer Ben Edlund, the ideal choice to present the episode that concludes one of the show’s most drawn out season arcs. It’s a great scripted episode, with very funny dialogue, and dramatic moments that really resonate. The direction is notably outstanding by Eagle Egilsson, who served as a cinematographer for The Wire, as well as directing various episodes of television series, such as CW’s Arrow. The episode is shot very cinematically, with very purposeful cropping and camera angles. The lighting is particularly well presented, with deep shadows and very spectacular use of lens flare. This episode is another fine addition to the season that resolves some plot threads, and presents some very promising development yet to come.

Detective’s Notes

  •  “No, it’s menacing, it’s weird and it’s inedible” – Kristen Kringle, referring to the cupcake with a live bullet in it that Ed Nygma presents to her  as a riddle.
  • Although Commissioner Loeb is not named after Jeph Loeb, it’s worth noting that Loeb was the writer of some great Batman stories set during his rookie years: The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, both with artist Tim Sale.
  • “I curse you all the time, and you never give me candy” – Bullock to Gordon
  • The Electrocution makes Irwin write “I Will Not Betray…” on the walls, like a detention punishment that would make one think of Bart Simpson.
  • Again, this episode is so beautifully shot, and Falcone in some scenes is reminiscent of the comic book, particularly the scenes with him and the flower. (See Below)
  • Barbara Kean ends up at her parents’ house in a very awkward scene. It appears that her parents don’t want her in their house either.
  • It’s surprising how quickly they bring Gordon and Leslie Thompkins together. No complaints here though.
  • Anthony Carrigan as Victor Zsasz always gives a great delivery of the line “Please”
  • Congratulations to Gotham for getting a second season renewal announced this past weekend.

Carmine Falcone

-JP


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