Gotham, Season 2, Episode 8, “Tonight’s the Night”
Written by Jim Barnes
Directed by Jeffrey Hunt
Airs Mondays at 8pm (ET) on FOX
Following the closing moments of “Mommy’s Little Monster”, Gordon had put the pieces together that Galavan was, in fact, responsible for the chaos that Gotham had endured in recent months, a reveal which then forced Galavan to move forward with his plans to convince Bruce to hand over Wayne Enterprises and to activate Barbara to take out Gordon. Throughout the season it has been clear that Galavan had been reluctant to kill Gordon up until now; part of it is explained as him not wanting to upset Bruce before making his plea for Wayne Enterprises and the other part is that he was saving him for Barbara. Finally, today is the day that Barbara is unleashed and her showdown with Gordon is as fun as is to be expected.
This season, Barbara has really been coming into her own as a villain, and it’s been very entertaining to watch develop. The showdown that Gotham has been building up to all season has been between Barbara and Gordon, and this episode scratches that itch very satisfyingly, first in the interrogation room, which leads Gordon to kiss Barbara in a manipulative move, to the uncertain ride-along where Barbara giddily leads them into a trap, then ending at the church, where their denouement finds Gordon gripping onto Barbara’s hand as she hangs outside the edge of a broken stain-glassed window in her wedding dress. These are all wonderful villain moments for Barbara, and Erin Richards looks like she’s having a ball portraying this side of her. This could’ve easily been the end of Barbara, the way Gotham plays fast and loose with their characters’ lives, but fortunately it appears that Barbara only suffered a flesh wound and is likely to return.
“Tonight’s the Night” is not only a spectacular spotlight for Barbara’s villainy, but also does well at giving some dimension to Bruce and his path to becoming the hero he is meant to be, as well as setting up an unlikely pairing of villains that will certainly be the highlight of the next episode. This season continues to utilize the Rise of the Villain theme well and only promises to continue as more well-known villains are primed to appear later this season.
Since the pilot episode of Gotham, the main mystery that has haunted Bruce is the identity of the man who murdered his parents. Bruce is driven by the desire to avenge his parents’ death, which is what is leading him down the path of becoming Batman, as he trains to be a better fighter against the corruption of his city. Here Bruce is tempted with an out, a way to stray from that path and become free of his parents’ legacy, by being offered the one thing he truly wants: the name of his parent’s killer. This is a crossroads for Bruce that reminds him of his father’s letter that pleaded that he choose the path of happiness rather than the path of truth. But what Galavan is offering, albeit tempting, is not exactly what Bruce has in mind for the Wayne legacy. Galavan isn’t lying when he tells Bruce that he wants to cleanse Gotham of the crime and corruption, or that he wants to “fix” Wayne Enterprises; he does want to do those things, but in a way that involves destroying the city and building his empire on top of it. Bruce is no fool and he knows that Galavan isn’t entirely on the up and up, but the carrot of achieving closure is enough to tempt anyone. It’s a real character-defining moment that Gotham does well, displaying Bruce’s wavering in a way that reminds us that he is still young and vulnerable. In the end, Bruce makes the right choice by denying Galavan, proving his will can weather the responsibility of his parents’ legacy. As fun as Gotham can be with their flamboyant villains, it’s these moments that highlight Bruce on his hero’s journey that prove some of the most compelling. David Mazouz continues to do a remarkable job as Bruce, able to display the required range of emotions against an equally impressive Sean Pertwee as Alfred, as they converse about what Bruce should do about Galavan’s offer. This scene, leading to their solemn hug, is perhaps one of the most touching in the season so far.
There is a minor subplot in this episode given to Edward Nygma, which seems a bit drawn out, but even so, is actually pretty good. Nygma decides to bury his former love Ms. Kringle out in the “secluded” forest but runs into some trouble that forces him to “improvise” with a hunter. Although this could’ve been a completely superfluous beat, it works because of the writing and the performance by Cory Michael Smith, which are both very strong. Nygma has completely embraced his villainous nature and here he salutes Ms. Kringle for her part in his transformation. The real purpose for his side story is to bring Nygma and The Penguin, who was last seen running away for his life wounded, together. It’s a bit silly that Penguin would expect Nygma to help him even after he banged Nygma’s head with the trailer door and then tried to attack him with a baseball bat, but nevertheless, it will be interesting to see this duo team up.
Gotham has really made Barbara come to life with her turn as an antagonist for Gordon, which is much more fun than seeing her skulk around with Montoya or weep from the sidelines, bemoaning that Gordon has moved on. This week, it’s reiterated where Barbara’s mind is at, which is that she still has hope that she and Gordon will be together again. This much has been clear since “The Last Laugh”, when Barbara explained to Lee that Gordon will be with her again because he has a dark side. Gordon and Lee’s relationship has, for the most part, been honest, although Gordon has held back the truth at times. This has put a strain on their relationship, but not enough to break it completely, but this week, Barbara’s tampering has finally made some headway at creating a rift between the two, which results in a great scene between Gordon and Lee talking about how Gordon pushes himself too far. When Gordon says, “Galavan is dirty, I’ll bet my life on it!” Lee’s response of “Don’t…Don’t bet your life on it” is a very pointed reminder that Gordon is too invested in his work, to the point where he may actually have a death wish. This is a very interesting conflict in Lee and Gordon’s relationship, one that after all is said and done, they may not be able to come back from and this drama will be very interesting to see play out when the time comes for them to have that talk that Lee was talking about.
Case File: Building the case against Galavan
Gordon wastes no time presenting all his well-placed hunches and plausible, yet unreliable informants to Captain Barnes, but it’s not enough to make a case against Galavan. Lucky for Gordon, he has one lead and that is Barbara, who inexplicably walks into the GCPD to distract Gordon while Galavan deals with Bruce. Investigating Galavan could have easily become an ongoing thread for the season, but that is not how Gotham likes to tread water, which is good because we get Gordon doing everything he can in order to get his way and we find out that this includes exploiting Barbara’s feelings for him to get her to give up Galavan. Barbara had been pushing Gordon to tap into his darkness and Gordon does so in a way that is not expected. When Gordon kisses Barbara it is quite the surprise to see him go so far. Gordon has been compromising his ethics more and more this season and it’s fair to say this kind of tactic has not really served him well. What’s good is that Lee calls him out on it and lets Gordon know that it’s him that is deciding to take the path of the belligerent. There are other options that Gordon could take but he is the one that has to go all Gun-Ho and justify it as just doing his job. He may not be as bad a “bad boy” as Barbara claims, but Gordon’s more of one than he’d care to admit.
It’s great to have Captain Barnes as a consistent force of good law practice over at the GCPD, and one who isn’t afraid to remind Bullock and Gordon that roughing up a perp isn’t the right way to present themselves as officers of the law. Interestingly enough, it seems as though Bullock and Barnes are brushing up against each other a bit. Their philosophies tend to clash, which is fun to see as Bullock has no problem “not listening” to Barnes’ commands. This is a dynamic that hasn’t really played as often in past episodes as one would think, but it would be good to see featured again.
This episode is scripted by another Gotham newcomer, Jim Barnes (previous work includes Falling Skies and Revolution), whose addition to the staff has served beneficially for the season. This is a more grounded take on the material, and its strengths lay more on the drama of character conflicts than over-the-top flamboyant action. There are still the trademark Gotham moments, like an impromptu car crash followed by a shootout, Gordon punching Galavan to put a fine point on his arrest, and Nygma’s beating down of a new victim, and these are all done very well, but where the episode sings are in the conversational moments, such as the interrogation room with Barbara, Galavan pitching Bruce to sell him Wayne Enterprises, and in Nygma’s poetic, Riddler-esque eulogy to Kringle.
These moments work so well due to the excellent direction by Jeffrey Hunt, who also helmed Gotham‘s season one episode “The Blind Fortune Teller”. The opening sequence, Barbara’s dream wedding that turns into a nightmare, is given appropriate eeriness with the camera angles and performances. Also, the costuming of The Penguin with the pencil mustache is a truly inspired choice and there is a great use of mirrors in the interrogation room scene, where Lee is looking in at Gordon and Barbara and Lee’s sullen expressions are reflected; the performance by Morena Baccarin is on point and beautifully photographed. “Tonight’s the Night” features Barbara and her insanity in a worthy episode that lives up to expectations and takes us to the next stage of the season, with Galavan exposed for the fiend that he is. It’s going to fun to see what Gotham has coming up as we get closer to the midseason break.
- “You see an abyss and you run towards it.”—Lee
- Nygma’s riddle: “I take you by night, by day take you back, none suffer to have me, but do from my lack. What am I?” The unsaid answer is Sleep. Must say it’s a very poetic, albeit creepy, way to eulogize Ms. Kringle.
- “Wayne Enterprises is not Thomas and Martha Wayne’s legacy. That legacy standing right here with me.”—Alfred
- “That’s option B, Baby!”—Barbara referring to Gordon having a death wish.
- “People underestimate me.”—Bruce
- In Barbara’s dream sequence, the moment when the bird flies out of her mouth is absolutely reminiscent of the Batman Returns scene where Catwoman threatens to eat Penguin’s bird but then lets it go when he threatens her pet cat.
- The tech used on Gotham is so interesting. This is a world that has iPhones, security cameras, and GPS, but they tend to use old technology ever so often, like the reel-to-reel tape recorder. I think the reason for this must be that the GCPD doesn’t have much in their tech budget and therefore have to make do with what they can get cheap. When the GCPD can’t afford modern gadgets it’s no wonder there is so much crime in Gotham.