Gotham: Mad Grey Dawn Review

Gotham finally pulled the trigger on its Riddler storyline, but lost the plot with an awkward mid-episode time jump.

This Gotham review contains spoilers.

Gotham Season 2, Episode 15

Gotham made some compelling, organic narrative moves in “Mad Grey Dawn,” but their effect was somewhat hindered by the awkward pacing of the episode. Much of the development that took place — from Ed’s framing of Jim to the integration of Penguin into his new family — was oddly rushed, as if the Gotham writers room glanced up at their story outline board for season 2, realized that they were running out of time, and flew into a plot-fueled panic. To recap, here are some of the major things that happened in this one, 42-minute episode:

– Ed finally claims his throne as Riddler. His first order of business? Setting Jim up for murder to keep him from discovering Ed’s own evil-doing.- Jim is tried, found guilty, and thrown into Blackgate Penitentary. He tells Lee to forget about him.- Oswald runs into his father at his mother’s grave. His father, claiming to have just found out about him, brings him into his wealthy, upper class family.

It feels like Gothamthrew many of their major season 2.5 moves into one episode. It’s a shame, too, because I would have gladly tuned into see some of these storyline explored over the course of a two or three-episode arc, as has often been Gotham‘s go-to structure this season.

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Despite the weird, rushed nature of the episode and the awkward time jump two-thirds of the way through, there was still a lot to like about “Mad Grey Dawn” — the proper birth of Riddler at the top of the list. Ed’s more-though out turn to the dark side has been a long time coming. Though we’ve seen him commit villainous crimes before, he has exhibited proper Riddler behavior until now, setting a complicated trap that he knew Gordon would be able to follow… to his detriment.

It’s a wonder what knowing the villain for longer than a few episodes can do for Gotham‘s watchability. This show is particularly good at creating whisical, terrifying villains, but their effectiveness is often limited by their fleeting presence. Not so the case with Ed, who we’ve known — and probably even liked, at points — from the beginning. That Jim counts Ed as a friend, and that Ed probably at one point counted Jim as a friend, makes this betrayal that much more interesting.

Adding to the drama of the moment is a return of focus to the relationship between Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock: partners, comrades-in-arms, friends. The Gordon/Bullock has always been much more compelling than the romance between Jim and Lee (at least to this viewer). The final scene, which saw Harvey driving with Jim to Blackgate and confirming that he won’t give up on his partner, worked much better than the goodbye between Jim and Lee, probably because — even at his most desperate — Jim fails to actually listen to Lee and give her a say in their relationship. Let it be noted that, while Jim apparently respects Harvey enough to share the complete truth about his part in Galavan’s murder, he doesn’t have the same level of respect for Lee, who is not only his romantic partner, but the mother of his unborn child. Rude.

On a related note, Bullock continues to be the unsung hero of this show. Even in the worst of episodes (of which this was not an example), his presence brings a consistently delightful energy to the screen. If you’re looking for a true superpower within the world of Gotham,look no further than the power of Harvey Bullock’s one-liners.

Elsewhere in the episode, Penguin, fresh out of Arham, makes the Gotham rounds. First, he visits Butch and Tabitha Galavan, who seem to spend all of their time half-heartedly scheming in Penguin’s old lair. Frankly, it’s disappointing. Though Penguin’s miraculous conversion to a moral man at the hands of Hugo Strange still seems a bit out-in-left-field — even for this show — Robin Taylor’s charms as Oswald Cobblepot continue to make following this character a delight — no matter how nonsensical.

Next, Penguin makes a stop at Ed’s, and — as is always the case with these two — the resulting scene is nothing short of magic. (Why can’t these two be roomies forever?) The two villains seem genuinely happy to see one another, but they are going in two different morality directions. While Penguin has recently committed to the life of good-doing, Ed has recently committed to a life of villainy. These two are truly star-crossed.

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Finally, Penguin visits the grave of his poor, dead mother, only to run into his long lost father. The reunion is suspiciously free of conflict or awkwardness, with Tucker Cobblepot welcoming Oswald into his wealthy, well-dressed family with open arms. Something tells me, moving forward, it won’t be all family game nights from here on out (especially with Julie Cooper — aka the wonderful Melinda Clarke — as his step-mom).

The Bruce and Selina storyline was the only one that didn’t feel unfortunately rushed in tonight’s episode, perhaps because it was also the least interesting. I can’t decide if it’s condescending and stupid that Bruce choose to live on the street and help Selina steal money for food and shelter when he could easily just pay for all of it himself, or if its just stupid.

Still, I have always loved the dynamic between these two, and watching them worry about one another after being captured and threatened and (in Bruce’s case) beat up by the drug dealers they were trying to steal from was still affecting. I just wish Gothamhad used the opportunity to develop their dynamic, rather than simply using it to simply check another box on the Steps to Becoming Bruce Wayne Checklist the Gothamwriters room surely has hanging next to that aformentioned story outline.

In other news, Barbara Gordon is awake from her power nap and seems understandably freaked out to be in Arkham’s hospital wing. This is probably a good instinct, but that’s what you get for kidnapping your ex-fiance and your ex-fiance’s baby mama whilst wearing your would-be wedding dress.


3.5 out of 5