Gotham: Everybody has a Cobblepot review

Gotham introduces the Dollmaker in a surreal, rambling episode. Things don't go well. Here's our review.

This Gotham review contains spoilers.

Gotham showed so much promise last week with “Red Hood.” That’s a shame, because it makes “Everybody has a Cobblepot” look that much worse by comparison. I’m going to change the way I do things for a little while in order to keep things interesting. I will praise the praiseworthy things up front, and then leave the actual criticism of the episode for a new section of these reviews that I will henceforth refer to as “Crime Alley.” The things that I like will remain on “Park Row.”

I should warn you, though, “Everybody has a Cobblepot” takes a very long walk down Crime Alley.

Park Row

Commissioner Loeb has only been mentioned in a handful of episodes all season, and appeared in even fewer. It was good to see this important piece of the show’s story get a little more exploration this week.

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More importantly, it was good to see more interaction between two of the only genuinely good people in Gotham City law enforcement working together. Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent are a natural pairing. It reminds me of Miller and Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One, where both of these flawed but good-hearted guys found an ally in each other. The fact that they’re working to take down Commissioner Loeb, who was created specifically for that particular story brought a smile to my face.

It was nice to see that they let Harvey be a good guy this week and didn’t feel the need to hammer us with his tragic future, either. This is a character who can and should have a serious impact on this show if he develops properly. Gotham (the show and the city) needs heroes, and a genuine friendship, one relatively untainted by the corruption and incompetence of the rest of the GCPD would go a long way towards balancing things out a little on this show.

Ben McKenzie was exceptionally good this week. I sometimes feel I haven’t given him enough credit, focusing my praise for individual performances on David Mazouz, Robin Lord Taylor, and Sean Pertwee. McKenzie, like those other three, is the kind of casting that I could see developing a truly memorable, iconic take on the character if given the chance. He was every bit the James Gordon we know the character will be, particularly during his negotiations with the Penguin.

Sadly, we just made a wrong turn and look like a bunch of tourists, for we have just strolled into…

Crime Alley

I realize that many readers like Gotham more than I do, and I don’t blame those who don’t take my often dim view of the proceedings. That being said, it’s impossible to imagine even the most ardent Gotham fan defending “Everybody has a Cobblepot.” This is surely the weakest episode of the series, playing like a series of completely disconnected vignettes. 

Alfred was in ICU with a tube down his throat last week (although it appears to have just been twenty-four hours in show time), yet was sitting up and chatting away today. Selina Kyle stopped by for no discernible reason. Jim Gordon brought Bruce a bagle. A clown on a unicycle rode by in the background. That last bit didn’t happen, but it could have.

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You know how I said it was refreshing to see Commissioner Loeb actually mean something to this show for the first time in ages? Well, I stand by that, but it doesn’t help that Gotham has done absolutely no work whatsoever to make this guy feel like much of a presence, let alone a threat, for eighteen episodes. The discovery of Loeb’s corruption and the ways in which he manipulates the individual members of the GCPD is the kind of thing that could drive an entire season…of a different show.

By the way, I defy any of you to follow Gordon’s logic in not bringing Loeb down tonight. Their final confrontation was like watching a pair of Bizarros negotiate in reverse.

Instead, Loeb is not even a villain of the week. He’s a weirdo hiding a mentally ill daughter who killed his wife, something that he’s allowed suspicion to fall on himself for in order to “protect” her. By “protection” I mean that he has hidden her away in the attic of a country house with two gun wielding Ma and Pa Kettle stand-ins who play their parts so broadly that were it Adam West and Burt Ward investigating the proceedings with a poorly disguised Burgess Meredith in tow, their scenes would have seemed less contrived.

Keep in mind that we’re bouncing between brief hospital interludes (which appear to just be here out of obligation lest last week’s admittedly very good cliffhanger feel like a cop-out…which it now does), Gordon and Dent’s legwork, the revelation that Flass got off and is going to head the police union (somebody got paid to write this dialogue: “I’m like the phoenix. I’ll just rise…again…and again…and again.”), the Addams Family stuff with Loeb’s bumpkin stooges, and whatever is going on with Fish Mooney and the Dollmaker.

In fact, I can’t ignore this any longer. There is absolutely no reason for Fish Mooney’s storyline to continue at this point. Colm Feore makes his debut as the Dollmaker tonight, and may deserve an enemy for actually introducing himself as “Dr. Dulmacher” with a straight face.

The Dollmaker (I refuse to call him “Dulmacher” ever again) has a charming bedside manner for his clientele who are the beneficiaries of his horrific organ and body part harvesting operations. Dulmacher wants to know how many body parts you can switch out of a person before “you stop being you.” That would be with the brain, genius, something that this show is in desperate need of. He wonders aloud whether he should organize a salsa night. I wonder aloud whether I should find another line of work.

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Were Gotham intended to be a comedy, this stuff would be gold. But it’s really not all that funny. It’s not compelling. Jeffrey Combs is written right out of the show in an awkward scene where it’s revealed that as punishment for not harvesting Fish Mooney’s eyes, he has been stitched together with a random assortment of body parts. Like last week’s ridiculous eyeball-popping moment, I’m not sure why this happened or what it accomplishes.

My suspicions about the Penguin have also sadly proven true. Without the threat of impending gang war, Oswald Cobblepot’s arc, formerly the best Gotham has to offer, has hit a brick wall. He’s now reduced to trading favors with the GCPD and murdering crooked senior citizens for a laugh. You see, when even the Penguin becomes someone who kills solely for his own amusement, it basically robs the more murderous villains in Batman’s rogues’ gallery of any real impact.

But I’m sure we all know when the absolute nadir of the episode, if not the entire series, occurs. It, of course, comes during one of those insufferable interludes between Edward Nygma and Ms. Kringle. 

Remember that episode of The Simpsons when it was Valentine’s Day and Lisa rejects Ralphie Wiggum’s romantic advances, and Bart freeze frames the video tape so that they can pinpoint “the exact moment when his heart breaks?” Yeah, well, that basically happened tonight. Rejected by Ms. Kringle in favor of “Officer Tom” who loves riddles in a patronizing way (and who looks kinda like a clean cut, good natured version of Dean Ambrose), Nygma tears up the flowers intended for the woman he stalks and throws them in the trash. 

And with that, one of the greatest supervillains in history was born.

I leave you with the insightful words of Selina Kyle, taken directly from this episode during her completely extraneous and unnecessary appearance tonight:

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“Wow. That sucks.”

* An earlier version of this review switched the names of The Simpsons daughters, it has since been corrected. I deeply regret any distress this may have caused any of you. *


1 out of 5