Gotham: A Bitter Pill To Swallow review

Gotham doubles down on the violence, but doesn't have much to show for it, in "A Bitter Pill to Swallow."

This Gotham review contains spoilers.

Gotham: Season 2, Episode 9

Tonight’s episode of Gotham — “A Bitter Pill to Swallow” — seemed particularly heavy on the senseless violence and killing. I’m not sure if there actually was more violence in tonight’s episode or if it is just the current mood of the country that made me that much more sensitive to Gotham‘s signature brand of storytelling this week in particular.

Either way, the result was the same: I came away from the ninth episode of this particularly violent second season feeling like mutliple characters had died and/or been injured in a variety of gruesome ways, but that Gotham didn’t have anything particularly interesting to say about it.

Jim Gordon is still a good guy, I guess?

Gotham‘s strategy when it comes to violence has always been the more, the better. No one could ever claim this show hasn’t commited to the dark, messy implications of a Gotham before Bruce Wayne has even figured out how to properly deceive a teenage girl or Alfred, for that matter. The problem is that commitment is wildly uneven and, more often than not, seemingly executed without a particularly articulate purpose.

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I suppose that last point is not completely true. With the Jim v. Assassins storyline, Gotham seemed intent on showing us Jim Gordon’s fragile, then resolute, commitment to law and order. The problem is: that story has been told before on Gotham.Multiple times. And redundancy is often a form of devaluation. There are only so many times I can watch Gordon go through a crisis of faith. The fact that the latest one was seemingly brought about by Barbara’s coma is especially problematic, as the show never really sold me on the validity of that particular relationship. Sorry, Jim. Your plight is getting old. 

Bruce can fool neither Silver, nor Alfred.

Alfred may be a borderline terrible caretaker, but he probably is wise to keep Bruce sequestered inside of Wayne Manor these days. Haven’t you heard? There are cannibals on the loose.

Unfortunately, the Bruce Tries to Sneak Out of The Manor plotline left much to be desired. I am typically a defender of the Bruce Wayne subplots, if only because they tend to give some measure of optimism in a storyscape that actively snuffs out optimism in its other elements, but this didn’t really go anywhere.

I kept waiting for a twist — i.e. Bruce actually manages to out-think Alfred, Bruce gets Alfred to teach him the art of teenage deception, etc. — but it never came. Selina did, however, pop over to Wayne Manor in the end of the ep (did Alfred call in reinforcements?), which only made me realize how much I missed the teenage scoundrel. Can next week’s episode be all about Selina? I feel like I deserve it after “A Bitter Pill to Swallow.”

Another task force member dies a gruesome death.

Elsewhere in the episode, we lost another member of Strike Force — or, as I like to refer to them, Team Red Shirt. As with all of the Red Shirts’ deaths that have come before, Parks’ gruesome demise doesn’t hit on an emotional level because we never really got to know her. This show never took her existence seriously, but rather as another “good guy” to sacrifice to the insatiable hunger of Gotham and this plot.

Here death does, however, hit on a visceral level. And, again, I was left wondering what Gothamhad to gain from the death of yet another young woman on this show. What was the point of Parks’ death? Jim had already recommitted to his mission. We all understand how absolutely terrible of a place Gotham is. Time for a new, or at least slightly different, tune, show.

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And to all of those Doctor Who fans out there: no, you weren’t the only one pretending that Michelle Gomez’s The Lady was actually The Master/Missy here. Is Gothamactually a Doctor Who spin-off? Discuss.

Penguin and Nygma, murder BFFs.

You know you’re in trouble when the most lighthearted element of this episode involves a bedridden Penguin, quasi-kidnapped by a Nygma desperate to find a murder mentor. But Penguin and Nygma’s scenes together were delightful, even if they did add to the theme of senseless killing.

This sublplot became even better when I realized how much this dynamic has in common with Hannibal(blame this episode’s cannibalism, if you’d like). Penguin and Nygma’s discussion of love as weakness, Nygma’s “present” to Penguin, and their love/hate vibes screamed murder husbands. But maybe that was just me? Is Gothamactually thinly-veiled Hannibalfanfiction? Discuss.


2 out of 5