Gotham season 2 episode 17 review: Into The Woods…

Ed's villainy comes to light as Oswald makes a meal of his step-family...

This review contains spoilers.

2.17 Into The Woods

On this week’s Gotham, it was the best of times (for the first half of this episode), it was the worst of times (for the second half of this episode). I am being hyperbolic. All in all, this was a pretty great episode. Unfortunately, the momentum built up in the first half of the episode — and in the larger Ed becomes Riddler plot — was squandered in a too-fast, too-easy wrap-up. Oh well. We’ll always have that scene of Ed electrocuting Jim in his apartment…

First, let’s talk about what was great in this episode. Like many of the best episodes of Gotham (this one included), Into The Woods did a good job of bringing formerly disparate elements of the plot together by focusing on one urgent element. In this episode, that focal element was Jim Gordon’s quest to find out who framed him.

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Bullock helps out his partner (and gets the best line of dialogue, as per usual: “The people of Gotham can eat my socks!”), reminding me just how underutilized both Bullock as a character and the Bullock/Gordon relationship in general has become in season two. Remember when there were whole episodes about their buddy cop dynamic? I’m not going to say it was a better time, but it was a simpler time. I will say that I would three thousand per cent rather spend time on the Bullock/Gordon relationship than I would on the Lee/Jim one.

Jim eventually manages to steal a tape of the person who called in the tip about his part in Galavan’s murder. He reasons that the person who made the call is the person who framed him. In a tragicomedic turn of events, Jim brings the tape to the only person who he thinks he can trust in this matter: Ed.

And here in lies the emotional grip of this current villain arc. Gotham so rarely makes us care about its villains in the way it does Ed (and, of course Penguin). Unlike Penguin, however, Ed really was good when we met him. He really was Jim’s friend. Gotham is constantly trying to convince its viewers to have sympathy for Jim Gordon. Watching him seek refuge from Ed, someone he thought was his friend, was the first time in a long time I actually felt that sympathy for Gordon.

Ed is also interesting as a villain character because he knows our relative heroes so well. When he gets in a debate with Jim about whether all killers are psychopaths — one of my favorite Gotham moments of all time — he poses some relevant questions. He points out that Jim killed Galavan. Even though the comparison doesn’t really hold water, Ed’s insight that Jim wants all murderers to be crazy because Jim is afraid of the monster within himself is a good one.

Unfortunately, said insight is undercut by Gotham‘s continual equation of villainy with mental illness. There is almost never a criminal on this show who commits a crime because of reasons other than they suddenly and inexplicably went crazy. Except Selina. She is the one jewel of a criminal who steals, coerces, and (only occasionally) murders because of her unjust context. Bless her.

Ultimarely, I didn’t believe that Jim would have figured out that it was Ed who framed him so quickly. I also don’t like how quickly he caught Ed (though it was fun to see Selina’s part in the scheme). It feels like Gotham has been building up the Riddler storyline forever, and wrapped it up so quickly. Yes, Ed will inevitably escape (or Hugo Strange will just let him go — apparently, this is something he’s just allowed to do), but we’ll never again get to see Ed operating as a double agent of sorts from within the GCPD, and I for one, am sad about that.

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Meanwhile, Bruce has really settled into his life on the streets. He’s stealing money only to Robin Hood it from the Gotham city rooftops (much to Selina’s chagrin) and mending leather jackets like he couldn’t just hire a personal tanner. Frankly, it’s all a little insulting to Selina, but I suppose it makes sense within the context of the show?

Like the Ed plot, the Bruce/Selina stuff in this episode felt oddly rushed in its conclusion, which is sad because I was really into it. Alfred convinces Bruce to move back into Wayne Manor because it’s too dangerous for Selina to know the truth about his father’s Not-Batcave. Because it’s not like Selina can take care of herself (and Bruce) or anything…

It also feels out-of-charater that Alfred suddenly cares about Selina. This is the man who once slapped her. (Nope, still haven’t forgotten about that, Alfred.) Sure, this is probably a manipulation on Alfred’s part, playing on Bruce’s feelings for Selina to get him to move back in the house, but would Bruce really go for it?

Also, poor Lucius only gets a mention here. I really wish that character got more to do on this show. Gotham may be overcrowded when it comes to characters, but I would gladly swap Lee, Barbara, or Barnes for Lucius. More Wayne Enterprises subplot, please.

I don’t know what to think of the Penguin As Cannibal melodrama. This subplot has been operating on its own bizarre level since its inception, fueled mostly by the combined on-screen charisma of Robin Lord Taylor, Paul Reubens, and Melinda Clarke. I will follow them anywhere. 

This week, the subplot delved into Cinderella territory with Oswald playing the part of the step-servant to the Van Dahls following the death of his father. I dug the gender-swapped fairy tale, but, like the larger, irresponsible story of villainy and mental illness on this show, Gotham operates without logic here. As much as I like Hugo Strange as a character, it’s hard to get a handle on his larger storyline when the show doesn’t have any internal logic in regards to what Strange is doing, why it broke when Penguin realized his father was murdered, and what the heck is up with Barbara.

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Unlike the classic Cinderella story, Oswald’s rise in power doesn’t end with a princely marriage, but rather with Oswald serving the Van Dahl sibs to their own mother before slaughtering her, too. Guess The Penguin is back, huh? Maybe his first order of business can be breaking bestie Ed out of jail? 

Read Rob’s review of the previous episode, Prisoners, here.