This review contains spoilers.
3.5 Anything For You
It’s hard to care about characters when they don’t care about anything themselves beyond some abstract, selfish quest for power or justice. This is something that Gotham has struggled with since its very beginning. It’s also why it’s always been so easy to care about Peguin. Even in his darkest days, he has cared. He cared endlessly about his mother. He cares about Fish. And, now, he cares about Ed. Like, a lot.
The relationship between Ed and Oswald blossomed into a full-on love story in Anything For You. The purpose of the episode was to prove that these two will do almost anything for one another. There was a brief moment when it was unclear if Ed was tricking Butch or if he would actually choose power over Oswald, and it was frustrating. Because pretty much everyone on this show always chooses power over people and it is not only nihilistic, but it’s redundant. Gotham‘s third season has moved on the spectrum a little bit — there’s still plenty of nihilism, but there is also love and devotion — and it’s made all of the difference. It’s made season three the best season of Gotham yet.
But back to Ed and Oswald… the episode opens with a montage of their love as Penguin’s previous boyfriend, Butch, scowls in the background. It should worry us that Penguin is the most competent mayor — nay leader, of any kind — in Gotham’s history, but it’s a pretty easy competition to win. He feeds the hungry, protects the weak, and even creates a statue of his immigrant mother, which is pretty sweet. When Butch gets the Red Hood Gang to destroy said statue in an elaborate plan to win back Penguin’s affections, it is a mild distraction from what has been a rather impressive first week or so (what even is time on Gotham?) as mayor.
Yes, Butch’s plan to regain Penguin’s attention is convoluted and kind of stupid, but that’s basically Butch’s style. And can you blame the man for being a little peeved that the man he let chop off his hand is questioning his allegiance? The Ed-Butch battle for Oswald’s affections might take a twist too many, but it’s built on the kind of artfully-crafted character dynamics that Gotham rarely makes time for.
Before I move on to the rest of the romance in this episode, I want to take a moment to talk a little bit about that final scene between Ed and Oswald. Was anyone else expecting them to kiss? I really thought Gotham was going to go for it and make the radical (but encouraging) choice to depict these two iconic DC villains as queer. It seemed awkward (and like some Hays Code-era contortion) that they didn’t make out in that last scene, but also seemed like, regardless of any lip-touching, that Cory Michael Smith and Robin Lord Taylor were playing it that way. Also, given some of the future synopses, it seems like there is still room for the show to move in that direction, should it so choose.
Is this how you read this Penguin/Riddler scene, too? Is Gotham just trolling us? Discuss in the comments at the bottom of the page.
Ed and Oswald weren’t the only characters expressing their undying love for one another (seriously, have I mentioned that this was the most romantic episode of Gotham ever?). Bruce finally got up the courage to tell Selina that he likes her… as more than a friend. Bruce’s rooftop balcony scene managed to be simultaneously the most Bruce Wayne (i.e. as if he were in a board meeting) and most teen (i.e. fumbly and awkward) speech ever, which was pretty endearing.
Selina’s own response — annoyance, making sure Bruce knows that he should never tell her what to do, and a kiss — was also completely in character. Again, this moment worked because we know these characters, we have seen their friendship evolve. We also know the complications. Bruce is right in saying that he and Selina have some things in common, but Selina is also right in making sure Bruce knows that he is a privileged idiot who has truly know what it’s like not to have a billion dollars to fall back on, if he should so choose.
The Bruce and Tabitha dynamic has seen considerably less development than the other relationships we’ve discussed thus far, but we know enough about it to believe that Butch might try to kill Penguin to keep Tabitha safe (besides, as we know from Butch’s speech, he is also just angry with Penguin). And we know enough to believe that Tabitha would try to save Butch.
Bringing Butch into The Sirens’ fold might not be a decision from the heart, so much as one of practicality. Tabitha and Barbara ae nothing if not practical, and Butch has skills. Sure, his plans might be crap, but he has worked in the Gotham underworld for years, he knows Penguin better than anyone, he has experience as an effective and loyal minion, and he knows how to handle large weaponry. He could be handy (pun!) to have around.
So far, Jim has been kind of adorably on the fence in his relationship with Valerie Vale. On the one hand, he is still hung up on Lee a little bit and Valerie seems cool with keeping things casual. On the other hand, Jim Gordon doesn’t do casual. On advice from teenage billionaire Bruce Wayne, Jim decides to take the relationship plunge with Valerie, showing up on her informant date and wooing her with the promise of information on Alice Tetch’s blood for her story. For Valerie, this is better than flowers.
I have to admit: these two make a lot of sense. As Valerie points out, both she and Jim have a hard time separating their job from the rest of their identity. With Lee, that eventually became a dealbreaker. Perhaps, with Valerie, Jim won’t have to change.
Barnes should really tell someone that he stupidly got a drop of Alice Tetch’s blood in his eye. Will he? Of course not. Because this is the GCPD, an incompetent Gotham institution made even more incompetent by the toxic masculinity of most of its employees.
For most of the episode, Barnes seems unaffected by the blood, but — as we learn from Lee (and some rat-based trials — Alice’s blood can take longer to affect some people than it does others. How long does it take to affect Barnes? Just about one episode’s length, judging by the way his eyes vamped out at the end of Anything For You. The infected rat chewed through 12 metal cages to eat its fellow infected rats. Who do we think Barnes will eat first?
The Mad Hatter has become even madder since his sister’s untimely death, which is saying something. He has kidnapped a girl, dressed her up like his sister, and slit her throat. It is all some kind of calling card for Jim Gordon. Jervis even leaves a bloody note. Jim Gordon sure does have a knack for attracting criminals.
Anything For You proved that Gotham doesn’t have to give up its nihilistic undertones, mad-hat plot shenanigans, or comic villainy to give us characters who care about one another and who we, therefore, care about. It makes for a better, more complex show. Keep up the good work, Gotham.
Read Kayti’s review of the previous episode, New Day Rising, here.