Gotham Season 5 Episode 5 Review: Pena Dura

Gotham begins to get a little lost in all its layers in "Pena Dura."

This Gotham review contains spoilers.

Gotham Season 5 Episode 5

Layers upon layers. Gotham continues to be a mass of concurrent storylines. This week, many of those arcs come together, and at times, the results are a blast. At others, the whole thing almost collapses in on itself. So let’s start peeling back the layers of Gotham’s onion as we barrel toward the series finale.

One of the promises Gotham made that it hasn’t really fulfilled is a deeper dive into Jim Gordon’s military past. Gordon as a vet is so intriguing and also sadly, pretty quickly forgotten about. Until this week, as we are introduced to a former army buddy of Jim’s named Eduardo Dorrance, played by Shane West.

We all know that West has been teased to be somehow connected to a major Bat baddie (if you don’t know, we won’t spoil it, but the way West clutches the lapels of his vest should give you a big clue). The connection to Gordon adds an unexpected layer to the past of this Bat rogue. Ironically, Dorrance also represents the help Gordon and Gotham City is desperate for at the moment. He arrives just in time to end a standoff between Gordon and arms dealers and instantly becomes a major player.

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What is Gordon after this arms dealer for? Well, Gordon is still looking for the RPG-wielding psychopath that blew up Haven. The arms dealer provides the name. We know it’s poor Edward Nygma, and now Gordon and Penguin do too. No one wants answers more than Nygma himself.

This is where things get silly as Nygma’s search leads him to the Deep South section of Gotham City. I guess? Why not? Here some thugs hook Nygma up to a car battery and torture him because their dog was killed during the attack on Haven… Really, we’re doing this? Oh, Gotham.

further reading: The Many Deaths of The Joker

Anyway, during the torture, Nygma remembers Penguin promising to “fix” Ed. Ed escapes, but now thinks Penguin is responsible for the mind control. Nygma confronts Penguin, who confesses that, when Nygma was stabbed and dying, Penguin paid Hugo Strange to fix Nygma. Well, there you go, some nice little plot connections, but did we really need this reveal to happen because of a whole thing about a dead dog? Sigh.

Nygma confronts Hugo, but Gordon and Dorrance get the same info from Penguin. Strange gets the jump on Nygma and paralyzes him. The doctor then proceeds to perform brain surgery to check why the chip he implanted in Nygma has gone wonky. So there’s Ed, his scalp all exposed as BD Wong chews scenery and remains one of the biggest delights on Gotham. He even let’s out a George Takei “Oh my!” when confronted by Nygma. Awesome.

This is where things get complicated. Gordon and Dorrance get the jump on Strange when it is revealed that it’s Dorrance himself who is controlling Nygma on behalf of his government bosses. Dorrance wants Gordon to prove his loyalty by putting a bullet between Nygma’s eyes, but of course Gordon refuses. As of now, things seem overly complex but the prospect of Gordon having to take on one of his old military pals for the soul of Gotham is pretty intriguing, especially when you add in the connection to that aforementioned classic Bat villain.

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So Dorrance is connected to Strange who is connected to Penguin, and that’s why the Riddler became a mass murderer. Sadly, Dorrance still controls Nygma and sends him after Gordon, but that storyline will have to wait as we check in on Bruce and Selina.

Bruce is still having trouble dealing with the idea that Selina murdered Jeremiah. Bruce confronts Selina in Barbara Kean’s club as she celebrates the death of the maybe Joker. The two have a poignant conversation about the fact that Selina is not a hero no matter how much Bruce needs her to be. She claims she didn’t help Bruce after his parents were murdered because she just didn’t care enough to get involved. The whole thing is heartbreaking as Bruce has to learn that not everyone is as altruistic as he is.

That being said, Bruce obsessing over Selina’s actions after the fact seems kind of selfish considering Gotham is literally burning. He’s chasing around his pet project Selina while he could be spearheading thousands of different projects to improve life in no man’s land. The whole “murder is wrong” superhero trope has become just lazy. It’s lazy on Arrow. It’s lazy of The Flash. It’s lazy on Gotham, even if it does lead to a fascinating look at Bruce and Selina’s conflicting natures.

But the whole thing is a moot point anyway because Jeremiah ain’t dead! It’s revealed at the end of the episode that he pretended to be dead to fool Selina and Bruce into thinking he was gone. Meanwhile, he and Ecco have tunneled into a Gotham mansion and performed surgery on a man and a woman. It looks like Jeremiah has created his very own Thomas and Martha Wayne. If I’m right, that’s some sick shit right there.

The introduction of Dorrance can lead to some interesting places, especially with that Bat baddie connection, and more Jeremiah is always welcome. But Gotham continues to sabotage itself with silly camp and needless slapstick violence. Let’s call this week a toss-up.

Read more about Gotham Season 5.

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Marc Buxton is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.


3 out of 5