This Gotham review contains spoilers.
Gotham Season 5 Episode 8 Review
As we come to end of the run for Gotham, you’d think there wouldn’t be much time for filler. Yet that’s just what we get this week; three concurrent filler storylines, each dealing with a new villain. It’s a filler episode, but it’s a fun filler as we run the gamut of villainous threats from a fun semi-epic comic book legend, to a newer threat, and a generic sewer monster. Who and what are these new dastardly No Man’s Land rogues? Read on, Gothamites.
One aspect of this week’s episode that is most welcome is a focus on Harvey Bullock. Donal Logue’s Bullock has been one of the great joys of Gotham just as the Bullock character has been one of the great joys of the Batman mythos for many years. Whenever a comic or cartoon (think back to the classic Batman: The Animated Series episode A Bullet for Bullock) focuses on good old Harvey, fans can get rest assured that they will get an effective, old fashioned noir that is sure to scratch that classic gumshoe itch. And this week’s episode does just that. Of course it’s filtered through the lens of the usual Gotham excess and madness, but we’ll get to all that in a sec.
This week, Bullock’s past comes back to haunt him as it seems his old partner Dix murders two old time cops that used to run with Harvey. Remember, when Gotham first began, Bullock was a crooked cop. He thought there was no other choice until he met the unbending will of James Gordon. But with the death of these two cops at the hands of Dix, Harvey must confront the man he used to be. The only issue is that Dix is wheelchair bound and could not have killed the two cops. By the way, the murder took place in Barbara Kean’s club, so the always ready to kill to protect her own Barbara is also on the case.
In the show’s five-year run, we haven’t really been gifted many Bullock-centric episodes, so this is a rare treat. We learn that Bullock, Dix, and the two dead cops once investigated a man’s murder at the hands of his wife. According to Bullock, it was a clear case. But now, the woman’s daughter is out for revenge. And of course Gotham being Gotham, the daughter is now a skin changing villain known as Jane Doe.
Gordon and Bullock pay Dix a visit, and sure enough he is confined to his wheelchair. Bullock and Dix bond and we get an effective look at the cop and the man Bullock used to be. Dix is a mentor figure to Bullock, but he’s also corrupted and drained of hope, essentially the complete opposite of James Gordon. All of a sudden, a Dix doppelgänger arrives and attacks our heroes. This is our first appearance of Jane Doe, and she gets arrested by Gordon and we are given the first indication of Bullock’s sins.
Jane Doe escapes, disguises herself as Bullock, and manages to kill Dix. A very funny moment occurs when Doe disguises herself as Barbara and Gordon must figure out who the real Barbara is. Bullock confronts Doe, and it turns out that, back in the day, Bullock coerced the confession out of Jane Doe which led to her mother’s imprisonment. Just like everyone and their grandma, in Arkham, Jane was experimented on by Hugo Strange, and boom, we have a shapeshifting villain sworn to make Bullock suffer for his past sins. Doe is secondary to Bullock. She is the way we learn about Bullock’s past, and for every sin and bit of darkness we are forced to see about the beloved, likable Bullock we are reminded of the contrast between the Bullock of old and the Bullock created by the influence of Jim Gordon. We learn the truth about Bullock’s past sins and Bullock is forced to kill Jane Doe. But Bullock is also forced to face his past so when he has to fight the good fight to protect Gotham City. Because folks, Bane is still out there, war is coming, and you know Bullock will be on the front lines, Bullock will have to wear his dark past as armor so he can be what Gotham needs him to be.
The tale of Bullock and Jane Doe is as dark as pitch, but things get lightened up some with a visit to Penguin and Riddler. Oswald and Edward are still building their escape submarine; well, Edward is, Penguin is kind of just running around getting snacks. As it seems that the two will never be able to work together, Penguin’s old major domo Albert Penn shows up. Yeah, we saw Penn shot and killed a few weeks ago, but here he is, back alive, because (say it with me!) no one stays dead on Gotham. But lo and behold, Penn not only was brought back to life, but he also stumbled on a certain ventriloquist dummy in a magic shop. Yes kids, Penn is the Ventriloquist, and man, when you see him with Scarface the dummy, you really see how much Penn resembles the comic book version of the classic Bat rogue.
Penn, or more accurately, Scarface the dummy, wants to take over Penguin’s rackets. He holds Penguin and Riddler at gunpoint and Scarface has no mercy in his wooden heart. Well, it turns out Penguin and Riddler can work together as Penguin blows the dummy’s head off and Riddler blows Penn’s head off. I guess Penn isn’t the version of Ventriloquist that Batman will face in the future? I guess Scarface will somehow get his wooden head back and join with the classic Ventriloquist Arnold Wesker? Who knows at this point as Gotham has flushed any semblance of cross continuity down the sewers ages ago. But hey, through the debut of the Ventriloquist, we learned that Penguin and Riddler can in fact work together and that’s the most important thing.
Speaking of sewers, Bruce and Alfred make a descent into Gotham’s sewers to find the husband of a missing woman. What they find is a monstrous, mutated man beast whom I thought was Killer Croc, but it turns out, he was just some poor sap mutated by the chemicals Jeremiah spilled into Gotham harbor. Bruce and Alfred investigate Jeremiah’s tunnel, find a dismembered body as Gotham brings the grue, and face off against the man monster who is decidedly not Killer Croc. The whole thing is just a narrative excuse to reveal Alfred’s guilt over not protecting Wayne Manor from destruction at the hands of Jeremiah. Bruce and Alfred have a nice role reversal when Bruce comforts and props up Mister Pennyworth. A nice moment indeed, but it should have been Croc.
All in all, as I said to kick things off, this week’s Gotham was filler, but really fun filler, especially the Bullock business because I want to savior every moment of Logue as Bullock while I still can.
Ventriloquist first appeared in Detective Comics #583 (1988) and was created by John Wagner, Alan Grant, and Norm Breyfogle. The first comic book Ventriloquist was a man named Arnold Wesker who suffered from a dissociative personality disorder. Wesker is a milquetoast, mouse of a man, but his other personality is projected into a ventriloquist dummy named Scarface. With Scarface in his arms, Wesker is one of the most dangerous underworld figures in Gotham City. He runs all of Gotham’s rackets for a very long time and faced down Gotham’s most dangerous heroes and villains. Wesker is the true criminal genius, but he is quite helpless when not bonded with Scarface.
Jane Doe first appeared in Arkham Asylum: Living Hell #1 (2003) and was created by Dan Slott and Ryan Sook. In the comics, Doe looks like she stepped out of a Clive Barker movie. She is skinned and faceless, and has the power to take on a person’s form and identity after she kills them. She is a terrifying villain who has remained underutilized in the comics. Hopefully, this exposure on Gotham will change that. Jane Doe is one of the few DC Comics characters created by Marvel Comics stalwart Dan Slott.
Marc Buxton is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.