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GOTHAM Review: “The Anvil or the Hammer”

When Barbara Kean was first introduced, we were told she was a former addict and lover of Renee Montoya, as well as an art gallery owner. Yet I can’t recall a single scene in which was depicted at work. Instead, Babs spent most of the first half of this season in various states of undress in her apartment, saying goodbye to Gordon or welcoming him home after a hard day’s work. Then after the mob interfered with their lives (resulting in her getting kidnapped at least once), she ran off with Montoya and returned to the party girl lifestyle she’d left behind. We were soon told it was all the fault of her parents, two unfeeling monsters who wouldn’t even let her stay at their upstate home for more than a few days. So Barbara ran back to Gotham to find Gordon in the arms of another woman and Selina Kyle squatting at her place. After dispatching some questionable life advice to the street urchin, she took up with the Ogre, a serial killer bent on finding the perfect mate — and eliminating the loved ones of any cop who dare investigate his activities. Damaged as she is, Barbara found herself both frightened by and attracted to the young man’s apparently sadomasochistic lifestyle.

Which brings us to “The Anvil or the Hammer.” In which Babs wakes up in the Ogre’s apartment, realizes he means her harm, and tries to escape — only to be imprisoned in his torture room. Upon seeing photos of the many other women he’s murdered, she performs that most regressive of all actions forced on female characters — she faints. She then wakes up so deer-in-the-headlights docile that when the Ogre insists she give him someone to kill instead of her, she takes him to her own parents home. (I was expecting her to pick Lee Thompkins, but the writers were feeling charitable.) She spends the remainder of the episode more doll-like than ever, until she breaks down entirely after Gordon and Bullock arrive and open fire on the Ogre.

I, for one, will miss Milo Ventimiglia’s deranged take on Christian Grey. God knows he’s no Joker, but since we’ve been forced to go without the fully realized members of the Batman’s rogues gallery, the Ogre brought enough crazy to fill his three-episode arc, with no more or less screen time than was warranted. Terrible as it may sound, I found myself hoping he’d put Barbara (and us) out of her misery by dispatching her to that great drug den in the sky. Alas, Babs still walks the streets of Gotham. But for how long? Most of what I feel when seeing her is pity for actress Erin Richards, who began the season as one of the show’s regulars before her character was so debilitated she was sidelined for Gordon to have a true partner in Lee. Morena Baccarin doesn’t get to shine as brightly or often as she should as the good doctor — most of her scenes consist of her providing emotional and physical TLC to Gordon — but at least she has some agency.

The female character who has far and away the most to do on the show, Fish Mooney, is again absent this week. And with Jada Pinkett Smith electing not to return next season, there is serious cause for concern about the dearth of strong ladies on Gotham, barring the fifteen-year-old Catwoman.

Selina’s murder of Reg is reported by Bruce to Alfred this week, though he explains she did it in order to prevent Pennyworth’s old friend from reporting their investigation into Wayne Enterprises’ misdeeds. Bruce, still hunting for evidence of Sid Bunderslaw’s wrongdoing, breaks into his office, and is startled by the director, who tells him his own father, as well as grandfather before him, were well aware of the company’s criminal activities, and remained compliant. Enter Lucius Fox — the DC Universe staple escorts Bruce out of the building at Bunderslaw’s request, but offers some words that lead us to believe Thomas Wayne may have been secretly working against his colleagues.

Elsewhere, Edward Nygma continues his sudden and inexplicable violent streak by smashing the skull of his late rival to pieces. Thankfully, we get at least a glimmer of the old Riddler — and hopefully the one to come — when he ghost writes a Dear John letter for Ms. Kringle, and spells his last name out with the first letter of each line.

As for the Penguin, he remains Gotham‘s gem. Here he swiftly, elegantly, and efficiently starts a gang war between Falcone and Maroni by contracting killers to deliver a lead-ridden message to the latter on the part of the former — but removes the pins from their guns so Maroni can live to carry out a series of revenge-fueled attacks against his rival.

Only one episode remains in this wildly uneven first season. Will the Penguin seize power from his former employers? Can Barbara move to Siberia? Here’s hoping the answer to both questions is yes. See you next week.

Gotham 2

Rogue Ruminations

— Actor Chris Chalk has just a minute of screen time as Bruce Wayn’e longtime ally Lucius Fox (created by writer Len Wein
and artist John Calnan, he first appeared in January 1979’s Batman #307), but the Newsroom/Homeland/Justified veteran makes a great first impression in the role. Here’s hoping we see much more of him in season 2.

— Cutting your dad’s head off out of a family photo and adding it to your board of suspects, Bruce? That’s cold, even for the Batman.

— Although the S&M club in which Bullock goes undercover in the Ogre investigation looks like it was designed by someone who’s never actually been to an S&M club, it was worth it just for the hilarious image of the slovenly cop pretending to be a sophisticated gentleman.

— “Harvey, I’m about to violate departmental policy on interrogation techniques.”

Next week: Fish returns to Gotham with a new hairdo, the Penguin confronts Falcone, and Bruce learns his father’s secret.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).

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