Review: ‘Gotham’ S2E9: “A Bitter Pill to Swallow”

by Nat Brehmer
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Episode nine of the second season of Gotham proved to be an interesting thing, because it’s pretty good by and large despite the main plot being goofy as hell. I understand that the show has retooled itself with an “everything plus the kitchen sink” style that really works for it at times, but the way in which this episode went about detailing the hit placed on Gordon’s head is nonetheless completely bizarre. I know it’s not trying to be a mob show, but your standard stuff would probably have been, well, an easier pill to swallow than the aristocratic death club we were treated to. Seeing Grant Morrison’s flamboyant cannibal Eduardo Flamingo on the screen is a delight that I never expected.

As goofy as the plot is—and it is—all the character stuff is, for the most part, surprisingly great. I haven’t had much of a chance to talk about how great Sean Pertwee’s Alfred is in these reviews, but he is. From the pilot, he was already my second favorite incarnation of the character after Michael Caine and he’s only gotten better since then. This Alfred is a lot more of a hardass, but I think that’s part of the appeal for me. We’re starting to see him play the strict parent more and more as Bruce’s obsession grows. As a viewer, as hard as he could be, I’ve never not been on Alfred’s side. I’d like to think that’s the point, because it’s made very clear that everything Alfred does he does for Bruce’s protection. The bond between the two characters has never been explored as deeply as this show has the opportunity to do.

There’s also some good stuff with Gordon, finally. His character hasn’t been treated so great this season, despite it technically being his show. But this episode finally allows us to go a little deeper into his character and the death wish he seems to have this season. We’ve got Gordon admitting to his own darkness, even admitting that he was worried that he was actually going to shoot Barbara before the force arrived to save him. At the same time, we get into Barnes’ reason for why he is so adamant in upholding the law and obeying the rules. His “there is no line” speech is surprisingly effective, considering how hit or miss that character has been.

And then you have the pairing of Nygma and Penguin. This one really seems to be there to cater to the Tumblr fans and a lot of it doesn’t work. Nygma is too over the top, too quickly. But it is an interesting plot point to see a Penguin who, after his rise to power in the first season and all he did to get there, has nonetheless found himself with less than he started out with. It also presents an interesting dynamic to see him paired up with someone who’s even crazier than he is. Still, it’s all ham-fisted and corny until we get to the scene where Nygma explains to Penguin that his mother’s death may have been a good thing. In trying to hurt the Penguin, they actually took the only thing he was afraid of losing. This makes me more interested in Oswald’s ongoing arc than I have been all season.

There are still flaws, of course. We’re still dealing with way too many characters. Selina appears for a brief, pointless scene to reiterate all the things Alfred has already said about Silver. I don’t think Bullock even appears at all. But the strong character moments make these things forgivable.


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