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'Gotham' recap: The Riddler reveals his first riddle in 'Mad Grey Dawn'

For The Baltimore Sun
"Gotham" recap: We have our first Riddler riddle.

This is what Jim gets for being friends with Ed.

Had he and Leigh not had a double date with Ed and Kris Kringle, Jim wouldn’t have asked Ed about Kris’ whereabouts. Now, a panicked Ed is resolved to always be one step ahead of Jim so he doesn’t end up in jail. But guess who does?

Just last week, all seemed right in Gotham. Bruce found out who killed his parents, Jim still had his job and Penguin was locked up. In “Mad Gray Dawn,” Jim’s the bad guy behind bars, and Penguin’s been released, proving himself as a “good guy.” Yeah, it felt weird to type that.

Our heroes and villains are in unfamiliar places, and the only one who’s “hitting his stride” is Ed Nygma. He’s adopted his new evil persona, and debuts his first riddle — and it’s an actual work of art.

His clues are subtle and his puzzle is richly layered. It’s an upgrade from his Popsicle stick riddles we’ve groaned over and grown so tired of.

I was worried that Ed’s first riddle would involve wordplay, which would be a dead giveaway to his colleagues who were forced to hear his jokes, but this puzzle was all about showing, not telling.

The riddle begins at an art museum, a wink that his puzzles are masterpieces. Ed sets off green smoke at a statue of a bomb, sparking panic in the gallery. The bomb doesn’t go off — it’s merely a distraction, and a clue for the next part of the riddle.

After the building is evacuated, Ed cuts out one painting, “Mad Gray Dawn,” and sprays bright green question marks on two other paintings. But not just anywhere on the paintings — they’re right above the names of the artists, Marche and LaRue, which translate to “market” and “street.”

Put them together and you have Market Street, where Union Station is located. And the painting Ed stole? It depicts a railroad explosion, called Bloody Monday. Guess which day it happens to be?

Jim and Harvey race to the train station to find a locker painted with a familiar green question mark. Inside, Jim hears a ticking bomb — which Ed sets off nearby with a remote — and yells at everyone to leave. He then grabs a crowbar to bust open the locker, where he finds the bomb and flings it into a well.

Jim’s the hero for a moment before setting himself up for disaster. He puts Ed in charge of forensics, which gives him the perfect opportunity to put the rest of pieces into place for this twisted game.

First, Ed gets Officer Pinkney to unknowingly sign a form that accuses Jim of killing Galavan. Second, he has access to all of the crime scene evidence, including the crowbar with Jim’s fingerprints.

“I have no idea what this guy wants or what he’s after, which makes him dangerous,” Jim tells Ed.

He’s after you, Jim. By sending a tip to reopen the Galavan case, Ed distracts Jim and the GCPD from investigating from Kris Kringle’s disappearance.

Of course, Ed doesn’t stop there. He visits Pinkney’s apartment and kills him with the crowbar Jim used earlier that day to stop a bomb from exploding.

Ed knows what he’s doing. But how long until Jim and Harvey discover it’s him and find the proof they need to exonerate Jim?

It’s a shame Jim got put away for a murder he didn’t commit, especially the murder of a fellow cop. Barnes would be more likely to believe Jim’s “I’ve been set up!” story if he didn’t suspect — and rightfully so — that he killed Galavan. Once that trust has been broken, it’s hard to repair it.

The Jim Gordon-Captain Barnes conflict has been building up to this moment. Their relationship has had its ups and downs, beginning with Barnes’ initial admiration of Jim’s morals to his sheer disappointment and suspicion with Galavan’s murder.

Michael Chiklis (Barnes) delivers a powerful performance as he interrogates Jim. “You broke my heart!” Barnes howls. As schmaltzy as that line is, his pain feels real.

It’s a quick trial for Jim. Of course, this isn’t “Law & Order,” so they zip through what would would ordinarily be a month- or yearlong trial to his prison sentence: 40 years in the clink.

(Side note: I’m no lawyer, but isn’t that a light punishment for a man who definitely shot the mayor and supposedly killed a cop?)

Burdened by the guilt of murdering Galavan, Jim accepts his punishment. As brutal as it is to see our hero in lockup for a crime he didn’t commit, it is satisfy him to see him punished for one he did.

Galavan was evil — no denying that — but Jim could have let Penguin finish the job. He knows that, and it’s weighing on his conscience. That’s why he doesn’t protest the verdict as much as he should.

Batman has always been about restoring power to the weak and serving justice to the righteous. As Batman’s insider to the GCPD, Jim must be the one good cop on the force. He needs to do his time (well, not all 40 years — no viewer is that dedicated, unless they’re a “Simpsons” fan), to become righteous and good again.

Jim could take a pointer or two from Penguin. He’s making amends with “old friends” Butch and Tabitha, and visits Ed to help him see the light.

“I’m here to tell you, Ed, as a friend, that violence and anger are not the answer. I am a changed man, better, and you can change, too,” Penguin says. Ed gives a hard pass on that one. He likes the violent and new him.

Penguin, on the other hand, is still on his journey to self-improvement. He visits his mother’s grave, and promises her that he’s trying to be a better man. Suddenly, a dapper man appears to pay Gertrude his respects, lilies in hand.

He’s one of Gertrude’s ex-lovers, who had a fling with her 31 years ago. Which, as it turns out, is exactly how old Penguin is. Did I mention Penguin has never met his father? Well, now he has.

Meet Penguin’s dad, Elijah Van Dahl, played by Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman. (Fun fact: Reubens played the young Oswald Copplepot’s father in “Batman Returns.” Who’s ready for trivia night?!)

Elijah, seemingly oblivious to Penguin’s infamy, invites his newfound son to stay at his dreary yet luxe castle-esque mansion. There, Elijah tells Penguin how he was madly in love with the family cook, Gertrude, but his wealthy parents forbade him from marrying someone from such a low social class.

So he foolishly listened to his parents, and never spoke to Gertrude again, completely unaware that she was pregnant. Not that Penguin needed a father, he rationalizes.

“She figured you’d be better off finding your own way,” Elijah says to Penguin, when he hears Gertrude told him his father died when he was born.

He’s right about that. Penguin certainly did make a name for himself. The question is, how could Elijah not have heard about Gotham’s most villainous mobster? Or maybe he did and this is all a part of an evil scheme of his own?

Something about Elijah creeps me out. It could be how his family looks like they’re in a cult or on their way to a funeral. Or how similar his looks and mannerisms are to Penguin's, who is creepy in his own right.

Penguin had to get his dark side from somewhere, and it wasn’t from mommy dearest. What’s Elijah hiding?

More highlights from “Mad Gray Dawn”:

Best Harvey one-liner: “Your little private, inside voice is screaming.” — Harvey to Jim, who’s stressing about Internal Affairs reopening the Galavan case.

Best line: “Happy day. I’m sane!” — Penguin to Butch and Tabitha before showing them the certificate from Arkham.

Corniest line: “What do you call a tavern full of blackbirds? A crowbar!” — Ed to Pinkney before bludgeoning him to death with a crowbar.

Most foreboding sign: “I knew that whatever Sonny did to me,” Bruce tells Selina, “I could take it, and he couldn’t break me, and no one can.” She replies, “No one’s unbreakable, Bruce.” She’s right, you know. Just wait until the Bat meets Bane.

Green apparel: Ed doesn’t have a costume yet, but he does wear his signature green on the sly. His shirt is a muted green and tan plaid, worn under a drab olive green jacket. And instead of the famous green bowler, he lurks around in a charcoal fedora when watching Jim and his fellow GCPD colleagues try to solve his riddles.

His low-key wardrobe choices are a sign that he’s either hiding his dual identity from his colleagues or he’s still figuring out his persona. As he becomes more self-assured, we’ll probably see more vibrant greens, but nothing as abrasive or kitsch as Jim Carrey’s costume from “Batman Forever.” Ugh.

Wake-up call: Right after Jim tells Leigh to “move on and forget [he] exists,” Barbara awakes from her coma. It’s like she has this sixth sense that alerts her when her man is in trouble — or newly single. Maybe she’ll try to bust him out of jail. With Leigh out of the picture, will Jim take Stabby Babs back? Probably not. Jim might make terrible decisions, but he knows better than to get back with a psychotic ex ... right?

Immersion learning: The writers have done an excellent job again drawing parallels between Jim and Bruce. Just as Bruce has immersed himself in Gotham’s criminal underworld, Jim has completely surrounded himself with convictions. Well, the latter wasn’t Jim’s choice, but if he’s anything like his younger counterpart, then he’ll use this as a chance to learn about the criminal mind and how to restore peace in Gotham. Someone needs to.

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