'Gotham' recap, 'What the Little Bird Told Him'

For The Baltimore Sun
"Gotham" had been building to this climax all season -- so why was it such a letdown?

“I expected more oomph,” the Electrocutioner said. Same here. 

Last night “Gotham” returned after a week-long hiatus … right after a month-long hiatus. (Did that weird schedule throw anyone else for a loop?)

The previous episode was the much-needed jolt to start the second half of the season. But last night’s episode didn’t pack the high-voltage we were promised.

“What the Little Bird Told Him” starts strong: Johnny Cash’s brooding “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” blares as Jack Gruber walks (jaywalks, even — the rebel) down the Gotham streets with this electric-torture kit in hand and his feeble-minded minion by his side. 

It’s badass. He’s “Gotham’s” first recurring villain, and you know there will be chaos. He shocks the Penguin, fries his old associate’s brain and electrocutes almost everyone in GCPD.

The problem with this episode wasn’t the Electrocutioner. In fact, we could have seen more of his mayhem. The downfall instead lies in the Fish Mooney-Falcone confrontation. The entire season has been building up to this moment, and it more or less flatlined. 

When Falcone strangled Liza, she fell to the ground like a limp rag doll, without putting up much of a fight. That’s not far from how Falcone first accepted his fate as Fish ousted him as Don.

“If Fish and the others … want me to step away so badly, then it must be time.” It’s not uncommon for people of power to doubt their ability to lead. If anything, it makes them more relatable and complex.

But Falcone has dragged out this mopey pity party of his all season long, and it made it hard to sympathize with him, much less root for him. True, we’re supposed to be rooting for our girl Fish, but investing in a story this flimsy feels like a chore. 

As for Jim’s triumphant return to GCPD, I’m somewhat bummed he only spent one episode working at Arkham. I was looking forward to seeing more antics with the inmates. But the sad fact of the matter is that Jim can’t carry the show on his own — he needs Bullock to counteract his arrogance and self-righteousness. 

That’s not to say Jim isn’t a good guy; he’s the only one Gotham has. Problem is, he knows this, and can be a sanctimonious twerp about it. 

First he returns to the GCPD unannounced when he’s been reassigned to Arkham, boasting about how they need him. Later he preaches to Maroni about protecting the lives of innocent women and children from Jack Gruber (like Maroni’s going to care about innocent lives).

When he’s finally brought back to GCPD, he warns the commissioner, “The next man who tries to take away my shield, one way or another, I’m going to make him eat it.” Easy there, boss. 

“You pretend to care about the law,” Jack tells him, “but it’s all primitive ego.” The sociopath is onto something there. There’s no doubt that Jim genuinely cares about helping people — he wouldn’t bother solving Bruce’s parents’ murder if he didn’t — but there’s a big part of him that enjoys rattling cages too much.

“You think you’ve been careful so far?” Bullock asks him, shaking his head. He hasn’t, and there’s no way he’s letting up now. For Gotham’s sake, let’s hope he keeps getting away with his recklessness.

MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM “WHAT THE LITTLE BIRD TOLD HIM”

BEST HARVEY ONE-LINER: Tie! “No Mom, I’m not going to wear my rubbers on the case!” – Harvey to Ed Nygma, who offers him electroshock-resistant shoes. And “You’ve been messing with my mind. I need something stronger than beer.” – Harvey to Jim 

BEST LINE: “Papers? You think papers make a Don?” – Falcone to Fish, who wants him to sign over his empire. Bravo, Falcone. You end someone’s mafia legacy with a Glock and “sayonara,” not a Bic and “sign here.”

WORST LINE EVER: “I don’t know why I’m here.” – Dr. Leslie Tompkins to Jim. This wasn’t just the worst line of the episode; it’s the worst line to come from Hollywood. Period. Lazy writers are so quick to throw that cliché into the script to hint at awkward sexual tension, but who says that in real life? If a romantic interest pops by your place and says that, just reply, “I don’t know why you’re here either. Did someone drug you or drag you here? No? Then say something less stupid or leave.” You don’t need wishy-washy people like that in your life.

MOST ASTUTE OBSERVATION: “You’re like a human rollercoaster, only you go down.” – Harvey to Gordon. “Wouldn’t that make him more like an elevator?” – Ed

SAINTED MOTHER: The writers have been sneaking “sainted mother” into the script to tie Fish’s betrayal against Falcone to the love they both have for their mothers — and it’s pretty brilliant. Back in the second episode, Fish swore on her “sainted mother’s grave” that she would take over Falcone’s empire.

Later we found out her mother is not dead, but Falcone did take advantage of her when she was a prostitute to help her family get by. “Sainted mother” appeared again last night. When Falcone discovered that Fish had used Liza to resemble his mother as part of her scheme, he replied, “How dare you use my sainted mother against me?” Subtle, yet smart.

BIGGEST CREEP: It’s a toss-up. Both Ed for his bullet-topped cupcake and the detective who told Ed to leave Kris Kringle alone. Yes, I realize he got Ed off her back (for now, at least), but no decent guy lurks in the shadows of the office’s basement like that. Cringe. 

WHO’S THAT LADY?: What was that look that Ed gave Leslie? Does he know her from a stint he did in Arkham? Or maybe he recognized her as a suspect from a cold case he had previously researched? I know she’s not a baddie in the comics, but I don’t trust her.

HOME IS WHERE THE HURT IS: After seeing that cold interaction between Barb and her upper-crust parents, their stuffy mansion is probably the last place she should have gone to dry out. My guess is that they’re what drove her to her drug and alcohol addiction. Emotionally distant parents, including a mother who says “splendid” (ugh) — no wonder she’s got baggage. Still, I hope she can get her act together. I’m officially Team Barb, now that she has depth. Plus, it doesn’t help that Leslie sketches me out and her go-to method of flirting is showing up to Jim’s work and pretending to be lost.

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