With all this talk about the “Rise of the Villains” in season 2 of Gotham, there is one very important matter that should not be left out of the conversation: Even those with the best intentions, even those characters we hold to be the epitome of good, still have darkness inside of them. And sometimes it’s just waiting for the perfect (or rather, imperfect) time to come out. On Monday’s episode of Gotham, “Rise of the Villains: A Bitter Pill to Swallow,” we saw just how much potential for darkness James Gordon truly has inside of him — and just how hard he’ll have to work to keep it from coming out.
We start “A Bitter Pill to Swallow” by following Tabitha as she heads downtown to a bar for a little revenge. Kudos to the creative minds of the series for giving fans a reminder that Jerome’s effect on Gotham City has not subsided but, in fact, still lives in the seedy underbelly of the city with the mural reading “HA! HA! HA!” plastered against a wall near the bar Tabitha enters. After ordering a high smith with no ice (can someone enlighten me on what this drink actually is?) for a ridiculously large price, the bartender opens a secret doorway that leads to a huge parlor complete with gambling tables and an overly elaborate scene.
In the far end of the room, we are introduced to a currently unnamed woman, played by Doctor Who’s Michelle Gomez, to whom Tabitha has come for a little assistance in having someone murdered. Of course it’s none other than Gordon, but Tabitha wants guarantees that the overzealous detective will indeed bite the bullet. Today. “I accept a job, the job gets done. Period. See, I believe in extreme measures,” Gomez’s character — let’s call her The Woman for now — says proudly. Unfortunately for The Woman, that track record won’t last long as Gordon is not an easy man to take down.
Speaking of Gordon, he arrives at Gotham General to check on one person who almost did take him down (kind of): Barbara, who still happens to be in a coma. The doctors aren’t sure of when her situation will change, but she will be moved to Arkham to the medical wing regardless. When Gordon returns to the GCPD, he runs into Lee, with whom he has yet to have a conversation about the Barbara situation. Lee is visibly upset when Gordon tells her he visited Barbara in the hospital, but she knows that Gordon had to play Barbara’s game despite the events that transpired thanks to that very game. Lee is more concerned about Gordon’s dark side and how much he seems to be giving in to it in recent weeks. Gordon says he knows about the concerns but brushes them off for now. Is it just me, or does Lee seriously deserve a stronger story line than just being Gordon’s love interest/voice of reason and Barbara’s nemesis?
We arrive next to a plot that many of you commenters from last week seemed genuinely excited about: The re-introduction of Penguin and Edward Nygma. As we saw last week, Edward has certainly embraced his Riddler Ed personality, and that personality seems to have big plans for his time with Penguin. Penguin awakens from passing out from his bullet wound in Edward’s bed, where Edward promptly sedates him and ominously tells him to rest up as they have a “big night ahead.” When Penguin wakes once again, Penguin is reacquainted with Edward, who tells him that while he might want to leave Ed’s fortress, he is still a wanted man who will almost certainly be arrested or worse if he tries to walk out the door.
Edward tells Penguin that he has recently undergone a change: “I started murdering people,” Edward reveals and then breathes a huge sigh of relief that he can finally say those words aloud. Despite Penguin mocking the young Riddler in training for only taking down three people so far, Edward tells Penguin that their meeting is fate as he need advice on his new, bloody path. Unfortunately for Edward (at first at least), Penguin is not in the mood with his empire destroyed and his mother murdered thanks to a combination of his own weakness and Theo Galavan. Edward tries another tactic by bringing Penguin one of Theo’s lackeys to kill as retribution for Penguin’s mother, but the former crime lord is not having it. “I’m done. I need rest, and then I’m leaving Gotham forever,” Penguin states, then crawls back under the covers while humming a song. But Edward’s not willing to give up so easily.
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Meanwhile we return to Bruce (who is rocking his soon-to-be-signature black turtleneck) as he chats with Silver St. Cloud. Because he is very clearly a smitten kitten, Bruce refuses to believe Silver has any part in this Theo Galavan mess. In fact, he’s none too convinced that Theo could actually be capable of any wrongdoing. Thankfully Alfred, the sanest person at Wayne Manor, shoos little Silver away “in light of recent events” and argues with Bruce over Galavan’s intentions. While Bruce tries to convince Alfred that he was hoping to get the identity of his parents’ murderer from Theo via Silver, Alfred explains that the precious envelope with information was more than likely just a ruse for Theo to manipulate Bruce into signing away his company. Alfred then tells Bruce that if he must act as the kid’s jailor than so be it, and he promptly forbids Bruce from pursuing Theo any further.
Bruce attempts to meet Silver at her hotel in the evening, but Alfred is a veteran to all the classic lies. Plus, Bruce is just really bad at lying. Alfred reveals to Bruce that he has not only sent away his secret cab down the block, but has also confiscated the hotel key Silver slipped him when she hugged him goodbye. Bruce attempts one more jailbreak by sneaking out the window, but he is instead confronted by Selina, who was hiding behind the curtains. She knows Bruce is off to meet his lady friend, but this time Selina says she has proof that Silver is a snake, rather than just asking Bruce to trust her word over Silver’s.
NEXT: Assassins galore emerge
While Bruce goes through his much more heightened and dangerous rebellious teen phase (poor Alfred), Gordon heads to Theo’s apartment to find evidence to corroborate Mayor James’ abduction story. He is joined in the elevator by the most hipster-looking assassin ever, who uses his disguise as a piano repairman to try and strangle Gordon to death with piano wire (might as well embrace his fake character to the fullest). After a cleverly filmed struggle (the elevator opening on the 56th floor to reveal the fight was a nice touch), Gordon finally overpowers the hipster assassin, beats him bloody, and then drags his unconscious body into Theo’s penthouse for Barnes’ benefit. The hipster assassin’s phone rings, and when Gordon answers the phone with nothing but panting from still being out of breath, The Woman realizes that taking down Jim Gordon will be a much more difficult task than she imagined. The Woman walks over to the bar in the secret underground parlor and offers the job of taking out Gordon to everyone who’s listening, stating that the detective must not live to see the sun rise.
But while the assassins gather on The Woman’s word, Gordon is trying to uncover her identity. He wakes up the hipster and dangles him out of a window to get his employer’s name right in front of Barnes. Barnes yells at Gordon to cease and demands to know what the hell is going on with his best detective. But there’s no time for a heart-to-heart as three more assassins are on their way up to take Gordon out. Unfortunately, the assassins have both skill and weaponry on their side as Barnes and Gordon are left with a handgun apiece, plus rookie cop Parks who has her own handgun that she may or may not have ever fired in the line of duty and a forensics specialist who is basically left to hide and stay out of the way.
Of course, he’s the first one to go as one of the assassins sneaks in from the roof and slits his throat. Barnes and Gordon take out the others, and Barnes orders Gordon and Parks to leave with him before anymore assassins can arrive. Unfortunately, Gordon is still disobeying direct orders, and one of the assassins musters enough energy to try and stab Gordon and hits Barnes in an artery in his leg instead.
As Gordon ties Barnes a tourniquet, he tells his captain that he truly believes both Barbara and Lee that the darkness, the “monster” inside of him is getting harder and harder to subdue. He reveals to Barnes that if Galavan’s people had not entered the church that night, he believes he would have killed Barbara. But Barnes basically tells Gordon all men have a darkness inside of them and that during his time in the military, he shot a young prisoner in the mouth even though he had already captured the kid. Barnes states that at the right moment, any man could give in to anything and that all that separates us from the animals is the law. How right Barnes turns out to be later in the episode.
We return to Edward’s apartment where the future Riddler is now playing the same song Penguin hummed earlier on his record player and on the piano, while singing along (good thing Cory Michael Smith is a great singer). Edward then offers up a little riddle: “I can bring tears to your eyes and resurrect the dead. I form in an instant and last a lifetime. What am I?” Penguin quickly identifies it as a memory and reveals that the tune brought back memories of his mother comforting him with phrases in the same vein as Aibileen Clark in The Help, but those memories are now to painful to conjure up. Edward reveals that while he felt the same way with Miss Kringle for a while, he now feels gratitude, as love for people like Edward and Penguin is a crippling weakness that when banished leaves them unencumbered.
When Penguin reveals that with his mother gone he has nothing left, Edward replies, “A man with nothing that he loves is a man that cannot be bargained. A man that cannot be betrayed. A man who answers to no one but himself. And that is the man that I see before me. A free man.” That definitely seals the deal for Penguin, who then quickly returns to his villainous self and even accepts Edward’s gift of killing Theo’s lackey, who is still tied to a chair and stashed away in Edward’s closet. Are we seeing the start of some terrible, great things for this new duo? As morbid as it sounds, I genuinely hope so.
While Barnes and Gordon bond over their kindred monstrous sides, The Woman has employed a new assassin to take Gordon out: Eduardo Flamingo, who is first introduced in the episode right as he is about to eat the ear of his latest target. The Woman apparently banned Eduardo from her organization due to his cannibalism but is willing to let bygones be bygones when it comes to taking down Gordon. She’s clearly desperate at this point. Flamingo quickly takes out all of Barnes and Gordon’s backup when they finally arrive to Theo’s penthouse apartment, and Gordon decides that he will go down and face Flamingo the cannibal himself so that no one else will get hurt.
After a fierce (yet relatively short) fight, Gordon gets the edge over Flamingo and begins pounding in his face just like with the hipster assassin. But the difference here is that with every punch, Flamingo begins to laugh, pissing Gordon off even further. Finally Gordon pulls his gun and puts it in Flamingo’s mouth who tries to goad Gordon into pulling the trigger. Jim screams like a madman but ultimately puts his gun away and reads Flamingo his Miranda rights.
Unfortunately, Flamingo doesn’t go down easy. When Gordon takes a well-deserved break as Lee tends to his wounds and tells him to keep telling her the truth no matter what lines he may or may not cross, he gets the news that Flamingo killed rookie cop Parks while waiting to be imprisoned at the GCPD by biting into her neck.
Considering what a debacle Tabitha’s plan to order a hit on Gordon turned out to be, it’s no surprise that Theo lectures his sister when she visits him at Blackgate Penitentiary, especially considering he apparently told Tabitha not to do anything at all. Theo tells her that everything is ready for the arrival of “the brothers” and that if Tabitha does anything to endanger their plan, he will cut her throat.
Theo could not be more right about the brothers, we end “A Bitter Pill to Swallow” with Father Creel meeting the brothers at the docks. In a moment of supreme overkill, all of the brothers take turns stabbing a security guard who tells the hooded creeps that the docks are closed. The brothers then walk away into the shadows to do their villainous bidding. Theo’s plan has just begun, and it’s clear that being temporarily behind bars can’t stop him.