Penguin makes a new friend.
Last week, we were officially introduced to the Riddler, a.k.a. the new Ed Nygma, endless font of wacky wordplay. But this week, Gotham‘s newest supervillain is completely MIA while the rest of the puzzle pieces come into play. Jim Gordon’s confusing relationship with his Uncle Frank becomes a source of grief for the good commissioner once a dark part of their family history comes to light; the recovering Penguin must comes to grips with the fact that he is, indeed, a freak, and maybe that’s not such a terrible thing; and, perhaps most importantly, Bruce Wayne’s future is being carved out so cleanly that the shape of it might just mimic the Bat-Signal.
Here’s how this week’s installment of Gotham — the directorial debut of series star Ben McKenzie — went down.
The episode begins by taking us to an excessively theatrical meeting of the Court of Owls — a special session reserved only for the most elite of the elites, including Frank Gordon. Kathryn calls upon her friends in ridiculous masks to concur with her official determination that the city’s crime level is too severe for Gotham to be salvageable as is. A total leveling of the city is in order, she insists, and the Powers That Be have just the weapon to deal mass destruction and start anew.
Frank begrudgingly gives the final “yes” vote, and in theory it makes sense. Even if he were to choose “no” and put a temporary halt to this plan, he could easily be killed off for insubordination, leaving the rest of the Court free to do whatever they wish. Of course, at this point, we still don’t know for sure which team Frank is really batting for, and once Jim Gordon ventures into the rabbit hole to find out what really happened to his dear old dad, Frank becomes even more of a nebulous presence.
With his interest piqued by Frank’s prior suggestion that the Court of Owls had his dad killed all those years before, Jim starts digging into the old case files and discovers something he didn’t know about his father’s killer. A medical document that was conveniently omitted from the initial filing reveals that the “drunk driver” who beamed his dad’s car and killed him actually suffered from chronic persistent hepatitis — or “the Irish Curse,” as Harvey Bullock dubs it, for the fact that anyone who suffers from this illness is denied a single drop of the sauce. This means that the toxicology report on file was obviously fudged, and Uncle Frank might just be on to something after all.
Jim meets with Frank at his dad’s grave to find out what else he needs to know about this Court of Owls, and his timing couldn’t be better. Frank informs him of the Court’s plans to decimate the city with the unnamed weapon. He’ll try to find out what he can, he promises, so Jim’s on high alert for further instructions while his uncle works to dredge up more details about the arrangement.
Jim takes a moment — to give Leslie Thompkins at least one line this episode — to commiserate with the mortician over the loss of Mario Calvi. That gives him just enough time to await Harvey’s news that the driver who killed his father was none other than a lawyer paid for by Carmine Falcone. Ruh-roh.
Gordon pays the suit a visit and tells him that he knows all about the Court and the attorney’s connection to it, and that’s when he gets the stunning news that his father’s death was ordered by none other than… Frank Gordon.
So the next stop Jim makes on his journey of discovery is Frank’s house, where he greets his uncle with a pistol to the head and gets his confirmation that, yes, Frank did do the Court’s bidding by having his own brother executed. But why?! After an unsuccessful attempt at handcuffing Frank for the murder of his father, Jim learns that Frank was still trying to maintain his cover and finish his father’s business — and now it’s Jim’s turn to do some heavy lifting. Frank wants his nephew to find out when the Court’s weapon will arrive — without bringing the GCPD into the mix, since this is very need-to-know intel and could jeopardize them both — with the sole instruction that it’ll be arriving at Dock 9C at some point in the not-too-distant future. He offers his nephew a no-win proposition by saying that despite the day’s dark revelation, he still has to trust Frank because “otherwise we’re both dead.” And the rest of Gotham, for that matter.
With that, Jim has no choice but to turn to the only off-the-grid muscle he’s got on speed dial: Barbara Queen.
Barbara plays her usual games about the request but ultimately comes through with a torture team. They lean on a dockhand at 9C, who reveals that the weapon shipment has already come in and been picked up. That’s when an Owl guard arrives to literally cut off the conversation — with a sword that slices through everyone on site except Barbara and her No. 2. They manage to gather that the shipment came from Indian Hill, based on the insignia on an abandoned box, before they take leave of the slash-happy enforcer.
Around the same time, Kathryn is filled in on Jim’s conversation with Carmine, and she asks Frank why his nephew is suddenly nosing around about his father’s dusty case files. Frank insists Jim is completely unaware of the Court, which is a lie, and she orders him to execute Jim as another sign of loyalty to the Owls.
For a split second, it seems like he might. When Frank calls Jim to come to his house to talk, alone, with a pistol pointed directly at the door, it seems like Frank’s about to be two for two on his history of familial death-dealing. Instead, he tells Jim that he’s been ordered to kill him and that he has a different plan in mind — Jim will answer the call from Kathryn and pretend he offed his uncle to capitalize on her interest in him joining the Court so he can finish what his father started and protect Gotham from within the den. Before Jim can stop him, Frank turns the gun on himself and fires — and Jim is left to do as his uncle instructed and hop in the limo that awaits him after Kathryn’s summoning call.