The Mad Hatter comes to town and Penguin launches a mayoral campaign
Over on Fox this Monday night, a career politician who’s made some mistakes went head-to-head with an eccentric opportunist who’s exploiting the fear of the masses for a position of power. No, you didn’t miss the last presidential debate: Oswald Cobblepot has thrown his hat into the ring of Gotham’s mayoral race.
It wouldn’t even be a race without the Penguin. Fish is out of his hair for now; and through the process of running her out of the city, Penguin learned how easy it could be to present himself as the alternative to what these anxious citizens are used to. Turns out, if you interrupt enough press conferences, you too can be viewed as a viable candidate for elected office. As the disgraced predecessor to Theo Galavan announces he’ll be taking one for the team and serving as an interim mayor, Oswald forcibly reclaims the spotlight. The people of Gotham “deserve” an election, and Penguin will run against Aubrey James for the privilege of being in their service.
Butch does not think this is the most fantastic idea he’s ever heard, but hey, he’s used to criminals operating in the shadows. Penguin has his slogan down, at least. (How many episodes must we wait until “Make Gotham Safe Again” shows up on a hat?) Unlike Butch’s last boss, Penguin is a lone wolf. He doesn’t serve an umbrella organization; he wants to serve his dead father and collect some honor for the Cobblepot name. And though his methods will probably verge on the deranged, Oswald does seem intent on actually doing the job. He certainly won’t be intimidated out of pursuing it. James’s attempt to bully Penguin out of the race is foiled when Oswald has enough forethought to bring even more guns to the secret gunfight than his opponent. James asks Penguin what qualifications he has to take this post. “I have me,” he answers, confidently. This isn’t supposed to be a documentary!
Let’s be honest: Butch is fine muscle, but he’s not exactly a political brain trust. The one piece missing from Penguin’s disturbingly feasible campaign is a fellow visionary. To that end, Oswald bribes the new head of Arkham to give Edward Nygma the clean bill of sanity necessary to let him loose. “Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but…” Edward says, trying to get a handle on this ludicrous arrangement. Then Oswald’s car pulls up to the gates and he sticks his head out of the window, wearing a genuine grin. “Never mind,” Edward concludes, accepting his ride. Cobblepot/Nygma 2016, basically.
Penguin’s stance on issues is unlikely to be very complex. All his potential constituents care about is that the proportion of scientifically enhanced criminals on the streets decreases over time. Oswald calls them “monsters” in public; internally, the more accurate word would be “competition.” Will Jervis Tetch fall into that category? That depends on whether Sirens’ new entertainment has any major plans beyond finding his sister and living the good life.
This episode introduces Benedict Samuel as Tetch, a.k.a. the Mad Hatter from DC lore. In the comics, Mad Hatter controls minds through science. For Gotham’s purposes, he’s a hypnotist with skills that delight Barbara and Tabitha’s patrons in the relative safety of the club, but are powerful enough to make anything outside of it Tetch’s for the taking. He spots a particularly wealthy couple in the crowd and uses the show to introduce the opportunity for suggestion into the man’s head. Later, Tetch shows up at the couple’s home to claim his prize. With a few short rhymes, he compels the man to kill his wife and then himself, leaving their mansion open for this Gotham newcomer.
NEXT: Married to the mob
Gotham has been leaning more towards Tim Burton’s Batman movies than any other screen representation of the series, and Tetch is another design that visually fits the bill. With his top hat, shabby but ostentatious suit, and old-fashioned vocabulary, Mad Hatter projects an offbeat menace that’s a little more nuanced than that of Fish’s brawny freaks. After securing his lodgings, Tetch endeavors to engage the services of the best bounty hunter in town. He’d like Jim Gordon to help him find his sister, Alice, just returned from the other side of the looking glass (i.e. Dr. Strange’s lab). Tetch tells Gordon his sister carries a rare poison in her bloodstream. And though the scientist promised to cure his sibling, he essentially imprisoned her instead. Her brother offers double the standard GCPD rate for her discovery and Gordon gets to work.
In exchange for Gordon looking out for her missing friend Ivy, Selina admits she remembers seeing the girl in the picture with Fish Mooney, but says she left the gang after a couple of days. Indeed, Alice is holed up in an apartment Valerie would find even more offensive than Gordon’s, and she’s about to be kicked out for not paying the rent. Her pushy slumlord threatens that they could work out a solution together, if Alice is a “nice girl.” He advances on her. And though she warns him to stay away, he makes it to her lips. The second he touches them, the landlord begins to seize and then collapses. “I’m sorry,” Alice says. “You shouldn’t have done that.”
Digging deeper, Gordon finds out Alice lost her last job because she burned that mother down. He runs into the owner and some friends while he investigates the chargrilled bar. Alice cut herself during a shift, the owner says. When a few drops of her blood hit the counter, she freaked and set fire to the building. Gordon says his client will pay for the damages his sister incurred, but that’s not good enough for these guys. A brawl ensues; though Gordon is still the last man standing, a head injury sends him to the Gotham General emergency room for a quick stitch-up.
He’s examined by a handsome new doctor. Gordon’s seen this man through his own living-room window, but he doesn’t recognize him. He’s being treated by Mario, Lee’s new man. Bless Bullock’s heart, he tries to run interference, but the two encounter each other early in the episode when Lee comes to the GCPD to take a meeting with Barnes. Barnes wants her back on the team, seeing as she has more class and judgment than anyone else he has working for him. Lee’s considering it, she tells Gordon. She’s returned to Gotham because her fiancé was offered a position at the hospital. First she ran from Jim; then he ran from her. Now they’re back in the same, rotten city. It’s only a matter of time before that emotional bomb explodes.
To his credit, Dr. Mario makes the stand-up guy move. He introduces himself to Gordon and tells him how much he cares for Lee and how well she speaks of her ex. Gordon’s a little surprised to hear that (again, class), but he assures the man he wishes them well and they have nothing to worry about from him. Nothing, that is, unless Mario hurts Lee. In that case, Gordon will take him out without hesitation or remorse. And if he’s trying to convince Mario he’s over his fiancée, then he kind of blew it.
Gordon is trying to live his life on the outskirts of respectability because he feels like he’s been driven there. But then there’s a girl, and maybe breakfast, and he even offers to clean his apartment if it means Valerie will come back there. He wants to be legit. Jim Gordon is a good man who’s trying and failing to convince himself he can be satisfied by money and pleasure-seeking. I wonder, then, if Mario is the opposite. The big reveal on his origin comes when dad shows up to dinner. Lee is dating the son of Carmine Falcone. And he can’t escape that connection, even if his mother insisted on raising him away from “the business.” Falcone drops a light warning on Lee, buried underneath a layer of compliments. He knows who she used to be with and doesn’t want Gordon or his cop friends sniffing anywhere around his family again. Mario either doesn’t pick up on the threat or thinks it’s necessary. Either way, I doubt he’s really as clean as he appears to be.
NEXT: Late for a very important date
All sewed up, Gordon eventually locates Alice’s apartment. The landlord is locked in the closet and — there’s no better way to say this — zombified. He leaps on Gordon when he lets him out. Alice arrives and shoots Gordon’s attacker before he can infect him. “Did any of his blood get on you?” she asks. Gordon says no, and tells her that her brother is looking for her. “He can’t find me,” she says, agitated. Then Alice drops a match onto the landlord’s body and makes a run for it.
Meanwhile at the club, Tetch is using Barbara as a prop. It almost gets ugly when he hypnotizes her to fall in love with him and then makes like he’s going to rebuff her advances. “She’s sensitive to rejection,” Tabby says, pulling the broken glass away from Tetch’s jugular and out of Barbara’s hand. Gordon shows up to tell his client he found his sister. He also indicates that she seemed terrified of Tetch finding her. He asks what’s going on and why her blood is so toxic. “She’s not sick, she’s powerful, sir,” Tetch answers. Gordon’s getting a little too curious about all this, so Tetch takes him to the roof to “talk” and begins to put him under.
Earlier, Tetch told the ladies he couldn’t make people do anything under hypnosis they don’t secretly want to do anyway. The truth of that statement is in obvious doubt, but it still makes Gordon’s eagerness to climb onto the ledge of the building and count down from 10 to his suicide pretty troubling. Again, Alice arrives to save Gordon in the nick of time. She obviously doesn’t want anyone else hurt by her condition. “You’re evil,” she yells at Tetch. “Leave me alone or I’ll kill you.” Guys, I’m starting to suspect Alice is not Tetch’s sister after all. She shoots and hits him, and the spell is broken. Gordon falls anyway, but catches the ledge at the very last moment; Alice pulls him back up. Gordon thanks her and then cuffs her. The GCPD doesn’t pay as handsomely as the Hatter, but they still pay.
So far, 2016 has been quite a year for children named after numbers by the scientists experimenting on them. Bruce’s doppelgänger is called 514A, he tells Alfred and Bruce. Or “Five,” for short. (Not as cute as “El” for Eleven on Stranger Things, but I’ll let it slide.) Alfred is weirded out by the creepy double (“We have to get rid of that thing.”), but Bruce insists it’s their duty to care for him. Five plays confusion and wretchedness quite well…when his hosts are looking. But when Selina comes to ask Bruce for his help finding Ivy, Five stands just outside the room practicing his mimicry of Bruce’s voice. He’s gone the next day, along with some of Bruce’s clothes and his car. Alfred was right. Wayne Manor was not harboring an innocent.
Was the Court of Owls breeding a mind-controlled replacement for the Wayne heir? If so, contact will need to be made soon if their plan is to survive the breakout. Five might be working under orders, but his capture of Selina suggests he’s gone completely rogue. Bruce Wayne may be a child, but there’s still only room for one of him in this town.
Odds and Ends:
Gordon: *pours scotch into it*