The key line in the episode comes from Commissioner Loeb: “You’re willing to hold my daughter hostage to achieve your ends?” he asks Gordon, peering as impassively as ever from behind his Bakelite-TV-screen glasses. “You’re much colder than I thought.”
There have been moments in the past on this show when Gordon has made morally questionable decisions in pursuit of his aims. With this episode, however, his actions seem not far removed from those he’s pursuing. The ultimate irony is that it’s Bullock who’s acting as his Jiminy Cricket, warning against making a deal with Penguin.
He also wins the prize for snark of the week with, “Sorry I missed your big moment. Figured I’d catch the next one.” You get the feeling that Bullock is genuinely disappointed that the man who has helped turn his professional life around by providing a moral compass now seems to be just as willing as the rest of GCPD to bypass the law to get what he wants.
It’s a chillingly dark turn for the show. Admittedly the Frankenstein shenanigans going on at Dr Dulmacher’s, and Commissioner Loeb’s mad daughter crushing starlings and making necklaces from their bones, are more overtly gothic in their horror but they’re practically cartoony compared to the moral darkness that’s descending over Gordon.
It’s a good week for Penguin who clearly loves being in the driving seat. Even if it is back-seat driving much of the time, he’s somehow steering events for his own advantage. He’s also wonderfully creepy and morally vacuous. The moment when he engineers the old couple in trying to kill each other (before casually shooting the survivor with his only bullet left) is brilliantly juxtaposed with Bullock’s warning to Gordon about dancing with the devil.
What the Dickens?
The passage that Bruce is reading to Alfred by his hospital bed is from Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations.
Peter Scolari is also turning in a brilliantly underwrought* performance as Commissioner Loeb. He seems to have the emotional range of a broken toaster and yet his overly deliberate movements (he even makes taking a video tape out of a drawer look like a carefully-choreographed setpiece) and piercing gaze reveal everything about the turmoil of loathing within. Hopefully he’ll either be around for a while in the show, or come to a brilliantly poetic end.
(*Yeah, we know that’s not a word but if you ever needed an opposite to “overwrought” Scolari’s performance is it.)
No Barbara this week, so jolly good. The Bruce/Alfred storyline comprises about two scenes and could easily be excised totally – Alfred was always going to need time to recover, so we don’t really need dialogue telling us that, and Cat’s hospital visit is fairly superfluous too (and Camren Bicondova’s Cat is becoming less and less convincing as a hardened, streetwise felon every week). Gangsters are noticeable by their absence too. Sensibly, most of the ongoing support plotlines are put on hold so that the implications of Gordon’s actions can be more fully explored.
What is interesting is how easily and naturally Dent replaces Bullock as Harvey at Gordon’s side for a few scenes. They look like a very comfortable (perhaps a bit 1970s TV-ish) pair of cop crime-fighting buddies at times, which is slightly uncomfortable to watch. Perhaps it’s another subtle indication of how Gordon’s sense of right and wrong has become clouded.
It’s not big fireworks episode, and more fun could have been had with the old couple caretaking at Loeb’s safehouse. On the other hand, it feels like a pivotal episode.
Harvey Bullock: “You tell yourself, 'I'll just do this one bad thing. All the good things I'll do later will make up for it.' But they don’t.”
Technically the FX for the mash-up Dr Dulmacher has made out of his former office manager are fine, but there’s something about the way actor Jeffrey Combs has been told, “Don’t move your head!” that makes the image look artificial, sadly undermining the horrific effect.
Getting In On The Act
Take at look at the magician on stage behind Penguin as he makes his pact with Gordon. Those knives he’s plunging into that box create an uncomfortable visual metaphor.
Come on! Goths everywhere are going to love a fake starling-bone necklace, surely?
Missed Line Opprtunity
Fish: “Make me your right hand.”
Dr Dulmacher: “No, but I can make you a right eye.”
Look, we’re sure we misheard this (and we have tried googling), so feel free to put us right in the comments section, but it really does sound like Griggs says to Gordon that he’ll find Xi Lu in Urine Street… Not a great place for a restaurant.