Gotham returns from a brief hiatus to deliver one of its best episodes to date. “What the Little Bird Told Him” is full of character development, plot points that actually advance the mob war story line, and Penguin. Glorious, Robin Lord Taylor, Penguin.
[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”350″ size=”14″ bg_color=”#dd3333″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]Episode Title: “What the Little Bird Told Him”
Director: Eagle Egillson
Writer: Ben Edlund
Air Date: January 19, 2015[/mks_pullquote]As expected, the main villain of this episode was escaped Arkham inmate Jack Gruber. The super genius and electricity addict, as it turns out, is actually Lester Buchinsky aka the “Electocutioner,” who unlike Gruber, is a real Batman villain. Similar to his role in the DC comics, Gotham’s Eletrocutioner kills and makes his name with intricate electricity-based killing machines. It makes for a nice villain with a superhero feel for once, instead of a standard psychopath or guy that ties people to balloons. The use of electricity also allowed for some great shots with an interesting camerawork to accommodate for a CGI budget that was likely nearing its limits what with all the shocking and lightning arcs being thrown around.
How Jim Gordon eventually dispatches of the supervillain is, admittedly, a little weak. I would be fine with his little stunt if any other character mentioned just how silly it is. Instead, Gordon defeats the villain in the lamest way possible, and he’s rewarded with his job as a GCPD detective back just like that. In general, the whole series of events over the past two episodes are dangerously close to making Gotham become over serialized. A lot went down with Gordon and his side of the story at the mid-season finale, then now two episodes later, it’s all more or less wiped out. Knowing that anything detrimental that happens in the show can be negated just like that is a little worrying, and hopefully not a trend about to continue. Gotham has spent a lot of time front-loading this series with big name characters in order to keep a level of consistency that spans multiple episodes, and I can only hope they stick with that dedication.
Another big issue I’ve had with Gotham that got epitomized in this episode was the idea that any plot can instantly be created or solved with “well, corruption.” How did Lester Buchinsky have his files changed to Jack Gruber so he could work his way into Arkham? “Well, corruption.” It’s another real problem that needs to be toned down going forward. I’m not yet ready to call it lazy writing, but it certainly fees like some conveniences with the city of Gotham’s intense level of corruption are being taken to avoid thinking up creative ways to have characters move about the show.
While this episode has a massive number of characters contained in it, there is a still a sense of balance and direction so it isn’t quite the mess that some of Gotham’s earlier episodes were. Even Riddler has a lot of screen time in an episode where he isn’t all that important. It’s clear that he is being set up as a future villain, but what exactly he is going to do is still (sign…) an enigma for the most part. And, just like all his previous appearances, every line of his was cringe inducing and nothing more than cramming in your face that he is indeed the Riddler. Did you know the Riddler tells riddles? Because the Riddler tells riddles, here have a riddle would you like a riddle? Allow me to tell you a riddle.
I said in my Gotham review two weeks ago that I didn’t think anything the show could do would make me interested in the mob war story, but I may have been slightly wrong. Apparently, all it takes is finally giving some real motivations for the characters and actual events with repercussions to make it interesting. Who knew?
“What the Little Bird Told Him” finally injected some fun and genuine tension to the war between Maroni, Falcone, and Fish Mooney by putting some characters in life-threatening risk. All of the lies, back-stabbing and setting up that Gotham has spent its entire first season building up to finally gets a bit of a payoff in the episode. Penguin in particular starts to get caught in the middle of all, with his ability to play double agent hampered by a Electrocutioner attack, but he eventually pulls it off in the end. Fish’s big plan to get Falcone out of Gotham backfires horribly to say the least, but it wasn’t made apparent right away. There are several hints dropped throughout the episode that Falcone might be on to her plan, but never enough that it removes in edge-of-your-seat tension that occurs in the episodes final scenes.
Gotham is doing a great job of setting up the fact that Penguin overcomes a lot adversity on his way to becoming one of the biggest mobsters in the Batman universe. So far nothing has come easy for him, but he always comes through in the end and he seems to always have a plan in mind.
The episode certainly still had its faults, but if this is the type of show that Gotham is growing into, I’m more than OK with it. A satisfying, true-to-form supervillain, real character development, and a story that isn’t afraid to put well-known characters at risk of losing their lives. Three and a half MOARGeeks out of five.
Side thought: Robin Lord Taylor as Penguin is the best thing going for Gotham and Fox apparently knows it. If you’ve been following advertising for the show the past couple of weeks, it’s almost entirely Lord Taylor, including several ads during the episode itself. Hopefully it means more screen time for him, and less for Barbara.