In the various Batman tales, someone is always trying to put something into the water of Gotham City. Poison, chemicals, mutagens, liquid fear gas... but the prequel show Gotham conclusively reveals that the water supply already contained critical levels of lead, lowering everybody's IQ to single digits. Spoilers...
Seriously. I don't actually expect people to be smart on television, and I have a high tolerance for people on TV making dumb decisions. Especially if it's entertaining. But the people of Gotham City seem to have a real problem. This is a town where the deadliest hitman also holds down a job in Human Resources at a major corporation, for years. And where there are only two cops in the entire city, to investigate a case where someone is targeting councilmen (and eventually the Mayor.) And those cops are told that the hired killer they're looking for just went out the back, and they don't search the back, because some lady comes out holding some paperclips. And where one guy survives a mob hit and is miraculously holding a bag of money that he retrieved, and nobody suspects him of being an inside man. I could go on and on.
There are television shows that require you to turn off your brain, and there's nothing wrong with those. And then there are television shows that actually assault your brain, which is what Gotham seems to be turning into.
So the most entertaining subplot in this week's Gotham involves Fish Mooney holding a completely batshit version of American Idol, in which she gets really mediocre torch singers to sing for her, and then she asks them if they like girls or boys. (How hard is it to find a torch singer who likes girls?) Then she gets them to seduce her. Here's a clip:
Eventually, Mooney narrows it down to two girls, High Femme:
And Smeary Eyeshadow:
So she takes them to the docks somewhere and makes them fight to the death, for the privilege of being her new lounge singer. Oh, wait, it's not actually a singing gig. She says she doesn't want a girl, she wants a "weapon." Someone who can presumably seduce her enemies (and not just by giving terrible backrubs, like High Femme) and then kill them. Fish tells Smeary Eyeshadow that the job is actually to be a woman of power and wealth and ruthlessness, like Fish herself. So here are the two singers being told that it's time for Mortal Kombat:
Spoiler alert: The one wearing the tough boots wins.
And at the end of the episode, Fish tells Smeary Eyeshadow that Fish found her just in time, because Fish's boss Carmine Falcone has been weakened by losing the Arkham deal, and that means there's a power vacuum that someone like Fish can move into — if she has a deadly nightclub singer on her payroll, that is.
So what's this Arkham thing about, you ask?
Basically, there's an old run-down asylum in Gotham called Arkham — which fans of the Batman comics know is where the Joker and Two-Face and friends wind up escaping from every five minutes. But 10 years before Batman, Arkham is an abandoned, run-down old sanitarium, which needs to be renovated or something.
Bruce Wayne's dead parents wanted to renovate the asylum into a state-of-the-art facility and build affordable housing nearby, so the escaped lunatics would have lots of poor families to terrorize. That's the plan that Carmine Falcone supports, with some unspecified modifications to make it more gangstery and corrupt. But meanwhile, rival gangster Sal Maroni wants to build a waste treatment facility on part of the land.
And the main plot of this episode is that someone kills a councilman who supports the Falcone/Wayne plan, and then a councilman who supports the Maroni plan, and makes it look like the two gangsters are wiping out each other's councilmen. (One of the wonderful things in this episode is that absolutely everyone, including butler Alfred Pennyworth, knows which gangster each councilman supports. The councilmen wear little nametags, to make it easy to identify whose pocket they're in.)
So after the hired killer goes after the Mayor, he goes from supporting the Falcone/Wayne plan, to supporting some kind of compromise, in which Maroni gets his waste treatment plant, but we also get some affordable housing, and the asylum doesn't really get to be state of the art:
Here's a random picture of Bruce Wayne feeling sad that his parents' dream of a renovated mental institution has been crushed because gangsters are running everything now. And presumably, also wondering when he's going to do something other than sit in his house, have nightmares, and talk about Gotham City corruption with Jim Gordon and Alfred:
Prediction: Bruce getting kidnapped is being saved for Sweeps Week.
So the hitman targeting Gotham City's leaders is named Gladwell, and it appears as though he's trying to push Gotham over the Tipping Point into all-out gang warfare. (See what I did there?)
At first, the Only Two Cops in Gotham believe that the hits against the city councilmen are being carried out by both sides. (Side note: Where is the Major Crimes Unit? Wouldn't you think that the murders of two councilmen might constitute a Major Crime? Do Montoya and Allen ever do anything, other than stalk their exes?)
But then the helpful CSI tech Edward Nygma tells them that the same weapon was used in both murders. Except that Nygma somehow believes that "the same weapon was used in both murders" constitutes a paradox.
I'm actually kind of sad that Harvey Bullock stops Nygma from explaining what a paradox is, because I'm dying to know what definition of "paradox" includes "a consistent murder weapon used in both murders."
Of course, if Gladwell's goal is to make the murders look like they're the work of opposing mob families, then using the same weapon both times is not a stroke of brilliance. But there's ample evidence that Gladwell is no mastermind, given how easy he is to track down. Gordon and Bullock go and visit a woodsman-beard-sporting assassin in prison, who tells them Gladwell's name and the building he works out of.
Yep, he works out of a building. Does that mean he has a dead drop there? Or that there's a hidden lair there? Or that if you go to that building and ask the right person, they can get a message to Gotham's deadliest assassin?
He works there. In Human Resources. Under the same name that his fellow assassin guy knew him by. Not only that, but he's been using someone else's identity for five years, while the real Gladwell slowly mummified in his apartment.
Here's one of Gladwell's coworkers in Human Resources, who's apparently been sitting opposite him for years, but the cops never ask her for a description of him or any info about him:
She tells Gordon and Bullock that they just missed Gladwell and he must have just gone towards the back, and Gordon makes a half-hearted stab at searching the back. But first Bullock calls Gordon back to Gladwell's desk, where Gladwell has helpfully left info about his two murders to date. And then they both saunter back towards the rear where Gladwell is still hiding, but then a lady comes out with some paperclips, which is enough to let them know that Gladwell is long gone.
Gordon gets a tipoff from Oswald Cobblepot, who showed up at his place at the start of the episode and wants to be Gordon's spy, that there will be another assassination tonight. And Gordon goes and looks at the protective details for all of the politicians under police protection, only to realize that Gladwell had the first initials of the three cops who were guarding the Mayor:
Dammit, this is why you don't hire the most short-lived James Bond to guard an important politician! He'll just stand around and say "This never happened to the other feller."
All George Lazenby jokes aside, what is this? Why does Gladwell have those three cops' initials? Is he being tipped off that those cops are dirty and will abandon their posts? Why not just tell him which target those three dirty cops are guarding? Why does he need their initials? Or is he supposed to kill them before he kills the Mayor, but he can only kill people if he knows their first initials? Does he have a directory of crooked cops that he's going to look them up in? What possible use are those initials to Gladwell?
So Gordon and Bullock, the Only Two Cops in Gotham, stop Gladwell from killing the Mayor, by shooting him. Which means they never find out who hired him.
Meanwhile, complicating matters, Oswald Cobblepot (in between trying to be Gordon's new best friend) is working at a restaurant owned by Sal Maroni, where he watches them counting money all day, in plain sight:
So the future Penguin hires some thugs to attack the restaurant, wearing nylon masks, and steal most of the money. He's the only survivor of the raid, and also manages to save some of the money, which earns him a promotion to restaurant manager.
That also leads to a hilarious scene where Boss Maroni and his lieutenant Frankie discuss the fact that Falcone hit Maroni in his place of business, and now Maroni wants to hit Falcone back — in the mouth. Badda bing, badda bang! Here's a clip of that scene for you:
So you hit Boss Krako, and Krako hits Oxmyx, and then you put a bag on him? Why not just play Fizzbin instead?
After pulling off this daring raid on his own restaurant and hoodwinking Maroni into giving him a promotion, the Penguin looks in on the guys who did the caper, and gives them some cannolis that are so obviously poisoned, they pretty much have giant skulls and crossbones on them:
There's also a great scene where Bullock says he's not interested in the one piece of evidence they recovered from Gladwell's desk, and Gordon accuses Bullock of being lazy, and Bullock says maybe he just works smarter. Did Gordon ever consider that? And Gordon says he did indeed. Here they are laughing at each other:
So I've saved the most painful subplot for last.
Barbara Kean, Gordon's fiancee, confronts Gordon with questions about Oswald Cobblepot, whom Gordon supposedly killed for Falcone. And Gordon dodges the questions and instead asks how Barbara heard Cobblepot's name. And this somehow turns into a teary confession that Barbara and Renee Montoya used to date, but then Barbara ended it — and now Barbara only wants to be with Jim, and nobody else. But maybe Renee is still carrying a torch? The scene flips from being about whether Gordon is a corrupt mob killer to a Chasing Barbara thing about Barbara's past relationship with a woman, awfully quickly.
And then Barbara goes to visit Jim AT THE POLICE STATION and demands to know, out loud, if he killed that guy. What's wrong, Jim? Why can't you just tell her whether you murdered a guy for the mob, in front of all your fellow cops? Why won't you open up to her? Why are you so withholding?
In the end, Jim tells her that he made the mistake of talking to her about his work once — which was the time that she called the newspapers and tipped them off, incidentally. And now, he'll never make that mistake again. And she tells him that if he's not willing to disclose all the sensitive details of his cases to her on a regular basis, then she's not sure whether she's able to be in a relationship with him.
Bear in mind that she's living in a city where "secrecy" means "working in Human Resources under the same name that you use as a hired killer." So it's not entirely unreasonable.