This is not a joke. It’s not a metaphor. This is me not obliquely trying to tell you how ridiculous this show is. This is something that actually occurred on last night’s episode of Gotham, and I can’t think of anything that better conveys the show’s total insanity that simply stating what happened.
If I had to sum up “The Son of Gotham,” I think I would have to say it’s the episode where Gotham basically said “Fuck Batman.” The show has no interest in setting up any part of the Batman mythos, and instead is just 100 percent pure nonsense. It’s basically a weird, primetime-friendly adaptation of latter-day Frank Miller’s id.
Case in point: As Galavan’s trial approaches, the crazy killer monks of St. Dumas have returned to Gotham to… uh… sacrifice a few criminals as part of some wacky ritual, with plans on making young Bruce Wayne the final victim. The reason these monks enter the aforementioned hand job emporium is because—and I want to stress this is also absolutely true—the “rub-n’-tug” establishment (as Barnes dubs it) operates out of the monks’ old abbey.
I can’t even wrap my head around this. I don’t know what’s more insane: That the proprietors of the erotic massage parlor chose a goddamn abbey as their business location? That somehow a group of monks once had an abbey—not a church, an actual abbey—in the downtown of a major metropolitan city? Or that this show, which featured a scene where Jim Gordon investigates someone who gets murdered while getting an erotic massage, is ostensibly a show about Batman?
But the plus side of being deranged means that Gotham still isn’t boring. As Galavan’s trial approaches, Gordon feels like he’s missed something; that something turns out to be the monks, who are catching and sacrificing a variety of criminal for their weird, completely unexplained ritual. Gordon discovers a few things about the monks—the most ridiculous of which is that they don’t feel pain, because… monks, I guess?—but this takes up most of his time.
Gordon is also mad at himself for not murdering the Flamingo in the last episode, which led to Officer Redshirt’s death; Lee points out that 1) that would be murder and 2) he’s a cop, but Gordon is really disappointed in himself for not murdering his prisoner in cold blood. The irony that he’s hunting down monks for murdering criminals does not occur to him at all, of course.
Meanwhile, Bruce and Cat are planning to trick Galavan’s young ward Silver St. Cloud, but this gets interrupted when Silver and then Bruce are kidnapped by a mysterious Scottish thug who wants to know what Galavan knows about the Wayne Enterprises board. Bruce is carted off to be mutilated—because the brutal torture of children doesn’t even register on Gotham’s sense of what might be inappropriate—forcing Silver to reveal who killed the Waynes: a man by name of “M. Malone.” (I’ll discuss that in “Assorted Musings” below.) Now when the kidnapper gets ready to torture Silver, she drops her nice girl act and tells her captor that if she’s harmed, Galavan will murder everyone he’s ever loved, plus other threats.
Of course, this is actually a surprisingly clever (if disturbing) ruse by Bruce and Cat to get the truth out of Silver, especially the truth of who murdered Bruce’s parents. Silver tries to backtrack, but she’s busted. While Cat is content to basically call her a bitch over and over again, Bruce actually gets a little Batman-like. He’s cold and merciless, but not cruel to Silver; he cuts her out, makes his complete and total apathy towards her abundantly clear, and then abandons her in a sketchy warehouse. It’s literally the closest thing to a glimmer of Batman I’ve seen in Bruce on this show, which is why I’m pretty sure it was a happy accident.
But ignore all that, because this scene actually leads into what I feel is the perfect example of this show’s insanity. Bruce has failed to tell Alfred where he is or what he’s doing; a worried Alfred heads to Galavan’s apartment to see if he’s there. Instead he finds Tabitha, and the two get in a pretty good fight which Alfred has to flee when he gets a cut in his stomach. He manages to exit the building and jump into the back of a departing garbage truck, although Tabitha/Tigress manages to throw her knife into his back from about 30 feet away.
Now, let’s examine how goddamned crazy this actually is.
Let us first agree that any human being with a lick of sense would have told his overprotective guardian that he was going out. Sure, Bruce might not have told him about his crazy kidnap plot, but whether to cover his ass or to keep Alfred from getting worried, announcing “Hey, I’m going to see a movie” would have made perfect sense for both Bruce the character and the show’s narrative.
However, we also need to remember that Alfred hates children in general and hates anyone who even slightly puts Bruce out in particular. Based on the character we’ve seen in the show so far, he should have absolutely given Bruce’s crazy plan his blessing; based on the psycho he’s been presented as on the show, he should have literally jumped at the chance to help Bruce with his crazy, sadistic plan. In fact, since the kidnapper Bruce hires appears to be some kind of Scottish professional killer, it actually makes more sense for Alfred to be involved. Where would Bruce or Cat find this guy? I can’t imagine, but I can easily comprehend Alfred calling up one of his murderous old buddies to help master Bruce with his little farce. On a storytelling level, this works infinitely better than Bruce somehow finding this dude on his own, and it jibes with everything the show has presented about Alfred so far. Which is, of course, why Gotham ignores it completely.
And then, just for kicks, it ends this little arc with Tigress throwing a knife into Alfred’s back from like 20 yards away. It’s not a hurl, like every other throwing knife seen in visual media over the last hundred years; she has to toss it in the air and hope it comes down on Alfred. It arcs. She throws it like a lawn dart, and it still hits Alfred, while he’s already lying in the back of a garbage truck. It’s absurd, and it serves no purpose whatsoever because Alfred has already been stabbed. He doesn’t need another wound. But no, Gotham went out of its way to defy physics, just… because.
This is Gotham at its Gotham-iest; making the most insane, ridiculous decisions at every single point, both at a character level and at a narrative level. It ignores common sense, the ridiculous world the show has set up, and even basic physics, all for no damn reason at all.
Luckily, at this point the episode is almost over. Galavan’s trial arrives, and of course ex-Mayor James recants his testimony, instead blaming the Penguin for his kidnapping and torture. Galavan immediately goes free and resumes being mayor, to Gordon’s chagrin, and when I say chagrin I mean Jim punches Theo in the courtroom in front of basically everybody. A couple of cops have to drag him out, but then it turns out the cops are on Galavan’s payroll, and tase him.
When Gordon wakes up he’s in some random warehouse with a smug-as-hell Galavan gloating over him. Here’s where Gotham’s insanity helps it; yes, Galavan does the traditional supervillain plansplaining, but that basically means he only tells Gordon that Bruce Wayne is going to be the monks final sacrifice. Galavan, despite being in charge of the monks and a member of the family who has been in charge of the monks for centuries, finds the monks ridiculous. Theo may be evil, but at least he understands how absurd this all is, most especially when he happily decides “I have a few minutes, what the hell,” frees Gordon, and basically kicks his ass.
It’s incredibly satisfying to watch Galavan beat the crap out of Gordon with total ease, but alas, eventually Theo has to go kidnap Bruce Wayne, so he tells his goons to kill Gordon slowly and leaves. This works out the usual way—someone bursts in at the last minute, shoots Theo’s goons, and saves Gordon. This just happens to be Penguin and his goons, looking for revenge on Galavan now that he’s free and not going to jail. So it looks like Gordon and the Penguin will be teaming up yet again in next week’s fall finale.
Is there some kind of conclusion to be drawn here? Is there a bigger picture that this episode gives us a glimpse at? I can only think of two lessons here: 1) don’t locate your erotic massage parlors in historical religious buildings and 2) I need a drink. See you next week.
• The supposed name of the Waynes’ murderer is Matches Malone (well, M. Malone, at least), which should be familiar to Bat-fans as the criminal identity Batman uses when he needs to infiltrate the bad guy community of Gotham City. Matches Malone is not a real person in the comics, so I think we can safely guess that Matches Malone is either a pseudonym for the killer or just completely wrong. But this is Gotham, so who the hell knows? Matches Malone could be the main villain of season 3.
• Barnes, upon hearing Gordon use the word “penitent:” “Sorry, I left my dictionary in my purse.” You heard it here first, folks—vocabulary is for women and sissies.
• On the plus side, at least Barnes is a big fan of Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
• Seriously, I must reiterate my desire for a show about the Penguin and the Riddler as roommates. The Penguin calling Riddler to ask “Where’s the spicy mustard?” made laugh out loud, and I laughed even harder when I realized Penguin called him to ask before he had even bothered to look in the fridge.
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