As the reappearance of Oswald Cobblepot throws Gordon’s life into chaos, he must protect the people he loves without sacrificing his own principles. As Maroni and Falcone come closer to war over Cobblepot, Gordon stands as one man against the mob.
As seen last week, Cobblepot shows up on the steps of the GCPD to prove Gordon’s innocence of his death. While it means Gordon doesn’t go to jail, it does turn the entire GCPD – including Bullock – against him. Determined to do the right thing and stand up for his principles, Gordon goes back to work and begins writing out warrants for the arrest of Mayor James and Carmine Falcone. He figures as long as he’s going to be killed anyway, why not die making an example of those who perpetuate the corrupt system.
Of course, Gordon is constantly pursued by thugs trying to bring him in to Falcone. First Fish Mooney’s thugs threaten Barbara while trying to bring him in. Gordon takes them out and sends Barbara out of town and out of harm’s way. Then Falcone sends his own guy after Gordon, a thug who just happens to be Victor Zsasz. A chase ensues where Gordon is shot and nearly captured when Montoya and Crispus come to the rescue. They patch him up and they make a visit to Wayne Manor, where Gordon explains to Bruce that he’s in trouble, but that he can trust Montoya and Crispus if Gordon doesn’t make it.
Meanwhile, Maroni and Falcone face a possible war over the problem of Cobblepot. Mooney demands his life as a sign of respect, but Maroni believes that Cobblepot is too valuable. Falcone escalates by hijacking Maroni’s gun shipment and taking over the route. Maroni retaliates by attacking Falcone’s drug ring that Cobblepot tells him about, killing Nikolai. During the raid, Cobblepot kills Frankie, Maroni’s lieutenant. In the end, the dispute is ended by Maroni trading Indian Hill – a worthless toxic waste dump built on top of an Indian burial ground – for the life of Cobblepot.
Bullock decides that since he’s a dead man anyway that he’d rather go down on the moral high ground with Gordon. They team up and go out to arrest Falcone and the Mayor. When they reach Falcone, he tells them that he’s holding Barbara hostage. Bullock thinks it’s a bluff, but Gordon takes no chances. Falcone has Barbara released and decides to spare Gordon and Bullock’s lives, saying that one day they’ll see things Falcone’s way.
In the end, it turns out that Cobblepot has been Falcone’s snitch all along – that on the day he was supposed to be killed he asked Falcone to give the job of killing him to Gordon in exchange for a secret. Cobblepot explains that Gordon is the only cop with a conscience, and that if he doesn’t kill him that Cobblepot will come back to Gotham and infiltrate the Maroni mob and report to Falcone. Falcone agrees, and Cobblepot tells him about Mooney and Nikolai’s plans to take out Falcone. Cobblepot has a talent for manipulation and everything he’s done from the moment Gordon let him live to now has been by his own design. In fact, it was Cobblepot’s special request that Falcone spare Gordon’s life.
Here’s where we get to see Gordon begin to inspire hope and admiration in his fellow GCPD officers. Sarah Essen is confounded by Gordon’s determination and moral standards, but it’s a stance that makes her think twice about leaving with the rest of the GCPD cops when Zsasz orders the room cleared. In fact, while everyone does eventually leave, Zsasz has to ask twice before there is any movement. It’s as if the entire corrupt force is suddenly thinking twice about their cowardice and greed in the face of James Gordon’s stubborn courage. Even Bullock eventually comes around and joins the fight. And with Bullock and Gordon surviving the ordeal – even though they didn’t get to arrest the Mayor and Falcone – the very fact that they defied the powers that be and lived will make others think twice about their complacency or fear. This just might be the event that will eventually allow Gordon to change the GCPD for the better.
Cobblepot’s schemes and little plots are pretty impressively twisted and complex. He obviously has a keen insight into human nature, because he can so easily manipulate people into doing what he wants or blindsiding them with his betrayal. It’s partly because he’s so terribly underestimated by others, but to think that every little intrigue and power struggle between Maroni and Falcone was by his design is incredible. And what comes next is even more intriguing. Where is this plan going and why spare Gordon’s life?
The Penguin that rules Gotham’s criminal underworld is also quickly becoming apparent in his manner and bearing. He’s in control and he has power, he’s just not able to wield it outwardly. What he does have is an incredible amount of influence and growing respect within the vying crime families. It’s a subtle, but affecting transition as played by Robin Lord Taylor.
I don’t know what Zsasz’s backstory is in this case, but it certainly seems like it might be pretty different from the comics. I also don’t know how I feel about Zsasz being this sadistic thug who seems to have a lot of confident arrogance. I think he’s rather more effective, and much more creepy, when he’s this broken, weak, ineffectual guy who develops this mania – a compulsion to kill, not for pleasure, but to cure people of a disease called life. It’s his mission, because he believes that all life is pointless and that liberating people from life is a gift. This mission also conversely gives Zsasz’s life meaning.
It is notable, however, that in the comics Zsasz loses his entire personal fortune to the Penguin while gambling at the Iceberg Lounge – prompting the event that triggers his mania. Of course, since Zsasz’s mania seems to be pretty well formed already, I’m not sure how much more interesting he’s going to get.
On the plus side, I think this is the best and most organized episode yet. Perhaps things will take a turn for the better, focusing on a smaller number of characters and cleaning up the plot. This show has such potential, I would hate to see it fizzle out before it finds its stride.