When Gotham Returns, Insanity Will Follow
Gotham comes back from its mid-season break in a short few weeks, as announced in a recent extended trailer for the detective drama and Batman coming-of-age story. All the off-the-wall mayhem and ridiculous moments that have defined the show are sure to come back with it. Of course, if you haven’t watched the show since the first season, that idea might seem far-fetched.
Gotham was fairly straightforward in its infancy. James Gordon and Harvey Bullock would have some new criminal to hunt each week, and quality was squarely hit-or-miss. It really hadn’t figured out what it wanted to be. The show was often boring, and that led to a lot of viewers leaving the show before the second season.
But then something happened. Gotham seemed to stop caring. Instead of apologizing for the inevitable dumb aspects of a comic book adaptation, it started embracing them. The ridiculous aspects of the writing went from something Gotham swept under the rug to something it put in the spotlight. Now the show is an engaging balance of serious drama and over-the-top camp, with a healthy dose of soap opera for good measure. Sure, the show still has its bad days, but it’s never boring.
If you haven’t watched Gotham in a while, it might be time to give it another chance. If you need a little push, here are some of the most brilliantly insane moments that make the show such a wild ride.
1. A Major Plot Thread is Solved with a Bazooka
This happens toward the end of the second season, and it is the exact moment I fell in love with this show. James Gordon is cornered by a nigh-indestructible fighter with no options left. With death a certainty for Gordon, we’re treated to a ridiculous deus ex machina (or grenade launcher ex machina, as it were), as Penguin and the ever-faithful Butch come to his rescue with a bazooka, ending the threat and any notions that this show would remain simple and grounded.
Immediately afterward Penguin and Butch simply leave, presumably to resume normal business operations as though nothing out of the ordinary just happened. Gordon is left to file what is probably the weirdest police report he’s filed in a while. Well, weirdest that week. Maybe.
2. Riddler Convinces Penguin that He’s Haunted
Once the best of friends and closest of partners, Riddler and Penguin find themselves at odds when the latter betrays the former. When Riddler learns of Penguin’s betrayal, he goes to Cobblepot’s enemies to plot his off-the-wall revenge. Riddler goes to astronomically theatrical lengths to convince Penguin that he’s being haunted by the ghost of his late father (played by the incomparable Paul Reubens).
The sheer scope and absurdity of the plan reveals the confidence Gotham has in itself. However, far from being akin to Edward Nygma’s arrogance, this confidence is earned. The plot is crazy enough to work, and entertaining every step of the way.
3. Solomon Grundy Becomes an Underground Fighting Star
The undead brute known as Solomon Grundy made his untalkative debut in the current season. He soon found himself in a partnership with Riddler, a kind of brains and brawn situation. Riddler quickly signs his partner up to fight in an illegal underground match. Grundy is agreeable to this arrangement.
But the real outlandishness of this premise is in Grundy’s fighting style. In one fight, he takes several hits before deciding to fight back. He then grabs his opponent’s arm and rips it out of its socket. Grundy then continues to beat his opponent with their own arm until they die of what I assume is a combination of blood loss and shock. The best part is the audience jovially chanting, “Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!” It’s a fun clue that this is a signature move rather than a one-time display.
4. Penguin’s Preteen Apprentice
Admittedly, this is a Penguin-heavy list. However, he’s one of the best parts of Gotham, and I would be remiss if I didn’t include this. While observing a schoolyard, Penguin notices a mute boy being bullied his peers. The bullies eventually leave him alone, and the boy prepares to set fire to their things. Penguin calls him over to question him, and informs him that he has to be smarter, because he’ll get caught.
Penguin takes the boy on as his protégé, and the most oddly adorable relationship between old and young sociopaths is born. The mentorship gives Penguin more depth and viewers something to feel warm about in the weirdest way possible. It’s a bizarre and beautiful journey of crime and coming-of-age.
5. Professor Pyg’s Meat Pies
Gotham has been willing to go to some preposterous and dark places. It upped the ante this season with Professor Pyg’s schemes. Pyg is one of Batman’s more insane rogues, and he proves that in Gotham with a plot against some of the city’s elites. Pyg kills and butchers several homeless people and bakes their meat into pies. He forcibly serves these meat pies to selfish rich people, threatening to kill Penguin’s mentee from the previous entry if they don’t comply. Pyg clearly has a flair for the dramatic and heavy-handed symbolism.
Penguin, to his credit, enthusiastically digs into his pie to save his young friend. He even angrily coerces the rest of the party into digging in. It’s endearing, disgusting, and ludicrously captivating.
From Bland to Bonkers
I’ve spoiled a few of the crazy things that have happened on this show, but far from all of them. Gotham has a lot of deliciously unhinged moments. Sometimes it’s grotesque. Sometimes it’s simply campy. But it’s always engrossing. If you dropped the show early on, it’s time to try it again.
Gotham returns to Fox on March 1 at 8 PM.
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