Episode 21: “The Anvil or The Hammer”
Gordon’s pursuit of the Ogre reaches a terrifying climax as Penguin makes his move against Gotham’s crime lords.
Lucius Fox provides an important, but not often recognized, role in the Batman universe. With Bruce Wayne spending most of his time (and considerable wealth) running through the streets in his costume, someone has to run Wayne Enterprise. Someone trustworthy, dependable, and business-savvy. Someone who can keep a secret like “our CEO spends company funds on batarangs and personalized stealth vehicles”. Put simply, he runs the company during the day while Bruce plays vigilante at night. The character has become more widely known with the advent of Christopher Nolan’s films, where he is played by Morgan Freeman. He remains one of Bruce’s only confidantes regarding his double life, alongside Alfred.
“Anvil or the Hammer” is a solid conclusion to a story arc that’s had ups and downs. The Ogre started off a bit voyeuristic, but found solid ground once Barbara and Gordon became more involved. Making a character creepy without becoming unwatchable is a difficult dance. When it’s just watching the Ogre terrorize and obsess over women like some 50 Shades-turned-Hannibal freak, it becomes extremely uncomfortable and invasive to watch. Introducing a strong force like Barbara adds a level of intrigue, a clash of not-quite-good and evil with unpredictable results. Will she change him? Will he change her? What will be the lasting effects? Sadly, the end result was Barbara in the same situation as all the girls before her; trapped in a house with a freak who alternates between promising to protect her and promising to cut open her throat. Barbara is back to playing the helpless victim who needs to be rescued by Gordon.
Nygma has his most Riddler-esque moment yet. The real draw of the character is the process of putting together, how each riddle works, not just pulling the answer out of midair. It’s a detective story meets magic trick. Having everything explained in one long monologue isn’t any fun, it feels like being talked down to. When each character contributes a piece to the solution, the mystery becomes clearer. Then there comes that moment when it all suddenly snaps into focus. That moment when you see it. What a rush. That rush overpowers every other feeling, including the inherent squeamishness that comes with the graphic nature of Nygma’s work. We’re so hungry for another riddle that we’ll sit through things that ordinarily would have our stomachs turning. What dismembered body?
The biggest surprises come from Penguin and newly introduced Lucius Fox. Penguin’s play on Maroni and Falcone is like something out of a Scorsese flick, but with a calculated, play-no-sides twist that is very distinctly Oswald. Gotham City is going Prohibition-era Mob War; leaving the perfect opening for whatever clever move Penguin has next. Then there’s the careful first appearance of Lucius Fox by Chris Chalk, who plays the quiet fortitude of the character to absolute perfection. It’s such a brief, casual conversation in hindsight, but Fox has without doubt shaken Bruce’s world forever.
Only the finale remains. Thinking back, it feels like all I’ve been saying about Gotham is the negatives that bring an episode down. I’ve criticized relationships among characters, the amount of screen time they spend together, villains that become too unrealistic or creepy, and my unbearable crusade against a certain character. When this show started, it seemed like all I thought about was how much potential the show had, and all the ways it was falling short of that potential. But looking back through all the episode reviews, it’s clear that I have, in fact, loved this first season. Loved something in every single episode, even the ones I said don’t work.
When did I start looking at each episode for flaws and not for triumphs? The bottom-rated episodes of the first half were “Viper” and “Harvey Dent”. Both episodes went too over-the-top. Even so, both had elements deserving of praise. “Viper” was a golden episode for Bruce and Alfred. “Harvey Dent” established Penguin’s abilities as a crime boss on the rise. The first half ended with Gordon transferred to Arkham, and returned with introductions to several of the best elements of Gotham. The second half was when Dr. Thompkins was introduced, when Falcone left the sidelines, when Barbara started standing on her own, and when Jim Gordon became the coolest cop on television. Possibly the weakest episode of the second half was the introduction of the Ogre two weeks ago. The element I’ve criticized most is one actress/character.
My prediction for Gotham’s finale? It’s going to be awesome. Without any doubt, awesome. Tune in.
Episode Score: 8.4