A Look at Gotham- Season 2, Episode 9: “Rise of the Villains: A Bitter Pill to Swallow”

And now Gotham introduces Eduardo Flamingo.  Because why not, at this rate.  While the main storyline isn’t anywhere near as mundane as last week’s situation with Barbara, it’s still not as interesting as some of the other plots.  Well, the stuff with Ed and Penguin, anyway.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Jessica orders a High Smith Royale

The episode begins with Jessica entering a bar and ordering a High Smith Royale, no ice, per her instructions.  She hands the bartender a wad of cash and he, in turn, opens a door to a hidden room that leads to a casino.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Jessica meets with Michelle Gomez and asks for help in killing Gordon

Jessica speaks with a woman, played by Michelle Gomez, about needing help to have someone killed.  Personal vendettas and cops cost extra since there are always complications, but Jessica is willing to pay.  Once the job is accepted, the job apparently gets done.  Jessica slides over a photo of Jim Gordon.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Gordon checks in on Barbara

We then cut to Jim Gordon, who listens to a doctor discuss Barbara’s condition.  No word yet on when she’ll awaken.  Jim elects to not ride with her to the medical wing at Arkham.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Nygma prepares to give Penguin a needle

Penguin awakens with Nygma in his face.  He soon sticks him with a syringe.  There’s a big night ahead.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Jim and Leslie talk about Barbara and that damn kiss

At GCPD, Leslie gives Jim his phone and asks why he left early in the morning.  It’s not because she snored.  Jim is glad that Galavan is arrested, but he thinks that he still needs to pay.  He tells Barbara that he’s meeting with Barnes at Galavan’s penthouse for evidence.  Jim then stupidly mentions that he also went to the hospital to check on Barbara.

And now to talk about that kiss.  Leslie says that it’s not jealousy.  I think it’s actually petty drama, but anyway, she calls Barbara the devil.  Jim counters that he had to play along, but Leslie says that Jim often gives into his dark side and that’s a problem.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Bruce and Alfred clash over whether Silver St. Cloud gets to stay

Over at Wayne Manor, Bruce has a chat with Silver St. Cloud, who is concerned about her uncle.  Bruce apparently doesn’t believe the things said about Theo, but he does need Silver’s help.  Before Bruce can ask about the offer, in enters Alfred.  In light of recent events and against Bruce’s desires, Alfred wants Silver gone.  Silver doesn’t want to cause trouble and decides to leave, but not before slipping Bruce a hotel key.

Bruce tells Alfred that he had no right, but Alfred disagrees.  He thinks that Bruce expected to learn more about his parents’ killer.  Alfred doesn’t think that there was anything in the envelope.  Bruce figures that Theo wouldn’t gamble so much, so there had to be something valuable.  Getting information, Alfred says, requires a level of deception that Bruce does not possess yet.  Even still, Bruce insists that it’s worth the risk.  Alfred puts his foot down: no more pursuing Theo Galavan or Silver St. Cloud.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Gordon and Piano Man ride up the elevator

As Jim heads up the elevator, he’s joined by a man who is heading to level 56 on a house call.  Tough stuff, but both he and Jim love what they do.  The man then offers Jim a caramel candy.  When Jim refuses, the man pulls out a piano wire and begins to choke Gordon.  This is why you don’t turn down caramel candy.

Upstairs, meanwhile, as officers take photos of the crime scene, Barnes wonders where the hell Gordon is.  He’s just too busy fighting on the elevator.  After a struggle, Jim manages to overtake the man.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Jim brings Piano Man up to Galavan's penthouse

He brings the man with him and tells Barnes that the man tried to kill him.  And this was no random attack.  He then pulls out the man’s cell phone and answers.  It’s Michelle Gomez, who does not respond when she hears labored breathing.  Instead, she interrupts a game of craps and offers the players a large sum if Jim Gordon does not see the sun rise again.  Considering the sun rarely rises in Gotham, I don’t think that’s hard.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Nygma offers Penguin a glass of water

Nygma delivers Penguin a glass of water, admitting that he drugged him for his own benefit.  The two recount their first encounter, with Nygma explaining that he works in forensics.  He threw away Penguin’s clothes, by the way, since they reeked.  In Penguin’s condition, Nygma says that he won’t get far, so he needs to take time and recover.  Even still, Oswald turns down the water.  He asks what Nygma wants.

Ed has been going through a change as of recent- he’s started murdering people.  A funny little thing, that is and it’s thrilling for him to say out loud.  Only three so far, one was his girlfriend.  Penguin thinks that he’s next, but Ed has no ill intent towards him.  He needs advice.  These murders changed him.  And like the butterfly, he’s realized that he cannot be a caterpillar once again.  Nygma brought Penguin here for guidance on this new path.

Now it’s Oswald’s time to laugh.  He struggles out of bed and heads to the window to lament his ruined empire.  After all, he’s a wanted man with no friends and his mother is dead because of his weakness.  This path leads to nothing but destruction and pain.  Wanted or not, Penguin is leaving.  He gets as far as a few steps before collapsing.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Barnes catches Jim holding Piano Man out of a window

Back at Galavan’s tower, Jim punches the assassin awake and demands to know who sent him.  Jim takes some extreme measures and holds the man out the window just as Barnes enters and orders Jim to stand down.  He won’t tolerate that kind of crap.  He asks if Jim losing it, reminding him if the recent incident with Barbara has messed with his head.

An officer alerts the two to a group heading their way and taking out security cameras.  The man says that if the first doesn’t succeed, keep sending more.  Only one person is making it out alive.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Preparing for the assault

Mr. Piano Man is cuffed to the stairs.  Barnes calls for backup and tells forensics man Cortez, played by Danny Berisha, to cut off the lights.  Jim gives Officer Parks, played by Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut, her orders as well, but above all, stay calm.  The officers prepare for someone to come through the doors, only for someone to come down the stairs and slit Cortez’s throats.  Well, he’ll be missed.

Then the door is blown open as assassins open fire.  Parks manages to kill one, with Barnes and Jim managing to take down the others.  Piano Wire Man takes Parks hostage, but then Jim puts one bullet between the man’s eyes.  Glasses tend to look like bullseyes, you know.

Even after all of this, Jim refuses to leave.  This place is their best bet for evidence against Galavan.  If they leave now, the evidence could be destroyed.  Barnes counters that Jim is looking for fight.  Their situation is rather bleak now, with a civilian is dead and Parks scared of her mind.  Barnes tells Jim that they need to escape.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Barnes stabbed

But then Jim notices something in the wall- a monk’s cassock.  The hell is that about?  One man springs to life and tries to stab Jim, but Barnes takes the wound instead.  The blade ends up tearing an artery- if Barnes stands, he’ll bleed out in no time.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Nygma brings Penguin one of Galavan's henchmen to kill

Penguin awakens to a new surprise- a masked man who goes by Mr. Leonard.  Apparently Oswald was talking about Galavan killing his mother.  Leonard worked for Galavan before Jim Gordon had him arrested.  It’s not as good of news as Penguin would have wanted, but Nygma presents this man as a gift to kill.  After all, it’d be some retribution for the death of Penguin’s mother.  Nygma gives Penguin a knife.

As Oswald contemplates his decision, he drops the knife and tells Nygma that he’s done.  He needs some rest and then he’s leaving Gotham forever.  With that, he crawls back into bed.  Nygma, meanwhile, wheels the man away.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Eduardo Flamingo, played by Raul Castillo, receives a call from Michelle Gomez

Meanwhile in somewhere, we’re introduced to Eduardo Flamingo, played by Raul Castillo, who is in the middle of torturing someone when he receives a phone call Michelle Gomez.  She’s in a pinch and wants to hire Flamingo, even though his membership was revoked.  She tells him that the target is Jim Gordon and promises to make it worth his while.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Barnes tells Jim about the line

Jim offers Barnes some liquid courage while the two wait for EMT.  Time for the two to talk about what’s going on with Jim.  In the church that day, Barbara accused Jim of having a monster inside of him and Leslie agrees.  There was a moment when Jim had a gun trained on Barbara.  Had Galavan’s men not entered, he’s not sure what he would have done.  He nearly crossed a line.

The line?  Barnes knows all about the line.  Way back when he was stationed in the desert on his third tour, he and his crew found three insurgents.  The team caught fire and was separated during a sandstorm, leaving Barnes alone with one of the prisoners- a kid.  He was bound, but Barnes put the gun in the kid’s mouth just to threaten the kid and show who’s in charge.  But then he just pulled the trigger and blew off the kid’s head.  That kid woke Barnes up every night until he made peace and realized that he’s just a man.  At the right moment, a man might do anything.  There is no line- just the law.  That’s what separates them from the animals.

Well, that was a speech.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Alfred has Silver St. Cloud's key

Bruce comes to Alfred to say that he’s right.  Pursuing Galavan on his own is too risky.  Best course of action is to inform Jim Gordon.  Alfred calls that common sense at last.  Bruce, meanwhile, prepares to head to bed, but Alfred also says that he sent off the taxi.  He then presents Silver St. Cloud’s hotel key.  Bruce declares to never stop.  Neither will Alfred.  Okay, this did get a chuckle out of me.  Alfred, you sneaky bastard.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Nygma tries again to build Penguin up

Penguin awakens to the sound of music- Nygma is playing on the piano before presenting a riddle: I can bring tears to your eyes and resurrect the dead. I form in an instant and last a lifetime.  What am I?  A memory.  Penguin was humming this song, so Nygma figures that the song holds a memory.  Every night when Oswald was young, his mother would sing that song.  She would also tell young Oswald that he shouldn’t listen to the other children.  He’s handsome, clever, and would grow up to be a great man.  Memories are all that Penguin have, and now they’re like daggers in his heart.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Penguin holds a knife to Nygma's throat

Not all bad.  Nygma has Miss Kringle’s glasses.  He doesn’t feel sadness, but gratitude.  But Penguin doesn’t care to know why.  Nygma continues- they are better off unencumbered.  Penguin said it himself: his mother is dead because of his weakness.  What he needs to realize is that his weakness was his mother.  Penguin takes a knife to Nygma’s neck, declaring that he has nothing left.

A man with nothing that he loves, Nygma says, is a man that cannot be bargained or betrayed.  He answers to no one but himself.  That is the man that Nygma sees before him- a free man.  Oswald lowers the knife.

GCPD arrives downstairs to help Jim and Barnes, but they come under fire.  Edward Flamingo introduces himself, as if his name means something.  He’s coming up soon, but he wants to feast on Jim’s friends first.  Jim will go down to meet him, despite the fact that Flamingo killed four cops.  Barnes refuses to let Gordon go down by himself, but Jim counters that Flamingo is after him and no one else.  Jim heads for the elevator while Parks stays with Barnes.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Jim fights Flamingo

On the way down, ignoring a call from Leslie, Jim finds the bodies of the other officers.  He’s ambushed from behind as Flamingo trips him up with a chain.  The two fight, with Jim eventually managing to get an advantage over Flamingo.  He punches him over and over again, but Flamingo just laughs.  So Jim keeps on punching him and eventually sticks his gun in Flamingo’s mouth.

His finger on the trigger, he contemplates his decision, but refuses to kill Flamingo.  Instead, he reads Flamingo his rights.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Nygma still has Galavan's henchman

Penguin, meanwhile, asks what happened to Galavan’s lackey.  Nygma reveals that he has the man stuffed in a closet.  A party isn’t a party without entertainment, Gertrude always said, so Nygma wheels out the man.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Selina comes to warn Bruce about Silver St. Cloud

To my irritation, Selina Kyle is inside Wayne Manor and here to save Bruce from Silver.  She has proof that Silver is bad and asks if he’s interested.  Since Bruce doesn’t respond, I assume that means he is.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Officer Parks dies

At GCPD, as Flamingo is brought into holding, he feigns poor health, but then takes a bite out of crime- I mean, out of Parks’ neck and doesn’t let go.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Jim and Leslie learn that Flamingo killed Officer Parks

Leslie, meanwhile, stitches up Jim, who tells her that he’s afraid about almost crossing a line.  He then asks Leslie why the hell she’s with him, but she’s got no clue.  She wants to know the truth from now on- always.  It’s a promise.  Leslie answers Jim’s phone and receives a call from Alvarez, who shares that Flamingo killed Parks before he could be put in lockup.  Should I care?

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Theo speaks with Tabitha

Jessica talks with Theo, who wanted her to do nothing about Jim Gordon until she received orders.  This is about Barbara, she says, so she’s let Barbara get into her head.  Theo counters that everything is ready.  Bruce Wayne will die and the city will be theirs.  All they’ve worked for will soon belong to them.  If Jessica endangers that again, Theo promises to cut her throat.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Dumb cop questions men in robes

On the docks, Father Creole meets with other hooded men.  A lone officer asks the men for ID, but because he’s an idiot and this is Gotham, the officer is stabbed by every single hooded figure as the group makes its way into the city.

As we continue along with this “Rise of the Villains” arc, if there’s anything I can commend Gotham with this season, it’s for continually building character arcs.  Some arcs aren’t as good or well-written as others, but I appreciate this more serialized approach allows the events of one episode to play right into the other.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Leslie says that Jim finds way to give into his dark side

That’s where we are right now with Gordon’s arc as we deal with the fallout from Barbara’s…well, fall.  Gordon is still considering what she said about his dark side and now both Leslie and Barnes confront him on that.  As is often the case in Batman lore, there’s a line that separates the good from the bad.  Once you cross that line, you’re no different from the very criminals you’re trying to apprehend.

The law may not always lead to the results that you want, but it’s better than going down a dark path of no return.  I realize that I’m giving a basic description of what separates the likes of Bruce Wayne, Jim Gordon, and their future allies from the rogues.  It goes much deeper than that, but it’s something that Gotham has attempted to emphasize through Jim’s struggles to do the right thing in a corrupt city.

The Scarecrow- Penguin offers to help Jim again

The problem is that Jim has already been down this path of wavering between doing the right and wrong thing.  Hell, this season started with him going to Penguin for a favor, again, which resulted in him killing a man.  No mention of that, by the way, but I’m guessing if he admitted that, he wouldn’t be allowed to walk out of the GCPD.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Barnes tells his story about when he crossed the line

So while Gotham takes us to familiar territory with Jim wanting to step over that line and doesn’t tell us much new, this allows the show to add some development to Barnes.  Since his introduction, he’s been a stern, no-nonsense kind of boss who has been quick to weed out corrupt cops.  But until now, we haven’t dealt with why he has this edge.  His reveal that he killed a prisoner of war showed why he’s so against crossing the line.

He knows Gordon’s desire to cross a line and play bad cop, but he also knows the long term damage that can have on an individual.  Again, crossing the line may give you some temporary satisfaction, but you’ve still got blood on your hands and it makes you no different from the very criminals you want to stop.

As far as the episode itself, it was fine.  The firefight inside Galavan’s penthouse moved at a reasonable pace and the action was decent, but we lost yet another individual in the line of duty.  For as much as Barnes and Gordon pushed to organize this crop of recruits for Strike Force, they’re still unprepared.  I’d like to feel something for Parks’ death, especially when she’s identified by name, but it’s hard for me to be invested in a character when they’re introduced and then killed in the same episode.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Flamingo bites Officer Parks

Gruesome sight, I’ll admit, to Flamingo to take a literal bite out of her as she bled out, but I’m curious why none of the officers thought to shoot Flamingo instead of trying to wrest or beat him off of Parks.  But hey, Jim learns the price of trying to do the right thing can still hurt others around him.  After all, he didn’t shoot and kill Barbara, so we’re all stuck with her.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Flamingo about to bite Parks

Why Eduardo Flamingo?  I don’t know.  A man who likes to eat the faces of his victims is the sort of wackiness I’ve come to expect from Gotham, and yet no pink motorcycle.  It probably would have stood out too much, being pink and all.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Alfred tells Silver St. Cloud to go home, Bruce objects

The Bruce and Alfred stuff was fine, but not as effective as the previous episode.  Bruce seems committed to finding out more about Theo, but at the same time, he did agree to Alfred’s terms and conditions regarding their partnership, so at least Alfred didn’t waver.  But now the show has given a reason for Selina to come back into the fold.  Terrific.

A Hard Pill to Swallow- Nygma and Penguin

Nygma’s finally having his storyline intersect with another character that’s not Miss Kringle, and I’m glad it’s Penguin.  This builds off of their brief encounter from the first season, but helps to build them both.  No longer the king of Gotham, Penguin desires to leave the city, as the death of his mother has left him a broken man.  He even tries to warn Nygma that the dark path he’s walking leads to nothing but pain.

While that may be true, Nygma finds it all too intoxicating right now to care.  He’s on top right now and has a new sense of purpose that comes from murdering.  Like Penguin, Nygma can be very calculating in his approach at times, but this being Edward Nygma, he’s more quizzical as well.  I’m glad that if anyone was going to bring Penguin out of his funk, it’s Nygma, as he’s the one to remind Penguin that this loss can make him stronger.  Here’s hoping that it does.

“A Bitter Pill to Swallow” felt familiar with Gordon wanting to cross a line, but while that didn’t tell us much new about him, it at least allowed for some character development for Barnes.  Again, like “Tonight’s the Night,” the main plot wasn’t the most interesting part of the episode.  That, for me, went to the Nygma and Penguin plot.  Well, maybe these hooded figures will liven things a bit.

Oh, and no Bullock this week.  Where was he?

3 thoughts on “A Look at Gotham- Season 2, Episode 9: “Rise of the Villains: A Bitter Pill to Swallow”

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