Okay, no riddles this episode, but Nygma’s certainly got a way of getting Jim Gordon in trouble that he, admittedly, deserves for killing Theo Galavan, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
The episode begins at the Gotham Museum of Art, where Edward Nygma sets off a spark that leads up a wire trail on a bomb sculpture. However, it just ends up setting off sparks. Nygma uses the distraction to cut out a piece of art and spray paint a green question mark in its place. GCPD arrive later and find the question mark.
At GCPD, rather than speak with the officers at the scene, Barnes shows security footage to Gordon and Bullock. No one was hurt, luckily. Bullock wonders why he and Gordon have been summoned since there’s a robbery squad case, but they’re on it regardless of whether a bomb detonates.
Barnes keeps Gordon around and informs him that Internal Affairs is reopening the file on Galavan’s murder due to an anonymous tip claiming that the person say Gordon, not Penguin, murder Theo Galavan at the docks. Could be a prank call, but the call came with a detail not released to the public: the umbrella. Gordon figures someone in the GCPD is making trouble for him again.
Gordon reiterates that he didn’t kill Galavan. Before he can leave the station, Nygma swings by, ready for his sit-down to talk about Miss Kringle. Gordon takes a rain check to investigate the museum heist- an act Nygma calls very bold. Gordon tells Nygma not to worry, as he’ll get to the bottom of what happened to Miss Kringle.
Butch, not in the mood for guessing games, gets an unexpected visit from Penguin, who shows his certificate that declares him sane. He thought it would be rude to pass up visiting an old friend. Then he offers a cupcake, though Tabitha reminds Penguin that he not only killed Theo, but he also brainwashed Butch into being his slave. Penguin apologizes and promises that he’s a good person now.
Tabitha taunts Penguin, telling him that she thought about visiting Gertrude’s grave because her sobs would lull her to sleep at night. When Penguin doesn’t get angry, Butch and Tabitha believe that Arkham’s treatment must have worked. Butch goes as far as saying that Penguin is just a pathetic shell of his former self, no longer a threat to anyone. He opts to let Penguin go and reminds Tabitha that he’s calling the shots. Butch declares the two square.
However, Tabitha still wants to dole out some kind of punishment.
At the art museum, Gordon tells Bullock about the anonymous call that led to the reopening of Galavan’s murder. We then learn that Bullock has a pal in Internal Affairs named Ginny, and Gordon hopes that Bullock can use his connections to find out what I.A. has on him.
Gordon and Bullock then speak with Mr. Thatch, played by Jerry Dixon, who informs the two that the stolen painting, titled “Mad Grey Dawn,” depicted a railway explosion on Bloody Monday. It’s a minor work, but two more valuable paintings have also been defaced with similar question marks.
Gordon surmises that the perp is sending a message. That message? Gordon has no idea. He notes that the question marks are painted above the painter’s names. Going by the names, “Marche” means market and “LaRue” is the road. Or rather, street. Market Street. Guess what day it is? Monday. And Union Railway Station is on Market Street. Gordon and Bullock head off while Nygma, at the same time, loads an explosive in his car.
Gordon and Bullock arrive just as the train station is evacuated. As Nygma watches from a distance and sets off a timer, Gordon hears the device ticking inside one of the lockers. He takes a nearby crowbar to pry open the locker, removes the bomb, and tosses it into a column just as the bomb detonates. Nygma heads off, pleased with his handiwork.
We then cut to Clare Foley as Ivy’s plant care is interrupted by the arrival of Selina and Bruce. Selina explains that Bruce is staying with her for awhile and informs Bruce that Ivy works for a gang that runs the magic mushroom trade. Magic mushrooms apparently give you visions, energy, or help you sleep. The gang is run by Butch’s nephew, Sonny, and his merry band of losers. They’re illegal, meaning there’s a ton of cash around.
Bruce hesitates, but then asks how Selina plans to rob them. But they won’t. Bruce reminds Selina that he didn’t bring money because he wanted to survive on his own, without Bruce Wayne. He doesn’t mind stealing if it’s from criminals. Ivy introduces Selina and Bruce to Psilocybe Arkrescens, also known as the Blue Devil. She’s slipped a few in the gang’s lunch today, so the three just wait for the gang to enter a state of relaxed bliss. And Ivy knows.
Back at the train station, Gordon tells Barnes that he believes the attacker wanted them to find the bomb, as if he’s playing a game. No clues with this recent question mark, though, meaning the perp is either keeping it a surprise or taking a break. Barnes wants all resources on this.
Not too far, Nygma receives Officer Pinkey’s signature for a chain of custody form. He then speaks with Gordon, who now insists that Ed call him Jim, about how he saved the day. Gordon calls it luck, but Nygma doesn’t believe in luck. Gordon wants Ed to oversee forensics to maybe get something on the bomb’s signature or trace elements. With no idea what the bomber wants, Gordon figures it must be a dangerous person.
So Bruce and Selina head upstairs and find the passed out gang members and their money. One suddenly wakes up, but Bruce assures him that he’s dreaming. He tells him that if he hands over the can of money and goes back to sleep, he’ll be able to fly. The two, hearing noise, attempt to flee a trio of men that suddenly enter. Among them is Butch’s nephew, Sonny, played by Paul Pilcz, who has his men take in Bruce and Selina.
Nygma gets an unexpected visit from Penguin, who is now covered in tar and feathers. Nygma is glad to see Oswald and the two catch up, with Penguin glad that Butch and Tabitha didn’t kill him. He then tells Ed that violence and anger are not the answer. If Oswald can change, so can Ed, but Nygma shoots it down. He’s hitting his stride and is grateful for Penguin’s advice, particularly what he said about Jim Gordon.
After all, it’s helped Nygma create the perfect puzzle to eliminate his Jim Gordon dilemma. He’d share, but the new Penguin is freaking him out right now. With that, Penguin heads on his merry way.
Back at GCPD, Bullock shares intel from his friend at I.A.: apparently the snitch said that Penguin was beating Galavan when Jim stepped in and killed him. Gordon, now worried, believes that someone was there that night. That or, as Bullock believes, Penguin talked. After all, he did just get out of Arkham. And he was there for a crime that Gordon committed, so it’s not impossible that he held a grudge and talked when he was arrested.
Even more than this, the witness agreed to swear out a statement. Internal Affairs has officially reopened the investigation, with Gordon as the primary suspect in Galavan’s murder.
Sonny gets no response for Butch, so he and Selina have a spat. She wants Sonny to let him go in exchange for her not ratting him out, but Sonny rejects the offer. After all, the Gilzeans are all about consequences. Just as Sonny is about to have Selina test the mushroom, Bruce calls him cowardly for assaulting a girl. Never mind that Selina Kyle is no ordinary girl, but this earns Bruce a punch in the stomach.
Now on the ground, Bruce remembers Alfred’s words from the previous episode about outlasting a big man. This meaning nothing since Sonny beats the ever living shit out of him anyway until Selina intervenes. She and Bruce put the boys down in a few seconds, giving them enough time to escape. Okay.
Penguin visits his mother’s grave, apologizing that he couldn’t attend the funeral. He thinks that she would be proud of him changing. But he doesn’t know if he’ll make it without her. A man nearby joins with lillies. The man introduces himself as Elijah Van Dahl, played by Pee-Wee Herman himself, Paul Reubens, and recognizes the name “Cobblepot” when Oswald introduces himself.
Elijah asks Oswald’s age- 31 years old- and realizes that Gertrude never told him that he had a son.
Now for a domestic scene. Jim and Leslie have a quiet dinner, with Jim receiving no word on the bomber yet. He just wants to know the man’s end game, which might be why he’s not eating. Well, no, there’s another reason. He tells Leslie about Internal Affairs reopening the investigation. Leslie is upset that Jim lied to her, but he defends himself, saying that they couldn’t have left Gotham City. He promises to find a way to fix this.
Nygma visits Officer Pinkney at his home to tell a joke: what do you call a tavern of blackbirds? A crow bar, which Nygma uses to bash Pinkney.
Elijah brings Oswald to his mansion, where he takes a bubble bath and freshens up. Elijah explains that Gertrude came to work as a cook for his parents. Elijah, being a foolish, romantic boy, could not keep the secret for long before his parents found out. They then forbade the two from being together, as Elijah was the heir to a great fortune, while Gertrude was just a cook.
He threatened to run away- possibly to a random playhouse- and turn his back on his family name and inheritance. It was the first and only time he stood up to them, but his parents called his bluff. The next day, Gertrude was gone. His parents told him that they’d made an arrangement: Gertrude would be taken care of, but Elijah must never make an attempt to find her. He didn’t. As such, he never learned that he had a son.
But Oswald reveals that Gertrude him that his father died when he was still a baby, which might have been easier than revealing that his father was a coward. Elijah figures that Penguin, a strong young man, must have done well under Gertrude’s careful eye. But now, Penguin doesn’t have to be alone in the world. He has a father, a home, and a big, happy family that will be thrilled to meet him. Penguin asks Elijah if he’s dreaming, but it’s no dream. Oswald is home.
Elsewhere, Jim receives a phone call from Bullock. Based on forensics’ findings, the timer on the bomb was activated remotely via phone, which gave the bomber time to plant and set it off when he wanted it. The phone number came from a pay phone inside 17 West Dewy Avenue.
So Gordon investigates said pay phone, but ends up entering a nearby room where he finds Pinkney’s body. But then he spots Barnes entering and the two wonder why the other is present. Barnes orders Jim to put his gun on the floor. Jim does, but he explains that he was following up a lead on the bomber investigation.
He didn’t know that this was Pinkney’s apartment. As for why Barnes was here, he received a message from Pinkney and wanted to talk about Jim. Barnes tosses Jim a pair of handcuffs, telling him that he has to take him down to the precinct.
Selina is apparently good at stitches, because she puts Bruce back together as best she can, though his left eye is still bruised. She thinks that Sonny was right about Bruce liking pain. Bruce explains that when he got the hell beaten out of him, it was like nothing else existed. Everything else he struggled with, the emptiness and confusion, just vanished. For the first time in a while, he knew he was going to be okay. Whatever Sonny did, Bruce wouldn’t be broken.
But Selina tells him that no one is unbreakable. Selina is a dick. And technically wrong. She ever meet Clark Kent?
At GCPD, Barnes shows Gordon the file on Pinkney’s murder- the cause due to blunt force trauma to the head with a crowbar found under the couch. With Gordon’s fingerprints. Jim remembers that he picked up a crowbar at Union Station to open the locker. He figures that someone picked it up, but how would that someone know that Gordon would visit Pinkney’s?
Gordon reiterates that he was following up on a lead based on what forensics found. Bullock can and has already backed him up, but when Barnes asked him about the report, there was no mention of a remote timer or traced call. Turns out that Nygma removed that information from the report. Jim argues that he has no reason to kill Pinkney, but Barnes gives him one: Pinkney was the anonymous witness that fingered him.
Barnes then presents an Internal Affairs form found at Pinkney’s home- the exact same statement that the anonymous tipster made, but Pinkney signed this with his own name. Barnes figures that Pinkney didn’t want to put himself out there, so he sent in the anonymous tip instead, figuring that Gordon would get nasty. Though Barnes has no idea how Jim figured out Pinkney was the witness, he still thinks that Gordon killed him.
And Barnes is still suspicious of what happened with Galavan and Gordon that night. And now, the one person about to shine a light on this is found dead with Gordon standing over his body. Jim calls this a setup, but Barnes doesn’t buy it. The least Jim could do is admit what he did. Barnes still wants to believe that Jim is a good cop, but Jim wants to talk to his rep. Barnes, now heartbroken, calls Jim a disgrace to the badge and has him hauled off to county.
We then jump ahead four weeks later and learn that the murder trial of Detective Jim Gordon just ended with the jury giving a unanimous guilty verdict. Jim is sentenced to the maximum of 40 years served at Blackgate Penitentiary.
Bruce watches the events unfold on television and figures that something here isn’t right. This is apparently the biggest news story of the day, because it’s also overheard at Arkham Asylum, just as Barbara awakens. The nurse calls for Professor Strange.
Leslie visits Jim and tells him that they’ll plan to fight this, no matter what. Jim figures that he’s far from innocent and wants to move on, as in Leslie moves on. But she’s tired of listening and wants Jim to be with her and the baby. Jim wants her to have a chance at happiness by going somewhere far away that’s fit to raise a child. She should forget that he exists. Leslie still refuses, but Jim tells her that he won’t respond to any attempt she makes to contact him.
Back at Elijah’s, Oswald is welcomed into the family with open arms and hearts. Oswald is grateful for this warmth. The family toasts.
Jim is transferred into Blackgate, with Bullock promising to find out who set him up. This is far from over.
Not bad. “Mad Grey Dawn” as a whole might not have been a great episode, as the two subplots often weren’t as engaging as the main storyline, but the serialized approach actually ended up working in Gotham’s favor this time as Jim found the walls and Nygma closing around him.
But let’s start with the things that didn’t work. First off, Bruce and Selina’s encounter with Butch’s nephew. It was nice to see Clare Foley as Ivy Pepper again- like David Mazouz, she’s also done some growing up since the last time we saw her- as I do find her performance creepy enough to fit with Gotham’s tone.
It’s the stuff with Bruce that didn’t work for me. He wants to survive on his own and the first thing he does is try to prove that he’s durable. But one barb from Sonny about Bruce’s parents is enough to send him into a frenzy. More than that, he got his ass kicked. Badly. Selina’s interference saved him and Bruce should know that she’s capable of handling herself. And for all of Alfred’s advice about fighting someone bigger than you, it didn’t amount to anything.
So there’s that. Meanwhile, you’re usually in for a good time whenever Paul Reubens is on the scene and he’s good in his first appearance as Oswald Cobblepot’s long-lost father. Well, second appearance, technically, since he played this role in Batman Returns, but right now, it’s a good way for Oswald to have some semblance of hope.
Penguin trying to straighten things with Butch, as well as his failed attempt to catch up with Nygma, showed that he’s alone right now. He’s not the king of Gotham or, hell, he’s not even the Penguin right now. Like Butch said, he’s harmless, as if Arkham’s treatment not just took away his edge, but effectively neutered him. Now, having made contact with his father, he has a chance to make a connection.
But it makes you wonder just what Elijah wants from Oswald, if at all. So Penguin is in an interesting transition right now. He doesn’t have an empire to rule, but he does have a home and family. I’m interested to see how long the domesticated Penguin will be here, but it’s an adjustment I enjoy watching because Penguin, with good writing, is still one of the more interesting characters on Gotham.
Onto the main storyline, though. Since Nygma killed Dougherty, he’s slowly been going down a dark path that he’s continued to walk when he killed Miss Kringle. Granted, I still question why he had to kill to go on this path, but it’s helped paint a more reserved Edward Nygma that talks to himself, had split personalities, and was even openly angry towards Bullock.
Edward Nygma is a smart man. What makes him such a compelling character in Batman mythos is his ability to stay one step ahead of those coming after him. We’re getting shades of that early Riddler here in, I’ll admit, a pretty good plan to remove Gordon from the equation. So to keep Gordon from finding out about Miss Kringle, he sets him up for the murder of both Galavan and Pinkney.
Granted, Jim did kill Pinkney, but until this anonymous tipster, Gordon seemed to be off the hook. In fact, remember that Leslie originally offered to talk with Nygma about Miss Kringle. Had Jim not opted to do it himself, I wonder whether Nygma would have even tried to set him up in the first place.
So instead of Nygma leaving clues and riddles at each crime, he takes careful steps to make sure Gordon can’t talk his way out of a nasty situation when caught. The crowbar at the train station, the chain of custody form, using Pinkney as a pawn, and both removing and planting evidence to ensure Gordon’s guilt all fit for someone like Nygma. It helped that, from Gordon’s perspective, there was no logic to it all. To him, it was just a random bomber.
And that random bomber, who has been under his nose the entire time and knows how he thinks, one-upped him without exposing himself. Let’s be clear, Jim isn’t in the right. He did still murder Theo Galavan and had to make sure Penguin didn’t expose him. He’s committing one wrong to prevent future crimes, never mind that such an idea isn’t possible in a place like Gotham City.
So now he’s down for two murders. The Galavan framing is justified since he did do that, but Nygma had enough to implicate him for Pinkney as well. Gordon couldn’t wiggle his way out of this like before and Barnes had him pegged down right when he compared him to perps who say they were set up for their crimes.
What I don’t fully get is the time jump four weeks later and Leslie now wanting to fight this. Huh? All this time, she’s been railing on Jim for lying to her, and now that he’s been exposed, she wants to defend him to the end? Shouldn’t she at least admonishing him for his actions now that there’s no denying his involvement in Galavan’s murder? It’s a strange switch after she called him out for his duplicity.
And like her brief appearance in “A Dead Man Feels No Cold,” I didn’t see the need for Barbara to be here this week. Hell, we could have just had the nurse tell Strange that Barbara had awakened. Or, better yet, save it for when it’s relevant to the plot.
While the Bruce and Selina stuff in “Mad Grey Dawn” didn’t work, Penguin’s shot at having a family and Nygma taking Gordon out of the precinct for now made for quite an interesting episode. And since Nygma is a main character and not just a one-off, we know there’s more to come with his plan, especially with Bullock promising to get to the bottom of this.