A Look at Gotham- Season 4, Episode 15: “A Dark Knight: The Sinking Ship, The Grand Applause”

So is Sofia’s empire the sinking ship?

The episode begins with Martin being held captive while one of the men watching him reads Detective Comics. Clever. Within Martin’s notepad are notes, presumably not written by him, that tell him to head to the kitchen and turn on the gas burners. He does, and his captors soon notice the smell. Martin covers up his ears and soon a rocket is fired into the kitchen, causing a giant explosion.

Soon, the Riddler enters the building and informs Martin that Uncle Penguin sent him to rescue him. He then invites Martin to come with him for ice cream. Well done, Ed.

In the Narrows, Samson tells the citizens that the territory now belongs to him, and he collects protection. The people need to know what happens when you don’t pay, as one man finds out as he gets the hell beaten out of him. He’s soon shot and killed. In the audience, Leslie watches with horror plastered on her face.

At the precinct, Jim talks with Harvey about what Don Falcone said about what he’d bring to Gotham. It’s Jim’s word against Sofia’s, and the truth might drag him down, and he tells Harvey that he had no idea what she would do until after it was too late. He gives Harvey his badge, and Harvey will help take down Sofia, but soon, Jim will have to answer for his crimes.

And Harvey has history with a source by the name of Scandinavian Skinner, so he goes to seek out this individual.

At Wayne Manor, Bruce catches Selina raiding the kitchen. She needs his help, and turns out that this involves money. She doesn’t want to get Barbara involved, and what she stole from Roland Charles is quite important. Bruce soon promises to help.

Over at Arkham Asylum, Oswald is given a message in the form of a riddle: I could lend you a hand, but you won’t find me helpful. My name may sound tasty, but the flavor is dreadful. The answer? A knuckle sandwich. And that’s just what Oswald gets.

Harvey meets up the Scandinavian Skinner, a woman named Agnes, played by Waltrudis Buck. Harvey needs help finding Falcone’s eyes and ears. And he threatens to tell Agnes’ children about her history skinning people. She confesses, saying that Falcone only trusted the bookkeeper who smelled of fish- The Penguin, who apparently vanished.

Sofia is livid to learn that Martin is gone. She orders Zsasz to head to Arkham and finish off Oswald and he’ll do it, provided he can bring along Headhunter, who is finally out of surgery.

Harvey makes it to Arkham first and finds Oswald in the infirmary. Before he can question him, Zsasz and Headhunter arrive, with Victor in particular surprised to see Harvey back as a cop. The two have no intention of leaving without Penguin. If Harvey hands over Oswald, he can live to see another day.

However, the alarms go off, and it turns out that Oswald has escaped. Victor and Headhunter retreat for now. Hearing gunshots outside, Harvey looks out the window and finds finds Riddler and Penguin fleeing in an armored truck.

Selina notes Bruce’s different behavior, and turns down his attempt at an apology, saying that he’ll probably be a douchebag to her later in life. You’ve got no idea, Cat. Selina asks merchant Floyd to have her item back, and she offers to pay double. When more men approach, a fight breaks out. They manage to retrieve what Selina needs.

On the streets, Riddler tells Oswald that Martin is safe, so they now need huge power to take down Sofia. They soon meet up with Leslie, who tells Ed that Sofia smashed her hand with a hammer and put Sampson in charge of the Narrows. Ed tells Oswald that Leslie can’t help. Oswald enters and tells Leslie that she’s not talking to Ed, but the Riddler. Since Leslie’s not running the Narrows, she’s of no help now.

But Ed has a backup plan. Victor Fries will put Oswald on a block of ice to be delivered to Sofia. Leslie offers to help, but Oswald tells them that they need muscle. Leslie agrees.

And so Riddler searches the sewers to find Grundy, who soon approaches him from the shadows. However, Butch reveals that he’s got his memories back. And he’s not Grundy anymore.

Above ground, Oswald doubts Ed’s intentions, though Leslie is confident that Nygma will come with Grundy so they can strike back at Sofia. Oswald, though, cannot wait, so he leaves.

Jim and Harvey, meanwhile, run right into Oswald on the streets. Oswald tells Jim that Martin is alive, but won’t be produced until Sofia is out of the picture. Jim realizes that they want the same thing. Oswald wants to do this himself, but Jim wants Sofia in jail. Jim needs Mr. Penn…and Oswald realizes that yet another person in his ranks was working for Sofia.

Jim asks Oswald for Penn’s location in exchange for letting Penguin walk. Sofia’s running the Narrows, has Zsasz in her pocket…it won’t take much for her to eventually find Penguin. Oswald overheard Mr. Penn talking about a place out of town. If he’s hiding, he’s probably there. Jim at least thanks Oswald for his help.

Even still, Harvey arrests Oswald. As they prepare to haul him off, they find Victor and Headhunter approaching them and realize that Penn must be important if Jim and Harvey are looking for him.

A shootout commences, with Jim and Harvey stashing Oswald in their vehicle, but Leslie enters the car and speeds off with Penguin in tow. They now need a car to get to Penn before Zsasz does.

At the Sirens’ club, Tabitha finds Barbara still struggling with her migraines. Then they get the delivery of a lifetime when Butch brings in Nygma. He tells them that Nygma is working for Penguin, and after all that Ed did, Tabitha should be the one to kill him. Tabitha doesn’t want Butch to leave, but he’s off to find a way to get back to his old self.

Barbara’s migraines continue to the point where it becomes difficult to stand. She wants Ed sent back to Sofia, as she’ll probably kill him when he’s no longer of use to her.

Speaking of, Sofia learns from Headhunter and Zsasz that Gordon is looking for Mr. Penn, so the two are to find Penn before Gordon does. Oh, and find Penguin, too. Do both, really.

So with no Ed or Grundy, Leslie and Oswald go to Victor Fries, who has holed himself up in a basement at sub-zero temperature. Though Victor is wary of trusting Oswald, given that Oswald didn’t deliver on his last promise to give Victor the resources needed to reverse his condition.

Even still, Victor needs money for his research, and Sofia needs Penguin, so Leslie suggests that he turn over Oswald to Sofia and she’ll deliver any price. He gives Oswald a timed device and then freezes him without warning.

Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce asks Selina if she plans to return the item, but she asks him to do it. He realizes that this is why she came to him. It wasn’t about the money. He tells her that she didn’t kill Roland Charles, even though she was there. Sometimes, Bruce says, an apology is enough.

So that was a scene.

Okay, so Sofia’s torture dentist gets to work torturing Nygma to get him to talk about Penguin, but he responds with riddle after riddle. He gets stabbed for that. But then in enters Victor Fries, who has hand-delivered a frozen Penguin Popsicle. Victor wants $100,000 for the delivery, so he goes off to get his delivery.

Zsasz, meanwhile, found Penn’s location, so Sofia now wants Nygma taken to the docks and executed. Sofia, meanwhile, is off to find Penn.

But Jim and Harvey have made it there first, and it turns out that Penn is hiding out in some kind of facility that looks like it’s built for adult baby lovers. This is strange even for Gotham.

Oswald’s device soon thaws the ice and he angrily demands to know from the dentist where Sofia is. He calls Leslie and tells her that Sofia is on her way to find Gordon, so they’re to meet up so they can kill Sofia together. The dentist tells Oswald that Sofia tried to get Nygma to turn on him, but he never buckled, even under intense pressure, so now he’s been taken to the docks to be killed.

Penn tells Harvey and Jim that when Sofia first came to Gotham, Carmine instructed Penn to keep an eye on her. She found out, though, and let Penn live as long as he informed to her on Oswald, which is how she could stay one step ahead of Penguin. She then instructed him to get in touch with Lazlo Valentin, and Penn still informed Don Falcone right away.

But then Sofia enters, along with Victor and Headhunter, who manages to get a shot that nails Jim in the gut. He’s bleeding badly and tells Harvey to leave with Penn, even though Harvey wants to get Jim to a hospital as soon as possible. Harvey and Penn leave as Jim takes on Sofia and her henchmen all on his own.

He rushes into a kitchen and manages to hold off as many henchmen as possible until Sofia nails him in the shoulder. And unfortunately for Jim, he’s out of ammo.

Outside, Leslie arrives, so Harvey takes the car with Penn in tow just as Zsasz and Headhunter open fire. Leslie, meanwhile, enters the building.

Sofia gets another shot at Jim, asking if it was so important of him to rob her of her revenge. Jim, though, says this wasn’t about him, but Sofia says it was about him…as well as his pride and arrogance. And yes, she killed her father because he disappointed her, just like Jim. Sofia still cares for Jim and wants him to beg for his life. That way, they can start over.

Instead, Jim tells Sofia to go to hell. Wise words, Jim. As Sofia raises her gun to finish off Jim, she’s instead shot from behind by Leslie, who nails Leslie in both the gut and head. That’s some solid shooting, Dr. Thompkins.

Nygma is brought to the docks to be executed, but his two assassins are killed by Penguin. He hasn’t killed Sofia, who went to find Jim. He didn’t pursue her because then he wouldn’t have been able to save Ed. So yes, Oswald gave up his revenge for Nygma. Trust, Oswald says, is very hard to find in Gotham, but Oswald trusts Ed. The two pocket their guns, as the two agree that they never want to see this pier again.

As Jim awakens in the emergency room, Harvey tells him that Leslie kept him alive until the medics arrived. Sofia, meanwhile, is in a coma. Well, hell, Sofia has about the same kind of luck that Agent Madani did on The Punisher.

Jim tells Harvey that when this is all over, he’s going to confess about his work with Sofia, but Harvey says that only Jim would benefit, as this would make him a martyr. The GCPD would lose its hero. If Jim wants to pay his debt, he has to live with it. So Sofia wins, as it’s what the city needs.

As for Leslie, she’s back in the Narrows, watching Sampson getting the hell beaten out of him. He promises to leave, but before he can, Leslie begins to bash one of his hands over and over again. We call this poetic justice, even though it would make more sense for Leslie to take Sampson’s advice and just kill him to save herself future trouble.

Barbara’s migraines continue to plague her at the Sirens’ club, while Tabitha is too busy trying to think of how to retaliate against Sofia. Barbara notices an energy coursing throughout her body and spots, of all people, Ra’s al Ghul walking towards her as the episode comes to a close.

Literally starting off with a bang, I appreciate that this episode, for the most part, does all circle back to one primary threat: Sofia. Whether it’s Nygma springing Martin free, Sampson ruling the Narrows, or even Butch bringing Ed to Barbara and Tabitha, every path leads back to Sofia. So in that regard, with one exception, this does feel like a more focused episode of Gotham.

And much of that has to do with everyone seeing Sofia as a threat, so they’re able to coordinate, whereas Sofia is finding herself with less and less allies. She might have the Narrows, but she couldn’t have known that Nygma and Penguin would be delivered right to her, which ended up working against her in the end.

By the way, even though the plan worked, I’m not big on Leslie and Oswald going to Victor Fries for help. It worked, but I don’t like that Gotham has reduced both Victor and Bridgit to the occasional henchman for hire. Even looking beyond their comic counterparts, the show has built them up to be more than just the go-to villain for some extra firepower.

Zsasz is someone the show can get away with as far as just being the hired gun. Hell, that’s how he started off when he was working for Falcone. But Freeze and Firefly have been given some dimension, so to see them as nothing more than guns for hire is disappointing.

I always enjoy seeing Nygma and Oswald on the same wavelength, and like Leslie, they have a common enemy in Sofia, so seeing them team up and seemingly resolve their differences at the pier of all places was nice. Now how they move forward from here, I don’t know, particularly if there’s still the possibility that Jerome may have use of Oswald down the line.

And they’re proactive. They aren’t just sitting on their thumbs waiting for things to happen. Riddler seeks Grundy’s help. Leslie and Oswald go to find Victor. Oswald gives information to Jim and Harvey, in the most coincidental of meetings. A lot of this is easy, and somewhat lazy writing, but it’s much better than characters merely talking about their situation and not doing anything to fix it.

Not to rewrite the episode, but I feel one way to possibly make the stakes feel more personal, and bigger, for at least Leslie and Nygma, would be to see them deal more with the fact that the Narrows is out of their hands. What if the people there had been turned against them for fear of reprisal from Sofia or Sampson? Make this feel more personable since the Narrows is where Leslie and Ed take up shop.

For everyone, it’s about removing Sofia from the equation, even Tabitha and Barbara. And by the way, it looks like Ra’s essence has come to collect now that Barbara is having these increasingly painful headaches. Between that and Ivy using the Lazarus Water, Ra’s continues to live on and it looks like he’ll be making his way back soon.

Speaking of Ivy, the one subplot this episode didn’t need at all was the Bruce and Selina stuff. The bigger threat this week was Sofia. If you’re going to have these two working together based on something Ivy did, at least have it feel more relevant by having it take place where Ivy is the central antagonist. This could’ve been saved for another episode or just happen off-screen.

Selina getting that item back, which I’m convinced she could’ve easily done on her own or just without Bruce’s help, wasn’t anything that we needed to see.

Meanwhile, Jim has more guilt on his mind and now has to hold onto it for the sake of the GCPD holding onto its hero. He must embrace the lie and keep the truth hidden to keep Gotham going. Feels a bit like Batman taking Harvey Dent’s crimes at the end of The Dark Knight, but like that, it feels like the truth will have to come out at some point.

But as usual, it’s nice that Harvey is the one to pass on the words of wisdom to Jim, as he’s had his own share of burdens to bear.

So this episode had some issues, but it did advance the plot in terms of the fight against Sofia with all sides uniting against her. With Sofia in a coma, she’s out of commission. For now. But it’s only a matter of time before she makes her big return. Take the Bruce and Selina stuff out and this would be a much better episode.

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