“Detain me here forever if you will; confine me or execute me if you must have a victim to propitiate the illusion you call justice; but I can say no more than I have said already.”
-H.P. Lovecraft’s The Statement of Randolph Carter
There is an old cliche that teenagers like to spout (or at least that I used to spout when I was a teen) that is intended to blow the minds of teachers, parents, and any other square adults: maybe I’m sane and it’s the rest of society that’s crazy.
Usually this statement is an over-serious proclamation of independence, or in some cases a cry for help, but in the case of Jim Gordon on this week’s episode of Gotham it is the best possible way to describe what’s happening.
Jim Gordon is sane and it’s Gotham City that’s crazy. That’s why he’s being sent to the asylum.
In this way, “LoveCraft” makes good on its heavy literary name: by defining insanity as the knowing of a terrible truth, and punishing the hero that holds such unpopular knowledge. Of course, in the weird tales of H.P. Lovecraft, the terrible truth is often tentacled and indescribable in dimension and proportion. In the above example, The Statement of Randolph Carter, the narrator is telling a truth he can’t fully articulate and it’s enough to suspect the man of wrongdoing. In Gotham’s tenth episode reality is similarly difficult to describe and unjustly incriminating.
With “LoveCraft” Gotham is pulling out the kind of restraint that it best displayed in “Penguin’s Umbrella.” The show’s symbols are what really matter when we talk about the title: Jim Gordon isn’t thrown screaming into an Arkham cell, there are no mad visions of ancient things, the reference is much more subtle. Though I was secretly hoping for a Scarecrow episode when I read the synopsis, what we get with “LoveCraft” is an affirmingly great episode of a TV show that’s learning to walk on its own two legs.
Aside from the continuing mob war storyline, which is given exciting but minimal screen time this week, “LoveCraft” can be divided up by its super fun team ups. Jim and Bullock split up to cover more ground in this episode, finding partners in Harvey Dent and Alfred Pennyworth respectively, while Bruce and Selina join forces to finally win my viewing heart.
Cat and the Bat have frequently been among my least favourite aspects of Gotham, second only to Barbara Kean and a few extremely clunky monologues given to Jada Pinkett-Smith. In “LoveCraft” that changed. The cold open pits a group of three professional assassins against the little heroes, who after being attacked in the safety of Wayne Manor, flee to the streets where Bruce gets to see how the other 99 percent live.
During the assault on the manor, we’re treated to another display of this new version of Alfred’s badassery. The bat-butler goes toe-to-toe with the pros and ends up killing one as the kids escape. Later, when Jim and Bullock arrive with the emergency response team, he opts out of paramedic care and just treats his own gunshot wound.
The Wayne Manor raid forces Jim to come forward with his Harvey Dent powerplay from last week, which saw the big bad councillor leaking information to shake things up get corrupt billionaire Dick Lovecraft on charges of conspiracy to murder the Waynes. Bullock’s pissed, Alrfred’s pisssed, and Jim’s pissed but also pretty embarrassed. Clearly a certain coin-flipping ally of his was a little bit over zealous.
Alfred and Bullock team up to go after Bruce, while Jim heads over to Dent’s in order to take care of their Lovecraft problem.
Speaking of things that went wrong last week, Falcone is getting suspicious after the detonation of his secret armoury money. He’s convinced that Penguin pointed Sal Maroni to the stash and is feeling betrayed in a little personal meeting they have at the boss’ estate. Cobblepot saves his skin with assurance and then lights a very long burning fuse (metaphorically), one attached to Liza, the ticking human timebomb.
The wonderful thing about this scene lies in the acting. Robin Lord Taylor, as usual is hitting all the right beats to give us the impression that he’s tightrope walking his way to power (using an umbrella to balance) by way of improvisation. On the other side, John Doman plays Falcone with particular nuance, the Don speaking threats while barely concealing a sort of terrified awe with Penguin. Few moments in this Penguin-centric series have painted the character with as much power as this one does.
Falcone calls a lunch with his mob family, makes an example out of the guy who was supposed to guard the armoury by shooting him in the head, and raised everyone’s unsavoury taxes by 25 percent until losses can be recuperated. It’s implied that they eat with the dead body at the table, which is a very comic-booky touch to a scene that essentially exists to move pieces around.
When Jim arrives at Dent’s office it turns out that Lovecraft is in hiding. Gordon gets Harv to admit that he gave a bit too much info while rattling cages and they split up to investigate the billionaire’s condos.
Meanwhile, Bullock and Alfred make good on the promise of their dream team. Pennyworth earns top spot in this week’s Gotham power rankings, cooly bribing an interrogation subject to flip before Bullock can use his bad cop routine before completely destroying Butch when he and the detective pay a visit to Fish Mooney’s
Sean Pertwee, who I’ve mentioned before as a highlight of the show, really makes Alfred his own after Michael Caine’s strong branding of the personality in the Dark Knight films.
I love this Alfred, and Pertwee is the reason why. Sure, he’s written as a gruffer, grittier, more violent Bruce-protector, but Pertwee brings a cool sympathy to his performance that is at once threatening and warm. It’s the first time Alfred has been portrayed in live action as a character with greater depth than what we see on the surface.
He even brings something special out of Fish Mooney, appealing to her sense of honour and compassion to get a lead on Bruce and Selina. He’s so successful at navigating Gotham’s underworld without compromising his values that it’s no wonder his adopted son will grow up to be Batman.
Bruce, this whole time, is being shown the ropes by Selina, who eventually admits that the assassins are likely after her and not him. She is Catwoman-like in her motivations to drag Bruce along, claiming at first that she just wanted to play with him, then that she’s trying to prove that she’s a nice person, and finally she betrays all the pretense and just kisses him.
Bruce and Selina’s street romance brings them into contact with a very disturbed Ivy Pepper, who is well on her way to becoming a crazy villain. Bruce get’s a street kid makeover and Selina tries to pawn Bruce’s dad’s watch to a Falcone employee named Clive.
Clive tries to sell the kids to the assassins, but has no luck. Cat and Bruce get away and everything is set to the status quo by the end.
That is except for one detail.
Prior to arriving at Clive’s loot exchange, the assassins make a detour to clean up a certain liability. Jim is questioning Lovecraft about his involvement in the assassins and the Wayne murders when they arrive. Dick is a victim of something much bigger, and if he’s guilty of anything it’s fraud and probably insider trading on a tip that something bad was about to happen to the Waynes.
The assassins knock Jim out and use his gun to kill Lovecraft.
Mayor James is not pleased with the truth – that there is something much bigger happening in Gotham City than mob corruption – and decides to punish one of the two individuals responsible for this very special clusterfuck.
Jim saw first hand what’s happening, and unlike Harvey “Two-Face” Dent, he doesn’t know how to walk the line. Mayor James fabricates a narrative that frames Lovecraft’s murder as highly provoked suicide and Gordon is reassigned to Arkham Asylum.
Beyond the gates of Arkham, with all the other people whose ideas don’t sync up with the established true story of Gotham City, Jim will be working as a security guard. Sure, Gordon’s on the other side of the bars, but make no mistake, he’s being committed.
-Alfred beats Bullock for one liners this week with sentimentality. His “You really scared me, Master Bruce. If you die, who employs butlers anymore?” line is the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard in a superhero show.
-Speaking of sweet, how about Ed’s hug goodbye for Jim?
-Gordon’s reassignment seems like an excellent way to introduce a few of the more Arkham-centric villains in an organic manner. Hugo Strange and Scarecrow were both talked about in the press leading up to Gotham’s premier. Sounds like as good a way as any to fill out the remaining 12 episodes.
-So what are the theories about the assassins? My bet is that this episode is seeding an eventual League of Shadows arc. I think that would be a smart overarching plot for season two (assuming this show gets renewed), and Ra’s al Ghul would be a fun villain for Gotham.
-Anyone have thoughts on Ivy Pepper? I’m still confused why the writers/producers didn’t just call her Pamela Isley and I’m interested in seeing how far Gotham is willing to go in terms of the supernatural.