By Courtney Key
Welcome to the third weekly meeting of the Oswald Cobblepot Appreciation Society! Um, I mean, this week’s Gotham recap. First of all, thanks to those who joined me for the livetweet of this episode. We laughed, we cried, we fangirled (and boyed) over Robin Lord Taylor.
If you missed it, I’ll be doing it again next week and for the foreseeable future during the airing at 7 p.m. Central on my Twitter account, @Dachelle. Of course, I also welcome your thoughts anytime through Twitter, in the comment section below, or in the Gotham thread on the Talking Comics forum.
With that bit of business out of the way, let’s move on to the episode.
*WARNING FULL SPOILERS FOR GOTHAM FOLLOW*
Thankfully, we don’t have to wait long for our first Robin Lord Taylor scene this week. I think this show is pretty well cast in general, but he’s been such a revelation as Oswald, taking a character that could have been very one note and finding layers within him. He’s definitely the actor who I most look forward to seeing each episode. Onscreen, a bus pulls into Gotham, and Oswald steps off, still in the khakis, yellow polo and blue sweater of the “scamp” from last week, who he presumably dispatched after his kidnapping bid failed. He also appears to have gone to the Bucky Barnes School of Eyeliner Application. Gotham greets him with a scene of criminal chaos – pickpocketing children, cops openly taking bribes, purse snatchers and prostitutes. A smile grows on his face as he says to himself, “I’m home.” And we’re all glad you’ve made it back! Never leave us again, Oswald Cobblepot!
On a T.V. that has honest-to-god rabbit ears covered in tin foil (how many of Gotham’s younger viewers won’t even get what those are for?), there’s breaking news of a Bernie Madoff-type named Ronald Danzer going to trial. He’s on the phone to his lawyer instructing the lawyer in blatant terms to pay off the jury. I’d wonder why he’s not bothering to use coded language but this is Gotham, it’s not like the cops are paying any attention.
Outside the financier’s building, a cart selling balloons and creepy animal masks is coming down the street and – really? Balloon/animal mask carts are a thing? Really? The proprietor, wearing one of the aforesaid creepy animal masks, asks Danzer if he wants a balloon, to which Danzer quite sensibly replies no. It doesn’t really matter what he wants, though, as he quickly finds himself handcuffed to a line that turns out to be attached to a weather balloon and is set aloft and screaming high above the city.
Gordon and Bullock are on the crime scene, which consists of an empty cart, though Gordon is a bit confused over how it can be a murder with no body. Uh, because humans generally can’t live in the stratosphere? Just sayin’. Bullock thinks that Danzer got what he deserved, because of course he does. Never change, Bullock. At least not until your character arc demands it about halfway through the season or so.
Back at the station, an angry man is gesturing and demanding someone named O’Brien! And ice! Possibly in no particular order! He’s Lt. Bill Cranston, and Bullock has told him Gordon’s a real Boy Scout. Not because he’s always prepared, but because he doesn’t believe in roughing up criminals, which seems like a pretty weird thing to be in the Boy Scout manual. A cop hands Cranston a trophy of a policeman. Cranston tells Gordon it was given to him by the Gotham Chamber of Commerce. He’s named it O’Brien, and it also happens to be “the best interrogator on the force.” He takes the trophy into the interrogation room and shuts the door as he instructs the suspect to “say hello to Sgt. O’Brien.” The cops of the Gotham PD are such a delightful bunch, aren’t they?
We get another scene where Gordon is upstanding and Bullock isn’t, as they argue over the merits of Cranston’s interrogation methods and whether the balloon murder deserves to be fully investigated. A guy we’ve never seen before comes in and introduces himself as Davis Lamont from Juvenile Services, bringing in Selina Kyle to see Gordon. Gee, I wonder if it’s significant that this otherwise incredibly minor character just had a line establishing who he is, and whether he might come back into play later. He says when Gordon’s finished he can bring Selina to their new facility on Water Street (possibly another plot point?!?) as she’s scheduled to be transferred upstate. OH GOD NO NOT UPSTATE. Fortunately Gordon says that will have to wait, since Selina has information on an investigation. I have to say, I’m terribly disappointed she didn’t show up in this episode wearing cat ears and a sweater with pictures of cats and carrying a cat-shaped purse and sporting a nametag reading “Meow! My name is Cat!” People might not realize she’s going to become Catwoman, y’all.
The Once and Future Catwoman takes Gordon back to Crime Alley. She goes over the details of the crime with him, saying that the killer pulled up his scarf before walking towards the Waynes. Gordon is skeptical that she could see the killer in the dark. Of course she can see in the dark, she’s a cat! Her nickname is even Cat! It’s like you’re not even watching the show, Gordon, geez.
Gordon wants proof that she was even there. Selina confesses that she dumped the wallet of the man she pickpocketed in Chinatown into the sewer in Crime Alley. Gordon handcuffs Selina to the fire escape while he pops into the sewer to look for the wallet, which doesn’t seem the most responsible thing to do with a minor child in your care. Not that Selina stays cuffed for long, picking the lock with a knife and popping up next to the manhole entrance just as Gordon finds the sewage-covered wallet. She drops the handcuffs into the sewer with Gordon and takes off again.
Down at Fish’s club, Montoya and Allen are paying a friendly visit to inquire about the whereabouts of Oswald Cobblepot. I’d suggest the nearest local sandwich shop, but they seem to still be under the impression that he’s dead. They think Fish had him killed because he snitched to them. Fish confirms that Oswald is dead, but says it was Gordon who pulled the trigger, under orders from Falcone.
Meanwhile, Oswald has some coins and a knife, and is looking for a way to pay for lunch. He’s standing under a bridge, presumably making plans to brutally murder the proprietor of a nearby sandwich truck, when he’s recognized by a fellow denizen of the underworld, who’s unconvinced by Oswald’s attempt to put on a Russian accent and pose as “Dmitri from Odessa.” The guy who recognizes him grabs him to take him back to Fish for a reward as Oswald pleads not to turn him in. “Gotham needs me, I’m its future!” he begs. “If you’re its future, then Gotham is in big trouble,” the man scoffs. “Yes, yes it is,” Oswald agrees, making a lightning switch from desperate to dangerous as he takes his knife and shanks the guy’s Achilles before stabbing him to death. He lifts a hundred dollar bill from his victim and limps to the sandwich truck, asking for a tuna sandwich. Thank goodness for the truck owner he had change for a $100, I would NOT have wanted to be him if he hadn’t. So far all of Oswald’s murders have been sandwich-oriented. I hope when he becomes the Penguin part of his crime empire is a chain of Subway shops.
Stately Wayne Manor, and Alfred is making Bruce take fencing lessons, because as everyone knows you’ll never be a proper vigilante if you can’t sword-fight. Cleaning up the mess they’ve made, Alfred comes across the police files from the Waynes’ murder, complete with crime scene photos. He asks Bruce how he got them, and Bruce says it wasn’t hard. Seriously? Gotham PD is the worst. Bruce says he’s looking for clues. Alfred asks if he’s found any. Not yet, Bruce admits. Alfred reminds him that Gordon promised to find his parents’ killer. Bruce asks if Alfred really believes that. He has a point, Alfred. I mean, this is the same police department that lets its files be lifted by a preteen. Alfred says Gordon will try, and that’s what’s important. I don’t think you get gold stars for effort in police investigations, Alfred, but O.K.
Back at the station, Allen and Montoya confront Gordon over Oswald’s murder. Gordon says he didn’t kill Cobblepot, and tells Allen and Montoya to come back to him when they have actual proof. Which will be difficult, since Oswald is currently scoping out a fancy Italian restaurant. He’s applying for a job, despite a complete lack of experience, or the right shoes. Oswald looks down at his feet, then at the Crocs on a nearby dishwasher. A smile creeps across his face. Oh, Oswald, murder? Again? You do know you can just go steal shoes from a store or a hobo, right? I mean, I know you love your stabbing, but honey, Crocs really aren’t stab-worthy. Sigh.
Gordon tells Bullock that Montoya and Allen are onto him about Cobblepot. Bullock says it doesn’t matter, the fact that they were there means they have nothing, and they’ll get nothing. At the end of the day, he says, no one cares about Cobblepot. Um, Harv, have you been on Twitter during your show lately? Everyone cares about Cobblepot. Gordon asks if it’s because Oswald deserved to be killed. Bullock says some people do deserve it, like Mario Pepper. He thought he and Gordon were done with this discussion. Gordon says he’ll be done with it when the actual killer of the Waynes is in jail. Bullock tells him to let it go. Gordon asks if he’ll be taken out to the pier if he doesn’t. Bullock doesn’t answer, just commands him to join him in the interview suite.
Oswald meets up with the dishwasher outside a bus stop. “Pardon me,” he asks, “you work at that Italian restaurant across the way, don’t you?” Oswald’s weirdly affected politeness will never fail to crack me up. The dishwasher answers in the affirmative. Oswald then asks what size his shoes are. The dishwasher replies, “Uh, nines?” “What a coincidence!” Oswald exclaims brightly, before laughing so long and creepily that the guy had to know he was about to get stabbed.
This time, however, we don’t see the murder. We instead cut back to Gordon and Bullock, interrogating the owner of the weather balloon. He says the balloon was stolen from him by a kid who was working for him, but he doesn’t think the kid knew who Danzer was. He gives them the kid’s address, and tells them to see if they can get back the other balloons. Others? Gordon asks. Yeah, the balloon owner says – he stole four.
In one of Gotham’s many seedy alleys, a drug dealer is getting a beatdown for not delivering a big enough payoff to a cop. It’s our old, horrible friend from earlier in the episode, Lt. Cranston! Cranston walks down the alley into the street, to find the world’s smallest hot dog cart. “Hot dog?” a man with a hat and a mask pulled up over half his face asks. The cop tells him to get lost. “Lt. Cranston?” the vendor asks. A brief scuffle ensues during which Cranston snatches a piece of paper from the Ballonman’s pockets, ending with Cranston on the wrong end of a weather balloon line. Not, I suppose, that there’s a right end to be on with a weather balloon. Either way, it’s the end for Cranston.
Back at Stately Wayne Manor, Bruce is checking out the rather disappointing headline “Balloon Man Kills Dirty Cop.” I’m disappointed in you, Gotham Gazette headline writers. At least the guy who wrote the headline “Danzer Estate Up in the Air” seems to be trying. Bruce asks Alfred if he’s seen the news yet. Alfred says yes, he’s heard about the nut killing people with balloons. “I can think of easier ways to kill someone,” he adds, with a tone of fond melancholy. Gotham Alfred is dark, yo. Alfred tells Bruce he needs to eat to keep his strength up. Bruce says he’s not hungry. Bruce 1, Alfred 0.
There’s a dramatic montage of Gordon suiting and holstering up in order to…walk down the spiral staircase of Barbara’s apartment? Well, that was a letdown. Babs meets him with a cup of coffee and no pants. She says Gordon didn’t get much sleep last night and wonders if something’s wrong, possibly related to the Balloonman killing a cop. She asks if Gordon is in danger. He says she doesn’t need to worry about him. She wants to know what’s bothering him then. He says that the first victim was a con man, and no one cared. Now that a cop’s been murdered, the investigation will get all the support it needs. Everyone has to matter, or no one matters. When people lose faith, you get vigilantes. Barbara says he’s giving people faith. Gordon wonders if that’s true. She says in his first case he caught the Wayne killer, and that meant a lot to the city. He’s a hero! Uh, maybe not so much, but thanks for trying, Babs. Gordon gives her a quick kiss and then it’s off to work at the worst, most soul-crushing workplace in the world.
On T.V., the citizens of Gotham are being gripped by “Balloonman mania.” They seem to be pretty behind the Balloonman. Capt. Essen is not thrilled by this turn of events. “Besides the black eye to the department, now we have a vigilante who kills bad cops,” she says. “Cranston wasn’t that bad!” Bullock interjects hilariously. I’d love to see the sliding scale of misdeeds in the Gotham PD qualifying you as “not that bad,” “bad,” and “dude, even here in Gotham we have some standards.” Anyway, Essen says people can’t just go around killing cops in Gotham, and wants to know where they are in the investigation. Gordon says they’re looking for the guy, Carl Smyker, who stole the balloons, and have cops staking out his place. Gordon and Bullock naturally disagree on how guilty Smyker is – Gordon wants to wait and see how the evidence shakes out, Bullock wants to get into the interrogation rooms and start smashing heads. Bullock says to tell Essen about the other balloons. Gordon reveals that there are two more balloons still out there. The killer targeted public figures known to be corrupt, so basically, Harvey says, any elected official in Gotham should stay indoors until the killer’s found.
Gordon wonders why Bullock suddenly cares about the murders. Bullock says killing a cop makes it a job safety issue. They’re now on the case. We get a montage of Bullock cozying up to some prostitutes and beating down some low-level crooks for info on Smyker’s whereabouts as Gordon looks on.
Back at the restaurant, a pan up from a pair of recently-procured Crocs reveals Oswald in his new role as a dishwasher. He’s being given the lowdown on his job from his boss. He washes dishes and keeps his head down, the boss says, but otherwise he’s deaf, dumb and blind. This restaurant isn’t like other places, and he’ll either get it or – “I’ll be fired?” Oswald interjects. “You could say that,” the boss replies, grinning. Oswald assures him he understands, saying he realizes it’s a great opportunity. He’s stopped in his effusion by his boss leaving to greet a customer – Don Maroni, who was mentioned in last week’s episode as a possible challenger to Falcone. Oswald watches, repeating “great opportunity indeed” to himself and smiling as Maroni and the restaurant boss exchange cheek kisses.
Bullock’s convoluted trail of information gathering has landed them at an apartment where Smyker is supposedly holed up. Smyker tries to flee, but Gordon takes him down, while Bullock is nearly taken out by the prostitute who answered the door. Seriously, she almost brings a T.V. down on his head, it’s amazing.
At Fish’s, a bruised and bandaged Laszlo is concerned that Fish put Montoya and Allen onto Falcone. “I don’t mind what he did to me, but -” he says, his voice shaking. Fish strokes his damaged face, telling him it wasn’t him Falcone wanted to hurt, but her. She sends Laszlo away and motions for another of her henchmen. She turns cold and says Laszlo’s lost his nerve, that not everyone’s cut out to take a beating like that. Fish instructs the henchman to have Falcone’s latest girlfriend meet with an accident, and to get rid of Laszlo while he’s at it. “He’s bringing down the mood,” she says, taking another sip of red wine.
Meanwhile, Montoya has come in to Barbara’s apartment unannounced. Barbara appears to have just got out of the shower, and is wearing some sort of towel/robe/hoodie thing. It might even have pockets. I sort of want one. Barbara asks how she got in, and Montoya reminds her she still has a key. Barbara says she could have Montoya arrested. “Or I could arrest you,” Montoya fires back. “It’s kind of early to get high, isn’t it?” Whoa, this twist was unexpected. Barbara tells her it’s been a stressful day as she smokes a joint. A stressful day of what? Showering? Montoya asks if the marijuana is all Barbara is doing, and Barbara says it is. On Twitter, surprise was expressed that the Gotham writers didn’t give Barbara a nickname referring to her drug abuse, and now “Hash Crack McHeroin” is all I can call her in my mind. Anyway, it seems Montoya and Babs have a history not only with each other, but with drug abuse, which Montoya doesn’t seem to want to be reminded of.
Barbara asks why Montoya’s there. Montoya tells her that Gordon killed a man on the orders of Falcone. Barbara refuses to believe her, saying that Montoya has a history of lying to her. Montoya admits that when they were together, she lied to Babs a lot, but Barbara could always tell when Montoya was lying to her. She gets within kissing distance and asks Barbara to tell her if she’s lying now. Barbara wants to know if this is all out of jealousy because she loves Gordon, and if that’s why Montoya is determined to destroy him. Montoya says the things she did can’t be erased, but she still cares about Babs, and Babs deserves better than Jim Gordon. She kisses Barbara, who doesn’t return the kiss and tells her to go. Montoya pauses before she leaves and tells Barbara to ask Gordon where he was the night Oswald Cobblepot disappeared.
Back at Gotham PD, Gordon and Bullock question Smyker, who is maintaining his innocence. He admits stealing the balloons but says he sold them to satisfy a debt to loan sharks. He doesn’t know who bought the balloons – they had a drop-off point to exchange balloons and money. Bullock says that not only are the balloons in the stratosphere, but so are the bodies. “It’s the perfect crime!” Smyker has to inform them that weather balloons, at a certain point, pop and come back down to earth again. Apparently they legit thought that the Balloonman’s victims were floating well on their merry way to Saturn right about then. I know the department seems to take anyone with a pulse and violent tendencies to be a cop, but damn.
Right on cue, Cranston’s corpse comes crashing from out of the sky, landing on a rich elderly lady walking her dog.
We get a shot of the lady being shoveled off the sidewalk and her dog being led away by a cop to show us that the dog lived. Bullock and Gordon are at the scene. Gordon gets a call that the third balloon has been used for Cardinal Quinn, “the Diddly Priest,” who was meditating in his garden. Another cop from the crime scene brings over a bag containing the contents of Cranston’s pockets, including a piece of paper he took from the Balloonman when they were fighting. Bullock asks why the paper has Gordon’s name on it. “I know who the Balloonman is,” Gordon realizes.
At Damonte’s Italian restaurant, Oswald is pausing in his busing duties to eavesdrop on Maroni’s conversation with an underling. Apparently, something is going to happen with Arkham to help bring Falcone down. Maroni notices Oswald listening. He goes over to him and asks his name. “Paolo, sir,” Oswald replies, though without an Italian accent this time. “Italian,” Maroni notes with approval, and Oswald says yes, though only on his mother’s side. “It’s the side that I claim.” Maroni is pleased. “A boy who loves his mother,” he says, giving Oswald a wad of cash. Hey, I love my mother, and no one ever gives me money because of it. If you’d like to rectify that, my PayPal link is at the end of this recap. Maroni remarks that Oswald reminds him of himself when he was young. He started from nothing, but kept his head down and worked hard and now look at him! He’s the head of Gotham’s second most powerful murderous crime family! Gotham truly is the city of opportunity. Oswald agrees. Maroni asks Oswald if the names he was saying – Falcone, Arkham – meant anything to Oswald. Because the best thing to do when you want someone to forget about hearing something is to repeat it back to them, clearly and slowly. “Honestly, sir,” Oswald replies, “I didn’t hear anything at all.” Maroni gives him an “Atta boy” and a pat on the shoulder, before their attention is turned to a shot of Cardinal Quinn writhing on the end of a weather balloon on T.V. “This, this is not good,” Maroni tells Oswald. “You can’t go around killing priests – at least not in public.” He laughs and admonishes Oswald to go take care of his mother.
Back at Gotham PD, the Balloonman’s photo is on the corkboard, and it’s our friend from Juvenile Services, Davis Lamont! Who’d a thunk it, huh? Essen wonders what caused Lamont to snap. Gordon says there’s no indications, his coworkers describe him as sweet and he has no priors. Bullock has no leads on Lamont’s whereabouts. He suggests that Lamont had to have somewhere to keep the carts and balloons; maybe a storage facility or warehouse? This jogs Gordon’s memory – Selina told him she was in a new juvie building, so he wondered what happened to the old juvie building. Turns out the abandoned facility is where Lamont’s cart and remaining balloon is being held. Lamont gets the drop on Bullock, holding him at gunpoint in a standoff with Gordon. Gordon tells him to drop his weapon; Lamont says he can’t, that he’s not done yet. Bullock tells him he’s wasting his breath with Gordon, who sees him as just as bad as the scum he’s killing. “Me, I think you’re kind of doing us a favor, so don’t shoot me.”
Lamont, paying no attention to Bullock besides continuing to hold him hostage, insists that Gordon shares his mission. He knows Gordon’s the one who rescued the kids from the Dollmaker, that he wants to protect the innocent. Gordon says they have laws for that, but Lamont argues that laws are no good if people like Cranston are implementing them. He kind of has a point there. “The people running this city feed off the weak, and the law protects them,” Lamont says. He says he snapped when the Mayor decided to send the homeless kids to the prison upstate. He asks Gordon whether he’s really interested in protecting the weak and innocent, or the corrupt power structure of Gotham. “Who are you, finally?” There’s a tense moment as the two look at each other before Lamont goes, “Ah, forget it,” and shoots towards Gordon. He and Bullock fight, and Bullock handcuffs Lamont to the weather balloon. “How does it feel to be hoisted by your own petard?” he yells as Lamont starts to ascend.
Gordon leaps up and grabs Lamont by the ankles, trying to slow him down. Bullock urges him to let go, but Gordon refuses, demanding that Bullock shoot the ballon. Finally he does, and Gordon and Lamont fall on top of Lamont’s van, Lamont unceremoniously rolling off. Gordon gives Bullock a thumb’s up for grudgingly doing the right thing.
Fish greets Falcone at her club. Does she ever leave the club, by the way? Will she die if she is more than ten feet away from red velvet at any time? The club’s not open yet, she says, but she’ll make an exception for him. Falcone says he wanted to stop by on his way to dinner to make sure there were no hard feelings. Of course not, Fish assures him. That’s my girl, Falcone says. Speaking of girls, Fish says she hopes Falcone’s girl is the reason he’s ditching Fish for dinner tonight. Falcone says she had an accident. Nothing serious, Fish hopes. It was a mugging, Falcone tells her. Well, Fish says, she’s sure Falcone will make sure the mugger pays with his life. Oh, he will, Falcone promises her – along with anyone who helped him. Meaningful look between the two. He asks Fish if she’s heard anything from Maroni’s camp. She says surely he doesn’t think Maroni had anything to do with it. “It’s like you said,” he tells her, “people are acting crazy, and crazy’s bad for business. Especially with everything on the horizon.” Fish realizes he’s talking about Arkham. “But I thought you had that locked up?” she asks. He gives a little nod and kisses her on the forehead, telling her to keep her eyes open before leaving Fish with a smug grin on her face as he goes.
In the ambulance leaving the crime scene, Lamont promises Gordon there will be many more like him. Gordon says there won’t be if he does his job. Lamont tells him he’s had his chance – they all had their chance.
At Stately Wayne Manor, our budding young vigilante is being served dinner on a silver tray while watching the news report on the capture of the Balloonman. It’s kind of weird to have a child’s legal guardian also be his butler, right? I mean, you’d think after Alfred became in loco parentis the butling would stop, because it’s difficult to enforce a bedtime when you’re also serving the child dinner on a silver platter like he’s the freaking lord of the manor. I’m not wrong about this, right? Anyway, the reporter, who seems to be the only reporter in Gotham, is setting out the Balloonman’s manifesto. Alfred jokes that the criminals of Gotham will sleep well tonight. Bruce says that the Balloonman killed people, so that made him a criminal too. Alfred asks Bruce to please eat at least some of his dinner. “It would be a shame to have you floating away!” he says as jovially as Alfred can. Bruce doesn’t even crack a smile. Man, Bruce is a tough audience. Alfred leaves the room, deflated (see what I did there? See? Gah, you’re just as bad as Bruce) and on T.V. the reporter asks “now that the Balloonman is gone, who will defend Gotham?” Who indeed, we wonder, as the camera zooms in on Bruce’s face. I’m surprised we didn’t see the shadow of a bat flickering by in the lamplight too.
Gordon comes in to Barbara’s apartment and is greeted with a hug. Barbara asks him what’s wrong, which is how EVERY SINGLE CONVERSATION they’ve had in this show has begun. Babs, he works for Gotham PD. Just assume every day that the endemic corruption and violence with which he’s faced and that’s slowly killing him from the inside is what’s wrong and move on, O.K.? She says that he can tell her anything. “The city’s sick,” Gordon says, and it’s clearly not the answer Barbara was fishing for. He says he asked the Balloonman who his last target was, and the Balloonman said it didn’t matter. The mayor, judges, anyone could have been on the other end of that last weather balloon. They’re all guilty. Barbara says that’s not true, but Gordon says it doesn’t matter. The people of Gotham feel that way, and that’s why they embraced the Balloonman. He says the cops have let the city down, but if people start taking the law into their own hands then they’re lost.
“There are cops who do it,” Gordon tells her. “The same thing he did.” But you never would, Barbara says, almost hopefully. He asks if she thinks he could. She says no, with relief, that she knows and loves him. Barbara gets up to get him a drink, when there’s a knock at the door. Who could it be?
Oh, it’s only MOTHERFLIPPIN’ OSWALD IN HIS DAPPER SUIT HOLLA Y’ALL.
“Hello James, old friend,” he says to Gordon’s surprise and dismay. We end with Oswald’s smirk before the credits and next week’s preview.
Next week it’s “Arkham”! See you then – same bat time, same bat channel.