The Gifted skipped this week, but Gotham delivered yet again, mostly revolving around the unraveling intrigue which surrounds the Riddler, but with a bit of development between Bruce and Selina as well, and an oddly hopeful note from an unexpected source.
5.05 “Pena Dura”
If it seems too good to be true, as they say.
Episode begins with Bullock and Gordon finding the RPG salesman. Said salesman has a number of thugs with guns. But surprising reinforcements come crashing down from above. A military crew led by Eduardo Dorrance – (ahhhhh! Bane! I’m sure of it!) – enters the city with the goal, given them by one Secretary Walker woman, of making the city secure again, by wiping out the rampant criminal element, ostensibly so relief can finally enter the city safely. This is in response to the Haven bombing, the last straw.
Dorrance and Gordon, it seems, are old friends from Gordon’s military days. They’ve fought together, saved each others’ lives, etc. Brothers in arms, the blood that runs thicker than water binds them as comrades. And they’re pretty darn effective together, all things considered.
All at once, soldiers are crawling through the city, striking down evil. First on the list: the Haven bomber, which they learn was Edward Nygma, the Riddler. As the man tends to be very clever, Gordon sends Bullock back to the precinct to set up an HQ with the soldiers. He knows the value of backup plans and not having all your eggs in one basket, and now that he and Bullock don’t have to go on every mission together, he trusts Bullock to lead the fight if Gordon himself gets killed. Bullock doesn’t exactly like it, but accepts it.
It turns out to be a sensible precaution. While Riddler may be cursing his alter-ego for apparently murdering three hundred people, he is also keen on survival. He professes his own innocence, but he doesn’t hesitate to hurt or kill others. For instance, that poor old woman at the end of last week’s episode. Another instance, he activates the pressure-plated minefield within his home, enabling his escape when Gordon and Eduardo come for him. Gordon’s able to figure out the riddle simply enough, but their quarry has still slipped away.
Not that even Riddler can get far when the entire city, even severely reduced as it is, is hunting him. Anyone not interested in revenge is interested in rewards. The former gets to him first, a family that wants to avenge… their little dog. Not that I can particular fault the sentiment, as anyone who hurts one of my dogs is not walking away unscathed, but they’re a bit ludicrous about it. And Riddler is quickly able to use their own scheme against them to get away while one of them is set on fire. But the electrocution jogs a bit of his memory, where Penguin is saying, “I’ll fix you, Ed.”
Penguin is worried sick about Riddler, and doesn’t know what’s going on any more than Riddler does. When he and Lee stabbed each other, Penguin took them to Strange to patch them up, save their lives. But it would seem that he did something else, too. He put a chip in Riddler’s brain, so someone else could control him like a puppet, though that detail comes later. Further discussion is put on hold when Bullock (this time) and Eduardo come for both of them. Riddler gets out, and Penguin is taken down hard. Epic moment, that, really.
Penguin vouches for Riddler and negotiates his release in exchange for info about Strange. Riddler got same info from Barbara and got there with a good head start, but that, it turns out, was a mistake. Strange got the drop on him, paralyzed him and cut his skull open without anesthesia, to tune up the chip a little. Apparently, Riddler wasn’t supposed to realize he was being controlled by someone else, and when Gordon arrives, that someone’s identity becomes readily apparent: Walker, who has given Eduardo the reins for awhile.
I remember a moment in Smallville, where someone says, “Beware white knights, for they often train dragons more than slay them,” or something to that effect. Eduardo and his men came charging in like white knights to slay all the dragons of Gotham, but they’re the worst dragons of all. Three hundred people dead at their hands. All for what? A pretext? Uncertain, but Eduardo doesn’t seem to ask why anyway. He follows orders and gets the mission done. That is all. He doesn’t even hesitate to hold Gordon, his brother-in-arms, at gunpoint. Walker and Eduardo want Gordon to kill Riddler, their pawn having served its purpose.
Gordon has every right, of course, to kill Riddler. He is a murderer, and insane. Why stand against Walker’s soldiers for him?
But whatever points Walker, Eduardo, and their ilk might have, whatever good they might be doing by wiping out Gotham’s criminals, they’re still firmly in the wrong here. No matter their reasoning, which we know nothing about yet, they are the ones who murdered three hundred people under Gordon’s protection, including children, including Will.
Gordon has compromised his integrity before. He does not compromise his purpose now. He refuses, and escapes.
So Eduardo sends Riddler the puppet after him, and we’ll soon see how that turns out.
And I have to say, the opening scene of the season begins to make more sense, now. Riddler, Penguin, and the GCPD under Gordon all banded together and shooting at soldiers. The soldiers who serve at the will of those puppeteers that slaughtered hundreds of Gotham’s citizens. No quarter to be given to such, indeed.
I am also wondering, once again, what happened to Lee?
Elsewhere, Bruce and distracted from the crisis by his worries for Selina. It seems she’s doing what Bruce did after he first killed Ra’s al’Ghul: getting drunk and going wild. Bruce wants to pull her out of it, but she’s having none of it. She even strikes the lowest blow she can: she tells him she did nothing to help him or his parents when they were brutally murdered because she didn’t care. That’s who she is, she says, with tears in her eyes: someone who doesn’t actually care.
Which, I do not believe that. She may tell herself she doesn’t, but we’ve seen that she does care. She just thinks it would be easier not to, perhaps, and perhaps she is right about that. It’s easier to do nothing and be nothing. That doesn’t mean it’s better.
Of all things, it’s Bullock who inspires Bruce not to give up hope. He wanted to talk to Gordon, who is indisposed, but Bullock had some wise words to say. They’re facing an overwhelming crisis, and they have been for months, and it seems to just keep getting worse. But Bullock just keep going at it in his little corner of the world. Because the little things really do matter, and they do have an effect, even if nobody notices.
The episode ends with Gordon being hunted by his former friend, via a Riddler-puppet, Penguin in hiding with his wealth, Bruce wanting to save Selina when she doesn’t want to be saved… and Jeremiah alive.
He has stitches, but somehow he’s still alive. No explanation, really, except that he wanted his enemies to believe he was dead. He wakes as his people finish digging by punching through a brick wall. His scheme advances, and it apparently includes two people, man and woman, with new faces, and a “family reunion.”
Ten bucks says he made them look like Thomas and Martha Wayne, because how else best to torment Bruce?