‘Gotham’ 5×05 Review: ‘Pena Dura’

“Pena Dura” is one of the best Gotham episodes we’ve seen. We get the answer to a mystery, some wonderful character interactions and a setup to the rest of the season.

Along with Gotham’s usual side of insanity!

Solving The Riddle

We finally have the answer to what’s going on with Ed. It’s not a conflict between two opposing personalities residing in one body. He’s being controlled, thanks to a chip planted in his brain by Hugo Strange. More on that later.

Before he finds his answer, Ed is publicly accused of the Haven bombing. He’s hunted by at least half the surviving citizens of Gotham. And here’s where the insanity comes in: He’s caught by a family who lost a loved one in Haven. Not a beloved child, spouse or parent, though.

They lost a dog.

But never mess with pet owners, even if they look like rejects from “Deliverance.” The family hooks Ed up to a jury-rigged electric chair to kill him slowly. It’s one of those absolutely bizarre scenes Gotham does so very well. We can overlook the illogic of a bunch of country hicks living in Gotham’s urban nightmare because the scene is just so damned funny.

Minutes later, it’s juxtaposed against a scene between Ed and Penguin. These two are a textbook example of a love-hate relationship.  And the scene is a primer on how to make wild tonal changes work perfectly. There’s humor, when Ed learns what Penguin has named his pet.

And then there’s the usual arguing like an old married couple, ending with a promise. Each says if he was going to kill the other, he wouldn’t be sneaky about it. I guess love means you’ll never stab someone in the back?

Because there is love here. Absolutely unhealthy love, to be sure. But these two share a bloody history that binds them together.

BatCat Is Breaking

Bruce and Selina also have a bloody history. More than Bruce knows. He tries to convince her that she isn’t a killer. But she finally tells him what we’ve known since 1×01; that she watched his parents get murdered, and did nothing.

“I didn’t do anything because I wasn’t willing to risk my neck for someone else. Because I didn’t care. That’s who I was and that’s who I am,” she tells him.

Selina’s not being honest about who she was. As Bruce said, she was a scared kid at the time, even if she doesn’t want to admit it. But she did care, enough to look after young Ivy, and enough to pull Bruce out of trouble more than once.

But than was then. Who is Selina now? Thanks to Ivy’s root, it may now be true that she just doesn’t care. She’s unflinching when she says it, and there’s never a regretful look on her face.

Bruce’s heart is slowly breaking, and he doesn’t know what to do. He seeks out Jim for advice, but Jim is out trying to catch Ed. So Harvey becomes his advisor. Harvey doesn’t have any profound wisdom to offer; when he doesn’t know what to do, he turns to paperwork. “The little things matter. Even if no one notices or cares,” Harvey says.

It’s a rare scene between these two. In fact, I can’t recall ever seeing just Bruce and Harvey interacting. And I loved it. We get to see something in Harvey that’s more than the hard bitten cop who usually retreats to the bottle in troubled times. He responds to Bruce with sincerity rather than sarcasm or cynicism.

I still need more Bruce and Alfred. But Bruce and Harvey was a wonderful surprise.

Another View Of Gotham

Another wonderful thing about this episode was the view of Gotham from an outsider’s eyes. The outsider is an old Army buddy of Jim’s, who’s sent in along with a Delta Force team to start restoring order in Gotham. Eduardo Dorrance can’t believe some of the craziness he sees. “You left the Army for this city?” he asks Jim incredulously.

We all know Gotham is a strange place. That’s why we love it. But it’s kind of fun to hear someone in the show expressing amazement over all the craziness.

Still, anyone steeped in Batman lore knows they cannot trust Eduardo. They know he is destined to become Bane, one of Batman’s fiercest foes. The episode’s title, “Pena Dura,” comes from the name of the prison where the comics version of Bane was created.

For those who are not so knowledgeable about the Batman mythos, it’s a shock when Eduardo turns out to be the one controlling Ed, on behalf of a woman named “Walker.” Is Walker the mysterious ally on the other side of Jim’s shortwave radio? It’s not clear, but it is apparent that someone has awful plans in store for Gotham.

And after that surprise, there was still one more in the final minutes of “Pena Dura.”

You Know What We Say About Death In Gotham

Told you they needed to check for a pulse!

Jeremiah Valeska is very definitely NOT dead. (Will Selina have to pay back all the folks who were buying her drinks at the Sirens’ Club?) He needed to make Bruce and Selina think he was dead, though. But why? We know he’s still got a tunnel being dug. And he’s put a plastic surgeon to work on a man and woman. We never see their faces, just the backs of their heads as Jeremiah creepily croons that he loves a family reunion.

I’m guessing he’s had two people made over into Thomas and Martha Wayne, in order to torture Bruce.

We’ll have to wait two weeks to learn more, though. Gotham is going on a two week hiatus, returning to FOX on February 14 at 8 p.m./7 p.m. Central.

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