‘Gotham’ 5×8 Review: ‘Nothing’s Shocking’

“Nothing’s Shocking” is a title that makes me think, “Yeah? This is Gotham. What else is new?” And to be honest, there really isn’t anything shocking about this episode.

Except maybe the sheer volume of blood spatter — more than we’ve seen in a while. Maybe it was an attempt to snazz up the episode’s three kind of snoozy stories.

“Nothing’s Shocking” is the weakest link in what’s been a very strong final season of Gotham. It does not advance the overall arc of the season or provide any clues about the eventual teamup between Gotham’s good guys and bad guys. But the episode redeems itself with some stellar character interactions that are far more interesting than the new villains who were introduced (and quickly dispatched).

About Those Villains

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the new villains either. They were not as interesting as the reactions they provoked from the regular characters they were involved with.

“The Ventriloquist” is a resurrected Mr. Penn, Penguin’s one-time lackey. We’re not sure how he got resurrected; for once, Hugo Strange isn’t involved. But Penn does have a new buddy, a wooden dummy named Mr. Scarface. More on both of them shortly.

“Jane Doe” is a result of Hugo Strange’s meddling. He mutated her so she could mimic the faces and bodies of others. But like so many of his test subjects from Arkham Asylum, his work has taken her from bad to worse.

A Glimpse Into Harvey’s Past

Jane was a central figure in an old murder case. Her mother was convicted of killing her father. Now Jane is killing the cops who somehow “leaned” on her to provide evidence against her mom. No one ever specifies just what the police did to Jane, but it sent her to the asylum. And Harvey was one of those cops. He’s forced to confront that past and eventually kills Jane.

Initially I was a little irritated that we seemed to be going down the “Harvey used to be a dirty cop” road once again. We know this about him. I thought they’d already handled it well in previous seasons. As the title says, nothing’s shocking. So why retread that path? But then they brought us a story we didn’t know: Harvey wasn’t always dirty. Whatever happened with Jane was his first taste of the dark side. Before then, he actually believed in the idea of law and order, straight and narrow.

Sort of like Jim Gordon did when he first arrived in Gotham.

And while Harvey… and Gotham… have made Jim just a bit less upstanding, Harvey recognizes that Jim has made him a bit more upstanding. The scene between the two of them in the final two minutes of this episode is one of the best Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue have ever played. It’s not mushy or sentimental. It’s two men acknowledging a dark past that cannot be corrected.

They’ve Got The Perfect Friendship

Then you’ve got the two guys who not only have dark pasts, but have no interest in being forgiven for them. Penguin and Riddler glory in their darkness.

They’re building a submarine to escape Gotham. (It makes me flash back to the Batman movie of my childhood, with Frank Gorshin, Lee Meriwether, Cesar Romero and Burgess Meredith crammed into a submarine! Sublime goofiness that I took very seriously when I was six years old!)

I digress. They’re building a submarine. Well, Riddler is building it. Penguin has been doing other stuff: stealing materials and food, and finding them a (useless) bodyguard. Riddler resents being left to do all the sub work. But before they can get into another one of their “old married couple” arguments, there’s a nearly fatal interruption by Mr. Penn and his wooden counterpart, Mr. Scarface.

It’s another bit of Gotham craziness, and at this point, it’s not shocking either. Even Penguin recognizes the ridiculousness of the situation, but he’s shut down pretty quickly when Penn points a gun at him. Penn uses the dummy as a mouthpiece to rant about Penguin’s greed, his cruelty, his selfishness… you get the idea.

It’s another one of those sequences that doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t know. The payoff is in the resolution. Riddler was right there for the whole tirade, and eventually shoots Scarface and Penn. He follows the rescue up with one of those speeches that is an example of the oh-so-unhealthy relationship he has with Penguin:

“I accept you for the person that you are. Just as you accept me for the cold logician that I am. That’s why this friendship is great.”

To which Penguin answers, “Perhaps, Edward, we are really meant for each other.”

Yes, indeed.

Bruce Finding His Purpose

The episode’s third story sends Bruce and Alfred into the sewers under Gotham, in search of a missing man. They give a few seconds of consideration to handing the matter over to the GCPD, but both know the force is already overwhelmed.

You can see the glimmer of Batman’s future mission here: Taking on the matters the police just can’t, for whatever reasons. We also start to see some of Bruce’s hard-won wisdom, when he reassures Alfred that he’s not to blame for the destruction of Wayne Manor. It’s another father/son moment between these two that I just live for.

Before I move on, I do want to mention one additional sorta-kinda villain introduced in this story. He’s a variation on the comics’ Killer Croc. Although he really isn’t Killer Croc. It’s another box ticked in the writers’ efforts to bring in as many comic book characters as they can. But none have been nearly as interesting as the ones we’ve been following for five years.

Barbara’s Transformation

The timing of this episode isn’t entirely clear, but judging from Barbara’s baby bump, it’s been a bit since Jeremiah was defeated. It raises all kinds of questions about what’s been going on with him, and what Eduardo and Walker are up to. But more interesting is how Barbara seems to be changing. She’s still a tough-talking information broker, and says she likes who she is.

But she understands Jim’s warning that if reunification happens she could lose her baby. She’s willing to go straight to prevent that.

It appears we’re getting a real redemption arc for Barbara, but also that it will only come with tears.

Four episodes left. See you again next week, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!

Gotham airs Thursday nights at 8/7 Central on FOX.

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