“A Bitter Pill to Swallow” – aired 11/16/2015 *****stars
Written by Megyn Mostyn-Brown
Directed by Louis Shaw-Mito
*Spoilers are contained within*
By Joe Grodensky
This season of Gotham has been nothing short of exciting. The “Rise of the Villains” have given the show that gritty, gruesome and dark feel that the comics have given Gotham City since the beginning. Each episode gets increasingly bloody yet exciting at the same time. They have driven every character to the point of madness and even crossed into darker depths. Every week I think the episode I’m watching is my favorite; the next one comes along to top it. Without further ado, I present, “A Bitter Pill to Swallow.”
The opening scene was extremely clever. As the camera pans into an alley, there is red and green graffiti with “HAHAHAHA” written. An obvious Joker reference, but is it about Jerome (Cameron Monaghan) or is this a clue to someone else? There’s a stack of papers with the headline “Mayor Galavan Arrested,” which leads us into the next scene with Tabitha (Jessica Lucas). She enters a bar and asks for a “Highsmith Royale-no ice,” which is code to get her into a secret backroom casino. There, she meets an unnamed woman who employs hitmen, mercenaries, and other guns-for-hire. She hands the woman a picture of Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) who, the woman assures Tabitha, comes with a high price. She accepts and the mission is a go.
Anyone who has watched Gotham from day one has seen what Gordon goes through on a daily basis. He’s been shot at, hunted, beat up, used as a political pawn and dealt with Barbara (Erin Richards). Well, tonight we finally get to see Jim Gordon snap. It starts when he visits Barbara at the hospital and is informed that she is still in critical condition from her fall out of the church window. When he gets to the station Dr. Leslie Tompkins (Morena Baccarin) questions where he was. When he admits that he visited Barbara on a purely investigative level, Leslie says he is changing and giving in to a darker side of him. He denies it, but she can tell that he’s changing.
We see Jim on an elevator leading to Galavan’s penthouse. The elevator may be going up but this is where it all goes downhill for him. A stranger gets on the elevator with him but Jim tries to ignore him as best he can. The man then chokes Jim with a piano wire but Jim escapes and pummels him all over the elevator. He then drags the man’s bloody body into the Penthouse and hangs him out of the window, threatening him for answers before Barnes stops him and reprimands him. The man’s phone starts ringing and Jim picks it up, saying nothing, but the unnamed woman on the line can tell her first volunteer did not get the job done. She declares open season on Jim sending a team of hitmen out to kill him.
Just when Jim and Barnes think the coast is clear they notice men, on the security camera, walking around in the hotel. In no time, they are attacked by a team of hired killers who they manage to kill. Gordon even takes out the stranger on the elevator when the stranger tries to take Officer Parks hostage. They quickly decide to leave when they are ambushed by a lone hitman who survived. The attacker stabs Barnes in the femoral artery causing him to bleed heavily. Gordon kills the man and tries to save Barnes. Once Barnes is bandaged, stable and drinking good alcohol, he asks Jim why he is going off the handle. Jim says he’s maybe buying too much into Barbara and Leslie telling him about his dark side, that he has a monster in him. Barnes tells him there’s a monster in everyone and it’s a choice whether to cross the line or not. Barnes continues by telling a story of when he was in the military and his unit was guarding captured enemy fighters when a sandstorm occurred and blinded his team. The enemies used the sandstorm as cover to get free and kill his men. He got so mad he put a gun in a teenage enemy fighter’s mouth at first just to threaten him but wound up pulling the trigger. Barnes used the story to tell Jim once the line is crossed, it’s hard to deal with the consequences.
When she realizes that all of her contract killers were dead, the woman employs a man named Eduardo Flamingo (Raul Castillo), who comic fans know as the man who paralyzed Damien Wayne. Flamingo is a flamboyant yet dark and psychotic killer who eats parts of his victims. When we are introduced to him, there are body parts everywhere, including the furnace. He is dismembering a man in a wheelchair and shoots him when he gets the call to kill Gordon. Back at Galavan’s, Gordon radios for a status on his back up team when he hears gunshots, screaming and Eduardo telling Gordon to come down and confront him. Barnes doesn’t want Gordon to go but Gordon insists because his name is causing all the death and mayhem in the hotel. Barnes lets him go and when he gets down there a street fight ensues. Jim holds his own and even gets the best of Flamingo when Jim lets the monster takes over. He lands blow after blow on the deranged killer who laughs after each punch, making Jim even madder. Jim puts his gun in Flamingos mouth but after hearing Barnes’s story, puts his gun back and cuffs him. Eduardo is not done with the GCPD. He fakes illness then kills Officer Parks with a hidden blade despite the efforts of other officers.
If you thought that was twisted, you’re in for a real treat. Remember last episode when Ed Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) finds a wounded Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) in a trailer in the woods? Well, this episode follows up on the two famous villains. Ed takes Oswald to his place and takes care of him, despite Oswald just wanting to get up and leave. Oswald starts to denounce everything he did and wishes he could run away from everything. Ed tries to make friends with Oswald by declaring how happy he is to have murdered people and wants Oswald to be his mentor. Oswald refuses by saying how the criminal lifestyle cost him his mother. As Oswald tries to leave, he collapses in pain and weakness. Ed even offers Oswald a chance to kill a prisoner but again he refuses to kill because of his mother’s death. Ed snaps him out of it by saying now that Oswald has nothing left to live for or lose, he is free to be whoever he wants which makes him more powerful and dangerous than before. This gets Oswald thinking so over dinner, they decide to take the prisoner back out. It’s not shown what happens but it’s safe to say it was nothing good.
Tonight’s episode may have seemed a bit sick and twisted but Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) did offer a level-headed tone in the moments that he was featured. We first see him talking to Silver St. Cloud (Natalie Alyn Lind) when Alfred (Sean Pertwee) tells Silver to leave immediately. Before she leaves, she sneaks him a key and tells him where to find her. Bruce is outraged with Alfred for dismissing her but Alfred says he doesn’t trust her after what Galavan tried to pull, bribing Bruce to sell Wayne Enterprises. Later on, Bruce realizes why Alfred did what he did and apologizes to him. Alfred then tricks Bruce, taking the hotel key that Silver gave him so he cannot see her. As Bruce tries to sneak out and see Silver, Selena (Camren Bicondova) pops in and tells him she has proof that Silver is using him. We never get to see that proof tonight as it cuts to Galavan discussing everything Tabitha did wrong in trying to kill Gordon. He threatens her saying if she defies his orders again he will kill her and that the plan is in place. We get an idea that the plan involves Father when he and his monks are shown killing a police officer on the dock.
This is the Gotham City we know and love and it’s the city that Batman will later defend. We finally see the city take its toll on its residents, even those as stable and even-tempered as Jim Gordon. Is there any better team-up right now than Oswald and Ed? This is a Batman fan’s dream come true to see two iconic villains join forces so early in their careers and wreak havoc on the blighted city. The creative team outdid themselves adding Flamingo during “A Bitter Pill to Swallow.” He fit right in and dragged us deeper into the rabbit hole of violence this season. Every episode has left me wanting more and wondering how much further can they take these stories and characters. I give this episode five very big stars.
Gotham airs Monday nights on FOX at 8pm Eastern/7pm Central. Check your local listings.