Gotham: 305 “Anything For You” Review
Reviewed by Charlie Pickard
“You are insane.”
“Was insane. I have a certificate.”
The decision to focus on predominantly just one storyline with minimal sub-plots worked in Gotham’s favour this week. The stream-lined narrative made the episode focused and taut, allowing for a compelling forty-three minutes of drama.
The primary players were two of Batman’s most famous villains, the Penguin and the Riddler. This duo working together has created an interesting dynamic whereby two big characters manage to co-exist successfully rather than be at war. Their relationship was the main focus of the episode, and we learned more about how the pair feel for each other.
The pair have feelings for each other in some form, we learn, when the Riddler doesn’t betray the Penguin but is in fact completely loyal to him. His assertion that he would do anything for the Penguin (referencing the episode’s title) is ambiguous: whether this is a ploy to usurp his power later down the line or not remains to be seen, but the two men definitely share affection. This was never more evident than in the scene where the Riddler has made tea for the Penguin, who is delighted at his faithfulness. They move close to each other and then embrace, after it looks as though the pair are about to kiss.
It felt as though writer Denise Thé was teasing a romance between them but didn’t fully commit. Such a relationship would be a welcome representation of the modern world, especially between two iconic villains. Actors Robin Lord Taylor and Cory Michael Smith were as impressive as ever, embodying their characters with typical ease while conveying new depths of passion.
Taylor was excellent throughout the episode, exemplified in the scene where he speaks to his mother’s statue. He hopes that she would be proud of him, which is ironic given that he has achieved a powerful position through being a criminal rather than a good person. This is further highlighted by the smart juxtaposition of his mother’s smiling face while he is distraught – it’s clear that he’s evil in a way she never was. The Penguin has taken a different path in life; one that is successful but dangerous.
The re-emergence of the Red Hood gang was a welcome surprise, even if they were apparently different from the incarnation seen in Season One. Such continuity allows for smaller villains like them to return without needing an expository introduction. In effect, they could function as henchmen for the real villain of the piece – Butch Gilzean.
What a terrific twist that was, after I lamented his lack of a personal storyline. The man who was so menacing as Fish Mooney’s lackey in Season One felt reduced throughout Season Two, living with Tabitha whilst doing little before re-uniting with Penguin and standing in his shadow. The decision to give Butch a role of importance once more was inspired, and I’m glad that he was rescued by Tabitha (unfortunately off-screen) at the climax. His next appearance will be highly anticipated now that he has betrayed Penguin.
However, it did feel strange to not have a more meaningful villain. The Red Hood gang felt under-cooked, aided by the fact they were all murdered by Butch half-way through the episode. They clearly weren’t the main threat, but Butch himself seemed to lack credence as a major villain. His storyline was deserved and his betrayal felt genuine, but after two weeks of Jervis Tetch being one of Gotham’s greatest ever villains, the decision to focus on Butch felt somewhat like filler until Tetch presumably returns next week. Nevertheless, actor Drew Powell had a good turn as Butch.
Elsewhere, Jim Gordon and Valerie Vale are a couple in all but name. It’s refreshing to have Gordon be with a new love interest like Lee is with Mario, but Vale has been under-written since her introduction in the first episode of the season. I hope she will be seen more, and not just as Gordon’s woman or a cliché reporter, but as her own person.
Another fledgling couple are Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. The pair meet at the Penguin’s party and discuss their feelings on the rooftop. Selina is still annoyed at Bruce about the doppelgänger situation and argues with him, before kissing him. Bruce is confused by her behaviour but enjoys it – this felt like a major step forward after two years of their platonic relationship.
A new development for Bruce is that he has to learn how to project a façade when in public. He must attend social events and smile falsely to strangers to maintain his family name. This is something we are accustomed to in older iterations of the character, so it was good to see an unpolished version of Bruce Wayne learn this.
Ivy Pepper made a fleeting reappearance, taking glee from Selina’s failure to recognise her. The character is due a proper storyline after weeks of absence, so hopefully she will be around for longer next week.
The direction by TJ Scott was solid but unremarkable. He created a frenetic flow to the episode, that didn’t linger for too long on any scene and raced through the story. He evoked some good performances out of his primary cast members, but didn’t produce any striking shots with his cinematographer. The episode’s score was effective, building tension throughout and being particularly exciting during the scene where Butch is going to kill the Penguin.
Overall, Thé’s script was lean and witty. She wisely abandoned sub-plots in order to tell one coherent story. The tone was dark and death-filled, but punctuated by sharp, funny lines in classic Gotham style. I elicited several laughs during this episode, as well as a couple of gasps at the twists.
For instance, Barnes doesn’t need to use his crutch anymore now that Alice’s blood is strengthening him. How much longer will he grow stronger and heal for, though? It may only be a matter of time until Barnes ‘chews through the cage’ like the rat did, regardless of who stands in his path. The prospect of Michael Chiklis playing an evil Barnes is tantalising.
We inevitably arrive at the cliff-hanger, which is probably the best one so far this season – no mean feat. A girl dressed like Alice is held captive by the returning Jervis Tetch, who is more crazed than ever following his sister’s death. The creepy set design, complete with a hanging skeleton, adds to his dark aura. Tetch slits the innocent girl’s throat and dips a quill (because he mustn’t have had a biro at hand) in her fresh blood. While spouting a vengeful threat, Tetch writes a name on a piece of paper. The threat is aimed at them. As the episode ends, we see that it is addressed to Jim Gordon.
Tetch’s cameo indicates that he will be the main villain for at least this half of the season, which I have no qualms about. While this was a good episode with a strong story, it felt like pieces were being moved so the next tale can be told. With Tetch, Butch, Barnes, Ivy and the Court of Owls all in play, I eagerly await that tale.