“Mad Grey Dawn” is a jam-packed episode of “Gotham” that tosses a lot of plot balls into the air, but has them land in mostly interesting places.
When we join Gordon this week, he’s not having the greatest day. A classic Batman robbery at the Gotham Museum of Art (and I appreciated the exposition from Bullock and Barnes as to why the homicide division was looking into it) turns into a scramble to stop a bomb from blowing up the city’s train station, which Gordon is able to prevent at the last second. Even more troubling, Barnes informs him that Internal Affairs is reopening their investigation into the Galavan murder and Bullock’s source spills that they have an eyewitness with a damning account (I was both surprised that Bullock already knew what Gordon did to Galavan and annoyed that that disclosure didn’t happen on-screen). This news further strains things between Gordon and Leslie, who’s upset about the constant black cloud they live under and that their child will soon be subjected to. And the cherry on top of the crap sundae comes when he follows a lead on the bomber, stumbles upon Pinkney – one of the Strike Force cops – bludgeoned to death, and gets caught by Barnes at the incriminating scene.
The architect of Gordon’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, the audience knows, is Edward Nygma. Apparently having learned off-screen from Penguin that Gordon was the one who killed Galavan (I was actually waiting for a twist that it was Hugo Strange who tipped off the GCPD, given the emphasis placed on him overhearing the secret two weeks ago), Nygma builds a trap for Gordon around it. He first dons a snazzy green checkered suit and takes a page from “The Thomas Crown Affair’s” playbook, stealing a painting and leaving question mark-ed clues to lead Gordon where he wants. That’s the train station, where he contrives a signature out of Pinkney and gets Gordon’s fingerprints on a crowbar he later uses to bash Pinkney’s head in. He finally uses a falsified crime scene report and a doctored message to cross Gordon and Barnes’ paths at just the right moment. Altogether, it paints the picture that Pinkney was Internal Affairs’ informant and Gordon killed him to conceal his crime.
My sympathy for Gordon only goes so far, it turns out. Yes, being framed for murder is horrible and the fate of a cop being sent to prison is a pretty grim one for Edward to consign him to. But this set-up stems from the murder Gordon did commit and has tried to cover up. So when the episode shows Leslie wailing that it’s not fair, or expects us to see Barnes’ refusal to believe Gordon’s protests as a betrayal, I kinda just wanna roll my eyes.
Four weeks later...Gordon has been tried (by the off-screen Harvey Dent; did we know that he’s now the DA?), convicted, and sentenced to forty years at Blackgate Penitentiary. The news is enough to (ugh) startle Barbara Kean out of her coma. Or maybe she just sensed an opening, given Gordon breaks things off with Leslie and begs her to take their child and leave the city. And the episode ends with Gordon being escorted into the prison while Bullock promises to find the bomber and clear his name. I’m curious to see how Bullock (and the show) dig Gordon out of this because I’m thinking it’s too early in the series’ life for Edward to be exposed as a criminal and bounced from the GCPD.
Meanwhile, having been sprung from Arkham Asylum, the Penguin sets out to visit friends and make amends. His first stop – with cupcakes – is to see Butch, who is, to my delight, enjoying wine in front of a roaring fire with Tabitha. They are first shocked to see him, and then skeptical of his apparent reform, with Tabitha doing a cruel but rather spot-on impersonation of his mother to try and get him to break character. She then wants to gut him where he stands, but interestingly, Butch overrules her (I really want to see more of this relationship, see what makes it tick), starting that they’ve “all lost something” in their conflict. Oswald then goes preaching his new pacifist philosophy to an uninterested Nygma (Ed’s “Um, nah, I’m good” reaction is priceless). So it’s no wonder that, when he pays a visit to his mother’s grave, he’s worried that he won’t be able to make it.
But then, by chance or fate, another mourner comes along. His name is Elijah Van Dahl and, it turns out, he’s Oswald father. It’s here I’ll note that Van Dahl is played by Paul Reubens, who also portrayed the Penguin’s papa in the opening scene of “Batman Returns” (and there’s some cool echoes of that movie’s score in the show’s music this week). Anyhoo, Van Dahl’s story is standard long-lost parent fare – he had an affair with his rich family’s cook, his disapproving parents forced him to break it off, he never knew she had been pregnant, etc. But now, Van Dahl promises to provide Penguin with a home and a family. It’s almost too good to be true, and Oswald even wonders out loud if he’s dreaming. We know Strange (sadly off-screen this week) is conducting some kind of “experiment” with Oswald. Is this whole scenario a set-up?
Rejoining him four weeks later, Oswald is happily ensconced with his father and extended family (one of whom is played by Ben McKenzie’s former “The O.C.” co-star Melinda Clarke!). But while Oswald is over the moon, it’s clear that some of his new relatives are less enthused about his presence. This could be fun.
Finally, there’s life on the streets with Bruce and Selina. They check in on Ivy “It Still Bugs Me Her Name Isn’t Pamela Isley” Pepper, who’s working growing plant-based drugs for an outfit run by Butch’s cousin Sonny. Selina has a foolproof plan for a heist, but it goes sour and they get captured. As he’s taking a beating, Bruce remembers Alfred’s advice from last week and hits back, allowing him and Selina to escape (it’s kinda thrilling seeing the future Batman and the future Catwoman fighting in tandem). The experience gives Bruce an epiphany, a sense of clarity and certainty that will serve him well in his crime fighting career. As an aside, kudos to the makeup folks for the work they did on Bruce’s mangled eye.
With that, the sun sets on this review of “Mad Grey Dawn.” Share your “Gotham” thoughts on Gordon’s arrest, Oswald’s discovery, and Bruce’s bruises in the comments section.