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Gotham - The Sinking Ship the Grand Applause - Review

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This week’s “Gotham” found several characters gunning to take down Sofia Falcone. It’s a straightforward plot goal, but what makes “The Sinking Ship the Grand Applause” a fun episode is that there were a lot of interesting role reversals and shifting alliances along the way.

Having confessed to Bullock last week about his dirty dealings with Sofia, Gordon again offers Harvey his badge back to help him take her down. Bullock agrees to those terms, but warns Gordon that he’ll still have to pay for what he’s done at the end of the day. And I must say, I found this flip in the Gordon/Bullock dynamic – and that Bullock takes the lead on the investigation at the start – very refreshing. Anyway, Bullock runs down an old source – a former Falcone assassin known as the “Scandinavian Skinner.” Hilariously, in the first of several bits of dark humor in this episode, the “Skinner” is now a white-haired grandma who runs a candy shop. She points Bullock in the direction of Mr. Penn, Penguin’s former bookkeeper who, it turns out, was a spy for the Falcones. Bullock swings by Arkham to try and get Penn’s location out of Penguin, but he’s interrupted first by an assassination attempt by Zsasz and his buddy Headhunter (...who I thought Penguin killed, but I guess not, though he is now sporting an eyepatch) and then by Penguin managing to escape.

How’d the Penguin pull it off? Well, the episode opens with the Riddler elaborately rescuing Penguin’s pal Martin from Sofia’s goons (amusingly, we see one of the thugs reading an old issue of “Detective Comics”), eliminating her leverage. Regrouping on the outside, Ed and Oswald know they’ll need bodies to take on Sofia so they go to Leslie, not knowing that she’s been dethroned as the Narrows’ queen. Having seen how her people are suffering under the new leadership and wanting personal revenge for her injured hand, Leslie manages to stay in the mix by suggesting Nygma find Solomon Grundy. Unfortunately for Ed, he’s not the only one who’s regained his smarts and Grundy knocks him out cold. Grundy hands Ed over to Tabitha (and, aw, he and Tabs have another bittersweet moment where he promises to find a way to become his old Butch-y self) and she and Barbara decide to score points with Sofia by giving Ed to her.

These two opposing forces with the same goal literally collide in the street when Penguin, convinced Ed has betrayed him again when he doesn’t return, runs out of Leslie’s office and smack into Gordon and Bullock. The ensuing Mexican standoff takes an interesting turn when Gordon offers to let Oswald walk if he tells them where Mr. Penn is. It’s quite the shift given Gordon went to the Falcones for help in the first place because he thought Penguin was such a cancer to Gotham. I mean, Gordon and Oswald even shake hands! And then there’s another good turnabout bit where, after Penguin spills on Penn’s location, Bullock goes to arrest him anyway, determined to play things by the book. But again, an intercession by Zsasz and Headhunter allows Penguin to escape, this time with Leslie’s help.

Out of options, Leslie convinces Oswald to go with a cockamamie plan Ed came up with earlier – to Trojan Horse his way into Sofia’s house by having Mr. Freeze put him on ice. Mr. Freeze is (heh) frosty with them (as always, it’s good to see Nathan Darrow) because Penguin reneged on an earlier promise to fund his research, but when Leslie explains he can collect a bounty from Sofia, Freeze agrees, going about it in the most amusingly droll way. A dethawer on a timer allows Penguin to escape the cube, but Sofia has already left to go after Penn herself. And when he learns that Ed subjected himself to torture rather than give him up, he agonizes over the decision, but ultimately shows up on the dock just in time to save Ed’s life. “Trust is so very hard to find in Gotham,” Oswald says, with a great line reading by Robin Lord Taylor, “but I trust you, Ed.” I’m glad these two are back to being allies. I also chuckled at their comments that they’re sick of being almost murdered on this same pier.

Elsewhere, Gordon, Bullock, Sofia, and Leslie are all converging on Mr. Penn at maybe the weirdest location we’ve ever seen on “Gotham” – a high-priced resort where adults playact as babies, crawling around in bonnets and being given bottles. Clearly wanting to atone for his sins, Gordon covers while Bullock spirits Penn out of the building, getting shot several times in the process. Sofia, inexplicably still warm for his form, offers to let him beg for his life, but Gordon tells her to go to hell. But it looks like she’s the one heading there when Leslie intervenes and shoots her in the head.

In the aftermath, Sofia has bullshittingly survived, but is in a coma (I know this show has trouble letting characters go, but do we really need to see Sofia again now that this story is over?). Leslie takes back control of the Narrows, brutally asserting her authority over her usurper. And in a great scene, Gordon offers to come clean about his connections to Sofia and Professor Pyg, but Bullock awesomely tells him that “what the city needs” is for him to remain a hero cop and, instead of martyring himself to ease his guilty conscience, he’ll have to live with what he’s done. Great job by Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue in this sequence, and I hope this more balanced dynamic between Gordon and Bullock sticks.

In non-Sofia subplots, Selina comes to Bruce for help retrieving the loot she stole while Ivy was murdering that Wayne Enterprises scientist. There’s not a ton to it, but there is a fun proto-Batman/pro-Catwoman tag team fight sequence – including Selina using her whip – and the two get their friendship back on track. Also, we see Barbara is having crippling headaches, which, in the episode’s closing moments, seem to be hinting at a resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul., I’m more interested in whatever shenanigans Jerome is planning.

Once you’ve let my thoughts on “The Sinking Ship the Grand Applause,” sink in, please come by the comments section and tell me what you want to applaud about this week’s “Gotham.”

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