Review: Gotham – S4 E6 “A Dark Knight: Hog Day Afternoon”

“Just so we’re clear, is this a chat chat or a shovel in the trunk chat?”

Victor Zsasz has surpassed Harvey as the character with the best lines; some sarcastic but all humorous. It appears this week is a shovel in the trunk episode, as a few characters and storylines have been, thankfully, buried for a short while. Season Four has been rather up and down in quality – see last week’s episode – so much that I feel I’m playing Whack-a-mole, but just when I am ready to give up, the show pulls me back in. But more in a Godfather way rather than the endless fake endings of The Return of the King. This week, Hog Day Afternoon gets things back on track and uses Victor’s shovel to reveal layers of our characters.

The main story focuses on Gordon and Harvey tracking down serial killer Professor Pyg, who kills cops and dresses them in the severed heads of pigs. Gordon and Harvey deduce the victims are bagmen for Penguin, so Gordon pays him a visit. After some nice server, return tête-à-tête, Penguin gives Gordon a lead; Wally Clark applied for a burglary license to steal from a butcher shop. The irony oozes off the screen as Penguin points out that the lead is courtesy of the licensing system Gordon hates. Turns out Clark was hired to steal the pig heads for a fellow he has named the Professor, on account of the eloquence in his speech. That’s a fancy way of saying he talk smart.

In a nod to The Fixx, one thing leads to another and Gordon and Harvey find themselves in the layer of Professor Pym and his latest victim, still alive but booby trapped. The explosion K.O.’s our dynamic duo and Gordon awakens tied to chair. Pyg sees a connection between him and Gordon, as they are both sick of the corruption that infects the GCPD, and only a good cleansing can help Gotham. Gordon believes corrupt cops should be prosecuted, not killed and sees no common ground. Pyg, like The Tragically Hip’s Bobcaygeon, where the constellations reveal themselves one star at a time, offers another reason for his actions; he has suffered a “profound loss” at the hands of those in power and he wants his revenge. Rather than serve up a Jerome-esque chaotic killing spree, Gotham digs a bit deeper and shows things aren’t so black and white, despite Gordon’s righteous point of view. Kinda like everyone knows the New England Patriots have every team’s playbook in a large master binder, but the Pats stand firm they aren’t doing anything wrong.

Gordon does his best Houdini, frees himself and confronts Pyg, who has Harvey at knifepoint. Pyg cuts Harvey’s throat just enough to force Gordon to choose – either save Harvey or arrest Pyg. Gordon does the right thing, and later in the hospital he tells Harvey he knows he is on Penguin’s payroll. Harvey, with genuine remorse, confides in Gordon that he took the money because of the mountain of bills and debt he’s incurred. Desperate times call for desperate measures, though Gordon, in his most loving and non-judgemental way, tells Harvey “it stops now”. I’m impressed that the show can dig deeper and reveal the reasons behind characters’ actions so they aren’t as one dimensional as we might have thought. Everyone that is, except for Gordon, who is steadfast in his belief system. Perhaps that is the either/or attitude that is needed to save Gotham, but Gordon should know by now that’s not how to win friends and influence people. Dale Carnegie would be disappointed.

Sofia continues to win over Penguin in a slow ride con that would make Foghat proud. Having been seen around town together over multiple dinners, Gotham knows the Falcone name is now associated with Penguin. But when a last minute no show for lunch gets Penguin’s knickers in a knot, he orders Zsasz to follow Sofia and find out what she is up to. This happens after a humorous exchange over whether lunch was a date or not. Penguin and Zsasz have an Odd Couple vibe happening, and it’s wonderful. I’ve always said Gotham shines brightest when its villains are allowed to cut loose and run wild.

After some tense following and Zsasz doing his best Jimmy Olsen impersonation, Penguin confronts Sofia and accuses her of fortifying an old hotel in preparation for a war against him. Sofia understands Penguin needs to be paranoid in his position, but reveals the hotel and refurbishments are part of the opening of an orphanage. Penguin’s paranoia will be tested this season as he continues to question Sofia’s motives before she gets the jump on her. The only question is who will blink first.

The third story sees Nygma, Grundy and Lee finding themselves an unlikely home at Cherry’s Place in The Narrows. Lee and Nygma exchange in some witty repartee, at least as much as Nygma can handle considering his diminished intellect. Turns out Lee wants nothing to do with Nygma, and who can blame her? Grundy, meanwhile, finds himself at him in Cherry’s urban Thunderdome, minus the post-apocalyptic mise en scene. The mantra “Two men enter, one man leaves” rings true here, as Grundy takes on The Hammer in his first bout. After a rough start, Grundy fights back and lets the Hammer fall (see what I did there?). Cherry has a new cash cow and Grundy takes on the previously unknown member of WWF’s Legion of Doom, kills him and becomes club champion.

All the while, Lee works at the club for Cherry, who allows Lee to run her underground clinic to help Gotham’s destitute. Nygma discovers this whilst following her and confronts her in a painfully failed blackmail attempt in which Lee laughs with what seems to be amused pity. Turns out Lee feels guilty for allowing the Tetch virus to spread through Gotham, and only when her supplies of medicine run low does she take up Nygma’s offer of restoring his intelligence in exchange for winnings of Grundy’s victories, but not before offering a good blackmail plan that Nygma should have thought up.

An episode void of Bruce, Selena and Ivy isn’t a bad thing, especially if the producers aren’t sure of where to take them. Zsasz is delightfully funny, but Harvey is not, mostly due to his slashed throat and money problems. Hopefully he’ll bounce back soon.

Tune in next week – same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.