Review: Gotham – S4 E9 “A Dark Knight: Let Them Eat Pie”

“She is literally my only friend.”

Three Dog Night sang “one is the loneliest number” and it seems a lot of people in Gotham might be humming the tune to themselves. I like it when a show can layer themes throughout the various storylines being presented, and I wasn’t disappointed this week. Three of our main characters are feeling rather lonely and are the results of their own actions. Remember last week when I said someone will have to pay? Well, here you go. More importantly, however is how disturbing things get in this week’s episode Let Them Eat Pie. Things take a dark and horrific turn as Penguin and Gordon face Professor Pyg in a climactic confrontation that would make Hannibal Lecter proud.

It’s not a stretch to suggest Jerome is the most popular villain on Gotham in the hearts and minds of fans, but it’s equally clear that Pyg is fighting above his weight class and is hands down one of the most twisted, intimidating and creepy villains on the show, and arguably number one. This is a villain fans can become invested in, especially after this episode, which enters full-blown horror drama territory that rivals American Horror Story. As much as it would be great to see the show delve into a backstory for Pyg, I’m not sure the use of extended flashbacks is the best foot forward. Granted, we got some of that for Jerome, and the comics have never really explored Pyg outside Gran Morrison’s run on Batman. That said, Michael Cerveris has done a brilliant job bringing Pyg to life and El Predicto states we haven’t seen the last of him.

The main story sees Pyg’s dastardly plan reaching stage two, moving from punishing corrupt cops to taking on Gotham’s elite, particularly Penguin. Pyg infiltrates Sofia’s orphanage fundraiser and feed meat pies made from the organs of Gotham’s homeless to the city’s one-per centers. And the best, or most horrific, part? He succeeds! Thus, we are treated to a disturbing, tension filled scene of Penguin and Gotham’s fat cats gagging on hobo pies that is more disturbing and unsettling than Hannibal Lecter feeding Ray Liotta his own brain. Even Sofia is forced to take a bite to save little Martine, held at butcher knifepoint by Pyg.

At the last second, Sofia is spared her forkful of destitution pie as Gordon comes to the rescue, which leads to an epic battle between cop and Pyg. That’s a lot of bacon flying around. Gordon saves the day and wins the hearts of the good people of Gotham, who now have a do-gooder cop to admire.

But wait, there’s more!

Penguin sees Sofia’s reaction to Gordon’s arrival, which confirms his suspicions that she had Gordon made GCPD captain, effectively ending his crime licensing program. Paranoid from the beginning of the episode, Penguin manipulates wee lad Martine into spying on Sofia and reporting back to him; the boy doesn’t disappoint, having witnessed a game of tonsil hockey between Gordon and Sofia. Cue Penguin’s lust for vengeance and eventual mob war with Miss Falcone in upcoming episodes.

It’s been an interesting season for Gordon, as he finds himself doing things that go against his strict, righteous moral code because they are in the best interest for Gotham City. He accepts the captain position and betrays Harvey (who goes on leave) for the city. He welcomes the endorsement of Sofia for the city. He’s doing so many things for the city Stevie Wonder should get residual payments. But Gordon’s wading into moral ambiguity pays off this week because he saves innocents from a true villain and monster. We can see how this pays off in the future when Gordon becomes a man who will be willing to toss procedure aside and accept help from a masked vigilante if it will help save Gotham from the monsters. This week he takes down one of those monster and plays up hero cop precisely because of questionable dealings, and Gordon has shown he’s ready, willing, and able to shake and bake with the Falcones of the world if it means he can lock up men like Pyg.  Perhaps we had to endure three seasons of Gordon’s mostly annoying self-righteousness to get to this point, but things look interesting with him moving forward.

Penguin was Pyg’s main target at the rummy feast, as he feasted on the poor on his quest to join the elites. But Penguin reveals himself to be a multi-dimensional character, killing wealthy socialite that refused to eat the pie even when Pyg threatened to kill Martine. Penguin has taken a shine to the little scamp, and when said man of privilege says he’s willing to let Martine die, Penguin stabs him through the top of the head and stuff his pie hole full of human pie. What’s most interesting here are the layers of Penguin that are revealed; it’s a great thing when a villain can show sublime altruism, even if he’s killed another to do so.

Pyg’s drama has a lot of moving parts to it; Penguin is jealous of Sofia and Gordon as well as anger for her betrayal, yet he still protects her from Pyg. Martine is threatened and Penguin kills to save him. At the same time Pyg breaks into creepy song and dance, while Gotham forces us to watch a prolonged scene of cannibalism worthy of Edgar Allan Poe.

So Gordon feels alone, especially after betraying Harvey; Penguin feels alone as he realizes Sofia has betrayed him, and Bruce is alone in his guilt about killing Ra’s al Ghul. This other story in the episode falls flat for the most part, save for a few instances. Is it just me, or is petulant Bruce Wayne really annoying and well past his best before date? Should killing Ra’s affect him? Sure, but it dances around the idea that vengeance will never fill the void left by his parents’ deaths. He didn’t seem this upset nor psychologically affected by the elder Waynes’ murders – granted, he did kill Ra’s, but he hasn’t figured out it was what Ra’s wanted all along and not to find peace but to come back as something bigger and badder. If the show is waiting for that moment to galvanize Bruce into a proto-Batman, it’s going about it the wrong way. I liked the missteps he took as he began his vigilante career, but I’m not buying Emo Bruce. No one’s going to buy it so don’t sell it.

What I did buy was Alfred trying to bond with Bruce by taking him on a traditional hike the boy used to take with his father. Alfred shares a great story about meeting Thomas Wayne for the first time and was so effective it could have been an entire flashback episode. Alfred’s concern for Bruce is clear, and we know the bond the two will share in the future; but right now, Alfred really needs to slap some sense into Bruce. Bruce ditches Alfred and parties at home with his hanger-on friends and wallows in self-pity when Alfred orders the kids to leave. What I really wanted to see was Alfred slap the smugness off Tommy Elliot’s face, but like Mick said, you can’t always get what you want. Hopefully I get what I need, which is less whiny Bruce who uses his privilege to go Bat Gone Wild.

Harvey taking a leave of absence is a spear in my side, and Victor wasn’t around to fill the void, either. That and a lack of Gotham City Sirens is a full star deduction. The weak Bruce storyline adds to the misery, but the surreal business of a dude with a pig head singing while feeding homeless people to rich folk makes things more palatable (see what I did there?)

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