“There’s a war coming, Jim. And there will be so many deaths…so many.” This is what Oswald Cobblepot tells Jim Gordon after dropping by his apartment unexpectedly. And yeah, it’s a pretty ballsy thing to do, considering Cobblepot is supposed to be gone from Gotham forever. But he’s not wrong. This week on Gotham, the war begins and it’s the first truly gripping episode yet. Entitled “Arkham,” it’s that very word at the root of this war – or, rather, the land, which seems to be the only undeveloped land in Gotham – land that rival mob bosses Carmine Falcone and Sal Maroni are willing to kill over. Things get bloody, of course, but the most interesting part is how Cobblepot has put himself in the middle of the fray, playing his hand like an expert manipulator. Oh, and what’s to become of Arkham Asylum, which just happens to be the center of the late Waynes’ dream for a better city?
One of the reasons this week’s episode is so gripping is that unnecessary characters were cut from the plot – no annoying Renee Montoya running after Barbara, no Selina Kyle lurking randomly in alleyways. But for some reason, Fish Mooney is still there, even though she has nothing to do with the central plot. What’s she doing? Well, it’s weird. On the surface, she’s auditioning for a new singer. This singer needs a few special skills, namely seduction and the ability to kick someone’s butt. A nice singing voice, it seems, is third on the list of requirements. Fish is torn between two applicants – one is talented, but lacks sex appeal. The other can’t sing, but she’s not afraid to put her mouth all over a patron, should the situation require it. The only plausible solution? Thunderdome, obviously. Fish lets the two fight it out – literally – and Ms. Sexy-Can’t-Sing gets the job after kicking other girl’s ass. Looks like Fish Mooney really just wants a hottie who isn’t afraid to draw blood – but why? Also, this whole thing is really weird? I can’t figure out who “Liza” (Ms. Sexy-Can’t-Sing) is supposed to be in the DC universe, so any insight there is appreciated.
Barbara continues to annoy the sh*t out of me, but at least this week she does it by being proactive about something. Despite her devotion to Jim, it’s pretty obvious that he’s lying to her – a lot. His shifty behavior when Cobblepot shows up is just the beginning. When Barbara questions Jim again about Cobblepot – who, ironically, she doesn’t realize is the dude who just showed up at their apartment – Jim refuses to answer. Barbara gets really mad because, I guess, Jim is supposed to tell her all the confidential details about an ongoing homicide investigation. Granted, we know Jim is lying to save his own ass, but I mean, does she really have the right to know? Not really. If you’re engaged to a detective and he says, “It’s official police business,” you kind of have to accept that, right? Their argument does, however, get Barbara to admit her past relationship with Montoya. This part actually disappointed me, because I think it could’ve been an interesting reveal, but instead Barbara is just like, “Why are you mad, because she’s a woman?” over and over again. Snore. By the end of the episode, Barbara seemingly breaks it off with Jim after giving him an ultimatum – tell her about Cobblepot or they’re done – and he still refuses. Barbara is kind of an idiot, but at least she finally did something this week.
Poor Jim has a bad week – he gets harassed by Cobblepot, his fiance breaks up with him and he’s trying to stop a horrible turf war from destroying the city. There’s a killer out there named Gladwell and he’s using a pretty creepy flute-pipe-dart thing to murder city councilmen. There’s an important vote coming up for what they’ll do with the Arkham land – either give it to Falcone for a housing development or to Maroni for a waste disposal facility. Gladwell is playing both sides, because that’s what awesome contract killers do. A pro-housing councilman dead here, a pro-waste disposal councilman dead there. Pretty soon, Cobblepot’s war is fully underway. Jim is able to stop Gladwell from hitting his final target, the mayor himself, but the threat on his life causes Mayor James to compromise, dividing Arkham between both camps. So let me get this straight – Arkham, the center of Gotham City, will feature a low-income housing project, a waste disposal facility and an asylum for the criminally insane? Sounds like a super plan!
While detectives Gordon and Bullock are trying to catch Gladwell, junior detective Bruce Wayne is trying to solve his parents’ murder. This week, he’s looking for a connection between the battle over Arkham and his parents’ dream of revamping Arkham Asylum into a first class treatment facility. I guess the Waynes thought that rebuilding the asylum was the best way to cure their dying city – which sort of makes sense, I guess, when you consider how many Gotham residents are actually total nutballs. I’d like to take this moment to say, by the way, that Arkham Asylum is visually awesome and this show’s ability to recreate the Gotham universe continues to impress me. But yes, the vote. Bruce is pretty mad when the land is divided up because, you know, dead parents’ dream and all, but Gordon explains that it’s the best way to prevent a full-on gang war from destroying everything. Bruce should really stop hanging out with Gordon so much. He’s a total downer.
And then there’s Oswald. Cobblepot continues to be the most fascinating character on the show and not only because Robin Lord Taylor steals every scene he’s in. Cobblepot sees the oncoming war and decides to start pulling some strings of his own. In the middle of all the murder, he pays some random thugs to bust into the restaurant and steal half of Maroni’s money, making it look like Falcone’s people are committing the crime. He “saves” the other half, playing the part of a scared, but fiercely loyal, hero. Naturally, Cobblepot is the only one to survive the fake robbery, which not only knocks off his jerk of a boss, but causes Maroni to promote him. You guessed it – Cobblepot is no longer a lowly kitchen worker, but the restaurant manager and trusted ally of Sal Maroni. He ties up the loose ends – the hired thugs – with some poisoned cannoli and then calls it a day, presumably keeping the money for himself. Now that’s what I call a master manipulator.