“Under the Knife” was the first episode in a while that felt like it was a chapter in a bigger story rather than a self-contained snapshot. That’s not saying it was overly successful since the character and plot decisions made along the way have been misguided and often head-scratchingly confusing, but at least the cobbled-together storyline is gelling together just enough to get Gotham across their debut season’s finish line.
Penguin’s Rise to Power
The mobster’s club acts are not getting any better, and for some reason the camera was instructed to zoom in on a gap toothed smile with ruby-red lips split by a single gold stripe. While the singer is entertaining the paltry crowd, Penguin is busy hiring a team of assassins to rub out Don Maroni for good. Too bad Maroni is putting the moves on Penguin’s mother in his own club. Having drank perhaps a bit too much, Mrs. Kapelput is gushing about her son while falling victim to Maroni’s smooth words. At one point, Maroni reveals the truth of Penguin’s brutality to his mother, causing her to faint. Penguin throws weak threats at the mob boss, who walks out with swagger.
Back at her home, Mrs. Kapelput asks her son for the truth, and, like any good supervillain, he lies to her face. In an added insult, Sal sends a bouquet of roses to Penguin’s mother. Penguin flips out and tells the delivery guy to give Maroni a message (which makes no sense), but then decides to tell Maroni himself and brutally kills the flower guy.
Wayne’s Coming of Age
After murdering Reggie, Bruce and Cat decide to go slumming beneath one of Gotham’s numerous bridges. Bruce tearfully questions Cat’s decision to push Reggie out the window, but she stands her ground, saying that she did it to protect him, and because he lacked the guts to do it himself. Now that they’re in it together, they have to figure out who this Bunderslaw is. The plan is for Bruce to get a key to the executive’s safe, at which point Cat will break into it. As long as Bruce keeps quiet, everything should go just swimmingly.
Back at the mansion, Bruce comes across a picture of the executive Sid Bunderslaw, so now he has a face to put to the name. Alfred, who seems well, is attending to the young master, who wishes to appear at the Wayne Enterprise’s charity ball to remind them that a Wayne is still running the company. Alfred offers to go with him, but Bruce reveals he’s going with Selina Kyle. While Alfred plans to chaperone their date from afar, Bruce asks him to find some appropriate clothes for Selina. (Somehow Bruce didn’t know Cat was staying with Barbara, yet her dress arrived there anyway? Whatever.)
At the ball, Bruce and Cat participate in awkward ballroom dancing along with the city’s wealthy and elite. They wander among the revelers, talking openly about the recent murder they committed. In a nod to Batman and Catwoman’s differing points of view, Bruce says he’ll never cross the line in order to take a life, while Selina doesn’t seem bothered by it at all.
Bruce and Selina manage to greet Mr. Bunderslaw and snag a copy of his keys in a well-executed little scam.
While Nygma is busy stabbing watermelons to death, Jim desperately searches for Dr. Thompkins, fearing that she might be the Ogre’s next victim. The good doctor is busy enjoying an evening soak when breaking glass alerts her to someone’s presence; it’s just a stray cat … and a creeping Jim Gordon, who gets sliced by Thompkins for his trouble. She patches up his wound while he explains the dangerous situation they’re in, also confessing his love for her in the process.
Elsewhere, The Ogre aka Jason Lennon courts Gordon’s former flame, Barbara Keane. Back at her place, Barbara fixes him a drink and continues flirting with him. (He was doing just fine until he mentioned her boyfriend.) While Barbara pours herself one, Lennon prepares to stab her since he thinks she’s a cheater, thus not passing his impossible tests. He probably should save himself the trouble since Barbara’s a bag of crazy, though perhaps these two will get along well together because of their eccentricities.
At the GCPD, Gordon and Bullock interview a cop whose wife was killed by The Ogre. He’s staying quiet, until Gordon drops a series of pictures of the serial killer’s victims in front of him. They assign a protective detail to the cop’s daughter and attempt to follow up on the lead, but Lennon is already watching them. Gordon and Bullock interview a Dr. Darren Cushman, a plastic surgeon whose specialty includes restoring youth to wealthy old patients. Outside of the facility, Gordon and Bullock spot Lennon waiting for them in an alley. They almost get run down, and The Ogre gets away. He calls Gordon personally to gloat, and to warn the Hero Cop off the case. In order to show Lennon that he’s not afraid, Gordon holds a public press conference and asks the citizens for their help, promising to take The Ogre down.
The investigation leads them to the Van Groot estate, where a man is found hanging from a noose. He couldn’t have been there long since he’s still kicking, so Gordon cuffs him to a desk while Bullock searches the house. Gordon finds a series of faces scratched out on family photos while Bullock finds Constance Van Groot, long dead in her bed. At the station, the cops interrogate the elder Van Groot, asking about his son. Apparently Mrs. Van Groot was toying with the boy, stringing him along and pretending to bring him into the family. Though the boy killed Mrs. Van Groot, his father says he had a face only a mother could love, so he laughs at the cops’ insistence that he’s been seducing women in order to kill them. Though he wasn’t much of a looker in the past thanks to a facial scar, some quick plastic surgery fixed that right up and turned him into The Ogre.
Two storylines collide as The Ogre arrives at the charity ball to dance with Barbara. He reveals his mommy issues to her, and offers to help her become who she is meant to be, winning her over in the process. Gordon and Bullock are still on his trail, but all they have to go on is a ten-year-old sketch of the man, one that looks like the amateur sketch of the leprechaun in Mobile, Alabama. Then, Gordon has one of his moments of inspiration that clues him in to The Ogre’s next victim: Barbara Keane. Selina confirms Gordon’s suspicions, but without much more to go on.
Tonight’s hour closes with Lennon revealing his armory/torture chamber of sorts to Barbara while bad electronic music plays.
“Under the Knife” was certainly an uptick from last week’s effort in that it continued through with plot elements from “Beasts of Prey” that actually brought a sense of tension to the episode. ::gasp!:: For the life of me I can’t understand why The Ogre has been put in place to be the season’s final big bad but at least they’re sticking with a villain arc for more than an episode and a half. The case really tests Gordon’s resolve to stick to his guns and adds the somewhat interesting twist of involving his former lover, so it’s nice to see his character traits following through. Even Bruce and Selina managed to take on shades of the adult versions of themselves in this episode.
The villains, however, did not fare well. Fish is nowhere to be seen, and Penguin, who started out as the strongest and most interesting character on the show, has been reduced to an apparently powerless mama’s boy afflicted by poorly timed tantrums. What is going on with him? The only saving grace from the Rogues Gallery in “Under the Knife” is Edward Nygma, who finally starts on his path to villainy. Two episodes left; will they tie it all together? Probably not, but we’ll be watching nonetheless.
Rating: ★★★ Good
Gordon: “I do, love you.” Dr. Thompkins: “It only took a serial killer to get you to say that.”
Alfred: “She’s a pretty young girl with a penchant for wearing a bit too much leather.”
Are we about to get our first glimpse at Clayface? Yeah, not until season two at the earliest.
Ah yes, the Van Groot family. “I am Van Groot.”
What was the plan between Dr. Thompkins and Gordon once he found out about The Ogre’s identity? Did that ever come to fruition or was it left hanging until next week?
And we finally get to see the brutal nature hiding within Edward Nygma. All it took was a bit of unrequited love and an abusive boyfriend.
Nygma: “Oh dear.”