Tonight’s episode of Gotham, titled “The Blade’s Path,” was one of those rare Balloonman specials: an entry so beautifully absurd that it transcends the show’s regular status of silly fun to become something more, like a child accidentally finger-painting the Mona Lisa. I’m not even sure where to begin, to be honest. With Butch Gilzean rising from the dead as an albino Frankenstein to murder a nearby band of woodland tramps? With Bruce Wayne viciously stabbing an immortal sorcerer who I guess also moonlights as a foreign diplomat? With the mafia crime family plot that heavily, heavily involves a bowl of goulash as an intimidation tactic? I mean, you have to understand that the goulash was like, the main part of all that. The Godfather’s reputation as the finest mafia film is suddenly in question due to an astounding lack of goulash.
I’m kidding, of course; you always start with the nursery-rhyme obsessed zombie wearing suspenders. That’s just good life advice. So here we are: Following his shooting at the hands of Barbara Kean last season, Butch Gilzean (birth name Cyrus Gold) was only held in the hospital for a few hours, before a pair of cartoonishly evil physician’s assistants dumped his body into the completely normal-named Slaughter Swamp. Because the already contaminated waters of the swamp have combined with residue from Doctor Hugo Strange’s Indian Hill to create a fucked up version of The Powerpuff Girls formula, Butch rises from the water about ten levels paler and a few more levels stronger. His memory gone, he takes on a new name, overhead in a nursery rhyme blasting from the aforementioned tramps’ gramophone: Solomon Grundy. Grundy, of course, has been giving Batman grief since he first appeared All-American Comics #61, back in 1944, a.k.a the year when people still listened to music on a gramophone in the middle of the woods.
I will never not be astounded at how enthusiastically the cast of Gotham throw themselves into everything the writers give them. As Gilzean/Gold/Grundy, Drew Powell is no exception. While Boris Karloff is still the prototype of putting on some grotesque makeup and then making you feel sorry for him, Powell does an admirable job of giving a character that literally only has one note a few extra layers. I mean, the dude is still stealing hotdog carts and talking in sentence fragments, but he puts enough toddler-like vulnerability on his face to the point where a line like “be Grundy friend?” is almost sad. It helps that the person he’s asking to be his friend is the same dude that chopped off his hand with a miniature guillotine in front of his girlfriend.
Right, all that. Edward Nygma desperately assaulting a pharmacy to find pills to relieve his affliction isn’t exactly helping to soothe the fact that this plays like an erectile dysfunction allegory. But the Riddler/Grundy team-up is a good one. How better for a former genius who is suffering from “decreased capacity to think ten steps ahead” to thaw out his brain than to stick around with the one person in Gotham with less thoughts in his head right now?
Meanwhile, during all of this, R’as al Ghul has been begging Bruce Wayne to stab him with a mystical knife for what appears to be several straight hours. You see, Bruce broke into Blackgate Penitentiary set on killing R’as in his cell, only to find that the prison has been overtaken by the dude’s followers, who I guess didn’t have time to make new name tags.
This is great stuff, though. My only exposure to actor Alexander Siddig was Game of Thrones’ Dorne plot, which did not give him much to do other than complain about joint pain and then get stabbed. The homie gets stabbed a lot. But he’s sinisterly snake-like here. He wants Bruce, his vision-appointed heir, to end a several millennia’s long lifetime, and boy does he give the boy billionaire good reason. “I will return and I will kill every person you love,” he says. “I will slaughter your wife and children before your very eyes and there will be nothing you can do about it.
Then he mentions Bruce’s parents. And because mentioning Bruce Wayne’s parents to Bruce Wayne is like saying “meh, it’s okay” to a Rick and Morty fan, the kid snaps. He stabs R’as, who immediately goes the way of a Nazi peaking into the Ark of the Covenant, just as Alfred and Jim arrive to witness the whole thing.
David Mazouz has always done great “I’m going to be Batman one day” faces of deep regret and anger, so it’s no surprise he pulls off a Bruce Wayne practically broken by his own actions. “I betrayed myself and my parents’ memory,” he says. Jim Gordon, who at this point probably couldn’t even name half his regrettable murders, isn’t a huge help. Because part of Bruce Wayne’s character has always been the fact he is extra as fuck, Bruce moves to burn his vigilante costume to ashes, instead of using one of the several thousand garbage chutes inside Wayne Manor.
But Alfred stopped him, because in the entire, decades-long history of Batman going right to the brink of doing something incredibly dumb, it’s always Alfred who stops him. “I understand you don’t feel worthy now. But when you do,” Alfred says, “this will be waiting for you. As will I, sir.”
Rating: ★★★ Good