There isn’t enough adderall or exclamation points in the world for me to properly describe how much I’m enjoying the off-the-rails ride that is Gotham Season 4. What was once a highly entertaining but often meandering Batman prequel has turned into a bonkers, balls-out cocaine party and anyone with low enough standards is invited. I mean, the episode titles alone, man. Remember “Hog Day Afternoon”? I do, at least three times daily. Gotham used to come at you with these long, wordy titles that didn’t ever have any bearing on the story in any way—”This Ball of Mud and Meanness” or “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies” and other stuff someone who works at Hot Topic would title their poetry. Tonight’s Gotham is titled “Stop Hitting Yourself,” which is literally just what these Mad Max-ass mole people chant in an underground fighting pit whenever Solomon Grundy rips a dude’s arm off and then bludgeons that same dude to death with that same arm. That is such a common occurrence that it garnered an original chant. This show is art.
This week’s ultra-concentrated dose of absurdity comes courtesy of a concept called “the Code of The Narrows,” a sort of honor-among-thieves law that has never once been mentioned in all four seasons of Gotham but is nevertheless my new favorite thing. If there’s no recap next week it’s because I tried to buy pot by winking at the dealer and whispering, “Code of The Narrows.”
But hey, I’m getting ahead of myself. It would help to explain that Solomon Grundy and Ed Nygma, not content with merely committing arm-based atrocities for the crowd, have developed a highly-choreographed opening act in which Ed dons a bird beak and mocks Oswald Cobblepot. Because Oswald’s two least favorite things are being mocked and campy regional theater, he sends Tabitha, Selina, and Barbara to collect Ed.
But my stars, it’s an entire reunion at the murder pit. Tabitha glimpses Butch, who is now pasty and brainless and smelling vaguely of toxic swamp. Barbara spots Lee Thompkins, probably because Lee stands at the exact same spot in the club’s balcony for at least the first half hour of this episode. And Selina goes after Ed because, I don’t know, they share a love of vaguely themed crime.
Doesn’t matter. What matters is that things quickly come to a head; Selina binds and gags Ed, Grundy moves to defend his “friend,” Lee jumps into the middle, things look primed for violence until Selina steps in and says…”Code of The Narrows.”
What does it mean, exactly? People, it is vaguely defined. At first, everyone seems to innately understand this means that one crew’s best fighter (Tabitha) has to take on the other’s best fighter (Grundy) in the ring. But then later, after everything goes to shit, Barbara is like, “So much for Code of The Narrows,” as if the rules also include basic etiquette during fights to the death.
What’s clear is that, somewhere in the Code of The Narrows by-laws, it states that if you shoot the woman holding the flame-thrower you become gang leader. That’s Code of The Narrows 101. First day stuff. It’s also exactly what happens: Because his Plan A took longer than 20 minutes, Penguin sends Plan B, Firefly, to burn the entire place to the ground. Luckily, Lee—I’m pretty sure standing in that same spot in the balcony again—drops a truly terrible line about Firefly smelling bad and then shoots her with a tiny gun. In a sort of violent, inverted version of Tim Allen’s The Santa Clause, Lee becomes leader because she committed the most recent public act of violence.
As fate would have it, right now is sort of an awkward time for Lee Thompkins to inherit a strangely loyal underground crew of bloodthirsty MMA fans. In the episode’s much heavier material, Jim Gordon—Lee’s ex-fiance/Tetch-virus rage-monster partner— is recruited to GCPD captain after Harvey chooses alcoholism and self-loathing over the Bullet Hole Club. That, by the way, is a vaunted Gotham police force ceremony in which any cop that gets shot in the line of duty is presented with the bullet that was just pulled from their body. This is A) hella gross, and B) one of those ceremonies that is so overly metaphorical it could only exist in a TV show. It’s like if IT ended with all the kids receiving badges that say “lost innocence” on them.
But still, this is weighty stuff, and for now looks like a severing of the Harvey and Jim bro-hood that this show worked to make so ironclad for three whole seasons. “Look who got what he always wanted,” Harvey spits at Jim. “What I’m wondering is, what did you have to do to get it?”
Rating: ★★★ Good
–Robin Lord Taylor is such a delight that whenever Oswald feels like an afterthought I’m busy begging this show to give him something more interesting to do. But I’m not going to be upset about an entire subplot devoted to The Penguin teaching an orphan proper revenge and stabbing technique. Oswald shouting, “Upward, Martine!” is going to be my new ringtone. My only hope is that kid turns out to be a future Batman villain in the dumbest possible way. It doesn’t even have to make sense. Like, season finale that kid is just like, “I used to be a boy but thanks to you, Oswald, I am Calendar Man.”
-I’m also choosing to believe that, during the entire course of this episode, Bruce was vomiting up champagne and glitter in every bathroom of Wayne Manor.
-Kudos to Cory Michael Smith for committing hard to the increasingly over-the-top Birdbrain act. I love how they had Ed give Grundy a role, like this was a more coked out version of Young Frankenstein’s “Puttin on the Ritz” routine.