Gotham is frustratingly inconsistent. “What the Little Bird Told Him” is a decent episode, much better than last week’s, but still unsure in its footing. Gordon (Ben McKenzie) manages to get himself reinstated as detective by promising to catch the escaped Executioner (Christopher Heyerdahl), while Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett-Smith) finally makes her move against Falcone (John Doman).
The opening scene is stunning. Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” plays as the camera sweeps over Gotham down to the Executioner and his first victim. It engages us and brings us right into the action and story. Every episode of Gotham should open like this.
My frustrations with “What the Little Bird Told Him” come from tonal inconsistency. Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) is back, and he throws off the episode just as he does in almost every episode he appears in. I understand that showrunner and writer Bruno Heller wants to balance gritty drama with lighthearted moments so that the audience doesn’t get too bogged down, but he focuses on the wrong character to do this with.
Bullock (Donal Logue) is the greatest source of comic relief, but Heller wants it to be Nygma. He wants to show how Nygma was a happy-go-lucky person before he was a villain. He’s even dropped hints as to how Nygma descends into his villainous persona. Right now, however, he comes off a goofy and an improper foil for the rest of the drama in the show.
It’s so great to see Gordon and Bullock together again. Their witty banter and fast action breathes new life into the pair and the show. Bullock’s line, “I curse you all the time – you never give me candy!” is exactly the type of dialogue that makes the show enjoyable to watch. Their quest to catch the Executioner – real name Jack Gruber – reveals him to be a dangerous, egotistical and driven killer.
Whenever onscreen, Gruber exudes conviction through his demeanor and gait. He is finally out of Arkham Asylum and able to exact his punishment on all of those who wronged him. Gruber is calculating; he knows exactly how to get to his victims quickly and quietly.
Gruber wants revenge on Maroni (David Zayas) – who sold him out and took his share of a bank robbery they did ten years ago – and Gruber is so propelled by his vengeance that he will not stop until Maroni is dead. Gordon, aware of this, takes Maroni into protective custody and waits for Gruber to appear.
Unfortunately, when Gruber makes his entrance, the battle between him and Gordon underwhelms. Gordon defeats the Executioner by throwing water onto his mechanism. For such an impressive villain, he’s taken down too easily. Gordon’s chase to bring Gruber in so he can be fully reinstated (which I said wouldn’t take long) ends up feeling anticlimactic.
Gordon’s threat to the Commissioner, however, is incredible. Gordon warns that “the next guy who tries to take [his] badge away from [him] will get it shoved down his throat.” It is powerful and illustrates there is a whole new Gordon on the force. He no longer cares about keeping his head down and he’s done playing nice. The potential storylines and actions that could be born from Gordon’s new outlook make me excited. But if Gotham has proven anything to me, it’s that I shouldn’t get my hopes up.
The real action comes from this episode’s subplot, which is exactly the storyline I expected to see in the show’s fall finale. The mob plot finally moves forward in a big way. Gone are the days of Falcone, Mooney and Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) slowly (oh so slowly) organizing their moves against each other.
At last, there is action – exactly the type that would have been perfect as a mid-season closer. Mooney finally cashes in on her mole in Falcone’s house and is about to get her wish and run him out of Gotham, only to be thwarted when Cobblepot exposes the whole plan to Falcone. The stand-off that results would have been a great cliffhanger before winter break.
It’s a shame Heller did not reach this event sooner. Maybe his attempts at a procedural are preventing him from creating a well-balanced show. A crime-of-the-week set-up holds back the show’s potential. If Gotham spent more time on Gordon and Bullock’s relationship, the city’s corruption and the mob, it might be a more consistent watch.