Title: Gotham “Mad Grey Dawn”
Air Date: March 20th, 2016
Genre: Crime, Drama, Action
I suppose it was only a matter of time before Gotham‘s hot streak was broken. This week’s episode, titled “Mad Grey Dawn,” finally delivered an Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) centered story that actually felt quite rushed. We also got to follow up with Bruce (David Mazouz) after the death of Matches Malone and Penguin’s (Robin Lord Taylor) father has finally made an appearance. Sadly only the introduction of Cobblepots dad, played by the fantastic Paul Reubens, stood out this week in a fairly inconsistent episode.
Let’s start off with the main focus of this week’s show and arguably one of Gotham‘s most interesting characters to see develop, Nygma. I complained last week that it seemed as if the writers were just pushing him off to the side in favor of the other character’s stories. While Gotham has shown Nygma can handle being the focus of an episode, his entire character felt exceptionally rushed this week. Yes, I understand that Ed has already killed two people -One out of necessity and another by accident- but his willingness to possibly bomb a bunch of innocent civilians at a trainyard is unjustified. This doesn’t feel like a worthwhile progression for the character as it doesn’t come off as genuine character development, but an excuse to have Nygma to Riddler-esc crimes. Sure, the actual crimes he commits is very evocative of the comic book counterpart, but the Nygma that Gotham has developed is not that version.
Looking at Nygma’s crimes, I do have to admit his entire plan to set up Gordon (Ben McKenzie) for the death of another officer was extremely clever. I was curious how exactly Ed was planning to knock Gordon off his scent, but framing him for murder was both believable and genuinely impressive. It also gave a reason for Captain Barnes (Michael Chiklis) to act suspicious of Gordon again, despite pretty much giving up on pursuing Gordon’s obvious lie a few episodes back. However, the best aspect of this entire aspect was Gordon’s inability to clear his name and actually getting sent to Blackgate prison. Too many shows would have found a way for their main character to magically stumble on a loophole or way to not be thrown in jail. Nope, not Gotham! At least, it’s set the show up for some interesting discussions on the morality of what Gordon did to Theo and how far one should go to protect innocent civilians.
Speaking of protecting the innocent, we got to see what’s happening with Bruce after he decided to go live on the streets with Selena (Camren Bicondova.) Honestly, this entire story felt like it was nothing but filler until some bigger developments in his parent’s murder came along. Sure, seeing him learning to break in and rob places to survive was a nice change of pace, but it just didn’t really serve any purpose. We know Bruce can survive on his own without Alfred (Sean Pertwee), this is hardly the first time the kid has run away from home. Even with Ivy (Clare Foley) making an appearance, the scenes themselves just felt unneeded to the story as a whole. Did anyone really think Bruce was going to suddenly win a fight against a much bigger gangster because he could “outlast him” like Alfred did the week prior? No? Good. Even the ending when the small fight broke out was anti-climactic, as it was over about as fast as it started. Overall it just felt forced into the story because Gotham apparently has a Bruce Wayne quota it needs to fill.
With all of that out of the way, let’s talk about the best part of “Mad Grey Dawn.” Namely, the introduction of Penguin’s father Elijah Van Dahl and seeing the effects of his treatment in Arkham Asylum. Penguin has always been one of the, if not thee, most interesting character on Gotham, so his transformation from a mob boss to the nicest man in Gotham City was a treat to view. His interactions with both Butch and Nygma were genuinely funny as he absent-mindedly goes about his business of apologizing. This is only enhanced by the genuine pitty both os his former cohorts feel for this new version of Cobblepot, as it’s clear to everyone but him, something is very wrong. Side note, where the hell did Butch’s drill hand go?! I know I’m just nitpicking at this point, but that really fit the both the character’s personality and storyline perfectly. Oh well, maybe it’s an interchangeable drill hand.
However, I would be remiss if Penguin’s father wasn’t discussed in greater detail. For those following the show we all know it was coming thanks to a handful of tweets, but I didn’t expect how perfect of a fit Reubens would be. Elijah is a fascinating character already, as his treatment of Penguin feels like some sort of warped perspective of parenting. He hasn’t ever met him, yet is willing to pamper Oswald as if he was eight years old. There is more than meets the eye to the Dahl family, as the unnerving stares Penguin’s new “siblings” were giving them threw up some serious red flags. I did find that his father being a wealthy man was a nice way to honor the comic book version of Penguin’s history while still making it feel organic to the universe that Gotham has built up. It’s too early to tell how much of a role Elijah will play in bringing Penguin’s dark side out because let’s be honest we know this happy go lucky personality is not going to last.
Gotham had one of it’s most disappointing episodes this season, as Nygma focused story seemed like a slam dunk idea. Sadly the execution was not as fluid, resulting in a rushed mess that could have resulted in some genuinely interesting developments for an often overlooked character. Bruce’s journey didn’t help Gotham out with the only saving grace this week being Penguin’s story. Hopefully, we will get more background on who Elijah is and a look at why Nygma is suddenly okay with blowing up several innocent civilians.
- Characters: This was Nygma’s episode to lose, and lose he did. With rushed development and uncharacteristic choices, Nygma just felt completely out of character. Thankfully the introduction of Elijah saved the day as both him and his family are certainly catching my interest.
- Cinematography: Nothing particularly stood out this week that wasn’t out of the norm.
- Story: With a simply unneeded side story from Bruce and a less than stellar appearance for The Riddler; only Penguin dealing with his transition from Arkham stood out.
- Acting: As awkward Nygma’s story was, Cory Michael Smith delivered a fantastic performance full of great emotional nuance. Paul Reuben also surprised with the quirky, yet believable portrayal of Penguin’s father.
- Cory Michael Smith's Performance
- Introduction of Elijah and Dahl Family
- Gordon Going To Blackgate
- Nygma's Story Feels Rushed
- Bruce/Selena Story = Filler
- Oh Look, Barnes is Suspicious Again...
A recent graduate of Arcadia University, Collin MacGregor is a freelance video editor and writer. He covers video games, television, and film for The Nerd Stash. Collin currently is the head film/television reviewer for the site.