Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.
- Gotham boasts a real good cold open this week, with Professor Pyg making a name for himself in Arkham Asylum. He plays “Ave Maria” in lockup, which rubs a fellow hulking inmate the wrong way. “My ma used to beat me to that song. It was playing when I killed her.” So Pyg compromises: he stops the record, snaps it in half, and uses it to kill the man.
- Early on we learn that Professor Pyg isn’t who he says he is. Rather, he’s a serial killer with a southern accent, and one who’s had a ton of facial reconstruction surgery. That’s a pretty classic Gotham twist.
- With Pyg locked up in Arkham, most of “Things That Go Boom” is focused on the ever-shifting relationship between Sofia, Penguin, Gordon, and the badass collective of Barbara, Tabitha, and Selina. While I think Gotham is succeeding this season because it’s found some ideal character pairings, this episode is a little too filled with twists and turns. Sofia’s undefined motivations served the early episodes well, but they reach the point of parody in this episode, as she switches sides on a few different occasions. I get that she’s becoming more desperate, but it also feels drawn out at this point. At least by episode’s end her true intentions are out in the open and Gotham can begin its war.
- Also getting a hefty dose of screentime this week is Thompkins. Much like Barbara in previous seasons, Thompkins has benefitted immensely from a shift in character. She’s now ruling the Narrows, running a court to settle disputes, all while keeping her clinic open. She’s the Mother Teresa of underground fight club operators.
- Thompkins is attempting to be fair in her underground judicial hearings. Nygma has other ideas: “If she stabs him it solves the issue.”
- Every scene is better when Zsasz is jumping in with condescending comments. “Coincidence? I think not.”
- Penguin brings in The Dentist to torture Sofia after he trusts Martin’s report. The Dentist is appropriately creepy. He’s got a real Slender Man vibe going on.
- When Gordon confronts Pyg about who he really is, the Professor has this response: “Why Jim, I’m a reflection of you.” Later in the episode, Sofia tells Jim that they both want power, and that he’s just too afraid to admit it. It really is incredible how many times this show can go to the “Gordon is just like the criminals” well in just four seasons. Pretty much every single villain in Gotham has told Gordon that they’re basically the same.
- Then Jim goes and makes a deal with Penguin to get rid of Sofia, so maybe all the criminals are on to something.
- Despite the best laid plans of the odd couple, Barbara, Selina, and Tabitha kidnap Sofia in order to use her as leverage for their own needs. Then they turn on Penguin and bring Sofia to their side. Then Sofia’s plan goes off the rails, but the four of them are forced to work together anyways despite hating each other. Like I said, a lot of plot twists and turns in this one.
- Penguin: “What happened to Sofia?” Zsasz, deadpan: “To be honest that’s still a little unclear. Barbara Keen has her.”
- Robin Lord Taylor nails the shocked, angry “WHAT?” every time Penguin hears some bad news. I never get sick of it.
- It’s nice to have Zsasz back in multiple scenes again. I especially enjoyed the look of pure joy on his face when telling Penguin about blowing up Barbara’s weapons shop. “Place went up like a great ball of fire!”
- I’ll admit, I really thought Penguin had blown up Martin in an effort to screw over Sofia. Instead, he saves the boy while also getting the satisfaction of completely destabilizing Sofia’s plans.
- Now we’re on our way to another war for control of Gotham’s criminal underground, as next week is the fall finale. The season started out promising enough, and “Things That Go Boom” isn’t a total failure by any means, but the same old narrative patterns from past seasons are becoming evident again. The Big Bad escapes, the criminal underground goes to war, and Jim must try to balance his need for law and order with the necessity of pairing up with the likes of Penguin. Still, even as the plot becomes more familiar, this season has found its footing with so many characters that even the most tired stories still have some life to them.