TV Recap: Gotham, ‘The Anvil or The Hammer’

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‘The Anvil or The Hammer’ Plot:

Gordon (Ben McKenzie) races to find the Ogre (Milo Ventimiglia) after he lures Barbara (Erin Richards) into his apartment. Oswald (Robin Lord Taylor) finalizes his revenge against Maroni (David Zayas), and more is revealed to Bruce (David Mazouz) about the secrets of Wayne Enterprises.

I have to give showrunner Bruno Heller and the writers on Gotham a lot of credit. For a character who was the biggest weakness of the series, they could have easily just written her off and given up, but not only do they make her the lynchpin in this episode, she actually becomes deeply tragic. This was a great way to end the Ogre arc, and that’s where we have to start when breaking down the penultimate episode of Season one.

Photo Credit: Jessica Miglio/FOX.
Photo Credit: Jessica Miglio/FOX.

For a show that started off doing “villains of the week,” they really hit their stride in the later half of the season developing villains with longer story arcs, and none better than the Ogre. Milo Ventimiglia really brought it as this character. What a total nut job, and legitimately creepy like a good Gotham villain should be. They add an extra layer as Gordon now has to race against the clock as he fears for Barbara’s life. The dude is clearly sleep deprived, and should probably eat a bagel or something, because while desperate, Gordon makes some questionable decisions as he gets in deeper with Oswald.

The two of them have a fantastic scene together – just great damn dialogue and acting by McKenzie and Taylor. What I also realized when watching Gordon this week is that he really is Batman without the mask – bending the rules, and going to the dark corners of Gotham that other cops are otherwise afraid to go to. As Gordon matures, he’ll be the more responsible cop (and Commissioner), but you can see why he would align with a guy like Batman in the future.

The real star of the show this week though was Barbara. At first she’s just the typical victim, but the fact that the Ogre sees Barbara as his one true love makes it difficult for him to kill her, so it allows her to fight back. As the episode goes on though, the Ogre completely warps her mind, and Barbara almost becomes a shell of a human being. Erin Richards really stepped it up, a great performance. My favorite element to this whole shebang though was harkening back to two characters that I liked at the time, but got completely abandoned. Now I get it, though – they were set up for this one moment, and it was totally worth it. The last scene in what I deem “The Ogre Trilogy” was real tense.

Photo Credit: Jessica Miglio/FOX.
Photo Credit: Jessica Miglio/FOX.

They set up a dark mood that ends in both relief and tragedy.

The only other character of note involving the Ogre was Bullock (Donal Logue), who got a real hilarious moment. Bullock walks through this deranged Gotham nightclub, and this scene only could have worked with him, otherwise it comes across as hammy and stupid.

What ultimately sets up the finale in this episode though was Oswald orchestrating some pretty big events. It’s like he’s playing chess with himself. It’s only fitting that Oswald sends the entire city into a panic. I can’t wait to see how this plays out.

The other major storyline involved Bruce uncovering more of the dirty secrets at Wayne Enterprises. This didn’t really grab me, as everything was fairly vague. I’m hoping we see some specifics of what exactly Thomas Wayne and Wayne Enterprises was involved with next episode. They also squandered a couple Bruce/Alfred (Sean Pertwee) moments. We did get to see the introduction of a big Batman character though in Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk). The actor did a great job, but he was definitely forced in here with some awkward dialogue, but the character certainly has a place in this series.

“The Anvil or the Hammer” was definitely the best episode since the last pre-hiatus finale. It was tense, twisted and definitely put the pieces in place for the season finale.

Let’s hope Gotham can end its first triumphant season with a bang.

P.S. Minor nitpick: the song they use at end of the episode was terrible.

Rating: 8 out of 10 (Great)

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Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.
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Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow’s fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.