Gotham: Heroes Rise Gives Us the Best Riddler Episode Yet

“How the Riddler Got His Name” Plot Summary:

With Oswald (Robin Lord Taylor) gone, Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) is determined to become his own villain by any means necessary. Gordon (Ben McKenzie) tries to bond with his long lost uncle (James Remar), but still can’t trust him after disappearing all these years. The Court of Owls have a sinister plan for Bruce (David Mazouz), who is still trying to get over his blow up with Selina (Camren Bicondova).

Riddle me this. Riddle me that. Who gives the best Riddler origin of them all? You’d be hard-pressed to find a better study of this classic Batman villain than the episode Gotham just delivered. Gotham is easily the best live-action iteration of this character. No doubt about it. The episode is titled “How the Riddler Got His Name,” and they certainly pay off that tease. Not only do they nail the psyche of the Riddler from the source material, but they stayed true to who Nygma has always been on the show. Kevin Arnold was always trying to find himself on The Wonder Years. This is like Kevin Arnold on steroids.

Even though they offer a cheap plot device to bring Oswald back into Nygma’s life, they wrote pretty damn good material, so I’ll let it slide. Nygma is desperate to get out of the shadow of Oswald Cobblepot, the man who made him. He literally goes nuts trying to figure out who he is without Oswald. This leads to a series of Riddler-isms galore. Death traps. Riddles. Weird telegrams. Pure Riddler. But the show has always done great with that stuff, so this was nothing new. Nygma has always been a great character, but this week dug deep into the green soul of who this guy is. It was riveting to watch Nygma try and solve the greatest riddle of all – who is he? Each time he got closer to the answer was more exciting than the previous moment.

It goes without saying this was Cory Michael Smith’s best turn as the character. Wow. He even manages to add in a tinge of Jim Carrey. This was also the best utilization of Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk), or “Foxy.” He was the perfect foil for Nygma. The end is flawless. The last few lines Fox delivers to Nygma allowed the episode to have its cake and eat it too, and maybe even hints that Fox may be the better man than Batman. Perfect.

As someone who’s always had Riddler as his second favorite Batman villain, this episode spoke right to me. The final shot of Nygma was pure fanboy delight, but unlike many live-action superhero movies, it’s earned.

Oh yeah, other stuff happened too. Everything else obviously paled in comparison to the Riddler meat, but it was all solid Gotham fare. Bullock (Donal Logue) was the only other major player in the Riddler plot, and it was great to finally see Donal Logue get more material. We saw classic Bullock throughout, but we also saw a scared, vulnerable Bullock, which is always fascinating when they let it happen.

Gordon bonding, or attempting to bond with his estranged uncle was good, but nothing grabbed me emotionally. These scenes were well-acted between McKenzie and Remar, but I appreciated this relationship more as a great set up. They definitely leave you guessing as to what Uncle Frank’s true motivations are. I’m hooked.

Speaking of the Court of Owls, the clone Bruce stuff was whatever. I’ve made it clear I’m not a big fan of the clone shenanigans. Maybe Attack of the Clones scarred me for life, I don’t know. It was fine, but the real Bruce was more intriguing. We get a little pining from Bruce in the beginning, but it all leads to an icy confrontation between him and Selina. As their relationship has been one of the best elements to the entire show, it was definitely a grabber to see them at their most contentious. Oh yeah, and Bruce kicked ass again. The biggest reason I want this show to go for ten years is because of David Mazouz. I want to see him grow into Batman.

When I first saw the title for this episode, there was no way in green question marks I wasn’t going to love it. Even though the final shot of Nygma was brilliant, you get two great kickers to end the episode. One was merely a relief, as I’m glad they didn’t drag that pink elephant out for very long. Then the episode ends with the kicker to end all kickers.

Oh boy. That will get your blood boiling.

Rating: 9 out of 10 (OMG)

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.