Captain Barnes: I trusted you! But you broke my heart.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
From the day Gotham started we were introduced to Ed Nygma, the man who would eventually become the Riddler. Throughout the first two seasons we saw Ed’s journey as an awkward forensic scientist speaking in riddles when conveying information but he rarely pulled off any puzzles to entrap his foes. This episode was Nygma’s first step into becoming the Riddler and it did so in splendid fashion. Looking back on the show now, this episode was the root of many changes among the character relationships.
The story involves Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) following a trail of robbery clues that unknown to them were left by Ed Nygma (Cory Michael Smith). Meanwhile Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) meets his father Elijah Van Dahl (Paul Reubens) and young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) practices his street smarts.
The main appeal of this episode lies in its main plot. The cat and mouse game works well with the mastermind Nygma and the clueless Gordon. Seeing Jim struggle with Internal Affairs’ reopening of the late Theo Galavan’s murder and the robbery clues while Nygma is scheming way ahead of him was compelling.
Whereas past episodes of Gotham involved Jim overcoming the hurdles by the villain and putting the perpetrator away by the end of the episode, in a surprising twist Nygma succeeds in framing Gordon and getting him arrested for the murder of a fellow officer. The clues themselves don’t make much sense on their own but they mount over the course of the episode and it all leads to an intense interrogation scene between Gordon and Captain Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis) where we see all of Nygma’s actions come together and how Jim was completely oblivious to the whole thing.
If there is one problem with the whole thing it’s that it immediately jumps ahead four weeks later and it very much doesn’t feel like that long. When Leslie (Morena Baccarin) Thompkins share a tearful goodbye with Gordon behind bars, even though it’s a well performed scene, it really doesn’t have much impact as we don’t know anything that transpired within those four weeks. Leslie hasn’t been too happy with Jim ever since Galavan’s death as to her he has become far more jaded and distant as a romantic partner and colleague.
In regards to other aspects we meet Penguin’s dad and it was nice legacy casting to get back Paul Reubens (Reubens had previously portrayed the character in Batman Returns). Robin Lord Taylor did a good job portraying the lost and no purpose man he now is thanks to Hugo Strange. And it’s quite saddening that when he goes to visit Ed, the latter quickly discards him due to the fact Ed sees nothing of the villainous genius who he supported.
The weakest of the three subplots was Bruce taking to the streets with Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova). Bruce gets beat up by Sonny Gilzean and his men but it really doesn’t give any feeling, stakes, or anything of Bruce learning to live in the world others live in like he promised Alfred. It was nice to see Bruce stand up for Selina and the scene where she patches him up after the fight is believable it just feels dull compared to everything else.
Mad Grey dawn works in its main plot as it makes a major game changer for several characters. It was the final nail in the coffin Leslie and Jim, gave a major introduction to the Riddler, and made a major game-changer for Jim that even after he would get out of prison, would still have a profound impact on his life.