Editor’s Note: K.M. Cone (@kmcone87) writes about Gotham. While the show takes a little break, we catch you up on what’s going on in the dark city.
Gotham’s mid-season finale, “What The Little Bird Told Him” is all about time, decisions, and survival. The time has come to reveal a bit more about Barbara Kean, Penguin’s dealings, and Jim’s resolve to change Gotham all while adding more complications as the characters’ decisions affect the outcome of events.
Throughout “What The Little Bird Told Him,” the concept of time, the passing of time, the haste we feel as time escapes us, blips here and there as a nearly constant reminder that time is of the essence, and we must do the best we can with the little we have. Don Falcone’s time seems to come to an end as he contemplates leaving Gotham. Penguin’s time as a double-crosser ends as he slips up in front of Don Maroni and says goodbye to an old friend, and Jim Gordon’s time in Arkham draws to a close as he once again takes up his badge.
Time plays an important role in storytelling. We have a set amount of time to tell a story. Thirty to forty minutes a week is all we get for a drama, and what we see are only pieces. Gotham is being put together by the writers as a puzzle, and we’re just now seeing some of those pieces connect as we make it to the halfway point of the first season.
This is due in part to the decision making going on in “What The Little Bird Told Him.” The characters are faced with decisions, and all of them must decide which decision will allow them to survive another day?
Barbara Kean decides to return to her parents’ cold and opulent home since she is no longer with Gordon or Montoya and has no way of supporting herself. Fish Mooney decides to end Falcone’s reign by forcing him to choose his life in the city, in danger, or a life in the country, safe with Lyza. And Gordon? Gordon decides to take matters into his own hands. Which, on the surface, does not appear to be about survival but rather conviction. The case could be made, however, that for Gordon to survive living in Gotham, intact, he must act on his convictions.
We also see some minor characters acting upon this theme. Penguin, pairing his need to survive with his desire for power, and Nygma, recognizing his need for survival and thus putting his need for communication and companionship on the back burner, are probably the best examples in the episode. I find it absolutely mesmerizing to see two of the great supervillains in such vulnerable positions. Their will to survive will guide them into the darkness, away from people who call them “weird” or “broken”.
Our will to survive is extraordinarily strong. Even faced with dire or seemingly hopeless situations, most of us choose to go down fighting. Due to certain events in “What The Little Bird Told Him,” there are characters on the verge of having to fight their way out of certain death and back into surviving the streets of Gotham.
Detective Jim Gordon has now fought his way out of Arkham Asylum (although this hasn’t marred his relationship with Dr. Thompkins in the slightest) and onto Gotham’s streets. He isn’t truly seeking his own survival. He’s seeking the survival of Gotham. Unfortunately, time seems to be running out. His decision to leave Arkham comes with consequences, of course. He has not endeared himself to the Commissioner, and although he may have the respect of some of the Gotham PD, he has made himself a target for the likes of The Electrocutioner.
What makes Detective Gordon so fascinating as a character, however, is that he knows that he’s forgoing making the smart decision, yet he still chooses to overlook his own survival in favor of Gotham’s innocents. Time and again his decision to save Gotham ends up keeping him just out of the line of fire.
For instance, in “What The Little Bird Told Him,” Edward Nygma gives Detective Gordon standard issue rubber boots, to protect him in any encounters with the Electrocutioner. This comes in handy when the villain enters the police department to shock the officers with a gigantic burst of electricity only to be thwarted by Detective Gordon who pulls a Dorothy and spills liquid over the Wicked Witch’s machinery.
Is there a benefit to thinking of the overall good rather than personal good? To survive shouldn’t we protect others as well as ourselves? Gotham’s “What The Little Bird Told Them” asks this question and then plays through various scenarios with the entire cast of characters in order to provide not answers but thoughts on both sides of the equation.
With the news that Gotham has been renewed for a second season, I’m delighted to see how much more this show will stretch the boundaries of the Dark Knight’s universe while continuing to ask pertinent questions about how close our society is to becoming the next Gotham.