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Penguin’s misguided ‘love’ is ‘Gotham’s’ most destructive force

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It’s never good to be on the wrong side of the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) on “Gotham.” However, as the Nov. 7 episode “Mad City: Blood Rush” proves, being the object of his affection is no walk in the park either.

Ever since Oswald admitted to himself that he loves Ed Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), he’s gone out of his way to keep his best friend from falling for Isabella (Chelsea Spack), simply to keep Ed all to himself. That culminated in “Blood Rush,” when Oswald had Isabella’s brake line cut, leading to her car being smashed by a train. A real shot at love for Ed goes down the drain because — to Oswald — he already has the only companion he’ll need.

Penguin will do anything to keep Ed close to him and while he may think it’s because he’s in love with the future Riddler, it becomes more and more clear by the day what’s really going on in that head of his.

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It’s not romantic love that Oswald feels for Ed and it never has been. That’s not to say Penguin isn’t sexually attracted to his confidante — in fact it’s a distinct possibility — but Penguin’s love for Ed is more about acceptance and safety than anything else. He’s looking to fill the void left by his mother. She loved him unconditionally and believed in the man he could become. She also helped him to not feel so alone in the world. Truthfully, she was the only one for most of his life.

That’s the type of love Oswald craves. It makes him feel safe and appreciated — something he doesn’t get elsewhere. It’s a feeling he craved from Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith). When he didn’t get it, he overtook her spot in “Gotham” and eventually killed her — or so he thought.

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All Oswald wants, really, is to be accepted and not alone. It’s why he did whatever it took to become the king of Gotham, why he was so insistent on being true friends with Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and why he brainwashed Butch (Drew Powell) to be his right-hand (pun definitely intended) man.

Without his mom that need for validation is stronger than ever — and it seems Ed isn’t going to be as willing to give it. In Oswald’s mind, that’s all Isabella’s fault. She distracted Ed, and had to be dealt with.

Now that she’s gone, Oswald is going to come face-to-face with the harsh reality that Ed isn’t in love with him. At his core, Ed is a manipulator who uses those around him to his own delight. He’s been doing it with Oswald from the start, playing him like a fiddle.

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Unfortunately for Ed and those he can actually grow to care about, his manipulation worked a little too well this time… And the fallout is going to be heartbreaking.

“Gotham” airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.

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