[Warning the following contains spoilers from Monday night's episode of Gotham. Read at your own risk!]
Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) is behind bars and even though Gotham has upped its villain ante in its sophomore season, a foe who's been there since Day 1 put him there. Ed Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) may not be rocking The Riddler's iconic green question mark suits yet, but he's absolutely right that he's "hitting his stride" as he put it — and it's happening at a time that makes him the most intriguing villain on the show.
The show is juggling a lot of bad guys between Theo Galavan (James Frain) and his Arkham goons in the first half of the season, as well as Hugo Strange (BD Wong) and Victor Fries (Nathan Darrow) with their Indian Hill experiments now. However, the latter two have been kept underground while their new project incubates and Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) has been rendered harmless thanks to his "rehabilitation." That leaves the spotlight open for Ed Nygma and his slow burn devolution into the Riddler, which is paying off at just the right time.
Ed's quick wit has always been there, but his split personalities didn't fully emerge until late in the first season when Ed killed Tom Dougherty (Zachary Spicer) to prevent him from hurting Kristen Kringle (Chelsea Spack) again. His darker mental state only emerged then to taunt the "normal" Ed and tease him about his failures. Then Kristen found out that Ed was Tom's murderer earlier this season and Ed killed her in a panicked rage. There was no turning back after that.
Some help from Penguin helped Ed to embrace his dark side and now he's running with it. The thing that makes Ed Nygma's transformation so interesting that he's doing it with limited violence. His game plan is more about manipulation and outsmarting his foes - specifically Jim Gordon. It's about the game rather than having a fetish for killing people. While Ed's initial murders were crimes of passion, the "new" Ed has self-control, which gives him a leg up over the other current Gotham baddies. Even his mentor Penguin was subdued due to his tendency to shoot first and rationalize later. If Ed can maintain control over his dueling personalities then he stands a great chance of becoming the new king of Gotham City.
Ed Nygma playing chess and in the span of two episodes he's already made Jim Gordon his pawn. What can he do with the rest of the season? More importantly, is he up to checkmating Hugo Strange and Mr. Freeze when they come to the board? Knowing Ed Nygma, that game will be a blast either way.
Gotham airs Monday at 8/9c on FOX.