i don’t know about you guys, but i was in total awe of oswald’s character development in the last episode. the fact that he went from being completely selfish, hellbent on his own survival, to being willing to DIE for ed is just amazing?? like, i’m still not over it. he was willing to be tortured rather than betray ed, even after EVERYTHING ed admitted to. not only did ed try to kill him (in a very violent, painful, way) but ed admitted to leaving elijah’s remains in a dumpster. (i mean, i think that’s not true, but we all know ed treats corpses badly, so who knows??)
even babs was stunned at oswald’s love for ed. she looks at him like she can’t believe it, and she even has to repeat it back to him. “so you’d rather die than give up the man who tried to kill you?” because this is such a huge deal for oswald, and babs knows that.
oswald was more than willing to let butch shoot ed for “betraying” him in episode 5 (when ed took the money back from the voters). but now? oswald would rather die than see ed hurt, even after everything. i am still so fucking shook over that. it’s such a beautiful thing.
ANYWAY. @colfernygma‘s gifset (here) made me realise something. in season 1, oswald says that love is weakness (“your greatest passion becomes your greatest weakness”) which is an obvious parallel to what ed says in season 2 (”but for you and i, it [love] will always be our most crippling weakness”).
but oswald is now at a point where he doesn’t see love as a weakness. it’s his strength. he was willing to put someone else before himself, and he is now more emotionally “mature” than ed. if you squint, every time oswald talks to ed in episode 14, he’s basically trying to help ed see the truth – that ed does love him, that they need each other, that ed didn’t really love isabella.
he even corrects ed, at one point. ed says “i’ve killed before, oswald,” and oswald says “not like this”. okay, oswald’s making the point that ed loves him, which ed claims to not be true, but COME ON. ed is so obviously conflicted about shooting oswald, it’s not even worth going into here. (but for a beautiful, in-depth analysis of ed’s feelings on the shooting, check out @edngyma’s meta here!) oswald is the more emotionally mature of the two of them, even though ed’s the one in a position of power.
oswald is playing the martyr card really hard in this scene. he’s desperately trying to enlighten ed, to make him see the Truth – that he does love and need oswald. but edward nygma is in so much denial it’s literally tragic. he doesn’t want to see past his anger at what oswald did. he doesn’t want to entertain the possibility that he loves oswald, because he’s too blinded by his own pain at oswald’s betrayal. (again, further proof that oswald is more emotionally mature than ed at this point. oswald was able to see past ed’s betrayal, because he loves him.)
ever since the first season, oswald has been steps ahead of ed, narratively. when ed was a nerdy smol, working at the g.c.p.d., oswald was murdering his way up the criminal ladder. oswald was on his Villain Journey way before ed. oswald really took up the moniker of the penguin at the end of season 1, and ed hasn’t even been called the riddler yet.
and then, in season 2, ed was fanboying over oswald and wanted him to be his murder senpai, because ed was still behind oswald, narratively. ed has always been following oswald’s lead. since getting out of arkham, ed has even dressed like oswald. he’s always been playing catch up.
people have already paralleled ed shooting oswald to oswald pushing fish off the roof in the season 1 finale, so i’m gonna bring that up now. oswald had to kill fish, to fully blossom into a beautiful criminal kingpin in season 2. it was a case of the student becoming the teacher (with a dash of homicide).
oswald has always been ed’s teacher. ed asked to be oswald’s student in season 2. (“i brought you here, in part, because i was hoping you could guide me on this new path.”) and then, after getting out of arkham, oswald gave ed suits, and a home, and a position of power. though ed had become a murderer all by himself, he was still subordinate to oswald. he still looked up to oswald. he even says it (“i continue to be in awe of you oswald”).
in order to fully begin his riddler journey, ed needed to “kill” his mentor, as a symbolic way of letting him go and moving on without him. to edward, oswald has fulfilled his purpose as his teacher. ed has to assert his position as a Badass Villain (in the eyes of babs and tabs and butch) by killing his mentor. like oswald killing fish to show everyone that they shouldn’t mess him with, ed “killed” oswald to prove to the criminal underworld that he’s not someone to be trifled with.
to drag it back to my original point: oswald had already gone through a version of this arc. as with everything, it took ed longer to reach this narrative place. but now he has, and we all know he’s gonna go on to don the
ridiculous green suit and bowler hat, and fully embrace the riddler aesthetic.
so, at some point, ed is going to have to come to realisation that love ISN’T a weakness, but a strength. in season 2, when he says “for you and i, it will always be our most crippling weakness”, he’s including oswald in that. “for BOTH OF US love is weakness”. but love is no longer a weakness for oswald. love is a strength.
now it’s ed’s turn to come to that realisation. oswald’s already TOLD him – “you need me, edward nygma. just as i need you. you cannot have one without the other.” oswald and ed are stronger as a team than they are apart. oswald knows this, but ed doesn’t. not yet, anyway.
it makes sense that oswald comes to the realisation that love is actually a strength before ed does. because oswald has always been ahead of ed. this is just a continuation of the pattern that ed and oswald always follow. oswald is, as always, steps ahead of ed.