So I’ve been trying to get this damn piece of popcorn out of my teeth for, like, 30 minutes and it’s driving me batty. Speaking of Bats, lets take a look at the new Gotham episode (Sorry, guys, I had to. I had nothing better to start the article with)
I love Gotham. I love the whole idea behind the show. I love the execution of the directing, the sheer art of the depiction of pre-Batman Gotham City and the unique way the develop long-standing characters. That being said, I was not a huge fan of their latest offering. Don’t get me wrong- “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon” wasn’t bad. But held up to the light of some of their other episodes, it was like Oswald Cobblepot trying to keep Jim Gordon’s walking pace.
In the episode Jim Gordon has been reinstated as a detective after having caught the Electrocutioner in the last episode. The proverbial slate is seemingly wiped clean and now Jim is moving on to his next case- a murdered drug dealer. But shit hits the fan in the GCPD when the sole witness is murdered at their precinct. Something’s fishy in Gotham, and it ain’t Fish Mooney. That’s because she has lost all of her power. After having been exposed by Carmine Falcone for trying to take over his position, Fish finds herself in a compromising one and has sworn revenge on the man who betrayed her-Oswald Cobblepot.
Right in Detective Gordon’s cross-hairs is Narc Detective Arnold Flass. Some of you may remember him as the felafel guy from “Batman Begins”. Pursuing Detective Flass, Jim uncovers a trail of corruption that may lead right up to the commissioner. Elsewhere in Gotham, Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth have returned after a brief sabbatical in Sweden. Or Switzerland. I always get those two mixed up. Their not the same country, are they? Anyways, Bruce is on a mission to try and woo Selina Kyle and secure her as help in solving the murder of Bruce’s parents.
Speaking on that last point, it was very good to see Sean Pertwee and David Mazouz return as Alfred and Bruce, respectively. It was good that they weren’t in the last few episodes, don’t get me wrong. But the timing seemed perfect for them to return. As always, Sean Pertwee plays Alfred as he should have always been played- proper, but mean and tough. David Mazouz has really grown into the role of Bruce Wayne well, which is something for the 13 year old, considering the last guy who played him.
Overall, though, the episode felt kind of like we were delivering a pizza: stop and go. Lots of building up of tension, with the releases being more deflating than anything. One prime example is a character only known as Bruce. He is played up as being Falcone’s top torturer, the kind of sadistic, masochistic psychopath you’d expect in that line of work (a la Jigsaw). He’s the type who’ll fill out paperwork regarding your torture and talk about his kids as he’s getting the implements ready. Then, right when his parts about to get good, Fish (his victim) is saved by Butch. And then later Bob is killed by Victor Zsasz. I mean- what a cool character to have in a writers back pockets for later episodes!
The same goes for Detective Flass. He’s really the type of character who should have been played out of 3 or 4 episodes to really drive home how “protected” he is by his mob bosses. Instead one middle aged mob chauffeur is able to torture just the right people and get all the evidence and support Gordon needs to bring down Flass in one fell swoop. What it amounts to is the writers writing a check they can’t cash. Instead of Fish’s impending torture being seen as a change in her character, she just gets lucky. Instead of Flass being seen as a symbol of corruption in Gotham City, he’s seen merely as an annoying obstacle in Jim’s character development.
But hey, what a character to develop! Ben McKenzie continues to deftly portray all the different sides and emotions in Jim Gordon with a rough and subtle approach. Just look at his interrogation of that officer: he transitions seamlessly between hard ass cop trying to get the facts to understanding detective trying to help the guy out- all in a ploy to expose the wolf in the chicken coop. Whereas in episode 1 Jim wouldn’t have dreamed of using his mob connections to find out information (and in fact chides Harvey Bullock for doing so), in this episode he doesn’t think twice about using Penguin to get the job done. But it comes back to haunt him in the last seen. It’s the type of seen that makes your eyes raw with how exposed the character in question becomes- Jim realizes how thin the line he is walking is and the morale sacrifices he must make.
Another thing that haunts this episode is plot holes. It feels like if the episode had been 15 minutes longer they could have squeezed in the exposition that was needed. But some things just don’t get explained: who is Penguin working for now? Does Maroni know that he was under the employ of Falcone the whole time? Is he now working openly for Falcone? (We can assume by his ownership of Fish’s old club that it’s the latter, but an explanation would have been nice). And, maybe this is just nit-picking on my part, but I would have liked to see Fish crawling to Bullock for his assistance. For all Bullock knew Fish could have been dead or locked up in some Falcone basement. Instead we have to just assume that she got into contact with him and that everything is hunky-dory.
An area where the show has never lacked, and probably never will, is the development of relationships and characters we’ve all known for our entire lives. Of special note here is Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma. At first he seemed just like a darker version of Sheldon Cooper- a little creepy, very quirky, but not dangerous. The writers have so far successfully avoided writing pitfalls with him and Mrs. Kringle. Whereas lesser writers would just have some awkward nerd romance, in Gotham Nygma is constantly being hurt by Mrs. Kringle. He overhears mean things being said about him or walks in on her and her colleagues making fun of some gift he has given her. Mr. Smith does a stellar job of not over-doing the hurt that Nygma must show. Like most nerds (if not all), Nygma is used to being bullied. But you get the ever so subtle hint in the acting that Mrs. Kringles rejection of him thus far is pushing him just a little too much.
I would also like to point out the scene in the Wayne Manor study between Bruce and Selena. Considering how awkward their acting sometimes was in “Lovecraft”, David Mazouz and Camren Bicondova come through in spades in a scene that could be considered a reworking of Hamlet’s “Get thee to a nunery” scene. As I said before, Mr. Mazouz is doing a fine job of growing into the role and resisting the temptation of become Batman’s Bruce Wayne too soon. Here, he is just a lonely, frightened little boy reaching out to a friend. When that friend rebuffs him, he does what any little boy would do- he breaks down. But that’s what he has Alfred for. I really mean it when I say that Sean Pertwee’s Alfred is how the character should have been portrayed all these years. To me Alfred is one of the great unexplored characters in all of science fiction or fantasy, and Mr. Pertwee takes giant leaps in the evolution of his character.
A handful of masterful scenes make this episode worth the watch (e.g. Nygma’s and Cringle’s scenes, Fish confronting Penguin in the nighclub, Bruce and Selena’s aforementioned scene in the study, Gordon’s speech galvanizing the officers in the quad room)
As always, Ben McKenzie hits a home run in his characterization of a young Jim Gordon.
The same kudos go to Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin and Corey Michael Smith’s Nygma
Huge wasted opportunity and character with Bob the Butcher.
The whole episode seems to come in sputters and fits, making for bad stop and go viewing.
Considering how the last episode ended with Falcone feeling the fire again, his absence in this story was curious and a bit disappointing.
More time should have been devoted to Detective Flass and co. to make them more of a threat, a true poster-boy for corruption in the GCPD
Does Chevy really make cars with Wi-Fi actually built in! Jaysus! It’s like Star Trek up in this bitch!
Can we seriously get a comic book death for Bob the Butcher? I mean I really liked where they were going with him, and I don’t often like comic book deaths but…come on!
Was I the only one who got dizzy and nauseous when Penguin’s mother was dancing? And all that gypsy music?