So with the new year, the exciting new TV shows from the end of last year are starting to return. First amongst the crop is Gotham, which seems to be doing the traditional American TV series thing — 20-odd episodes, ‘mid-season break’, etc.
Whilst it wasn’t without its flaws last year, it was still a heck of a lot braver than I had expected. There were no insurmountable problems, and those issues that were present it has shown an interest in and a will to mix things up. It has also proven itself a master of the inter-episode change of pace.
So what will 2015 bring for Gotham?
After being framed for murder last episode, Gordon has been demoted to Arkham Asylum guard. It’s boring, but luckily a bizarre serious of assaults starts, with someone using electricity for makeshift lobotomies. Meanwhile the Penguin oversteps the line, and the mob infighting under Falcone continues.
So, first thing is first, Arkham is a little drab, but not the mindscape of horror it is surely destined to become. I’ll be honest, I was expecting something more…gothic. This looks more like an abandoned office building. And given that Gordon was framed for murder, being sent to guard the asylum — rather than, say, jail — you could say he’s not done all that badly.
But the director, Dr Lang, does seem to have it in for him, including holding him responsible for the spate of attacks. Quite why he expects Gordon not to call in the police is a mystery. But of course it’s Bullock that he does call in. I’m glad, because he adds a sense of fun which lightens the whole affair.
The misdirection in terms of whodunnit is pretty labyrinthine, but whilst I enjoyed the actual story, the main twist was just too bizarre. The idea that the crazy-seeming nurse wasn’t actually nurse but an old patient who had been living in the basement during the time the asylum was closed, would be barking enough. But the fact that she’s treated as a nurse, referred to by Dr Lang as a nurse, and nobody bothers to tell Gordon all of this is bizarre.
On top of that, it turns out it wasn’t actually her, but the deeply creepy sociopath patient from the beginning. Sometimes I wonder what Gotham is trying to do with this.
I do, though, quite like the addition of Morena Baccarin as Dr Leslie Tompkins. She provides both Gordon’s much-needed ally within the asylum, and a new love interest. It’s a bit of a telegraph that she is a name actress, and Dr Lang isn’t. One of them doesn’t make it to the end of the episode, and no prizes for guessing who.
In the other plotlines, the writers decided to shelve Cobblepot for the episode, by shoving him in the cells at Gotham PD. It’s apparently Maroni teaching him a lesson about his place in the world, but… Eh.
The other mob stuff is better, with more internal politics in Falcone’s operation. Fish vying with other lieutenants for primacy is not new, but we get a bit more history on Butch. I genuinely wondered if he was going to defect, until he starts rambling to his old friend about being sorry he stiffed him on a robbery as a child. Of course, he shoots Fish’s rival and walks away.
And Cat is still out on the street, in the rain. Her part in this episode is a minor one, but one of the more interesting. She finds a sick
Pamela Isley Ivy Pepper and brings her to Jim and Barbara’s empty love nest to recuperate. And she’s there when Barbara calls — Montoya having dumped her for being “toxic”, and setting them on a drug/alcohol downward spiral — to answer the phone and make out Jim has moved on with someone else. Funny, and sociopathic — one of the best bits.
That is, though, largely because this wasn’t a great episode. It started with Arkham being a disappointment, continued with a meandering plot that made no sense, and finished with the introduction of a minor comic villain — the Electrocutioner, if you care — who I doubt we’ll see again. Not an auspicious return for the series.
It still has lots of potential, and I still enjoyed watching it, but damnit they should be doing better than this. There’s the room there for it, and they keep flashing their ankles at the sort of show that Gotham should be.
Its not encouraging at all that midway through the series they are relying on side characters and sub-plots to make the series feel exciting.
- Ivy is a vegan. So she eats, err, only plants? Does that make sense?
- Looks like Alfred and Bruce were given the night off.
- Montoya is right; Barbara is toxic.
- I cannot over-emphasise how stupid that fake-nurse twist was. I mean, no matter how I look at it I can’t make it make sense.
- Look Gotham: you can’t make the love the character of Ed Nygma, and then not feature him. There was so much opportunity for him to have one of those brilliant walk-on bits he does so well. Sort it out.