Gotham feels, at this stage, more like an epic than a TV series.
It’s hard, as I’ve said before, to remember that this is only the first season. It has already succeeded so much in creating a world which lives and breathes. Gotham feels like a real city, and its citizens feel like real people.
There’s a larger story at work, not just the development of Gordon and Wayne, but the whole Batman world in embryonic form. Already we’ve had major milestones, and big moments.
And we’re still a few episodes away from the big finale.
After a squad of bank robbers led by a character in a red mask captures the public imagination as a modern day Robin Hood, Jim and Harvey chase the clues around town as the mask changes owner. Meanwhile, his feud with Maroni leads to alcohol supply problems for Penguin, an old friend comes to call on Alfred, and Fish Mooney heads deeper into the crazy.
There are four main strands to this episode, and only one is really worth a damn.
The first is the red hood gang. At a bank robbery, one of the robbers turns up in a red hood, and makes a show of the robbery. When the escape goes south, he throws handfuls of money to ordinary people to cover their escape. Unfortunately, it pisses off their leader, who kills him, and takes the mask.
And so the detective part of the episode follows the hood as it changes owner, giving each a weird sense of confidence and feeling of invulnerability. Of course, they’re not invulnerable. They die one after the other, each being picked off by their own recklessness.
As a story thread, it’s pretty damn dull. How the cops track them down is boring, and the mask thread is…weird. I get that it’s opening up a bit more what will become the Batman mythos of masked vigilantes, but it floats around rather aimlessly. The scene at the end, where a random kid picks it up off the street was emblematic; it was meant to have significance, but it just fell flat.
The second thread is at Wayne Manor. Reggie, an old friend of Alfred from the military, calls at the house, apparently down on his luck. He’s an odd character, teaching Bruce a rougher, less structured sort of violence than Alfred. It’s nice to have some background to Alfred, to feel like he’s actually a character rather than a cut out.
Of course, Reggie betrays Alfred and Bruce, and was actually sent by Wayne Enterprises who are spooked after Bruce’s rather foolish intervention last episode. He stabs Alfred, and leaves him to die, reporting to Wayne Enterprises that Bruce has nothing but suspicions.
Two points. Firstly, Bruce has contacted no legal counsel, he has nothing solid, he has no insurance or back up. He is, in short, an idiot. Secondly, the tense scene where Alfred lies bleeding out on the floor has no tension at all, given that we know he survives! I expected this to be a bigger problem for Gotham, but this is the first time it’s really gotten in the way.
Meanwhilem, Oswald’s, the world’s worst nightclub, has run out of booze. Because it’s supplied by Maroni, and Maroni isn’t too keen on Penguin. The conclusion, orchestrated by the “re-educated Butch” is neat, though. Just as Penguin is about to rob Maroni’s shipment, a bunch of cops working for Butch show up and confiscate it all. Problem solved. It just never felt like much of a problem to start with.
And in whatever weird organ farm Fish has found herself in, the crazy continues to ramp up. Faced with the Manager, she would rather speak to the owner, a Doctor something-or-other who sells organs to clients and has “personal experiments“. After giving her a shower and a change of clothes, the manager wants her eyes. So Fish…grabs a spoon and gouges out her own eye, squashing it under her boot, before collapsing.
I say that again, she gouges out her own eye with a goddamn spoon. I don’t even have the words.
And that last dose of concentrated crazy is the saving grace of an otherwise weak episode. It’s one of the things I most like about Gotham, that it has absolutely no fear of its lunatic element. Even when it goes all metaphorical and, bluntly, disappears up its own arse.
It’s still frustrating, though, that this series keeps on bloody stumbling, when we know it has such a good stride.
- “Another freak in a mask. Awesome.” Harvey gets this episode in one line.
- Was…was Barbara coming onto Cat? That’s…creepy.
- The SAS, despite its name, is part of the Britih Army, not the RAF. C’mon Bruce!
- Though, I thought Alfred was an ex Royal Marine, not SAS?
- “Perhaps its not our friends, but our enemies who define us,” says Penguin. So much introspection in one episode…
- But a goddamned spoon!