Get comfortable, guys.
Here we are at episode ten of Gotham. It’s survived to double digits and shows no sign of stopping. Pretty soon, it’ll be hitting those awkward tween years, slamming the door in our faces, and screaming about how no-one understands what it’s going through. But for now, the show is content with its pattern of alternating between low and better quality episodes.
Since last week’s episode was quite disappointing, I had hopes for what we would see this week. I wasn’t really thrilled by this episode, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
As is the trend, the episode had very little to do with its title of “Lovecraft”. While the story elements dealing with the corrupt business man were central to Gordon’s story, the episode’s true focus was on Bruce and Alfred. This is yet another example of the show trying to do too many things at once. In my opinion, the show should be focusing on Gordon and his development. The constant interjection of characters from the Batman mythos is the weakest point of the show.
I know I said it last week, but I hate that this guy was called Lovecraft. For a character that appeared for about ten minutes in two episodes, I don’t see the need to give him a name with such weight behind it. We will probably see his name pop up again in the story, but that’s still not justification. True, the Batman comics have had intersections with the Lovecraftian mythos. And Arkham (which stands central to the mystery running deep in the veins of Gotham’s plot) has almost always been part of the Batman story line. But it’s not like this Lovecraft guy had any major dealings with Arkham. He didn’t introduce it. He claimed to have information on the Wayne involvement and murder, but due to predictable events, we did not receive that pay off. Maybe this is just me being too much of a literary nerd. If that’s the case, I will own up to it and apologize. But for a character that existed only to grease the wheels of plot with a few teases of information, Smith would’ve been a fine name.
Ok. Rant over.
So the show this week really focused on Bruce. Random, unnamed assassins came calling to Wayne Manor to carry out a hit on Selina. She lies to Bruce, saying the killers are after him, and they both scamper away into the dark underbelly of Gotham (which isn’t really that dark or gritty, just a little dirty). Alfred teams up with Bullock to find Bruce. After questioning one street kid and Fish, they locate Selina and Bruce and have a lovely shoot out with the assassins (who have rapidly multiplied from the original three that showed up on Bruce’s doorstep). Alfred kicks ass, and reunites with Bruce over some touching, but snarky, dialogue.
The primary secondary story line was Gordon’s. He takes responsibility for the situation with Selina (rightly so) and confronts Dent, who reveals that he did, in fact, leak details about Gordon’s involvement with the accusations against Lovecraft. With information from Dent, Gordon tracks down Lovecraft who claims he’s also being hunted by the assassins due to what he knows about the Waynes and Arkham. The assassins interrupt this exposition, however, and proceed to knock out Gordon and kill Lovecraft. Gordon then suffers the wrath of Mayor James, becomes the scapegoat for Lovecraft’s death, and is busted down to a security guard at the recently opened Arkham Asylum.
The only other action that happened this week was in the Falcone family. Don Falcone discussed the robbery with Penguin, who claimed no knowledge of the culprit and later admitted to a random thug that he was biding his time to reveal the Fish’s involvement and Liza’s treachery. We saw Falcone demand more tribute from his under bosses, which Fish used to swing more men to her side. We also saw Fish be slightly less of a cartoon in her interaction with Alfred. And in the most stereotypical mobster moment of all time, we saw Falcone murder a man at dinner and leave the body face down in a bowl of spaghetti.
Let’s talk about Bruce’s story line. I don’t care about it. Bruce constantly “testing himself” is boring. We all know Bruce’s journey. We’ve always known Bruce’s journey. Watching Bruce learn martial arts is cool. Watching Bruce balance on a stair rail is stupid. Sure, it happened, but it’s not good television. In ten episodes, nothing new has happened with Bruce. This could’ve been reduced to one extended scene in a single episode and I would have the same sense of the character that we do now. And seeing him make that improbable slo-mo jump across rooftops in Gotham was somewhat lame. If he accomplished that after an extended training period, it would come across as a personal triumph. Instead, he was trying to impress a girl.
And what about good old Jim Gordon? He’s been through the ringer recently. In this episode, we actually saw him getting angry and reacting. He is driving himself to do what he feels is the right thing against all odds and difficulties, and we are starting to see him break. This is potentially good television. Watching the hero fail at his journey, even if it’s only temporarily, is important. It shows the humanity of the hero and it makes his eventual triumph all the more important. If we had focused more on Gordon for the past nine episodes, seeing him suffer in this episode would’ve had much more impact. We still got a sense of it, though, so this wasn’t a completely wasted opportunity. Gordon certainly worked on his Bale Batman growl when he was yelling at Dent and Major James. And since Gotham usually replaces emotional development with glares, some dialogue was a welcome difference. He did deliver a powerful glare at Arkham when he entered the grounds, however. On that note, why did that guard open the entire front gate for one guy? Why isn’t there a guard house with a smaller door for single entry? That’s just dumb. But then again, the entire Arkham set is a green screen, so whatever. One moment of Gordon’s story had me laughing hysterically, unfortunately. We watched him wind up for the delivery of his line to Mayor James. We saw him pouring all of his hatred and rage into that one moment. We knew he was already being punished, so he had complete freedom to express himself. But all he gets, is “kiss my ass”. True, it was delivered with righteous fury, but it was such a weak line that I was rolling with laughter.
Fish’s story remained the same boring garbage that it’s always been. The interesting element was that when Alfred asked her for help in locating Selina and Bruce, he did so by appealing to her better side. In this moment, she became less of the cartoony over-exaggeration that we have seen, and actually responded like a human being. This was a fairly jarring moment, but it was a welcome one. The question becomes, though, why she decided to help. Her limited character arc so far has shown her to be nothing but a self-serving manipulator. So did this action truly reflect a softer side of Fish that we have never seen before, or was it to fulfill some ulterior motive?
Selina had a large role in this episode. This is the first time she’s really been part of the central plot, instead of just crouching in the background. And now I see why. Her scenes were pretty rough. Sure, they were probably (hopefully) playing up the awkwardness of youth, but it was still bad. The dialogue between her and Bruce did not feel natural at all, and neither did her interaction with her supposed street contacts. Plus, her continued inquiries to Bruce about kissing her started to feel really desperate. The dynamic between Batman and Catwoman has always been weird, but seeing her chasing Bruce is more than a little uncomfortable. I understand that her role in Gotham is the show Bruce the darker side of life and the city and deliver his first taste of life on the streets. But we’re not really getting that. We’re just getting an awkward pre-teen drama. Maybe Selina should stick to her role of crouching on things while wearing stupid goggles and looking entirely too pretty for living on the streets.
In this mess of Bruce and Selina running around in Gotham, we also ran back into Ivy. Do you even remember her from her few moments of screen time during the pilot? I had forgotten. She didn’t add anything to the episode, other than acting kinda spazzy. Selina told Bruce that Ivy was scary. She just seemed to be a kid that was told to talk fast and twitch a little. To me, this scene was just another annoying attempt of the writers to say “look! Here’s a character that will be important in the future!” which is getting frustrating. At least she didn’t have any lines that referenced plants.
The best part of this episode was Alfred. He was even better than Bullock. Allow me to let the weight of that statement sink in.
This episode delivered Alfred to us at his best. He was snarky, determined, affectionate, and an absolute badass. We saw him demolish the assassins that entered Wayne Manor, shrug off a bullet wound, work the perfect opposition to Bullock’s questioning, and plunge headlong into a shootout to save Bruce. His interactions with Bullock were brilliant. I have said in the past that I wanted Gotham to be the Bullock show, or maybe the Bullock and Gordon show. Nope. I need the Bullock and Alfred show. I have made a full 180 degree change on my opinion of Alfred since episode one. I have no clue why the writers have been holding back on giving Pertwee material this good. Through the entire Batman mythos, we have seen very few instances of Alfred being absolutely awesome. Kudos to Gotham for showing us this side of Alfred.
As the mid-season finale, this episode worked. All the major characters were present. No major plot lines were resolved, but they were all brought to a “wait and see” point, essentially baiting the hook for us to return and witness future development. Plus, we are still being teased with the growth of the major villains. They may currently be tragic parodies of themselves, but I do want to see what happens. While I have been exceptionally critical of the show over the past ten weeks, I haven’t completely hated it. The redeeming qualities are starting to outweigh the problems, even if it is a slow process.
During the promotional period, Gotham promised us much. As we turn the corner of the plot and point towards the larger Arkham involvement, there are some potentially interesting story elements waiting for us. We could possibly see Doctor Crane or Hugo Strange show up. I’m can only imagine how these characters will be butchered and what catch phrases they will repeat to hammer home their eventual development. And there remains that teased element of multiple potential culprits of the Joker showing up. I still absolutely hate this concept of every major character being present in Gotham prior to Batman’s eventual rise, and I hate their personal relationships even more. But just like a train wreck, I cannot tear myself away. I really do what to know what happens next, even if it is groan-inducingly bad.
So stay tuned, fellow Gotham watchers…same Bat time, same Bat channel.