To my incredible surprise, I loved the bejeezus out of this episode. It was full of solid police drama, it focused on the show’s best character, and it successfully kept the background stories in the background. And Fish did not have one second of screen time (other than the recap).
To summarize, this episode focuses on a serial killer targeting the firstborn children of Gotham’s most elite families. We get a glimpse into Bullock’s past, as he tracked down this killer 10 years ago. However, the killings have started up again. The majority of the episode is devoted to Bullock working the case and realizing that someone else was behind the killing, a social worker who hypnotized her patients into punishing the rich families of Gotham.
The second most important part of this week’s episode was the Major Crime Unit continuing its investigation on Gordon. Apparently, Montoya and Allen have been canvassing the neighborhood for clues, and this week they stumbled across a random hobo who saw Gordon pretend to shoot Cobblepot. With this evidence, they arrested Gordon. But in a shocking twist that ended the episode, Penguin walked into GCPD.
Behind this framework, we saw Bruce continuing his investigation into everything that’s happening around the Arkham project (as well as whatever happens to be the main plot of the episode). We also saw Nygma and Penguin be very creepy and Selina show up to stalk Bruce.
For once, the plot was very focused on the main events of the serial killer, with the other elements serving as act breaks between the main action. This worked. If the show continued to follow this pattern, it would be much more successful. I think the biggest problem plaguing the show (besides horrible acting and CG effects) is the fact that the writers try to cram too much content into each episode. This makes everything rushed and the audience doesn’t get time to appreciate what’s happening. We aren’t given time to connect with the characters and get invested in their stories.
Beyond that, the episode gave us tons of Bullock screen time.
When I saw the episode starting in Gotham’s past, I was a little worried. I thought we would besuffering moremafia drama, or something connected to the Wayne’s suspect involvement with the crime in Gotham. Instead, we were treated to Bullock in his prime hunting down a serial killer. The action continued in the present day, and Bullock continued to demonstrate his outstanding police work and dedication to the case. Previous episodes have hinted at Bullock being more than just a corrupt curmudgeon, but this episode showed it completely. Beyond the snappy one-liners, we saw him working the case with more dedication than Gordon and picking up on very subtle clues on the way to finding the killer.
We also saw the softer side of Bullock when it was shown that he was footing the bill for the care of his old partner, and when he threw a friendly arm over Gordon’s shoulder after a tough fight.
Up to this point, Bullock was shown as the counterpoint to Gordon’s hard work and dedication. He was the guy that fell prey to the corruption and rationalized his actions within the system. Here, though, we saw the skill that he once had has remained strong and true underneath his gruff persona.
The question I am left with is why. It’s easy enough to figure out why Bullock became part of the system-survival. My question is why Bullock was so dedicated to this case in particular. We didn’t get any reasoning, such as him being connected to a victim. So it was probably professional pride. It could’ve also had something to do with the fact that the killer seriously injured his partner. The only thing this episode was missing was more motivation for Bullock’s actions.
It’s also important to note that the killer, the therapist, was doing this to punish the elite class of Gotham. This is what we need to see more of. Just like the Balloonman was working to attack corrupt public figures, this therapist was targeting the people she blamed for the problems in Gotham. One of the things we miss when the show is overwhelmed with plot threads is the fact that Gotham is plagued with social injustice. The show is obviously focusing on the source of the crime and corruption in the city, but we have lost the impact that this crime has on the average person. If we really want to see the problems that are running rampant in the street of Gotham, we need to see more of these people acting out. From what we’ve already seen, this is one of the motivating facts that drives Bruce’s evolution.
I do want to touch on a few things that I did not like in the episode. Luckily, the primary sources of my discontent were absent from the show, so my gripes will be quick and painless.
Returning to the therapist, she certainly admitted to her crimes without much struggle. As soon as Bullock confronted her, she gave in and started monologuing about her motivation. Yes, this happened in the final act of the show and we needed a resolution. But it was way too easy. Additionally, she said that her crimes were negative reinforcement. That is absolutely wrong. A 3 second Google search clarifies what negative reinforcement actually is, so this error is just the fault of lazy writers. It always bothers me whenever this mistake is made, and it happens frequently.
My only other complaint about the episode were the scenes with Nygma, Penguin, and Selina. All of these scenes felt forced and pointless. Nygma demonstrated extreme social awkwardness and served to be a running joke about riddles. Penguin did nothing but stare creepily at the camera from the bathtub. Yes, he served as the episode-ending twist, but mostly he was just in the bathtub. And Selina was there for absolutely no reason. None of these moments did much to advance the plot or add anything important to the plot. They attempted to include Nygma in the criminal investigation, but his involvement was carried out off screen. We saw him standing there with Bullock and Gordon after he assisted them.
Every aspect of the show that is a nod towards the larger, eventual Batman mythos feels forced and unnecessary. The show is called Gotham for a reason. It should be focused on the city itself and why it needs a hero, not just the few characters that will become costumed villains in the future. As an example of the difference, look at Arrow. There is a show that, while it exists in its own universe and has its own story, still supports the original mythos and includes the subtle nods to the larger concepts. That show makes these nods exciting easter eggs to find, instead of sledgehammers of plot that are driven into our faces. If Gotham is going to survive, it should take a lesson from superior comic book programs.
Complaints aside, I did really enjoy this episode. Gotham is not my favorite show, but I don’t dislike watching it. It has so much potential, that I want to keep watching in the hopes that we get a good show after certain things are fixed. Things like…well, you know.