It would seem that Gotham has three trends. First, all emotional acting and character development is replaced with intense glares. Second, any major named character of the established mythos is introduced with sledgehammer blows of plot to demonstrate who he or she will become. Third, any good episode (like last week’s) must be followed by a much worse episode. This week’s show, “Harvey Dent”, demonstrated all three trends in spades.
The core story of the episode had nothing to do with Dent. Instead, it focuses on Fish’s plot to strike a blow at Falcone by hiring some Russians to break a bomber out of Blackgate and blow open a vault behind iron doors in Gotham Armory and steal Falcone’s private stash. This is used as a foundation to establish that the mayor has been ignoring the plight of Gotham’s criminals who suffer mental illness by just stuffing them into Blackgate. The episode ends with the mayor opening Arkham as a special facility for the criminally insane to be held and get the help they deserve.
Dent is shunted off into one of the episode’s many side plots. We are introduced to Dent (who has come a long way from being Jan’s personal assistant) in the typical way, in that he and Gordon both relate that they’ve heard of each other as the only true do-gooders in Gotham. He then works with Gordon to put pressure on a corrupt business man by dangling the threat of an eye witness to the Wayne murder. Other stories include Penguin stalking Fish’s girl Liza and uncovering their plot against Falcone via some incredibly creepy sniffing; Bruce learning to box and hold his breath; Selina moving in to Wayne mansion and Bruce popping his first boner; and Barbara leaving Gordon and ending up in bed with Montoya.
I do want to relate the things I liked about the show. There wasn’t much, this week. Bullock remains the highlight of the show, but he didn’t have much screen time. When he was on screen, he continued to demonstrate solid detective work and display actual care for Gordon. I also enjoyed the scenes of Alfred and Bruce. I absolutely hated Alfred at the start of Gotham, but now he has developed into a strict but lovable guardian for Bruce who demonstrates actual care and emotion for the youngster. I also liked the introduction of Arkham, even if that scene was plagued with horrible CG. Beyond that, I didn’t really enjoy anything else this week.
Dent’s introduction was the typical sledgehammer to the face that we have experienced with every other main villain that has been introduced to the show. We first see him making a deal with a street kid about either going to jail or sticking to the straight and narrow over the flip of a coin (against a pointlessly CG sky). Big surprise, it’s a two-headed silver dollar. There’s nothing new about this, it’s old and boring. Sure, we’ve never seen a Dent this young, but he’s still the same character. I did find it odd that his lines to the kid about turning away from a criminal life had a lot to do with religion and God. This is an odd twist of the character, if it continues. And it was just a badly written line if it doesn’t. Dent tossing a coin into the air quickly became as annoying as Nygma’s constant mentions of riddles, which we also had to suffer through this episode. And then we saw Dent drop his cool attitude and scream at the business man he was trying to intimidate. This is an obvious attempt at demonstrating his “darker nature” which will be revealed during his transition into a villain.
I understand that everyone in Gotham is bring portrayed as younger versions of the characters we all know, but Dent just seemed like a smart-ass kid that was given a slick suit. He is already established as an attorney who is fighting against the darkness of Gotham. Where is his development? Why didn’t we see him as an up-and-coming attorney who is just starting to make a name for himself? Or as a student in law school? And why don’t we see him develop his “darker nature” as a result of the corruption in Gotham, or due to the failure of the legal system? His story is far too rushed. But this is typical for Gotham, as it constantly rushes to deliver the traits of characters it thinks the audience wants to see.
The core story wasn’t interesting on its own, but it did serve as a vehicle to get us to Arkham. Arkham has been established as important to the mystery that is the driving force behind the Wayne murder and the involvement of the crime families. I’m mildly interested to see how this develops.
The scenes with Penguin and Fish were as pointless and frustrating as always. Their story is stagnant and boring. If we had some drama and excitement in their plot of undermining each other in their respective mobs, I would be intrigued. But we don’t, and I am not.
The scenes with Bruce and Selina were mildly interesting. It’s quite obvious that the show is trying to bring them together for the sake of Selina teaching Bruce his first lessons about the harshness of life on the streets. But the fact that we’re basically getting Gotham Babies is annoying. Sure the scene with them throwing donuts at each other was funny and a good demonstration that they’re still kids underneath their trauma. But we also got lots of Selina crouching on things while wearing those stupid goggles. So I feel those scenes offset anything good that happened.
I also have a huge issue with the corrupt business man being called Lovecraft. Unless that dude is writing tales of eldritch horror, he can’t use that name. Any fellow Creepers share my rage? I know, it’s just a name. But we had this debate back in my fiction classes in college. Using an iconic name evokes all the weight behind that name. If the character with that name doesn’t have any story elements that relate to the name, it becomes distracting and takes viewers out of the moment the story is creating.
I also want to bring up something that’s been bothering me since Gotham started. What time frame is this show set in? The city of Gotham has always been very stylized, but in this show, we see a confusing mash-up of technology and style. Cars and cop uniforms are an older style, but clothing seems very modern. The most glaring example of this problem is the cell phones everyone uses. Those are clearly phones from the 90s at least. And the cell that set off a bomb rang a polyphonic version of The Final Countdown which came out in ’86. Using a cell phone as a bomb trigger is a fairly recent development as well. But then we see typewriters and a police station that has a vibe from the ’50s or ’60s. These weird discrepancies are super distracting to me. Am I the only one?
Overall, this was a typical episode of Gotham. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great. The show has been picked up for a full season, so we’re in this for the long haul. Maybe the writers will realize they have more time to work with now and won’t rush things so badly. But the show has gotten itself to a point where it can’t really fix its major problems. I hoped for so much more when the first ideas of this show were released. And now, I just wish it could be more like Constantine; a show that after only 4 episodes has proved itself to be vastly superior in both quality and content. With Arkham looming its way into the world of Gotham, we will see what new developments are in store for us. I am cringing at the thought of how it may turn out, but I’ll be here watching every week.