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Gotham, Episode 1.15, “The Scarecrow” is full of padding and patchwork

Gotham, Episode 1.15, “The Scarecrow” is full of padding and patchwork

GOTHAM: Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz, R) is comforted by Alfred (Sean Pertwee, L) after a treacherous hike in the "The Scarecrow" episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, Feb. 9 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jessica Miglio/FOX

Gotham Season 1, Episode 15: ‘The Scarecrow’
Written by Ken Woodruff
Directed by Nick Corpus
Airs Mondays at 8pm ET on FOX

The search for Dr. Crane continues this week in a way that is notably off kilter with the beats of “The Fearsome Dr. Crane“. There are moments that inelegantly reset character progress that would’ve made more sense following an earlier episode, while dialogue bluntly attempts to integrate events that happened in the previous two episodes. As far as recent episodes go, this one appears to have suffered the most from the expanded season order.

This Fish Mooney plot may have originally been intended to follow the events of “What the Little Bird Told Him”, as the place she ends up could have easily been where Falcone sent her as punishment for her betrayal. The Penguin’s storyline also seems more suited as the aftermath of Mooney’s attack, rather than Maroni’s, as Falcone appears to be giving Fish Mooney’s place to Penguin for the first time, even after Penguin has already taken claim of it in previous episodes. These beats show signs of padding that are not as finessed as in past episodes.

The Scarecrow storyline does a better job instituting the character than it did last week, but this story still suffers from being a prolonged narrative dulling the effectiveness of the villain’s introduction. The season has lagged in momentum in recent episodes, but had at least offered some worthwhile character moments. Unfortunately, “The Scarecrow” doesn’t have enough cohesive narrative or character beats to play to make the episode anything more than simply passable. The season has had an excellent to good second half so far, which makes this miss only more disappointing.

GOTHAM: Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz, R) is comforted by Alfred (Sean Pertwee, L) after a treacherous hike in the "The Scarecrow" episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, Feb. 9 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jessica Miglio/FOX

Character Study

After his fallout with Cat and firing Gordon from investigating his parents’ death, Bruce goes on a solo trip to watch the sunrise, but has a fall that wounds him. Although this is a completely superfluous character beat, it’s a good one for Bruce and Alfred, and is a highlight of the episode. Bruce is struggling to deal with his recent loss of father figures and opts to journey a father-son hike on his own. Bruce’s anger at his situation is well represented here, as is the correlation that allowing his anger to get the better of him made him susceptible to a fall. The lesson from Batman Begins is present here in a subtle way as Bruce learns the reason why we fall- to learn how to pick ourselves up. It’s a lesson that Alfred understands Bruce needs to learn, and therefore he doesn’t help him when he sees him hurt. Alfred shows his support in Bruce by believing him capable of getting out of the hurdle wounded and without his aid. David Mazouz plays Bruce’s anger well in this episode, and continues to have good interplay with Sean Pertwee as they banter and quip by the fireplace.

After the cliffhanger last week, we find Fish Mooney has been taken prisoner at an undetermined pit of low life and miscreants. It’s a haven for Gotham thugs and deviants who Fish will more than likely rally together to make a grand escape. Although the idea that Fish can take over the entire prison is a plausible one, the simplicity of “the person with the only blade has the power” is a bit understated for a character like Fish, as she is certainly dangerous without one. The show is clearly trying to go for a Lord of the Flies vibe about the place, and the ending implies that there may be more going on here with the viciousness of their captors that will certainly make it harder for Fish to break out, which should be interesting. Jada Pinkett-Smith is another highlight of the episode and never fails to entertain, as she is so good at playing up the charm of Fish and can also easily turn this to brutality.

GOTHAM:  With the help of Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith, C), Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie, L) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue, R) set out to stop a biology teacher who has been harvesting the glands of his murder victims in the "The Scarecrow" episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, Feb. 9 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jessica Miglio/FOX

The Case File: Gerald Crane at large

As mentioned earlier, this version of Dr. Crane is better than the previous episode’s, and that is because “The Scarecrow” doesn’t try to prolong the mystery of Dr. Crane’s motives. The episode does repeat that Dr. Crane is after cortisol fluid, but it’s made clearer here that he needs it in order to create a fear toxin that will cure him of all fear. The character looks down on fear as the cause to all of the world’s problems, and this is in keeping with what Gotham likes to do with its citizens, make them want to do something good but go about it through terrible means. This storyline is good as a case of the week, but it suffers from last week’s confusing characterization. Julian Sands is a great guest actor here and last week, doing a commendable job realizing the character of Dr. Crane, but there is too little screen time given to fully appreciate his dilemma. The episode is just too involved with the serialized plot to give this story its due.

The strongest aspect of the arc is the Jonathan Crane outcome. Although Charlie Tahan is given an even lesser defined part to play as Jonathan, the overall implications of the origin of Scarecrow are good. The fear toxin being forced upon him has usually been a form of ironic punishment for the character, but here it is the incident that begins his journey to villainy. This may lead to better applications of the character later on this season or, even more likely, in season two.

This episode is written by Ken Woodruff, who also scripted “Arkham” and “Harvey Dent”, which were both better than this episode. The patchwork done is too noticeable and the episode suffers greatly for it. Despite the weak script, the episode is very well directed, with many effective visuals. Dr. Crane’s fear vision of his burning wife, the beautiful shots of Bruce’s hike, and Penguin’s meeting with Ed Nygma are all well crafted and engaging throughout. The special and visual effects of the Scarecrow are also very nicely realized and effective at presenting the horror that Jonathan Crane feels in the episode’s final moments.

Detective’s Notes

  •  This may be Bruce Wayne’s first deployment of his utility belt, making it into a leg brace.
  • The description of Fish’s new prison sounds a bit like the prison that Bruce Wayne spent time in during his recovery in Dark Knight Rises.
  • It looks like the Penguin runs afoul of Ed Nygma.
  • “Thanks for the help.” -Bruce’s sarcasm is well delivered by Mazouz
  • “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” – The Penguin to Gordon
  • So this is Gordon and Leslie’s third date. Does this take place a little bit after last episode or what?
  • Also the way they act about their “kiss” seems like it would make more sense if they were referring to the kiss in the locker room than the one in the bullpen.
  • Next week, Gordon and Leslie go to the Circus. It’s the prenatal Robin storyline we’ve all been waiting for.