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Gotham, Ep. 1.17, “Red Hood” explores the influence of a mask

GOTHAM:  Gordon (Ben McKenzie, C) and Bullock (Donal Logue, R) arrive on the scene of a bank robbery in the "Red Hood" episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, Feb. 23 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.  ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co.  Cr:  Jessica Miglio/FOX

Gotham Season 1, Episode 17: “Red Hood”
Written by Danny Cannon
Directed by Nathan Hope
Airs Mondays at 8pm (ET) on FOX

The season enters its final quarter with an episode that escalates the drama of the ongoing plots alongside a standalone case that interestingly adapts a Batman villain to the small screen. Gordon and the GCPD are not so much downplayed in this episode as they are given equal attention as the four other separate plots that are playing out. The episode does a great job juggling the separate narratives without them needing to cross paths until the very end.

There is a lot of momentum in the Bruce Wayne story after he has faced the Wayne Enterprises Board threatening to reveal their misconduct. The episode highlights Alfred as he is faced with someone from his past. It’s a slow build, but an enjoyable one as the story seeps out little details about who Alfred was. The climax where Alfred is wounded by his former friend Reggie and the reveal that he is working for the Board is a nice set up that leads to the reunion of Bruce and Gordon. This will most likely bring Gordon into Bruce’s battle against the evil Board of Wayne Enterprises.

As much thrust as is given to Bruce’s narrative, the villains’ stories are slower to build but are still very entertaining. Fish particularly is getting some interesting development as her meeting with the Manager is denied, which she does not take very well. But Fish is very good at making the situation, however dire, turn to her advantage. Although we don’t meet the Manager in this episode, we do get the name and it is someone that Gotham had hinted at in earlier episode “Selina Kyle,” and it should be good.

GOTHAM:  Selina (Camren Bicondova, L) and Barbara (Erin Richards, R) bond in the "Red Hood" episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, Feb. 23 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.  ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co.  Cr:  Jessica Miglio/FOXCharacter Study

We spend very little time with Barbara and her current house guests Cat and Ivy, yet there are some interesting character moments here. Barbara is feeling beaten down from being dismissed by her former lovers and her parents and tries to bond with Cat by projecting herself onto her, telling her that if she cleaned herself up she could reveal to the world the princess she has inside. Unfortunately for Barbara, Cat has no interest in finding the princess inside of herself; she can see that Barbara hasn’t done too well for herself with her own princess status. Camren Bicondova performs well against Erin Richards here as they staunchly bond, yet are clearly too different from each other to truly connect.

This is a very Alfred heavy episode, as we learn a little bit more about his background via his visiting army buddy Reggie. There is a great moment after Reggie tries to teach Bruce an alternative method in fighting where Alfred explains how knowing Bruce has made him into a better person. It’s interesting to note Alfred’s progression in the season, as he began the series unable to track Bruce’s emotional state or keep him in line, but has since learned that in order to reach him he has to take interest in his goals and support him with his ideas. Sean Pertwee has been great throughout the season, often delivering of fine quips, but his portrayal of Alfred has left a strong impression which makes the tragedy of the episode that much more effective.

Penguin continues to flail at running the night club and as his attendance levels drop and his alcohol depletes, he’s left to seek aid from Butch. It’s an unusual pairing, as they are very different archetypes, but they have one thing in common: they are both former flunkies of Fish. The episode offers some sobering moments between them as they bond on that fact, but it makes one wonder how deep the mind control is set in Butch and how much of the sourness he has is really something under the surface. It’s a really good scene, with Drew Powell and Robin Lord Taylor both showing different shades of their characters.

GOTHAM:  Gordon (Ben McKenzie, R) and Bullock (Donal Logue, L) participate in a police line-up in the "Red Hood" episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, Feb. 23 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.  ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co.  Cr:  Jessica Miglio/FOXThe Case File: The Red Hood Gang

The case of the week is one of the better cases that Gotham has done, principally at adapting the villain to screen. The original comic book lore of the Red Hood is initially the Joker origin story, wherein he was one of many who wore the mask in order to confuse the cops, but in his case he found himself in a vat of chemicals which transformed him into the Joker. The episode plays into this idea by having the originator of the Red Hood persona act a little Joker-esque but then it subverts that by having him murdered by another member of the gang. This moment works very well, although it would’ve been stronger had it aired before last week’s Joker iteration.

The power of wearing a mask is also a very important aspect of Batman history, as the symbol of what Batman means to Gotham City ends up overpowering anyone who wears the mask. The Red Hood takes on traits of a hero incidentally as the villains only shared their stolen money in order to distract the cops, but then it becomes an aspect of the mythology of the Red Hood. Gotham City is desperate for heroes and is looking towards even the criminals to fill that role. Having the “Red Hood” as the precursor to a Batman is a very clever idea for the series as it is grounded enough to fit in with the reality of the show. Most likely there will be other Red Hoods in the series and the ideology of the masked man can be a lesson that Bruce learns as he continues to create his own masked legend.

The episode is written by Danny Cannon, who directed the first two episodes and had a hand at developing the visual style of Gotham for the series. Cannon is a very skilled storyteller and scripts a great episode that is among the series’ finest. The stories are all given the same focus and have interesting character moments. The direction by Nathan Hope is exceptional and in line with Gotham’s grittier episodes. The atmosphere is very creepy throughout and visually interesting, such as when Alfred and Reggie are talking and the lightning shines on Alfred, a particularly visually appealing shot. This episode is well paced and entertaining and could easily be watched as a standalone.

Detective’s Notes

  • The “V” scar on Butch’s forehead is a nice touch by the makeup department. The “V”, of course, stands for Victor. Makes sense that Zsasz would sign his work.
  • Fish meets with the manager’s intermediate who turns out to be The Reanimator himself, Jeffrey Combs. Really smart casting here.
  • Kleg’s Auto Mechanic may be a nod to the Joker storyline in the DC 52 line up, where Joker dressed as an auto mechanic.
  • Although this episode is not the Joker’s origin tale, Red Hood could still be a part of the Joker’s story if Jerome decides to don the mask for a period in the future.
  • Fish digs her eye with a spoon!! Then steps on it! Ouch! Surprised they didn’t use a fish eye camera lens for that scene.
  • “Perhaps it’s not our friends but our enemies that define us.” –Penguin to Butch.
  • “Another freak in a mask. Awesome.” –Harvey Bullock.

-JP


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