Gotham Season 1, Episode 4: “Arkham”
Written by Ken Woodruff
Directed by T.J. Scott
Airs Mondays at 8pm ET on FOX
“Arkham” picks up right where we left off last week with Oswald Cobblepot at Jim Gordon’s front door, which had potential for an explosive outcome. Although not as incendiary as one might have thought, “Arkham” does pull all the subplots of the previous episodes together and sheds some light on the significance Arkham will have in this series. Gotham has done very well integrating its case of the week stories with the overarching plot in the past but now it’s brought the war between Carmine Falcone and Sal Maroni to the forefront and this gives viewers a look at the key players and their motives.
In “Arkham”, we learn the history of the Arkham district and why it’s of value to the two crime bosses. The Waynes’ foundation set up a plan for the district that would allow the community to live better, with affordable housing and a state of the art mental facility to help the growing population of mentally ill-afflicted citizens. One could speculate that Falcone was behind the Waynes’ plan for the district, working an angle all along. Maroni wants to use the district as waste disposal area, where he could also conduct his own criminal dealings. Under either of these criminal bosses, the people of Gotham stand to lose a lot.
The outcome of the vote allows for a compromise, appeasing both sides on the surface but these plans will damage Gotham City in the long run. Maroni has proven that he has sway over Falcone with his win, marking the first crack in Falcone’s empire which could mean that Falcone’s downfall will come fairly soon. With “Arkham”, the series is showing the development of the Gotham City that we know as a cesspool of criminals and although it seems like the worst is in the distant future, Gotham is laying down the groundwork in great detail for how that Gotham City could come to be in a real-world setting.
In this week’s episode, we spend time with Sal Maroni, who is the main threat to Gotham’s crime organization. It’s hard to pinpoint just how much of a villain he is, as we are to believe he is the worst of two evils, but from what we’ve seen of Maroni himself, he seems more like a corporate manager than the typical mobster crime boss. Carmine Falcone talked about Maroni in previous episodes as someone that would be bad to have in control of Gotham City- maybe this is because he doesn’t like Maroni’s lack of vision for Gotham as a whole. There is a balance of power that Falcone believes in that makes Gotham City work and the Wayne family may have been the light that justified all the evil that he had done. Sal Maroni is played by David Zayas, who is likable in the role despite the character being a completely amoral mobster. He seems like the kind of guy whose good side you want to stay on, because people on his bad side tend to die quite easily.
The Barbara Kean and Jim Gordon relationship gets shaken up in “Arkham” and it looks like it’s at a crossroads. It’s very likely that these two are going to have to work things out, as it’s a historical record that they do marry, but this series is adding some depth to the relationship and it seems appropriate to explore that at this time. Gordon feels lied to by Kean’s omission of her past with Montoya, but she has a point that Gordon should be upfront with her too about his secrets. This leaves the couple at an impasse that may be resolved in the next episode, but it’s a pretty interesting development that is happening a lot sooner than one would’ve thought. As mentioned in an earlier review, Erin Richards plays much better against Ben McKenzie and this episode is a highlight of their range together as a couple.
Fish Mooney continues to show complexity as a character as she auditions for an unknown position in her plan against Falcone. Jada Pinkett Smith is wonderful in the role and she delivers snarky attitude with likeable charm. Her interactions with Donal Logue’s Harvey Bullock are a highpoint of the show and it’s fun to watch them be so playful with each other, especially considering the events of the pilot. Oh, how far we’ve come in only four episodes.
The Case File: The Councilman Murders
The case of the week features the mob bosses’ hit man assassin Gladwell, who holds no allegiance to either side but is simply a messenger service between the warring crime bosses. It’s kind of strange that both crime bosses would use the same hit man but apparently, that’s how it is in Gotham. The show is again testing incredulity with the method of murder, with Gladwell using a gadget type weapon that can poke through people’s skin and eye sockets. The show is steering towards campy ideas but chooses to handle them in the grimmest of ways possible. The actor Hakeem Kae-Kazim portrays the role of Gladwell without any irony and that is what makes his character so grounded and well-integrated into the world of Gotham.
Written by Ken Woodruff, who worked with Gotham showrunner Bruno Heller previously on The Mentalist, “Arkham” is a deeply serialized episode of Gotham with much of the mythology being effectively stated. The direction by T.J. Scott has a variety of camera movements and frame compositions that are notably deliberate, which at times works remarkably well and tells the story with interesting visual flourishes, but there are also some scenes that are overly composed and are at times a bit distracting. In the scene where Barbara leaves Gordon at the station, she is way in the forefront and he is deep in the background, an example of an interesting yet distracting composition. Overall, the episode falls in line with the tone of the series and maintains its standard of production. Gotham continues down a gritty path that is fun, dark, and fascinating, albeit somewhat familiar. It’s a show that is taking the spirit of Batman in all its forms and projecting them through a grim filter.
- The young Bruce Wayne of Gotham has the detective work ethic of a young Tim Drake, who was the third Robin.
- Why is Fish Mooney holding ‘Gotham Idol’ auditions for? How will she use the new girl as a weapon?
- The songs that the two singers audition with are “Ocean Rain” by Echo & the Bunnymen and “Spellbound” by Siouxsie & the Banshees. The music department is really putting the Goth in Gotham.
- Fish Mooney having the two girls fight for one spot is slightly reminiscent of The Joker’s ‘tryouts’ scene from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight.
- Speaking of The Joker, Bullock interrogates a perp calling him “The Crowned Prince of Parking Lot Murders”, which has to be a variation on The Joker’s sub moniker of “The Clown Prince of Crime.”
- “Those poor sick souls deserve our help” – Martha Wayne
- In Case You Missed It: Gotham has been given a full 22 episode season order.