Gotham has been a show that has become well known for its off kilter colorful villains and it’s unique flair to balance a tone of grim horror and gritty dark humor, and “Transference” not only makes a case for how truly interesting the heroes on the show are but also presents the perfect balance of all the tones the show is capable of. It has horror, humor, action, rich characters, and a developing mystery that promises to make the next season a truly exciting experience.
“Mommy’s Little Monster” turns up the heat on the season which is although not revealing more about Galavan’s plan, yet instead is putting the pieces into play for characters to finally take action against him. Soon enough we’ll discover more about Galavan’s evil secret sect and the wicked plans they have for Bruce.
The penultimate episode of Gotham superbly closes the Ogre arc and sets the table for what appears to be an exciting grand season finale. The last couple of episodes have shown Gordon shaken and dead set on taking down the serial killer the Ogre, as he has threatened to victimize his loved one. The discovery that the loved one in question is his former fiancé only makes him more resolute on his undertaking. This episode does an excellent job at showing how determined he is and the wear it takes on him with Leslie and Bullock reminding him that he needs to take a break before he burns out, but Gordon doesn’t let up. Ben Mckenzie is in top form in this episode as he plays Gordon’s escalating fatigue subtly through his desperation, as he goes from violently interrogating a witness to aggressively asking a favor of the Penguin to when he faces the Ogre to gun him down.
This week’s episode of Gotham follows up “Red Hood” where it seemed as though Bruce’s story and Gordon’s would meet up but instead this episode prolongs the separation another week so that Gordon could make some genuine headway in establishing order in the GCPD. This has been an ongoing process for Gordon in making a change to the corrupt system and the effect he’s had has been gradual as every time Gordon thinks he has effected change he finds that he has only cured a symptom and not the cause. This has been a beat that Gotham has repeated a few times during this second half of the season and it’s almost to the point of being overly repetitive, but it seems as though that this particular promotion to President of the Policeman’s union position may be the level where Gordon can be most effective and the season can finally move on without falling back to where Gordon has no results to show other than new allies.
Following the winding down of “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon”, the season continues with an episode that stabilizes the narrative with a case of the week hinting at the iconic Batman villain, The Scarecrow. Unfortunately his characterization is undermined with a poorly-executed exposition dump that feels unearned and unclear; the episode is much more concerned with reinforcing the shifted dynamics that were established in the previous episode. It’s not uncommon for a series to spin its wheels at times during a 22 episode season, but what is disappointing is that it does so here without giving a worthwhile character his due.
In this week’s Gotham, Gordon returns to the Gotham City Police Department to regain his Detective rank but in order to do that he has to prove himself to Commission Loeb by bringing in the Arkham Asylum inmate that escaped in “Rogues’ Gallery” under his watch. This episode shows Gordon revitalized and more focused with the understanding that he needs to be at the GCPD and nowhere else; it’s where he wants to be and where he can do the most good. We have seen Gordon be all gun ho before as in “Penguins Umbrella” but this time he’s taking charge and asserting himself, where before he was acting reckless with unrealistic goals.
The season enters a new arc on Gotham as the fallout of last week’s episode, “Penguin’s Umbrella”, begins to take effect. Gordon tried to take down Falcone and failed, but managed to set an example of what a good cop is capable of and also shed a light on how inactive the Gotham City Police Department is, as none of his colleagues came to aid Gordon against Victor Zsasz. This brings out some interesting development between Gordon and Captain Sarah Essen, who regrets not braving the storm with him. The example that he has set has also affected Bullock, who’s now on Team Gordon, which is a highlight of the episode, in particular when Bullock gives a rallying speech to the GCPD.
This debut season of Gotham has had its ups and downs as the series struggled to find the right balance between theatrical performances and gritty realism, the best stability having been struck in episode six, “The Spirit of the Goat,” a character centric episode. The series finds that balance again with this week’s episode, “Penguin’s Umbrella,” a central serialized episode that brings all of the underlying built up tensions of the past few episodes to the surface. The storm of change has started brewing in Gotham City; causing significant destruction all around with only those who have found themselves under the protection of the Penguin’s umbrella able to survive it.
Unlike last week’s “Viper”, this week’s Gotham turns in a case of the week that truly amps up the creep factor without going too far outside of the gritty reality that the show has set up. “Spirit of the Goat” presents an antagonist that not only fits well tonally with the series, but is entertaining, with a somewhat supernatural mystery whose answer falls in line with the noir style. One of the episode’s most pleasant surprises is that it places Harvey Bullock in the lead, allowing him some much needed character depth, as well as highlighting his skills as a great detective in his own right. This episode also provides a significant development in the ongoing Major Crimes Unit investigation of Jim Gordon and his part in the murder of Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, a plot that hasn’t progressed much since “Selina Kyle.”
Gotham has done fairly well, so far, at integrating its cases of the week with its overarching storyline, with last week’s “Arkham” being one of the most momentous episodes yet in moving the season narrative forward, but with “Viper”, the tandem plots fail to blend together with the same consistency. The campy concept of the Viper drug, which gives super strength to its victims before destroying their bone density, could’ve worked if only the writers had decided not to display the victims’ feats of strength with such poorly executed and cartoonish special effects. What Gotham has done well in previous episodes is present a campy idea with a truly gritty noir tone, but the way that these super powered victims are realized, they look more like they belong on the set of Smallville rather than the pulp setting that this series embodies.
“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.
After a full throttle pilot, Gotham switches to a slower gear in order to explore the issues facing Gotham’s inner city children, and the failing of its government system on how they’re handled. The corruption of Gotham City reaches just as high as Gordon had suspected, and it’s not simply that the Mayor is in Falcone’s pocket. There’s a general flaw in the system of the City itself; everyone is trying to survive, and does so by looking out for themselves, and to hell with everyone else. Gotham City has been represented in comic books and other media adaptations as a city that breeds criminals, and by having a high poverty rate and children without homes or parents, the Gotham series may provide an answer for why that is. The inner city children are antagonized by the police and mistreated by the law system by being sent upstate into prison-like disciplinary facilities, and this is most likely the cause that riles up the citizens, making them push back.
Batman is one of the most iconic comic book superheroes of all time and has been amongst the pop culture zeitgeist for, at most, three quarters of a century, being adapted into all kinds of media from novels to video games and of course, to film and television. Strangely enough, as popular as the hero has been throughout the decades, the character has had very little time on the live action small screen. Even now, in this newest retelling of his origin story, Batman himself is not expected to make a full costumed appearance. Instead we are introduced to all the tangential characters that surround the Batman mythology and formulate Batman’s allies and foes.