Even though Fox’s Gotham had an interesting enough mid-season finale, the changes in the status quo didn’t really stick it out once the show came back on air a month ago, and things were back to normal pretty damn quick, as it were. All of which was rather disappointing since I was really looking forward to the writers exploring with the concept of Jim Gordon being a shift guard at Arkham. But at the same time we got to see the awesome Morena Baccarin as Dr. Leslie Thompkins, and things looked somewhat positive on that front.
In episodes 13 and 14 of the show, we see what the city is like once Jim Gordon is back in the GCPD as a full detective and thus back on the streets. And things are pretty damn crazy right now since Fish Mooney has finally been outed as Carmine Falcone’s enemy and is on the death-list, with Oswald Cobbelpot’s star in the ascendancy. While the main story deals with corrupt narcotics cops and the fearsome Dr. Crane, the subplots deal with the criminal politics of the city. And I’ve gotta admit that I’m starting to lose my excitement with the show since the stories are becoming more mundane and tiring than ever before.
There are a lot of different things happen in these two episodes. For one, Bruce Wayne comes back from his rather convenient holiday in Switzerland, only to run around Selina’s hideout block, asking for her and wanting to give her a gift and maybe a permanent home before she drops a bombshell on him about his parents’ murder. Then there’s the whole thing with the developing romance between Leslie and Jim. There’s the whole double-crossing between Carmine Falcone and Sal Maroni, with Fish Mooney and Penguin getting a big slice of the pie either way as a result. And, of course, the villain of the week as well. In “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon” the villain is a corrupt and connected cop, while in “The Fearsome Dr. Crane“, it is obviously the titular villain, albeit at a very early point in his life and definitely not the way you expected to see someone like him, one of the most prominent of all of Batman’s villains.
Episode 13 is all about GCPD politics really. Till now we haven’t seen much on this front and that has kind of niggled at the back of my mind for a good while now since it is quite clear that the cops at GCPD are a fractious lot, with divisions all over the place between them, divisions that put them all in one camp or the other. And thus, Jim Gordon is a threat to this division, particularly since he doesn’t care which cop he goes after if there’s reasonable doubt and possible evidence of said cop being corrupt and involved in one of his investigations.
It certainly was a most interesting episode, but I’ll admit that while the main story was mildly diverting, it was the side story with the Carmine Falcone/Sal Maroni that had me much more interested. After all, Fish finally made her play in episode 12, and she ended up blowing all her chances as well, which wasn’t pretty. The side-plot mainly deals with how Fish and her trusted goon Butch break out of their confinements by Falcone’s men and the inevitable showdown that happens in the second half of the episode.
The side story was definitely much more interesting, particularly since it had a whole lot more action, and because in a way it also symbolised Penguin’s own exit from Gotham previously, before he came back and started working for Sal Maroni.
The whole romance thing between Leslie and Jim? Well, it is kind of forced and contrived and really stupid too. The show is drawing in too many connections between all the different characters and it is going to be pretty hellish in a way since all of this is just a big massive prequel setup to Bruce growing up and eventually becoming Batman.
Many of these problems, and more besides, then crop up in Episode 14, where we see the debut of Dr. Crane before he became the madman Scarecrow, a supervillain who was a complete nutjob and also someone with a hunger and passion for causing all sorts of fear in his victims before he killed them. There’s a nice twist about the character in the second half, one that really threw me off. If Julian Sands hadn’t captivated me so well with his performance, I would have been able to figure it all out, I think, but then I suppose that this was exactly the point of casing Julian as Dr. Crane.
The main story shouldn’t be much of a surprise given that the proto-Scarecrow is involved, and so much of the real tension and drama in this episode comes from the side-plot of the Falcone/Maroni cold war. Wanting to get her revenge on Penguin, Fish spills the beans about the duplicitous bastard to Sal Maroni, who then decides to independently verify the veracity of her claims. And it ain’t pretty at all. I’ve loved Maroni up until this point, but in this episode he just took the farm and ran off with it. He was absolutely brilliant as a character here, and I’m admittedly starting to like him as much as I like the Penguin.
What happens during all of this, and whether Penguin does spill the beans or not, well, it makes for some great television viewing, I can tell you that easy. And it is kind of funny that the main story is just plodding along needlessly with the villain of the week format whereas the subplots are doing so well, and are much more entertaining by far.
However, all of this politicking and backstabbing shenanigans aside, the most important thing here is that the writers have zero clue what to do with their female characters. Characters like Barbara and Renee and Selina and Ivy and Sarah and others. Barbara has been a fun character conceptually though the execution has often fallen short and the show doesn’t give her anything to do really since it returned from break. She’s taken up with her snotty and unconcerned parents for now, pretending that she’s still in a relationship that she foolishly cast aside because of her own insecurities. Renee has barely been seen at all since the show came off break. Selina has been a complete jerk, unafraid to commit to a friendship she knows she wants but would never admit. Ivy Pepper, the future Poison Ivy, has been treated similarly to Renee, but even more extremely so. Captain Sara Essen has had an occasional moment of inspiration within her but she doesn’t do anything really other than keep warning the stubborn idiot Jim.
I’m getting tired of all the female characters, primarily because their charaterisation is so hotch-potch but also because the main issues of the show just don’t seem to be getting addressed. I was initially pretty excited to see Dr. Leslie Thompkins, but the way that the show has treated her so far, as a sort of medical macguffin, it is probably what the writers have envisioned her being as. And that’s no fun.
Both these episodes are fairly decent, but they just aren’t working for me so much on the big level, and that’s something I care about.