Watching this all-new episode of Gotham felt like walking backwards. I say that because the show now exists in a world where we not only have a show like The Flash, which is consistently superior as far as season-length comic book-based shows go, but must also now contend with Daredevil, which is pretty much everything Gotham should have been. The new Netflix series is one that has hit the ground running, complete with style, characters, and writing that all suggest heads being in the right place. Meanwhile, Gotham returns with little fanfare, despite trying hard to create some worthwhile storylines to keep us invested in the remaining episodes of this season.
Let’s start with Gordon. This week he is approached by a rookie officer claiming to be a fan of the approach Gordon has taken to pushing back on crime both in the city and within the GCPD. It is because of this that he wants Gordon to work on a case that has gone cold. There are some twists in the ways things play out here, but it eventually becomes a matter of Gordon having been setup, while also introducing a new threat to the series. The show basically wants to accomplish two things with this story, but only one is successful.
On the one hand, Gotham has established a new villain known as the Ogre (played with a creepy menace by Milo Ventimiglia). We see some stylish flashbacks to help us see how crazy and deadly this character is and that is all well and good. The show may bounce back and forth between less serious topics, compared to what the Ogre is up to, but so be it. The bothersome portion is the reveal that Commissioner Loeb set Gordon up with this case, hoping the Ogre would punish Gordon for trying to capture him. Beyond the leaps of faith that we have to take regarding Gordon not piecing this together sooner, it is the exclamation that Gordon will first take down the Ogre and then work on Loeb that is ridiculous. Why proceed in a certain order? What difference does this make? What is the actual threat? There are numerous holes here, but because Gordon gets angry, I guess we just have to follow along with his interpretation of justice.
Elsewhere, we get to see what Bruce is up to, now that he has a desire to get back at the man who hurt his surrogate father. Alfred was also up for getting to the bottom of things, but is still too injured to handle a job of this nature. This is all good stuff and leads to a finale in the storyline that pushes Bruce to his limits. Teaming up with Cat, Bruce finds Reggie and interrogates him over his true motivations. The time comes when Bruce could actually kill Reggie, but he resists. Cat finishes the job anyway, but Bruce does see what he could have done, with an understanding of a moral code he has already established for himself.
Yes, this show goes over-the-top as far as giving us all the Batman backstory we really don’t need, but almost every time we see David Mazouz, the show makes these scenes worthwhile. It is a shame that the rest of the show does not feel nearly as competent. For every storyline that gives us more good material involving Bruce or Alfred, we then have to trudge through case-of-the-week stuff with Gordon or some hit-or-miss mob plotlines, depending on how effectively utilized Penguin or Fish Mooney are. This week Penguin only gets so much to do, but Fish finds herself finally escaping her prison with mixed results.
Whatever the plan was with Fish and her trials on Dollmacher Island, they ended abruptly in this episode, as she made her escape. This whole plotline has bothered me from the get-go and it leaves me without much of a care, now that it has presumably ended. From the start, there never seemed to be a reason for Fish to have survived as long as she did in the place that she was taken to. Now we have a mad scientist who clearly knows that Fish is a problem, but does nothing about it. He’d rather sacrifice his entire operation to play weird games with a problematic inmate, as opposed to getting rid of her completely. Well, things went sour for Dr. Dollmacher and Fish manages to escape. There are a few casualties and Fish takes a shot to the stomach, but she is away.
I brought up Daredevil at the top, because that show gets it. I am not saying it is perfect, but it is one that takes the material seriously, while finding a way to be enjoyable, stylized, diverse as far as populating its world, and balanced as far as giving us plenty from different perspectives. If Gotham was just starting, I could give it more slack, but we are almost done with the first season of a 22-episode season and the show still thinks that chopping off fingers can be played for comedic effect in the midst of everything else going on. I can only hope the last three episodes have a better sense of how to fit everything together and reach a fine conclusion.
From Det. Jim Gordon’s Police Files: