TV Review: Gotham 3×01 “Better to Reign in Hell…”

For most of its duration thus far, Gotham is a show that can be dramatically excellent and frustratingly goofy. At points, it could be both during a single episode. Season two was a step up collectively from its prior season, focusing more on telling an overarching story than serial cop stories. No one should go into season three expecting a show exploring the ethics and exploits of the Gotham City Police Department. It is also not a show that focuses on small criminals before the arrival of Batman. Instead, it has fully embraced being a showcase for the colorful Rogue’s Gallery of the World’s Greatest Detective. Last night’s episode was exactly that: an overstuffed villain vehicle that was fun, albeit not entirely conclusive about the show’s direction.

Taking place six months after the season two finale, Gotham has been under siege by the escaped Indian Hill inmates. Fish Mooney, now endowed with superpowers, leads her pack of followers looking for a means to cheat death. In a plot decision straight out of The Dead Zone, it is revealed that using her new abilities is slowly killing her. Since the breakout, Gordon has left the GCPD and found a new profession as a bounty hunter tracking down the escapees. Bruce is on the hunt to take down the Court of Owls and Barbara is running a nightclub with Tabitha. As you can see, the season premiere covered quite a bit of ground.

While the season premiere offered plenty of characters, it provided little outside of set-up. What was brand new, Gordon’s bounty hunting, is the most interesting he has been in a long time. Rather than continuing to stand by his conflicted morals as a police officer, he’s become apathetic towards the current precinct. He’s somewhat justified, given how ineffective the GCPD has been in the past. My concern is that he will too quickly rush back into the force, which was an issue during season two. Not only did he receive his position back far too quickly after being fired, he was not a very good cop to begin with. Gordon’s current jaded persona fits his flawed character (he is a murderer, after all) much better when he’s fully outside of the law.

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The set-up established during this episode could either last for extended periods or suffer from shortened resolutions. As an example, Fish’s search for a cure doesn’t seem like it has the longevity necessary to continue. Given she needs Hugo Strange, which has no guarantee of success either, her return to the show could be short lived. Jada Pinkett Smith’s performance is as hammy as it was during her initial run in the first season. For some reason, it doesn’t bother me as much because of how this universe has been heightened prior to her resurrection. The freaks have come out of the woodwork, further perpetuating the series towards being a Batman show without having Batman fighting crime.

With such a large cast of characters, circumstances were established during this episode to give each character some form of screen time. As an example, Penguin and Butch were almost entirely used for comic relief alongside Barbara and Tabitha. Tabitha, by the way, has been sorely mishandled since the death of her brother during last season. Much like Barbara, Tabitha was established during season two as incredibly crazy. Since then, she’s been relatively subdued, and the romantic undertones have been present but not overly blatant. Their scenes together were humorous, but Penguin is not a character who should be reduced to comedy. That’s been the crux of the character in virtually every other medium he has been present in.

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The only true new introductory character was Valerie Vale (Jamie Chung). As the no nonsense reporter, Chung knocked it out of the park as Gordon’s foil. Animosity was established between the two, but like Leslie from season two, it’s entirely possible we’ll see a romance bloom between them. This would be incredibly detrimental for both Gordon’s character and the show in general. There’s still plenty of intrigue for the show going forward, especially with the concluding scene. The question is whether or not the payoff will be worth it, depending on the speed with which it is acquired.

Rating: 7.5/10

Matt is a 21 year old film buff and recent graduate from The University of Rhode Island. Growing up in a small town in the smallest state, Matt began developing a taste in film and general geekdom at a young age. After years of watching various DC and Marvel animated television shows as a boy, Matt has become quite the afficinado in the realm of comic books. Towards the end of middle school, Matt began delving into the world of film by watching anything he could get his hands on. Nowadays, his tastes range from classic film noir and the mindbending works of David Cronenberg to the latest trends on the independent scene. Don't worry; he's still one for the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or DC animated adventure. Comics aren't the only source of literature Matt enjoys. He can sometimes be spotted reading the works of Stephen King or even the plays of William Shakespeare. As an aspiring film critic and screenwriter, Matt is always looking for inspiration and new ideas.
  • reader

    I really like your intro sentence. When it comes to the frustrating, it is anything Fish.

    I would take some issue with Gordon never being a good cop and with what at seems like the use of murderer with no context whatsoever. if this is a heightened universe where the best intentioned person with the strongest moral compass could be compromised under duress or when painted into corners, then yes, Gordon didn’t make the best choice the best way with Galavan. In hindsight, what would have eliminated the threat before Lee would have been kidnapped (again) or Bruce (again) or either or both killed or dozens and hundreds of others by any of Galavan’s crew, including many GCPD who were working privately for him, as in the ones who dragged Gordon to be killed after the mockery of a trial? Hypotheticals, but Galavan wasn’t going to prison and he wouldn’t have left witnesses. No easy answers, but not a killing, prior to resurrection, in the way that Penguin, Nygma, Galavan, and on and on and did for personal gain, pleasure, greed, sport, hiding another crime, anger. Maybe there was a choice, but at the time, there didn’t seem to be one with the system too broken to allow for any prosecution or justice. Gordon has a conscience and is, as the creators, etc., have said, is trying to navigate a world where the accepted rules no longer apply and change constantly.

    I was very surprised at how quickly speedy Lee jumped into the arms or house of someone else, maybe 2-3 months total since Jim went to what should have been his death in prison and maybe 2 months since the baby’s death? Not winning many points there on the empathy meter. It would appear that Jim loves her and the family they were building far more than she did and is committed to doing what it takes, but she’s past that point if she ever was there, truly. That would mess with anyone’s head, so with Jim having lost everyone and everything, minus having his freedom back, he should be questioning everything, starting with if his life matters at all and what his purpose is after having the same one since seeing his father day right next to him. I agree that it should take time and the answers should come from his past, hopefully, not from something contrived and convenient.