This Gotham review contains spoilers.
Gotham Season 2, Episode 19
Gothamis currently suffering from one of the same problems Arrowis: it’s trying to introduce magic (or some supernaturally higher degree of magic-like science, I suppose) into its setting without explaining the rules. This makes for a confusing, stakes-less context for a story, a handicap that Gothamcan really not handle right now.
Arrowhas never quite recovered from its move into the mystic that really started with the introduction of its R’as character in season 3. While the fall from grace for that show was a bit more tragic, given how high it first climbed, Gothamhas never been a show with a firm grip on its world’s narrative logic. But, in tonight’s episode — “Azrael” — that insanity reach new and terrible heights.
Meet your proto-Batman.
This whole time you probably thought Bruce Wayne was this show’s proto-Batman, huh? Nope. It is actually Theo Galavan, back from the dead, confused about his pre-resurrection identity, and convince by Hugo Strange that he is Azrael, a warrior for the great Order of St. Dumas.
Guys, I laughed out loud at this storyline several times in this episode — and not because the show wanted me to. To be fair, Gothamseemed to realize how ridiculous Galavan’s post-resurrection behavior was. Ms. Peabody is all of us in these scenes, suggesting to Strange that they go with thorazine rather than Strange’s random idea to suggest that he is Galavan’s father, and that Galavan is a secret assassin.
It was cool to see Azrael using classic Batman techniques to first attack Jim in a random warehouse, then take out Gotham’s cops one by one in a darkened GCPD. This show is obviously hungry for Batman imagery, but is this really how they wanted to bring it up? I’m not entirely against the Azrael character necessarily, but Galavan’s transition to amnesiac zombie not only made no sense the way it was written, but left the viewer with no chance to be surprised. Perhaps Azrael’s attack on the GCPD would have been more effective if we, too, were unaware whose face it was behind that mask.
I want to be worried about Barnes, who got stabbed with the hilt of Azrael’s broken blade, I really do, but this show is not doing this character any favors in its one-note depiction of an exasperated police commissioner whose memory seems to reset every morning when he wakes up, making him forget that both Gotham is the worst, most dangerous place on Earth (especially if you’re a police officer) and that Jim Gordon is a self-righteous rogue who sometimes shoots people in cold blood.
In another case of being self-aware enough to have the characters themselves comment on the absurdity of a plot or character choice, but not self-aware enough to actually write said plot or character better, Barnes even comments on his own inability to exist outside of his role as Superior Who Yells At Jim Gordon, straight-up asking Gordon why he keeps falling for his shtick — especially when Gordon isn’t even technically a police officer anymore. It’s as if the character has become self-aware, and is asking his creators — aka the writers. Sadly, the writerly gods give no answer.
Barnes’ character is completely dictated by plot and his role of scowling superior to Gordon’s rogueish hero, that he doesn’t suspect Strange of anything, even though the man has been letting convicted murderers out of Arkham for what has possibly been months now. Oh, Gotham,I’m not asking for a steel-clad web of narrative logic, just enough to keep my eyes from rolling whilst watching episodes.
Nygma’s stay in Arkham is delightful.
While the “A” plot of tonight’s episode didn’t work for me, there wasn’t anything I didn’t like about Nygma’s subplot solving the mysteries of Arkham. I was slightly annoyed when Gothamwrapped up the Riddler plot so quickly. No one ever stays locked up for long on this show, but it still would have been nice to see Nygma playing the serial killer under the GCPD’s nose for a little while longer.
However, I can’t fault this latest Riddler development, which sees the former socially-awkward forensic scientist writing the guidebook on how to make friends and influence people… while in an insane asylum (or at least in a Gothaminsane asylum, which are not to be confused with what mental illness or mental health facilities actually look like in the real world).
Nygma already has the patient-side of Arkham totally figured out, employing the services of his new friends to gather the supplies necessary to find the hidden elevator down to Arkham’s basement secrets. With Strange and Peabody distracted by Gordon, Nygma eventually makes it down into the sub-basement and finds all of Strange’s experiments. How will he use this knowledge to further his own goals? Is this his ticket out of Arkham? Or should he just wait a week for Strange to release him? #Decisions
“Strong as an ox. Fast as a snake.” “Mad as a hatter.” It’s unclear what Galavan’s actual powers are now that he’s a zombie, but he is for-sure “mad as a hatter,” as Peabody puts it. He also seems to be getting flashes back to his old identity. How long will Strange be able to maintain his control on Galavan who, previously, has never seemed like an easily-led man?
“I have a theory: I believe you ran Pinewood Farms.” Oh, Jim Gordon, you really only have one play, don’t you: Tell the suspected criminal that you think he is a criminal. How’s that been working for you so far?
“Generations? That sword was made yesterday.” Ms. Peabody may currently be my favorite character.
“I’m sick of this. We know where Strange is. We know he’s hurting people right now, and you two are talking about politics with your boss and getting a piece of paper signed.” I kind of love petulant Bruce Wayne because he actually is one of the most competent characters on this show.
“I chose to kill a man in cold blood, and it was the wrong choice.” I guess it’s nice to finally hear Gordon say these words?
“The difference is that one is a blacklight that emits ultraviolet energy, and this is leather on a stick.” Laughed out loud at this line from Nygma for the right reasons. Well done, show. Well done, Cory Michael Smith.
“You self-righteous punk. You think you have all the answers. Maybe you should run [the GCPD].” “Maybe I will someday.” Oh, Gotham, you’re not even trying to hide any of your cards anymore, are you?
“What’s he even doing here?” “I’m a concerned citizen.”
“No one, and I mean no one, comes into my city and tries to carve up my officers.” Has Barnes watched this show? This is exactly what happens every episode.
“You can go to hell.” “I’ve been there. You go.” Azrael’s trash talk needs some work…
“I know you like her, but that girl’s mad as a bag of squirrels.” I would probably be cool with Gothamgiving Butch and Tabitha something to do at some point.
“Holy moley.” Butch’s reaction to seeing Galavan alive is the best reaction to seeing Galavan alive.