This Gotham review contains spoilers.
Gotham Season 3, Episode 3
Gothammight not have a Batman character, but, together, Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne are two sides of the iconic character. Bruce has the name, backstory, and innate sense of justice. Gordon has the stubborn bitterness, brute strength, and innate belief that he knows right from wrong (even when he doesn’t). Gothamis at its best when it is doing these two characters well, and tonight’s episode — “Look Into My Eyes” — was the perfect example.
Bruce + Jim = Batman.
We got the follow-up to that Bruce Meets Bruce Doppelganger from the end of last episode, and it reminded me again why I like young Bruce Wayne so much: he has a ridiculous amount of compassion and empathy. While Alfred reacts as most of us would probably react — a little freaked out, a lot uncomfortable with Doppel-Bruce staying at Wayne Manor — Bruce welcomes Doppel-Bruce like a sad little puppy, brought in from the rain.
Bruce’s humanity is even more jarring on a show that has almost zero moral code. It’s not even that most of its characters don’t have a moral code — it’s that the entire show doesn’t. It doesn’t seem interested in judging its villains (and often very terrible heroes) in any way. This makes for a unique viewing experience, but it also makes for one that can be hard to care about at times. Why care about characters who don’t care about anything themselves? And why care about a Gotham story that has no firm stance on justice and morality? It’s like watching a musical that has no firm stance on tempo or melody.
This is why Ed and Oswald’s friendship so helps both of their characters. I care a little bit more about them because they seem to care a little bit about one another. The same was true for last week’s Oswald v. Fish showdown. Whether Fish was telling the truth about her maternal pride towards Penguin or she was just trying to save her own life, it worked on Oswald. He still has a heart in there. He still has some loyalty. He still cares about something relatable to the human experience.
Likewise, this is what sets Bruce apart as a character — and what makes Selina so likable, too, even though she doesn’t want anyone to think that she cares. As for Doppel-Bruce, who knows? He didn’t stab those scissors into Bruce’s sleeping juggular, so that’s something.
If Bruce brings Batman’s strong sense of justice. Batman is a hero because he cares a lot. Both heroes and villains tend to be highly sensitive to the world’s woes, and often deeply traumatized by them. How the character chooses to react to those woes, how much they care, is what separates them from the villains. Bruce cares.
What does Gordon bring to this two-man Batman operation? (Now I can’t stop thinking about Jim and Bruce in a two-person horse costume.) He is the jaded side of Batman. The man who has tried to fix this world, this city, using above-board resources, and has come to the conclusion that it’s not enough. Personal happiness has been in his reach, but has eluded him because of his single-minded obsession with crime-fighting and justice. And, on some level, he knows that walking away from Gotham would bring him peace, but he can’t do it. This is a Batman character trait that is a lot hard to sell in a teenage boy than it is in a 30-something man.
Tonight’s Gothamhit hard on these themes, bringing Lee back into the fold with a new fiance who stands in for the kind of life Jim could possibly be living — one that actively eschews the criminal underworld that seems to suck everyone in Gotham in some way or another. (Or so Mario and his dad, Falcone, claim.) Elsewhere, we see Tetch lay out the worst possible explanation of Jim’s lonely life to him as he hypnotizes him into almost commiting suicide. It’s almost easy to believe that Jim might take his own life, except for it’s not at all. Because Jim has always been a fighter. It’s one of his most Batman-like qualities, in fact.
The Mad Hatter comes to Gotham.
“Look Into My Eyes” was helped by a villain-of-the-week who was creepy, mysterious, and integrated into the main narrative well. Like most of Gotham‘s villains, Jervis Tetch seems to be straight-up evil. He reminded me a lot of season one serial killer Jason Lennon, the man who would force women to pretend they were in a romantic relationship for months before killing them.
Though the two villains have plenty of differences, their near absolute control (or, in Tetch’s case, completely absolute control) to convince people to do things they would never do is amongst the scariest of villain attributes. (For one of the best example of this kind of villain, think Jessica Jones’Kilgrave.)
It’s unclear what Tetch’s presence will look like over the upcoming episodes. Gothamhas a habit of introducing villains, then allowing them to disappear back into the streets for long stretches of episodes. (We’re still not really sure what’s up with Ivy, even though Selina is doing her darndest to find her.)
With Alice ending the episode literally handcuffed to Jim, we’ll probably get more of her story sooner rather than later. But what does that mean for Tetch? And why is he so evil? Right now, I’m eager to find out the answer to those questions… which isn’t always the case with Gotham‘s villains of the week.
In the mean time, in the immortal words of Selina Kyle, “Don’t wait up, losers.”
Sometimes, I’m not sure if Gothamdeserves David Mazouz. The kid nails it again as not one, but two angsty teen characters. I bet you didn’t know there were so many different emo ways to utter the phrase, “I’m sorry,” did you? Well, now you do. And the way that Mazouz subtly plays the differences in Doppel-Bruce Pretending to Be Bruce is genius. We’ll see how long it takes for Selina to figure this out… Maybe she already has, she just wants a free burger?
Speaking of which, is Bruce even old enough to drive? But, seriously, I’ve lost count of these teen characters’ ages. I blame it on Ivy Pepper.
I’m still kind of in love with Valerie Vale. The way she brushed off Jim’s attempts at domesticity was kind of amazing (though, also kind of sad, for Jim). Valerie knows a complicated situation when she sees one. Perhaps she’ll eventually get pulled in with the Gordon charisma (and the Ryan Atwood wifebeater tanks) down the road. But, for now, she’s keeping her emotional distance. Smart lady.
How worried should Gotham be about an Arkham mass prison break? The days of inmate-led musical productions is apparently over.