This Gotham review contains spoilers.
Gotham: Season 2, Episode 11
Gothamhas always never been a show that has a strong hold on its sense of morality. Characters tend to do things not because of a systemic injustice so much as an ill-explained mental illness or — in Jim Gordon’s case — a borderline obsessive desire to mold the city of Gotham to his definition of justice.
To be fair, Jim’s definition of justice has never been a very high bar to jump. It basically involves not killing other people. In tonight’s episode, Jim crossed that line, further muddling the orientation of morality on this show.
Now, this might not be a problem if Gotham didn’t insist on making Jim some sort of barometer for what is good, even when Jim is very clearly going off of the deep end. But this show doesn’t seem willing to recognize that fact in any structural way, even as Lee continues to say it point-blank to Jim’s face. But, here, Lee is treated more like a nagging girlfriend in the way of Jim’s “fun” — here a larger sense of purpose she just wouldn’t be able to understand — rather than the most rational character on this show.
Jim kills Galavan.
Somehow, even when Jim is teaming up with Penguin to kill Galavan in cold blood, it is still some sort of heroic deed. Gothamdefinitely intends Jim’s actions to be problematic and to forever change the person he is, but there is never a sense that Jim is irredeemable — which is not the same benefit of the doubt that Gothamgives its more emphatically-defined VILLAINS.
This rant might make it sound like I didn’t enjoy “Worse Than A Crime,” which isn’t true. As a mid-season finale, it ticked all of the boxes — especially in its first two acts. It brought to a head many of the major arcs and tensions that have been slowly building over the first half of season 2…
There is finally a victor (at least for now) between Galavan and Jim. Penguin and Jim’s friendship is weirdly, reluctantly solidfied through another act of violence — this time, with Jim’s much more willing cooperation. And Bruce is faced with the death Alfred so fears for his young charge, and doesn’t flinch. He is committed to this cause.
Bruce Wayne stares death down.
It is that last story arc that continues to be the most interesting to me. Going into this show, many fans were skeptical of Gotham‘s ability to tell a compelling story arc for Bruce Wayne when we know where he ends up. Personally, I think that, in this second season, Gothamhas been able to tell a believable and unexpectedly compelling story for Bruce, while Jim continues to be the one somehow hindered by his comic characterization.
Fresh off his own staged kidnapping, Bruce is actually kidnapped by Galavan and his band of monks. When Galavan explains why Bruce has to die — because eons ago, his family kicked out Galavan’s family — Bruce is understandably flummoxed. He starts with an expasperated apology, but quickly moves onto calm denouncements of delution when it becomes clear that these people are going to kill him as part of some prophecy to restore the scales of justice. Bruce has never been more relatable than his exasperation at Galavan’s nonsensical logic.
Silver somehow had the best character arc in this episode.
Silver St. Cloud also proved to be a fascinating character — which I was really not expecting. This mid-season finale spent a surprising amount of time devoted to her motivations and arc, so much so that I would argue that this episode — and perhaps this half-season — gave Silver the most interesting story arc. She is a victim of circumstance, but that doesn’t mean she forgives herself for all of the terrible things she has done — things that she claims she can’t come back from. However, when it comes down to it, she saves Bruce’s life with her cry to stop (though, would the monk have really stopped?), risking and ultimately losing Galavan’s offer of family protection.
Galavan’s (maybe) swan song.
Though Galavan was a great villain for this half-season — and we probably have seen the last of him, despite that umbrella rammed down his throat — this climax felt a little rushed. Maybe Gothampulled the trigger on the public reveal of Galavan’s treachery too soon (resulting in yet another embarrassing wild goose chase or two for the GCPD). Maybe he just never had very convincing character motivation to begin with. But, regardless, James Frain did a stellar job relaying a weight that gave all of Jim’s machinations to take him down mean something. Still, this ending felt rushed and anti-climactic for such a larger-than-life villain.
Did Alfred and Bruce forget about Lucius in the basement?
A character that got an even shorter stick this half-season? Lucius Fox. He was downright delightful in this episode as the formal, yet sarcastic sidekick who keeps putting all of the pieces together and urging the rest of the idiots along. However, when he came popping out of the not-Batcave at the beginning of the episode, it kind of seemed like he had been hiding down there since the beginning of the season. Hopefully, Alfred and Bruce cracked a window for him.
The integration of much of this cast of characters.
The best and potentially most damaging in the long term element of this episode, however, was the integration of so much of its cast. Gothamis a show that juggles many disparate storylines at once. Season 2 has been more interested than season 1 at occasionally linkign said storylines together, but never would I call this show an ensemble drama — it’s too disjointed for some definition of the phrase.
But, here, because of Nygma and Penguin’s earlier connection, and because of Jim’s willingness to throw in with Penguin, it felt like one big happy family. Don’t get me wrong — this was delightful to watch — but it also made almost everything that had come before feel silly in comparison. Because it highlighted just how similar so many of these characters are. Sure, Penguin kills when he’s having a bad day, but Gordon’s arc this half-season was pretty much him working up to that point.
No one seems to believe in the system anymore — except Barnes — and that would be fine if Gothamitself weren’t so intent on telling a story about how the system that has some kind of arc. It’s hard to figure out where Gothamcan go from here on a larger thematic level. That being said, this show somehow continues to be very entertaining to watch — and that was even before Mr. Freeze turned up for the ep’s final moments.
Too many shows throw plot lines at the script like spaghetti at the wall, hoping that something will stick. Gotham is one of the only shows I can think of that has successfully made it an art form.