Gotham: The Fearsome Dr. Crane review

Gotham City learns the meaning of fear when they encounter the father of Batman villain, The Scarecrow.

This Gotham review contains spoilers.

Gotham has been absolutely nailing its openings lately. Just as Arrow has built a steady tradition of building its opening scenes around the very best their stunt team has to offer, Gotham has decided to play to its strengths early. In the case of “The Fearsome Dr. Crane,” it’s the production values and the music, which do a nice job of making things look and feel very much like the Gotham City of your imagination.

Unfortunately, “The Fearsome Dr. Crane” never quite lives up to the promise of this first scene, which details how the Scarecrow’s dad is scaring the wits out of people to further his own experiments. But I do feel that since the midseason break, the show is inching towards a formula that could work. This just wasn’t the episode where they get it right. 

Without question, the best “true Batman villain” we’ve seen (or are likely to see for the remainder of this season) is the Penguin. That’s a safe bet. There’s still hope they can turn it around for the Riddler, too. But whenever you’re dealing with, not the rise/evolution of an actual villain, but the villain’s Dad, well, you’re on your back foot. As a result, the title character of “The Fearsome Dr. Crane” doesn’t really allow the show much to work with beyond the most gimmicky of procedural plots, although some of this might be resolved in the second episode. On the face of it, though, this doesn’t feel like one that really requires two to tell its story. Maybe next week will prove me wrong.

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Gotham still feels like it’s sweeping away the debris from the early season mistakes, which is good. For the second week in a row, Selina “confesses” to lying about the Wayne murders. That’s not great. The good news is, she’s now out of Barbara’s apartment. That’s one more lingering Barbara plot thread that should be out the window, along with the increasingly labored connection of Selina to Bruce and Jim. Send all of this stuff to the cornfield so that Gotham can tell its best stories, unencumbered by these diversions. I’m glad it’s all getting wrapped up, but it does feel like screen time that could have been spent elsewhere.

I do hope this week brings the whole “which side is Penguin working” angle to a close. It’s been great, but I just can’t imagine it can be stretched out any longer without seriously compromising the intelligence of a number of important characters. It’s bad enough that it took Fish’s phone call to really open Maroni’s eyes. To be fair, Maroni’s exasperated “You’ve gotta be kidding me…WHAT?!?” when Penguin calls him from inside the car of death got a proper laugh out of me, though. Here’s a secret we learned: Sal Maroni isn’t a great shot, is he?

I suppose my biggest issues, though, stem less from how secondary the Crane case feels, to how broad some of the characters remain. Bullock’s hitting on the support group lady was obvious and overwritten, even for him. I’m not sure why anyone should care about Leslie Tompkins. And I’m really not sure why it’s okay for Gordon to start making out with her in front of a room full of people ready to use the both of them for target practice. I’m especially skeeved out by the fact that said smooching comes right after he offers her a job. I’m not crazy, right? That’s a little weird?

I’m okay with Gotham veering deeper into general weirdness and embracing the, ummmm…Gotham-ness of it all, even if a few of the moments where they did it this week felt a little more on the nose than usual (like Fish and the pirate/commando actually growling at each other). I’m starting to wonder if this is actually a prequel to the 1966 Batman TV series…because that’s how over the top some of these situations are becoming. They may as well have told us that Ms. Mullins has a fear of trains and then Dr. Crane could have tied her to the railroad tracks, bound and gagged as she was.

I understand subtlety will never be something Gotham strives for. What I would like to see, though, is for these characters to behave in ways where we can decide to like or dislike them based solely on their onscreen actions, not based on how we think we should feel about them based on what we already know from other media. “The Fearsome Dr. Crane” gets the tone right, but shows Gotham still has a long way to go.

Life With the Waynes

There’s not much with Bruce and Alfred this week, but we haven’t spent a lot of time with them at all lately. I never thought that they would become a highlight, given how skeptical I was of Bruce’s inclusion as a semi-regular. Sean Pertwee gets a fine jab in this week, when he tells Jim that “I really wouldn’t bother” trying to change Bruce’s mind. 

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Gotham Central

– Remember when I once thought we might see Professor Pyg on the show? This might be as close as we get. Despite the unintentional hilarity of the dude freaking out when he saw Dr. Crane menacingly stroking a piglet, the image of this creep in a pig mask waving a big knife around was the kind of surreal horror I’d like to see Gotham try more of. Simple and effective.

– Selina was eating Frute Brute cereal. How is this a DC Comics connection? Well…I’m not sure. DC artists did redesigns on the other classic monster cereals in 2014, but Frute Brute wasn’t one of ’em. Frute Brute is very much the rarest of the monster cereals, though, which could be a nod to the fact that Gotham takes place in the foggy past. It could also mean this fear-based episode takes place in October, because it’s nigh-impossible to find monster cereals at other times of the year. Why did I just write a whole paragraph on this? I’ve been working too hard…

– This isn’t quite a DC Comics connection, either, but I forgot about Frankie Carbone. That’s a name from Goodfellas, and the character (as portrayed by Frank Sivero) became the model for one of The Simpsons‘ famous crew of gangsters. The Carbone character from Goodfellas was based on real-life creep Angelo Sepe.

– And yes, that was young Jonathan “Scarecrow” Crane being told to “go feed the meter.”


2.5 out of 5