This Gotham review contains spoilers.
It’s reset button time on Gotham. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “What the Little Bird Told Him” wrapped up a few secondary storylines this week, and returned some others to status quo for the rest of the season. It doesn’t always work, but with ten episodes left in the show’s first season (and it was just picked up for season two), it does at least appear to leave things in a place where they can step on the gas and make some fireworks down the stretch.
Gotham had one of those “good Gotham moments” tonight right out of the gate. I’m often unkind to this show, but at least once per episode there’s a scene that I feel everything clicks into place, and the potential of the series will shine through. Sometimes it’s more than one scene, and sometimes the scenes are maddeningly short. Tonight it was all about opening with Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” At least, that was the tune on my screener, hopefully that’s what aired, otherwise I’m going to look more foolish than usual.
But there was something about that opening. The elevated train, the skeevy day that makes even what is probably a rather nice outer-borough neighborhood look run down and dreary, the flickering neon from the storefronts. It looks like Gotham City. Two genuine supervillains, even though they’re pretty far down the batvillain food chain, up to some subtle (by Batman standards) no good. It worked.
“What the Little Bird Told Him” is, for at least half the episode, a straight up continuation of “Rogues’ Gallery.” We’re back with Jack, who the papers dub “the Electrocutioner” and Aaron, his muscle. They’re on the hunt for some old partners of Jack, back in his previous life as a bank robber, who sold him out so they could keep his share of the money. As cliched as this sounds, it’s actually even less interesting watching it play out, even when it’s revealed that one of his targets is Sal Maroni.
Y’see, Jack and Aaron are the sacrificial lambs to get Jim Gordon reinstated as a detective. After a vocal confrontation with an extraordinarily disinterested commissioner, Gordon gets 24 hours to bring him in, otherwise he’s back to cleaning toilets at Arkham. McKenzie brings his best “screw authority” game to this scene, and it’s fun if you don’t think too hard about it. It’s just another one of those moments where I’m not sure when or why good police work is rewarded and why characters act the way they do on this show. Of course he gets it done, so everything goes back to normal with the GCPD, effective next week.
That’s fine and necessary, but then why the one and a half episode diversion at Arkham in the first place? Simply to set up a midseason cliffhanger? The problem with busting Jim’s rank down in the first place was that on such a young show, it never felt like they particularly earned that moment in Jim’s history yet. The other problem is that now that it’s been done, they can’t do it again. I’m sure we’ll see Bullock in uniform and pounding a beat again for a couple of episodes soon enough.
The good news is that there’s very little Barbara this week. She goes to visit her impossibly posh parents, presumably to stay for a little bit, for one of the most awkward five minutes I’ve seen on TV in recent years. Best case scenario, this is her “Chuck Cunningham” moment. At the very least, it takes the focus off the awful soap opera that she’s been involved in recently. Then again, I’m not sure replacing Jim and Barbara’s relationship with this strange Leslie Thompkins stuff is the best idea, but it has to be better than what we’ve already seen.
You know how I said the opening few minutes of this episode are a glimpse of so much that could be great about Gotham? Yeah, well, every minute of Edward Nygma screen time crystalizes everything the show does wrong. Horrific dialogue, ridiculous “foreshadowing,” and a character played so broadly that it’s impossible to imagine how over the top he will have to go before he puts on green tights with question marks all over them. The scenes with Nygma and Ms. Kringle are insufferable. “Rogues’ Gallery” and “What the Little Bird Told Him” really only have enough story for one episode when you clear away nonsense like this.
There’s more good news, though. It’s gang war time in Gotham. Penguin’s cover is blown with Maroni (although in a fairly eyeroll-inducing way), and Fish Mooney and Falcone’s relationship just went south. Poor Liza, for example, should have gone south while she had the chance. Just as giving Gordon his desk back makes the show stronger, bringing the bizarre, rambling Liza story to a close was the right move. I can’t particularly say it was satisfying or surprising, but I’m glad it’s over so that the show can focus on its strongest dynamic: the rising tensions between Falcone, Maroni, and Mooney.
“Don’t bother yelling for help. All your people are dead.” That was pretty badass, actually. C’mon, Gotham. Finish strong.
– We did get Jack’s real last name this week, “Buchinski,” which is indeed the family name of the comic book version of the Electrocutioner. It ain’t much, I’ll admit.
– Peter Scolari is here as Commissioner Loeb. Batman: Year One readers know that name. Why it took so long to actually meet this guy for the first time is anybody’s guess, and there’s a moment where Jim kinda speaks for the audience on that.
– Last week I missed the fact that Aaron is Amygdala. I hang my head in shame, and offer thanks to you folks for reading and keeping me honest.