This review contains spoilers.
1.11 Rogues’ Gallery
Holy mental patient production of The Tempest, Batman! Gotham returned from its midseason break this week with one of the show’s weirdest, most metaphorical and refreshingly outside-the-box scenes to date.
One intention was surely to draw parallels between Jim and the character of Prospero (evicted from his former life and trapped in a hopeless nowhere-land with a collection of strange characters), but the introduction of Christopher Heyerdahl’s villainous Jack Gruber was equally important.
We had pathetic fallacy, some brilliantly awful costumes and a set-up that refused to reveal who the week’s baddie was going to be. Well, other than dressing him up as Prospero. This writer was clueless regardless, and enjoyed a neat double rug-pull after spending most of the episode thinking that Dr. Lang was to blame for the electric torture going on at Arkham.
In short, the main plot of the week (who’s doing the electrocuting?) was a fun ride, and the kind of grimly-dark-but-pacily-plotted storytelling we’d like to see more of. Sadly, the chain-of-command gangster bickering side-plot was incredibility dull in comparison, especially when Fish decided to take a backseat and let Butch do the talking.
By the time that Butch decided to stick with her, and murder the competition on her behalf, the pointless discussion (involving a very tame claimer to Falcone’s throne, who hadn’t displayed a glimpse of interest before) had taken up about a third of the hour, and made the whole episode – which should have been a ‘back with a bang’ opener – seem boring.
This wasn’t helped by Erin Richard’s Barbara, a character whose arc is so poorly written that when other players tell her she’s ‘toxic’ and that they don’t want to see any more of her, that the viewers cant help but agree.
Since the start, it’s seemed like no-one knew what to do with Gordon’s other half, and now that we’re again being told she has some big dangerous past (rather than actually being shown any of it), it’s impossible to sympathise, respect or believe in her at all.
More interesting, potential romance-wise, was Morena Baccarin’s newly-introduced Leslie Tompkins, a character with infinitely more chemistry with Jim than Barbara ever mustered. She was simultaneously charmingly sweet and quietly sinister, and seems to be a character that could certainly liven things up a bit going forward.
When she expressed a desire to join the basement adventure, for example, it wasn’t clear at all what her intentions were. More morally ambiguous characters are always welcome in Gotham. Of course, it will be interesting to see if Heller follows the route from the comics and sees Leslie become a surrogate mother figure to Bruce Wayne, who skipped this episode altogether. It’s a possibility, for sure.
Also adding a few tally-marks in the ‘good episode’ column was Donal Logue’s almost-always-enjoyable Harvey Bullock. His excitement to be reunited with Jim, along with an array of half-arsed interrogation attempts and – above all – his comment about a bonsai plant were all neat little moments which served to perk the episode up a bit, however intermittently. The sooner he and Jim can team-up permanently again, the better.
Sadly, there are extra little marks on the ‘bad episode’ side as well, with the decision to display Oswald’s hubris by having Maroni literally explain the very concept of hubris right in his face, seemed so unnecessarily on-the-nose that it somewhat detracted from Oswald’s normally-consistent brilliance. The seemingly-meant-to-be-funny montage of mentally ill interrogations was a big misstep, too.
All in all, a mixed bag then, with an interesting central plot marred somewhat by the entirely disposable faffing-about of mobsters and Barbara’s dismally dull side-plot. Thankfully, Gruber is set to become The Electrocutioner next week, it would seem, which should be a bit of a shock to the system. Arf.
One final thought: It’s time to start hedging your bets on who’s really behind Arkham, and/or what’s really going on there, after Bullock neglected to dig any deeper with Dr. Lang. Will it link to that basement, and the hints of an incoming Scarecrow, we wonder?
Read Rob’s review of the previous episode, Lovecraft, here.
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