Gotham episode 15 review: The Scarecrow

Gotham continues Jonathan Crane's origin story this week, one that contrasts revealingly with that of young Bruce Wayne...

This review contains spoilers.

1.15 The Scarecrow

Holy umbrella-themed stage lighting, Batman! This episode saw Falcone elevate Oswald out of snooping duties and into the glamorous world of owning an unsuccessful nightclub. As the mob boss himself put it, “things are going to be much different… So spruce up the place.”

And indeed, the Gotham writing team has been sprucing things up, too, with this episode marking the latest instalment to reshuffle the status quo slightly. A distorted mirror of Penguin’s ascension through the ranks was shown in Fish Mooney’s violent grab for power in the prison/hell/experiment place she has wound up in since last week. So far, this strand seems a little superfluous, but surely the powers-that-be are leading somewhere interesting with it. For now though, we have to make do with the mystery and Fish’s on-the-nose dialogue like “I AM IN CHARGE NOW!”.

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The next biggest change – and one that fared better than Fish’s storyline – is surely Leslie Thompkin’s transition from Arkham employee to GCPD medical examiner. Personally, I’m excited to see where this strand is headed. Being based at Jim’s workplace is bound to cause some mortal peril for the good doctor at some point, and will give both characters more opportunities for chemistry-filled interactions in the meantime.

Their scenes together this week – bickering about public affection, loitering in corridors and alluding to imminent late night liaisons – were enjoyable breaks from the main narrative. Leslie makes Jim seem a bit more human by giving him something more relatable to do than hunting murderers via conveniently placed clues. We hope more Leslie doesn’t mean less Harvey every week, though. Is Leslie all that she seems, we wonder? Or is there a motive behind her decision not to bring Jim home, beyond her given reason?

We didn’t find out this week, but we did learn juicy details about some other characters. As a side point, we learned what it takes to effectively win Maroni’s favour (that was a weird scene, wasn’t it?), but mainly we learnt how the Gotham version of the Scarecrow began his journey to supervillainy. This strand had a lot to live up to, not just thanks to Batman lore but also due to the stellar work in the opening chunk of this two-parter in last week’s The Fearsome Dr Crane.

Mostly, this origin arc worked very nicely, with little Jonathan Crane actor Charlie Tahan accepting the challenge well. This version of the Scarecrow differs from the familiar comic book version, with his dad (barely mentioned in the comics) becoming a key character who stuffs his son full of chemicals, leaving him in a state of constant terror indefinitely.

As an interesting expansion of the mythos, which fits with the running ‘younger years’ theme of Gotham, we enjoyed seeing this plot play out as arguably the best guest villain narrative to yet grace the show. Cranes young and old put in solid performances, and the proto-fear toxic effects were impressively creepy. We’d support a decision to leave it a while before bringing the character back, though, for fear of oversaturating matters.

We had a nice contrasting angle on similar ‘growing up’ themes, too, with David Mazouz’ young Bruce Wayne embracing perseverance and quick-thinking when left in danger by his legal guardian Alfred. These scenes – where Bruce embraced his grief, fell into some physical pain and later found the strength to climb back to safe ground – were possibly the best Batman pre-empting moments to yet feature on the show. Certainly, this material was more symbolic and less on-the-nose than the boxing tuition and balancing-on-ledge sequences that have come before.

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Of course, Alfred was never actually that far away, he was just exercising his right to sit back and do naff all when Bruce thought he was doomed and alone. Whether or not it was good guardianship (it definitely wasn’t), Bruce grew as a character this week as a result, so we can’t complain.

All in all, it was a good week, then. With the comparisons and contrasts between Bruce and Jonathan making an interesting central discussion point, Jim’s personal life developing nicely and Oswald’s rise to power setting the stage for big plot points down the road.

One final thought: A lot hinges on who dies first out of Maroni and Falcone, doesn’t it? Oswald had better hope fate is on his side, or he’ll be spilling more than champagne, we’d wager.

Read Rob’s review of the previous episode, The Fearsome Dr Crane, here.

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